Always Remember to Host the Whole!

Like a trip down a water slide, the Art of Hosting at Kiyosato, Japan began and then, quickly, was complete.  Whew!

Our second one this year.  This time the hosting team from outside Japan was Toke Moeller from Denmark, Susan Virnig, Bob Wing and Bob Stilger from the US, along with Annie Virnig from the US as an apprentice. Kiyosato is such a beautiful place.  Wonderful people, excellent food.  And, well, it’s not hard to find beauty when Mt. Fuji looks on from the nearby horizon.

And so many difference from May.  I write about some of those, and then share some about my most important learning.

We knew that we had a different group of participants than in May.  Generally younger and will less experience.  We knew they would come with a strong appetite for learning.  We also had a different hosting team.  We’d asked Bob Wing and Toke to join for many reasons; one was to bring more movement in.  And we did!

We also made a challenging decision to dive right in, going for disruption of habitual ways of thinking and a bit of confusion as a place to start.  We may have gotten more disruption and confusion than we planned on!  Looking back (the Art of Hosting Workshop was November 19-21 and I’m just getting around to writing now), I think we had a bit too much “vocabulary” in this AoH.  Vocabulary is a term I’ve started using more and more after work with Arawana Hayashi earlier this year.  It’s causing me to pay attention to the number of new constructs, concepts, and words I am introducing.  They all come together under the term vocabulary.  We may have had a bit too much in a three day session with two languages in play at all times.

Still, it was a sacred space. People were moved.  They left with more questions and more clarity about their work in the world.  They left knowing more about how to host conversations that matter and how to design dialogue events.  They left with deeper relationships with each other.  A community is growing here in Japan.  It’s a community of people finding their way into their work to make a difference in the world.  And a community learning how to relate to each other.

And it went a bit too fast with too many moving parts.  In addition to our normal work with circles, world cafe, open space, silence, clay, we brought in much more work with movement.  We also added in learning teams around harvesting and movement.  We brought a new form — ProAction Cafe — in and built a hosting chance around it.  We had the normal hosting chances for Opening Circles and Closing Circles and World Cafe and Open Space.  We also began, but didn’t really effectively integrate a Japanese Hosting Team with the Non-Japanese Hosting Team.

This is actually pretty hard and delicate work!  There’s a richness is working in both Japanese and English — and it requires a lot of time and effort.  There is a richness is bringing together new hosting teams that have not worked together before (as was the case in our non-Japanese team) and there are challenges.  And, of course, all of this work in Japan that is going on under the name “Art of Hosting” is only ten months old and it is moving from being a network to becoming a community.  So lots was happening.

But I need to talk about what was missing — which is the territory of my deepest learning.  We, and especially I, did not hold the center well.  It began with not making sure that our core team — five non-Japanese and one Japanese — were present for our whole design day before the AoH began.  I think I didn’t fully appreciate the complexity of weaving in what Bob Wing and Toke would bring, nor the complexity of working more fully with a Japanese hosting team.  So, even as we started, we were behind!

In retrospect, in my ideal world, here’s what would have happened:  Annie, Susan and I would have had at least a short family check-in each day.  The three of us, plus Toke, Bob Wing and Yuya plus a translator would have been having a core hosting team check-in each day.  Some of the core hosting team would have been meeting and checking-in with the Japanese hosting team each day.  On the first day, we did all of this except the family check-in.  On the second and third days, we were all flying fast and none of these center meetings happened.

The result was “raggedness.”  We were all rushing.  There was too much confusion.  The flow was not smooth.  We probably could not have had all the moving parts AND do this level of conscious hosting of the center.  I’d gladly sacrifice some of the parts in order to maintain more clarity at the core.  The day after the AoH, Bob Wing and I were talking and he commented on how centered I seemed throughout all the days.  I mentioned my growing clarity about what a poor job I had done in hosting the core of the system.  Bob had an insight which went something like this “ah, yes, I see it.  If the core had been being hosted well, then I would have know where and how to fit in.  As it was, by the last day I felt like I was just running.”

So the learning is clear.  The core, the center, the innermost circle must be held well.  When it is held consciously, deliberately, with kindness and compassion. Its strength stabilizes the entire system and allow for deeper flow and greater learning.  When things begin to get crazy, return to the work of the core.  let go of some of the parts.

There are lots of different reasons for why I got lost.  And I got lost.  I forgot that my most important responsibility and my biggest opportunity was to host the whole by hosting the core.  I am particularly aware of how the Japanese hosting team was left in the dark.  Certainly, they were all involved in one or more of the moving parts, but they were not involved in the whole in a way which increases their capacity to offer these kind of events.

It’s all learning.  It’s all practice.  And I know I will make the space to be more attentive the next time around!  It is a joy to be able to do this work in Japan.

Many pictures:

December 3, 2010

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2 thoughts on “Always Remember to Host the Whole!”

  1. Dear Bob,

    Thanks so much for this deeply thoughtful and generous sharing of such essential learning. This kind of insight often sounds simple when it’s articulated, and I guess it is simple in the end, but the journey to get there seems to be through raggedness and confusion. So, your polished gift of clarity, and the (sometimes hard deep) work of sensing into clarity, is much appreciated!

    love, Christy

  2. This was my third Art of Hosting. The first, as a participant; the second, as an apprentice host at Japan’s first Art of Hosting in Kiyosato last May; then this. Kiyosato is a beautiful place, and an incredible group of people from all around Japan gathered there together, but for me too there was a strong sense of uncertainty around the three days we spent there together. When we began to reflect back on the workshop, what kept coming up for me was our emphasis on personal reflection and practice. We had decided early on in the design that for this second Art of Hosting in Japan, with the contribution of Toke and Bob’s presence and the added emphasis on movement, that the focus should be on the individual rather than forming the group. And I never felt a part of the group. As an apprentice host, I was walking the line between participant and host, but I never felt a part of either group; in May, I felt a part of both. Maybe a part of this uncertainty, this ungroundedness, was that we had many levels of “groups,” as my dad noted – the core American/Denmark hosting team, the Japanese hosting team, the Art of Hosting participants – and the lines between these groups were quite blurry. What was the purpose, the role of each group? How did we intend to interact between and within these various circles? How were our learnings meant to take place at different levels within each of the groups?

    There are many different questions that can be asked in that vein, but beyond that I have a sense that it comes down to grounding and center. Maybe in a different context the “central circle,” the American/Denmark core hosting team, would have been able to be more grounded, holding the center in such a way that grounded the whole. I’m not sure exactly what this means, or how it would have been different, but I the feeling of the room and its sense of possibility would have been altered. Something as simple as meeting every morning with the core hosting team to breathe and sense into the feeling in the group and the flow for the day would have made a big difference, I think. There are many different practical little things that could have been done, but more than that, I feel that guardianing the center was an important element we let slip. That intention, that attention allows for a subtle but immense shift in the energy, the funiki (atmosphere), the range of possibilities present in the place.

    But all this being said, I think in some ways the uncomfortableness and the ambiguity that many felt at this Art of Hosting was a generative space. It was a sense of out-of-placeness within a powerful place that forced (enabled?) me, at least, to look inside myself, to look for realignment and shifts that would allow me to once again find my way into the flow. In the end it was a powerful place for me as an individual. But not as a member of any of the groups – the core hosting team, the Japanese hosting team, the group of participants. It was a place for me to stand alone and to breathe in the beauty of morning runs and views of the sun rising behind Fuji-san and the Japanese Alps from footpaths in the wilderness of Kiyosato.

    And despite what I might have said here, or felt during those three days, I am only one of sixty-odd people and I know many had very different experiences than me. I know that for some this Art of Hosting allowed them to come alive, to find things long lost. So each of us tells a different story.

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