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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hinkleman

Rooting ourselves in the work...in each other...in ourselves.

This past community gathering, we felt a shift. A stillness leading to movement internally as individuals, asking ourselves questions such as Where Do I Stand? and What More Is Possible? Finding stillness is a critical element of transformation, which is what the Northern California Learning Institute is all about. Transformation. The first step in any organizational or systems change, is to bend the beam of observation back onto ourselves. This image called forth repeatedly in our time together, another framing for the first question in all 3 turns of the What More Is Possible Framework, "Ask More of Self"? It is in this asking, where the key to exploration unlocks the gates of possibility.

We spoke of the 3 Divides, a categorization of 3 ways in which we find ourselves disconnected. Scharmer, in his work with Theory U, identifies the 3 Divides as the Ecological Divide, the Social Divide and the Spiritual Divide. Through the noticing of these divides as we each experience them, we rolled into our Connectivity Tool. Beth and I co-created the Connectivity Tool back in 2011, when we were searching for meaning in our work and how to apply our Highest Future Self to all we were and are doing. This tool is a catalyst for some of the Inner Work needed for transformation. First in identifying 3 core values we hold in our hearts as humans. The sample template to the left shows those values in the circle. Below the circle, you'll see the parallels we draw from our Connectivity Tool, with Scharmer's 3 Divides. In reflecting on our values, we seek to bridge any gap we may have with Self, Community and the World, with awareness-based action.

The image in the middle of the circle, created after more time in stillness, reflects our values, and the connection of our actions to those around us. Tapping into the creative sides of our brains, calling imagery and visuals into the process to enhance and augment our efforts and recording. The Connectivity Tool can be used as a one-off exercise, or even better practice, as part of a larger transformational effort, much like we're engaging in here with the What More Is Possible framework as a way to answer the first question in the loops: Ask More of Self.


Taking yet another collective breath, we moved forward with John O'Brien's piece "What Difference Will the HCBS Final Rule Make?" Perhaps the most practical, tangible reason we're gathered as a community with this initiative, stems from the existence of the HCBS Final Rule. It's been with us for almost a decade, inviting individuals and organizations into a reflective space. One where we can view things from a System-Centered Lens of Compliance, or a Person-Centered Lens of transformation and Hope.

John provides a succinct breakdown of pathways/responses to engagement with the rule in the table above, which we explored as a group. The parallels this draws for us with elements we've already explored, is wonderful and deepens our understanding of the connectedness of innovative energy and thinking when we're present to it. We've leaned heavily into the Levels of Listening, which when unpacked, are really 4 Ways of Being. How are we showing up? What level of presence/listening do we choose to embody? In the graphic below, I've brought John's table together with Scharmer's Levels of Listening, illuminating for us the path we walk, strengthening and affirming with each step.


The Northern California Learning Institute 2.0 is an invitation to move from Downloading to Generative Listening...from Compliance to Transformation through Social Innovation. It is, and will always be, an invitation to move out of our heads, and into our hearts. With a shift in energy, we engaged in a tradition started some 15 years ago-ish, in the reading of "Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community" With many thanks to our volunteer storytellers, we dropped into our hearts a little deeper while listening to Waddie's life unfold.

Bringing to life for us what Social Innovation can look like. Showing us what it looks like to embody Empathic and Generative Listening (Levels 3 & 4) through the Storytellers group that formed in the story. "When one of us bogged down, another would lift us up and keep going." Can you feel the spirit of the effort present here? Can you hear the strong heartbeat of folks leaning into each other, working together toward a Beloved Community?

Waddie Welcome's story, told beautifully by Susan Earl and Tom Kohler, provides yet another North Star. A guide to follow when we're up against it. When we're working with the most challenging of efforts. We know, through Waddie's life, that anything is possible, when we slow down and believe in each other as committed citizens. Committed and connected by the values we share. The Values of Inclusion. A belief that all people have the right to live a fully realized life. A life we design for ourselves, with support from our friends and allies.



Day 2 kicked off with some of our friends and allies from We Care A Lot! We've created a space called Community Wisdom, which will be present at each Community Gathering. For our first Community Wisdom offering, Doug Churchill and his team presented "Respect Yourself", a powerful dive into our physical bodies and our rights to protection. At the end of the presentation, Amy Facca lead us in the Respect Yourself Pledge:


The What More Is Possible Framework emerged mid-morning and carried us through the rest of our time that day, and will lead us into the foreseeable future here at the Institute.


We walked through all 3 turns of the framework together through teaching and listening. Then, as oft is the practice, we turned to each other with a friend in mind, walking through the turns of the spirals, imagining what more is possible and exploring different ways we can show up for and with people. Perhaps for some of us, and our chosen focus person, the process shed light on some darker areas of a person's story. All of this just the tip of the iceberg, really, when we're engaged in an exercise representing, in what we came to learn through the telling of Joaquin's story, a year's long journey through the Spirals, in 45 minutes. Impossible at best, and yet, eye-opening at least. Our opportunity to lean into a Joaquin-size adventure awaits!!

After some time to reflect, journal and be in stillness in our transition our from a deep dive into What More Is Possible, an organic offering of Community Wisdom came forth by way of Marie Rodriguez. Here is where the magic lies within the journey that is a Learning Institute. An epiphany. A touchpoint of clarity. Marie connected to the What More Is Possible Framework in a deep and meaningful way.


Marie shared with us this piece she wrote in the moment, and here:


"The Loop"


What More Is Possible is an outline that shows the breaking of barriers of generational trauma by using positive reinforcement.


Growing up I was told that I wasn’t going to amount to anything. My foster brother when I was thirteen would often remind me, “Oh Marie, you’re too retarded to get a regular job, or even have a regular life. You’re going to be working at the WTC (Work Training Center) for the rest of your life.” This caused me to suffer from low self-worth which created negative self-talk = conditioning.


When positive reinforcement is implemented, and the individual has a team/support system, it encourages the individual for self-growth. For me because my own disability is mild this looks like, helpful suggestions, reminders, and the reassurance that I am going in the right direction for my success. “Simplicity” This loop creates self-motivating tools to keep the positive cycle moving. A “Flame”.

When this flame is ignited, it makes you want to do more, and to be more. It enables you to become the CREATOR of your own life. It motivates you to put yourself FIRST, because you no longer listen to the negative voices anymore.


Please continue to fan the flames of the people you help.

~Marie Rodriguez, We Care A Lot



Wow! What a gift!! Thank you, Marie, for stepping up and stepping out with your wisdom. It's light like yours we need to shine...to keep us on track with our efforts and energy. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


Margaret Wheatley, in her most recent book, poses this question, the title of the book, "Who Do We Choose To Be?" Do we choose to be friends and allies? Asking More of Self, Bending the Beam of Observation, Doing the Inner Work and Presencing are all invitations to Stillness. The Stillness you find is yours to figure out...however works best for you. We've explored Mindfulness Meditation consistently here at the Institute. That's just AN example of A Practice. What is important, is to find what your Practice is. Set an intention to Practice and pay a High Quality of Attention to that Practice. When we engage in consistent ways of connecting to our highest future potential, through these practices, we show up in our organizations and in our communities with a sense of connection to our mission. Our practice benefits not only us, but those we find ourselves in relationship with; in our families, communities and organizations. Find what works for you and lean into it. Vaclav Havel, in his poem "It Is I Who Must Begin" writes about this very relationship with our highest self, "...but all the more persistently, to live in harmony with the Voice of My Being...As I understand it within myself." And all the more persistently...I read this as a real, gritty and raw awareness and response to the life we're living. Yes it is like this. And yes, I'm going to Ask More of Self. All the more persistently seeking to stay connected to my core values and belief that we can do right by people. Diligence. Transformation comes from being disciplined in our effort. Not grinding ourselves down and wearing ourselves out, rather, consistently asking Who Do We Choose To Be? and What More Is Possible? Let's hold each other sacred and choose to be connected with our effort and energy as we walk together through this Institute...engaging as best we can through Awareness Based Collective Action.




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