Liminal Pathways Blog

Recovering an Indigenous View of the World: The Sundance – Post 2

The Sundance Ceremony of the North American Great Plains People (which includes territories of the Cree people in Canada) is a prayer for life, the renewal of the world and thanksgiving. Dancers make spiritual and physical offerings to ensure the well-being of others.


In Post 1, I wrote about the possibility of recovering an indigenous view of the world and how building bridges of understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous people can help create shifts toward a more holistic, ecological, spiritual, resilient and life affirming approach.

In this post, The Sundance, I share my personal experiences participating in the ceremony. I describe shifts in my awareness, my felt sense, and the energetic movements I experienced. Several times, I apply what I have come to understand from my long-time exploration of ceremonial practices to my experience of the Sundance. I also share a few comments about the traditional meaning and purpose of the Sundance while trying to avoid details that I feel are not mine to share, especially as as a non-Cree and non-Native

I offer this post to give a sense of what it is like to encounter an indigenous view of the world by participating in an indigenous ceremony. Of course, what I am describing is filtered through my perspective and what might be a given or transparent to an indigenous person may simply not be visible to me. *I have also included a range of images in this post. Please check out my comments in the footer.

In the upcoming Post 3: Back Home, I will reflect on the intentions I had for participating in the ceremony in the first place and the impact the ceremony had on me.


Those of us coming to the Sundance for the first time were treated to a welcoming video call with […]

Recovering An Indigenous View of the World: Reflections on A Cree Sundance – Post 1

* How can a person immersed in western society recover an indigenous worldview? What are the ways that indigenous and non-indigenous people can build bridges of mutual appreciation and understanding? Can building such bridges help create shifts and a transformation toward a more holistic, ecological, spiritual, resilient and life affirming approach?


In this series of posts, of which this one is the first, I share about my experience of participating in a Cree Sundance near Calgary, Canada. POST 1: Rather than going right into describing the experience I reflect on the generative and challenging tensions that are part of crossing cultural boundaries and world views and why it is important to explore them. POST 2: Here I describe what I experienced as part of allowing myself to become deeply immersed into the Cree Sundance. POST 3: Finally, I speak about my personal intentions for going and how it is deepening my inner healing journey and personal growth. It explores the theme of forgiveness without approval in the face of misuse of power and authority.


Inclusion: A Necessary Step toward Collaboration

A few weeks ago, I participated in my first Sundance ceremony with the Cree people, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Calgary, Canada. It is not a regular practice for Native people to invite non-Natives. This group’s openness to share their ceremony with people from across cultures makes me hopeful for our future. For those who participate from other cultures or traditions, the ceremonies open the door to experiencing the Cree’s cultural practices and worldview and the deep wisdom in this spiritual healing tradition. Of course, like the others coming from the outside, I will never be indigenous and will never grasp the totality […]

A Year of Leading Change with The Metropolitan Council – An Invitation

Gisela & David introduce the Grove’s facilitation model.

Recently as part of my role at The Grove Consultants International, I had the opportunity to work with the Metropolitan Council  in the twin city of Minnesota to them help them develop their internal process and change leadership capability. I partnered with David Sibbet and together we designed and co-led a one-year Leading Change Program for 20 of their emerging leaders. The program was successful all around and we feel encouraged to offer it again.

Below is a look inside the program and what we did to embed it into the organization in order to build capacity by addressing existing change challenges the organization was already facing. If this approach, learning by doing and doing by learning, resonates with you, and you would like to support such a program within your organization or are interested in participating in a public offering of this program, we invite you to write to us.

Our Client

The Metropolitan Council is a regional body, overseeing all of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s wastewater, transit system, housing projects, and regional planning efforts. One of the major goals of the council is to work increasingly more systemically and collaboratively not only within the organization but also regionally and with the communities they serve. The council also has come to understand that the amount and magnitude of change that they will be facing is only increasing. The general manager of Environmental Services, one of the council’s divisions, for example, has the vision to facilitate creating an integrated and environmentally sustainable water management approach by 2050. This vision is called, One Water.

It is within the context of our client recognizing that […]

Harvesting Liminal Songlines – Honoring the Aboriginal Tradition of Australia

Uluru at Dusk, Central Desert, Australia

This past fall I went live with my new website and blog Liminal Pathways. Liminal Pathways is also the title of a framework I have developed based on my evolving understanding of rites of passages as an archetypal framework for understanding human systems change. The word liminal comes from the Latin and means threshold or margin. It alludes to the in-between period in a change process where we are no longer the old and not yet the new, when the transformative process is the most active. The Liminal Pathways blog features essays on this topic.

In this post I introduce 13 essays that are very special to me and which I originally wrote for my Liminal Songlines blog. I these essays I reflect on my experiences exploring the spiritual healing tradition of the Aboriginal people of Australia while I was living there from 2009 to 2012. I write about the timeless wisdom of the Aboriginal people, their ceremonial practices and art, what they can teach us about relating to the land, and how to care for ourselves and each other during a time of change and challenge. You can find links to these essays at the bottom of this post.

Learning About Ceremonies: The Peruvian Andes and The Kalahari

My prior immersion into the shamanic/mystical tradition of the indigenous people of the Peruvian Andes, specifically the Q’eros, together with my participation in the healing dances of Kalahari Bushman in Africa, had instilled in me a deep desire to go deeper.

My field trips to these remote places helped me understand how traditional people live their lives in a world in which spirit is present all around […]

The Challenge of Changing Culture: Promise and Perils

I have been thinking a lot about how organizational cultures change and the challenges that are part of adopting and developing new cultural practices and norms. It is clear to me that culture change requires attention over time, reflecting on what is working and what is not, and a co-creative approach to help make it stick. But I have a cautionary tale about imposing processes that we believe in on people who aren’t ready.

This is a story from my years teaching at Sonoma State University, when I first began teaching a core curriculum course in humanistic psychology to undergraduate students. This was when I encountered an interesting culture change challenge, symbolized by moving chairs.  […]

October 25th, 2018|Change, Culture|0 Comments

Creating a Culture of Collaboration and Change at a College of Business Administration

Recently I teamed up with Laurie Durnell, The Grove’s co-president, to design and facilitate a visioning and culture development process with the College of Business Administration at Cal Poly Pomona. The college of six academic departments and more than 5,000 students needed to move beyond a culture of silos, update some of its administrative processes, and address what seemed to be a lack of opportunities for innovation. As the college was getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary and was shifting from a quarter-based to two-semester-based system, the timing was ripe for a major renewal process.

This is a story of how change methodology, dialogic practice, and visual facilitation combined to achieve a successful result, symbolized by the completed Grove Storymap® (see above).

Launching the Project

Our first step in the process was getting clear on the specific objectives. The dean of the college, Dr. Erik Rolland, asked us to:

  • Support the college to move beyond a culture of silos to become a culture that more fully embraces change, collaboration and innovation;
  • Develop a strategic vision and associated initiatives that inspire new and bold actions to stay competitive in the marketplace while working with very real resource constraints;
  • Strengthen the momentum for several major procedural changes, including moving from an academic quarter system to a two-semester system.

To begin building relationships, we held initial interviews with representatives from the various academic departments and staff units to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing the college and to assess the college’s readiness for change. Erik was interested in activating organization-wide support for change, and he knew of The Grove’s high-engagement processes and how they support alignment around change and […]





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