Troubadour Hope Chest

Troubadour Hope Chest

It provokes. It challenges. It lures. It’s beautiful. It contains and protects hopes and dreams. It takes up space. It’s practical. Every home needs a Troubadour Hope Chest

A couple of weeks ago I met with friend and fellow slow learner, Tricia Postle.

Together Tricia and I formed a group we call COTH or Creativity-On-The-Hook. Once a month, we meet for tea, state our intentions, and report to each other on our progress. See earlier entry.

During our first meeting, Tricia shared the details of her intentions: her to do lists, her  goals, her best intentions. I didn’t want to say anything at the time, but most of the items on her list felt dull and ordinary, full of duty and obligation and all those good things necessary to support and nurture Tricia’s brilliant creative projects.

But then Tricia started talking about how  she wanted to someday travel as a troubadour musician. She spoke about rhythms, the songs, the traveling, the Persian rugs, the tour mobile, the demands of composing in the form, the possibility of a postmodern gypsy caravan. When she spoke about her future life as a troubadour, her physical presence transformed. She sat straight up. Her eyes brightened, and her voice lightened. Her visions of self as troubadour literally pulled her forward. There was a passionate woman in love with her future, speaking of longing and desire, sitting at the edge of her seat.

That’s when the idea came: why not invite some of this passion and desire into the everyday?  Why not bring something physical and real into our homes as a reminder of what is possible?  Why not use this container as a repository for carefully selected objects that bring us closer to a future we want to live into?

After some searching, Tricia now has her Troubadour Hope Chest.

In an email, Tricia says:

I like that it’s empty, I like that it’s there. I rearranged the studio so that it’s visible from all points. It seems to glow and make the rest of the furniture recede. In short, every household should have one.

Questions for reflection:  What’s calling me forward? What kind of future might I create from my own longings? What kind of hope chest might I find?

learning as water

Does learning flow?

Does learning follow a cycle? What contributes to our learning? How does our thinking get dammed up?  What is the source? How might we distill our learning? What bubbles up? What sinks in? How is learning like the the water cycle? How does learning transform us? How do we transform the way we learn? How is learning deep? How is learning shallow? (Is one good and the other bad?) What happens when we get our feet wet?  What’s the risk of diving in? Do you want to swim in the deep end? Are there floods and droughts of learning?  (Is one better for us that the other?)

Does learning come in tides, in waves? What kinds of monsters lurk in the depths of learning? How are communities of learning like tributaries of a river system? Do we sink or swim?

“Is he a dot or is he a speck?  When he’s underwater does he get wet?  Or does the water get him instead?”
from They Might Be Giants’ “Particle Man” Flood

a time to incubate and a time to hatch

As mentioned in A Slow Learner’s Bill of Rights, we have the right

38. To incubate and hibernate
39. To be in action and produce measurable concrete results
40. To learn how to discern between the time for #38 and #39
41. To work with people who have some distance and perspective and can help you with #40

We’ve taken our time. We’ve dreamed big. We’ve planned and schemed. Now is the time take action.  Thank you Dexter for inspiring us all.

a slow learner’s bill of rights (draft 1.0)

You have the right*

To learn

  1. To learn about how you learn
  2. To learn as slow and as fast as you choose
  3. To rearrange your room (house, garage, life) to make room for your learning
  4. To claim space, time, and money for your own learning
  5. To learn from people who fascinate you
  6. To learn beyond school
  7. To be challenged
  8. To learn from people who fascinate you
  9. To ask for and to receive help
  10. To learn in quiet and without interruption with serious intent
  11. To learn in noise and mess with playful possibility
  12. To make a mess and not have to clean up right away
  13. To learn what is valuable and to value your learning
  14. To choose your own team of teachers, coaches, mentors, advisors
  15. To work with people who find you and your visions fascinating
  16. To work with people who are fascinated by your brilliant visions and will hold you accountable to do what you said you would do
  17. To be witnessed
  18. To focus
  19. To make a difference
  20. To make media
  21. To invent media
  22. To study with your heroes
  23. To experiment
  24. To experience
  25. To test your limits
  26. To contribute
  27. To change the world
  28. To create your own curriculum and to stick with it
  29. To change your mind when it doesn’t work and start again
  30. To study in community both near and distant, familiar and exotic
  31. To savor the erotic nature of learning
  32. To learn from mistakes
  33. To join the community of practice of your choice
  34. To join the professional network of your choice as a contributor
  35. To make learning a priority in your life
  36. To pay your dues
  37. To incubate and hibernate
  38. To be in action and produce measurable concrete results
  39. To learn how to discern between the time for #38 and #39
  40. To work with people who have some distance and perspective and can help you with #40
  41. To dabble
  42. To dive in deep
  43. To cross disciplines
  44. To learn what no one can teach
  45. To learn so that you might teach others to learn
  46. To learn new ways of learning that work for you
  47. To practice

* I know this list is incomplete and much is redundant. Comment, and help make it more better.

what do you want to learn?

Calling on makers, designers, healers, dancers, musicians, poets, writers, inventors, entrepreneurs, activists, anarchists, filmmakers, philosophers, students, artists, corporate stiffs, and slow learning geniuses.

I’m looking for a few brilliant and creative people who are interested in joining me in this adventure I call Slow Learning. The following is a list of some of the possible actions we might create together. Look it over. What calls to you?

To respond, use the comment box or email me
1. Join a community of learners. Meet regularly with other people who are on a self-styled learning path. Discuss. Support. Question.

2. Create individual learning plans. This is a plan you would create with support from an individual or team. Your learning plan is a flexible document that includes goals, focuses, deadlines, timelines, incentives. Updates regularly with a coach, mentor or other witness.

3. Attend workshops, retreats, and intensives. Determined by interest of the group. May be led by other learners or hired  from outside. May or may not be open to the public. May be didactic and specific, or may use democratic forms of facilitation such as Open Space Technology.

4. Learn and work in real-world settings with support: mentoring, shadowing, and apprenticeships. Finding and maintaining relationships with expert practitioners in areas of interest. Breaking and entering into the insider network of established communities of practice. May be paid for directly, brokered by a coach, bartered, or gifted.

5. Engage in learning exchanges: Bartering arrangements made within the Slow Learning community. Example: I teach you how to knit, in exchange, you teach me how to use Photoshop. Or I coach you on your public speaking and, in exchange, you fix my bike tire.

6. Give or receive learning gifts: Offers or requests for learning/ teaching with no expectation for return. Example: I edit your drafts because I want to. Or I update your Wiki because I know more than you do.

7. Set goals, refine goals, support for accountability: Part of your learning plan Revisited often.

8. Refine your social networking: The real kind, with meaningful exchanges and face-to-face meetings. More than FB friends and Linked-in acquaintences.

9. Learn about yourself: Enneagrams, dream work, expressive arts, healing circles, divination. Who am I, anyway? What’s so special about me? What’s my purpose/calling in life? What is my most important work?

10. Coach and receive coaching: one-on-one listening and learning from a committed, disinterested (not your bff) listener. Somebody who can offer you some tough love (call you on your shit) from time to time. Offer the same for someone else in the community.

11. Create alternative forms of accredation/ initiation/ certification.

sacred arts intensive part one: open space technology

This summer’s eight-day Sacred Arts Intensive was such a powerful experience for me, that I’ll be writing about the week in a few different posts.  For now, let me just boast a bit about our adaptation of Harrison Owen’s Open Space Technology.

Whose idea was this anyway? Roger and I weren’t sure who first came up with the idea of  hosting a cross disciplinary laboratory for creating new work in community, but that didn’t matter. The idea seemed silly, risky, weird, and totally impractical. As Roger would say, the idea was perfect.

The idea: Gather artists together from different disciplines for at least a week under one roof in Cleveland, Ohio and dare ourselves to create. Dig in deep. Dive in deep. Explore. Focus.  Incubate. Tease. Make messes. Stay up late and get up early. Cross pollinate.  Mash up processes from other disciplines. Push each other to our bleeding edge. Trust in the wisdom of the group to make sense of it all in the end.

The plan: Organizing an eight-day arts intensive for a diverse group of artists without creating total chaos or total structure would be tough.  I knew this would be tricky, and that skillful facilitation would be key to pulling it off. So I was a little nervous going into this, but I would be working with Roger Sams, master teacher and facilitator with a proven track record of bringing out the best in people, so no need to worry.

We wanted to allow the participants to help create the activities for the week, have time and space for both solitary and group work. We also wanted a structure that would gather and focus our forces for at least part of the time. We wanted both choice and structure, freedom and organization.

I’d seen Open Space Technology work for meetings,  conferences, and corporate retreats, so why wouldn’t it work for a handful of artists in Cleveland? Given we’d be together for eight days, we’d have to adapt the process. Again, I was working with the best, so no worries.

Everyday we met to discuss what (if anything) we were offering to share, invitations were made. An eight-day time space matrix (Owen’s fancy word for sign up sheet) was spread out on the kitchen cabinets. We trusted each other  to self organize and to share. We discussed the principles for Open Space and we hoped for the best.

First Principle of Open Space: Whoever Comes is the Right People. I was concerned about the numbers.  Would there be enough people?  Would everybody get along? Was there too much diversity? Not enough? Would there be enough to eat? How would this mix of six people whose labels included a playwright, a drag king, a performance artist, a filmmaker, an acting coach, a poet, a composer, a dancer, another dancer, a music educator, a visual artist and a dream worker all get along?  Turns out, Harrison was right. The right people showed up. The first principle was at work in the individual sessions as well. Sometimes everyone showed up. Sometimes no one. But it was all good and again, no need to worry.

Whenever it starts is the right time. This principle seemed a bit flaky to me, and I almost chose not to mention it. Tell a gathering of creative people “whenever is the right time” seemed to be asking for disaster. (I even went out and bought an extra clock.) Still, for each of the sessions, activities, meals and field trips, we self organized to the point that flexibility about start times seemed normal and stress over time seemed rare.

Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Hard to argue with this one. Also good to be reminded.

When it’s over, it’s over. After a bit of adjustment, we learned we didn’t need a clock to tell us when a session was complete.

The Law of Two Feet. Owen explains his one law like this: If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else. I didn’t see many people leaving activities mid-session. Just knowing that I could leave an activity at any time with no hard feelings gave me an incredible sense of power and freedom.

We ended up quoting from the Open Space principles and the law often during the week, even when the context had nothing to do with a session. I’m still enjoying the freedom and power of my two feet. I’m looking at start and end times differently. I’m challenging myself to see everyone who shows up around me as the perfect people. Open space works in meetings and in arts intensives because it’s principles work anywhere in life. Thank you, Harrison Owen.

Next posts about the Sacred Arts Intensive will include: projecting our dreams, deep dives and feedback, going to Mass, safe emergencies.

Proud to be an aberration

“I consider myself part of an aberration on the planet.  A new, mobile, essentially rootless culture the likes of which the Earth has never seen before.  I live in a culture where community expression through artistic events is not normal; culture comes from “above” –from LosAngeles or New York or, if we are lucky Toronto.  It is very rare that non-artists in Canadian society get together and use art forms to express their own concerns or celebrate their own lives.  And yet that is what theatre, dance, music, etc. used to be –local people singing, painting, dancing, and telling stories. As an artist in this new mobile culture, I have a great hunger for the kind of rootedness that many Aboriginal people have through their cultures.  But I can’t have what they have.  I am who I am and I must take on the task of inventing my own culture–putting down my cultural roots and using artisitic toos to investigate, change and celebrate my community.  I must also face the certainty that this process will take many, many generations to bear fruit.”

–David Diamond,  from Out of the Silence: Headlines Theatre and Power Plays, in Playing Boal Theatre Therapy, Activism.