Michael Herman
Inviting Agility

 
 
 
...from friend and colleague Brendan McKeague? in Perth, Australia, via Thailand...


G'day companions

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to open space for 35 delegates at an international NGO (Overseas Aid) Regional Conference in Thailand - participants were from 12 different countries and we had two days alongside the beach at Pattaya, about 100klms south of Bangkok

First - I nearly didn't get there - the organiser sent me an urgent email message just before I was due to leave for my flight to Bangkok - alerting me to an Australian Embassy warning that there was a terrorist attack imminent in Thailand and that Pattaya was a likely target for Australians - well, being Irish - I didn't think it applied to me and I returned the email saying I was on my way - it felt a bit like going back to Belfast! The threat of terrorist activity just doesn't seem to have the same impact on me as it does on the others around me - who were really quite concerned for my safety - I must be sick...? Anyway, as you can see, I'm still here...

The event itself was beautiful - I will tell the tale

I had to get there in a bit of a hurry as I was travelling directly from another event - a training of OS facilitators in north Qld - and literally got to the venue at 10am for a 1pm start - the conference participants had been learning about Myers Briggs typologies for the first day and were all brimming full of their new-found self-understanding. All the material preparations had been well taken care of in advance and I had about an hour in the space while participants went to lunch to get signs up while a veritable army of Thai staff scurried around removing all the tables and other trimmings. I kept glancing out the huge windows at a most beautiful view over an empty beach and calm ocean - devoid of the usual bevy of tourists at this time of year - and wondered at the peace and tranquility of such a magnificent scene in times of terrorist threat - and increased economic hardship for the local people and businesses - such is the world in which we live - the beauty and the harsh reality side by side

We started about 15 mins later than schedule - at just the time we were meant to - and I was very centred as I opened the space - yet still wondering how all this multi-cultural groups would hear and feel the words and actions. I had checked beforehand if everyone could understand and speak English (like wot I can) - was assured that this was not a problem - and still found myself speaking that wee bit slower than usual with great deliberation on pronunciation. I need not have concerned myself one little bit - after I walked out of the circle and a pause of about 10 seconds, away they went and the board filled up quickly - they were into it and, after the usual chaos/confusion of negotiating overlaps and swapping topics, were soon off to break-outs and I was left alone to view the wide azure ocean and peaceful beach from the balcony....

When we sat in the closing circle two days later (we went from Wed 2pm until Friday 2pm), after 23 recorded conversation topics and 3 recorded Action Plans (there had been many more of these in the informal zone), the comments were breathtakingly moving.... (I'm sharing the phrases I recalled immediately afterwards)

"I wish to apologise to anyone whom I may have offended in this process" said a man from East Timor "I am not used to this freedom and felt very shy to begin with. I hope you don't take this as an insult - I am getting better each day and next time I will be more confident"

"I can really feel my people's pain during the past two days" said an emotional Field Worker from the Philippines "These tears were not in the script (as she broke down and wept) - I would like my people to experience what I have experienced here these past days - the freedom and the community we have developed - if only we could sort out our conflicts in this way"

"I was very scared and anxious about this conference - what would we talk about for two whole days - I could only think of what I was bringing about my own situation and knew it wasn't much to offer. Now, I feel so relieved and relaxed - all my fears dissolved in the first day"

"I got my money's worth in the first hour" said a Snr Vice President who had attended from California, "what would have taken me months to achieve through other normal channels we have taken care of here in the first conversation - everything else was a bonus for me. My group started with four people and ended up with fourteen - we got our issues identified, policies worked out and plans into place - we only need a few minor refinements and we're done. All the right people were here to do the job. I am so amazed especially when I think of all the rounds of e-mails and telconferencing this has saved."

"When you walked around in the opening circle and I heard you speak those words, something opened up inside of me and I felt a great weight lifting off my heart" said a man from Nepal "It was as though the Spirit spoke directly to me and gave me freedom to be myself here"

"Although English is not my first language, I found it easier to communicate here than at any other conference I've been to."

"We're here together, experiencing democracy in action. I wouldn't have believed this was possible. This is my fourth Regional conference and by far the best yet. The way which ex-patriots and indigenous staff have collaborated here is far-and-away better than I've ever seen."

"Usually there is a distance between us and indigenous and overseas staff find it difficult to really get down to deeper communication. This barrier was broken here and we have connected at a deeper level."

And so, it worked yet again..... The sponsor was so thrilled - he had been very anxious that some of the indigenous people would have been reticent due to their cultural background and conditioning - as it turned out, I think that this need to take care of it for others had probably prevented them from contributing more fully in previous gatherings. Here the space was open, the freedom given and they responded with vigour and voice - the Spirit was certainly up and running.

 Cheers
 Brendan

 Brendan  McKeague?
 Facilitator

 25 Halley Street
 Innaloo , WA 6018
 AUSTRALIA

 Home   (08) 9244 3885
 Work   (08) 9244 8090
 Mobile  042 944 8090
 Email   mckeague@iprimus.com.au 


...and response from HarrisonOwen?

quoted:

"I can really feel my people's pain during the past two days" said an emotional Field Worker from the Philippines "These tears were not in the script (as she broke down and wept) - I would like my people to experience what I have experienced here these past days - the freedom and the community we have developed - if only we could sort out our conflicts in this way"

"We're here together, experiencing democracy in action. I wouldn't have believed this was possible. This is my fourth Regional conference and by far the best yet. The way which ex-patriots and indigenous staff have collaborated here is far-and-away better than I've ever seen."

"Usually there is a distance between us and indigenous and overseas staff find it difficult to really get down to deeper communication. This barrier was broken here and we have connected at a deeper level."

commented:

This is a marvelous piece Brendan, and I suspect you will hold the memories of that time out of time, caught between tranquility and terror, for a long time to come. At least that has always been my experience. The several comments that I copied above struck me particularly, if only because they capture what for me is the central gift of Open Space in this time. Call it whatever you like -- I call it Peace. It is a gift we give every time we enable the opening of space -- although of course it is not our gift, but the gift of the people given to themselves. I am sure you told that Field Worker from the Philippines that of course her people can experience the same thing the moment she chooses to Open Space.

Words like "mission" and "responsibility" get thrown about with such abandon that often they lose their meaning -- But if we have a mission and a responsibility, I believe that we are under special obligation to open space wherever, however, and about whatever we can -- as often as we can -- simply so that the critical experience of genuine Peace remains present as a beacon in what all too often appears as a darkening world. And when that experience disappears, as it has in many places, respect, trust and hope also go the way of the dodo Bird. It isn't about "selling Open Space" -- Just do it.

Harrison

PS -- I find that it always works! (smile)

HarrisonOwen?