Vivian Wright: This Chautauqua was formed as a precursor for a board for the school. The thinking was boards are usually boring. You know, boards. So why don’t we do something interesting, you know, that brings energy in and carries energy out and renews and restores and bridges thought and so we picked the word Chautauqua which nobody understands and that gave us a lot of room. So with that accurately historical introduction I’d like to hand it over to Ward Maillard.
Ward Mailliard: Hello, this is a great recruitment process. You are now all on the board of directors of Mount Madonna School. I want to quickly introduce some of the people who are holding the constellation of our group together in that they will become visible for certain moments in the day. This is Vivian Wright. She was actually one of the founding members of Chautauqua. Barbara McAfee who just sang us into the room. Michael Jones who, you’ll get to know Michael Jones as I got to know and love him when I met him last year and I stalked him and brought him down here. In case you didn’t know it I’m not really a teacher I’m a professional stalker of great talent.
Also I want to introduce our graphic artist superwomen. Avril Orloff, Mariah Howard and Mary Corrigan. Mary has the distinction of having with us from Chautauqua number one. Peter Block and Angeles Arrien will be here tomorrow so that means we get to misbehave all day today. Savita is our organizer.
And more stars will appear in the constellation as we move through the next few days. In fact one of the principles of our Chautauqua is that everybody who shows up is actually part of the facilitation team. Chautauqua is about engagement. We decided a long time ago that there would be no experts, and we are not empty vessels to be filled. We are here to ignite each other in terms of our passion and our learning and our knowing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I mean imagine if you started every class with Michael and Barbara, how different that would be.
Barbara: And how tired we’d be. (Laughter)
A Ritual for the Ritually Impaired
Ward Maillard: What we wanted to start with today is what I call rituals for the ritually impaired. And I’m going to pass this basket. Just grab a stone out of the basket. One of the defenses that I created against rituals where I felt uncomfortable was to do one that had an absolute minimum threshold of entry.
This is based on the concept of Stone Soup. I think most people know the story of the village that was starving and a itinerate wanderer came into the village and said, “I know how to feed the whole village. All I need is a pot and some water,. Build a fire in the center of the village square and put water in it and boil the water and I will make soup with this magical stone.” He placed the stone in the middle of the plot and as the story evolved he said, “You know what really makes this good is if you have a little bit of onion to go in it.” Somebody said, “Oh yes I have an onion that I’ve been saving. I’ve been withholding under my house.” So he said, “Well go and get it.” So they brought the onion and of course this multiplied into carrots, and potatoes and salt and by the time everybody had taken the gift that they had been withholding, because the gift itself is not enough, they had nourishment for the whole village.
So the image here is about the questions that we withhold, the questions, which are held in abeyance. The questions are always the call that we haven’t answered yet. What is the edge of the exploration. Because life is a journey and so the learning journey is central to the life. And there are stages to the learning journey. The first stage is the call, then come the journey, and then the return. This gathering today is the “call” phase of the journey. Tomorrow will be the “journey” and the last day will be the “return.” We’ll talk a little bit about that in a minute.
So the meditation on this is, “What is the question that I’m bringing with me? What is the unanswered call? What is the edge?” Now this is very low threshold. You don’t have to reveal yourself by writing anything, you can just hold the stone. When you are done with that part and you’ve got the word that represents or the phrase that represents the questions, you can just take it and place it in the circle. Now for those of you who even have a lower threshold than I do, you can put it in your pocket you don’t even have to get up. So, reflect for a moment, and Michael, while we are taking just a couple minutes to think about this could you give us a little ambiant joy?
Take a moment and just reflect on, “what brought me here? What’s the question that I brought with me? What is it that I’m going to contribute?” Because the question is the thing that you contribute to the community. Because the question represents your next step. And our transformation individually is the transformation of the community. There is no other transformation in the community. It’s our transformation that transforms everybody we touch. So let’s take a moment and just think about what it is that is the question or the step that I’m on. And then as you feel so moved you can place your stone in the center and when we are done we’ll begin.
The Learning Journey
Ward Maillard: I want to talk a little bit about the arc of our gathering. Today, is the “call.” Often we are called, and maybe always we are called when we are not quite ready to answer the call. The call is the future pull. It’s something that is drawing us that hasn’t manifested yet and so in the “call” is the question, “What is my next step?” What is the edge of the question? What has been fulfilled? What’s not fulfilled? What’s dissatisfying me that is drawing me into a new experience or a new direction? And, inherent in the call is also resistance. What is the resistance that I have to the call?
I actually explored this with my students, at one point. They had it perfectly. You know thoughts like, “I might not be good enough. It might not be worth it. I might fail. What will other people think? I have to come out of my comfort.” There are a lot of resistances that are inherent in the “call.” In the classic hero’s journey the hero always resists at least three times. It is a general sense of, “I may not be sufficient to what I feel called to do.”
So one of the things we want to do today is explore that edge of where we’re being called and understand some of the resistances, and maybe answer somewhere along the line, the question of, “What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? What would I do if I knew I was going to be successful? What would I do if we removed all those resistances?” Tomorrow we’ll explore the “journey” with Peter and Angeles and then on the last day we will explore the “return.”
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Where this idea of the three phases of the learning came from is a class I teach called Values in World Thought to students here at Mount Madonna School. One day I thought I had to have a rubric. Actually I never knew till about four years ago what a rubric was, and for those of you who don’t know that’s just a structure for what you measure and how you measure it. Most of the rubrics for the learning process that we’ve created for our young are based on the idea of unsatisfactory, satisfactory, and accomplished; 0 to 100 or the F to A. And so when we thought about how do we measure the Values in World Thought experience we realized that wouldn’t do. So then we thought up the idea of the learning as a journey that always includes, the call, the journey the return. We all start in a state of ignorance and we thought that “not knowing” shouldn’t be a source of guilt or shame but a source of curiosity. To explore that initial stage is best done not under the threat of failure, but under the wonder and possibility, and a clear assessment without penalty of where am I now? Where am I starting from? We started to explore that and together we created a framework to think about the journey of learning together. I think that’s all I want to say about that. And I’m now going to pass it over to my sister Vivian.
Vivian Wright: This is a wonderful rubric for senior year. We’ve had conversations about, senior year is really an initiation period. A transition. And that the poignancy of the hero’s journey and the idea of it as initiatory supported some of this. So I hope it’s rich for you and also a model of what teaching can be.
But first lets see who’s here so we are going do the “who’s here” and then we are interact with each other. But just to see who’s in the room and get all our voices here I invite you to say as I pass the mike, and you guys can decide who wants to go first that’s going to determine direction. Name, whatever you want to say about affiliation and, you know, one word you’d like to add to the room of some spirit you bring with you today.
Microphone is passed
Vivian: Here’s a bridge from the learning journey from my own O.D. work, a little tiny formula, which maybe one of our scribblers will write down for people to see, which just, it’s a math equation so don’t get scared. It’s V x D x F> R. And I stole this from Cathy Dannemiller, a great force in O.D. She said you gotta have these elements. You know, the R is resistance there’s always resistance. And so you have to have Vision (V) x Dissatisfaction (D) x First steps (F), actually taking a step to have it be greater then the Resistance (R). So if any of them are 0 you won’t have any first step right? It won’t happen. So you have to amplify those things, in exploring, dealing with resistance in systems or a self. And you know its one of those great imperfect untruths, but sometimes useful formula. V x D x F> R.
So, another principle is that the magic is always in the room. And just like the cells in a caterpillar that cause it’s transformation and meltdown into a chrysalises butterfly. It is the connecting of those, the imaginal cells, they’re called, that produce that change it’s built in. So if we connect we’ll build a lattice for the change we need in its system and ourselves.
Enough talk, let’s meet some more. We’re going to have two rounds of this. So for those of you who can’t feel certain about you’re answer or, you know, want to keep it a little bit open, you get two tries. Alright? This is a demographic. Meeting who has a similar sense of what’s calling you, or as Angeles would like to say, “What’s working ya. What’s learning ya?” So this is gonna be sort of instant open space for quick conversation for maybe five minutes just to connect with some people who have a similar sense of call. So you don’t have to get it right, you get all day for this. You know think about, “What’s calling me in my life right now?” I mean maybe its some huge, huge arc of a call some you know deep life urge, some spiritual urge perhaps. Or maybe it’s financial, or employment or relational or about intimacy, or some creative call. or some unfinished business that’s calling. Who knows what it is. Or an adventure ahead. Anything. Think about what that domain is, sort of a category. Maybe my body is a source of a call right now, any of those things, or the larger context.
So, when you feel like it, I wanna just say I’m gonna organize around this I’m gonna tell people join that person when we’re done with all the categories. Here. Here. Here. Here. So when you hear one that goes, “yeah that’s me too.” Notice where they are, ok? When they get up. So who’s got a call that they would organize around?
Just to build on what Ward offered about exploring your own resistance to fully responding to the sense of call that you were talking about this morning. In small groups, what would you do about it if you knew that you couldn’t possibly fail? You couldn’t fail. If you couldnot fail in fully responding to this call, what comes up for you? I don’t want to give it much more detail than that. But just imagining, think about first where’s my resistance to fully responding? Explore, what’s my resistance, the R part of the equation. Then what would I see if it were impossible to fail? Ok? In groups of three or three or four. Preferably people you haven’t spoken with yet, or don’t know.