This brief article about my work at The Grove Consultants International was published in their Winter 2015 Journal. The Grove’s renewed focus on organizational and social change has been met with an exciting amount of interest and projects, including organization change and multi-stakeholder projects. Our increased focus on The Grove’s Learning and Exchange Network is generating a variety of new public offerings here in the US, Europe and Asia.
Introducing Gisela Wendling, PhD, The Grove’s New Director of Global Learning
By The Grove
Gisela Wendling, Ph.D., joined The Grove in June 2014 as a new senior consultant and Director of Global Learning. She brings to The Grove a fine-tuned mindset and deep experience in organization change. Gisela describes transformative change as a process occurring over time, with distinct phases and a momentum that, if guided well, can overcome obstacles and resistance.
New Grove Intensive: “Designing and Leading Change”
At The Grove we are finding a growing need for organization and culture change work. Getting long-term results involves dedicated effort over time and significant shifts in values, focus and ways of working.
One of The Grove’s new workshop offerings to address this need […]
California’s attempts, present and past, to help achieve effective water governance and sustainable water use have usually been riddled with contentious and conflict ridden interactions. Often attempts become ensnared in litigation between the diverse stakeholders rather than finding ways forward that address the real issue of limited water supply that all Californians must face.
Yet representatives on the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply (CRWFS), came together over the past four years and agreed on a transformational, whole systems approach they called “Connectivity ” to address California’s water and food supply issues. This post reflects on how they can to this remarkable resolve […]
A significant change impacts not only what we can observe on the outer side of things; it is also a process that is deeply felt. On a day-to-day basis, however, we tend to forget this is so. We are comfortable with the familiar and are focused on getting things done. But when confronted with change, it can feel like a shock or deeply disruptive experience.
Change – whether sought or unwanted – disrupts our routines, pulls us out of our comfort zone and forces us to navigate new territory. We come face to face with the fact that change is a process initiated by something that has come to an end.
In his book Transitions (1980) William Bridges refers back to Arnold van Gennep’s anthropological work and names the three phases of change: 1) endings, 2) the neutral zone and 3) new beginnings. Of course, moving through the middle phase is not as dispassionate as the word ‘neutral’ would suggest—but more about the second phase in my next post.
Every transition begins with an ending. We have to let go of the old before […]
In the early 1980’s William Bridges wrote his first popular book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. His work found wide acceptance and Bridges became an internationally known speaker, author, and consultant advising individuals and organizations in how to deal productively with change.
In the 90’s he published Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, a guide for supporting change in organizations. Since then he has written several more related books with his most profound book on change The Way of Transitions: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments in 2001.
In his first book Bridges makes some very important points about the human capacity to deal with change and the pattern that basically defines any change process. Bridges early writing significantly draws on studies by renowned anthropologists such as Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner and Marcia Eliade that highlight the archetypal patterns of change and how these patterns can be so clearly observed in indigenous cultures.
Indigenous traditions show us how we as human beings always have supported significant experiences of change on the individual and community level through rituals of passages such as initiations. Today, however, […]
Change is an increasingly pervasive phenomenon. In this global world we cross increasingly more boundaries, cultures and belief system. We have expanded our sense of freedom and exponentially increased the range of choices we have. At the same time many of us have become disconnected from a sense of belonging to place, community, and the organizations we work for. The complexity and ambiguity created by these conditions are obscuring the path and patterns of change contributing to increasingly more change processes being interrupted, neglected and even abandoned.
The sociologist Arpad Szakolczai captures the impact that the pervasive presence of continuous change has on us in the following way: “Human life is not possible and worth living without some degree of stability, meaning and sense of home. Liminality [the transformative phase in a transition process] is indeed a source of renewal, a restoration of meaning and the pouring of fresh wine into an old bottle. But if there are no proper “bottles”, the fermenting power is diluted and lost. If everything is constantly changing, then things always remain the same.” (Reflexive Historical Sociology, 2000)
All of us, especially those who are responsible for leading […]
Change and transformation are central to the human experience. The patterns and rhythms of change follow archetypal processes that can be observed wherever the cycle of endings and new beginnings spirals its course—in nature and in the human community. Transformation is the renewal function of any living system.
Cultural traditions from all over the world have a rich repertoire of knowledge about these pattern and rhythms and how to best support them. These perspectives add much depth to our contemporary Western models of change. For example, indigenous traditions teach us the interdependencies between change and stability, and the Eastern traditions about the principle of impermanence.
Here is a perspective on change and stability from oldest culture living on Earth today, the Kalahari Bushman/San people. In Bushman cosmology and their story about the workings of the universe, the process that endlessly changes form is considered to be God. This Big God has two sides: the stable side and the trickster side. Their circular interaction creates change and generates growth, maturation, and transformation.
According to a Cgunta Bushman healer, “Our most important idea is thuru. That is, the process in which one form changes into another […]
A couple of months ago I participated in the Wisdom Emerging retreat at IONS with Alan Briskin, Lauren Artress and Angeles Arrien. I began making the painting above during the retreat’s expressive arts process and completed it a couple of weeks later. The painting symbolizes significant aspects of the rite of passage that I am currently in. Here are my thoughts about the making of the painting and what it represents. As always I welcome your comments and questions.
Technique and Australian Symbolism
The painting is made within the art tradition of the Eastern Arrernte People of the Central Desert in Australia. I have been very inspired by the art of Kathleen Kemarre Wallace. She uses extremely bright colors and very intricate designs to tell the story of her people and her land. It is worth mentioning here that there are tight protocols about who can produce Aboriginal art. I have had to deal with this issue since I began exploring Aboriginal art making when I first moved to Australia. It is very important to state here that my art is not Aboriginal art. My art has primarily been an inquiry into Aboriginal culture. […]
During one of my visits to the Central Desert to participate in the women’s ceremonies, several Aboriginal women went hunting for honey ants and took a friend of mine and me along. Before we left I knew very little about these ants except that they had a great cultural significance to the Aboriginal people. In the middle of the day we spent several hours out bush in the sweltering heat hunting and digging for these ants and what we received in return was priceless. Aside from tasting the sweet nectar of these honey ants, I was able to witness the refined perceptive powers of Central Desert people, hear a story that sensitized me to the pain of Aboriginal women, appreciate the nourishing power of one of their bush foods, and see how Aboriginal symbols as found in many of their paintings reflect what we can observe in nature. Shortly after this particular trip to the desert I made the painting above to capture the story of our experience that day.
As we took off for the hunt, the burning sun penetrated our bodies and the red sand drenched in sunlight radiated heat […]
When I first became introduced into indigenous spiritual healing traditions, I began to experience things that were out of the ordinary and outside of the rules of modern western conventions that I grew up with. Many of these extraordinary experiences deeply resonated with me and somehow they felt familiar. There was a part in me that recognized the wisdom, knowledge and healing powers present in these ancient practices. However when trying to articulate and research my experiences, I often wondered whether or not what I was experiencing was real or imagined. Was I actually entering different realities, worlds and places or did I simply shift into an altered state of consciousness or awareness? After some research into these questions I realized that whether something is called altered ‘state’ or alternate ‘reality’ depends on the cosmology or ontology that one uses to understand, interpret or relate to an experience.
Cosmology & Ontology
A cosmology is a set of beliefs about how the universe works and ontology seeks to define the nature of being, existence and reality. Both of these belief systems can vary dramatically from one culture to the next and profoundly shape how […]
A few posts ago I shared my perception that ceremonies are a collective healing response to the existential experiences of being human. This clarity crystallized when I participated earlier this year in Women’s Business (Ceremonies) with Aboriginal Elder Women in the Central Desert. Previous experiences with indigenous ceremonies elsewhere, helped shape the foundations for this understanding.
Ceremonies in general are a way to step out of the ordinary goings-on of daily life to enter a sacred space for personal and collective healing through praying, singing, dancing, silence and the laying on of hands. Ceremonial practices generate movement toward wholeness and wellness by removing the blockages and heavy energy that we accumulate as part of living daily life. These blockages and layers of heavy energy prevent us from feeling and recognizing one’s belonging to this world, that we are an integral part of the great weave of life, and that the living energy travels among, through and between us.
My experience in the Central Desert reflected and confirmed other experiences I have had with indigenous people: in Africa with the Kalahari Bushman, with the Andean indigenous People of Peru, and with Native American ceremonies […]