About knitting and stitches: Enspiral as a close-knit relational network.

I have been musing over the old saying “A stitch in time saves nine!”

At the recent Stewardship Retreat we acknowledged, celebrated and practiced the hugely beneficial effect of healthy relationships between independent, caring adults. Relationships that are not power games but enriching and mutually nourishing. If I imagine the Enspiral network as a live organism, I would liken healthy relationships to be the blood pumping through it all.

But how do we get there, transforming Stewardship theory to good habits and everyday practice?

Some background reflections

The push for independent and free individualism over the last hundred years has been an understandable and essential change, to slowly shift out of the paradigm of power, inequality and suppression. However, this drive for independent individualism appears to have gone too far, hugely contributing to today’s often described sense of isolation. This swing needs to now find a new balance.

Hinduism says “So Hum” which means, ‘You are, therefore I am”.

In parts of Africa, there is a word ‘ubuntu’ meaning ‘we are’ and there is no such thing in their language for ‘I am’, it is always ‘we are’, acknowledging the web of relationships.

Buddhism has many ways of describing this interconnectedness, calling us all ‘inter-beings’: “To be is to inter-be” (which creates the word ‘inter-est’!).

Satish Kumar’s book ‘You are, therefore I am’ describes these world-views as the so-called ‘Relational Philosophies’, as opposed to ‘Separational Philosophies’ based on intellect and competition (“I think, therefore I am”), which dominated the direction of Western science, politics, social order, and now technology. Life needed to be explained, measured and categorised. Trust was replaced with doubt and dualism (right or wrong, yes or no, in or out). Kumar sees this dualistic world-view as the root of the crisis of our time.

Otto Scharmer (“Theory U”) appears to agree with him (and so do I) as he talks with deep concern about our spiritual/cultural (as an individual), social and ecological divide, with an urgent plea to find ways to connect on all three levels. Kumar calls it “existing through connecting and participating”.

We are inherently social beings and this explains why a sense of belonging appears to be essential for our wellbeing. We may be rightly proud of our biographical story as a unique individual but it needs to be seen in the context of our ancestors, family, community, environment, tradition and culture.

I ponder over:

  • How to flourish in community without losing one’s freedom as an independent adult?
  • How to deeply respect and celebrate the quirky uniqueness of each individual?
  • How the context of family, community, environment, tradition and culture can be strengthening and not stifling, leaving plenty of space for innovation and creativity? Not “this is how we do things here”.
  • How to blend these quirky individuals in a cohesive organism without needing to hack and sand away the interesting edges and margins, without trying to make anyone ‘fit in’?
  • How to remain a fruit salad and not become a smoothie?
  • Can we blend and keep all the pieces at the same time? A smoothie with lumps?

I believe this to be one of the many never-ending balancing acts of life, balancing your individual needs with your partner’s or your community’s needs. It just isn’t easy.

The vision for Enspiral as a relational network

The wish and commitment for collaboration and partnership in the Enspiral network is wonderful. I strongly experienced this in my first real contact with Enspiral members during the Summerfest in Castlepoint this year. There I felt I could sense the pulse of the ‘being of Enspiral’.

The vision of Enspiral as a relational network is clearly articulated in Enspiral’s artefacts and many written documents. I am assuming this translates into job descriptions and advertisements, relationship and team working skills being a sought after key attribute. And still, there is a limit of what wishes and statements and documents can achieve to change habits in everyday life. Relationships are not a thing which can be built in retreats and then it is done and ticked off. The building and maintaining of relationships takes time! Every day! And relationships change! Every day!

Utterly essential and critical!! I see this regnerative nurturing of relationships as essential as electricity is for your latest gadget. It wouldn’t occur to you to expect your gadget to work without plugging it in. In that same way, ‘plug in’ your organization/initiative and strive for deep connections with each other.

Despite the genuine collective agreement and commitment to see relationships as critically important, I am imagining that the effective implementation will only occur, step by step, through the commitment of the individual making it a personal priority when allocating the ‘time budget’ for the week.

An invitation for a specific individual commitment to practice daily reflection

I invite you to make it a habit and routine to review your day, less through the lens of ‘What did I do and achieve? but more through ‘How did I interact with my fellow humans?’

I believe a deep, quiet moment at the end of the day for reflection is a powerful tool and strategy for learning and honing soft life skills, such as relationship and team building skills. You are with yourself all day, and have witnessed your actions and behaviour all day. You must be the best person to assess and give feedback!

I treasure letting the day go through my head, like a movie, re-living some key interactions and conversations, with questions such as:

  • What was the intention of that conversation? Information transfer, problem solving on either side, collective problem solving, conflict resolution, or looking for human connection, warmth and compassion?
  • Who asked for it? You or your colleague/partner?
  • Did it feel like a conversation of two self-responsible, independent adults, or did it spiral into some sort of unbalanced power dynamics?
  • Who did most of the talking?
  • Was the intention of the conversation fulfilled?
  • Did it result in clear requests, considering each others needs or wants?
  • Did I really listen and witness/celebrate the other’s story?

Such a reflection often leads me to wishing for some feedback or clarification the next day. And being open for feedback will mean learning. Yes, this takes TIME…

I just can’t think of any way around that. Healthy relationships are not built in a day (just like Rome wasn’t…). And that is where it takes an agreement on an organizational level to allow a considerable ‘time budget’ in everyone’s week for this crucial part of our work. This can become such a challenge when surrounded by pressure for measurable output.

And that is where the old saying fits in: A stitch in time (aka conversation over coffee) saves nine (aka hours of mediation). I truly believe, going slow in a strategic crucial moment can become the new fast.

If a trickle of human energy can make a difference, imagine what a river can do….