The art, for the Convener, is in the recognition of the subtle shift of energy and in knowing what to do or not do in the moment. Our inner work, drawn from the initial aspects of the Convening Wheel, comes in handy here. Since we can't count on anyone else to have done the preparation or to be on the lookout for these vital signs, this is the moment when our skills of patience and discernment pay off. As the Convener, we are continually sensing the mood of the group. We assess the energy and the ability of the assembled to be connected--both personally and to their common future. This is usually the time to slow down the conversations and find common ground. At this stage, the participants may engage with one another, for the first time, in a meaningful way and begin to function as a unified "living system."
The phenomenon of the Arc of Recognition has been experienced many times in Thought Leader Gatherings (TLGs). Embedded in the design of each of the half-day sessions is the seed of Essential Conversation, which rarely fails to come to full blossom. Take note of the progression of the Aspects as you read about the TLG format.
HOW THE GATHERINGS WORK
Each phase of the four-hour Thought Leader Gathering (TLG) is designed to bring the group an experience of the Arc of Recognition (see below for detailed description), which then stimulates and reveals the collective wisdom of the group in an effective and efficient, yet unhurried, time frame. We draw on ancient as well as modern group process models, borrrowing from the great cultural and organizational traditions.
The TLGs are held in beautiful venues that offer access to natural lighting and wholesome food. The format is designed to guide the 50-100 participants successfully through an interactive learning experience, from the conversation starter's opening remarks to the closing harvesting session. The hub of each gathering is the Community Circle, where the conversations begin and end.
THE ARC OF RECOGNITION: The Ordinary, Extraordinary Shift in Seeing and Hearing One Another
When we are invited to speak our name and what is true for us, and we hear others do the same, an energetic shift predictably occurs that is at once quite ordinary and simultaneously astoundingly transformative for the group. There is power in being heard. However, the combination of speaking and listening deeply in a safe container produces a remarkable shift within a group that may be imperceptible to almost everyone but the Convener. Simply put, we experience being heard and "seen" as who we truly are while simultaneously seeing and hearing others for who they truly are. This produces the effect of recognizing one another in an essential way. In the movie Avatar, the central social theme revolved around the indigenous Na'vi "seeing" one another. This sweet space in any gathering is a moment that the Convener watches for with great anticipation. It's the appearance of this Arc of Recognition that can enable us to succesfully enter Essential Conversation.
More specifically, something is happening in the group dynamics. Like much in life, it's the simple things that often have the greatest impact. When we are asked to speak from a place of meaning and allowed the space to do so, we become vulnerable and open to each other as witnesses to who we really are. This is true even if we are just saying our name, where we live, and a word or two about our present condition. Hearing others speak this way may have the effect of creating a shared experience--an arc across the room (or space)--that allows us to truly recognize our common humanity. With practice and deepening of our own awareness and skills, we facilitate this authentic engagement more and more. It may happen in the first Stringing of the Beads, or when we open to Essential Conversation, or perhaps further along in the engagement, if there is a seoncd Stringing or beyond. We then have the potential to experience interdependence and a common future. A very natural trust emanates from this awareness, allowing authentic engagement, leading to the potential for our collective wisdom.
A very prominent teacher of meditation once said, when you drop the "I", it creates a bridge "_". When we experience a safe container some of our predispositions to hide are dissolved--allowing not only others, but certainly ourselves, to gain a very deep view of our authentic self. We mentioned the movie Avatar by no mistake--this hugely successful film hit a collective nerve in our world for many reasons--and we suspect that one of those key reasons was the way it depicts the indigenous people, the Na'vi, acknowledging or "seeing" one another, and simply speaking to that recognition authentically. Truly this would be a changed world if in all our meetings and interactions we allowed for that field to open up, and that for ourselves and others we step into the circle of true acknowledgement and unhindered safety that we are, indeed, very much a common humanity and each coming with such great gifts and incredibly profound stories to the table of life and work.
To Authentic Engagement!
Craig & Patricia