Tim Merry has been blogging about that decision moment when we decide to respond to an invitation to bring ‘fringe’ practices and concepts into mainstream systems that we once identified as ‘the problem’ or as the metaphor for what is wrong with this world.
His blog makes me wonder about the risk in this decision and what it takes to remain a steward of life in large systems that are elegantly designed to colonized life.
What does it really take to hold space for life, living systems, meaningful connection and (could it be an aspiration?) transformation in these spaces?
How do we discern the moments when our practices are about to be adapted by the machine rather than engage it?
Some might say that these questions don’t matter and that creating moments of visceral understanding in a few hearts and minds that there is a more life affirming way is enough. I agree with Tim that we are working for these moments and a lot more:
My experience of change leadership and participatory approaches is that it demands people shift their world view; the way they see their world. This means their beliefs about themselves, their work, their community, what results are etc. all has to change. Without the worldview shift none of the models and methodologies deliver. Tim Merry
Tim explains that the play between his intuition, analysis and frameworks keeps him on course. This also works for me in real time or in a beginning-middle-end project. I also get very clear with myself and clients about what it is we are really trying to do here, especially when the invitation is more about getting unstuck or moving to the next level, than about ‘changing our system of operating’.
Even in the grand transformation invitations, the pattern continues where the institution adapts participatory practices and frameworks in ways that reinforce or alleviate resistance to business as usual. This is when ‘something doesn’t quite feel right’ is more about sensing the whole than the immediate (which can still feel really awesome) and feels like a reaction to collaborating with that old enemy ~ the institutions that are perfectly designed to extract potency from people, animals, plants and minerals and discard the rest (dramatic effect intended).
I guess the inquiry is about adaptation. Human beings are exceedingly good at it; it makes complete sense that the dominant organizational framework of our times is wildly adaptive. Mainstream institutions integrate new influences at a fairly rapid pace and grow stronger from the disturbance (think greenwashing or bank profits following the most recent crash and Occupy).
How can we discern the difference between adapting to and engaging with?
What does it really take to maintain our potency when swimming in the mainstream?
What more would be possible if hosting ourselves was as much about nourishing our potency as it is about maintaining our zen?