It is the last morning of our 3 day Art of Hosting training in St. Paul Minnesota in mid April 2012. We have 40 participants plus our 6 person hosting team which includes 3 apprentices. The hosting team is starting our day by checking in. Day 2 was a good example of a groan zone kind of day. The field felt a bit disconnected from itself. There were little rumblings here and there that had been showing up since our opening circle on Day 1 that had our attention a bit and certainly our curiosity.
At the end of Day 2 during our check out as a hosting team, we noticed some of thedynamics that seemed to be in play, felt we didn’t have enough information to make informed determinations of what may or may not be in the field and let it go as we left for the day.
On this last morning, the person hosting our check-in asks, “What are you anticipating in this day?” The question gives me pause, although I’m not sure why — until I begin to answer it. I start with, “Well, I’m anticipating a few good conversations with individuals – some of whom have already been identified.” I hesitate. What else am I anticipating in this day? What do I want to anticipate? Ah. That is a good question. My clarity begins to emerge. I continue, “I don’t think I want to anticipate anything else. We know there are some dynamics in this field. It is not fully clear what they are so I think I don’t want to anticipate anything. What I do want to do, is be fully present and attentive, ready to tune into whatever emerges that needs tending, but without anticipating now what that might be.”
This sentiment seems to resonate for all of us on the hosting team. An invitation into being fully present, to not speculating, to not imagining how carefully we need to tend the field for certain things. The first of the four fold practices – being present. The Four Fold Practice is a core pattern and practice in Art of Hosting and it has been receiving renewed attention lately in our teaches and our conversations. Self hosting. Not just being nice to self by going to the spa or eating dark chocolate. Depth. Practice. Discipline. The discipline of practice. Meeting oneself, sometimes in places one would prefer not to meet oneself.
Being present is fundamental to good hosting. This I knew. What happens next for us as a hosting team is what has me reflecting still on the power of presence and what it means to hosting and, more than that, for me anyway, what it means in my life. As a team we decided not to try to figure out what may or may not be going on in the room, or who was holding the threads of what dynamics, but to let it go to sense into what was alive in the moment allowing us to more powerfully engage the next two folds in the practice – participating fully in those one-to-one conversations and contributing to the larger hosting process.
Following our check in, I was coaching the proaction café team. It was a large team, a bit chaotic to start, but everyone managed to find a role that worked for them with several teams of two hosting different sections. I went off to find the members of the team to check in with them about their role and what, if anything, they needed from me. In entering the room, I began to encounter some of the people who seemed to be holding some of the threads of discontent and disconnect that had been popping up over the previous two days. Spontaneously. I didn’t seek them out. I’m not even sure they sought me out. We just bumped into each other. In this spontaneous connection in even just five to ten minutes, a depth of human to human connection happens on the level of story, being able to see and witness some extraordinary part of an individual’s journey.
What is even more surprising is that this spontaneous connection happens for many of our host team members. What we notice alive in our field now is that the threads of discontent and disconnect seem to dissipate and disappear. They didn’t go underground as often happens when not addressed, but they seem to disparate in the depth of human connection. People feel seen, heard and acknowledged in their journeys in unanticipated and beautiful ways.
Then, the proaction café weaves people, their stories and their gifts together in a beautiful way. Nine projects/ideas expand in delightful ways. The conversation hosts feel gifted. The participants also feel gifted and honoured with holding and exploring other people’s dreams, realizing the power of contribution even when not directly connected to someone else’s project. One of the roles taken on in the proaction café is the deliberate and intentional holding of space – or the energetics in the room.
Two women stand on either side of the room, visibly and silently witnessing the room and hosting space. When we debrief, they are asked to share what they have been doing and what their experience has been. They describe the honour of it, of seeing the weave in the room, of deliberately fueling it with positive intention and love. Participants describe their experience of it, what they feel corresponded to what they heard from the hosts of the energetic space.
It was one of the most deliberate explorations of what are we hosting really that I have been part of. When we do our closing, as often happens, we become aware of how powerful the three days have been for many who are there. We are reminded of the power of the groan zone and how our assessment of where we are in our process influences our interpretation of whether we are successful or not. On a day that ends in a groan zone it doesn’t always feel on track or successful. Seeing the convergence in the next day reinforces the beauty and possibility of the groan zone. I’ve been through enough groan zones that I should know this but it is always a renewed awareness.
As we close our hosting team circle at the end of the day, we bring curiousity about what has happened and a fresh wondering about the Four Fold Practice and the power of presence to shift the shape of the field and the possibility it can shake out some dynamics without needing to dive into them. Is that what happened? I don’t know with absolute certainty. That’s my continued reflection. Will full presence always be enough to dissipate shadow on its own? Happy to experiment more to discover – rather than anticipate the answer to that.
This experience has me reflecting on hosting self, specifically myself, my life and my relationships. How often have I said about a situation, relationship or person, “I’m optimistic that…” or “I’m not optimistic that…” What is the anticipation that gets built into those kinds of statements? What if I just met that situation, relationship, person, myself, in the moment of the experience and not as a precursor to what might or might not be but attentive to what, if anything, needs to be tended to in this moment? How would this ongoing presence shift the shape of my experience now, shifting the shape of my relationships and my situation? I am deeply appreciative for the question, “What am I anticipating?” It has made me aware of how much I do anticipate and how a lot of that does not serve.
The only journey I really need to pay attention to is mine. Another person’s journey is not really my business and is certainly not my journey. My journey intersects with others, but they don’t define mine unless I let them. I don’t define theirs unless they let that happen. Letting go of analysis and simply tuning in at the moment supports what wants to happen rather than fuels my own anticipation of what might or might not happen, possibly feeding something that didn’t need to be fed, creating something where it might not have existed except that my/our anticipation brings it into being. Still ruminating on this one. Powerful lessons from the field on being present.