This past weekend, I spent my time with forty others on Whidbey Island, Washington at a retreat on "The Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter" -- a practice for all who aspire to learn and find new ways of working with others to create innovative and comprehensive solutions. The Art of Hosting is also a leadership practise focused on creating organizational learning, development and change through meaningful conversations that support commitment and ownership and release the power of collective intelligence.
Below is a fairy tale I wrote while at the retreat -- a way of describing some of my learning:
Once upon a time a man was journeying far from his home when he came to a small house in a deep forest. The winter night was fast approaching, the temperature was falling fast, and dusk was setting in.
He knocked at the door, and hearing no answer, entered. No one appeared to be living in the house, though it seemed to have been prepared for guests. The single bed was comfortably outfitted with sheets and pillows and a warm down-filled comforter. A reading lamp hung over an overstuffed couch. A black iron wood stove settled on its hearth, accompanied by a few sticks of kindling, newspaper sheets ready for the crumpling, a handful of kitchen matches, and a couple of perfectly-sized logs.
The man lit the lamp and made a fire; soon the room warmed up and the sound of the crackling fire made its way deep into his bones. He sat on the couch eating his dinner of bread and cheese, washing his meal down with a bit of red wine left from lunch. Outside he could hear the sound of an owl calling from a tree overhead.
When he went to bed he lay awake for several minutes, moving deeper into the comforter, burying his head in the pillow, smelling the smoke of the wood fire and digging his way down through layers of consciousness. In his dreams, he was a child again. He moved through the corridors of a large house full of people and their voices, the smell of food being prepared in the kitchen, the hum of conversation in the living room, the sound of someone playing hymns on the piano. He went through a door leading to stairs down into the basement and closed the door behind him.
Abruptly, the sounds of the house died down and the darkness enveloped him. He stood for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim light, and then continued down the stairs. At the bottom, he went on past the hulking shape of the furnace, past the coal pile, past the piles of boxes and the workbench and the plywood board with its miniature train tracks and bridges, tiny trees and tunnels.
He went all the way to the back of the basement where there was a small unpainted door in the darkest part of the basement. He opened the door and went down and into bright sunlight, blue skies, and green meadows.