A startling question

Story circle in Slovenia

Life is rushing me on when I want to yell—“Hey, slow down, I’m still in Europe in my heart!” So many dear people, doing amazing work using circle. Ann and I were so happy to sit in the training councils in Germany and Slovenia, to participate in the development of widespread circle practice in consulting, community leadership, organizational development, European Commission agencies, coaching, and business ownership…  Let me share one story that exemplifies the spirit of these circles.

In Slovenia, in a three-day training on Circle and Story as Leadership, there were 32 people participating from 14 countries. We were meeting in a retreat hotel north of in the hill country north of Ljubljana. The second day morning we were ready to dive into a story council that would help us explore shadow. To more readily hear one another we divided the group into two circles of 16 people each, with one American and one Slovenian co-host. The invitation to story was: Please share a story of a time when you felt unable to respond to the needs in the group; you didn’t know what to do, or you felt incapable in some way… what did you learn?

It was a question that required we really live the four agreements: trust in confidentiality, listening with curiosity and compassion, asking for what we need and offering what we can, and willingness to pause and let silence be a witness as well as words. The circles went on for 3.5 hours—all the morning. Each one had its own flavor. What I know about my circle is that by listening to each of us go to this place of vulnerability and speak about how hard this work can be, how relentless the learning field, the more we shared that moment of feeling at a loss, the more I saw each one’s strength. I developed a much greater sense of the capabilities of each storyteller.

By showing one another the learning process inside what we might have called a failure, the whole group had an experience of success that moved me profoundly. I have never asked this question in a circle before, and this group was comprised of people already skilled at hosting… I will look for opportunities to do this again and see what richness occurs and if you have experiences to share, let me know.

…And what did we learn?

Ancient Tree in an Ancient Town

img_2719smallx225On a recent European teaching trip we stopped to visit the town of Groznian on the Istria Peninsula in Croatia. Like so many things in this country, both the tree and the town have a long history.

A vendor near the tree identified it as a Mediterranean hackberry or European nettle tree, (Celtis australis). It stood prominently near the edge of the walled city. We were enthralled by its warty bark and hollow center. Indeed, it seemed to be a testament to perseverance, not unlike the town it had been planted in!

The first mention of the town in any written history was 1102. Being from North America where 400 year-year-old buildings are a rarity,
Groznjan awed us with its stone streets, walls, and arches. Today it is being revitalized as a meeting place for young musicians. Perhaps the tree will live to see the city thrive again as a cultural center of this area.