What Are We Signing Up For?

Sometimes we join groups to connect. Sometimes to make specific changes in the world – we join a cause.

And sometimes we sign up, not for one specific cause, and not even to connect with like-minded people, but to practice skills that strengthen our ability to move the dial on any cause. We join groups to practice ‘showing up’ in ways we hope will enable us to shift the status quo.

What kinds of things might we sign up to practice?

Things like:

  • New/informal/shared leadership in self-organizing, flatter contexts
  • Inclusive & new forms of facilitation and process design
  • Showing up more authentically
  • Connecting across differences & through trauma
  • Being in Inquiry more than is comfortable & using powerful questions more intentionally & effectively
  • Engaging vulnerably & transparently
  • Deep dialog
  • Co-creation & deep collaboration
  • Truth-telling in difficult contexts & from the minority perspective
  • Disrupting subtle patterns of dominance
  • Holding space
  • Being a healing presence

In those instances, practicing new & different ways of ‘showing up’ is at least as important to us as the group’s stated purpose. They’re important practices because they’re generally proving to be more effective than old school debate & didactic lecturing. They’re key to the fundamental transformation we (most of us) seek. But doing so, in my experience & by my observation, (& by it’s very nature) creates disruption, often feels ‘off-point’, & opens one up to painful misinterpretation.

Practicing those new ways of showing up (ways that emerge from a different world-view), in the here-and-now, with THESE people, as opposed to pontificating in the abstract about the importance of the underlying concepts, or preaching to the choir about how THOSE people should be better at them – that’s challenging, vulnerable and often lonely work.

So, how can we make it easier on ourselves to do this deeper work?

How can we recognize and appreciate when others show up ‘in practice’, and help others recognize and appreciate when we do it?

How do we encourage & support one another to show up more deeply in our power-and paradigm-shifting practices?

That’s what I’m feeling ‘in inquiry’ about right now. That’s a practice I’d like to develop!

6 thoughts on “What Are We Signing Up For?”

  1. Maybe it is easier to show up, not to shift the status quo, but to let more of life in? to practice more being in a co-creative and co-generative space with others?
    And also, I think the practices are more and more collective to do, to practice, to figure out…
    With love,

    Ria (through Beth's pointing me/us here!)

    • Ria,

      Thanks for your thoughts:-) (& thanks to Beth for pointing you!). 

      I DO think the practices need to be more collective – to do, to practice, to figure out. And I think that's just beginning. (not in a therapeutic context, but in the contexts of collective efforts to make the world a better place). 

      Because we each come with our own lens & life story, and what may feel to you like 'being in a co-creative & co-generative space with others' may feel to me like being subject to waves of Emotional Colonization. I've experienced that a lot – in explicitly intended healing & co-creative spaces. And I generally DO try to just show up. But in the end – silence is violence – I end up feeling not only personally repressed & whitewashed, but like any other marginalized or traumatized person in the room (or potentially in the room) would have a similar experience. Which means, eventually, I have to choose – address that dynamic, only hang around with my own kind (which isn't really an option for many of us) or disengage.

      And – sure, it's often just 'my story' about what's going on. But it's a story I can't fix in my own head in private. I have to say what I'm experiencing out loud in order to discover whether it's a story I'm telling myself or if it's a real dynamic in the room. Speaking it teaches me how to let it go or it teaches others how they're being colonizers. And in either case, it enables me to move to the next level in my own healing & in holding space for other's healing. And when others 'get' the purpose of speaking it, we all build trust & bonding & are able to co-create. When they don't get it, or when they need to control how others are feeling, it's hard work to sit with the upset & judgement.  

      So yes – it's collective work. And if people don't want to go there together, it puts the onus on the traumatized, marginalized outsider. So – I'm really eager to figure out how we can make it more collective.

      Because if we really want to heal the world, we have to be able to hold space for the wounded – in everything we do together – & not expect people to refrain from showing up until they're enlightened.

      • Totally YES! We need to learn to hold space for the wounded! – and another thought: my version of being enlightened would be that you have this space for all the wounding! And another point: if there is no space for the wounding, the wounded, then it can not be, in my definition, a co-creative or a generative space. Many times the wounded bring a crucial, essential element into the mix, necessary for the creation of the really new.
        All good stuff! and thanks for the rant!

  2. I find that all of the above is satisfied by my engagement and learning with the Authentic Leadership in Action (ALIA) around the world, and specifically at the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University. Further, now there are Authentic Leadership Communities of Practice emerging in a number of locations as well as virtually. It's a vibrant group!


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