After many years working in education, social care and human services – in the military, in start-ups, urban and rural therapeutic communities and social enterprises – I found myself at a crossroads. I had developed till now on the shoulders of cherished teachers and a faithful learning community, but now I was stuck. My action-oriented style was good for many things, but untrained for bringing people closer together on opposite ends of intractable historical and social conflicts and abuses. I went in search of a way to deal with my own blind spots. I didn’t know how to embrace polarisations, how to befriend tension. My MO was to push past it, suppress it, or feel blocked by it.
A friend gave me a book: Leader as Martial Artist by Arnold Mindell. I discovered Drs Amy and Arny Mindell’s process-oriented approach to following what actually happens, breath by breath, pulse by pulse …. work with polarisation, and paradoxically bringing more flow in complicated situations at personal, team and community levels. I began my studies in Process Work and deep democracy applications with Max Schupbach, and later Ellen Schupbach. In my own life, in my coaching practice and as a facilitator of groups, I know well the fear of bringing tensions out into the open. As Mindell writes:
I have been in the thick of pressures from an increasingly regulatory external environment and funding restrictions, and I have felt first-hand the internal pressures within people for better lives.
I have learned that people for whom life is a joyous learning path, are less likely to hurt others. I have learned that people who want to use personal and situational power with awareness, are less likely to hurt others. Because when you are on a joyous path, when you are using your personal power through the magic and the misery, you are more able to muster inner resources in the face of complicated and at times horrendous challenges. This is the vision behind Turning Forward.
When the timing and situation allows for that mind-bending flip into an unknown space, I am forever amazed by the leap through space and time – a momentary common ground, where tensions evaporate, and where togetherness is palpable. Here creative insights and momentum for solutions seem to naturally arise.
In 1998 the beginnings of Turning Forward emerged as my global home for facilitating personal and collective engagement and growth in phases of accelerated change. Thanks to my Deep Democracy Institute teachers and learning community, my ability to facilitate and serve improves, and my happiness grows. I am now convinced from experience, that life gets better, relationships improve, and decisions and actions go easier when powered by inner sparks and dreams.
When not travelling, I am at home in Canberra, amidst the trees, birds and sky, and a gang of grandchildren.