Offerings, Gifts, and Invitations
Wisdom in the Particulars
I am doing it again.
My hands move quickly. They seem to know what to do without thought. I grab a strand and then another and bring them together, one over the other, to form a braid.
While my hands know what to do, my mind feels vast and a bit lost.
I am wandering down the road. I don't know where I am going, but the thought of moving in a certain direction feels comforting.
I stop at a traffic light. As I wait, I notice my hands. I am braiding my hair again. For the past few weeks, I have been braiding my hair without realizing it. It wasn’t always like this, I started to do it unconsciously. I’ll catch myself doing it while deep in thought and only realize that I am doing it when the braid is nearly complete. Other times, when I feel stuck, I'll reach for a strand, and my hands will move in a rhythmic cadence.
Something about dividing the strands and bringing them together into a cohesive braid gives me a momentary sense of purpose. For a minute or even 30 seconds, I feel engaged with the immediacy of my gestures. Knowing I am creating something tangible calms me. These gestures could easily be overlooked or dismissed as mundane actions, but when I notice them, a space opens up where at some level, I know what to do and the next gesture to make.
The light turns green. I cross the road. I look up.
Where am I?
The roads here don't always have street signs. And when there are signs they are low to the ground and tucked off to the side, making it hard to read. The names of the streets are so similar it's easy to get confused, Cotham rd, Cotham Brow, Cotham Court. The streets here move across the city at angles. Some curve or result in a dead end.
I move between feeling completely lost to seeing how the parts fit together. One moment the path I am on makes complete sense. The next moment, it feels like I am walking through a maze.
Moving through this place is a bit like braiding. If I trust my body to lead the way, I usually end up where I am trying to go. But if I overthink it, I end up getting lost.
The gravitational pull into a new habit or way of being can be so subtle it can easily be overlooked. But the repetition of certain actions has caught my attention. I've been braiding my hair often. In lines at the store, in conversations with friends, and in transit on the bus or airplane. The braids aren't thick. They're small and off to the side.
In some moments, there are parts of me that take action without me fully realizing it. I am learning that to perceive is not only to take in the world and act intentionally within it, but also to let the world act upon me.1 Braiding my hair is just one example of this.
In each moment and situation, there are particulars, specific things and dynamics at play within and around us. Being sensitive to particularities helps me orient myself to the situation before me.
Aristotle spoke of phronesis as wisdom based on practical action. Apparently, wisdom lies in noticing the particulars of a situation and being able to respond in resourceful ways through being moved emotionally by the situation before us.
What gestures and actions are moving you as you navigate the world?
What wisdom is arising through the particularities within and around you that might usually go unnoticed?
Since I’ve been reading a lot of academic articles the past few months I’ve been thinking of ways to share the gifts I am discovering in a more digestible format. So this month I am trying something different, and am sharing some new words I’ve learned that have:
A. given me language for a phenomena I did not have words for previously and
B. feel resonant with the work I do as a practitioner and researcher.
Here are a few words that have stood out.
Equivocality - when something is ambiguous and open to more than one interpretation. There are many possible paths forward, the future is equivocal, how do we proceed?
Physiognomy - The general form or appearance of something. Or, as Shotter and Tsoukas (2014) state ‘to effortlessly relate several situational aspects into a unique holistic unity and see it as distinctive, in the same way we see the human face as distinctive from all others ( p. 231)
I think of physiognomy as when different pieces come together to form a clearer understanding of a situation. For example, when I learn something new about a client I’ve been working with for years and this bit of information sheds light on a different part of their process and helps me see their whole personality in a new way. Suddenly the pieces come together and I am able to perceive a greater whole.
Epoche - In ancient Greece, epoche meant the suspension of judgment. In phenomenology epoche is the process by which biases and assumptions are blocked or bracketed in order to explore and understand a phenomenon in terms of its own inherent system of meaning rather than our projections and the assumptions we place upon it.
I think of epoche as noticing when a part of me assumes something and stepping back to allow myself to be surprised by the phenomena before me.
What I’m Reading:
Anchoring in Lived Experience as an Act of Resistance, by Claire Petitmengin
Where do ideas come from? In this article Claire Petitmengin, the founder of micro-phenomenology, explores our lived experience including the subtle experiences and micro processes that often go unnoticed.
To do so she draws upon the ‘fine-grained’ descriptions of innate human experiences such as the emergence of ideas, perceptions, the process of verbal expression and the experience of intersubjective encounters (2021, p. 172). In reading the descriptions Petitmengin offers I notice I can feel the concepts she is talking about at a level at which my whole being resonates. Her words bring me back into contact with the dynamic yet intimate layer of my experience that I can’t always put into words. This is the level that gives rise to all of my thoughts and ideas. Making contact with this layer reminds me just how vast our immediate experience can be.
The article is engaging and informative while still beautiful and poetic. Micro-phenomenology is also a research method that can be employed to investigate subjective experience. From what I know so far it is highly complementary to a process-oriented approach especially concerning work that is close to the essence level, that non-dual pre-manifest level we cusp on when we experience awe, beauty and connection that extends past the comprehension of our everyday mind.
Friday, July 28th, 9:00-10:30am AEST
Thursday, August 17th, 9:00-10:30am AEST
A 90 min session focused on a live demo of unfolding a process in a co-learning format. Over the years, people have asked for more demonstrations, so I have created this offering.
Over the years, students have asked for more work's in the centre! They say it is a wonderful opportunity to see work happen and learn more about themselves in the process.
Together we will unfold the process through a holistic and process-oriented approach to surface more information and increase our awareness of what is present and emerging for that person. We will then discuss the structure of the work and have time for questions and insights from the group about the work.
The flow of the session will be roughly as follows:
Inner work to arrive
Discussion of themes that emerged
Learn more and register here there are 2 spots for the July session left.
Thursday, August 24th, and Friday, August 25th, 9:00-11:00 am PDT
For the first time I teaching one of my classes, The Places in Which We Find Ourselves, for a second time!
I taught this class in early June, and had the most touching time. Even though I was drawn to offer this class, the topic of ‘place’ if far more potent than I realized. Because of this and based on the wonderful feedback I received, I am excited to be offering this class again!
In the class we consider questions such as:
How we can belong to the places we move through and inhabit?
Through exploring the qualities of ‘place’ that transcend geography and how our environment shapes our thinking and perception, we look into the supportive and qualities that places offer. We will also consider why we're drawn to certain places and consider practices for creating a supportive space around us through the idea of altars.
There are 3 spots left. Learn more and register here
Shotter, J. and Tsoukas, H. (2014) In Search of Phronesis: Leadership and the Art of Judgment. Management Learning & Education [online]. 13 (2). Pp. 224-243. [Accessed 10 July 2023].