Inviting Desktop

I find that my desk this morning reflects well the shifting and mixing that I’m working on these days. I notice that I’m working simultaneously on several things… the hot cereal and fruit in my bowl… taking notes from a yoga book to improve the practice I just finished… still reading the latest issue of Yes! magazine, on our cultural/community shift from Empire to Earth Community… keeping an eye on market reactions to consumer confidence and Fed notes releases… two fledgling books on Open Space, one to edit, one to co-author… and into all of that Jill rings in from London to say good night. Add in the email box with responses due to Nepal, Sweden, Australia and a few other places… and you’ve got a pretty good snapshot of what’s attempting to come together here… body, community, environment, markets, books, conversations, relationship.

Inviting Life

Yes, well, I’ve done it again. What started as the GlobalChicago Weblog, became Pea Soup when I moved to London, then (did I miss one in here?) became Practice Matters, after absorbing SmallChangeNews, has now been christened Inviting Life.

When Global Chicago (the site, not the weblog) started in 1998, the whole point of it was to connect Global movements with Local people and activities. What I like about this new name is that Life feels bigger than Global, and the practice of Inviting seems more intimate still, than Local. Growth in two directions, and still whole!

Great Great Great…

Today my friend Katie Brick and I traded several emails, trying to figure out if we share a set of great great great great grandparents. She and I met years ago through a Fast Company group in Chicago. Even if we’re not related, it seems certain that our ancestors partied together on the outskirts of Detroit, circa 1850. What I emailed her today was a bit of data from a family history a great aunt of mine did in 1945. Katie’s still checking the story on her side for overlaps.

The other reason this is exciting now is that I spent a good chunk of last week helping my Dad format and publish 200 pages of his favorite stories. Some of these things I’d never heard him tell and might never have heard him tell, about growing up, making choices, doing work, learning through life. Other things that the next generation will certainly hear me tell, but be able to read it in my Dad’s own words, as well. The details are delicious, but also the patterns. In the reading, I can see the patterns of who he is and how he thinks about the world… and then of course i can see them in myself, as well. What a treasure.

I remember with a strange clarity, one day in the fourth grade, when a new kid joined our class. I remember thinking how lucky I was to have been going to this school from the beginning, to have a history with the school and my classmates. These books give me some of that same gratitude and satisfaction and confidence, a history, a lineage, back to some of my great great great greats. As so much of the world churns and falls away, I can’t begin to imagine what it might be like decades from now, for the children of my newborn nephew and year-old niece to scan this sort of a record for new baby names and old family patterns.

I think what is most fascinating for me in all of these stories is the simultaneous realities: I, Michael Herman, could not have been planned, especially by those great-great-greats… and yet, the patterns that I carry are not random or accidental, they are (I am, we all are) generations-old mind and practice.

Taking the Big Leap

My friend Colleen Taylor is taking a big leap, of the job change sort. Her story sparked some reflection about my own leaps and edges.

As far as I can tell, for all my leaping, I have never really gotten over the edge. Even when I thought I’d literally stepped off “the big one” some years ago, and fell to the rocks below, it turned out to be just 15 feet of falling and tumbling.

That one literal leap aside, it seems the edge just keeps moving closer to and then deeper into who I am. The leaps, even the apparently big ones, dissolve into so many daring little internal shifts.

Grace at 3AM

just in from the campfire (still at no mind) where a very few of us lasted until 3am, a german accordian player, a swedish singer, myself and a few others, writing a song as the sun came up in the middle of the night.

“…feel how precious it is to have grace walking beside you… holding your hand… loving you now… flow through your heart… the seeds in your hand… bloom in the land.”

how lucky to be along for this ride and be able to add a few words along the way. grace.

It’s a Festival!

This is a new word for this American blogger, but clearly “festival” means something to my European friends this week, here at Ångsbacka, a spiritual or heart center in central Sweden. I’m here in week two of the No Mind Festival, seeking to support and extend openness, acceptance, love and compassion into the world. Some bits of the scene here, mostly observed as I walked across the central lawn space yesterday afternoon…

…day four of the second week… sunny blue sky and bright sun continue… rolling green meadows bounded by forest… couples sitting together in practice, or lying together on blankets… parents with little kids napping… some kids perpetually fascinated with the small fountain and goldfish pool… some of the wee ones naked and painted, running and giggling… some adults painted too… one old guy comes to lunch wearing nothing but blue paint, but doesn’t stay very long…

some meditate in the grass… or trade massages… a wild-looking viking sort of guy journals quietly… a young woman sketches in a diary in the shade of a small fruit tree… blankets and a few tables scattered around, a big family picnic… the pulse of african drumming comes from one corner of the festival space… spiritual music and chanting from another direction… somebody yells powerfully, releasing something into the forest… heart music from the big barn “may i take peaceful steps upon the earth… i bow to you a flower… i love your fear… walk slowly… i want to be your lover baby…”

…a woman knits a fuzzy orange scarf in the cafe… the wind lifts long brightly-colored satin pennants from the tops of 20ft sticks… long blond hair and loose frilly skirts… chocolate covered ice cream on sticks… a guitar strummed for some at the fire circle… the ashes of yesterdays food boxes whipped into the air… conversations a light buzz over cups of tea on the deck… a meadowful of tents, one of cars, trailers and housetents in the parking lots, other packed into small dorm rooms… volunteers cooking and cleaning and smiling… two guys with boxing gloves sparring in the parking lot…

…at campfires, i’ve heard mostly beatles and bagpipes, and almost no dylan, denver, or other folk tunes… some bicycles, a nearby lake beach, small village, a creativity space full of paint, fabric, plaster and more… kids on swings and dipping in an inflatable pool… open stage, drumming, dancing, healings, tantra, concerts, and a wee bit of open space technology growing into the mix this year for the first time… and absolutely no one appears to be “in charge” of anything but the organic vegetarian kitchen… so perhaps the chef rules all… for now.

the thing that stands out is the spirit of love, the steady flow of music, the freedom of movement, the quality of smiling, openness in so many faces… open hearts and open eyes everywhere, it seems.

more on how we took over the kitchen and changed the world in my next posting.

It’s a Boy!

new nephew

We just don’t know what his name is. Two weeks ago my sister-in-law Amy was dancing at the wedding. Last night she and Mark were up all night at the hospital, until successful delivery about noon today. Welcome to the family, small fry, whatever your name is! Congrats and Thank You, Mark and Amy!

Looking forward to some time with this one before I jet off this Wednesday to facilitate open space for 600-800 at the NoMindFestival in Sweden.

UPDATE: It’s Charles “Charlie” McIntyre Herman, named for my Dad and Amy’s family. Held him tonight and he’s a solid little guy! woohoo!

Wedding: During and After


Something more than a week later, we’ve got some photos from friends and family posted. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole of it, from planning little surprises and having dinners with family in the days before, to having so many great friends in one place, telling stories and making music together in middle of the ceremony itself. I hope some of the fun of it all will come through in the photos.

Light blogging ahead while I enjoy the ripples, paint a few rooms, post more photos, and scribble a lot of thank you’s.

UPDATES: Our online Photo Album is done. We think we have all the photos we’re going to get now and we’ve spiffed the layout. Maybe someday we’ll have a go at cropping and captions, but for now we think it’s a pretty good view.

Wedding: Before


Well, I guess it’s started. Had dinner with Jill’s parents and grandma last night, just in from Texas. Tonight we add my parents to the party. Tomorrow the rest of family and a few cast and crew friends, more dinner than rehearsal. Then everybody for the (not really so) big wedding moment on Saturday.

Finished with cake and catering details yesterday. So the party is assured. Still working on writing those vows.

This shot is from our retreat in February.

Wedding Planning and Special Ops

Wedding planning is in full swing here. One week and counting. The to-do list is getting lots of attention, even though mostly everything is decided. Now it just a lot of last minute logistics.

And the surprises. Or as I like to call them, as of today, Special Operations. These are the things that need to be on the list, but that Jill doesn’t know about. Little surprises. But how to keep track of them, and get time for them, if not on the list?

Code names, of course. So along with beverage shopping and airport pickups, we have things like Operation Corner Pocket, Operation Crystal Temple, Operation Frosty Krinkle, Paper Chase, Mouse Factory, Port and Starboard, and Handlebar on the task list.

Now, if we could just finally have a good run at Operation Write the Vows…

Cutting Through

Somebody called today with a situation, an opening, a “better-than-zero” chance to propose a plan to take an old bureaucratic program to a new level using Open Space Technology. What to do?

I referred him back to the four questions from the Inviting Philanthropy post two days ago, re-framed a little bit into the context of him going to his boss and boss’s boss to inquire:

  • What do you want (to see in the world, or in the program)?
  • What do we already have (what’s working, what to keep and grow)?
  • What do you need (to have, or see, or show, to support a shift)?
  • What are you willing to do (approve, support) if you get what you need?

I suggested he make his own list. Run through it with his boss, adding the boss’s list to this. Then take it higher up to check their list against the chief. If nothing else, these four questions cut through a lot of potential crap. And saves my buddy from busting it on a proposal that goes nowhere.

Meanwhile, I see these four could be the very active punchline to the Inviting Leadership story that Corrigan and I are cooking:

  • Embracing Heart: What do we really want? Do something that matters.
  • Inviting Focus: What do we have to work with? Find a place to start from.
  • Supporting Flow: What do you need? Ask and offer the things that make the difference.
  • Making Good: What will you do? Got what you needed. Good. Use it. Do something.

My favorite place of action just now, by the way, is a new blogging project for Chicago Conservation Corps. Oh yes, and wedding planning… T: -1 weekend and counting. Blogged our organic wedding cake bakery today over there at C3. Yum!

Surreality Bites?

Susan Walker quoted historian John Brooks last week in The Daily Reckoning:

[It] came with a kind of surrealistic slowness … so gradually that, on the one hand, it was possible to live through a good part of it without realizing that it was happening, and, on the other hand, it was possible to believe one had experienced and survived it when in fact it had no more than just begun.

He was writing about how it felt to live during the Great Depression, 1929-1933. She was writing about US housing markets these days. I wonder if it might not apply more broadly than that.

At what point does not knowing become worse that any one of the possible outcomes? Isn’t that the moment when the next big things really get to begin? The moment when we finally decide? And what if some billions would decide all at once?

Clarity as Flow

My recent learning and practice is mostly about clearing and balancing myself more easily in the flow of things, allowing myself to be carried along my the waves that are already moving, while minimizing the amount of personal and direct efforting.  Chris would say I’m practicing as coho salmon, which uses pressure of local water flows to move it around, rather than swimming by pulling against the water.

I’ve been paying extra attention to the pressure differentials between the flows of global and local connectings, individual experience and budding coupledom (wedding countdown, five weeks), the art of a book emerging in the midst of business administrivia, online technology and face-to-face connection, dollar and non-dollar investments, friends and colleagues, long-term planning and moment-to-moment ease and practice as a body.

All a practice in mutuality, holding, balancing, and supporting two or more states or scopes or ways of knowing, letting each be distinct and valuable, informed and informing, by each or all of the others.  Clarity, it seems, is as much about not scraping my feet through the silty bottom as it is about any sort of efforting to make the water clearer.  Letting the flow be as real as the ground.


I take it as a good wedding omen that it just gets harder and harder to be away from home.

I’m done now with travel (I think) for the next couple of months and it feels really good to be home. So I’m starting a new practice, which I’m calling Nestworking, an inverted or locally-focused sort of networking.

For years, I’ve been expanding a global network of friends and colleagues. Now I want to actively request the good people I know around the world to connect me with interesting people they know or meet from Chicago. In this way, I want to turn my network back in on itself, and use it to help me find others who are active in global conversations — AND living and working here in town.

Mostly we think of extending networks, but this is a sort of local thickening, the practice of which has been new to everyone I’ve asked about it. Seems promising in a region of eight million or more people. I want to find those who live simultaneously in Chicago and in bigger global circles.

Who do you know is making good in Chicago and the world? This might be a quiet little series of connecting conversations or blossom as the next generation of GlobalChicago networking. Who do you think I should I know in Chicago?

Thanks for all the Fish

Woohoo! Today is the first day of my 16th year of self-employment.

Once upon a time, I was sitting having a beer with an old friend in New York, when he asked me “Do you remember what you said when you first quit your job?” I did remember, and I told him, that my goal was to see if I could stay out for a year and have some adventures. “That was three years ago!” he pushed back, smiling. And indeed it had been. At the time it was rather shocking to me. Now that three-year mark is twelve years old and the adventures are going just fine.

A moment of thanks rippling out to all the friends, literally all around the world, who’ve been a part of this long strange fishing trip, if I may, on this momentous occasion, be allowed to to mix my literary references!

And happy birthday (tomorrow) to, Kevin, my old friend in New York.


Today is my tenth day of taking nothing but water, tea, and spicy maple lemonade, a spring cleaning ritual.

I missed it last year in London, while I was working as a cook in a meditation center, so this year has been a welcome return, timed perfectly with the arrival of spring in Chicago. When I started, it was 40 degrees. Yesterday and today, it’s 70 degrees.

This time has been totally different from any of the past five. Busier and quieter, if that makes any sense. Harder to keep going in some spots and the first year that I really feel like I’m just getting started after these first 10 days. I’m just starting to really “get it.” And slow down. Fast.

Peace in Nepal

This comes from my friend and colleague Ram Raut, on the occasion of the New Year in Nepal. The mainstream news out of Nepal these days is about hundreds being arrested in protests and a people teetering on anarchy. Here is an inside view, a heart view, from a guy who’s home was bombed only months ago, and who has since lost his brother suddenly in an accident.

Dear all

We are bye bye year 2062after 26 hours.In this year We got many many good things and learning.Loktantrik movement took high hight.perhaps We will get inclusive Democracy soon. NAINN got alot of success.we successfully organized second National Summit.
Great achievement is we got David L.cooperrrider in the position of Patron.
We spread AI throughout the country.and We expan our Network and we built good relationship in the international Level.
these are the great successof our organization.personally all the freinds got more achievement even our counrty had suffering from autocracy and arm conflict.

In this occasion of new year 2063,I wish for your every success and sound health.I hope we will see new loktantrik peaceful and prosporious new Nepal soon.

In this new year we will get new success and great change in our life . plz do well. we Invite to all to join our Imagine Initiative movement for positive societal transfomation thourgh out the world for make a new peaceful world.

with appreciatively
Ram Bahadur Raut
National Chairperson
NAINN (Nepal Appreciative Inquiry National Network)

Ram and his colleagues remind me again that real peace movements must begin and be sustained by peaceful people. Imagine that. Hoping to see them again this Fall for more Open Space, too.

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