Six-ish life lessons from my self-organizing community

My self-organizing community gives me so much, so freely, that often my personal humanity-sippy-cup runneth (no wait, tippeth) over. I live within this community, as this community. And it is because of this community—real human people and groups and ideas—that I can find gratitude for every single day, especially on the bad days.

This community gives me more perspectives to ponder and space within which to ponder them than can be individually imagined or described.

Wow. Just wow.

People, experiences, and perspectives so different from me and mine that my world turns quietly upside down: a snow globe in the palm of a friendly hand. Yet somehow, they are also familiar. Their voices are my voice. Their heart my own heart.

My self-organizing community is everywhere I’m learning as much as I want to, as fast as I can, and all the time, just like the river does. It’s also where I lay my head at night to dream and to rest. It’s home. A river bed.

What is your self-organizing community teaching you this week? Here are the lessons I’m learning from mine right now:

  1. We humans can create infinite time for those we love. Best example this week: my dad, writing and sending email to my sister and I. Not his own email messages, although those count too. No, this was a message from my mother to us. E-mail from my mom, who has Alzheimer’s disease, and who had something funny to say to her daughters but who is no longer inclined to send email messages herself. Infinite time my dad has for my mom. Infinite time, I’ve learned, that Jen and I have for them too. Note: my mom also has a stubbornness combined with a sweetness that brings to mind an image of the imaginary lop-eared offspring of a mule and a fluffy bunny. She still plays Soduko on her iPad. She’ll not let this ultra-fashionable device go entirely without one hell of a fight! :-) This brings to mind another lesson…
  2. We humans are utterly overflowing with courage. Beyond my family (who demonstrates this daily for me), I witnessed stunning courage this week thanks to my self-organizing community. Here are four examples:
    • Offering help to another when you don’t believe that you have much to give and/or when you yourself are recovering from tragedy and believe yourself to be the one in need of/receiving help. My dear friend did this for me this week. My living room walls were feeling sad around me, and he filled them with beautiful artwork that was sitting in his garage and closet. This friend recently lost first one, and then another, family member to terminal illness, has been struggling financially this summer, and may well lose his job in the coming months. Yet when my own artwork failed to inspire us as we were hanging it, he instantly jumped into his car and brought us multiple pieces of valuable artwork, including his own, to fill in the gaps. Do you even know how courageous you are my friend? How amazing? I will NOT let you be blind to this!
    • Owning and speaking my edge opinions. Thanks for sharing Amy. I think we all have perspectives and opinions that live outside the mainstream. Think we’re all center to something and edge to something else. Am I openly speaking my edge perspectives like Penn so bravely does here? Could I be doing better? Hmmm…
    • Demanding better from and for your government, your institutions, and your individual self simultaneously. Thanks for sharing, whoever found this for me. Watching protesters in the street, all over the planet, gives me goose bumps of excitement for us all. This brings to mind another lesson…
  3. We humans can embrace anger and forge it into art and action:My two favorite examples from this week:
    • Find “Art” with a capital A a bit stuffy?  Try this manifesto. Whenever I listen to Lenelle, I imagine I get to co-invent the word artist and goddess along with her. Hmm, let’s see. Open, powerful, creative, funny, gorgeous, kind, angry when anger is truly warranted, trusting of self, and a real and human being. I’m just now learning to honor and trust my own fear and anger, Lenelle, so thank you for sharing your work and yourself.
    • Something in my heart just loves the fact that the Occupy Seattle folks—coming together downtown to demonstrate support for the Occupy Wall Street folks in New York city—decided to occupy first and then to come up with a demand once together. BTW, you can weigh in on their demands here: Occupy Seattle’s demands. Creative moving with and channeling growing community anger is what I see here. Should I love or fear these people who demand that we all get to co-create our organizations, communities, and government? People who openly invite me to have a say in what it is they are protesting? People who want my help in whatever form I chose to give it? I choose love.
  4. We humans are utterly overflowing with creativity.Three examples my community brought me this week:
    • Office building post-it-note wars. Score on this appears to be cube dwellers 1 and lifeless buildings and cubicals zero. :-) Am planning a post-it sunflower in my home office window as a show of solidarity.
    • Artificial leaves drawing energy from water and the sun. Um, wow. Cool.
    • In the kitchen. Skip what I said in this post and just check out the beautiful photos of my friend Diane’s infinite culinary capacity in the kitchen here. Seattle-area friends, you’ll find her soon at the Redmond Whole Foods, demonstrating cooking, baking, and God-knows-what-else like the improv ninja kitchen artist she is.
  5. My community members are all around me, and are working on my behalf, even when I’m unaware of it. One example from this week: I just learned about this great series of videos created this summer by a local group less than a block from my house. At the corner store!  Go Grrls!
  6. We humans appear to be stretching our own old, hardened boundaries all over the place these days. My own hard “cannot be changed” boundaries have proven stretchy, fluid, and sometimes imaginary, within my self-organizing community. Most of the people and examples above are examples of this for me too. The Collective Self site used to be focused entirely on my own self-organizing work groups research with my own hard lines drawn around it. A year ago, for example, I would never have linked the Collective Self site to a religious site, political opinion articles, news sites (mainstream and otherwise), or to profanity-laced artwork (no matter how spot-on and kick-ass and lovely),  nor would I have shamelessly promoted my dear friends’ work in the community. Yet here I am. Surprised to find myself outside my own narrow boundaries yet again, thanks to my self-organizing community. Two final examples of boundary stretching shared within my self-organizing community:

Thank you community for stretching and, in doing so, stretching me well past what I imagined I could be and believe. You are a gift.


  1. ali anani says:

    Lori,
    I commented on one of your comments on Bas’ projectshrink blog by saying “The overlap of the self circle with the group circle. The greater the overlap is, the greater is the dissolve of I and they, while keeping a little of the me and the group. It is the sweet zone of overlapping”.
    Having read this thoughtful post, I find my newest definition of self-organizing groups is adequate.

  2. Lori says:

    Hi Ali, thanks for sharing. I didn’t see that comment.

    I imagine you spending your life within so many amazing self-organizing groups that your own definition is always enough: adequate and self refining!

    :-)

  3. ali anani says:

    Lori,
    Do you think self-organizing activities are compulsory, or better unavoidable? If one like you decides to be a poet can you dislodge yourself from self-organizing activities or being immersed in such activities make self-organizing a norm of life? What is your experience?

    • Lori says:

      Ali, I’m more curious about your answers to those questions than mine. Happy to share my experience but can I first ask you? What is your perspective? What do you experience?

      • ali anani says:

        Lori, THE QUESTION JUMPED ALL OF A SUDDEN TO MY MIND. i REALLY HAVE TO DIGEST IT MORE FIRST. FOR NOW, i WOULD SAY SELF-ORGANIZING ACTIVITIES ARE UNAVOIDABLE AS THEY BECOME A WELCOME NORM OF LIFE. ALL WHAT RESULTS IS CHANGING THE GROUPS, LOCATION OR WHATEVER, BUT THE HABIT OF SELF-ORGANIZING WOULD STILL BE “OPERATIONAL”.

        • Lori says:

          Hi Ali, thank you for so openly sharing your off-the-cuff questions and early thoughts/answers (another tried-and-true indicator of self-org group membership). ;-) What you say rings true within my experience and research, and you say it more clearly than I do.

          In my experience, as an individual it’s not about forcing (which the word “compulsory” is about to my ear). It’s about receiving. The more I open my individual self to receive, the more my self-organizing groups and community give me, and the more I, in turn, can give to others. I open my individual self by becoming and then learning within these groups and communities.

          What you describe as habit and operational (I love those words), today I would describe as “just me and my way of being”. Because this practice so clearly sustains and evolves itself/me, it would be silly for my individual self to get in the way. For me it has moved beyond practice through habit and now into simply who I am. Whether I wear the hat of “researcher” or “blogger” or “poet” or “monkey wrangler” in the future I will still be who I am.

          Looking back, the pull of working and living as self-organizing groups, for me, became undeniable once I’d experienced what was possible when 5 people could move within their organization as 1. It felt too good to be true—like magic—all the new things I could experience, see and do! Now, years later, learning to move in the world as self-organizing community is also undeniable for me. It’s undeniable because it comes from within my own heart, which is revealed to me daily by my groups and community. So I’d choose the word undeniable—like river water flooding its banks–instead of the word compulsory.

          This experience appears to hold across the groups I study and am part of. Once people experience themselves as part of a self-organizing group they are disinclined to settle for less. Interestingly, this appears to hold true for close others who were using the group to learn with and from as well. Very exciting!

          • ali anani says:

            Lori, I am glad I asked the question because it prompted you to write such an illuminating response. I read it carefully and loved your expression “undeniable experience”. That is almost a perfect expression.
            yes, becoming part of a self-organizing group is an unforgettable experience and it “flows” with the blood. It becomes part of life without intending to do so.
            May I suggest to you to write a slideshare presentation on your response. It might echo more than you would expect.
            Lori, you have been a great asset and motivator. Keep up the great spirit.

  4. Lori says:

    Ali, I’ll start work on a slidedeck next week. You are such a great asset and motivator. You ask the best questions! Thank you.

    • Lori says:

      Oh, and Ali, about the almost perfect expression you mentioned—”undeniable experience”. I didn’t actually say that. Think our group said it, and we were close enough to hear it. :-)

  5. Lori says:

    Ali, I couldn’t wait until next week. And didn’t need to since I created a 14-slide deck in about 10 minutes. You are featured in it prominently, so I’d like you to review it and ok it before I post it to slideshare. Will you email me your email address so I can send it to you? My email address is lori@collectiveself.com. Thanks!

  6. ali anani says:

    Lori, I hope did

    Many thanks for your kind words.

    I sleep very little. I slept for less than five hours. It is dawn time here (4 a.m)

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