I attended an open conference of Agile Coaches (ALE 2016) for the first time and decided to do an experiment with Street Wisdom. The theme of the conference was, “We Share because We Care” – which spoke volumes about this professional group of people.
I’d never been to an open conference before, so all I knew was that there were no keynote speakers, no panelists, and no paid presenters. Every participant was a possible presenter. All you needed was a juicy question you wanted help with, a cool tool you wanted to share, or a story that could impart insight to others. And with a clear message of, “Who ever shows up are the right people” – how could I not step forward?!
I offered a 90-minute escape from the conference location, to wander the surrounding area of Paris on a perfectly warm (not cold and not meltingly hot) day, to explore and perhaps find an answer to a question. Eight curious and eager participants showed up. (Guess I wasn’t the only one needing a break from stuffy rooms and artificial lighting.)
None of us knew this particular corner of Paris, so it was a great area to wander. We started at the conference location and stuck together as we tuned in and stretched our perception muscles. The first round of just paying attention already clued people into various levels of awareness. One person said he noticed not only where his attention went, but also where it didn’t. He caught himself not paying attention to his breathing – which of course made him aware of how he’d like to calm down more and be more conscious of his body and how he was feeling.
This was a perfect transition into slowing right down. Although I offered to set the pace for this tune-up, several people went ahead and kept their own pace – either much faster or even slower. We used the time afterwards to just notice the change in our own mental/emotional/physical rhythm before moving onto the third exercise of appreciating everything.
As we were running short on time, and the set up of the open conference meant that people could come and go as they felt best served them – two people departed with the task to tune-in to what they could appreciate on the way back to the center. The rest of us split up in order to wander our little corner of Paris and return to the conference location for insight sharing.
When we all reconvened, everyone just seemed to float over and settle in a chair. Calm. Grounded.
One participant reported, “Appreciating everything is like being on drugs. I found myself almost feeling high after a while.” We all chuckled at that – perhaps sharing a similar feeling.
In the end, the sharing was focused on the value of time – of how precious this 30 minutes of wandering was for everyone. Thirty minutes to let go, open up, and just be. One participant shared, “It was difficult to think of a question, although the answer was immediate. So I started the other way around and went looking for the question.”
One participant wrote me later:
“Walking back I thought about my own professional development and what steps I might take to keep growing even when I feel pigeon holed. Immediately, I noticed a spiral staircase inside the building and was reminded that growth is a step by step process. That it’s ok to take one step at a time. And then I saw the hill I was walking up as a kind of metaphor for this journey. And the high buildings as examples of the kind of high places which maybe you ‘see’ from reading about something, which you want to attain and maybe feel some jealousy for, but which are maybe not the places I really want to go anyway. Being in the frame of appreciating, I reflected that appreciating the journey along the way each step is a more fulfilling thing to do.
Thanks for the exercise. I feel more calm and relaxed and positive after.”
Ultimately, everyone around the table left the session with a valuable insight – it’s not about the destination (or the answer) – it’s about the journey.