Bootcamp is over. Those are the words that came to me last month when I was working in Phoenix with people from the St. Luke’s Health Initiatives. My trip to Phoenix came right after I returned from almost a month in southern Africa. What I heard and saw in Phoenix fit into the same pattern as my experiences in Africa.
My sense is that I, and many others, have been in deep training for this past decade. We’ve been learning how to see our world, our selves, our relationships and our work in new ways. The learning didn’t start ten years ago, and it won’t stop now, but I’m feeling like this is the time when we need to move on.
On a phone call yesterday my friend Chris Corrigan used three phrases which really caught my attention. He said we are not yet a community that practices and we are not yet a system that influences. He went on to speak about the work that needs doing now is practical decolonization.
- A community that practices… My friend Robert Theobald used to always talk about how we needed to listen to the music, not the words. We’ve heard and used many words in the last decade. And they are powerful: presencing, hosting, healing, zero-waste, appreciation, feeding ourselves sustainably. The list goes on and on. Many of us have learned how to dance with words like power and love, warrior and midwife. The dance is good. But it is time now to practice, practice and practice. It is time to hear the music with our bodies. It is time to embody these practices. It is time to practice together as if our lives depend on it. They probably do. No, I don’t know exactly what this means. But I sense it means now is not the time to feel satisfied and complete in what we’ve done and learned so far. Now is the time to push our edges more than ever before.
- A system that influences… Together we have a chance to create a new era, a step beyond the era which is disintegrating all around us. Many of us have been pioneers, engaging in promising experiments with new forms, processes and ventures which carry the DNA of the era we might create. Much of this work has been powerful, rewarding and exciting. And, it is not enough. We must find ways which allow this work to easily and naturally spread. I’m not talking about going to scale, I am talking about creating systems of influence. Systems of influence require the creation of eco-systems which are larger than our individual work and which connect that work so it can GROW. Communities of practice can create systems of influence, indicators can create systems of influence, scenarios can create systems of influence. In South Africa I saw a reality TV show create a system of influence. What else? How do we help this work grow.
- Practical decolonization… I love the phrase, simply because it hasn’t yet been overused! Decolonizing is the process of shrugging off the shackles of domination that have controlled our lives. We’ve all been colonized. Certainly the colonization and extermination of indigenous peoples all over the world has been the most obvious and most brutal. Many of us have been victims and perpetrators of practices of power over which has separated us individually and collectively from our selves, each other and all other life on this planet of ours. Now is the time for us to step out of our roles as colonized and colonizers — practically, clearly, irrevocably.
We know how to do this! That’s the good news from our work of the last decade. No, we don’t have a road map. Hell, we don’t even really know the destination. But we do know enough to continue, to deepen, to go to a next level. But we have to move. Part of this is, I am sure, learning how to be comfortable working with the Alchemy of Opposites. All of it, I know is done collectively in community, not individually in isolation.
A lot of my own thinking about this over the last couple of months has been influenced both by Adam Kahane’s new book Power and Love and an essay from Barry Oshrey that grew out of a conversation he and Adam had, also called Power and Love. I’m personally a little leery of both these terms — power and love — but they have been an important doorway into my current learning. Oshrey speaks of the need to develop robust systems which combine power and love and I think he’s got it right. I think that I’ve spent much of the last ten years working on relationships and harmony and listening. I think the focus of the next ten needs to be more on getting real work done.
Many blessings as we end the era of the “oughts” (aught 1, aught 2, …) and come into the era of the “tens” (inTENtion) <grin>