So my dear friend Diane just got the job of her dreams. Literally. She’s been having vivid dreams about it since the day she realized she might actually have a shot at getting it. I’m thrilled for her. It fills me with joy that she’s moving in the direction of her passion and her heart and her truest self—to the point that tears of joy welled up in my eyes when I first heard the news. That was my initial and deepest response. Yet her new work likely means that she’ll leave a group that we’ve been growing as together for 1½ years. Sigh. Diane is leaving our group. This seriously sucks. 🙁
From an individual perspective, self-organizing groups can at times appear to be extremely fragile. Each group member holds 100% of the power to change the group, and 100% of the power to leave the group at any moment, and group members know it. Because these groups give individual group members different things, other group members may well walk away from the group before you’re ready to see them go. Like Diane, for me. The story of the group that Diane is now leaving demonstrates why my half joyful and half sulking individual self can somewhat gracefully both let her go and be open to receiving what’s coming next.
Group incarnation #1. In February 2010, I decided that what I really needed in my life was a local group of people who were interested in a Self-Organizing Systems Discussion Group. I sent out a call to every group I could think of and 15 local people responded saying they’d be interested in attending a monthly discussion. Yet only a couple of people actually showed up to these meetings, which was disheartening (even to a researcher who intellectually understands that amazing self-organizing groups always start small with just two or three people who get close enough to move in the world as one before the group grows bigger). Diane and I were the only two people who showed up every single month for this group.
Group incarnation #2. In June 2010, we noticed that those of us who regularly showed up to these discussions were all consultants or considering evolving into consultants, so a few of us reimagined the group as a consultant’s support group and the Seattle Consultant’s Grotto group was born. Over the past year, the group evolved into a 10-member group that meets monthly. This group has supported the individuals within it in many different ways—offering encouragement, broadening our ideas, connecting us to resources, and bringing many of us new work. There are now many group members who reliably show up each month, Diane and I still almost always among them.
Group incarnation #3. Now it’s September 2011, and Diane’s new full-time work means her departure from the group. It occurred to me that three of the four original members have moved on from this group. Two have moved into the full-time work they wanted and one formed another informal group closer to her home to satisfy her desire to walk to meetings and connect with other work-from-home professionals. This leaves just original member me with a very clear picture of what I now need. I need local co-workers. I don’t want just a support group anymore. My energy for working alone is at an end, if it ever existed. With Diane’s departure, it occurred to me to propose that the group reimagine itself again as a work group. Will be interesting to see what the group imagines itself to be at our October meeting. I now know that I need local co-community builders, co-researchers, co-consultants, co-trainers, and co-partners-in-crime. I need co-workers! I also know that I’m not alone in this need. And, what I find most interesting, is that I couldn’t have imagined better human beings as co-workers if I’d gotten to invent human beings myself. Doug, Neil, Tim, Cathy, Annie, Bonnie, Catherine—within these names lives a co-worker dream team for me right now if ever there was one.
So, it still sucks that Diane will leave the group. Yet I can gracefully let her go as she leaves, because I know that for her leaving means moving on to what she most needs now (yea!) and that it doesn’t actually mean she’s leaving my life (double yea!). We’re part of a community now. And we’re friends. In fact, Daniel and I are having dinner at their house in a few weeks. I also intend to show up in the front row of a few of the cooking classes she’ll be teaching this year, because she’s an amazing cook, and my best meal is a pretty spread of the $1 tacos created by the chefs that park their food truck on our corner.
And it sucks that what the group has been until now, it may no longer be going forward. Yet I can gracefully receive and co-invent what’s coming next, because I’ve experienced this group reinventing itself before, and I’ve experienced my life and work getting better as a result. The group also helped make it clear what it is that I actually need right now. The group also put into my lap many of the people and ideas and skills that I need right now as my own work evolves from a focus on small self-organizing groups into a focus on community.
This is what it feels like to live and work as self-organizing groups and community. The difficult parts of life can still be difficult in the moment. Yet the gratitude and joy received from these groups turns many difficulties into gifts. Thanks to Diane, I found myself experiencing a difficult situation as a gift in the moment, not weeks or months later. Thanks group, lesson learned.
Farewell, lovely and talented Diane. The group will miss your remarkable openness, your even more remarkable smile, and your even more remarkable cookies and cakes. 🙂 I can hardly wait to see what you do for our community next!
This is a touchy and passionate post. It reveals the hidden harm in self=organizing groups. Yes, members have 100% the right to leave, but do they have the right to cause us such pains because of their departure? It is the struggle between our dreams and self-aspirations Vs. the interest of the groups in which we are members. It is a delicate balance.
Diane didn’t comment on this post. I feel she is unable to hold the pen.
Ali, so interesting to hear your perspective, thank you! Imagine that Diane and I are close, like sisters. That we easily, naturaly, and openly share our fears as they come up without feeling concern that the other will be scared away or cannot handle it. With that context, does the post still sound touchy to your ear? Ah, well, maybe touchy is not so bad. 🙂
There was a time that I experienced this facet of self-organizing groups as a down side. For me that time has passed. I see this as a gift (almost in the moment, not quite). 😉 The momentary pain I experienced was caused by my individual self, not Diane. I experience our group as a teacher for me–teaching me to let go and feel joy in the very moments I feel sorrow. I no longer experience it as a delicate balance. Balance implies two sides. The time I experienced two sides was just a few minutes this time around–not much more than the time it took me to write the first half of the post. But not for one moment did I ever stop valuing Diane, the group, and our time together as this group. So I moved through those feelings quickly and on to valuing the whole experience. Valuing our connection to the wholeness of life. Thankful to the group and to Diane. Feeling whole and content. Experiencing no sides left to balance. 🙂
You’ll be happy to hear that Diane and I are still a group, albeit a different one now. We’re having dinner together this weekend (she’s cooking–yea!) so that our husbands (who we suspect will bond over their passion for photography) can finally meet. And just like that, a new group is born. 🙂
Diane commented via Facebook, where we typically talk online. “Honored” was the word she used. For good measure, I’ll tell her about your response on Sunday and double check that she’s ok with my frankness in this post.
Thank you, my friend. You’re always looking out for me!
You touch upon a great point, which is transient balance. You moved out of the me part to the wholeness part. That is great. But (again but), we might resonate or fluctuate rapidly between differing feelings and passions. The rapidity with which this happens can stress us. Bifurcations between two states is OK, but soon it may lead to many options that takes us to a state of chaos.
Your experiences enrich us because they are based on real experiences. Have you ever felt stressed moving between opposite states? You have the attitude to do that, but that may be stressing.
Salam to (that is greetings to) Diane. I look forward to reading her response. I am not a member of Facebook and shall never be because of a bad experience.
Have a great weekend, Lori
Lori, I forgot to mention that your writing touched me and made me feel the way I expressed in my first comment. This is an honest reflection of what I felt.
Thanks Ali. Sorry to hear of your bad Facebook experience. I’m always happy to share with you in whatever form works for you–here, slideshare, email, Skype, snail mail, airplane, hot air ballon…
Yep, I’ve felt and created plenty of stress. Far more in the past than today, though I still do sometimes, as I think this post shows. My stress today is a flicker of its former self. Today I experience the cause and purpose of my stress differently thanks to spending the vast majority of my time working and living as self-organizing groups the past few years.
Remember the blog post last month about the four places to rest your consciousness–using metaphors of fish, school of fish, river, and ocean? That demonstrates the experience a bit. When I lived my life primarily recognizing myself as an individual, I was stressed a great deal of the time and believed the cause was coming from outside me (as the picture in that post shows) most of the time. Time within self-organizing groups taught me to recognize my self as these groups, not only as an individual self, which brings me less stress and worry overall. It also puts my individual stress under a looking glass to see which parts are real and which aren’t. And more feels in our control because we are a more whole self–more can be brought within. And yet its more clear than ever that nothing is in my control, and I’m ok with that, because together we recognize the universe (or at least this piece of it) is friendly and looking out for our best interests.
Then again, recently, having spent enough conscious time learning as self-organizing groups, I started to recognize my self as a self-organizing community (river self) and even imagining what it feels like to be a self-organizing planet (ocean self). Here, again, in the river self, far less stress and worry showing up within my individual self. Feeling more whole. Trusting the friendly nature of the universe. Trusting the people around me far more, which leads to more trust in my self. Which means moving less haltingly, more fluidly as my groups, my individual self, and within my community.
This doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen or I live or want to live a utopian sort of life. Yuck. I don’t want perfection. I want wholeness. I want this whole entire life I’m living right now and every rusty, faulty, frustrating part of it. It’s a gorgeous gift. Terrible things still happen. Loved ones get ill. People die suddenly. Friends move away. Banks foreclose on the homes of community elders. Neighbors can’t find work.
Yet thanks to my self-org groups and community I am now more present and whole in the moment and so have more resources and options and abundance (as do my groups and community since we’re all connected). Even less anger, less fear, more acceptance of what is, watching it spread out from within and from elsewhere all over the world. Then suddenly, surprisingly finding yourself with the ability to see almost everything as a gift. And with less overall stress and fear comes more power to act and recognize when action is warranted. Power to share even more of yourself and groups and community with others as you really are. Ability to see even more in what you are. The stress and fear my individual self still feels today I now deeply honor. What remains of it is a teacher now that I’ve become safe enough to allow it to be. Thanks to my self-organizing groups and community.
Did any of that rambling make sense? The shift from self-organizing group to self-organizing community is a spiritual shift even though my individual and group selves ground me, stubbornly insisting on keeping my feet deeply planted in the real lives of people and in the ideas freely shared with me from my entire community, including the biologists, chemists, physicist, social scientists, etc. I love who informed my thought and brought the term “self-organizing group” to my attention to being with. I know that my days as a researcher and consultant are numbered. One day in years ahead I will go to sleep a researcher and wake up a poet and there’ll be no going back. There was a time that thought would have terrified me. Now there’s quiet acceptance, peace.
Hmm, maybe this is why I talk so much now! Because soon enough, I will say relatively little and I’ve got to get it all out of my system! 😉
With you in my life, Ali, how could I not have a great weekend?
Hey Ali, I remembered Diane’s response on FB wrong. I asked her if it was ok that I used some of her food pictures in the blog post when I posted the link to the blog on FB. She said: “I’m flattered 😉 Sweet article. Thanks.”
Yep, she’s just that amazing.
I would certainly read this slideshare presentation. It is clear and very much relevant to what you wrote. In particular, I refer to Slide 41.
Thank you, Ali, I’ll check out that slide deck this week!
Hi Ali, thanks for sharing the link to the deck.
I certainly can see the relationship between them! How we can move from scarcity into abundance as we shift our perspective from individual self to group self to community self. My own work is influenced by Victoria Castle who I saw speak 5 or so years ago and who wrote the book “The Trance of Scarcity” (which could easily have been called “The Collective Experience of Abundance”)… http://www.amazon.com/Trance-Scarcity-Holding-Breath-Living/dp/1576754391)
Victoria Castle studied at the Strozzi Institute, where I train, and is a Somatic Coach as well. I love her book. In reading your blog I realize we think similarly. I look forward to seeing what more discussions with you will create!
Hi Tracy, yes, something Victoria Castle said to me changed my life. I don’t mention her by name (I say speaker at a conference), but I talk about it in the last two paragraphs of this post: http://woocommerce-158966-458665.cloudwaysapps.com/self-organizing-groups2/benefits-of-self-organizing-groups/work-life-integration-a-benefit-of-self-organizing-groups/. I should have mentioned her by name!
What she taught in her session didn’t change my life. But how she lived her life as a human did. 🙂 Was an eye-opening experience for me back then!
Hey Ali, this quote about motivation just came across my desk. Seems related to this discussion and the question of motivation… 🙂
“Spirituality concerns our own motivation, while secular activity implies working in the world. Because motivation pervades all action, it is important that we have a positive motivation. Whatever we are involved in, whether it’s politics, education, medicine, law, engineering, science, business or industry, the nature of our motivation determines the character of our work.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Great link and great quote. Yes, motivation is the inner talk. Talk positively and you get as you think. Work is no different
As Lori attests in her link to my blog, I don’t write much on my own site, either. I seem to have a preference for posting pictures of food on facebook :-).
At any rate, I’ll chime in to share what this posting of Lori’s and the ensuing discussion has aroused in me . . . which is an awareness of how “loss” is a natural part of my life (and all lives, I think). All change, even “good” change has its attendant goodbyes. There is some lyric from some long-ago song I can’t quite recall . . . “things come together and they come apart.” Instead of come “apart,” we might say they “re-organize.”
Nothing really ends, it just changes form.
Hi Diane, thanks for offering your perspective. Leave it to you to take pages of my rambling and sum it up so well in one sentence. Nothing really ends, it just changes form. Love it!
And thanks again for dinner last night. We were inspired to attempt dairy-free (for me) and gluten free (for Daniel) baking after having your clafouti. Was so good I couldn’t keep my fingers out of the pan. And where have I been that I didn’t know there was such a thing as garbanzo bean flour?! 😉
I wrote much, but couldn’t resist registering my appreciation of “things come together and they come apart.” Instead of come “apart,” we might say they “re-organize.” Nothing really ends, it just changes form.
So no parting, but reorganizing. What a deep statement.
Enjoy your meals and confectioneries. No parting with Diane’s’ sweets, but reorganizing into something sweeter