Why do I strongly believe that each “U-process dive” needs to start with extended practice of presence?
At the very beginning, I want to point out that this writing comes purely from my experience and practices in the real world.
In my work as catalyst, I liberate creativity, innovation and productivity in people and organizations by choreographing (word for designing) transformative journeys, using the methodologies such as “U-theory”, the Diamond Approach and the generative dialogues models described by David Bohm, Bill Isaacs and Nick Udal.
For simplicity, in the rest of the text, I will use the term “U-proces dive” every time I refer to these processes.
Back in the day, with my colleague – our first experiment and choreographed “U – process dive” was a 120 minutes long journey that we made “open to all”. We invested 60+ hours of our time over period of 6 months to prepare for it. In this period we were holding and inquiring ourselves into some very important questions such as: What is the essence of what are we doing? Why are we doing this? Who do we want to work with? and going through the initial choreography several times.
That first journey was centered around the question:
How to create the next generation of Organizations & Leadership?
The choreography we put on paper had these 7 steps:
1) Welcoming and grounding the participants with body exercise 5min
2) Introduction of our work, the models and the practices we use 15min
3) 15 min presence practice 15min
4) Participants Inquire into the key question, journaling time and
reflection time 30min
5) second short presence practice at the bottom of the U 3min
6) Generative dialogue 25min
7) Prototyping and action 25min
As we started to explore and test the choreography ourselves, we were sensing the energy in the “container” we were building. By container in this context I mean the “space – vehicle” that needs to hold the creative tension (often part of such explorations), and take us as catalysts, and the participants on this co-creative transformative journey.
Very soon in the testing we realised that the step 3 from the choreography – 15 min presence practice, naturally belongs at the very beginning of the journey. Why?
First of all it brought us – the catalysts to a place of authenticity, groundedness, centeredness and clarity. From these place, holding the space, the tension and whatever was in the container, felt relaxed, flowy and much more easy when difficult feeling were emerging in the process. The container as a whole felt much more safe, and this was also reported by the participants. They reported unusual levels of trust, safety and space for intimate dialogues in the container. Even with such a short choreography, we experienced emergence of flow and collective thinking in the phase of generative dialogue.
In this period we also had several opportunities to witness “U-process dives” catalyzed by others. What was interesting for us to observe, was how the container reacts when the process starts without an extended practice of presence. Almost in all cases when practice of presence was not the first preparatory step in the choreography, I felt uncomfortable, unsafe, tensed, withdrawn and found it hard to share my truth, up to the first moment the group would practice presence together. It seemed to me that most of the participants, like me, were operating from their everyday mode.
In one case when the container was not prepared with presence practice, the experience was almost traumatic. I witnessed the group of 15 people I was part of, not able to hold the space and literally collapsing at the first point of tension occurring!!!
Why was this important?
We also noticed a pattern that was appearing and repeating in many exchanges and conversations with our colleagues throughout the last years MIT Ulab. This was the caution, with which many change agents were talking about, introducing the subject, and the practice of presence, when they were working with their business clients. The practice of presence was somehow feared, or change agents were afraid of being rejected or ridiculed for bringing the subject.
What was the fear I wondered? Isn’t it strange to somehow hide the practice of presence?
For me and my colleague, moving the presence practice at the beginning in our choreographies, feels absolutely right because it ground the whole circle from the very first moment and it brings everyone closer to their true self.
I personally feel that every hub out there, every leadership or learning intervention, every circle or group that is using the “U process dives” would benefit immensely if they start the U dive from the place of presence.