Ode to My Dad – Raoul Hector Jourdain – on his 79th Birthday

March 29 is my dad’s birthday.  This year he will be 79.  I’m sure when he came into this world, and as the beginning days of his life unfolded, had he looked ahead, he would not have imagined where his journey would take him – the good and the bad.  I would not have imagined the shifting shape of it either.

Hector Jourdain and his youngest grandson on bridge of the Bluefin

I didn’t meet my dad when I was born.  It was some weeks or months later when he came into my life – or I came into his.  And then, for him, it was love at first sight.  Maybe for me too but I don’t remember.  What I became aware of later is the connection I’ve always had with my dad.

He was not always an easy man to live with.  There was a lot of tension in my house growing up and even after I left.  He and mom had their share of battles and I had some of my own with him, though few.

Having said that, people were always welcome in our home – from the earliest days of my memory.  No one was ever turned away – visitors, from near or far.  My friends from school came to play and often stayed for supper. Always room for more.  It fostered a sense of hospitality in me that only grew over the years.  That, and friends could be like family – experienced over and over again during Christmas holidays in particular for quite a few years as a large group of friends gathered for a traditional Gaspe meal after midnight on Christmas Eve.

The sea has always been in my dad’s blood.  He has owned a few boats over the years but his pride and joy was a beautiful wooden boat, the Bluefin, which he owned for thirty years.  With care and craftsmanship, he rebuilt that boat from stem to stern over the time he owned it.  If that boat could talk, many a story would it have to tell.

I already lived in Halifax when the Bluefin came to dad.  He and my mom always enjoyed having guests aboard – and that remained true to the final summers we went out on it.  In the early years, it was much more of a party boat.  I and my friends were always welcome.  Most of the time, anyway.

Dad's pride and joy - Bluefin

There was one time, during Chester race week in August, that a fairly large group of my university friends arrived for the weekend.  We boarded the boat, loading up with supplies we brought – food and beer… and a bit more beer.  My father watched as we brought two-four, after two-four, after two-four on the boat until he finally said to me, “How much is enough?”

Then there was one spring when we offered to help him paint the inside of the boat to get it ready for summer launch.  It all started off well enough… until the beer came out.  And then… well, let’s just say dad found yellow paint in places it wasn’t supposed to be for years afterwards.  I still can’t figure out why he never really responded to future offers of assistance!

When his first grandchild came along, he beamed.  It was probably the only time he stopped by the house unexpectedly on his way to and from the airport.  It was an unexpected delight – maybe for him too.

When my first marriage was ending, I knew I needed to tell my parents.  I took that journey alone.  Fear was in my belly and my mouth was all gummed up.  I was disappointed about disappointing, along with all my own disappointment about my marriage ending.  I thought when I shared the news – saying to my dad, “We are living under the same roof but it was like we are living very different lives,” that he would fall off his chair.  Instead, I almost fell off of mine when he said, “I kind of noticed that.”

No questions asked, he and my mom helped me move.  No judgement – not to me anyway.  A lot of love and caring.  I saw that love and caring demonstrated over and over again in obvious and less obvious ways.  In particular, I saw the love and caring my dad demonstrated towards my mother in the final decade or more of their marriage – more and more consistently than I had seen it at any other time.

If someone would have asked me years ago (and maybe they did), I would have imagined that my father would have died comparatively early in life (he did have his first triple bi-pass surgery when he was 45 – thankfully his health status leading up to that also triggered his decision to stop smoking) and my mother would still be living in the full vibrancy of who she was well into her 90s.

Instead, it was a different path that unfolded.  My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 20o1, again in 2005.  Somewhere in that period of time was the onset of dementia that ultimately took her into long term care in 2008 until her death a few weeks ago.

My father became my mother’s care giver.  At first it was in little ways.  Noticing the little things that were not quite right.  There were a few conversations about my mother forgetting this or that… like forgetting to turn off the oven, or turn on the washer.  Then it became more obvious, like mom put the banana bread in the oven, went to take it out five minutes later and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t cooked.

This eventually evolved into my father watching out for my mother 24 hours a day.  He watched over her day in and day out, night in and night out – including taking care of her hygiene – at home and sometimes in public places.

When my mother died, my parents had been married for 54 years.  On their 50th wedding anniversary in January of 2008, my brother and I had planned a celebration for them.  We had hoped for a big celebration. It ended up being a small celebration in their home.  I spoke a few words.  I had already planned to speak about the two things I felt I integrated into my life from my experience with my parents – that sense of hospitality or everyone being welcome and unconditional love and support.

This took on whole new layers of meaning in the week before the 50th anniversary when I learned that I had been adopted and had never known or suspected it at all.  The feelings of unconditional love and acceptance were magnified as that story unfolded and I had a conversation with my father about aspects of my life I had known nothing about.

As the story emerged, I was asked if I was angry.  I pondered the question and then responded, “If I looked at this from the perspective of people have been lying to me all my life, maybe I would be angry.  But I look at it from the perspective that people made the best choices they knew how to make.  They wanted to do the right thing and choices were made out of love.

My father is a man who wants to do the right thing.  This was most evident in the latter years of his marriage to my mother.  He loved my mother.  He wanted to do well by her.  He exhausted himself as he watched over her, tended her and took care of her until the very last minute when we admitted her into long term care.  Then, every day, he went to visit her for over a year.  It was hard for him seeing mom in her diminishing world while he still lived in the house that had been their home for over 3o years.

There are many stories in this man’s life.  I only know some of them.  They are not all pretty but they are all representative of a man who has lived a complexity he might never have imagined, who has given a lot, cares about craftsmanship and doing things well.  He has traveled many roads and still has a few to go.

Dad is in hospital, yet again, as I write this.  This too has been a pattern of our relationship over the last decade.  He has an amazing will to live and is incredibly resilient despite health problems that have been challenging him over the years.  We live into and learn together – through thick and thin.

There are things I know about him and things I don’t.  We have a pretty dynamic relationship and a few patterns that have been showing up.  One thing I do know about him is that he loves me.  On the rare occasions when I tell him I love him he always says to me, “I love you more.”

I wish him a happy 79th birthday knowing he would be much happier if he was home for it.  I also wish there will be many more for him with a quality of life that allows him to pursue, in ever more gentle ways, the things he loves to do and do well.

Recognizing and Releasing the Potency of Your Internal Judge

The potency of the internal critic/voice of judgment is insidious.  It is a master chameleon showing up in many different cloaks, rending itself almost unrecognizable.  It creeps up on you when you least expect it, plays havoc with your centre and your ground and runs wild until disempowered. It can be persistently in your experience and it can reappear after a long time away.

As soon as you try to debate it, convince it or argue with it, you engage it and increase its potency.  It loves a good argument.  It’s wily and it rapidly changes its stance to retain the upper hand.  You could be arguing a point and as soon as you get close to “winning”, it will change its direction.  Sometimes so much so that it now argues in the opposite direction and, if you are caught in the argument, you often miss the inanity of it.

My internal judge was running rampant yesterday but I didn’t recognize it until this morning – partly because it’s been awhile since it has been so present in me.

Yesterday I felt out of sorts, de-energized and unable to achieve any substantial progress toward my livelihood. Little things irritate me and make me impatient. I recently had a few days away on a little min-vacation.  My dad had a medical appointment yesterday that I attended with him and then went for lunch – a beautiful little pattern we have. My son is now beginning March break and I am dedicating time to being with him in some small adventures along  the way.

The internal critic is standing back with its arms crossed, shaking its head.  “Yup.  And just when are you going to get your work done?  Your emails sent? Meetings arranged?”  A little feeling of panic seeps in.  When am I going to do that? There is no time!  The panic rises up in me and now there are butterflies in my stomach and a promise of a headache in the offing.

“And, just what were you thinking, going off on a holiday when you have so much to do?”  it asks.

“Because we all know that a break away is important to maintaining energy and reinvigorating mind, body and soul so work and life flows easier.” I respond.

“True,” says the internal critic.  “But you know you couldn’t really afford it either.”

“I used points to fly.  I didn’t shop.  I shared accommodation.  I had some money tucked away for this break.” I argue, beginning to spin.  “And, in all that travel time, I did a full edit of my book.” I say, trying to find the positive, be appreciative, tune into what’s working.

The internal critic nods grimly, “Yes.  And what’s happened to your since then?  It’s been sitting beside your computer the last few days and nothing more has been done.”  (This would be a total of two days, by the way.) “Just how long do you think it’s really going to take to finish that puppy and get it published?  As if anyone is really going to read it.  Well, of course a few people will, but not the numbers you are hoping for.”

Wham. Wham. Wham.  Deeper and deeper in.  Fighting with myself to find my appreciative state.  To find my centre, my ground. Knowing in my mind I am my own worst enemy in this moment but not able to pull myself out of the spiral. Knowing I am out of my centre and it should be a simple matter to slip back in.  It’s not what I do – my actions that are important now, it’s finding the right internal vibration in me.  And my vibration is all out of whack which deepens my fear.  Tears of despondency show up as I believe into judgment, after judgment, after judgment.

Exhausted I fell into bed and dreamed.  I dreamed about flow.  I woke up this morning feeling better, feeling lighter.  Then the storylines began to filter in again.  Then the bolt of realization.  So self critical.  So self judging.  So the voice of my internal judge!  Big sigh.  Of course.  How had I not recognized this insidious internal berating voice taking me backwards and forwards in my imaginings, giving me no peace in the present moment.

A lesson I learned before: whenever my emotions run amok, it is a good clear sign that my internal voice of judgment is lurking in the shadows of my mind, making me a crazy woman!

In simply recognizing it and naming it, its potency is released.  Whoosh! I felt myself shift completely into the present moment, smiling at how this internal judge had found its way into my experience and rocked my core enough to have me questioning myself, my self worth and my path, once again.   No longer fighting and resisting it, simply naming and noticing.  Not arguing.  Acknowledging the power of an adversary that has so much to teach me when I pay attention; even the not paying attention is teaching me.  All it took to shift me back to my centre and my usual sense of joy, delight and calm was to pay attention, notice, name. Now I prepare to bake with my child and dance into this day in a whole new and renewed way thankful for the moments when I see the choices clearly.

Death and Dying – Lessons I Learned From My Mother

Never having been present at a death before, I didn’t know what to expect; and, it wasn’t what I expected.  My brother, father and I held vigil, practically holding our collective breath, as my mother, Mary Patricia Ann Ritcey Jourdain, drew her last, peaceful breaths on Wednesday, February 8, 2012, falling quiet at 12:30 pm.

Then there was silence.  Her silence.  No more rattling breaths drawn with some effort through her lungs into her ravaged body; ravaged from dementia for many years and the refusal to eat for many months.

Our silence.  In reverence for my mother, her journey and the honour of witnessing the final stages of her transition from physical form into spirit.  I already believed much of her consciousness was active in the subtle realms even as her physical presence diminished.  With her last breaths I imagined her spirit gently tugging until the last wisps of it were finally released into a delightful little dance of joy and freedom.

My mother’s journey with dementia was a long one.  My journey through hers was an inspired one.  Her greatest teachings for me may have been in these last few years when she could no longer string coherent sentences together, during the contrast of those times when she seemed to have no awareness of my presence to when I knew she was aware I was there.

I had one of those moments of her awareness the night before she died.  We had moved her to a special room where I could stay with her overnight.  One of her medication times was missed.  I was aware of that but she didn’t seem to be in distress.  So, I sat on the arm of the couch, eye level with my mom.  I looked into her blue eyes and she held my gaze.

When I say she held my gaze, I really mean she held my gaze.  She was just as present as I was.  In fact, I was mesmerized.  I couldn’t take my gaze away.

So, I talked to her.  I told her about some things in my life.  I told her how beautiful she is – not was, is.  I told her how gifted she is and how loved.  I thanked her for being in my life, for being my mom.  Mostly, I held her gaze with love.  Until she began to exhibit signs of distress and I went for the nurse.  And then she was gone again until the moment of her final breath.

Four of us still in the room but now the shape of our lives fundamentally shifted.  As long as we stayed sitting in the room, it was like she was still there in her emaciated form.  But, of course, now she was free of form.  Eventually we had to move and leave her next steps in the capable hands of the Harbourview Haven staff who would transfer her into the equally capable hands of the Dana L. Sweeny Funeral Home.

The staff at Harbourview Haven taught me about human dignity and respect through how they related to my mother.  Even up to the last moment, they treated my mother as if she was fully present and aware.  They called her by her name.  In the middle of the night they would come into our room.  “Mary,” they’d say, “We’re going to turn you over now.”  “Mary, we are going to give you your meds now.  It might sting a little.”

On the morning of her death, a care worker came in to wash her face and freshen her up, providing a depth of love and care, dignity and respect to a woman in her last moments on this physical plane.  I can’t say enough for Harbourview Haven and the care they provided, not just in those last few hours but in the three years and eight months (plus a few days) that my mother lived there.  And not just care for her.  Care for my dad too.  For our family.  They understand about death and dying.  That it is a process and a transition.

My nine year old understands about death and dying.  Enough to ask to visit his grandmother with me when I told him I was going to see her.  He hadn’t been there much lately.  I told him what his grandmother looked like and how she was.  He still wanted to come, even when the call came to say it might be her last day.  And his older brother and his girlfriend came too.  We all sat vigil the day before she died, for hours.  Watching my mother with sidelong looks every time her breathing stopped – for the eternity that shows up in a moment.

I am now aware that dying and death requires the same kind of loving care and attention as birth does.  It is birth.  Birth back to spirit.

When my older boys were young children their grandfather on their father’s side died.  Their dad and I had already separated.  They went to the funeral and afterwards I asked them how it was.  We began to talk about death.  They said to me, “We think it’s kind of like this.  You know when you dream and when you are in the middle of a dream it seems real?  But then you wake up and you know it was just a dream.  We think life is like that.  It’s really just a dream but it seems real.  Then you die, but really it’s like waking up and realizing it was just a dream.”  Such wisdom out of the mouths of babes.  Closer to source.

I wonder how my mother might be reflecting on the 79 year dream that was her life as Mary Patricia Ann Ritcey Jourdain this time around?

 

Hosting Lessons from the Field – Part 2

How many of us have had the opportunity to enter into hosting a day or a training (Art of Hosting style) without any design for the day, completely sensing into what is needed in the moment and fluidly dancing with five other hosts with offerings to meet what was emerging in the field moment by moment?  How would you meet that invitation?  Excitement? Trepidation? Both and anything in between?

It is one thing to do this on your own or with one other person as Bob Wing and I did last summer in work we’d been invited into that turned into Hosting Ceremony.  It is a whole other thing to do it with a new hosting team  constellation of six of us on the third and last day of working together – in this case for the first Warrior of the Heart training completed in Brazil in January 2012.

Warrior of the Heart is the work of Toke Moeller and Bob Wing coming out of many opportunities they had to jam together combining Art of Hosting and Aikido practices and principles.  Playing together they imagined Warrior of the Heart training into being.  I’d participated in a couple of Warrior of the Heart trainings – on Bowen Island in August 2010 and then at Windhorse Farm in Nova Scotia just this last October, 2011 with my 9 year old son.  I’d also had the chance to work with Bob where Warrior of the Heart became a component of the Art of Hosting training we were delivering.

In September 2011, after the Art of Hosting training in Porto Alegre, Brazil that I’d been co-hosting, Thomas Ufer, Najara Thamiz and I sat down with Jose Bueno and crafted an invitation to Bob and Toke to bring Warrior of the Heart to Brazil for the first time to seed the field for more and build the ground for the amazing expansion of the Art of Hosting and social change movements happening there.

Working with a larger hosting team for a training the two of them were used to offering on their own invited Bob and Toke to some new learning edges. They invited the rest of us to go there right along with them.  There was already a huge reservoir of trust in our hosting field even before we began. We built on it during our preparation and hosting time together.  On our last day, it was Toke who invited us into the dance of hosting together without an agreed to advance plan.

I felt in me my own skepticism at the invitation which arrived after morning practice, before breakfast, where we had actually invoked this flow already.  I really wasn’t sure how it would work and whether we would all find our own place to play in this day – but I was willing to step into the challenge – because with this team there was nothing to lose and lots to gain.

As the six of us stood in a tight circle on the stone patio outside the training building, a staff was in the centre with the challenge of who would take it first and offer something to the group to begin our day.  Silence.  A deep collective breath or two.  I could feel the tremble in me.  Another breath and then I reached for the staff.

I had been preparing during our time together to do a teach with the sword – in this case the wooden representation of the sword – a bokken.  Bob had been coaching me.  Perhaps because I was preparing to step into the challenge of a teach on something I was still very much learning myself, I had taken Bob’s feedback and coaching in in a whole new way, embodying the teaching and the sword movements with more fluidity and confidence than I ever remembered feeling.  I had been preparing for a teach and this was apparently the moment it would be offered.

I started the teach – the four directions – and forgot how to do the step to turn from one direction to another.  Without being hard on myself, I asked Bob to step in and help — and he did because he had my back.  All six of us had each other’s backs and none of us needed to shine or take up too much space and yet we were all invited to offer our brilliance when we felt the call.

It was the beginning of a rich dance that included all six of us throughout the day.  The experience was playful and fun and ended with a touching and powerful ceremony.

Raising the Sword in the Warrior of the Heart (Brazil 2012) Closing Circle

The willingness to let go of control and design flowed into the Brazil Stewards Gathering that followed the Warrior of the Heart – in its own way and to its own degree because, of course, the team and the circumstances were different.  But the fluidity of the dance was just as hesitant and joyful in its own way.

I’ve been reflecting on what makes this kind of dance possible?  One is definitely trust in the individuals and the collective of the team – knowing that each individual is there to serve the good of the whole and with no need to shine on an individual basis – although, as I mentioned above, of course each person does shine because of the gifts they have to offer in service of the whole.

A sense of knowing when what I have to offer as an individual is exactly what is needed now.  This is a complete dance with the subtle energies, with intuitive capacity.  The courage to offer it when it is called.  A certain level of trust or confidence in my own skills and abilities.  A willingness to let other people shine in their mastery or even in their apprenticeship.

It takes a certain level of maturity in each individual, the team and even in the field.

Would I want to completely free flow it every time?  I don’t think so.  Every situation requires us to be tuned into what is wanting and needing to happen.  Different situations will call out different things. And many situations invite a free flowing of design and offerings to different degrees.  I and we are already practiced with working with emergence.   Practicing to this degree honed my skill and my sensing capacity and invited me into new levels of mastery.  It is embodied in a new way.  It will always be with me – and with each of us.

Having had the opportunity to host immediately after this experience, I know it’s in me in a new way and for that I am grateful.  Looking forward to the next opportunity to dance in the ultimate emergent design – and to all the other variations of that that will show up along the way.  Thanks Toke for the invitation and to Thomas, Narjara, Jose and Bob for being willing to dance the beautiful dance that shifted the shape of my hosting experience to new depth.

 

Interrelationship of Circle-Triangle-Square

Many people are so frustrated working within hierarchy and bureaucracy that when they are introduced to beautiful engagement processes like World Cafe, Circle Practice and Open Space, a new love affair begins.  These methodologies are powerful in re-igniting passion, hearing every voice, creating mindful and thoughtful conversational spaces that take individuals and groups into new territory.

The love affair becomes a bit jaded when people begin to say, “Conversation is great, but what about doing something?  Where is the action in these methods?  Where does decision making rest?”  As if creating meaningful and relevant conversational space and decision making or action are mutually exclusive.  In many cases though, people haven’t figured out how to make them work well together.  It is not either/or.  It is and. What is the leadership and understanding necessary to find the balance that invites both broad based engagement and effective decision making leading to wise action and movement on initiatives, especially social change initiatives inside organizations and systems?  What does it take to truly shift the shape of the world we live and work in?

Recent conversation with with Toke Moeller and Bob Wing in Brazil has sparked my curiosity and reflection on the relationship between the circle, triangle and square that we often reference in the Art of Hosting.

The circle represents the social technologies that engage people in deeper, more inclusive ways, tapping into human longing for connection and meaning.  Circle is an ancient and universal symbol of unity, wholeness, infinity, the goddess, and feminine power. It represents the sacred.

The triangle represents  hierarchy and structure within which so much work happens and decision making takes place. When the triangle points upwards, it symbolizes fire, male power and the masculine archetype.  The energy of doing and of action.

The square represents the physical world in contrast to the sacred.  In relationship with the circle and triangle, the square represents new forms of governance, stewardship or strategic thinking partnerships.

Power of Circle-Triangle-Square Interrelationships

Much of the intention behind or underneath circle or engagement strategies is to share leadership and responsibility more broadly.  We are not always clear on what that means. Sharing it doesn’t mean foregoing it as sometimes happens as people begin to experiment and play with engagement strategies.  A point is often reached where things feel stalled because we are not always clear where decision making fits or how to do it well.

Sometimes change processes fail because leaders are not clear on how decisions will be made in conjunction with engagement methodologies. They then “take back” decision making which seems to disempower the move toward shared leadership and shared responsibility.

Yet, very little gets done without decisions being made.  Clarity around decision making allows for stronger relationships and more powerful work processes.  Understanding the need for and how the circle and the triangle work together creates the space for more intentionality in processes and relationships.

There is not just one form of decision making that should always be used.  Sometimes consensus decision making is the most appropriate decision mechanism.  Other times decision making will be vested in an individual or a team that sits elsewhere in the organizational structure.  The lack of clarity around who makes what decisions when and how information flows is more likely to lead to problems more than the type of decision making structure.  The degree of trust inside of the relationships also has an impact.  In organizations or systems where the trust is high, decisions are trusted and respected no matter who makes them.  In organizations or systems where the trust is low, of course decisions are questioned and sometimes disrespected.  Quality of relationship can be improved through the circle, thus supporting the triangle better.  Clear decision making processes improve quality of relationship.

The circle and triangle  are nested inside of the square.  If the square is equated to stewarding or governance, the role of the square is about holding space and perspective from a strategic, bigger picture point of view.  Not so active in the decision making structures or in the conversational space but bringing the awareness of deeper patterns that relate to or underly any given process, initiative or movement, providing insight and perspective that then feeds back into the engagement (circle) and decision making (triangle) processes.

The danger lies not in any of these specific shapes. It is in becoming enamoured with any one of them to the exclusion of the others or disenchanted with one to the point of not wanting to engage it at all.  As I consider the work in front of me now, I will bring this deeper curiousity about the interrelationship between the circle, triangle and square into my process and coaching considerations, particularly as it relates to new leadership competencies required in a rapidly changing world.

Innovators and Pioneers in Systems Change

In Utah for Healthier Health Care Systems Now (January 11-13, 2012), we used the 2 Loops Model of Systems Change as one of the framing references for why we were gathered. It is a tool and a framing to understand the work we are individually and collectively in that shifts the shape of health care.  The two loops model looks like this:

 

The first loop represents the old system, the one we often name as the dying system.  The second loop represents the new system, the one we keep claiming we want, the one we think cannot emerge by fiddling with the old, the one we believe is needed to bring our current systems out of crisis.

The problem is, when we begin to think about the complexity of something like health care, where there are so many jurisdictions, so many players, so many interlocking systems,  trying to imagine what this new system or systems could be becomes paralyzing.  The conversation often becomes philosophical and theoretical.  It largely comes from an intellectual and cognitive place focused on all the things that need to shift that are outside our circle of influence.

Some of the frustration in being innovators inside of systems is that the systems begin to push back on the work in small and large ways, leading to the exhaustion, frustration and disillusionment so many leaders in health care experience.  This is all part of the old narrative.  Of course this showed up in our conversations in Utah to greater and lesser degrees depending on the questions, depending on who was in the conversation at any given time.  Any time we were in that conversation, thinking about the new system, it didn’t feel like a new conversation.

So, how could we be in conversation about Healthier Health Care Systems Now without  focusing on the second loop or the new system?  Well, by remembering who we are – pioneers and innovators in health systems – working under the first loop – in the in-between spaces – championing the new or being championed.  We began to focus in on and explore new questions: Where are the edges of my work?  What is the new territory I could begin to walk when I go home?  How can I draw on the resources in the room to expand my thinking, even turn it upside down and on its head – like the person who relies on gift economy in her practice, for her livelihood?  What more becomes possible in generative spaces with other innovators?  This was a different conversation, in tone, texture and energy.  This one did not come from the head. It was embodied in a whole new way – the beginnings of a new narrative of health.

The awareness of the old narrative and of the stuck places infiltrated us in the best of ways at the end of the first day of our three day gathering.   Someone suggested what we needed to do was create a vision of the new.  Ordinarily I might agree.  In this case though, that didn’t feel right.  It felt like it would take us further off track given that our roomful of people were geographically stretched from coast to coast across two countries with countless “systems”?

So, without taking our eye off the intention of shifting the narrative of health, we refocused on innovating and pioneering and guerrilla tactics of  hosting, collaborating and co-creating, engaging those around us in this journey that is health.  We didn’t leave with a specified vision of the new system.  We left heartened in our respective journeys, knowing the way to the future is through new processes, deeper conversations and finding our way with as many of our friends and colleagues as we can attract, engage and embolden along the way.

As we continue to shine the light on the experiments already underway, the successes, the challenges and the “failures”, and tap into the individual and collective resilience that is fighting to emerge, we can remember it is a journey that will shift and change as we go.  We remember life actually wants to help and it wants to heal. If we focus on how to expand our individual systems of influence and share those stories with our friends, our collective system of influence automatically begins to expand.  What seems like isolated work informs pockets of work elsewhere and we grow an energetic field that is part of the new, part of the second loop and is fueled by everyone stepping into innovative, courageous and pioneering ideas and projects.

I still can’t see what that second loop is for health care – other than it is about health and it is healthier.  I’m not sure anyone who showed up for this conversation can see the second loop either.  But I am absolutely sure that the innovators and pioneers are already prototyping what’s possible, what’s new, and in this work more and more of the new and the new narrative will show up.  I am reinvigorated by what’s possible, by the people who continue to explore these questions, who challenge the status quo, despite possible personal risks in doing so and know that there are better and more healthy ways to engage health care.

I and my hosting mates are committed to convening more of these conversations with people compelled to be in them to grow the field.  We envision large gatherings of people convening in new ways, continuing to innovate our way into the new system(s) so that maybe one day we will wake up and see in front of our eyes what we once thought impossible – a new generative system of health resilient enough and healthy enough to be sustainable in unexpected and beautiful ways.   If we take our eyes off the urgent need for something that feels impossible and put it in the places where possibility thrives… well, what more is there to imagine or say?

Steve Ryman, Tenneson Woolf, Kathy Jourdain, Marc Parnes

 

 

2 loops of systems change

Healthier Health Care – Now! A Little Taste of What’s Cooking

We wondered what would happen if we invited friends from across North America to convene in Salt Lake City, Utah around the question of Healthier Health Care Systems Now?  We were amazed.  We began by sharing who we are – the innovator and pioneer in us that  compelled us to come to this conversation.  Then we shared the exciting work we are engaged in.  We talked about the “system” and discovered “it” was never A system and “it” was not about health.  We moved from talking about systemic issues that felt as philosophical as we know they are real and moved into embodying the conversation, coming from a place of deep connection to ourselves, each other and the work that continues to call us in the worlds we work and travel in.  The insights, themes and cool learning are just beginning to percolate for each of us.  More, much more, is cooking.

It was beginning to cook before we even arrived in Salt Lake City.   We discovered healthier health care was such a compelling question people went to great lengths to get there.  Some initially said no and then found a way to come.  Others felt the question so urgently they used vacation days and airmiles to get there.  One person even crowd funded her flight.

Twenty-six of us arrived on January 11, 2012 – physicians, naturopaths, other practitioners, administrators and consultants from heath, public health, dentistry, acute and long term care from Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, Ohio, Minnesota, Winsconsin, Illinois, Texas, Oregan, Washington and Utah.  Everyone an innovator or pioneer already working diligently on shifting the shape of health care within their spheres of influence.  We all brought stories of change and deep and compelling questions. We made instant connections that inspire us to go deeper and to keep at it.

This will continue to simmer and cook for quite some time to come.  I will have more to share here about this conversation at the beginning of 2012, curious to see how it might grow as we convene a community of practice for those who were there, those who wanted to be and couldn’t make it and those who begin to find their way to this particular conversation in their own way.

You can find snippets of harvest on Twitter by searching #HHSUtah.  Thanks to Amanda Fenton, who was with us from afar, for stepping in and compiling our tweets @Storify.

I offer here a little taste of a quick and fun harvest at the end of day 2 as we went around our circle and each of us added a line to the unfolding story of our journey together. I didn’t catch every word, but it will give you some small essence of the experience, recognizing some references are very specific to our experience, and it will have to tide you over til the next post.

“There were a bunch of hooligans in a house by the mountain.  They thought of themselves as pioneers, radically re-engineering, brought together by living systems that taught them how to transfer what they are learning and experiencing into what they are doing now – open to possibility.  In sharing, they saw new connections and unique opportunities.  They described them as opportunities to change and blow shit up.  These hooligans had so much to think about, they sat in circle, played, visualized and created on many levels a new vision of what they were yearning for – simplicity, wellness, with open heart toward the future to bring this new narrative to everyone.  Envisioning systems that bring forth vision and health, letting go of the old to release into timeless universe.  They pondered next action.  In the middle, they went deep into the cellar to share unique fonts and forms of creativity.  They came together to discuss the topic but it was more than the sum of its parts – human nature – own beauty, higher power and purpose run in each of them and each other with gratitude, although we do fear discovering in horror on FB the shaking moments, with brains exploding in chaos, guerrilla gardening and permaculture parties.  But then, a pause for reflection and even more to emerge.  Finished.  No shame.  Amazing thing, working hard to create something different.. but in the end, they were different, a community – and in their differences they found their common humanity from which to go back to the places they came renewed, reinvigorated, inspired to innovate on!”

With gratitude to all who were there, all who held the rim of this gathering from afar and specifically to my fellow hosts Tenneson Woolf, Steve Ryman and Marc Parnes for an experience that will be long remembered, in a gathering where the new narrative of health was activated, the field of innovation in health care where we meet was amplified and shifting the shape of health care in our spheres of influence has been accelerated.