Midterm Retreat: Diving into the unknown & Letting go to let come

Midterm Retreat: Diving into the unknown & Letting go to let come

Presencing: A Place of Connection to Self and Source

From November 1-3 the Beyond Waste | Circular Resources Lab entered the most crucial part of its experimental journey: Going through the bottom of the U. At this stage it is all about letting go of the old, be it assumptions, convictions or behavioural patterns, in order to make space for our highest potential to manifest itself. A metaphor often used for going through the bottom of the U is passing a narrow portal; one has to get rid of all their unnecessary baggage in order to access a bountiful garden. From this place of high creative power, we can start ideating the solutions of tomorrow. This 2.5 days stay at the Centre for Mindful Living, outside Bern, was indeed a very different way of getting work done, but how can we create transformative outcomes if the process itself is not unusual at the very least? Here are our insights from this experiment.

Process and Methods Used

We started our Midterm Retreat with a welcome dinner followed by a storytelling session around the question: “What has been a turning point in my life, a moment that redefined who I am?” In small groups of five or six, we shared life experiences and conversed about topics such as trust, giving and receiving, experimentation and letting go, openness, rationality vs. non-rationality and the like. The purpose of this opening activity was twofold: 1) identifying triggers of personal development, pivotal experiences that connect the dots of our life journey; and 2) further developing a nourishing group dynamic and community spirit.

The next day we started with looking back at what has happened so far on this action-learning process; how the participants experienced their Learning Journeys and how they felt in terms of CE transformation, both individually and collectively. There were many different emotions and topics present in the check-in going from transformation, shifting perceptions and community building to openness, trust, partnerships and collaboration, to also some frustration and pessimism. This first morning was also used to practise Case Clinics, a method that guides a team or a group of peers through a process whereby a case giver presents a case representing their leadership challenge for which the future is unclear. The group of 3-4 peers or team members then help as consultants based on the principles of the U-Process, which can be summarised as three movements: sensing, reflecting in stillness and acting. Case Clinics allow participants to generate new ways to look at a challenge or question and develop new approaches for responding to the challenge or question.

The rest of this day was used to practice sensing and activate different forms of intelligence beyond mental, including emotional, somatic and kinesthetic. This included a nature connection workshop, listening to poetry, a collective painting workshop, collective humming and a guided journaling exercise about “stepping into the field of the future”. All these activities helped the participants to change perspectives and supported the bridging of the three major divides that are at the root of the problems facing humanity today: the divide between self and nature, the divide between self and others and the divide between self and self. To summarise, this first full day of the retreat focused on developing a mindset of unity, to overcome the mindset of separation.   

Having had a full day of opening up, experimenting using different forms of perception and reconnecting with others, nature, and self, it was time to start going up on the right side of the U in this journey and act from an authentic place of true co-creation. But what does this actually mean and how does it happen? The evening before some participants sat together with the organizing team to discuss exactly this question. How can this transition from sensing and presencing into a different kind of doing happen smoothly, without falling back into old patterns and egocentric mindsets that had been in the making for entire lifetimes? We sensed that it was such a big change needing more time to really take root. The next phase of the U-Process was about developing solutions and there was no way around that, but to achieve truly transformative results implied focusing more on the process than the expected outcomes. Nonetheless, given all the resources invested and the experimental nature of the Social Lab, we reminded the cohort of their responsibility as Co-Creators and the importance of shifting from reflection to action mode while retaining the mindset of unity we worked hard on developing.

With this in mind, the second and last day of the Midterm Retreat was all about firming the teams and starting the practical work, using our hands to prototype the seeds of the future. This started with a 3D Modeling session to represent the reality of the system we wish to intervene in and begin to envision changes from there. The first step is always to state an intention for the process. Then, they co-created a model of the current situation out of various materials, including themselves and their organisations. In a second step they had to reflect on their model from different perspectives symbolised by the four directions (East – feeling/relationship; South – practicality/action; West – reflection/learning; and North – vision/purpose). In a last step they had to adjust their models to represent the future that wants to be created. The teams also had to identify two to three leverage points to move their models from status 1 to status 2 (from the current reality to the emerging future). This process helped the four teams to come up with a first idea or at least a direction for their prototypes. (read here more about our four solution prototypes).

After planning the next steps of their prototyping process our Midterm Retreat came to and end. But before leaving the beautiful Centre for Mindful Living, we harvested what the cohort felt they were able let go of. This journey so far enabled several people to let go of doubts, pressure and the fear to fail and therein trust the process. Others let go of their certitudes, frustrations, skepticism, prejudices or their need to control. We also collected what the participants would commit to after this Retreat. It was encouraging to see that there was a very strong sense for commitment to their teams! Some participants also committed to trust people, to change, to slowing down, to further discover themselves, to take action or to listen deeply.

With this Midterm Retreat the experimental journey of Beyond Waste | Circular Resources Lab reached a crucial point! From now on the participants would work in teams on their prototype solutions. The challenge of the following time will be to stay connected to the source of co-creation and to not fall back into limiting mindsets filled with judgement, fear or cynicism. In our upcoming blog articles we will tell you how this went.

Where are we on the U process

At the bottom of the U lies an inner gate that requires us to drop everything that isn’t essential. This process of letting-go (of our old ego and therein our judgements and convictions) and letting-come (our highest future possibility) establishes a subtle connection to a deeper source of knowing. The essence of presencing is that these two selves – our current self and our best future Self – meet at the bottom of the U and begin to listen and resonate with each other. Once a group crosses this subtle threshold, nothing remains the same. This stage of our experimental journey (in our case the Midterm Retreat) guides the participants through the bottom of the U curve, connecting them with their source of inner knowing, presence, creativity and power. When the participants succeed in connecting to their deeper source, they begin to better tune into emerging future possibilities and operate from a different sources. They start envisioning, ideating and embodying the new.

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