Archive | Connectedness

I Finally Get It

I finally get it.

Thanks to tripping over a blog post by Julie Daley, I just had an insight into something that has been puzzling me. Puzzling me, in fact, since I accepted the calling to work in the world of Grief. Since I realized that working in the world of Grief is really working in the world of Connection.

The puzzle?

Where does Curiosity fit into it?

Curiosity, which has been my focus, my bandwagon, for several years. My joy, my playground. My secret weapon.

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?”*

A puzzle. And my fear, at the bottom of the puzzle, was that Curiosity didn’t belong here any more, and I really didn’t want to give it up as a topic. Because it’s fun to explore, to write about. Because it is important.

“Three of these things belong together
Three of these things are kind of the same
Can you guess which one of these doesn’t belong here?
Now it’s time to play our game.”*


Now I see that it is like the others, and it’s so obvious to me I wonder how I didn’t see it before.

In her post, Julie wrote about knowing and not knowing, about admitting what we don’t know, and owning what we do know. And something in what she wrote reminded me that Curiosity is what connects us to others. Curiosity is what is happening when we reach out to someone else, when we admit we don’t know, and we’d like to.

Curiosity is what bridges the gap between me and you.

Curiosity is what powers my reaching out, my desire to Connect with you. I don’t know, and I’d like to. To connect with Life. I don’t understand, and I’d like to.

Connection and Loss, Joy and Grief, are intimately intertwined. So Curiosity, as a fundamental aspect of Connection, is part of that dance.


And I have to laugh, because I have known this all along. After all, one of my handles is “Believes Curiosity and Wonder can save the world.”

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

They are… connected.

I know it in my bones.


Does this resonate with you? What do you know in your bones?

Please leave a comment.


*That’s right, Sesame Street. “Three of These Things” by Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss, c 1970.

Hallway Angel

It had been a long week, and it was only Wednesday.

A week of highs and lows. Of time spent with the horses, of wonderful, uplifting, encouraging conversations.

And. A week of conversations that made me think, If I am ever in another Relationship I have so much to learn, so much work to do on myself, so much I want to do differently.

A week of looking in the mirror and thinking, I’m not young anymore. I have lines on my face I didn’t have before. And they’re not laugh lines. I’m not pretty. No one will ever love me again.

(I’ve gotten pretty good, over the years, at not indulging in negative self-talk. But I succumbed. And I noticed.)

Like I said. It had been a long week. And it was only Wednesday.

But on this Wednesday I had gone into The City for the monthly meeting of coaches and, as always, it filled me up.

I was standing in the hallway outside the hotel’s restrooms, waiting for a friend to come out so we could walk together to the train station. Standing, not thinking, just basking in the afterglow of a really good meeting with friends and colleagues and a speaker who had given me a lot to ponder.

I looked up from my pondering, and there was a man standing in front of me.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but I just had to tell you. Even from across the room. You’re beautiful.”

I gaped at him.

“Really,” he went on. “Stunning.”

I’m talking to an angel, I thought.

“This isn’t a pick-up,” he hurried to add. “I’m here with a date. I just had to tell you.”

“Thank you,” I managed to say. “I appreciate that.”

“You are, you know. Really. Beautiful.” I could smell alcohol, he had clearly come out of the bar, not out of our meeting, and was headed for the restrooms. I’d never seen him before. Maybe the angel took on the smell of alcohol to make himself seem real, I thought. Or maybe the alcohol made it easy for the angel to nudge him to action. Either way, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

“Thank you,” I said again. “I really appreciate that.”

Thank you, Angel. Whoever you are.

Take notice, the next time one of your angels whispers in your ear and nudges you to be an angel for someone else.
Are you willing to let yourself be nudged?

Image courtesy of papaija2008 /

Being With

Yesterday I went to the wedding celebration of a friend of mine. A friend whom I hold dear, although we don’t spend that much time together.

I almost didn’t go.

I looked forward to it all week, but when the day came I was reluctant.

I would be going alone, and I didn’t think to call anyone to carpool. Would there be anyone there I knew? I feared going and being surrounded by others but feeling isolated. Would my little gift be good enough? They wouldn’t miss me if I didn’t go…

Wait a minute. I would miss them if I didn’t go. And, I said to myself, there were a lot of people she could have invited, and didn’t. She invited me.

I wrapped up my little hand-made gift, with something for each them, something personal, far more personal (aka Vulnerable) than something I might have gotten from Pottery Barn or wherever, and wrote in my hand-made card with one of my own photographs on the front. And off I went.

I arrived at the wedding party and, as soon as I arrived, a friend I hadn’t seen in months waved at me and said, “Come sit by me!” We chatted and caught up while we ate plates of Mexican food and drank margaritas, watching as party-goers learned salsa dancing. Other friends came and went from our little group, dear friends, new friends, acquaintances I hadn’t seen in several years.

Then a man appeared in front of me and held out his hand, inviting me to dance.

I have never salsa danced. Ever.

And I feel very awkward when it comes to any dance that requires Following.


Remember the movie, “Risky Business?”

Sometimes you just have to say, “What the fuck.”

I put down my plate and got up. And danced. And it worked! “It’s just like walking,” my teacher said. “You’re doing great!”

How funny, I thought, not long ago I needed help walking after a horse stepped on my foot, and my walking partner said, “We’re just dancing, and you get to lead.” “That’s good,” I remember thinking, “I suck at following when I dance.” Now I was dancing, and my partner was telling me it was just like walking, and I was doing great at following. Hmmm.

We danced, and I danced several times throughout the afternoon between conversations and hugs and laughs. Ultimately I ended up in a corner with three other friends (two old, one new), just talking and Being With. It was lovely.

As we were helping our friend load up her car with gifts and leftovers, one of her friends, with whom I had danced, handed me one of the last flower arrangements to be given away and said,

“Here, Wild Thing, you need some flowers.”

Wild Thing? Me?

I laughed, and accepted. The flowers, and the name.

This morning I got up and drank my coffee and caught up on blogs I follow, and I noticed a distinct theme. The first, What We All Need, was about the importance of just being with. The second was about belonging, and how it is a distinctly 21st Century Challenge that requires stepping outside of our comfort zones. The third was about belonging to ourselves, receiving what is here and receiving the sacred. Through just being with it. Hmmm.

Belonging. Comfort Zones. Accepting. Showing Up. The truth is that if I am willing to step out of my comfort zone, I sometimes find greater comfort. I’m glad the voice that says, “I do belong” is louder than the voice that says, “I don’t belong.”

Which voice do you listen to? Which voice do you encourage others to listen to?

A Modern-Day Barn Raising

I recently had a remarkable experience.

A dear friend of mine is going through a significant life change, and she sent out the call for friends to come and help her reorganize her home. So a handful of her friends and relations gathered to divide and conquer the task of helping her create a new home life.

As she explained when she showed us her project list – from which we got to pick what was most interesting or best fit our skills – when she made her list, she looked at it and realized it would take forever to do it alone. She felt overwhelmed. So she called for help. Which was, as one of her friends said, a brave (and wise) thing to do.

So each of us picked a project. The kitchen was reorganized, the office/guestroom/dumping-ground became a meditation room/guestroom/office, the living room and dining room were reorganized. Furniture was redistributed or repurposed, art was hung, and electronics were hooked up.

Sometimes we worked alone, and sometimes we teamed up. There was a lot of collaborating – What if we moved this over there? Could this go in the other room? Could you hold this level while I mark the wall? – and a lot of laughter.

Part of what was so remarkable was that people brought themselves and their skills, but left their egos at home. Another was the unspoken idea that if you were a friend of hers, you must be OK. I felt quite honored to be included in that. Everyone was interesting, and everyone was interested. I only knew two people when I arrived, but I felt like I had several new friends when I left.

The idea of the “barn raising” is an old one, rooted in the fabric of what makes communities work. We go with a primary purpose in mind but, as so often happens in life, we often end up receiving as well as giving.

What did I receive? Aside from the new friends that I met, and the sense of pleasure and satisfaction I get when I think of my friend looking happily around her “new” home, my sense of wonder was refreshed. Wonder at the openness, generosity and curiosity of her friends. Wonder at this little community (one of my favorite subjects) of which I am a part – a community whose uniting factor was our friend, as well as the values we share.

I’m sitting here thinking about this story, and my recent posts, wondering about the threads that connect them. The threads that jump out at me are not only the way the people that day were curious about each other, but also the unexpected gifts I received by showing up and being open. Back to Martin Buber and his quote that I love: “Every journey has secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

Do you practice noticing things like that?

Can Webinars Ever Replace In-Person Training?

Although the technology and platforms for teleconferences, webinars and online meetings have improved dramatically in the recent past (Skype, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, and are just a few examples), the question still comes up: Can virtual training and meetings ever replace the in-person experience?

The answer is, of course, “No.” Before you proponents of virtual meetings begin howling, however, let me say that I also support and use these new technologies. These tools have made it possible for people from around the globe connect and participate in meetings and training that they would otherwise not have access to, and they have allowed me to build relationships with colleagues whom I have never met – in person, that is. I have colleagues with whom I have formed virtual relationships in Pakistan, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland, not to mention Maryland and South Carolina. I marvel – and am grateful – that this is even possible.

Granted, virtual meeting rooms present certain challenges: It can be difficult to obtain visual clues about how event participants are feeling, their level of engagement, or even who is speaking or wants to speak. It is not only difficult but impossible to engage in the physical actions that contribute to relationship building: Signs of respect such as a handshake, a bow, a kiss on both cheeks, and signs of support and affection such as a hug or even a pat on the shoulder or back. It is also far more challenging to sit on a conference call for eight hours than to sit in a room with a group of people for eight hours.

These gaps can make not only participation and facilitation challenging but can also inhibit valuable bonding and expressions of respect. These challenges require new processes to bridge those gaps and even new etiquette.

It has been very interesting for me to participate in and to help plan a variety of webinars in the last year, and I have observed a lot of creative uses of technology to replace in-person interactions, such as:

  • Using “chat” features to give participants the opportunity to introduce themselves;
  • Using those same “chat” features and “raise hand” features to allow participants to submit questions;
  • Using polling to gather feedback and test knowledge; and
  • Using discussion forums to provide participants with an opportunity to interact with one other between and after sessions while digging into and reinforcing the material presented.

A prime example is the new series of courses being presented by Michael F. Broom of The Center for Human Systems. Michael and his colleague, Edie Seashore, have for years been presenting a variety of in-person programs ranging from short workshops to their multi-session Triple Impact Practitioners Program. These programs have been very popular with their participants, but even these in-person programs have a downside: It is challenging for people in all but a few locations to get to them, and it is challenging for the presenters to get to all of the locations where there are people who want to attend.

For this reason, Michael is launching “Making OD Work[1], a new series of courses that will be conducted virtually using a combination of technologies. The webinars will be conducted using conferencing software that allows for visual presencing by participants with web cams, presentation of audio-visual aids by the presenter(s), dialogue between the presenter and participants, chat between the presenter, the participants, and subgroups, and small-group breakout sessions. Between webinars, participants will have in-depth discussions via private discussion group software – making possible the deeper exploration of topics, enhanced learning, and relationship building that are hallmarks of in-person events.

Are such events the same as the in-person experience? Of course not. Do they allow for the same duration and intensity as the in-person experience? No. But in this age where the world is getting smaller and smaller and yet we are still often thousands of miles apart, these technologies are making meeting, learning and bonding possible in ways that we could only dream of a few years ago.

What new processes and etiquette would you like to propose to enhance effectiveness and engagement in virtual events?

[1] In the interest of full disclosure, I am a part of the team that has been developing and promoting this program.

Grassroots Change

Although I had met her twice before, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time at the 2010 BAodn conference with Beth Waitkus, the director of the Insight Garden Program (IGP) at San Quentin State Prison, and I was struck by the profound nature (no pun intended) of what she and the program’s volunteers, supporters and inmate participants are doing.

Beth is a quiet, dignified and unassuming person, but I had the distinct impression that she is completely present to whatever she is doing and whomever she is with.

We were in an “open space” discussion group that had been convened on the subject of getting “regular people” involved in processes. Beth spoke eloquently about the participants in the IGP and the stages they go through in becoming involved and engaged in their classroom and “business” discussions. It seemed to me that an important aspect of the process was the earning of the participants’ trust that it was safe to speak honestly and that their input was valued. A transformation occurs as participants learn to not only value and respect their own input but also that of others.

This would be a significant accomplishment in a business setting, where there can be many obstacles and barriers to engaged participation, but in a prison setting it is nothing short of astounding. And it shows us that even when there are significant constraints, amazing things can be accomplished – like a dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk, or a lily growing high in the crotch of a tree.

What, you might be asking, IS the Insight Garden Program? The Insight Garden Program (IGP) operates a 1,200-square foot organic garden in San Quentin’s medium-security prison yard. The IGP website says:

“The Insight Garden Program (IGP) provides rehabilitation to self-selected prisoners through the process of organic gardening. Through the act of caring for plants, the qualities of responsibility, discipline and mindfulness transfer to the interpersonal realm – by growing plants, people also “grow”… In our classes, men learn about landscaping and gardening, including (but not limited to): Planning, budgeting and design, irrigation, soil amendment, seasonal garden maintenance, and plant ID and propagation. By working in an organic flower garden, men also … (develop) an awareness of their connection to and impact on the world around them. They learn about the interconnectedness of human and ecological systems and how the principles of the natural world, such as diversity and cooperation, transfer to all levels of human systems.”

Pretty neat stuff, isn’t it? But it relies upon a fairly radical basic assumption, that the participants in the program can learn, can change, and have something worthwhile to contribute. That is radical in many organizations, let alone in a prison setting.

Has Beth made a significant change to the prison system? Hard to say. But programs such as this certainly give Sacramento something to think about. Has she made a significant change to one aspect of that system and, perhaps most importantly, to the lives of program participants and the systems they enter upon release? Yes, indeed.

Now that’s what I call a grassroots change.

If she can do that in a prison, perhaps there is hope for other organizations as well. I wonder…

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