Archive for June, 2010

The oil spill

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I open up my reader – where all the blogs I’m following appear on one page – and read both these blogposts, both by women, both on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…

One is about workers who are cleaning up the big mess, and are not allowed to talk with anyone about what they are doing.

The other one is about being part of the system that created this.

Summer solstice

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Summer Solstice is a celebration of the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer. Since ancient times humans have celebrated this time in festivals honoring the life giving power of the sun, and the abundance and vitality of life at its zenith.

Ancient systems of knowledge were universally orientated to celestial events, particularly the solstices and equinoxes that mark the seasons of life on earth. Honoring of these cardinal points is found throughout the world in sites as diverse as Stonehenge in the British Isles, the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, USA, the Caracol Tower of Mexico, and the Pyramids of Egypt.

Solstices happen twice each year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most inclined toward (summer) or away (winter) from the Sun. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstice the Sun appears to stands still in its path before reversing direction. Of course as we view this time from a global perspective, it is obvious that the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere are opposites, so that the summer solstice of one hemisphere is the winter solstice of the other.

In the Occident, the solstices and equinoxes mark the beginning of the seasons, such that summer solstice is the first day of summer. In East Asian Cultures, they mark the middle of the seasons. This reflects the understanding that the Chi, or energy, in the movement from yin to yang crests at the midpoint. Hence the Chinese character for solstice means “extreme”, signifying the zenith of the energies of summer and winter.

Summer solstice in Tirol

A similar sense of flowing between seemingly contrary forces (as symbolized by Yin and Yang) is expressed in the traditions of the British Isles, where the Oak King- who rules the waxing year, reigns from Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice when he abdicates to the Holly King who rules the waning year. Thus, in traditions of both East and West, we acknowledge that in the realm of duality opposites give rise to each other in turn. We experience this mystery every year when the longest day marks the beginning of the light’s incremental waning toward winter’s darkness, and again at winter solstice when the darkest night heralds the return of the light.

Many ancients, such as the Druids, celebrate the marriage of Heaven and Earth during Midsummer Solstice, reflecting the alchemical fusion of spirit and matter at the heart of creation. Though celebrations held in different parts of the world differ, they reveal a common essence of celebrating light at its zenith and the bounty and goodness of life that is given by the vitalizing radiance of the sun.

Thanks to Dana Lynne Andersen for the text and to Ursula who forwarded the picture!

Natural ways of working

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

My friend Helen made a nice blogpost on Natural ways of working, a few days ago. She is a natural kind of harvester, both in beautiful words and pictures! Most of the words you can read here, the pictures are on her blog.

“The campfire, so reminiscent of our earliest human roots, is a guide to natural ways that conversation flows among people sitting in a circle. And so, as I listened to people’s stories about their experiences of participatory leadership, I found myself distilling what I heard into some principles that could move us away from the stifling hierarchical paradigm that many of us find so oppressive and towards some easy attitudes that promote effortless thriving.

* Nature’s implicit purpose is to thrive – nature is in the business of creating life from life. It is the manifestation of living wholeness, evolving. Humanity is part of that evolution. Evolution is about awakening – through the higher mammals and us humans, nature is becoming conscious of itself as a living whole. In the workplace, if what we are doing is truly in service of the whole, to allow the whole to thrive, then we will seek ways to achieve our purpose that allow all affected to thrive in the longer term, and to enhance our own and each other’s wellbeing in the short term. Part of the way we can do this as individuals is to freely offer our gifts to each other, in service of each other’s thriving, and to ask others for what we need but cannot provide for ourselves.

* Attend to the invisible realms – a lot of life is invisible to the eye. What goes on under the ground or in the sub-atomic or quantum spaces is just as important as what we can empirically observe. The same is true of what happens in organisations and inside and between people. A lot of life is equally invisible to the mind. One often neglected place of invisible power is silence. Another is what happens in the wake of a good question. Most potent of all, though, is the invisible field that holds communities, conversations, projects – all shared entities, however nebulous or immaterial. The mind cannot grasp this concept in any but the most abstract terms – it is the domain of physical and subtle sensing, and not conducive to rational dissection.

* Flexibly adapt around constraints – nature doesn’t make a big deal about obstacles and constraints. It simply incorporates them or grows around them. If it can be said to have a focus, that focus is thriving and creating more life, not obsessing about restrictions. If we keep a constant eye on our shared purpose, and if that purpose is truly in service of greater wholeness, then the kosmos will tend to meet us half-way in the most unexpected forms, as synchronicity spreads like an algal bloom around us.

* Focus on relationship – the transformative power of simple human contact has been so overlooked in mainstream organisational culture, and yet it remains true that relationship is the soil in which the seed of task is sown. Relationships thrive on simplicity. Too much complexity tends to undermine the trust without which healthy belonging is not possible. Simple practices are often the most effective – things like celebrating birthdays, honouring people’s acts of courage, stepping up to help and support each other in small ways and remembering each other at important or challenging times when we cannot be physically present.

* Nature is participatory – in any ecosystem, all elements participate fully. The only participation required of them is to be fully themselves. The greater the diversity and the greater the interaction between the diverse elements, the stronger and more resilient the system. In human systems, inviting full participation creates ownership, which in turn creates belonging, which creates commitment. As natural beings ourselves, it can help us to remember that our best contribution is simply to show up as ourselves. Having the courage to offer our unique perspective, for the good of the whole, even when we are unsure how it will be received.”

To celebrate the beginning of summer?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

A Canadian friend of mine, Dave Stevenson, wrote a week ago a message to the Art of Hosting emaillist. He is doing great work within the process of giving child and youth care back to the first nations, away from the central government.

Here is what he wrote:
“Last week we held a ceremony at a local long house, which for those of you not familier with the West Coast First Nations traditions, holds the home fire of traditional laws and customs. The ceremony was to formally acknowledge and celebrate a relationship between Provincial, Federal and First Nations Governments working together for the care and protection of Aboriginal children in British Columbia.

As part of the event, one of the champions and leaders for First Nations Children was asked to speak and gave this message, which I am passing on. June 21st is National Aboriginal day, and the message is a request for a moment of clarity and intention for the care of mother earth.
Please feel free to pass along.”

Dear friends and family,

June 21, 2010 is Aboriginal Day for Aboriginal people in Canada. In light of this date, Caring for First Nations Children Society of British Columbia is asking for your support in the following initiative;

Mother Earth continues to nourish us and care for people regardless of the injuries she has suffered at the hands of man. From oil spills, earthquakes, logging, fisheries industry, among many other injuries, mother earth has sustained us and continues to fight for our survival. In the spirit of reciprocity, Caring for First Nations Children Society of BC would like for offices, agencies, organizations, families, and individuals to be conscious of the clock at 10am on June 21, 2010. At 10a.m. we ask that people consciously extend their healing thoughts to mother earth whether in the form of a prayer or otherwise. We encourage you to not underestimate the power of such a concentrated effort at a simultaneous time. Please extend healing thoughts, prayers, ceremony and positive energy for/to mother earth and ask that she heal herself and that people around the world support her healing.



Sunday, June 20th, 2010

As some readers might recall, last Autumn, I packed all my stuff in boxes, put it all in an old stable and not sensing where was my place to go next, I ended up living with Helen, in a Brussels suburb.

Actually this has been a most wonderful time, and out of her reorientation in life and my passion to live in a natural way, we now are just days away of getting the keys of a new house!

Actually it is a project on what we really want and what we are able to manifest. So we opened a separate blog for it to keep track of our learning and to share it with a wider audience, and you are welcome to read over there (both in Dutch and English!) Its name is Dorpsstraat, which is the actual name of the street and it translates as Village Street – just to be clear on how big the village is!

Part of the property is a totally grown over little apple and pear orchard, that we are unveiling of nettles and brambles… see how it was and how it is emerging…

The Feminine Blind spot

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Since a few weeks I haven been wondering why the need I perceive in men/masculine – as they are holding so much in the world ‘out there’ – and the offer and skill of women/feminine to witness and hold that, is not gelling, is not coming to a fruitful synergy (yet?). It all made me wonder if we – women/feminine – have a collective blind spot that keeps us away from our real power? Power, as I understand it here, in the sense of full contribution to life itself.

As sometimes is the case for me, giving language to the question itself, elicit almost immediately the answer. This came from me from that deeper inner well: “The blind spot is that we have inner knowing, and our mind doesn’t know.”

Immersion Jackie

I understand this inner knowing as a connection – through subtle sensing – into the realms of the invisible, the intangible and the non-human parts of our reality. Inner knowing is not something weird, but a reality that is mostly ignored in our mainstream culture, although unconsciously it guides our choices and all serendipity and synchronicity in life.

It is this subtle sensing that ultimately ties us, humans, back with nature and Earth. It is a relationship that goes much deeper than sustainability. A better concept is thrivability – where ALL that exists can thrive. Ultimately it is regenerative in its nature when we let our actions be grounded by this wisdom.

Immersion Jürgen

In the systemic constellation we did in the Immersion around the topic of what is the need in the world and how it relates with us and our masteries, the Wounded Healer was one of the main characters. He seemed to have a lot of power and was holding a lot, but he was also very stiff, rigid and not flexible or fluent. It was only when he connected with the Grandmothers energy that he could relax in his body and starting to breath a little deeper. After that had happened – and of course much more happened in the constellation – he was able to turn to Earth itself and saying “Sorry”, on her request. That gave the final relief in the constellation.

Having this story in my mind and still wondering about the feminine blind spot I asked myself: what is the Wounded Healer in us, women? This was the answer that came up: “We, as humans, can’t make it happen; we need to co-create with nature.” So, if I tie this all together then we need to become conscious and explicit about our relationship with nature and the invisible in order to co-create with these forces and energies – back into thrivability of humans and the earth. It seems to me, the feminine has to offer these capacities to the masculine, and can also ask the masculine to protect these skills in service of the wholeness of humans and earth; life itself.

What do you think about these matters?

(The people on the pictures were participants in the Immersion, and were representing the Wounded Healer and the Grandmothers.)

Drinking tea with grandma

Friday, June 4th, 2010

This was the title of my Open Space session, here in Axladitsa in the program Immersion. (now some three weeks ago) Of course everybody laughed when I announced it. But I had a sense that I had a lot of my life’s experience to offer to many of these people who are doing such great work in the world. Later I found out that I am the oldest person here; and after all, I am a real grandmother with a granddaughter of 9 months! (see picture!)

Two young women immediately showed up, before my tea was ready. They carried questions about Feminine Power. These bright young ladies ask themselves what is the New Feminine? They have been educated, they have work with great responsibilities and they want to do it differently than mainstream governance, politics, economics etc. But looking back at femininsm of the sixties, seventies or eighties, they don’t find inspiration or support that fits their situation.

We talked about the pitfall that many women fall into as they haven’t learned the difference between being good at relations and emotions – but easily getting overwhelmed by it or disempowered – and the more impersonal stance in these matters. This would mean to take care, but staying grounded and centered, even when great pain or big chaos shows up. It would also mean that women need to develop the language to speak about the topics of relationships and what they are sensing in order to become very explicit so that they can be understood.

Interestingly a man showed up to drink tea with us and he joined the conversation. This turned to a deep inquiry about the different qualities of the feminine and the masculine. I was reminded of a quote of a native grandmother somewhere: Men hold the love and women hold the knowledge; that is how it should be. I remember how it turned my understanding upside down when hearing it for the first time, and now it showed itself again.

Mahmoud and Riva

We recognised that indeed the masculine has a great heart, and always wants to find solutions for the problems at hand. We were wondering if asking for help and protection was one of the new skills the new feminine has to integrate back – independent women as we all are?!? What if we would do this in service of the earth and life itself?

Probably the more feminine skills of sensing and relationship need to be used (more) in sensing things like right timing and alignment with the whole of the context we find ourselves in; including the Earth and the invisible and intangible.

Drinking tea at the little table in front of the house spilled over to the next days and generated more deep conversations… and for myself, being a grandmother who shares bits of her journey whenever needed, seemed to fit my mastery! I was surprised with that, but it feels very right and very comfortable. In our ‘debrief’ of the gathering yesterday it was recognised that ‘grandmothers holding the rim’ seemed very important for gatherings who want to be life affirming. More to be explored later I guess.

Signs from nature

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

This post was written during the Immersion, a gathering/program regarding Living Wholeness, that happened a few weeks ago in Axladitsa, Greece.

I realise more and more how I am connecting back to the worlds of the subtle, the invisible, the natural… and slowly – very slowly – the experience is dripping into my Western mindset that I am (and we are) totally interdependent with these worlds.

Rowan and the rock
(the picture is from some years ago, but the same beach!) I remembered having this feeling a lot of times last year when working in the garden. So many times that I questioned myself what it was and the answer came in the form of the book Cocreative Science, where the author describes how she cocreates together with what she calls devas and nature spirits. I first had to go beyond my childish ideas of dwarfs and elfs to understand these ‘beings’ in terms of energies and fields, which then make a lot of sense to me.

So I checked in with this being/energy/field, and my sense was that the spirit of this beach was quite happy with me being there and there seemed to be a connection with a spot on the beach where Axladitsa folks many times have gathered. I remembered that Jacki had collected some garbage from the beach a few days ago, and I did too; as it is my habit anyway. It seemed to me that I made this beach-being stronger by doing this.

Immersion flowers

Then there are the snakes and the lizards. We are approaching in our current program here the invisible and the unconscious, the subterranean as it is called in our map. Three days ago I noticed the skin of a snake tied into the little brick wall in our groups space. Interesting… Then on Wednesday I noticed a snake, tied in a strongly shaped knot around what I could later recognise as a lizard. I stopped and watched it for some time. Had the snake of transformation ourselves in her grip? I noticed the lizard being still for long minutes, then suddenly moving… it seemed to have gained some more freedom… I walked on to get something out of my tent.

Later that night we drew Tarot cards to get clarity about where we were in the process of our gathering; and in the end asked personal messages about our shadows and what is holding us back. In having this conversation some energy was released, something opened up.

Much to my surprise this morning, at the well, a lizard without a tail showed itself to me… I’m not saying this was the same lizard I saw before, but somehow interesting!

More snakes would show itself over the next days to other participants in the gathering; and to my great, great surprise; when I returned to the well in the evening, I noticed the tail of the lizard in the grass! If you would ever try to find a tail of a lizard laying in the grass…

Is this just metaphor?
Or is some deeper interconnection going on?
Can I get into the experience of how this is all interconnected, mutually shaping each other?
Can I really move myself in the awareness that I – we as humans – are mirrored in what we do and what we go through in the other realms; subtle and invisible, or as visible as snakes and lizards?

What if…

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

“The European Consumer Summit is a multi-stakeholder event organised every year by DG SANCO (Directorate General Health and Consumers). It gathers more than 400 participants in Brussels for 1,5 days. This event was previously organised as a ‘classical conference’: with lots of plenary presentations but not enough opportunities for participants to contribute and network. Not this year…

Our vision for the 2010 Summit was to get real policy output, including deliverables directly from participants and therefore much more interaction. The 2010 theme was “Services: access, fairness and choice” and the 6 workshops had quite different scopes:
• How can we help consumers to choose the right service provider?
• Web 3.0 – Challenges and Opportunities for Consumers in the internet of the future
• Bank Account Fees – How to ensure transparency and choice?
• The Adventure of Car Hire – Enforcement challenges
• The Green Energy challenge
• Going around in circles. How to improve urban sustainable mobility”

Consumer summit ik

This report is written by Carina Törnblom, official in the European Commission. I don’t know the right term for her function – sorry Carina. She has been part of the Art of Participatory Leadership training, offered by some of our Art of Hosting colleagues. Six other colleagues, of which I was one, were asked to host one of these six interactive workshops.

Her report continues:

Designing a successful event

In order to prepare the event, we set up an internal task force and connected this to a team of facilitators, practitioners of the Art of Participatory Leadership from inside and outside the Commission. Some of the workshops had more difficult starting conditions than others, e.g. high potential conflict due to very different opinions between participating stakeholder groups (industry and consumer organisations). Therefore facilitators were challenged to be very flexible and on the other hand to be enough convincing to ensure the interactivity in the workshops.

The outcome

On the D-day, each workshop was asked to address the challenges in the morning, the solutions in the afternoon and prepare 3 findings and 3 things for the Commission to do. This was reported on the second day (half day) in plenary followed by questions and answers session. In the Car Hire workshop industry agreed to involve consumer representatives and representatives of the European Consumer Centres network in the upcoming Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism. In the Green Energy and Urban Transport workshops there was a call for more studies on consumer behaviour and multi-stakeholder working groups. In the area of Bank Account fees, the Commission will further explore how to improve transparency, including, for example, the idea of an independent on-line comparison tool, as well as financial education. The discussion on the internet of the future highlighted issues to be monitored closely, such as consumer friendly online contracts, privacy and data protection.


During the day, we could already feel from the buzz in the building that participants were in a great mood and the feedback was very positive. 95% of the participants were satisfied with the interactivity, the opportunity to voice their opinion and the increased understanding of other stakeholders’ position. One of the participants told us spontaneously that in nearly 12 years of being on the consumer circuit, this was by far the best conference he had ever attended.



In SANCO we are also very satisfied with the output, the willingness of our stakeholders to commit themselves in the suggested directions. This was not only an efficient and effective way of working but it represents what the European project is about: close cooperation and real dialogue.

This success was a truly collaborative effort, thanks also to our colleagues from other services. This was the first time that a more participatory approach was taken by the Commission in such a large conference with external stakeholders. It has not gone unnoticed and has been a real chance for the Commission to be looked at differently. Let’s hope this will inspire others so that it is just a start… What if the Commission would use this approach as a rule and not an exception? Would that not change how the citizens see us?

Quote on maladjustment

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

“Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” … Certainly, we all want to avoid the maladjusted life. In order to have real adjustment within our personalities, we all want the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurosis, schizophrenic personalities.

But I say to you, my friends, as I move to my conclusion, there are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence…

In other words, I’m about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world. The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment-”

Dr Martin Luther King
December 18, 1963
WMU speech
(Thanks to Pierre Goirand to send it around)

What is maladjusted? The roots of the three breaking the asphalt, or the asphalt not adjusted to the growing of the three roots?
Actually, I always love these kind of cracks...