and more interesting stuff:
Helen, I had just finished sending a personal e-mail to you and Bob,
when I saw the rich conversation that is taking place here on the AoH list…
Thank you so much for your thought-provoking post...
what comes for me in response,
is something about the relationship between “downloading” and “something new emerging”…
Almost like, the “only way out is through”… and the “downloading” can be a necessary part of the process…
as in, it can be hard to be present to “what’s on the edge of our awareness”,
without a preliminary first step of being able to acknowledge “what’s in our awareness”,
and feeling received there…
I’m wondering about the role of questions in that shift… and even more so, the role of listening…
For instance, it seems clear that people can “download” for an apparently endless time, on the subject of “what’s wrong”….
and so that's a place where the question/invitation of “would you be willing to share, what it is that you really want?”
can help invite a significant shift… yet somehow it seems more respectful and effective to invite that question after having “reflected back” some of the initial “downloading”, letting the person know that they’ve been heard…
And so I find the questions to be crucial, yet maybe the listening and connection need to come first…
and something about the timing, as well…
Along those lines, another question I find very useful in our DF work,
is the question about what this person’s best creative efforts have been, to date…
what is their “solution” to the situation, as they see it?
Again, we can call it “downloading” or “meeting people where they are at”,
yet it seems to me that there is something there that needs to be honored and received,
in order for people to be able to spontaneously and freely move beyond it…
Anyway, that is what comes for me, in this very rich conversation…
Wishing everyone a fruitful new year…
This is a seriously yummy thread - I'm replying in Rosa's response, but I also really want to acknowledge everything that Bob and Kathy have said, too.
More interesting perspectives:
What a thoughtful and investigate group of practitioners AoH has encouraged. This thread is interesting and provocative for me.
Deep listening is, for me, the key to transformation, but if we are trying to create a transformation I think we are in a way stealing from the process, pushing the stream rather than trusting the flow and resting in it. We can practice deep listening with others, and also practice listening deeply to ourselves as we speak. In my own life, having people around me who are willing to witness/truly hear what i am saying allows me to think/express myself in ways that are unexpected. So i access understanding/insight/feelings that i might not have accessed otherwise.
In turn, I notice that others are affected in the same way when the questions are spacious and the listening is deep. Some people are able and willing to speak what has been previously unspoken when they are asked a question with authentic interest behind it. This recent experience i had may seem unrelated but for me its revealed what deep listening is about: the willingness to hear what is real in the moment and tend to the speaker.
I was facilitating a pre-conference with a young man who had been tried for Child Abuse (the victim was a minor) resulting in death and sent to youth detention center. His file from juvenile justice referral was very thick, mentioning gangs,guns, other relatives in prison for murder and so on. I was not so sure i wanted to be involved with him, but i was.
My job was to assess the probability of a Restorative Justice Circle being appropriate and I looked at his file a few times early in our conversation, which is rare for me - probably because i was nervous, which is also pretty unusual.
Then he mentioned gangs and i spontaneously closed the file and set it down on the chair beside me and said, "Will you tell me more about the gang involvement. I don't know anything about that reality." And so he did.
At that point his right leg, which had been tapping up and down for the whole time we were together stopped moving and everything shifted.
I learned a lot from him. Later i told him, "You know, I was nervous about being with you after reading your file, seeing the gang relationships and that your relatives were in prison for murder." "Yah," he said, "I get that a lot. I hate those files. You can get a lot of facts there, and information, but that's not me. That's how i was, that's not how i am now."
How does this relate to AoH? Well, the minute i put the file down I shifted myself from nervousness to authentic "not knowing". I shifted to real interest and open and deep listening. I, as facilitator, was willing to be transformed by our encounter and everything changed. *************************************************************************
As I've said before, a person speaking in a Circle can be a stick of wood added to the fire that burns in the center of the Circle...or a new ingredient that adds to the flavor and texture of the communally created soup...or another drop of water added to a river of information that will flow to the ocean and eventually return to us in the form of nourishing, life giving rain.
Whatever the image, in an atmosphere of deep listening a deeper wisdom becomes accessible. And real questions emerge.
Questions that grow out of what has been said. Golden questions.
This is not present if the "questions" are actually disguised/formulaic tools for shifting or re-framing what could be a surprising conversation at the fireside, into an end product we had in mind all along. I don't think we can push the river, when i try to it pushes back! That's a strong indication that i need to be quiet for a moment and let what has been spoken, or what remained unspoken, take me to the next authentic question.
Allowing the silence and sense of spaciousness that deep listening evokes to permeate the space takes confidence in the practice itself and a willingness to relax and give "breathing space and place" to the ideas, responses, pauses etc that arise when they are invited.
For me something whole/holy arises in and between us when deep listening is present and that's the Power that feeds the questions.
May the New Year be one of health, happiness and peace for all of us, everywhere,
Thank you for sharing with us your story of the young man and your being present to his humanity and not his labels.
I have worked with the incarcerated and those re-entering from prison. Many have frightening rap sheets. A very few are clearly and sometimes obscurely dangerous. Yet, by being fully present with and listening deeply for their inner self (this often deeply scarred and steadfastly protected), transformative healing may emerge.
It is my experience that, as the Canadian physician Gabor Mate also asserts, prisons hold far too many people and most of these would be better served in supportive living and community based restorative justice centers: developing job and social skills and strategies to overcome substance abuse. However, our society has such a vengeful "penchant for punishment" (and this mostly ineffective and costly) that we continue to use the only tool we are accustomed to using: the hammer.
In AoH, forming powerful questions and listening with all six senses for that which seeks to emerge fits beautifully with your example of the young man who had committed a horrific crime. I applaud you for your care, commitment, courage and authenticity. In the name of Restorative Justice, thank you!
What a moving story, Rose...
as you say, when we humans are witnessed and truly heard, we are often able to express ourselves
and a comment on from which place are we asking the questions:
This has been a wonderful dialogue to follow. Thanks to everyone for your reflections. One thought that has been bubbling for me since Helen’s first contribution (Helen, are you a social constructionist in thinking?) There is something in this dialogue for me around that place/space before the naming. When we name something (practitioner, doctor, educator, dog/cat, steward, pastor, spirit, etc.) we attach performative characteristics to it and in so doing we could miss out on some of the richness and possibilities that are there if we had approached our interactions with something more like beginner’s mind, i.e. a place of not knowing or, as Helen, offers, of open consciousness. So, how can we craft questions that start us from a place of ‘before the naming’ of ‘beginner’s mind’ of an invitation to emergence of all the gifts and wonder and possibility that are in all things/beings?
more on this conversation from the email list:
Bob, your point about us all being enriched by being gifted gems of ideas and stories of personal experience in a thread such as this is well taken.
I have found great value in these posts as reminders and also in coming to greater awareness of underpinnings and implications for a particular form of hosting which I am developing.
This is in the course of inventing a novel way of socializing in which the core feature is participants conversing in pairs with someone they do not know. The context in which this occurs can be described as 'stepping into a generous little spirit of old fashioned goodwill.'
What I have named Conversare from the Latin con versare – to turn or to dance together is a means by which people who may not know each other engage well, in public places.
With the ‘purpose’ being that all participants are invited to give of themselves by expressing interest in ‘the other’ through thoughtful questioning and listening.
This happens in the hands of a host who welcomes, sets everyone present at their ease and outlines the principles and practices which underpin these events. Such a host is ‘called’(sic) to this work and is thoroughly grounded in these, among which are those drawn from:
. OST: “Whoever comes are the right people’ and ‘Whenever we treat each other well good things happen’ – my ‘working’ paraphrase.
. TWC: “Define the purpose of the event’ and ‘Create a hospitable space.”
. AI: “Engage initially in dysads.” Then in groups of four, TWC style, to share observations.
With procedures which have ‘emerged’ in the course of experience in holding these events, originally in Hong Kong (where I lived happily for six years from 2005) and recently in Adelaide, to which I returned to live in mid 2011.
More about this format can be seen on my blog Conversare. Those with a keen eye may notice where pearls of wisdom from this thread are sprinkled in my latest post! <smile>
Of possible interest is that this way of coming together:
. will likely be integral to the social program of the World Open Space on Open Space (WOSonOS) in St Petersburg, Florida in May of this year.
. is now a component of the Adelaide Fringe [reputedly the best run anywhere on our little planet] coming up here in a few weeks time.
Which may not be all that surprising, given this comment from one who knew about such things: <smile>
‘Conversation is the greatest of the arts.”
Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller
These events have not ever happened in human history, anywhere. For participants are the entertainment - the audience are also 'the show' - in a conversational gathering within a festival of the arts.
. may prove of considerable value in enabling colleagues to get to know each other when working closely in organizations of any size, albeit maybe in different sections, for extended periods of time.
. has many potential applications and associated benefits perhaps particularly for people - across the age spectrum - who have lost confidence in their place in society. This could happen once others with a similar calling are trained to host these events in cafes, restaurants, pubs. hotels, community centers in local neighborhoods.
On the premise that, metaphorically, whenever people get connected there is a substance and field created. And that such happens when people are interested in others and express this, from a deep consciousness, through asking thoughtful questions and attending to answers.
I wonder if my account of a particular form of hosting expands your awareness of what this vital practice can be?
From a very hot southern Australia
Thanks, Alan, for including me in this interesting conversation.
A big "thank you" to Kathy for the link to the good Fast Company piece on asking questions--I also see lots of overlap with what I have taught on this subject. And I agree with the author on the value of journalism training to develop skills for life. I would not trade my two years of high school journalism (with a teacher with high expectations) for any year of college!
A shout-out to Bob as well--I can see you are doing good work, and it was great fun to see your Spokane address. I was born in Spokane and lived there until I came to the west coast to go to college--a lifetime ago.