Learning in the Garden

It was snowing as I went into the forest garden to continue tidying it up. Fern and Ollie, children from the area, were there with Fern’s mum Bekah and two other adults, Elizabeth and Chloe. They were all crouched down around the small pond touching the ice to see how thick it was. “We’re looking for signs of winter,” Elizbeth told me. So I joined in, pushing the thin sludgy layer of snow across the ice with my fingers.

Yes! A magic moment, having these young ones in the garden, exploring the world around them. It was just great. And it continued, they were walking around the garden exploring the paths and the dried up forms of plants. All of a sudden the new micro greywater system sprang into life. Water was spurting through the holes in the grey pipe and into a gravel filled mini-pond or cell.

I called the children over. “Look, come and see this!” And they came with their full curiosity to where the water system is. Together we watched as water spurted out of the holes and into the gravel beds.

“Where’s it coming from?” Ollie asked. I showed them how the water was coming from a neighbour’s washing machine in a nearby building and described how it traveled in a pipe underground and then flowed through the three gravel treatment cells.
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Conscious Learning to Ease Leadership

To create lives and leadership that will truly contribute to our thriving planetary future we are all going to have to embrace change. Change in the way we think and act to meet our needs, as well as our pleasures. The truth is that we live in a context of constant change. It seems to be a human tendency however not to like change, especially when we can’t see clearly how it will bring immediate benefits.

Lots of research has been done on why we resist change. Today I’m going to talk about a personal experience that points to some of why we resist change.

I’m going through a change that makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. I’m having to learn to drive again. The short story is that having moved from the US to Scotland I have to resit the theory and practical driving tests to get a licence to drive here.

The practical aspects of why I’m experiencing discomfort are because, although I drove in the US, it was in automatic cars, on the other side of the road. And living in New York City, I drove infrequently, preferring to use my bicycle or public transport.

According to the four Conscious Skill or Competence stages, evolved by a number of people and organizations in the learning and training world, I’m at the level of being consciously unskilled or consciously incompetent.
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Feedback is Natural, Design it in

Enjoy a day of observing nature and you will see that it is full of feedback loops. If a system is whole, it naturally has feedback loops.

Some of these feedback loops happen immediately and others happen over hundreds or even thousands of years.

A fairly immediate feedback loop that occurs in nature in a temperate climate is when the outside temperature cools considerably and the deciduous trees respond by dropping their leaves.

A feedback loop that takes a little longer to become apparent is the daily mid-afternoon sweet snack that starts to show up around your midriff. Or inversely, the morning run that over time brings about a number of physical benefits including stamina and strength.

A butterfly pollinates an apple flower and with the input of nutrients from the soil, rain and heat and light from the sun the flower transforms itself into an apple. When you’re munching on that delicious juicy apple, you are eating the feedback that the butterfly’s pollinating worked.

The melting of the Arctic ice is a human caused feedback loop that has developed over decades. This melting, along with other forms of feedback, has alerted us to the fact that the overall temperature on Earth has increased.
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Five Effective Leadership Practices

Relationships are central to leadership. If we want our leadership to contribute to our thriving future, sooner or later we will find ourselves collaborating with other people.

Local community-based leadership involves among other things, partnering, working with volunteers and responding to emerging events.

It’s easy for groups to get stuck overdoing meetings and not getting to action. Other groups dwindle to a few members because of unresolved conflict, and others operate at the hands of leaders who think that everyone’s there to do their bidding.

Over the long term however, these situations point to the group’s potential demise. It’s not sustainable for any group to be stuck in meetings, or to dwindle in numbers because members withdraw due to conflict, or because there isn’t space for people to contribute their ideas or perspectives.

While these scenarios are common in community-based projects, they exist in the workplace too. Perhaps you recognize them.

There are many approaches, methods and systems we can put in place that will assist us in leading a successful and fully engaged group. Here are five interlinked actions you can take now that work together to make your leadership more effective.

1. If you are leading a formalized community organization you will probably be working with a vision, mission and aim.
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Sustainable or Regenerative?

Just as we’re getting to grips with the need to be sustainable and what it means in relation to the lifestyle choices we make to ‘save the planet’, here I am introducing another way of being, one that is regenerative.

I’m not alone in this shift. There is a growing body of people becoming aware that being regenerative in how we live and set up our systems for meeting our needs is the direction we need to move in.

The distinction between these two ways of being and why we need to move from being sustainable to being regenerative is a complex topic.

In this article I’ll give you the gist of the difference, and through other articles I will further articulate what being regenerative is about.

I’m going to start with a sensory exploration, a knowing you feel in your body, followed by an example of how nature clearly demonstrates being regenerative.

We’ll have some mind food by looking at the dictionary definitions of the words sustain and regenerate. We’ll also look at the etymology, the root of the words. I love looking at the roots of words as they help me to get a fuller sense of the origin of their meaning.
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Leading by Being then Doing

It’s easy to get caught in a frenzy of over-activity, over-whelm and over-committing when we think and then try to do something about the challenges we currently face globally and in our communities.

A leadership that contributes to our thriving future will be a leadership that comes from a place of deep centered calm in response to these challenges. Yes, now is the time to lead. However, we need to practice leading from a place of inner connectedness, while having the awareness of what’s happening in the environment around us. That is being.

As we are leading, we are creating the future. We need to explore doing things differently. The way we do things now can’t come with us into the next now. Those ways have been part of what got us into this precarious and in some cases potentially catastrophic situation.

Recently I was invited to go for a jaunt in a small sailing boat. I’d like to share my experience by way of illustrating being, then doing.

The crew consisted of myself, a friend, who is a competent sailor, and his young son. It wasn’t the best of times in terms of external conditions. The water was calm and still, which also meant there was little or no wind.
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Knowing Our Leader Strengths

I’ve been writing a post about how being aware of our leader skills and strengths and the strengths of others is an essential part of effective leadership. I was using a real life example, but found it hard to convey my point with clarity as there was too much story in it.

Instead I will use an experience I had in my leadership training to illustrate my point. This was a ten-month training during which twenty-three of us met four times. The training was full of group activities specifically designed to bring out the leaders in us and tap into our different strengths.

On the last day of the training we were given a whole group exercise, the grand finale. By this time we had all grown to know each other’s strengths and there was a good degree of trust.

We were standing in a field, in a large circle. At the centre laid on the ground were the props that we were to use for the activity. One of our group leaders told us the rules of the game and the outcome sought. We had to assemble the props and then move them a set distance from where they were.
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Intimacy with the Land

Drawing from your direct experience answer these questions. Resist the temptation to google the answers!

  • How many days until the moon is full?
  • What type of soil is there in your region?
  • What was the total rainfall in you area last July?
  • Name five native plants in your region.
  • From what direction do the windstorms come?
  • Where does your garbage go?
  • How long is the growing season where you live?
  • What day are the shadows the shortest?
  • Name five resident and five migratory birds in you area.
  • What species have become extinct in you area?
  • Point to the north from where you are sitting.
  • What spring flower is consistently the first to bloom where you live?
  • When was the last time there was a fire in the environment where you live?

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Right now, it’s our courage to pioneer our inner landscape that’s being called for.
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Soil Fertility

Nurture your inner soil, and taste the fruits.
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