Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Leap of Imagination

Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society illuminates an approach to change that Tim Flood and I developed, based on the premise that staying completely within metaphors is an exciting and powerful way to bring about personal transformation.

Metaphor-driven change work also requires the coach to be fully present. But what is presence?
We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one's preconceptions and historical ways of making sense We came to see the importance of letting go of old identities and the need to control... leading to a state of "letting come," of consciously participating in a larger field for change (Peter M. Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers: Presence, pp. 13-14).
Spontaneous presence is absent of all preconceived notions, all self-talk, all assumptions and beliefs. It is trust in a knowing that has nothing to do with logical efforts. This knowing is absolute, unmistakable, and has a kind of magical quality.

The authors of Presence describe organizational examples. Here are two personal examples.

"Cloisonne Vases," by Mary Bast
In January 2008 I signed up for an oil painting class, purely from a desire to understand the medium so I could better appreciate works of art. To my utter amazement I found an affinity for painting, a complete engagement in the process: from preparing the canvas and setting up the palette to cleaning the brushes at the end of the class. I brought no expectation of being a "good" or "bad" painter, no preconceived notions, no need to control the outcome. By the end of the first year I had completed a large painting of two vases that had been in my family since the 1940's. I felt as if the canvas painted itself and I was the vessel of its creation by virtue of holding the brush in my hand.

My second example happened when Tim Flood and I were finalizing the materials for a conference play-shop about metaphors. We wanted to keep people moving and out of their left-brain preconceptions, so we envisioned notebooks that could hang from ribbons around their necks. We used every kind of logic to figure out the length of the ribbon, how to attach a pen, etc. but -- no matter what we did -- when testing the prototype the ribbon pulled the binding loose from the notebooks. Finally, when we were feeling "brain dead" (a good thing, as it turned out), I started laughing hysterically. Tim thought I'd gone completely off my rocker. When I could speak, I shared the image of a kangaroo with a pouch, my internal judge translating it as something "silly." But as I slept that night my self-critic also slept, and I awakened the next morning with the clear image of a two-pocket folder that could be converted, with a little snipping, into two "pouches." We had our solution.