David Sibbet | Blog
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This Christmas we used a holiday prompt of “the Perfect Gift” for our weekly writing. Here is what emerged. I’d like to share it as a gift to all of you who read my blog.

The Perfect Gift

The perfect gift would be
you simply smiling, and melting
from feeling my sadness.

The perfect gift would be
you letting me hold you
crying, lost in the dark,
cracking open a secret
that has held you in irons.

The perfect gift would be
my not sharing from my own
chest of woes, simply caring.

The perfect gift would be
a full day of just saying yes
to whatever arises, and to
end that day in your arms
murmuring amidst shuddering.

The perfect gift would be
having my children let me
walk them down the aisle
of happiness, and to let this
happiness bloom in the
damp soil of my regrets.

The perfect gift would be
the surprise of finally learning
to savor silence, simply smiling.

My weekly poetry writing is influencing my prose. Here is what might be called a prose poem. It arose from a prompt that is its title.

LEANING IN

“It’s about trusting. Just lean in, stay connected to your partner,” the leader instructed. She was facilitating a trust activity where partners stand opposite, hands joined in an arc over open space. “Move back slowly and lean in. Go as far as you can.”

I know we will fall. We’ve passed the point of having control and balance. Only the strength of connection keeps us up, and the leaning in.

But my muse doesn’t have such steady hands. When she appears it’s a feeling in my chest, or fascination with some little figurine on my desk. And if I lean in too quickly. the feeling disappears. I fall into thinking. I fall into trying.

When my partner comes to the table with upset in her eyes, masked by comments about the weather or what she wants to eat, can I trust my seeing, and lean into the edges of something I cannot yet see? And when the conversation turns to feelings of being discounted and dismissed, can I stay leaning into listening, just listening, and just feeling the weight and push of it for a while?

There is a certain thrill that comes when the leaning in spans a long reach, well beyond what is possible alone, when the listening tiptoes past my pain and defensiveness and begins to soften the edges of a brittle heart. Breath in pain. Breath out compassion. Tonglen—taking and sending as leaning in. Staying connected beyond one’s own stability.

In the exercise we collapse on the floor laughing when we go too far. “Okay do it again; focus on your connection; move back slowly, together. You will go farther this time.”

Can I lean in without a facilitator? Can I lean into my own faint callings? Can I laugh when I fall on the floor of my unknowing?  It’s about trusting, I know, this leaning in, and listening, and feeling the leaning come back my way.

Perhaps a steady leaning in can be strong enough for dancing.

David Sibbet. 10-26-21

For a couple of months I have been in a writing dyads with a colleague. We give each other prompts. Write for 20 minutes. Read what emerges, and then share how the writing landed. What resonated? What touched us.

As a result I’ve been writing poems, and somehow the voice that is coming out is one I want to reinforce, so I am sharing a poem I wrote and evolved a bit this morning. It’s current. It is called:

PREMONITION

Long cycles hide in the

busy flow of daily life,

deep currents under the

crashing waves.

 

Sometimes the cycles are a slow crumbling,

a weakening of foundations

that give way abruptly

breaking the surface calm,

giant whales of change.

 

Living in earthquake country

I listen for faint signals with

my body, tiny tremors that

foreshadow a major snap.

 

Is this background vigilance

sharpened my foreseeing,

or is the nervousness I feel

the past pushing forward,

clouding, memories of Vietnam?

 

Entrenched institutional arrangements

move like tectonic plates.

And their locked shifting can snap

and become depressions, and wars.

 

But are these tremors I feel today

true markers to be followed, and

feared, or simply the crumbling

confidence of my own long life?

 

Sometimes excitement seeking young people

play chicken with their fast machines,

but the institutional cracking and straining

I feel now, though called a game of chicken,

foreshadows more than a crash,

more a crumbling of trust,

with dreams and lives being pulled

into an opening chasm.

 

I breath in the fall air

and notice the lack of rain.

A central little tree in our back yard,

tucked under larger oaks

has died.

I look around for other

signs that this drought is

cutting more deeply,

quickening our cooking.

 

When will the long cycles

finally snap through

the sea of our distractions

and bring us face to face with

the breeching whales of change,

the generation shaping crumbling

of our foundations?

 

And what is asked of us with

this foreseeing?

 

In his book American Soul, philosopher Jacob Needleman wrote, “The art form of the future is the group. The intelligence and benevolence we need can only come from the group, from associations of men and women seeking to struggle against the impulses of illusion, egoism and fear.” This quote animated Alan Briskin’s exploration of the headwaters of this idea at the first Leading as Sacred Practice (LASP) gathering in 2016 at Holger Scholz’s Beuerhof Retreat Farm in the Vulkan Eifle region of Germany. To support the dialogue that resulted, we co-created this graphic of thought leaders we knew resonated with this idea.

groupasartform

The four of us guiding Leading as Sacred Practice (Gisela Wendling, Alan, Holger and I) had begun calling ourselves a facilitation “Ensemble.” We shared a deep interest in collaboration and supporting a mindset that values the whole human being— spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical— AND avoiding religiosity, ideology, and blind faith.

This first retreat sparked a shift in our work, and ignited a path of co-discovery. We have been meeting and working as an ensemble ever since through two more gatherings in 2017 at IONs Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, and then in 2018 back at the Beuerhof.

We decided to take a gap year in 2019, and then for 2020 planned a larger conference. But COVID appeared and we delayed again. The pandemic pushed us to create a virtual version to continue the work, and the publishing of some of our findings so far in our LASP eBook. (We are giving this away for free in the description of our series of six LASP Online Exchanges starting April 23). Our learning focuses on six “ways” we have found to lead as sacred practice.

What is an Ensemble?

I was describing our ensemble experience to a close friend, Joe Ruffato, a musician and member of a Medicine Community that I am also a member of. I could explain the “ensemble idea” easily since the medicine community is very collaborative and Joe understands what this means musically. An ensemble is a group of musicians who play together. What is not embodied in the formal definition is the meaning that is understood by professional musicians. Joe told me a story that made the point.

“When I produced my first CD I worked with three professional musicians who brought piano, base, and drums to my guitar playing and singing of my songs. We worked through several studio sessions and produced a draft version. I then had a chance to talk to our producer about it and asked him what he thought. ‘Do you really want to know,” the man replied. ‘Yes,’ I said. “He then told me that I was over strumming and doing some other things that didn’t completely balance, “ Joe said. “I came away and put the CD on hold. So I practiced and then after some months came back with a completely up-leveled performance.”

Joe went on to describe what he learned from the three musicians he had worked with. They all were very skilled in what they did, and all shared a sensitivity to the “ensemble” level of play. “They never filled the space to the detriment of the other musical voices,” Joe said. “I realized that’s what it means to be a pro.”

And I realized in Joe’s story this is what is means to be a good ensemble—to never fill the space in a way that works to detriment of another player. This means honoring the rotation of the spotlight in jazz. It means not over playing. It means listening to the whole.

Ensemble as An Artform for the Future

Having spent my adult life facilitating group process, I realized that the Ensemble idea we have used to guide our Leading as Sacred Practice work, might also be a form that could be replicated and even celebrated professionally in other group work settings.

More and more it seems that one of the shifts that we need to make as we come out of shelter-at-home and move into other escalating global issues like global warming, is to open to more imaginative “we” forms of working together. No single person is expert enough to respond to the systemic challenges we face. No solo player can lead the transformation changes necessary to work with them. Collaborative networks, action learning teams, and yes “ensembles” are needed to allow pooling of knowledge and learning as we move forward.

Groups can be the art form of the future.

Join us for the Leading as Sacred Practice Online Exchange Series. April 23, 2021, and experience one.