It is just the beginning of 2012 and already the year has been rich in hosting lessons from the field, diving deep into new levels of awareness around hosting subtleties. It began in Utah early in the month, hosting Healthier Health Care Systems Now with Tenneson Woolf, Steve Ryman and Marc Parnes.
Marc, who is a physician, gynaecologist and host from Columbus Ohio, started us off on day 2 with a story intended to set the tone and challenge of the day. He told of what was to be a routine surgery he was doing on a woman. When he opened her up and looked inside, what he saw not only surprised him, it alarmed him. Things that were not supposed to be stuck together were. He could not see the path for the surgery. He was not able to see his way. He did not know how to proceed with the surgery as he stared at this jumble of internal organs.
All eyes were on him as he then he stood up in our circle. We could feel the anxiety of that moment. Standing there, Marc planted his feet shoulder width apart, just like he did on the day of the surgery, to ground himself. As he closed his eyes, he described doing exactly this as he stood beside the woman on his operating table. Then, with his eyes closed, he reached into the woman and began to feel his way around, searching with his hands for the openings he could not see with his eyes.
When he finished, he knew what to do. He opened his eyes. He could now calmly begin the surgery, having expanded his vision of what was possible by “seeing” with other senses. The surgery was successful.
There was a collective sigh of relief in our circle.
We began to reflect on what Marc’s story had to do with innovation in health care, what it had to do with hosting.
After coming through the first day, we checked in as a host team and invited the voices of others who showed up to participate in the design process. We tracked our day around purpose and intention. We felt good about the design and flow of the day and we felt we had challenged people beautifully in our opening circle on day 1 by asking them to speak to the pioneer and innovator inside of them that had responded to the invitation, but not to speak too deeply to their work, promising that would come later. We sensed that though the day had been good, something was missing. With reflection, we realized we were still on the ground of old territory and familiar conversation, not the new conversations we had invited people into.
The invitation was to be in a different conversation about health care. The challenge for this group was to move into what would be a new conversation for each of them. This amazing group of individuals carry in them irrepressible dreams for healthcare systems that thrive; for simplicity that doesn’t deny the complexity, yet responds well to it. They continue to have high hopes for healthier healthcare despite having been in many, many conversations about shifting the systems within which they work and play. Those who responded to the HHS call were already innovators and pioneers in health care. Maybe the new conversation was not a collective conversation about a new global vision about health care but was about individual systems of influence and what was at the edges of their own learning that might be new territory.
Our challenge, as a hosting team, we realized, was in making sure we really did travel to new territory – not an easy challenge given the experience of the people who came.
We continually scanned what we knew that could invite people into new territory. We brought play into our process – a beautifully renewed learning edge. Collaborative play, allowing us to see and experience our learning beyond the cognitive or intellect. Then, through reflection, seeing our patterns in work and relationship in whole new ways. Allowing inspiration to enter in.
At the end of day two, despite traveling much ground in the day, there was still a sense of restlessness in our hosting team that took awhile to fully sense into. Something edgy. Something still not quite arrived at.
Checking in as a host team and, like the day before, with others interested in our design process, we recognized that we were happy with our design and the flow of the two days. We briefly wondered if we should be satisfied with where we were and consider how to enter and close our last day well. Yet there was something we still had not quite arrived at. Something about the new conversation we hadn’t quite dug into.
We reflected on what we knew from our Art of Hosting experiences that would push the edges of where we were. If we were looking for a groan zone or acupuncture point in our process, normally we would look to a point in day two. But this timing did not show up in day two. Were we willing to push our own learning and hosting to bring in something even more edgy in the morning of day three?
We knew we would not get to where we wanted to go through another conversational or intellectual process. We decided to invite this group of physicians, health care administrators and others into a guided visualization process, to invite them to explore their own future journey in healthier health care now. Following the visualization, we invited them into drawing or illustrating some representation of their experience in the visualization process, followed by a conversation with a partner to really dive into this experience in depth.
The experience was intense and provocative. It shifted the shape of some individuals. It shifted the shape of our gathering. It broke the pattern of the old and invited a new pattern. The World Cafe that followed was amazing. It was sparky. Ideas flowed quickly. There was a new quality that had entered into our space.
Once we saw it, experienced it, we could name it. We had shifted from conversations that came from the head to conversations that now came from a deeper place. The conversations were now embodied. People began to look at their own path and their own systems of influence rather than at points of the system too far beyond their own systems of influence to have any real impact. We were in new territory. We observed that embodiment shifted the conversation to deeper and more meaningful places.
As a hosting team we agreed to continue to push the edges of this group, knowing we still had a whole day ahead of us, even though if we had planned a visualization process, we would likely have planned it for the end of day two. But sensing where we were, knowing what we were aiming for, keeping our essential calling questions close, we pursued our purpose and intention. We continued to host potential right up to the moment of preparing to close our circle.
It isn’t over until it’s over. We know that. I have often heard it said in a hosting team. And this time we lived it fully with a trust in each other, in what we were sensing and our willingness to flow with what was there. Even as I write this, it is hard to describe the exact edge we were on or the truth of our experience. But I’ve been reflecting on it a lot. These reflections flowed into the last couple of weeks in Brazil, during Warrior of the Heart and a local Art of Hosting stewarding gathering, where we danced with flow to the most amazing degree – letting go of design to sense into what was alive and needed in any given moment. More reflections on that later.
For now, the richness of the host team learning in Utah stays with me, embodied in my own experience in the best of ways. I feel myself growing my capacity in hosting in the most delightful of ways, brought out by those I have the privilege to host with. This year has started off so rich in learning, it makes me deeply curious for what the rest of 2012 will bring.