End is not in sight

We are undertaking a vast experiment in the days and years and decades that we are alive.

As creatures of habit, we are forever attempting new ways to structure guarantees into life. This is a tricky choice and an attempt to bring greater assuredness into the daily experiences and relationships that defies the essence of being alive in an unknown and unpredictable world. Despite all the messages and signals that we have been told, we do not know what to do in order to know what lies ahead. This we cannot know. Entire lifestyles have been created to offer predictability and a greater perception of knowing what will happen. But we cannot know what will happen; we may know what can happen but are not the entire determinant of whether something will happen as we imagine it to be.

In the midst of all this not knowing, there is concern, anxiety, confusion, and a strong pull to be in control. Control is a fiction where we believe that only one factor, or a few factors, determine an outcome. Control has a confident, brash ego that tells itself and others that it is all that matters; it is unclear whether Control actually knows otherwise, or genuinely believes in its perceived superiority than any (and all) other factor.

Immersed in the lie of Control, I settle into Faith. Faith that there are many factors and divergent forces swimming amongst one another. Similar to the choppy, erratic movement of Brownian’s Motion that I learned if in Form 4 Physics. Fast moving but not in a single direction, so much force. Much uncontrolled force. Uncontrollable.

Faith that there are much greater forces than humans alone and all of humankind on this Earth. Faith in the dogged resilience that fosters life, spawns evolution, encourages experimenting, and embraces change when it happens. Faith that there is much more happening than I can see with mine eyes, hear with my ears, taste, and sense in all ways. Faith in tiny, miniscule, microorganisms of force and Faith in profound, vast ecosystems that harmonize air, earth, water, and fire.

Malnourished in the midst of plenty

I watched A Place at the Table a few weeks ago. Yesterday, a friend mentioned the adage that if you are not at the table then you are likely on the menu. In this society of excess, imbalance and unroofed eating habits that is not a desirable place to be.

It occurs to me that the same imbalances ailing food systems affect the nonprofit sector and civic life. Both have a dire unevenness of diet, there is a fixation on certain elements to the detriment of the broader, holistic wellbeing, and we chase some short-term goals that afflict harm when not aligned with long-term health and vitality.

The ills of the corporate good system are reasonably well known. My focus here is how the food system is a metaphor for a cancerous, blighted nonprofit sector.

Inputs: The over-reliance on foundation grants equate to the dominance of carbohydrates in nonprofit’s heavy and heavily imbalanced diet. Instead, of a plethora of sources for nourishing foods, fresh foods rich in vitamins and minerals, most nonprofits depend on a few starches. Grantwriting is essentially highly processed foods composed with strange ingredients, cumbersome production processes and deceptive packaging. What goes into an organization’s coffers is the result of great manipulation resulting in an unnatural shelf life, where the taste, texture and quality are an afterthought.

Energy: This imbalanced diet is exacerbated by where most nonprofits direct our attention. Evaluation is the nonprofit form of cholesterol — it is talked about a lot, with little bearing on overall vitality. In nonprofits, certain information gets monitored and is the basis for evaluation. The fixation with an academic style of evaluation is a distraction from the original factors motivating a small group of people to start an organization. Book knowledge trumps street smarts because there is a logic mind bias against learning from our lived experiences as much as from books. And in a crisis-saddled society, we scurry from one crisis to the next giving ourselves little space or patience to reflect on how we use our energies.

A Place at the Table summarized the profound changes to the food system that have occurred in the last 30 years. Hunger and food insecurity have skyrocketed in spite of the proliferation of food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency food providers, which numbered [a few dozen?] in the early 1980s and exceed [40,000?] today.

The most insidious manifestation of the food/nonprofit mimicry is our habitual concern with problem diagnosis, rather than problem solving. Instead of pursuing solutions, the sector is mired in recording social dysfunction. This mirrors the national attention on illness and manifestations of physical health, environmental degradation and how sick, obese, diabetic, cancerous we are.

###

Just as grassroots alternatives to the traditional food system of the late 20th Century exist, alternatives to a grant-heavy, evaluation-fixated and problem-saddled social profit paradigm are expanding.

Alternatives for the here and now begin with:

  • an asset-based approach (rather than problem-based)
  • recognizing access and privileges that each of us have (instead of running from or denying them)
  • embracing the many identities and multiple issues alive in each of us (instead of the myths that there is most important issue or single most affected community)
  • embarking on radical changes that occur at many levels simultaneously (rather than the faulty and imposed notion that change happens in an incremental, sequential fashion)
  • aligning efforts across different groups, populations and industries (rather than perpetuating silos)
  • recognizing that faith, people power and humility are as important, if not more so, than money
  • yet making tremendous financial investments in experiments to spawn wholly new approaches, ecosystems, paradigms, and ways of living, working and being
  • harnessing the lived experience of our bodies and the wisdom of the Earth (instead of preferring the logic-mind).
  • The choice is ours. To continue on the same old, same old do loop. Or we can embark on the paths less traveled.

on cholesterol rather than general

Eliminating ADHD thru diet

10% of children between 4-17 are diagnosed
3-5% growth in diagnoses each year

From “Say Goodbye to ADHD” in The Intelligent Optimist about Dutch veterinarian now ADHD-slayer, Lidy Pelsser, who has found that changes in diet of 3-6 foods can change behavior. Eliminating foods such as eggplant and tomato. A few columns later, the article states:

The truth is, no one is sure what exactly ADHD is, including the patients themselves…. the spectrum of concentration problems and impulsivity is very broad and impossible to define.

Moment-by-moment rules

In this busying, dizzying era of this civilization, choosing differently is essential to have days be spacious, patient, serene, promising.

Moment-by-moment living equates to a life full of possibilities. Each day is chock-full of possibility. Moment by moment allows me to quiet the volume of anxiety in my soul’s voice, my heart’s voice and brain’s voice.

Drop the same ol, same ol. It doesn’t provide despite all of its promises and pleading to stay still, stagnate and stick with it.

multiple choice: defining transformative social justice

dictionary.com defines change as:

verb (used without object)
9. to become different:

10. to become altered or modified:

11. to become transformed or converted (usually followed by into):

12. to pass gradually into (usually followed by to  or into):

13. to make a change or an exchange:

Different. Altered. Modified. I will add a few of my own choice vocabulary verbs: pivot. alter. release and incorporate new.

in the spirit of wordplay, using multiple choice:
(a) A school of thought that integrates how an individual cultivates their inner spirit simultaneous to the wisely engaging in efforts to impact public life.
(b) The cultivation of one’s inner spirit that symbiotically affects how they affect public movements for justice.
(c) Choosing to alter one’s practices that focus on their body, mind and soul while altering political, social and economic systems.
(d) Altering one’s practices within collective efforts to alter society.
(e) When an individual alters their internal state congruent to the alterations of public systems.

Love, compassion and empathy are emotional breeding grounds for systemic change.

the vibratory power of words

reading “The Game of Life and How to Play It,” originally written by Florence Scovel Shinn in 1925. A few excerpts are:

“to play successfully the game of life, we must train the imaging faculty.”
“the imagination has been called ‘The Scissors of The Mind,’ and is ever cutting, cutting, day by day, the pictures man sees out there, and sooner or later meets his own creations in his outer world.” (4)

“Owing to the vibratory power of words, whatever man voices, he begins to attract…. The metaphysician knows that all disease has a mental correspondence, and in order to heal the body one must first ‘heal the soul.'”
(24-25)

“A person knowing the power of the word, becomes very careful of his conversation. He has only to watch the reaction of his words to know that they do ‘not return void.’ Through his spoken word, man is continually making laws for himself.” (21)

Definitions:
old-fashioned chat: an hour of five hundred to a thousand destructive words, the principal topics being loss, lack, failure, and sickness.
new-fashioned chat: talk of what we want, to heal, bless and prosper.

subconscious: is simply power, like steam or electricity. does what it is directed to do. with no power of induction.
conscious: the mortal or carnal mind.
superconscious: the god mind within each human. The realm of perfect ideas.

There is a perfect picture of this in the superconscious mind. It is usually flashes across the conscious as an unattainable ideal — ‘something too good to be true.’ in reality it is human’s true destiny (or destination) flashed to him from the Infinite Intelligence which is within one’s self.” (5)

Creative Destruction for the Education Industry

I read an intriguing article this morning on changes needed to 21st century education, by Harvard President Larry Summers. Despite my own misgivings, spawning a bias that speculated ‘what elitist notions would the controversial, tin-earred Summers’ put forward. To my delight, and my own reminder about not pre-judging someone today based on who they have been before, I found a lot in the article, which provides plenty of wise foreboding.

The article addresses changes in education. Changes to education. Changes that are coming. Inevitable change. Or change that depends on breaking through the status quo that serves plenty of existing, economic interests.

The business models of learning, education and schools (all related, distinct, and inter-dependent) are grappling with this lifeforce called the internet. The internet’s trends — five of which I can name: pervading our lives, mobility, decentralizing and distributing, multimedia, networks — are transforming how we learn, how we educate, and how our schools are designed. These trends diminish the old ways of doing things, where we needed the physical contact, of being in the same room at the same time. Being in the right place at the right time is less and less a concern with the growing ease of documentation — in words, videos, the triplet forms of summaries (email messages, tweets or google.docs) — of what happens.

What used to happen once, is capable of becoming infinite — if it can be found on the appropriate server or cloudware. But, as a friend said to me last night, “if it is unseen, then it may as well not exist.”

The six obser-dations (my compound word of observations + recommendations) in the article are:

  1. more accessing (or in his term’s ‘processing’ and ‘using’) and less about imparting knowledge.
  2. collaboration and ability to work with others.
  3. better presentation/design, provides for more time for discussion.
  4. active learning classrooms, rather than passive learning.
  5. “cosmopolitanism.”
  6. emphasis on the analysis of data.

#3 mentions “accelerated videos” (in a medical student example). I am not even sure what that is. Not having been to medical school, I have not watched one there. The question is, who else is already using ‘accelerated videos’?
#6 is  — a long-winded way of re-arranging the term “data analysis.” Yet, the inclusion of emphasis makes it a

Since I love/speak/think in math so frequently, my single favorite normative statement is one of the last line of #6: “Today, basic grounding in probability statistics and decision analysis make far more sense.”

###

A short while later, i glimpsed at Apple’s promotion for the iTunes U app:

an easy way to design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video, books, and other content. And students and lifelong learners can experience your courses for free through a powerful new app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

As they state, “an entire course in one app.” It is not just the syllabus, but the reference DVD that i had to sit in the library with because i couldn’t leave the building with it. Not just the syllabus, but all of the handouts that would be given out in the course of a 13 week semester. And, video clips of any class that I might have missed due to illness or some outside obligation. All of those moments of my Spring 1997 semester would look radically different, which this app/store is intent on hastening. Or as Summers’ wrote:

A good rule of thumb for many things in life holds that things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then happen faster than you thought they could.

###

Lawrence Summers article opens with the stagnant learning environment, and the parameters of the academic semester. In the middle of the third paragraph, my mind was jumping ahead hypothesizing if the article was going to proceed with ways to dismantle the parameters of ‘four courses a term, three hours a week, one professor standing at the front.’ That isn’t where the article went. That mental jumping ahead is an instance of “the processes of human thought” that he mentions in item #4.

The following sentence states, “We are not rational calculating machines but collections of modules, each programmed to be adroit at a particular set of tasks.”

Adroit (adjective): dexterous, deft, or skillful. (h/t to wiktionary, wikipedia’s little sibling)

Those unique, distinguishing characteristics are what foster collaboration and the betterment of our days and lives by engaging in interdependence. Of inviting in more interaction rather than further individualism and isolation.

notes: if you till it (curtis.o, gibran.r)

technology > epistemology > cosmology

epistemology: how is it what we know what we know. holistic ways of knowing/being (mind,body, emotion, kinetic, spiritual).
cosmology: our view of the universe. evolutionary an dliving systems. evolving notions of the world. (very much alive)
ontology: what is the nature of being. human being *and* becoming. dynamic, developmental. we can learn, and unlearn. self-organize).
technology/methodology: operational metaphor of gardening + collective leadership. that intentionality create the conditions. we cannot predict everything that will ensue (pleasant surprises, unpleasant surprises).

Tilling the Soil
context matters, context matters … context matters.

the right conditions for collective leadership — we are moving away from individualistic approaches that lionize the individual.
a metaphysical posture of what is happening… not at all what we are talking about. different ways to organize ourselves, as the old ways become obsolete. they no longer facilitate teh kinds of change we are seeking.

John Hegel: people, narrative, platforms >> purpose, direction, desire.

the power of collective leadership:
PEOPLE: considering the who. the tools of stakeholder analysis. IISC commitment to stakeholder analysis.

  • who is responsible [for key desciions]?
  • Who might block what we are trying to do?
  • Who has relevant expertise, information, experience?
  • Who are implementers of key decisions?
  • Who will be affected by what we are trying to do?
  • Who will need to be informed about our outcomes?

… INVITATION: making the right kind of invite. shifting away from the industrial model that allows “an organizer to get warm bodies into a room to impress the politician.” We are not trying to go for mass, we want critical connections. ccritcal combinations.
Peter Block’s HIGH THRESHOLD INVITATION — what is the invitation to support people to PARTICIPATE AND OWN the relationship to tasks, and processes that lead to success? Be specific and provide some hurdles.

… NARRATIVE: what holds people together. purposefulness to make change. “Narrative functions around the very nature of leadership itself. Shifting in more and more of our collaborative work.”
leadership is a shared endeavor. it cannot be incumbent on a single org or leader to lead the work. across n’hood boundaries, geographical boundaries to move forward.

shared + rotated: provocateur , implementer, weaver, coordinator,
convenor, facilitator, designer.
IMAGING: imagine how living systems actually work. when the thrive. how they thrive. how to tap into that thriving nature. [VISIONING: can serve us, except when not grounded in reality.]

  • How do living systems actually work?
  • What do they look like when they are thriving?
  • What would this system look like when thriving?
  • How do we re-build resilience?

STORYTELLING: at the individual levels of stories.
metaphorically: stories of tools, precipitation, germination, and harvest.

In the student immigrant movement, they will not do much without being able to tell stories together. Storytelling as a skill and a process becomes more important than the bullet–point-memo. The complexity taht we are dealing wiht needs to be dealt with in storytelling.

PLATFORM: Open Space. World Cafe. Future Search.
… so different form a panel of presenters.
** not without social media. at IISC, we use SalesForce chatter.

Beyond people and networks … the holy grail is governance. Can be a scary word when talking about networks and distributed leadership. The structures put in place. “As smart … will require some deisgn, direction, decision-making

ingredients of (Design Principles)

Adaptability. Emergence. Contribution. Resilience. Diversity.

a resource that we are turning to: Sociocracy … “We the People” a guide to sociocratic principles.
http://www.sociocracy.info

http://www.carolsanford.com
Berkana Institute — ‘The Art of Hosting’ (on social technology)
edgeperspectives.typepad.com
Fritjof Capra — The Hidden Connections
Pegasus Institute …

slides to be available on LLC site.

Draw pictures as you experience it … all of your stories are true.

 

Storytelling as way to alleviate shame. storytelling provided shared awareness, of oppression and abuse at hands of the system.

METAPHORS:

  • industrial complex
  • Obama campaign, administration’s Promise N’hood grants.
  • silver bullet, silver buckshot(?)

Why to Stop Saying Sorry

I have gotten into a new habit over the past year. It is a welcome habit, to discourage people from having to apologize to me. For months, I’ve been done with needing to hear “I’m sorry.” I am just choosing to sit down and blog-reflect on it this first weekend of the new year. (I could say that it is a 2012 resolution, but it’s a change in life that harkens back to summer 2011.)

Apologies are so pervasive that the two-worded combo is oftentimes an email’s first line, the first words of a phone call, and the s-word is what accompanies a hug or handshake when I see someone in person. I would much rather have you express the joy in your voice, or have you tell me what is genuinely on your heart or mind — than have you resort to an over-used refrain to apologize. Being hung up on how long it has been, what you haven’t done or what you should have done does not serve you or me. So let’s choose to be free from it in our vernacular. There are so many under-used and beautiful words, so please express something other than regret.

Apologies have became a de facto salutation in a culture, saturated with the twins of over-extension and assigning blame, which pervades our lives and our work. (Honestly, we are not just overdoing it in the professional realm, we are frantic in our weekends, sleeping patterns, eating and multimedia, too). Self-blame is the cultural triplet, but that writing — of punishing ourselves, or being nasty to ourselves in way’s that we would not dare do to others — is for some other day.

When I told one friend about it in the Fall, she remarked how i had become “the most radical person at this moment of [her] life.” It feels pretty simple. And it has altered how I listen to other people when they blithely state I’m sorry. I prefer to not have meaningless words exchanged if we do not mean what we say, and say what we mean.

I’ve changed my own habit in a few key steps:

  1. To catch myself before uttering the s-word.
  2. Sit with my own discomfort in the awkward silence that follows. It is doubly awkward in a period following that I must have done something to spur the impulse to apologize.
  3. In that in-between-quiet, notice what is actually happening for me.
  4. Then choose to speak or not speak based on what I feel.

These four steps have cleaned up a lot of my exchanges. I embrace silence much more. I no longer feel bad about quiet; oftentimes, it is a welcome relief especially in the presence of other humans. There is a different type of experience when we are in one another’s proximity without having to talk to, and talk at one another. Silence is not scary or awkward like I used to find it.

The times that I fuck up, I acknowledge it in more creative ways than that tired refrain of “I’m sorry.” Some of the different things that I do are that I sit in silence. Or I ask ‘How are you feeling by what I just said/did?’ or simply, “What’s going on for you right now?” Asking questions is a very different way to invite a response. I used to get defensive much more as I attempted to climb out of a hole, yet my talking only caused me to dig myself into a deeper hole.

****

Over the years, there were countless times that I have said, “Sorry.” and did not mean it one bit. There are instances when I have apologized because I felt that it was what I thought someone else wanted to hear. I had no clue what was going on inside of that another person, but I said it anyway. I was acting something out (of habit) because I had convinced myself that what I could say was what they wanted to hear. With no real sense that it was what they wanted, or needed, in that moment.

I realized that my apology-reflex over the years was serving me. There have been phases in my life where I was addicted to apologizing. It was the tail-end of a cycle of acting hastily, recklessly and absent-mindedly. Frequently, acting so absent-mindedly resulted in some action, behavior or words that I came to regret. Acting so hastily resulted in me saying more words per day, and being more hasty each day, too. With each day filled with more busyness, I increased the probability of having more things to regret. And regrets were followed by more apologies.

So many apologies that the short sentence of “I’m sorry.” became meaningless for me.

I am delighted that I have slowed that impulse to instinctively apologize. What was unseen and unexplored in my inner psychology has become much more visible than it used to be. I started with myself, and then begin to request it from others. I do not need your apology for what you did — even when it hurt, upset or even when you insult me. I would much rather have to sit quietly, and get to see what I choose to say (or not say) afterwards. In the meantime, if you feel compelled to speak tell me why you did/said/felt what you did then please do so.

Then we can go from there.

 

 

new mornings of 4 practices

I developed a fourth new practice for my mornings, before 12noon. It gets added to the bottom of this list:

1. sitting,

2. stepping outdoors in order to walk + spend 30 minutes outside,

3. 20 minutes of cleaning, cleansing, chores and purging,

4. writing the morning pages.

Morning pages, a phrase from writer Julia Cameron, are described on en.wikipedia as:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. The Artist’s Way says there is no wrong way to do Morning Pages—they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind.

The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests the artist.

The first day I did morning pages, on Monday, my forearm fatigued from the length of time and the speed of writing longhand. A lactic FeltSense or the “unclear, pre-verbal sense of  ‘something.'” Yes, unclear and preverbal was that tingling in my right arm. Brought about by the quickness of my right hand moving pen over paper.