The Art of Hosting

Quite some harvest has been posted to and aggregated on AoHlive.posterous - worth checking out.

You can see Helen's photos here: Slovenia Learning Village

Ria and Helen's reflections are now available as a pdf attached to this post - if anyone wants the full-quality pdf (with better photos), please contact Helen.

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Here follows some of the learnings that were harvested after the event, early Sept.'12, and shared via email:

Hello friends,
I have landed safely back in Karlskrona Sweden to open the 'learning village' that is the MSLS programme, after a rich week at the Learning Village in Slovenia. Mary-Alice suggested I share a bit of harvest that started to percolate one morning in the castle. It was a week I will not soon forget, and am deeply grateful for all those who put in the work to make it a reality.

A Learning Village harvest…. intentional apprenticeship towards mastery

The damp greenness of the morning air lifts me from the warmth of my bed. Like cool mountain mist I drift to the open window high inside a castle's wall, waking to a mystical Slovenian sunrise. Energy from the previous day's journey into the surrounding landscape – with grail legends of castles and caves, of passionate violin strings resonating in the belly of an ancient chapel, of generations harvesting fields together - all these layers wrapped themselves around me as I slept, like blankets woven of velvet and jute. Standing now at the window with this blanket draped around my shoulders, and the deep green voice of these hills wrapped around the castle's village, sensations of luxurious richness and scratchy longing share the morning space of my empty mind.

What is jute's scratchiness wanting? Perhaps it is a longing for those things I have not yet mastered and for wisdom from those who have discovered the grail's sacred offering. I long for the luxury of time spent solely in the joys of relationship, deep inquiry, creative expression and celebration of life, as we have shared these days. I long for more velvety threads spun of mastery, that kind that deepens wisdom and presence and freedom and gentleness. These longings seem to speak to the scratchy threads woven through life's tapestry, filling those spaces yet to be worn smooth by practice and time. Perhaps my longing is less than unique.

So what called us to be in learning together? And what of this village? And of learning? Are they different parts of a whole? Do other parts unnamed wait to be acknowledged? It seemed to me that as we lived our way into becoming a village in the presence of Statenberg Manor, the beauty arose in the unknown spaces, as individual learners brought light to unspoken elements of the system they were witnessing, shifting the learning to the collective like a gift. Some pointed to assumptions made, others to needs unacknowledged. All seemed to be responding to the scratchy threads of this collective tapestry, not yet worn smooth.

In this experiment of a 'learning village', words of purpose and expectation often dissected the center as we entered the space of both learning and being, alone and together. Sometimes they collided in contrast. Sometimes they danced with elemental grace. All expected by some, none expected by others, some not spoken at all. Simple evidence of humans being together, I suppose. Clarity is often held only through our own lens of expectation, even with the best of intention in the call, and even when made visible in the coming together, quickly forgotten in the busy-ness of the dance.

If I harvest one learning in this experiment it is this - that in a learning village, we each hold responsibility for illumination, for bringing light to that element of the system we see that has been invisible to the collective, one whose scratchiness lies on our shoulders. In this weave of insight and responsibility, we make the unknown known, and open the possibility for newness to arise in the system, for the system to see itself and choose its future collectively from a place of awareness and trust, where new attention to practice can begin to soften that thread. Without this gift of illumination, there is space for confusion, mistrust, and lack of clarity to live in the shadows between the threads.

Many people stepped into this responsibility in service to elements in need of voice and light. My responsibility showed itself through a dialogue around intentional apprenticing, on this same mystical morning. A conversation rich in insights around the need to be more intentional in mentoring the emerging practitioner in all of us seemed to be one of these assumed yet unfulfilled elements in our system.  We gathered as a village around our work in a beautiful spirit of openness and invitation for all to join, to ask for what they needed and to offer what they could. In this I sense an underlying assumption that 'asking' is easy for someone new to our practice, that simply making a request will bring forth the resource to meet the need. Often the need is not for funds or someone to join a hosting team, but for a commitment to an authentic, caring relationship, one in which an emerging and a more experienced practitioner agree to be in intentional learning together, at their edges without expectation but with a promise to be there to answer a call. Sometimes, maybe most times, this is nothing more than a short call to test out an idea for a design, a short email to know someone will be holding space for you as you step into the courage of hosting at your edge. As an apprentice, the 'knowing' that someone you trust has your back or will answer your call is often all that is needed, no call at all. And the practice of being a mentor may be richer still.  In a village, you know your elders and your coaches and your teachers and they know you. There is clarity of role and invitation. Having a network of a thousand people at your disposal to call can be a far less helpful invitation when you lack the personal relationships to know where to begin. For me, knowing who my mentors are and who I can count on to have my back makes all the difference.

A balancing step arises here...perhaps that boldness in asking for help is what our village expects. Perhaps it is one of our unwritten laws, a rite of passage when one steps into their practice deeply enough to truly need help beyond the newness of curiosity? Trembling at the intersection of true need and the edge of asking for help is fear. What if no one answers? What if I am asking the wrong person? What if they tell me something I am not prepared to hear (that the work I need to do first is inside myself)? Oh, sweet vulnerability!, the secret door into leadership of self that is found by walking through the dark bowels of the castle and climbing high to the top of her tower, throwing open the door to find no balcony to step onto, only the naked threshold of trembling air. Taking a risk to step into your own airy trembling to speak out 'I NEED HELP' loudly enough that it can be heard takes a warrior's courage. And we are building warriors in this village.

So here I take responsibility to shine light on an unspoken assumption I see in the field: the assumption that apprenticeship towards mastery will happen where a need arises simply by virtue of a broadly stated community value. My invitation is to consider how else we might host our own learning through more intentional  relationships, for deepening our learning and practice, to find others willing to explore learning and practice with intention together, as mates, as family, as village.

in loving service to the whole,



Thank you, Tracy, oh thank you for your beautiful harvest!

You have very clearly articulated something that was bubbling under the surface in many conversations and silences throughout our gathering. Another real learning edge, not just for our community but for all humanity's communities. How to support the needs that are not spoken - how to support the requests that are spoken but not heard. How to see our blind spots - that's where our diversity is precious… but how to face up to the fact that there might be things that our practices just don't cater for… even though we have been rather priding ourselves on our practice covering ALL the bases!
I am grateful that this jute thread is now woven into our collective consciousness. May it serve to awaken us further!
Dear Tracy,

Although I had to leave on the Thursday after lunch, and I feel I missed out on themagic and unfoldment of the closing days, I feel tuned into your reflections of our LV.

Yes, in our deep desire and intent to co-create for a better and emergent future, I seem to experience some coercion and lack of direct and clear inqire into our deeper - tacit - assumptions.  There is a lot of the Grail/Chalice energy and less of the Sword  in fear of ...what?

What I appreciated most in the Learning Village was the free flow of co-creation and the field held and created by all present to the best of their intention and creativity.  We all delve into the midst of magic and (glamour) of creating in a new way,  and as I said it at one of our table sessions, there is a touch of unconscious "hubris " that we are the ones to make it happen ( as well as unconscious patterns on hosts and logistics devided, etc. as if we were abiding to the devision of spirit and matter )...  yet I know that - fortunately - there are more and many out there to weave the new tapestry of a world to be born...who are not even in touch with this "new age" group spirit at all, but just do their work and thing in the most authentic and true way.

To inqure into all -  with the spirit of uncertainty,  and to suspend all of our certainty is what I learnt most from Bohm--who to me was the generative force behind many of our dialoguic spaces and flows... And it needs courage, passion and action and response... sometimes my difficulty in dialogue inquiries is that in fear of debate and dissonance, we just let the words of passion and truth fall into empty space and there is no response or spinning of it into further patterns of the whole...

Once I was associated with an intentional community for quite long to see how misleading at times it can be to assume that we are creating wonder and magic by some people in the background holding space and energy and benevolently look into the creation of the others in the space provided by them... HUH!!!

" So here I take responsibility to shine light on an unspoken assumption I see in the field: the assumption that apprenticeship towards mastery will happen where a need arises simply by virtue of a broadly stated community value. My invitation is to consider how else we might host our own learning through more intentional  relationships, for deepening our learning and practice, to find others willing to explore learning and practice with intention together, as mates, as family, as village." 

I welcome this invitation and feel drawn to join you in the exploration.

Hello all, from yet another airport!  ;-)

You are pointing to such interesting territory, Tracy (and you, too, Ágota), perhaps the shadowlands of our practice.  We know they are there, we touch the edge of them, maybe we are being signalled that building the collective muscle to even go there is what is needed now.

I know that this is muscle I need to build – how to keep my ground when there is passionate conflict, huge emotion, strongly held positions around me.  I want to have the strength of practice and the strong connection of relationship to be able to stay in the fire.  That’s one of the reasons I called the Learning Village because I deeply sense that when the whatever-you-call-it hits the fan, then it will be the strength of our practice and our relationships that allows us to step in and trust each other.

It is important to question assumptions.  And to question what we hold dear.  A fellow facilitator based in Prague once told me how challenging it was to use these practices in the former Eastern Block countries.  It was so hard for people to trust each other to speak the truth when they had had such a long conditioning that this might not be so or it might be dangerous.  I saw myself at an AoH training in Berlin how there was a systemic need by many of those in the group to make conflict happen so that resolution could also happen.

I also remember thinking to myself that each of our practices has a shadow side:

  • For Open Space it is that we haven’t built enough common ground and we fragment into personal interest sessions
  • For Appreciative Inquiry that we never allow the voice of dissent and pain to be heard, we become “pollyanna” in how we view life and we try to coerce others to do so too
  • For World Café that we talk and talk and nothing ever gets done
  • For Circle that we never have the interactive conversation we need to fully embrace the challenges and dissonance and shift positionalities we embody
  • For storytelling, that we seek only the positive, uplifting stories and shy away from the painful ones, the ones where the wolf appears, or that we seek to solve or rescue, unable to simply witness and be with what is, or that we get stuck in our stories

To move beyond these requires both skill and experience honed in the practice.  It depends on being awake to how to be inclusive, but also when not everyone needs to decide or be part of a conversation.  It depends on keeping learning at the centre and inquiry as a core skill.  It requires us to move into discomfort in order to make a breakthrough, to lean in instead of running away.  Maybe all of us have wanted to run away at some point.  I used to say to myself: “I think I’ll just go away and wear purple skirts!”.  I find myself continually called into the world instead.  In the world — and reflecting on it — is where I find my edges and hone my centre.

And I think the reason I can keep going there is that I have a sense within this community (or community of communities) that there are others who are also interested in working their practice, pursuing the big questions, and supporting each other.  I’ve looked many other places for this and haven’t found another bunch of people exactly like this.

During the time we were in Slovenia, I heard Ria often say that there are 3 things needed to have community:

  • Food and celebration (we did this for sure, inviting the wider community on Friday night and becoming a circle who polka!)
  • Conversations that matter (there were lots of those.  Maybe there were many more that needed a more public airing!)
  • A common focus, task or work (we had that in clearing the Chapel — work that connected our youngers and olders, gave us accomplishment and focus, allowed us to contribute)

My father added to this list yesterday when I told him about it by saying there also needs to be an agreed operating system.  He told me about being in the Air Force in WWII as an example, saying he didn’t fit well there, but had to learn how to get along by choosing a path that would give him more freedom.  This causes me to focus on how we hold process, what invitation we are offering for others to step in and whether we indeed walk the talk.

I will continue to mull on this and I am grateful when we support each other by digging into what moves us.  Thank you all!

From Chicago this time,

Mary Alice
Lovely question and important.. the shadows we hold need this collective deep inquiry and the deep systemic and emotional work that at the same time elevates us into a shift... (I wonder what process we use for this purpose that has proved its best?... I experiment with combining systems-family constellation, aspects of deep democracy process work and cathartic based co-counselling) ....

Mary Alice,  thanks for the deep reflection, and the links...

Later in the month September Helen sent out this request: What have we learned?
Dear ones all,
I am sitting here writing up my harvest of our time together as the International Learning village. As an experiment, Ria and I are interweaving our harvests, and I have reached Ria's subheading: What about the learning?


And I'm really curious. There are so many things that each of us must have learned - many of them I can't even imagine! I, for one thing, learned that I could remain civilized, human and equanimous whilst living in a hobbit tent with a teenager!

I would love it if you would spend a few minutes just pondering the question: "what was the most important thing I learned at the learning village?" Ideally, I'd invite you to share it on: But I'm sure nobody would mind if you replied to this mail!

Sending you all my love and fond thoughts in this most miraculous of autumns.


Thank you Lovely Helen for your curious invitation to share & reflect.

The most important thing that I learned at the International Learning Village is ... really hard to pick O N E as many lessons are interwoven thus creating the beautiful tapestry unique to Statenberg 2012. As I hold onto that image, to that place where we all lived in Open Space, time & space melt away & I learned... to connect more to the entire world & not just one color in the medicine wheel. It is more balanced to offer what I can & ask for what I need from the gifts of the other colors too: white, yellow, black. Rainbow warrior family is a beautiful connection. I see people doing the same work with the same intentions to co-create a better world & in the place of co-creation magic happens. I am more engaged with the world around me, like an ostrich taking my head out of the sand... ready to stop dreaming & just do it.
In Solidarity,

Dear all,


There sure was a lot of learning!

Right now I want to share the very lovely final harvest of all of us. On Saturday everybody spent some time on reflecting about the three questions: What really happened here for me? What really happened here for us? What wisdom has emerged that we can take to the world?

As I really enjoyed reflecting, I was curious what wisdom nuggets everybody else got out of the week. So Marcus and I collected the yellow and white cards everybody wrote and this is what I want to give back to you. (see attachment below: Harvest Learning Village final day.pdf)

With love



Dear friends,

it is one month when you left the manor Štatenberg and also Slovenia. You thought in this time probably a lot of about all things in this special summer week at Štatenberg and surroundings? 
Pawa, you show us many excellent things from your people! This days I became 2 books from old mexican Toltecs:
- Miguel Angel Ruiz: The Mastery of Love and The four Agreements
- it is also on web-side:
I think, these are beautiful books!
Many love and big hug from Štatenberg!
My fellow bard, the lord of the manor of song, 
wine maker of the village,
cultivator of delight
host of spirit
guardian of mirth…
here is what I learned…
The story I have told
is of an old way to hold
friends in the bold invitation of what we could become.
It is of a village that opens
and arms that hope that those
who appear in the courtyard
will sing together of
who they are, travellers
in a world that is unfolding.
I tell stories of hospitality
of a room made up for me
villagers that gave generously
of a chapel that heaved
under the dust of centuries
and came to life
under the tender polish 
of the youth among us
who wielded shovels
like they were the swords of truth.
I tell stories
of the hollow spaces
that filled with sound:
cave mouths and courtyards and lungs
and wine glasses that clink
friendship into being.
And circles and empty walls
that are filled with our longing
I tell stories of waking by the fire
watching my teachers in the mist
of a Slovenian dawn
a yawn and a daybreak
a refreshed remaking of myself
and a recommitment
to this deep field of mission
to friends I know and those
I knew have held me in the work
that I get to share in the world.
And I tell of the ecstasy
of singing the night down
Being showered by music
and guarded by 
the ramparts of joy.
And I tell the story, of a kind and curious man
who taught me a song
of everything we need to do
To plant and harvest 
the crop of fruit
that renews our ancient ways.
Thanks for asking Bostjan…
Na zdravje!

To continue this rich harvest:

Dear Ria and everyone!

I promised we would prepare a report on a great event we made within the Slovenian Association of the Facilitators. Most of you probably don't even know this Association exists in Slovenia… Yet it does and here is our puzzle to fill the harvesting part of the LV. Thanks to Natalija and Marjeta who made an effort to put this together again. (see attachment below: Collective Story harvest - Learning Village)

Best regards and thanks again to whole AoH community for being with us in Statenberg.



Hello to all - 

thank you for this invitation to reflect - 
and for the rich responses so far . . .
Here is a watercolor I did on the first afternoon, waiting for everyone to arrive. 
I sat in one of those deep deep walled window spaces in the manor - looking out . . .
Over the next days the sunflowers became all of YOU - open faces, stretching out , responding . . .
What did I learn here ? 
I learned more deeply the rhythm and pattern 
of being connected with myself and being connected with community.
I learned again that it is what I expect of myself 
that tightens me up and creates doubt.
I learned that each person can step into the center 
and magically create something from nothing.
Here is what I painted and wrote on the last day . . .
sending warmth and glowing courage to us all  . . . ! 

More to come...

Dear all,

so beautiful to read all the words expressing each individual inner process after Statenberg.

It is like being still there.

In my mind’s eye (or better nose) I can smell the perfume of Statenberg. A perfume who has connected with my own one.


Before I came to Statenberg I didn’t know why I have to come.

But my inner guidance leads me there.

And this great inner voice also invited my mother and my younger daughter.

A few days before leaving for Statenberg both of them said to me, that they don’t want to come with me. They couldn’t imagine something about AoH……

But something in me said:  Be quiet, say nothing, just wait.

And in the morning of our departure to Statenberg both sat in the car – ready for that adventure!



Really much has changed after this week.The connection of our 3 generations became deeper as ever before. My mother, she is 64, started to learn English and wants to go abroad as a Grandma-Aupair !

My younger daughter got a great motivation to think more consciously about the sense of her young life. She had so much deep conversations with her older sister; the first time she took over the role of the class representative after holidays. I asked her what was her inspiration to do this. She said: Mom, I want to create a good community!



And me. I could heal my heart while cleaning the chapel. Now the love can flow.

I want to say thank you with a song, I often play together with Iria – she’s a friend of mine and a singer. You’ll find the file attached. (sorry, it is not here)

We have sung this song in the week before leaving for Statenberg while sat together with friends around a fire.This is my present to the EVERLASTING FIRE OF STATENBERG.

The text is in German – but I tried to translate it:

I listen to the call of my heart.

Whatever it wants to tell me.

I listen to the call of my heart.

And deep inside I became silent.


I honor the call of my heart.

Even if it confused me sometimes.

I honor the call of my heart.

It has never been wrong before.


I follow the call of my heart.

Whereever it will guides me.

I follow the call of my heart.

The wind which relights my fire.


Thanks to this song – it leads me to Statenberg.

Warm hug to you all.



Setting Your Intention and Taking Action, by the Joy Archer (aka Alissa Schwartz)


What does it take to shoot an arrow straight and true? To amplify what is already there? First, you must be both at rest and ready to strike. Once you have identified a target for your intention, spring back and flex forward. Stand your ground and bloom your heart. Plug into the collective consciousness that ties together this moment and place with all other moments and places. You are at the crossroads of Heaven and Earth (That Which Is Bigger Than You and That Which Grounds You); Past, Present, and What Will Be Next (Wisdom and Vision); the Right Here and the Over There. Release. Whooooooooosh. The arrow is the throughline, travelling with space and time, moving towards what wants to emerge. Where are you going next? Who will be receiving you? Is it even in your control? The archer shoulders a quiver full of arrows. She needs only reach back and draw another, and another, and another. Sharing abundance. Sharing positive, strong, energetic, inherently female energy. She is Erzulie, Legba, Cupid, Sagitarrius. Who do you shoot your arrows for?
P.S. I also learned that I can sing in front of a crowd and not feel like a fool!!!


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