I first worked with Mayvin when they partnered with my organisation to run an Action Research based Community of Practice (CoP). The CoP consisted of coaches and Organisation Development (OD) facilitators who came together to share and reflect on the organisation’s new leadership development programme and its impact, as well as learn with and from each other.
When I heard about the Mayvin Here and Now Group - a professional development group for OD and HR practitioners, coaches and facilitators - I was keen to work with Mayvin again as the learning I had gained through the CoP had been significant and I wanted to deepen my OD practice. I was also a little hesitant, as I knew that the learning would have depth and therefore I would need to be open to all that comes with deep learning. So, basically, I joined the Mayvin Here and Now group because I was a little bit afraid to!
I wanted to challenge myself and I trusted Mayvin to hold a space for me to do that, safely. As an OD practitioner and organisational learning facilitator, I speak to those I work with often about the ‘icky bits of learning’ and I encourage them to lean into the discomfort they may feel. In fact, I build programmes based on a fully formed commitment to wholly experiential learning to enable development that happens at a deeper level. So, I embarked on the programme with a view to having space for me to think and learn, to deepen my practice and to sharpen my skills. I reckoned that if I could experience the ‘ickiness’ and survive, this would reinvigorate my practice, reconnect my OD roots and in turn, enable me to hold the space better for others’ learning.
The practice of being in the here and now was an amazing experience. The Mayvin Here and Now Group, facilitated by James and Martin, came from a range of organisations and industry, and by and large, the members were in roles where they contributed to the development of organisations and their people. The connections I made with the other participants had its own benefits in relation to learning about different practices, challenges and approaches.
Learning about being in the here and now was the main focus of the group and we practised this in increasing lengths of time each month. It was a practice of relating without purpose and what this abandonment of edges, enables and exposes. The fact that it is highly experiential in nature means that to benefit from the richness of the learning you need to have a willingness to immerse yourself fully into the unknown of the here and now. There is always choice of course, to sit back or to dive in, and there is learning in both.
What I noticed for me was that I feel safe when I think I know how to do things the right way, and of course when there are no edges, this (albeit false) sense of security goes away. It was a fantastic insight to understand more deeply, that I am uncomfortable with experiences without edges or boundaries and in life I build frameworks or ‘rules’ around things to contain them – or even rely on others for reassurance. Interestingly, it became clear that how you show up when the purpose is taken away, is how you show up in the world. This experience led me to understand more fully why I search for safety nets and the illusion of security so much. Here & Now gave me the opportunity to explore this, supported by wise facilitation and a group, who were on the journey with me.
So, my practice in the group and beyond it, became sitting with the discomfort of the here and now and through listening to myself (physiologically, cognitively and emotionally), noticing what happened for me. Bringing my experience into consciousness and shining a light on it, enabled me to see things and learn things that I wouldn’t have done in more traditional learning.
The experience is phenomenally powerful, even if from the outside it may just look like a group of people sitting in a circle, sometimes in silence. There is no ‘just’ about it, in the space of the here and now, there is the surface of things, and the opportunity to dive deep into the water and shine light into the crevices.
The space to reflect and experiment expanded as the trust in the group grew each time and with that, the learning broadened. The Mayvin Here and Now Group brought in some theory as well, including Gestalt, to help us unpick the here and now practice, further.
Staying in the here and now (and not wandering off to the ‘there and then’) was fundamental learning and noticing how the process helped with this, in the system and dynamic of the group, was fascinating. Compassion and understanding were core themes of the experience and as this emerged in the group, both for self and for others, it enabled supportive challenge to grow in how we learned and helped each other learn. It takes something to be in the here and now…. some courage, some focus, a willingness to be vulnerable in the learning, a willingness to allow this vulnerability for others, and not always know what to do.
Becoming aware of my body as a source of information has translated easily into my day to day work, and helps me to step back and make more objective choices in the moment. When facilitating groups, I have learned to let the silence do the heavy lifting and the edges to emerge or dissipate. Here and Now helped me to appreciate that what is not said often holds equal power as what is said. I have been better at allowing solutions to surface rather than being a problem solver all the time. This is quite liberating.
Whilst Mayvin absolutely created and helped us hold the space to learn safely, the process over the Mayvin Here and Now Group enabled us to increasingly hold it for ourselves – both collectively and individually. And so, when it comes to me, fundamentally, I learned that the only person who can provide safety for me, is me, and that has made all the difference.
I wrote this poem about my experience:
They were mine
In the spaces, and they were mine, I can listen
To the words as if they were planets, floating
Spinning, relinquished, jacketed in meaning.
The planets halt, having and holding the
Halfway spoken, almost felt, partially received
Jets of feeling, an aurora borealis
Alas, an almost aching sigh swings unsteadily
Around and within, without walls or whispers.
The circle closed by fourteen pairs of knees
Alert, waiting, hoping, fearful, heavily
Flanked with note books, scarves, gentle fingers
Tense hands, tissues, handbags, and warm
Cups of tea wavering while waiting for the
Stuff of the moment, of life, of past and
Hopes and pain and peacock feathers
The here and the now magnified
Mirroring, like at the funfair, the frailty
Foraged, founding, fight and fluidity
Patterns, poking out, reaching, stretching
Into the space - saturns of our souls
Swaying into the system, the
Space for our shadows
by Naomi Lockwood, Head of Group Learning and Development, Cambridge Assessment - member of the 2015 Mayvin Here and Now Group