In September, a group of amazing pilgrims
boarded the laddership train! 8 participants and 6 volunteers embarked on this co-learning, co-creating experiment that changed us beyond what we could have imagined as we set out!
We began with a simple intention:
“we don’t have the answers to all the questions that are emerging, but sure we can contemplate them together.”
In an alive Lab (as Joserra
calls it) we came together on thought provoking readings and a shared context of values, practices, and reflections. As we contemplated on the questions we came in with, the collective wisdom led to even more questions.
It’s a tall task to present what transpired in those 7 weeks in one blog post but to share the goodness (and the richness) of this circle with the wider community, here are a few threads that resonated with the group throughout the different themes of the 6 weeks and the questions that emerged:
We started our circle with a focus on the role of stories we live in and the stories we tell. The power of our own stories and the stories that surround us and how it supports or comes in the way of us showing up fully.
- Stories of Success and Scale: One week, Sangeeta shared how the meta-stories of "what is good" and "what is success" often make her fall back on comments of scale as motivation as opposed to her true motivation of inner transformation; many in the circle resonated by how the stories around us shape and skew the dialogue between inner transformation and external change; multiple forms of capital and financial wealth; global connection and local disconnection; scaling up and scaling down; independence and interdependence.
- Letting go of the dominant paradigm. Another week, we dove into topics of wealth, where a lot of us reflected how the dominant stories create an environment of fear, uncertainty, and doubt and letting go, while difficult has led to a feeling of abundance. So how do we tap into that abundance? Parker Palmer said, Community is a gift to be received. Sometimes we just need to get out of the way and embrace this natural emergence like when Andreas let go of following the dominant narrative of ‘being busy’ and began tuning to the pace of nature on his farm or when Andy put his full trust in the gift economy in his new venture.
- What are the stories we are telling to and of ourselves? Pia found that when she steps out with an openness to connect, opportunities of service naturally unfold like helping her nephew with his college applications. Pankaj observed through his son how when the story we tell of ourselves is a limiting one, it holds us back and to be able to step into a wholesome story needs a deep relationship. Even in using technology, Shaylyn shared Robert Putnam’s question on what story are we telling ourselves about technology — Is it a television to use as a distraction or a phone to use as a device to connect?
Relationships are a deep measure of the strength of community, of long lasting change, of sustainable scale, of stories, and of transformation. Right from Week 0, one of the questions that the group held was how do we cultivate deep relationships?
Arnd gave this beautiful picture of inter-connected rings as a metaphor of deep, sincere relationships that hold different views and fosters healthy dialogues.
- Shaylyn and Ajay both pointed to our inherent identity biases and how they stop us from reaching out and engaging in a community. Growing up in a particular religious community, Shaylyn considered herself an outlier, which held her back from connecting with her natural community. Becoming aware of her blindspot, she is now holding the question, "Am I willing to let go of pride about who I am and who others are, as I try to facilitate space for deeper connection?” Which led Pia, too, to question how she engages with or avoids her own natural community.
- In the present day, we are faced with many unprecedented challenges and many believe that we are running out of time. How then, as Sikander asked can we balance the passion for urgent change with the patience required to cultivate deep relationships for lasting change? Urgency leads to creating more extrinsic motivations but patience helps everyone to tune into intrinsic motivations. How do we navigate the edge between both?
How do we find greater coherence with our values in a difficult context? How to promote cultural shifts within diverse organizational settings, starting with be-the-change practices?
- Personal practices: All through the 6 weeks, each one of us took up small practices like writing gratitude notes, truly listening, sending friendliness wishes, smiling more often, yielding to other drivers, talking with taxi drivers, crafting mindful tech hours, engaging in barter systems within community, creating time for deeper meaningful conversations, and many more. It led to many shared experiences of how those practices were bringing in an awareness of our blind spots for example, Pankaj noticed the edge of listening with loved ones vs those less familiar. Pia observed how smiling, though it seems so simple to do, it is forgetting the intention that makes it difficult but the more she practices, the more natural it becomes. And also how those practices were leading to inner shifts like Arnd surprising himself by his own optimism when he answered the question of community thinking in 20 years; or Ajay realized that the more we engage and develop a service attitude, the more we unlock the ability to serve or Andy found that his inner practices like translating the verse of Tao Te Ching and the outer service of sharing that verse are complementary and strengthen each other. Like a Möbius strip, there is no difference between inner and outer.
- How do we strengthen and tap into our resilience when faced with challenges? Sometimes the dominant narrative can be very overwhelming and in that how can we tap into our inner strength and be the change like the story of the boy who kept on throwing the starfish back into the sea! that Andreas reminded us all. Or like Sikander shared that sometimes when we are passionate about change, we tend to see the world a ‘us and them’ and that division itself makes it difficult for a healthy dialogue to start. But, as Ajay reminded, change can only happen when we genuinely care for everyone and see all of us in our true oneness. There is no us and them. There is no other.
The framework of the laddership circle
facilitated everyone coming together and co-creating this container we all learned from, supported, questioned, and held each other’s vulnerabilities and strengths.
As we moved from one theme to the next every week there was a further deepening of our relationship and opening of hearts. Arnd had said, that most of us have never met and it is amazing to see how this container created such deep relationship across countries, time zones and languages. As a gift to the circle, after every call he offered the Design Elements of our circle that were inspiring/effective/heart-warming. To list just a few here:
- CIRCLE: I experienced that the gentle and ancient Circle Format of sharing created a space that supported equal participation in a flexible way. I felt the volunteers stepping into a spirit of holding and validating participants (and letting go of sharing themselves) created a space in which the circles had a wholesome length and balance. It was neither too long nor too short.
- VULNERABILITY: I felt the moments of us stepping into our courage to trust people we met very recently created a space in which authenticity is supported.
- COMMITMENT: I experienced that our dedication to us as a group (our studies, our reflections, our comments) creates a sense of a shared learning experience and a sense of community/belonging.
6 weeks flew by and just like that. It was joyful gathering with everyone full of gratitude for the circle and how we all held each other’s journey for the last 6 weeks. There was also a sadness of reaching an end, as well as the excitement of a new beginning. What’s next?
How can one imagine what is to emerge as Pia and Sikander continue to smile and send friendly wishes to everyone they encounter; as Sikander and Andreas move from me to we to me 2.0, where the question of "what can we do?" is flipped to "how can I do my best and then trust what is to emerge organically in the collective?"; as Andreas and Andy continue to dive deeper into different giftivism experiments; as Andreas and Arnd continue on their mindful biking and walks; as Arnd and Shaylyn continue to (re)connect with their neighbors and immediate community; as Shaylyn and Ajay question the identity mindset and how it influences the way we engage with the world; as Ajay and Pankaj continue to hold the intention of servant laddership, and as Pankaj and Pia continue to plant seeds of kindness and wisdom in their children’s schools.
Like the Japanese pottery, Kintsugi
where the brokenness is not hidden but embraced. It is an art that celebrates our wholeness in its entirety. Our perfect and imperfect selves that together make us beautiful and strong. In showing up with our cracks, both individually and collectively we created a beautiful piece of Kintsugi which is whole, which is beautiful, which is perfect.
May we continue to collectively gather, hold and ripple out in our communities