It’s 2001 and I’m standing on an elevated ridge in the White Mountains of Maine in the United States. My map is laid out in front of me on a flat rock, and with compass in hand I’m triangulating our group’s location. We are about to immerse our team into a thick deciduous forest for about 15 miles. The orienting calculations we make now have everything to do with our success of getting to our extraction point before we run out of food and fuel. It’s these fine measurements here on this ridge that will allow us to be successful later on. And with the right understanding of our location right now, we can calibrate each bearing, shoot from tree to tree, and plot an accurate course through the forest. (more…)Read more
Great poetry and great leadership both have the capacity to open our hearts to the wild immediacy of this very moment. Both have the capacity to arrest our attention into startling contact with the aesthetic beauty and living truth of our shared being. Both have the capacity to create bridges that communicate information and meaning, and – beyond that – to transmit an ineffable aliveness that can touch our deepest longing.Read more
Twenty years ago, I made my debut as an organizational psychologist. Perhaps influenced by academics and my former life as an accountant, my envisioned ideal was a neutral, even stoic, helping professional. But I failed spectacularly; I have always had preferences and get very passionate around values, ethics and methods in organizations and leadership. I’m also sensitive to dynamics and emotions in the room, find myself contracting when conflict and stress arise, and become deeply touched by the lives of my clients. (more…)Read more
Why Does Sitting Meditation Help Facilitation?
The question came up in our last public Integral Facilitator call about how the practice of sitting meditation contributes to being able to DO something differently. Certainly, it helps to unwind the nervous system, develop focused attention, and relax the tight grip of self-identification. But while It may support individual well-being, it is hard to see how in the middle of a tense or confusing meeting, the practice will help us act in a fresh way that makes a difference to others.
Judges, referees, mediators and facilitators are trained to be neutral. But neutrality is often misunderstood. We think neutrality looks like a distant, overly rational character with horned-rimmed glasses sitting back like a pondering judge, or the oh-so-nice peacekeeper in comfortable shoes smoothing everything over to the point of obsequiousness. The word neutrality can be conflated with the idea of being neutered; that is, lacking life force, energy, or being just plain bland. And the truth is, nobody wants that person in front of the room leading a discussion, particularly if it is about something you care about.
Actually, true neutrality is completely enlivened state of mind. It is not detached, emotionally removed, indifferent or static. Rather, this neutrality involves an acute ability to identify with each perspective in a conversation, to see the truth in each comment, however partial or incomplete it may be. At the same time, it is fluid; true neutrality is equally able to detach from an idea or let go of a position in order to include more truths. In this way, neutrality is a form of flexibility involving the art of picking up the truth, then shifting gears and letting a perspective go momentarily in order to keep the conversation moving.
This is one way in which neutrality when facilitating groups is a practice akin to meditation. The practice of meditation is not absent of experience. Rather it is a full experience of experience—and then the experience of letting go. When we are truly neutral, we can engage viewpoints and pick up perspectives. But we don’t react to them, and we can set them down just as easily when the next moment calls for something different.
True neutrality is dynamic. It requires full, embodied engagement. Nothing is left out. Not our mind, our emotions, not our body. Neutrality requires us to feel. The more we feel, the more we can let go. We learn to bring our feelings online; our sensitivity to energy, engaging from position of involvement rather than observation. In this way we engage our own life force as a facilitator — our own dynamism — which in turn enables greater participation and involvement from everyone around us.
Diane Musho Hamilton
Co-Founder and Lead Teacher, Integral Facilitator®
Author, Everything is Workable, a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution.
Listen to the recording of a Ten Directions’ live call with more on this subject: Neutrality is Not What You Think
There are important skills that come online when we begin to facilitate groups using the Integral framework as a lens through which we view our work. One is that we include the “bodies” in our awareness; that is, the gross, subtle and causal bodies (in the language of the Integral framework). The gross reality may be referred to as the dimension of form, Nirmanakaya in Tibetan Buddhism; the subtle realm (transformation realm) is called Sambhogakaya; and the third body, Dharmakaya, is the very, very subtle domain of our experience.
In the context of facilitation, these three distinctions become important, particularly when we become sensitive to the energy of groups, and gain an interest in actually using and working with energy — much like an acupuncturist works with energy in the body.
As facilitative leaders, we want to enable energy to flow evenly and coherently in our work, because groups become more efficient and enjoyable when we do. When energy in a group is agitated, discombobulated, or incoherent, the facilitator can work to soothe and cohere the energy of the group. Likewise, when energy is sluggish, slow, dense or stagnant, the facilitator can find ways to stimulate it, bringing the flow into balance.Read more
I remember doing my first graduate lecture on the further reaches of adult development close to fifteen years ago. I stood up in front of a classroom of people, all whom were older than me, and began my lecture. It was an intense ride. I couldn’t feel much of anything that was going on in the students I was presenting to.
Me, I was too busy attending to the conceptual distinctions in my own mind. I was busy sharpening my intellect. Soon after finishing I could dimly see the aftermath. It was as if an intellectual gatling gun had gone off for the better part of three hours. Metaphorically, you could say I pulled the trigger and didn’t let go until the very end of class. Sure, I opened it up for questions, but my ability to be present and make heartfelt contact with the students in front of me was many years off in my own maturity.
Instead of feeling my own anxiety and uncertainty, I chose to attend rigorously to the sharp and nuanced distinctions in my conceptual world. Instead of acknowledging the nervousness in my hands and the fluttering in my gut, I turned my attention to the multilayered relationships between various theories of adult development. I wanted to deliver unparalleled resolution on the subject matter. And attending to my intellectual prowess was a lot easier than accepting and attending to my embodied sensations of inadequacy and uncertainty.
I share this brief flashback for one reason: I was profoundly wrong in one of my orientations. Then, I taught adult development from a purely conceptual vantage point. Now, I approach development entirely differently.Read more
My Zen teacher, Genpo Roshi, once told me a long time ago, “You can’t work with a voice that comes up in the room if you don’t know that same voice in yourself.”
What Roshi meant is that anytime you are facilitating a group of people in a dialogue or group process, and a participant expresses a thought, a feeling, a perspective or “voice,” you as the facilitator need to quickly locate that same experience in your own interior awareness; that is, if you want to remain present, congruent, and trustable in front of the room.
This idea is not an entirely new idea in human development circles. Jung pioneered the idea of shadow work, which is the psychological practice of bringing the unacknowledged, marginalized, or shameful parts of experience into awareness. The same phenomenon occurs in forms of Tibetan Buddhist practice and in many shamanic rituals.
Likewise, philosopher Ken Wilber has repeatedly emphasized in his writing that anyone who wants to fully awaken should not not only meditate, but also find a method for including the difficulties of conditioned existence and acknowledge the disavowed “shadow” elements of his or her mind and life.Read more
“The opposite of Love is not Hate; it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel
Last month, I wrote about The Awakened Takeover. Which is another way of saying I *dared* to articulate my deep intention and publish it for the world to see. And now…it has me by it’s teeth.
In it, I included this call to action:
Care more, open yourself to more perspectives, and you can’t help but become more engaged and optimistic.
Yet looking back on my own path, not caring enough was never the problem.
In fact, there was a time when it felt like it WAS the problem.
Being able to take more perspectives, we get inundated with more information and our circle of care expands. The world pulls on us in new, more diverse ways. We don’t just see need everywhere, we feel it. Our care pulls into new and different relationships with the world—and that gives rise to a very distinct kind of challenge.
This is the challenge of how we cope with how much we care.
It’s true for me. I can recall a stage in my life when I became so overwhelmed by the stresses of public affairs and world issues that I stopped watching the news and reading papers. I would run the other way when water cooler conversations turned to current events. My only recourse in response to the overwhelm (read: care) was to unplug and disengage.
My struggle wasn’t that I didn’t care enough.Read more
Last night I learned something I didn’t expect to learn about leadership from watching The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
This lesson comes from an old adage: “Never bring home an injured baby Tyrannosaurus Rex.”
First, replay this gripping scene in your mind’s eye:
It was a dark and stormy night. Scientist Julianne Moore warned activist Vince Vaughn, injured T-Rex in his arms, saying that taking the injured dinosaur to their trailer laboratory was “going to be really, really bad.” Even if you don’t remember this scene, you’ve already guessed (1) he didn’t listen, and (2) it was really, really bad. (Raging Ma and Pa Rex pushed the lab over the 500 foot cliff into the churning sea below. And, worse yet, I don’t think Vince Vaughn ever apologized.)
What’s this got to do with leadership and collaboration, you ask?Read more
I participate regularly in the Integral Facilitator® program calls. It’s an opportunity for program participants to gather with program faculty and explore what’s “up” for them. We share our experiences, challenges, and questions, and leverage new opportunities for growth.
I look forward to these practice gatherings because they are alive, emergent, inspiring and support us in playing at our edge. This intentional community consistently invites me into a deeper relationship with why I am here. We each bring a unique perspective, yet we’re all connected by our desire to participate fully and to be of service to an intention that’s much bigger than any of us.
On our most recent community call, Diane Musho Hamilton (Integral Facilitator® lead teacher) reflected back our aspirations to be of service. This triggered my thoughts; we want to serve the planet, make the world a better place, make a difference. Help our clients. Write that book. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Etc. etc.Read more