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Permission

I’ve been in a kind of quest for much of my life. Sometimes knowing it. Often not knowing that’s what I was doing. It has been to understand more of what is happening underneath the obvious. For me it’s the thing under the thing under the thing (which often turns out not to be a thing). I have particular interest in the nuancing of working / being with groups. I have particular interest in the psychology and emotional intelligence that is inner world connected to outer world. The inner complexities of being humans. The outer expressions of structure and practice.

Lately a version of this quest has been to ask, “What’s the secret?” Or, “What’s the special sauce?” For me, those questions are a bit of code for, “What’s the most simple essence of practice that we are trying to cultivate together?” I’ve been in deep convening with Fire & Water Leadership Cohort over five days (chairs above in circle awaiting arrival of our group of 19 to do some secret-hunting). I’ve been in full staff retreat for a community organizing team for five hours. I’ve been in deep friendship and colleaguing.

These last few days I’ve explored if the “secret” is about permission, which isn’t really a word that I even like that much. “Permission” stirs us too many images and experiences of over-exuberant authority or over-used rules. So many organizations over the last decades have insisted on a kind of control that prevents most of us from even being human together. We’ve been required to check our emotions or our insights or our holistic, complex selves.

Despite all the oddities that such restraints have created, I’ve been noticing that people in most places are really hungry to just be more of themselves. To connect with colleagues. To show some emotions. To ask real questions. To share stories. To dare to wonder and wander together. To celebrate. To share worries. To offer solutions. To offer improvements. And a bunch more. Permission, often found in a little shape of an exercise of turning to one another, opens more of us to more of us — I often count on some simple partner conversations that extend permission to show up. It’s not rocket science. But it does seem to create a rocket level of joy and appreciation and desire to go further together.

Here’s to the snippets of permission, and modeling, and honest presence that bring more of us in to the room to do the work, or the connecting that so many of us hunger for.

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