In Convening and Thanksgiving - part 1 I wrote about the "Inner Game" of convening and how I tend to follow the convening wheel to lay the groundwork for a Thanksgiving gathering of family and friends. I've been doing this internal work of learning to know myself better, clarifying my intentions and appreciating the gifts of my guests for weeks. I covered the parts of the Convening Wheel: At the Heart of the Matter, Clarifying Intent and The Invitation. There are 6 more Aspects of the Convening Wheel.
Another part of the inner game for me is to think about what we're going to do together and share my thoughts with those who are coming. I equate this to Setting Context (Aspect 4) for my gathering. I don't send an "agenda" for Thanksgiving, but I share with everyone what time I expect them to come and whether or not I expect them to bring something. Also, I share what we'll do first (usually gab), second, etc. and (very important) what's on the menu and what time we'll eat! Sometimes it doesn't seem necessary to do this (we've been doing Thanksgiving gatherings all our lives!), but I find that the tone is much more relaxed when everyone comes knowing what to expect.
I Create the Container (Aspect 5) by decorating our environment with candles and something pretty on the table. I like to have everyone at the same table in my gathering - even if we have to stretch extra card tables into the living room! As I said in part 1, I've gotten into the habit of creating place names and putting them around the table - but people can also trade places if they'd like. The important part is to let everyone know they are welcome.
In my Thanksgiving gathering, once we are at the table, I Hear All the Voices (Aspect 6) by asking each person to say one thing they are thankful for. Sometimes someone will also bring a writing that we take turns reading out loud. The first time we did this felt somewhat awkward, but now it seems as if everyone is used to it, expects and enjoys what we say to each other at this time. While conversation is pretty free and enthusiastic among us, it is more rare to have an opportunity to be heard by everyone at the same time and to listen intently to everyone else.
I'll be hosting the Thanksgiving dinner at my house again this year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! I love the delicious food, the connection, expressions of gratitude, leftovers for days afterward (or sometimes weeks) and of course the people. As I move into this time of year, the Art of Convening reminds me that gathering my family and friends requires more preparation than just buying the food, planning the menu, cleaning/decorating the house and confirming the guests. It is now that I am accutely aware of the "inner game" of convening.
I've learned over time that when my family and long-time friends show up in my environment, so do the memories (some fond, some not so fond), old conflicts, celebrations, hurts, confusion or chaos I may have experienced with them - whether I'm consciously aware of it or not. While the Art of Convening was initially developed to help organizational leaders have more effective meetings, I have learned that the same principles that are effective in a work or organizational context are also effective when gathering family and friends - and possibly much more necessary for cutting through the clutter of our history.
I've experienced first hand how much the inner game of convening can make or break a gathering of those closest to me, more than any other preparation. Now is when I see the value of keeping a regular (or, more likely in my case, irregular) practice of exploring who I am. I go for walks alone, meditate, and reflect on myself - quietly revealing what I'm ready to discover. This kind of practice is the center of the convening wheel, At the Heart of the Matter. I'm doing this because I know that the experience of being with the people closest to me will move me, one way or another, and I need to know during this powerful time, clearly, who I am and how I want to be with them.
Diarmuid O'Murchu speaks eloquently to the core of the Invitation [Aspect 3]. He says, "the invitation is about participation, not mere observation. We are not journeying in the universe but with the universe. We are not concerned about living in an evolving world but co-evolving with our world. We are parts of a whole, much greater than the sum of its parts, and yet within each part we are interconnected with the whole." [Diarmuid O'Murchu, Irish priest and social psychologist, author, Quantum Theology]
This line of understanding our role as a part of a Whole living universe correlates very deeply and directly with indigenous worldviews, and brings us full-circle back to understanding we are inspiringly a part of a magnificent co-creation, and that each of us has a voice and unique "fingerprint" unlike any other.
When we decide to convene, we plan with our focus on authentic engagement, which deepens our ability to be productive, be open to possibilities, and to acknowledge each individual's key role as participant in an outcome of committed action.