Archives: 'Being Present'
October 4, 2013
I’m in Melbourne enjoying an early breakfast at a familiar cafe on Spring Street. The streets are cold, but clear skies promise a warm spring day. It’s exactly 5 months since I’ve been here and I feel like a first time visitor … like I’ve lived another life since that time.
Everything looks and feels in slow motion – including my own thoughts, breath and walk. I am noticing things that I’ve either forgotten, or simply not noticed before. Sitting in this familiar place feels a little surreal.
I’ve just spoken to the cafe owner (who knows me by name only) and he asked, “How long has it been Geoff?” He couldn’t believe that 5 months had passed. For me it feels like a year … or more.
Our family witnessed new places, met new people and lived new experiences every day for 5 months. It was intoxicating and at times we needed a break … time to sit in one place and rest. In parts our journey around Australia seemed to fly by. Other stages seemed to live on and on. As a whole, the journey (for me) felt like a lifetime. Now that we’re back … I am seeing everything differently.
Being Present, Just observations
September 8, 2013
We have lived outdoors under sun, moon and stars for over 4 months and I’ve lost track of how many sunrises and sunsets we’ve witnessed. Now we are travelling south, down the east coast, where the sun rises from the ocean and sinks behind the Great Diving Range. The difference feels disorientating after spending so long in the west.
I watched the sunrise at Kinka Beach this morning – just south of Yeppoon and touch north of Tropic of Capricorn (approx 23° South … the southern most latitude where the sun can be directly overhead). On the west coast we crossed the same line at (about) Waroora Station, just south of Coral Bay. This Capricorn campsite on the southern tip of Maggie’s Beach was our favourite. We have camped at many locations, but at Maggie’s we were alone and everything about it was wild and alive.
Our hearts, thoughts and vehicle are heading home – Aireys Inlet at 38° south. Awaiting our arrival home are friends, family, our 2 dogs and colder marine waters. But first we have a few east coast pleasures to indulge in. Tomorrow we sail out to Heron Island for a (well earned) 4 day break from the trailer and canvas tent walls. Then 4 days mooching around Seventeen Seventy before heading further south in Noosa for point breaks and outrageously great gelati! Until finally we camp for a week in Scott’s Head – the NSW seaside town where our year of travel began.
Unlike the constantly changing itinerary of the last 4 months, I’ll bet a Noosa Gelato that we stick precisely to the east coast plan above!
Being Present, Gone Supping, Just observations
September 7, 2013
5th Aug. 2013
As I watched the sunset against the northern Bungle Range last night (this post began weeks ago!), I began to imagine myself (for the first time in months!) working with groups and doing what I do – facilitation. Before we left back in May, my friend and colleague Andrew Rixon said, “I'll be interested to read about your reflections and learnings from the road trip”. On a number of occasions I've tried (often too hard) to write a clever piece about the lessons from this trip and how they might relate to the world of facilitation. Early on I even tried to keep up with my favourite blogs. About 8 weeks ago I let go of these compulsions entirely. I've been surprised (and Ingrid delighted) as to how little attention I have given to anything work or home related. I also wonder how on earth we are going to adjust to the routine of life when we arrive home on September 29!?
2nd Sept. 2013
As we travel south toward home along the Queensland coast, Ingrid and I have been reflecting on the people we've met, places visited and family life on the road. Whenever we talk like this, recurring themes emerge … I suppose these are like principles for travelling the off-roads. Here are a few …
Prepare meticulously! Early in the trip we spent 12 days along the Gnaraloo/Red Bluff coast and we nearly ran out of food and drinking water! This was a wake up call. Had something gone wrong on the rough roads out of Gnaraloo, we may have been reliant on others for help. From this moment we prepared for extended, remote trips with military precision and we've learned that you can't wing-it!
Be prepared to abandon the plan! Anyone who has travelled knows this one. We have altered or abandoned many of our well thought out plans. Because the next day (or even the next hour) is impossible to predict, staying open to the unexpected is what makes this quote ring true …
“The zest is in the journey and not in the destination.” Lynn H. Hough
When it's time to move on … move! That feeling of needing to move on is like an itch that needs scratching. After 1, 3 or maybe 5 days at a camp, Ingrid might give me that look that clearly says, “I'm ready to pack up and go.” Or, the kids might sing out together, “We wanna go mum and dad!” When you feel it's time to move … move!
Its in the eye of the beholder! Everyone sees places through their own eyes. We have learned that Caravaners (with Air Cons) give glowing reviews of campsites exposed to intolerable levels of heat and sun. Fellow travellers in camper trailers and tents tend to give better advice … but not always. We've learned to go and find out for ourselves.
Finally … let go, connect with each other and find the flow!
With 17 weeks behind us and 4 weeks down the east coast to go, have turned for home. A trip of this length will, more than likely, happen just this once. I know my boys so much better. The boys themselves are thriving and their relationships have strengthened. Ingrid and I feel like we are in our 20's when we backpacked around the world back in the 90's! We have had a chance to be a family … together day in, day out … without school or work to separate us … it has been a gift and an adventure that none of us will forget.
Being Present, Facilitation, Gone Supping, Just observations
March 22, 2013
I recently heard the term “Urban Acupuncture” as it relates to the Better Block movement and their efforts to bring-to-life precincts and neighbourhoods in cities all over the US. The acupuncture metaphor go me thinking about my own work and the work that my art-form supports.
I have just enjoyed 3 days of working and playing with diverse groups of people, mainly leaders beavering away at the grassroots to make their community (and the world) a better place. Listening to their wisdom and their stories has been inspiring. Witnessing their vulnerabilities and supporting them at their learning edge is a privilege.
Each of these community leaders are like healers … each performing their own version of social acupuncture. Directly and indirectly their little actions heal the fabric of community. We see symptoms like community fragmentation and signs like reduced community participation in decision making. Their purpose driven projects stimulate the acupuncture points of community by bringing people into conversation, to break bread together, play music, create art and build stronger relationships across the community.
My work supports community leaders to experiment, take risks, notice more and fail informatively. This week I went to edge of my own practice and pushed out a bit further. I was supported in this by my friend and colleague Russell Fisher. Together with Suzie Brown, Russell and I are embarking on a new journey that will support an ever growing network of community leaders to DO – both big a small.
Being Present, Community & Belonging, Facilitation, Just observations
March 18, 2013
The ‘Notice More’ mantra is one I keep coming back to. Johnnie Moore first introduced me to the concept of Notice More-Change Less – it’s like a principle to live by.
Well, last week I ‘noticed’ an interview with Kelly Slater, arguably the world’s most enduring sports champion. He’s been at the top of surfing for 23 years and has beaten 5 era’s of surfers with 11 World Titles. This detailed info graphic sums his achievements …
Here are a couple of quotes from Kelly on ‘Noticing’
When asked how he can keep winning so many tight contests …
“I try to pay attention to a lot of things”
“I notice things and adjust accordingly.”
The detailed of the interview reveals that he spends a lot of time watching the waves and the forces that shape the wave direction, frequency and form. Like noticing the ball in tennis, being in tune with the waves is everything. I’m sure Timothy Gallway
(author of the Inner Game series) would agree.
So, here’s a question to consider. If ‘noticing’ the ball is everything in tennis and being in the flow of the waves in surfing is the secret to success and mastery … what is the ‘ball’ or ‘wave’ in the game you play? What are the critical factors that need more of your attention?
Being Present, Facilitation, Yes!And Improv
February 1, 2013
Today was one of those days where everything converged – where a lot of past stuff came together and, at the same time, the future I am co-creating came into view. The story of today …
My youngest of three boys, Hamish (aka Mr Chipper), attended his first day of school today. He was excited, but not overly so. He was confident, with a hint of vulnerability. His two older brothers, like his parents, could hardly believe he was off to Aireys Inlet Primary School – a small, coastal school of 130 students where students at all levels know each other.
But, I wasn’t there to see Mr Chipper off, or witness his first steps into class surrounded by his little mates. I wasn’t at work and I wasn’t out for an early surf. No, I was being admitted to hospital for (long ago booked) dental surgery on a tooth that has cause me more grief than any other part of my body. That tale of suffering (of the first world variety) is for another time! Happenstance and bad luck saw these 2 dates converge to January 31, 2013.
I’ll fast forward the story of today … past the hunger pains of having to miss breakfast … beyond the news that I was last on the list and would have to wait (growing ever hungrier) until lunchtime to enter theatre … past that 20 second period where the general anesthesia goes to work … past the recovery room and up to the point where my mum picks me up and drives me back to her place.
There is nothing like being with your mum when recovering from illness or surgery. Mum’s are hard-wired to care for their kids and feed them soul food, even when they are 41 years old! I hadn’t seen mum since Christmas Day nearly 6 weeks before and was struck that I hadn’t spent much time with mum, just the 2 of us, since Dad passed a year ago.
After sharing photos of our recent family adventure in Tasmania, and after a late afternoon (still in recovery phase) nap, we began to talk about Dad. How proud he would have been to see Hamish off to school. How much he’d have loved our tales of camping in Tassie.
In his final weeks alive, Dad made me promise him to take our kids travelling, to learn and experience life as a family as much as we could! Living up to this promise has opened up a whole new world for me. It’s transformed my view of parenting, of community, of how to listen and of what’s most important. It’s given me a clearer purpose to my own consulting work and the direction I want to take my offering. My experiences in recent months have rekindled a child-like enthusiasm for what I do.
And as I share these private thoughts in this public space, I realize (again) how important writing has become. My private journal (using Evernote) and my blog (Yes!AndSpace) are spaces where I connect dots between things. When writing, like now, its like time and to-do’s fade away. The meaning evolves and emerges as I write and it’s always, always best when I simply write what comes … and keep suppressing that tyrannical urge to be clever and witty!
Like I said above, lots of things have converged during my long chat with mum tonight. I read to her one of my private journal entries, written after spending a day with dad only weeks before he died. It was like finding a lost treasure and, like magic, reading this entry brought him into the room with us. This is the gift of writing and of sharing it with others.
Being Present, Just observations, Story
January 18, 2013
I am writing from Coles Bay, Tasmania – famous as Australia first Plastic Bag-free town!
After 3 weeks in Tasmania we finally scored some waves this morning – a lovely little right at Bicheno. Whilst waiting for set waves on my SUP I started thinking about the rhythm we are in on this leg of our journey around Tasmania.
We have stopped asking each other the question – “What time is it?”. Our day is quite simply regulated by the rumblings in our tummies and the rise and fall of the sun. We have realised how time-bound life is at home. We are also cherishing every moment of this time-boundless trip. Whilst I write this, Ingrid and Griff are playing a card game, Lachie is writing his journal and Hamish is playing music on the iPad. No plans and no deadlines. It’s living a life of Open Space where passion (doing the things we love) is bounded by a discipline … a responsibility for things like keeping our camper organised and for teaching (un-schooling) our kids on-the-road.
Left – Kids keep the daily budget so we can stick to our target!
Right – Our Mr7 (Lachie) writes a daily journal … he has a unique “in-the-moment” style
I’ve been applying Open Space Technology to my work with groups of people for years now, and every so often the simplicity of the Open Space principles amazes me. Like I said above, this camping trip is not bounded by the clock on my iPhone – “Whenever it starts is the right time” and “When it’s over it’s over”. We have a plan but we riff around the pre-thought notes and, like this morning’s surf, seize opportunities as they arise – “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have”. We meet people along the way and form new relationships. In the remote bush camps, kids are amazing at launching into a day of beautiful play without the toys and stuff we left behind at home. Kids are not selective about who they play with and, from what I’ve observed, apply the principle “Whoever come are the right people” naturally.
And on that note … I’ve got two kids at my side pestering me with a sing song version of “I’m Hungry …”. I’ll leave this post with selection of kids’ creations in and around campsite across Tasmania.
Being Present, Gone Supping, Just observations
January 13, 2013
Another thing I’ve noticed on this off-road trip around Tasmania is my kids. I pay plenty of attention to them at home, but … when you get to hang out with them all day, every day that’s when you really get to know them.
Both Ingrid and I are really seeing their individual traits – their frailties, humour and their gifts! More though, we are noticing the relationships between all 3 boys. I can see, more clearly than ever, who niggles who and when. I am sensing the friendship, love and respect between them.
We have a little more than 2 weeks to go where we are constantly in each other’s company. 4 canvass walls and a canvass roof is our home. We are eating home cooked meals from the camp stove and we are exposed to the elements from the time wake to bed. We are growing accustomed to the lack of facilities when “out bush”. We are not running by the clock, but instead, by the need to eat and sleep. None of us have missed our toys from home as nature offers so much more!
Being Present, Just observations
January 1, 2013
Here’s a draft post that I forgot to publish …
I just heard a live interview with 11 times Surfing world champion, Kelly Slater, about what he does to prepare for his heat that day. A pro-surf event that happened in December at Hawaii’s famous Sunset Beach.
This got me thinking about my own preparation on the morning of a facilitation gig. I’m right in the middle of my preparation now, with an event starting in 2 hours from now. I’ve just come off two days of facilitation and have another 2 days to follow.
When you are in the middle of a big week of performing (cause that’s what it feels like) maintaining energy levels is key. You have to nourish your body, mind and spirit … if you don’t then performing at your best is impossible. This is true of any endeavour.
I can tell when I haven’t prepared because my instructions/explanations about process become ‘waffly’ and incoherent. Lack of preparation, for me, creates a thick fog in the space between me and participants – the very people I am there to serve. My ability to read the moment by moment group dynamics diminishes. Time slippage occurs and, physiologically, I sweat a lot more. My demeanour is heavy and I wear a frown. Poor preparation, especially lack of sleep, impacts everything for me!
When I prepare well, the opposite happens. When giving instructions or explaining a process, I know when to terminally shut-up and keep things brief (thanks Chris here and Viv here in point #4). Most importantly, participants and my clients walk away feeling nourished with a sense that we cracked open some complex nuts!
So, here’s what I’ve been doing this week in Melbourne to stay fresh and focused:
- start the day with plenty of water and a session of sitting meditation
- steer clear of too many carbs and stick with protein … and don’t mix the 2!
- It’s probably very risky … but, I ride everywhere (on my Melbourne Bikeshare Bike) between workshop venues and meetings
- And yes I allow myself one coffee each morning at the Slip’s Cafe on Albert St
- Get to the venue well before participants … take my time to set up and “notice” what’s in the room because sometimes spaces have unique attributes you can use later. I also imagine the space full of people and run through some possible openings
- When working with Chris Corrigan earlier this year he pointed out the “nature of the sound” of a group. I now, after intially struggling with the concept, understand where he is coming from here. From time to time during conversation processes like World Cafe, I’ll turn away from the group and just listen to the sound of conversation. By allowing myself the time to notice this “group-sound” (and block my visual sense), I have another way of sensing … which leads to new ways of responding to the group needs.
- Steer clear of most workshop food (although today’s was an exception to the rule and I indulged)
- Drink plenty more water
As I grow older and wiser, I am becoming more disciplined on the points above. Feel free to share your own “preparation” tips in the comments … even if it’s unrelated to facilitation.
Being Present, Facilitation
August 2, 2012
How well do you listen? It’s a practice that I have to continually work on in all aspects of life – as a parent, partner, friend, family and consultant. Like with most of us, my attention tends to drift toward my thoughts, ideas and next thing I want to say. With discipline and practice I have learned to really listen when facilitating groups. Here are some other people and ideas who have taught me about the art of listening:
Chris Corrigan and listening – I have developed some habits and techniques that turn my attention toward the group. Lately I’ve been practicing this simple breathing technique that Chris Corrigan writes about here. Chris’ technique helps me to tune into the “sound” of the group conversation and provides another way of reading the dynamics between people in the room.
Herman Hesse and listening – I have just read Hermanne Hesse’s Siddhartha. A character named Vasudeva the Ferryman teaches Siddhartha the art of listening. Siddhartha feels the joy and connection that comes from being listened to. I just love Hesse’s words in this passage …
“Vasudeva listened with great attentiveness. He took in everything as he listened, origins and childhood, all the learning, all the searching, all the joy, all the suffering. This was one of the greatest amoung the ferryman’s virtues: He had mastered the art of listening. Although Vasudeva himself did not utter a word, it was clear to the one speaking that each of his words was being allowed to enter into his listener, who sat there quietly, openly, waiting: not a single word was disregarded or met with impatience: Vasudeva attached neither praise nor blame to what he heard but merely listened. Siddhartha felt what a joy it was to be able to confide in such a listener, to entrust his life, his searching, his sorrow, to this welcoming heart” p. 88
Theodore Zeldin and listening – I have been learning a lot about listening by applying a principle to every conversation I’m in. The principle is this … “I am willing to emerge a slightly different person from this conversation with you”. When you start a conversation with this principle in mind, it is amazing what you hear from the other person. This mindset helps me to be still, quiet and attentive. There is a richness to the conversation that is lacking when I am swept up by my own thoughts and inner voice. I learned this principle in working alongside David Gurteen who shared this quote by historian Theodore Zeldin …
”The kind of conversation I’m interested in is one in which you start with a willingness to emerge a slightly different person.” Theodore Zeldin.
Johnnie Moore and listening – A few years ago friend and co-conspirator Johnnie Moore taught me a phrase that has stuck with me … Notice More, Change Less. It’s the idea if limiting your interventions and not playing the role of outside expert in trying to make stuff happen. Johnnie has taught me to simply “support what is emerging from within the system, not operating on it as the cold outsider.” In his Change This manifesto with James Cherkoff, he builds on this idea of a willingness to be changed in our interactions …
“In the world of improvised theatre, which inspires a lot of our thinking, the player who tries too hard to drive the narrative is accused of scriptwriting. The one who tries to tell jokes is encouraged to stop gagging. The real skill in performance is to fully take on the offers of the other players and be changed by them. Then what you offer back is likely to develop the drama.”
Viv McWaters and listening – A willingness to “emerge a slightly different person” opens up learning possibilities in every interaction. It’s not about agreeing with everything either … sometimes the lesson is simply that other people hold a different point of view to me. In Applied Improvisation we apply the principle of Accepting Offers. Saying ‘Yes And’ builds on what the other person offers. It means that others walk away from conversations knowing they have been heard and understood. This “knowing I’ve been heard” outcome is critically important in building relationships and trust. Viv McWaters writes about this principle here and says …
“Adopting a ‘yes, and…’ mindset is all about accepting offers. You don’t need to like the offer, or even follow-through. It’s about the initial moment of acceptance rather than rejection. It’s about seeing that there’s more to making a choice than it’s either this or it’s either that. It’s about noticing the offer in what others say and do. Sometimes it’s hard to notice an offer – it’s a small offer, or it’s tentative, or it’s hidden amongst a whole lot of noise. Make big offers yourself. Notice the offer in what others say and do.
To accept is such a gift. To be accepted is such an honour.” Viv McWaters
So, here’s my offer to you and reminder for me … during the next conversation you have with someone (anyone), experiment with these listening principles. I’d love to hear what you notice and learn from this!
Being Present, Facilitation, Gone Supping, Leadership, Yes!And Improv