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Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone!

December 19, 2013

Melissa Proposch and Ann Berg spent a day in Melbourne recently with thinker and world worker Meg Wheatley, discussing why building community and being together as a community is so important in these times.  They discovered that a feeling of ‘overwhelm’ is common among people and communities everywhere. 

Here Ann Berg says thanks to Newstead 2021 for sponsoring her day with Meg and reports back on what she discovered.  It makes for a terrific read. Thanks Ann.

THANKS FROM ANN BERG

Dear N2021

Thank you very much for the honour and wonderful opportunity to attend Meg Wheatley’s ‘Engaging Communities in Challenging Times: Cultivating Change and the Art of Perseverance’ workshop on November 21st.  This interesting and fun day was enhanced further for me through being able to share the experience and get to know Genevieve and Melissa. 

The workshop with Meg /Margaret Wheatley was a full and enriching day, with multiple layers of information that I am still processing.  I feel the information and inspiration gained from attending is a valuable resource to draw on over time, with much beneficial potential on both a personal as well as community level. 

Below is my report about the day.  Thank you N2021!

‘Engaging Communities in Challenging Times: Cultivating Change and the Art of Perseverance’ 

Meg presented a day of deeply engaging topics in a light and conversational atmosphere.  Small group processes throughout the day underpinned the focus and importance of ‘turning to one another’ [as it is] ‘the only we can move forwards in these challenging times’. 

We started the day with reflection about what desire first drew or compelled us to work with community.  Memories were shared as a way to ‘bring it alive’, to re-energize the desire to re-commit and focus our energy.  Given that so many people are currently struggling with feelings of stress, exhaustion and frustration it was refreshing to re-evaluate and discuss how such dynamics are showing up in our lives and affecting who we are now, or what we might become if we continue these trends. 

Meg referred to some of the ‘global dynamics beyond our control’ that impact on the wellbeing of both individual and community life as ‘the dark forces that are driving us apart’.  Three significant areas were expounded upon, along with examples of how they operate in our culture as forces of separation.  To briefly summarize: these ‘dark forces’ de-value, distract and rob from our sense of humanity.   Generating numerous layers of denial and promoting distrust between people such forces also act to erode memory.  For example:

  • Time compression:  The daily pressures of being so busy create denial and ignorance of what it takes to grow and build relationship.  ‘Overloading, multi-loading and perpetual loading’ obstruct making space for deeper communication and taking time to get to know each other. 
  • Burgeoning bureaucracy:  we live in a time of ‘morbidly obese bureaucracy that can no longer produce the outcomes needed’.  ‘Its decision based evidence making’ with an ossifying amount of reports and measures that foster distrust in creativity.    
  • Distraction: ‘what is the real price of distraction?’   The Titanic was used as an example here; along with research on what technological forms of distraction are doing to the human brain, such as the shallowing effect[1]  related to physiological changes occurring within the ‘electronic brain’ that affect loss of attention, vision, judgement, morals and memory. 

Meg suggested that a significant key for coping with the ‘craziness’ (and rampant levels of attention deficit disorder) induced by contemporary culture, is through being a community and ‘Creating places to be together, with sufficient time to learn about each other and restore thinking to whatever work we are doing’.  Focusing on what we can do, through asking questions about ‘what is possible?[2] and valuing everyone’s input, builds relationship to communicate about what matters, for as Meg stated ‘There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.’ 

When asked ‘What have you discovered in your experience that works to evoke peoples inherent creativity, caring and intelligence?‘ our small Newstead group brainstormed ideas about the power of play, as both a source of inspiration and potential space for change.  When asked to commit to paper some of the insights, design principals or beliefs that might be possible (while ‘letting go of the need to make a difference’) we thought a ‘Party for No Reason’ or ‘Play without Agenda’ type gathering for the town, might be a way to invite everyone in, to explore the creative force of play, together as a community.  (Although, it needs to be mentioned that in such a short space of time we didn’t get a chance to discuss the ‘how’s’ of implementing the ideas!). 

Themes linked throughout the day to support ideas about rediscovering the joy of being together, as Meg reiterated ‘The real gift that we can bring is re-introducing people to one another’ for ‘the joy we feel in being together is the essence of being human’.  Challenges were provided to deepen our conversations as a way of celebrating and remembering our humanity, along with the urgent need to ‘pay attention to our root system’.  Linking quantum physics notions about being ‘bundles of potential that only manifest in relationship’ with a biblical reference to the synergy generated ‘… when two or more are gathered …’ Meg offered an assortment of prompts to reconsider the importance of biological principals related to ‘creating health, through creating more connections’.  (For as a species, we are the ones who gather around the fire to be together, in warmth and community). 

Afternoon sessions were focused on the need to look after ourselves and make time to reclaim and pay attention to the peace we carry.  Meg reminded us that we need to ‘give up trying to save the world’ and be warriors for doing the work.  Along with tips on being ‘warriors for the human spirit’ we were given a signed copy of Meg’s oracle style book Peserverence, which she has based on prophecies from the Hopi Elders. 

(For your interest please see below, a version of the Hopi message). 

Subject: A Message from the Hopi Elders

Sunday, March 13, 2011

 ‘A Message from the Hopi Elders’

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.

Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour. 

Here are the things that must be considered:

Where are you living? 

What are you doing? 

What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation? 

Where is your water? 

Know our garden. 

It is time to speak your Truth. 

Create your community. 

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader. 

This could be a good time! 

There is a river flowing now very fast. 

It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid. 

They will try to hold on to the shore. 

They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. 

Know the river has its destination. 

The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river,

keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. 

And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. 

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personal.  Least of all, ourselves. 

For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. 

The time of the lone wolf is over.  Gather yourselves! 

Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. 

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. 

We are the ones we have been waiting for!” 

–          Oraibi, Arizona, Hopi Nation


[1]    …, The Shallows, (title of a book referred to, sorry did not get authors name). 

[2] Quote Meg used from Marvin Weisbord, “I used to ask: ‘What’s wrong and how can I fix it?’  Then I realized the right question is ‘What’s possible and who cares?’” (Further reference details not provided).

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. David Stratton permalink
    December 19, 2013 3:32 pm

    It i exciting to see that this next level up from our day to day concerns is being addressed.

    The obvious question is what might we learn from this specifically in Newstead?

    • December 20, 2013 1:30 pm

      Good question Dave. A key point might be for us to ask what’s possible instead of what is wrong.

  2. December 19, 2013 5:42 pm

    A quote I copied last year from Meg Wheatley
    “we don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change.” “Instead we need to connect with kindred spirits” who share a common vision. In this way, separate, disconnected local actions begin to spring up simultaneously. When they “connect with each other as networks, then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly & surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale.”

    • December 19, 2013 5:45 pm

      USING EMERGENCE TO TAKE SOCIAL INNOVATIONS TO SCALE

      by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze ©2006

      In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections.
      http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/emergence.html

  3. December 20, 2013 2:54 pm

    Brilliant summary Ann, you really captured the detail and the spirit of the workshop!

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