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Iceberg Principle: What's Below The Surface?

Ani and Awakin London community hosted a full day retreat yesterday in London.  More than 100 folks(!) had signed-up for a spot in the Devlia's open-hearted living room.  About 25 of the participants themselves had contributed to making the evening possible.  Seven laddership circle alumni were silently creating ripples in the background.  Needless to say, it was a feast of love.

As always, we opened the day with a circle of sharing around how people reconnected -- with themselves, others, and systems around them.  In that circle alone, we laughed (a lot!), we shed a few tears, we hugged those next to us, we felt reconnected.  "I gave up the last piece of dessert to a person in line, and we got connected."  "I hitchhiked all the way from Spain to this gathering."  Founder of a very famous nonprofit in London said he was at the site of a GreenFell Towers (where a recent fire killed more than hundred people): "A kid rode up on his bike, got down, raised his hands towards the sky and screamed. We all stood there, bearing witness to his pain.  I wanted to help, but I felt so helpless."  Many spoke about their kindness experiments.  "I paid for the person behind me at the supermarket.  My daughter was on the phone and I overheard her saying: 'My mum's lost it.'"  Hearing all the stories of compassion, a woman who was homebound for a decade due to a disability, summed it up quite well: "I think what I want to say is thank-you.  You may realize just how much your acts of kindness mean for others on the receiving end.  For the majority of my life, I have been invisible to most people -- and whenever someone pushed my wheelchair, I can always tell how much they care.  So thank you for caring."

In the afternoon, we had breakouts.  And after some out-of-the-world Hemant chai, we spoke about labor-of-love projects we want to fail at.  :)  Then, Maki closed it out with her prayerful tears, inviting all of us into a space of great compassion.

In the dozens of thank-you emails after the event, it was easy to see the many things we can be grateful for.  But the metaphor that comes to my mind is the iceberg.  For the visible bits of the iceberg, there's the 90% below the surface.  That's 90% is what we're all working on.  Here's a beautiful quote by our friend Meg Wheatley who sums it up well ... 

In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn't change one person at a time.  It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what's possible.  This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future.  Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections.  We don't need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits.  Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

But networks aren't the whole story.  As networks grow and transform into active, working communities of practice, we discover how Life truly changes, which is through emergence.  When separate, local efforts connect with each other as networks, then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly and surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale.  This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals.  It isn't that they were hidden; they simply don't exist until the system emerges.  They are properties of the system, not the individual, but once there, individuals possess them.  And the system that emerges always possesses greater power and influence than is possible through planned, incremental change. Emergence is how Life creates radical change and takes things to scale.

It is, then, no accident that the opening circle was filled with deep shares, with generous laughter, with emphatic vibrations.  Lots of "farmers" were silently tilling the soil.  And for those farmers, the retreat didn't start at 9AM nor did it end at 5PM.  I offer a bow of gratitude to those farmers, which allows 10% of the iceberg to shine in all its glory. :)   

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