We walked together through the forest, following a rain-muddied trail that in some other offices would be leading through so many Herman-Miller cubicles. Like any other office tour, we spoke of projects and practices, but also of pitchback spruces and fiddlehead ferns.
"Can you imagine what it would look like, what would happen, if all of this growth, all of this energy, could be channelled into a single organism, a single body?" he asked, waving a hand to invite my gaze to take in the enormity of his vision: cedars, spruces and pines, ferns, grasses and vines, bugs and slugs, birds and deer.
I looked around and wondered, imagined, appreciated. I felt the crunch of the forest under my feet, the solid ground of Bowen Island, a quiet, rocky gem in the sea, just off the coast of Vancouver, BC, Canada. I looked back at my friend, eyes beaming with the light of this forest, the life of his forest, the main conference room of Chris Corrigan's office.
"If this place were aligned in one plant, it would reach to the stars. It would be a star! And of course, that's where all this energy came from in the first place. All around us, the energy of stars on slow-burn, time-release."
"How does a forest change a mind?" he asked.
"It doesn't," I replied. "Only I change my mind. But, yes, the forest invites a certain shape of mind. There is a certain kind of mind that I make when I enter the forest. Expansive, attentive, more fluid, more powerful, more ready to deal with whatever surprises might pop out of this space."
In my office, I can do almost all of my work with my eyes, and a few keystrokes. In the kitchen, I stand chopping and stirring, almost everything within easy reach. But in the forest, I need my whole body awake. I need pelvis and feet to even get there. And once there, I'm obviously going to need them to get back. Action, steps, awareness in legs and feet, are necessarily implied and engaged by simply being in the forest. The vastness, energy and uncertainty of the forest invites me to meet it with a bigger mind, to wake up, pay attention, and be ready, as a whole body.
I pick my steps carefully around muddy patches of trail, feel the softness of the forest floor under feet with toes, muscles of legs and hips pressing into gravity, arms swinging, heart space balancing, spine twisting, head darting down and up, left and right, neck relaxing, eyes smiling in the flow of our conversation. I notice the same easy movement in my friend, letting his love of this forest be as real to me as my own connection to body. A space opens between us, distinct but not separate from the two of us. A third space, that is the two of us, and held by, surrounded and embraced by, the life of the forest.
We are talking about the leadership practice retreat we will open the next day, about our work with Open Space Technology and other approaches to organization, and our emerging vision of Inviting Leadership. This book is the product of these things, the gift of these things, and the connecting of these things with years of other experiences, one small body of work and a teeming forest of stories and methods, all appreciating, inviting, supporting and making good on the tremendous potential of people, organizations and communities.
You, of course, are part of the wider landscape of appreciating, invitating, supporting and making good. You bring your own wealth of successes, questions, practices and experiences. We welcome it all and invite you to let it move and connect with what's here. Let your own life and leadership be as real and important as what's written up in these pages -- and let what's written here be as real and true as your own lived experience. You'll be right on both counts, of course, and something new and good might just pop up as you bring the two together.