photo credit: Craig neal

photo credit: Craig neal

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon.  It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know.  That's why we wake
and look out -- no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.
~ William Stafford ~

Nature. Beauty. Gratitude

Photo credit: Craig neal

Photo credit: Craig neal

If you are not one of the the 63,977 people who've seen it on YouTube, or even if you are - I receommend a daily viewing of this video from Louie Schwartzenberg on Nature, Beauty, and Gratitude. You'll be charmed by Louie Schwartzberg's time-lapse photography and and inspired by the articulate, heartful narration of David Steindl-Rast. Steindl-Rast says that cultivating gratitude for each day is like "life-giving water if you will only open your heart and drink".


Turning to One Another

PHoto credit: Craig Neal

PHoto credit: Craig Neal

"Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world."

Turning to One Another

There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.

Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?”  Keep asking.

Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.

  •         Talk to people you know.
  •         Talk to people you don’t know.
  •         Talk to people you never talk to.

Be intrigued by the differences you hear.

  •          Expect to be surprised.
  •          Treasure curiosity more than certainty.

Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.

  •         Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
  •         Know that creative solutions come from new connections.

Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.

Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.

Rely on human goodness.  Stay together.

Margaret j Wheatley
Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future
Additional writings include: Leadership and the New Science
The Berkana Institute

When We Listen

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

When We Listen

When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness.

Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.

That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and by others.

That which is hidden.

In this culture, the soul and the heart too often go homeless.

Listening creates a holy silence.

When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.

And in the silence of listening, you can know yourself in everyone.

Eventually, you may be able to hear, in everyone and beyond everyone, the unseen singing softly to itself and to you.

Rachel Naomi Remen

Convening and Judgment

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Have you ever been judged? I know the answer to that, because we've all been judged. We're judged every time we walk among others. For the very same behavior or characteristic we can be judged positively (especially by our moms!) or negatively (as by our arch nemesis if we have one).

My own judgments are both involuntary and continuous - like breathing. Sometimes those judgments help me make sense of the world, but more often than I would like, if I have the opportunity to test the judgments I make, they can be amazingly wrong. That is, unless I have triggered the "self-fulfilling prophesy" kind of judgment.

We are all multifaceted human beings, and as such could display characteristics that show us to be shallow barbarians one minute and deep, thoughtful geniuses the next. People judge me (and others) using all kinds of criteria - by the expression on our faces, by the shoes we wear, by the condition or color of our hair, or perhaps by a blog entry. A momentary lapse of manners may be judged as refreshingly real by one person and as unnecessarily crude by another.

A challenge I struggle with sometimes when I convene or participate in a group is setting aside my judgment. A key principle in the Art of Convening for the Aspect of Hearing All the Voices is to suspend our judgment. But my brain is constantly making conscious and unconscious evaluations of the people I am with - and others often seem to be doing the same thing. Like a frisky puppy, judgment chews on my hand and vies for my attention, becoming more stealthy and present as I struggle to banish it.

"Judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, I've learned. I want to have and continue to nurture good judgment in my life."

So, rather than fight with my judgment and try to get rid of it, I have decided to treat it like a puppy I've brought along, but is not participating. I take the time to train her to sit quietly at my feet or under my chair, until my meeting or conversation is over - then I take her away with me somewhat better behaved, more informed and matured in some way.

Judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, I've learned. I want to have and continue to nurture good judgment in my life. But I do myself a disservice when I allow my judgment to be a barrier to relationship with others in my gathering. I notice that the Art of Convening principle asks me to "suspend" my judgment, not to eliminate it. My objective is to be present in my gathering as a place of "charitable interpretation" and openness to being surprised.

What are your experiences with judgment and The Art of Convening? Is your judgment like a puppy too? Do you have some tips for the rest of us?

Cynthia Wold, Co-author of "The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations"

NOTE: In the original post, Judgement was spelled with an "e" after the g. Both spellings are correct, but I was persuaded to change to the more popular Judgment.

"Merriam-Webster prefers judgment and lists judgement as a variant."

Love and The Art of Convening

Photo credit: Craig neal

Photo credit: Craig neal

[from co-author Cindy] I started a graduate program this fall and am interested in carrying “love” as a scholarly topic of study and as a theme for my program. As I research this topic I am finding many others who are taking love as a serious topic of study worthy of understanding for the sake of human wellbeing and effective relationships. The time seems right to dig deeper into this subject....

Interview and Book Review

Photo credit: Craig neal

Photo credit: Craig neal

A BIG THANKS to Wayne Hurlbert of Blog Business World and Blog Talk Radio for a wonderful interview and review of our book.

AoC Book Review

Photo credit: craig neal

Photo credit: craig neal

I just spoke with our friend and colleague Jennifer Sommerness and recalled her review of our book, The Art of Convening. Follow the link below to read the review and learn more about Jen's important work.

"Today I read the book written by Craig and Patricia Neal with Cynthia Wold, called The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations. I have wanted to read this book for many reasons, one of which is...

Convening and The Truth

Photo Credit: Craig neal

Photo Credit: Craig neal

This article was first posted on the AoC Book blog

Someone asked me today what I imagined would make the biggest difference in improving the quality of an upcoming conversation. I thought about it a bit and said that it would be telling the truth.

I don't think the people intentionally lie, but I think all of us like to manage our persona and make a good impression. We want to get along with others and may unconsciously utter clichés instead of offering thoughtful, relevant talk. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, but I am sometimes in exchanges where that kind of thing is practiced to an extreme - and it wears me out! Also, it is impossible for me to develop a sense of trust in my conversations when I believe that truth is not forthcoming.

Most of us are not privy to knowing what THE TRUTH in capital letters is, but we do know what we are experiencing and thinking in the moment. It is more uncomfortable for me to openly share my genuine experiences and thoughts when others are not doing the same - much like the feeling of being watched from behind a one-way glass.  That doesn't mean we have to bare our souls and tell all, or expound fully on our areas of expertise, but it does mean that we have to be real. 

In The Art of Convening, authentic engagement is defined as simply the genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for others. It's not entertaining, persuading or manipulating, but it is very energizing. Using the principles and practices of the Art of Convening make it much more likely that participants in a conversation or gathering will authentically engage - which means telling the truth.

What is your experience of truth-telling and the Art of Convening?

Cynthia Wold, Co-author of "The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations"

AoC book review- Qualitative Research Consultants' Association


This review from the Qualitative Research Consultants Journal highlights the effectiveness of convening and authenti engagment within a very specific business applicaiton. click here for the entire review Download Book Review (02-Summer 2011) - The Art of ConveningTema-Lyn

The Art of Convening, by Craig and Patricia Neal with Cynthia Wold, is a jewel of a book, which should resonate well with research consultants interested in mastering both the inner and outer dimensions of convening meetings. The Neals bring an enlightened approach to preparing for and conducting meetings that are authentic engagements – a genuine expression of what is “true” for convener and participants. The Art of Convening provides a holistic, perhaps “spiritual,” perspective on meetings that can inspire qualitative research consultants in working with research participants and client teams.

By Laurie Tema-Lyn, Practical Imagination Enterprises,Ringoes,

A single intelligence... or the Ultimate Team

Photo Credit: Craig neal

Photo Credit: Craig neal

"At present, people create barriers between each other by their fragmentary thought. Each one operates separately. When these barriers have dissolved, then there arises one mind, where they are all one unit, but each person also retains his or her own individual awareness. That one mind will still exist even when they separate, and when they come together, it will be as if they hadn't separated. It's actually a single intelligence that works with people who are moving in relationship with one another. . . . If you had a number of people who really pulled together and worked together in this way, it would be remarkable. They would stand out so much that everyone would know they were different."
~David Bohm (physicist, philosopher, & mystic)

Beginners Mind as Bridge

In the Japanese tradition of Zen, there is reference to what is called Beginner's Mind by Master Shunryu Suzuki. When we "suspend certainty" we automatically ignite the energetic of Beginner's Mind which in turn opens us up to new possibilities and very likely will produce results in our meetings that might seem impossible to achieve. When we unwind our solidified certainties and beliefs, and simply take a moment to identify how they came to be, we shift our potential to co-create.

Read More

Each Voice as Key

Photo credit: Craig neal

Photo credit: Craig neal

P R I N C I P L E:

Each voice is needed to reveal the authentic wisdom in our engagement.


We often refer to this principle as letting go and let come. We let go of our preconceptions of who the others are in the gathering and we let come the truth, quality, and essence of each. We suspend judgment (certainty) so that we are open to the possibilities of others. We must know, internally, that we, and all the others who are here, belong here. Each is needed and is here to contribute to the potential wisdom and creativity that we want in order to allow for the best possible outcome. There are no mistakes or outisiders in the universe, or in our gathering.

We must know, internally, that we, and all the others who are here, belong here. Each is needed and is here to contribute to the potential wisdom and creativity that we want in order to allow for the best possible outcome. There are no mistakes or outsiders in the universe, or in our gathering.

When we acknowledge that each voice is needed, we recognize that we are gathering the parts of something, just as a gardener gathers tools, seeds, and soil in the creation of a garden. As in a garden, where these necessary elements come togather, it is so in our gatherings: every person contributes by coming together to create something new. We orchestrate the opportunity for each individual to participate, producing a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. When all of the voices are heard, everyone sees and is seen by one another. Authentic engagement has begun, and an organic whole begins to emerge. (93)

This principle lays the foundation for maximizing the capacity for possible outcomes that may surprise even the most savvy and creative facilitator (convener) or manager (way-shower, guide). What has been missing in most meetings is simply this very recognition. Coming at our Team meetings and interactions on a regular basis with colleagues, how can we ignite that spark that dissolves the "I" and bridges to the "We"? Once we let our self-interests and expectations down, it is amazing what happens in the Boardrooms and meeting spaces. A new capacity forms. Granted, there will be moments of noodling through the currents of control, ego, and multiple opinions and views. This is all well and good and can be deftly navigated when the convener and the convening circle is coming from this space of understanding--the understanding that All Voices are Key.

Enjoy a copy of The Art of Convening for 30% off list price! (Offer ends April 7th 2011)

Here's to Hearing All the Voices!


Craig and Patricia

The Art of Intention

Photo credit: Craig Neal

Photo credit: Craig Neal


My deepest intention is always to serve, to encourage healing (in the meaning of fostering wholeness) and to embody love. I realized over time that by setting a clear intention for each gathering, for each day--I unleashed an energetic field which then drew the outer physical manifestation of that intention to me as I simultaneously was making my way towards "it".~Pele Rouge Chadima (quoted in the book p. 30 in chapter on "Clarifying Intent", the 'first' spoke on the Convening Wheel)


In The Art of Convening, one of the "spokes" or Aspects of the Convening Wheel is "Clarifying Intent". We ask ourselves foundational questions such as "What are my intentions?", "Are they in line with who I am?", and "Who are we to be together?"  These Essential Questions require us to remain in the "being" realm of convening. With these questions, we bring into play our relationship with others: who we are to be, and the how we are to be with one another. From these reflections flows the recognition of an intention that will have substance. With a clarified personal intent to be engaged, the design of the gathering and how it will be executed unfolds more easily. The Invitation, the third Aspect, is the logical next step in articulating our purpose and intent. If our intention is muddy, confused or ambiguous, it may eventually be revealed in a wishy-washy Invitation.

What matters and what counts are imagination and inspiration, a "Hail Yes!" we can attitude, and a roll up our sleeves movement of such magnitude that the future can hear us coming with our heads held high above the cloudy predictions and our knapsacks filled with our gumption and our grit, our gifts and our gratitudes-the building blocks of new cornerstones of possibility. ~Minx Boren (quoted on p. 32)

Intention is like an ignition point where ideas come closer to form, and where the numinous begins to come into reality. It provides us as individuals and groups the opportunity to slow and reflect carefully, and opens a field of gratitude and insurmountable momentum and equanimity--qualities that support success and the deepest form of accomplishment on all levels.

May your convening be full of clear intention and inspiration,

Craig, Patricia & Cindy

PS: Publisher 30% off list price limited time offer in either hardcopy or e-book. Go here to purchase for only $13.97: