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  • michellesholliday

First Resonances from Italy

Updated: Feb 19

It's been less than 3 weeks since an intrepid group gathered in Tuscany to explore what is most needed if the field of Organizational Development is to be fully aligned with life. The insights and effects from that experience are still finding their way to the surface of my consciousness. I imagine it is the same for others. So it felt a little vulnerable to join a call yesterday with "Friends of OD for Life" to share stories of what has stayed with us since the gathering. Five of us from the retreat joined the call, together with a handful of warm, curious others.

To my surprise, we shared very little about the inspired content and concepts of our conversations in Italy; instead, without planning to, all of us talked about the embodied experience and how it left us changed. Together, we had felt deep belonging. We had practiced care. We had spoken with intention and attention. We had attuned to the sacred and to the essence of what is true. It seems that, even more than talking about life-enhancing OD, we had experienced it.

And because of all that, we have acted differently since then.

* One of us talked about two recent workshops she facilitated (one for young leaders, one a project retrospective) in which she found the courage to ask bold questions: "What is life asking of you? What is care asking of you?" These questions and her courage to ask them made an important difference.

* Another talked about finding the courage to speak up in a new board position, where everyone else seemed to be operating with different values and priorities. Recalling our time together, she reminded herself: "I'm not a weirdo. I'm not alone." Her spoken and written contributions served as a catalyst for a significantly changed conversation, in greater alignment with life.

What we might all take from these sharings, I offered on the call, is that these kinds of profound, full-bodied, full-souled experiences like our time together in Italy are both possible and necessary. They equip us to show up in the world with "a strong back, soft front and wild heart," as we said in the call (quoting Brene Brown, I believe).

This reminded me of one fascinating thread of conversation during the retreat. We had gone into pairs to reflect on what is needed most in OD, answering first from the head, then from the heart and finally from the gut. As we exchanged insights afterwards in the whole group, one person stood visibly restless off to the side, eventually grinning to reveal the provocative question that was preoccupying him: where's the sex? After an expected burst of laughter, he explained that he meant it not in a literal sense, but in a lusty, fully alive, full-bodied sense. In the sense of eros, of profound connection and creation of the new, of joyfully celebrating the life force that animates all creation. OD not as the stale, compromised concept and practice of Organization Development, but as Organic Dancing, as someone else proposed. This may be what calls to us most.

As I sat down for the closing circle in Italy and thought about what others might need to know about our time together, I wrote in my journal: "Do you know that there is a whole depth of experience that is available?" My hope is that many have had glimpses of it in a wide range of contexts. One friend on the call yesterday talked about his sense of deep belonging with the Scouts. Another talked about feeling attuned with life through the practice of Appreciative Inquiry. Perhaps in hearing our stories, others will deepen and expand those glimpses into experiences of profound aliveness, and perhaps they will act differently – courageously – as a result.

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