Today I’m sharing a conversation with Larissa Conte, who I connected with last year at the Responsive Conference in New York.
Larissa is a transformation designer, systems coach, and executive rites of passage guide through her business, Wayfinding. Larissa specializes in facilitating aliveness and alignment across organizational scales to cultivate power that serves.
In her talk, she did a physical demonstration with the conference host Robin Zander that really inspired me to connect with her and have her on the show. (Also, you can check out my conversation with Robin on asking better questions here).
She and Robin did a sort of “push hands” play to show how you can push back against a force coming at you, or let it flow past you while holding your center of gravity. It was a powerful physical metaphor for dynamics we have all experienced in our relationships and work and illustrates different choices we can take in these tense situations.
Larissa and I have a far-ranging conversation about power, structure and ritual in our work as consultants in team and organizational transformation. I want to draw your attention to a few interesting ideas:
Rituals can be designed.Teams run on rituals, day in and day out. Week by week, patterns are followed, usually without question. Re-designing those rituals takes time and consideration, but it’s worth doing.
Facilitators can use ritual to create comfort for themselves and others.There are lots of patterns and exercises I use to build safety or energy for myself and others.You can create your own safe space and the more often you do, the easier it becomes.
Power can be taken, given or used. You can also choose your own response to power sent your way. I like to say you can fight the power or dance with the power.
Larissa makes an essential point though: there is power that is socially or culturally conferred or inferred based on stories we tell ourselves and each other. These stories are based on nothing more than what we see: skin color, gender or other body characteristics. Power that is given through these cultural stories is privilege. Power taken through these stories is oppression.
One of the most powerful things we can do as change-makers is to notice and question these stories.
Seeing is the first step. Larissa points out that if you can’t feel the energy in the room, it’s hard to do anything to shift it. If you don’t see the effect these stories have on our day-to-day lives, it can be very hard to change them.
Wayfinding is seeing signs and finding our way on poorly marked paths. Wayfinding has it’s roots in traditional cultures: The Polynesisans could use the stars, wind and waves to find their way across tremendous ocean distances. Similarly, Native Americans used signals of all sorts to find food, shelter and sacred spaces.In her Wayfinding work, Larissa is calling our attention to these old ways of seeing and asking us to use our own senses to see the signposts in our lives and work.
Inner sensing is valid. One thing I always try to convey in my facilitation masterclasses is that you are in the room and you experience what is in the room. It can be hard to know if we,ourselves, are anxious about our role as facilitators or if the room is experiencing anxiety. It’s only by getting in touch with our inner sensations that we can ever tell the difference between our own experience and our experience of what’s happening in the room. Larissa points out that there can be a stigma to that which is felt and that which exists“only” in our interior,beyond the reach of measuring tools.
I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.
Larissa Conte on the web:
Larissa’s talk at Responsive 2018
Robin Zander on Asking Better Questions: What's Your North Star?http://theconversationfactory.com/podcast/2019/4/23/robin-p-zander-asking-better-questions
The Future of Work
The Teal Movement:
for more on Self Management check out my episode with Sally Sally McCutchion on Holacracy and Self Management at all levels of organization
Othering and Belonging:
Alan Watts on The Intelligence of the World
Wade Davis: The Wayfinders:
Kate Quarfordt On the Seasons of Creative Conversations: http://theconversationfactory.com/podcast/2017/9/19/kate-quarfordt-on-the-seasons-of-creative-conversations
All right, Larissa, welcome to the conversation factory, then! We're here...
That you so much, Daniel! So happy to be in the factory!
You know, so I don't normally talk about this, but it's like, it is this really sort of confusing analogy cause it's like it's this thing that's organic and then you, yet, here we are, we manufacture them. Which you do, right? So you, you design rituals, which, um, which seem to be, uh, what sort of I'm looking for inherently paradoxical, which I've never, you know, we didn't talk about talking about this, but that's something interesting. Can you, can you, when, when you're at a party, uh, what do you tell people you do when they ask you that really horrible question of like, what do you do? They're like, oh, so Larissa, so what do you do? And you say...
I usually will respond based on how we've already been speaking. Yes. Because I'm aware of the listening they're bringing to the conversation. Yeah. And so, um, I often share that I have my own business called wayfinding and that I work with people to cultivate power that serves through bringing forth aliveness, connection alignment across scales of self, relationship and organization. Oh and I love the quality of the noticing you just had about ritual and the, the paradox in it. Um, in my designs, what I'm doing rights of passage with people, um, and I'll share about this and we can see how things unfold from here. Um, I try to find the minimum necessary structure to hold the space. It's very Goldielocks and the three bears. Yeah. It's like not enough structure.. Like you don't get the fire. It's very similar to starting a fire. It's like if you have like four pieces of kindling that are spaced very far apart, like that thing's not going to start. And if you have too much structure and there's too much wood jammed in there, again, there's not enough air. So you need a balance between structure and space for the flow of like the creative life force and the beings participating and in life itself to do its dance. So I try to find like, what is the tone of what this person or this group needs to support their unfolding.
So, so we're going to go back now... That's like... Wonderful because there's like, there's a ton of stuff to unpack there. And, and so like I have, um, one of my, uh, I'm gonna, I'm in a men's group and a men's community and one of the leaders, he, he sort of like sometimes puts up all like a little flag where he's like, okay, so we're going into the "woo woo" part. And for some of you who are not into the woo, this is woo, but there's still stuff in here that is that one needs to know because when I come into facilitation stuff, some people think about energy and energy in the room and some people don't. Like some people can feel the energy in the room and some people are like, what are you talking about? Right? And like you're talking at the analogy you're using of like it's a fire and you kindle it and you maintain it and you don't, you make sure it doesn't burn out. And I add more fuel to it. Like, like as a metaphor. It's really, really powerful metaphor.
Do you, do you ever find that like where's the fine line between people who are like, this is too much, this is the right amount or I want more woo from you in your work. Cause I know you do work inside of companies as well. And like companies have different appetites for, uh, you know, the age of Aquarius, right?
Which like I'm not necessarily like waiving the age of Aquarius banner. And yet the things that I bring in my toolkit and my experience and my consciousness to people can get labeled in the "woo woo" which is hilarious to me because ...um....so I have a, I did my master's with a cultural focus, a cultural anthropology focus to understand the origin of the idea in western culture that humans are separate from nature. And I track the unfolding of that through Europe and colonization. And then as it's spread across what is now the United States. And so I'm constantly listening. It's fascinating that we call things "woo woo". And I'm going to, we're getting there. Yeah. Um, because it connotes a stigma to that which is felt and that which exists in our interior.
And all of my work is fundamentally based in helping people recognize that our sensing intelligence.
One is actually an intelligence and two that it's not, um, that is not secondary to our intellect. So one, it exists and two it is incredibly powerful. And so how do we begin to build muscle with sensing and recognize that, um, and I, the way, so the way I find this edge with groups is I listen and I do so much work to make the invisible visible. Because all of these energetic dynamics, if we're, so we're in a, we're in a meeting, let's say you and I are in a meeting and we have another colleague and we all happen to be in a company and we're discussing like the budget and we're just going over the numbers and you say something that triggers me based on my background, based on the two physical bodies and identities we inhabit all of a sudden something else's in the room.
And something else is happening. But we keep using words that refer to the budget. But there's another silent conversation, that takes the foreground, it takes the stage. And so a lot of what I do with people is I help them gain the awareness and the capacity to recognize the invisible conversation of power and connection or disconnection that is always speaking. People can be like, oh, that just got so weird. And it's like, well, like here are all the reasons why that's just got weird and here's what we can do to come back into connection. Yeah.
So like there's several things I want to unpack there. Yeah. Cause this guys, I think this idea of talking about making the invisible visible is really cool. And this goes to where we met. So the thing that I think would be interesting when you, when you talked about making the invisible visible and power dynamics, I've thought what was really cool was the, let's call it the physical play that you did with, with Robin at the, at the Responsive Conference last year, which was last year now where you, you did a power play, um, with your bodies. And I'm wondering if you can potentially talk a little bit about that and cause you definitely made this invisibility visible.
Yeah. Yeah. So I can describe that experience. It's something that I've found really immediately makes these things go from the subtle to the obvious and they like pop into the foreground. So the first thing that I did with Robin was I demonstrated how there are two primary like responses that humans can have when they come into a situation where like their boundaries are pushed upon or which we can call conflict. Um, and, and, and like, um, neuroscience... It's (inaudible) like fight, flight or freeze from the Amygdala. But physically what really happens is someone will either, like I had Robin come up and I put my hands up in front of me and I asked him to push me and I demonstrated one response. And one response is like taking a step back and, and losing your ground,
taking the hit basically.
Yeah. Taking the hit, um, which can be like flight or freeze. And then the other one I said, okay, now I'm going to show you the other end of the spectrum. And I asked him to come push on me and I pushed back really hard.And he was like "agh!"
Cause he didn't expect it. Cause I think the first thing you'd demonstrated, to him is like, I'm a pushover
I am literally a pushover. And then, and then like I'm a push backer, which is like I'm a fighter. But there's a third way that we get to practice is how, how to stand in our center. And then when a push comes, um, to like disarm the patterning that we hold internally, that the other person is our adversary. It's like, no, we're just having tension. And like, I'm not gonna fight you, but I'm also not going to, to give way on my needs and my space and my boundary in here and I want to be in conversation with you.
Yeah. Yeah. And, and that sort of, uh, it's like when you, let's push hands, right. And it's, it's using your center of gravity to flow with their center of gravity. I, I, what I loved about that was it is a physicalization of what's my relationship to conflict. Yeah. Yeah.
And what, what are the subtle things that comes through that is when I've had, I've led many groups through doing this and I only, I'm just, you know, spoiler alert, anyone who might do this with me, um, I'll have groups do it and I won't tell them what we're going to do at first because your body just does, it just responds naturally. Like people just do with their bodies what their wiring is. And that's actually doing all the time and conversation anyway.
Well, so how do you set it up? Do you say like, oh, try to push each other over or are you like, so how do you, how do you try to
I have people like take up the amount of space that feels good to them with their arms and they're like air shape it and like feel what feels good and were kind of laughing cause it's ridiculous and people look like idiots. And that's a very good way to like disarm people. Um, and then it's also a very good effective way to get people to walk into what feels woo and recognize there's wisdom in it. So I have them shaped the space. And then I have them stand in front of a partner and for one partner to volunteer to receive a push first, but by taking up the amount of space that felt good to them and then to just notice what their body does notice, like talk about what both of them saw and then they do it. to the other person. And then we have a room conversation.
Yeah. Yeah. And, and just sort of unpacking people will have their own natural responses to those two things to, to, to that pushing and maintaining boundaries.
Because the way we do anything is the way we do everything. So it's like you can't undo it. And it's also interesting because the two similar to the Yin Yang symbol. Um, they fold into each other. Yeah. So if someone's a pushover, there'll be like a pushover, a pushover, a pushover, right. And you could, you may have experienced this personally or in a relationship or like someone will take the hit again and again and then there'll be this like explosion of resentment and push back.
Yeah. Yeah. And so people are then reflecting on that experience, right? What I love about this is that when I teach facilitation, I often talk about the difference between an icebreaker and an eye opener. And
And very often I feel like there's a lot of people who are like, oh, I need to break the ice! Like how do you do that? Like, I want an icebreaker for this, this, and this. And you're like, what would you really want to do? Is like what's an activity that can get people to be energized but also get them an entrance into something deeper. And I think, um, this is a really interesting example of like something that, you know, how to like this, I'm guessing for you, if you do this often it's potentially a ritual for you and your workshops. Like it's something that is comfortable for you to lead.
It's an easy time, a little doorway to walk through. You know, cause then people are like, oh, with like my parents and my boss and my like that friend of mine, I'm like, that one teacher I had, you know, they just start seeing the map of their life in a different way. And a lot of my, like what I love about that is because I like supporting people to redraw the maps of their life. Two questions. The lines that have been drawn, the territories that they're told are, um, like successful to aim towards the territories that they're told to avoid and to instead reconsider and start to become more proactive authors of the maps of their life and the routines of their life and their relationship habits and their self talk and what they create in order to bring out more aliveness in their own being. That's my number one metric is alive.
So I think this is where we can do the entry point into the pre-question of what's the conversation you're trying to create in the world and how are you designing it? Because wayfinding is a, is a powerful analogy but also like a very different way of talking about personal leadership and some of the, there's, there's more traditional ways and then there's this other entry point which are bringing in like talk to me about this metaphor and how you came to it. Like take me on your journey into this being your entry point to wanting to this to be your conversation with your, with, with the world.
Hmm. Yeah. The heart of the conversation that I aim to foster in the world is greater awareness of worldviews and behaviors that support disconnection and worldviews and behaviors that support connection.
And to understand the, how these patterns live and breathe through our relationships, our society, our storytelling, our values, the things we consume and where we're habituated to and how power in particular in changing our relationship to power, how we can cultivate a relationship, power that serves connection rather than disconnection. Yes.
So what, like in this context, like what does wayfinding mean? That's, that's a, that's a, it's a different metaphor for what you're, what you're asking people to do, what you're offering. On their path... I mean, I can see when we finding and path ...like they are, they're like, I can see how they're, they're related, but it's, it's, it's sort of a surprising way to talk about it.
Yeah. So then the reason why I chose wayfinding, um, is that I mentioned my masters that I did, right. I basically mapped, I was unknowingly mapping the main historical points that kept nudging this unfurling of disconnection patterns from the, like European experience that then cascaded over the entire world and affected all people in all ecosystems.
So one of the first untruths but can be held is like people of European descent were never indigenous and it's like, no, that's not true. Like everyone at some point in their ancestral line had indigenous ancestors meaning to be deeply have a place and to meet in a culture and that was based on connection based on relational understanding and rhythms. And that's just like we are nature. There is, we're not, we're not like in these little glass boxes outside, we are also animals. And in the course of my curiosity after my master's, um, which happened to coincide with my dad dying, I became intensely curious. Yeah. I became curious...
Yeah, I know that Dad''s die, but like that's, that's sad... Yeah.
I just, I was saying "yeah" 'cause I saw what happened on your face and I appreciate the empathy because it mattered. You know, I had this intellectual side happening simultaneously at this personal life side and, and Ha, which fuse together to inspire me to follow the question of like, what is connection feel like in life? And I have an amazing family. I love my family so much. I'm so lucky to have had the dad I had for 22 years and...
yeah, I saw you went on a trip with your mom to like Ireland. Was that like, yeah, to Ireland. I was like, wow...vacation with folks, amazing life goals. You know, that's the thing is that, is that your indigenous..? Is that your, your, your, your place of origin?
Um, Ireland is one of my family's place of origin. Dad's side was all Italian. My mom, Irish, Scottish, um, like mainland Europe.
I'm gonna loop back around on something if you'd ... have you seen the series "Salt Fat Acid Heat" Um, which is an amazing food documentary series ...when she goes to Italy and you just talk to these people who've been farming olives and making pesto. There's just like, yes, they're talking about the quality of a fat in like what's you know, alive about it. Um, yeah, but I also want to put a link in here. I don't know if you've ever watched Alan Watts. Um, somebody's Matt Parker and, uh, wait, I'm mixing up their names. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys from South Park did a video where they animated an Alan Watts video, a speech where he talks about how if you go to the planet, this planet, you know, a billion years ago with like aliens, they visit the planet. They're like, oh, it's just some dumb rocks. Um, there's nothing interesting happening here. And they are like, whatever, let's keep going. And then they come back in a billion years later, they're like, oh look, the rocks of peopled. Interesting. There's people now... We thought they were just dumb rocks, but now they're, they've peopled. And he talks about this idea of like, um, you know, watch out. You never know when something, this idea that we are a smart things that came out of a dumb world, it's clearly not the case. It's just a question of timescales.
Yeah. Yeah. And, and really like questioning: well where does intelligence sit? Is it a dumb world? And that that's also part of this larger question. So, um, got to power and got to way finding through recognizing, you know, so the wound of disconnection that happened, um, that was happening in different places around the globe. You know, there was like adversarial warring and different aspects, but then Europeans took it to a whole other level with colonization and starting to "other" people too, um, subjugate people to build overseas empires based on oppression and subjugation and then like, Tada the United States. Um, that's, and, and so all of these facets of the question of what brings our wholeness back. You know, in the future of work community and the Teal Organization framework, wholeness is one of the fundamental values of a teal organization. So we cannot possibly address the future of work and self management and wholeness without asking "what are the ways in which I have fractured myself in my own lifetime. And what are the culturally inherited wounds that I am inhabiting and benefiting from or being like massively unbenefited by, wounded by".
And that I see the leverage point of working with leaders and raising consciousness around power and all of these aspects of identity because power can be um, we all have inner power and then there's socially conferred power and we're at work...
is that your term? is that like a fundamental bifurcation when you think about types of power? Cause I was hoping we would have this conversation
I make that like I have thought about my own definition of power. I've looked at the etymology of power. Om power is sometimes used to describe physics, sometimes used with like a controlling warfare-based Paradigm.
Yeah, force and power are not necessarily the same thing, though
Precisely. And so my definition of power is power is the capacity to move energy through systems.
I'm just going to let that percolate for a second. Power is the capacity to move energy through systems.
Yeah. So power doesn't have a valence in terms of being positive or negative.
Yes. Yeah. It just stays. It's like a gun.
Exactly. Or it's like a big tree. Yeah. Or like a big mountain or like the ocean or like lightning or like a rattlesnake and ...
Let's just keep naming things. No, no, I like this game!
Exactly. Or like a paperclip!
or a moose!
I was trying to name things that like we culturally associate power with.
Yes. Oh, you mean like a good or badness, too. Like, a volcano.
Yes. So we can tell. Um, so in our society we can tell a story that power has... Is like a is like a negative thing. Even though it's something we hunger after. And I, in my personal understanding, when we clear and create alignment in our own beings to move, move energy through the systems of our life, that's something every single person, regardless of their background, has access to. It's just part of the human experience.
Okay. So this is like, I really want to unpack this...I'm so so excited. We're talking about that because there's the inner power, like I talked about this with regards to conversation where it's like we all have the power of speech. If we, you know, have physically working bodies, like you can't actually, unless you use force, you can't stop somebody from speaking. And so there's this fundamental inner power of I am here, I can participate, but then there's this other part which is systemic or... Uh, you know, based on authority. Um, but then I think there's this other piece which is like distributing power versus taking power. And I don't know, cause I know for myself, like I sometimes feel uncomfortable taking power. Um, and so I reflexively distribute power, which is a kind of taking a power.
Yeah. So my current working hypothesis and the way I deal with it is like inner power, you know, which is connecting to my deepest desires...
She's gensturing towards gesturing to her, to her core.
For all you listeners, all you listeners.
Yeah. There was no video for you.
And then the other distinction I bring is societaly or culturally conferred power. Yes. Which are the rules we make up about what it means to interact with other humans. And one of those sets of rules can exist in like the type of conduct we have in a particular organization. So, and like the future of work community, we're talking about organizations and primarily businesses and there is um, there is a very common pattern of power arrangement in businesses today and people who are like the CEOs or the leaders or the executives have generally the most power and capacity to move energy through the system.
And that is how we define their power in a way.
Exactly. And the movement towards self managing systems requires a transformation of that state. Another very, very important aspect of culture and socially conferred power are the stories we tell about the bodies we're in, the identities we inhabit, the um, like religious and spiritual practices we have, our able-bodied-ness or not, um, all the facets of body being like the color of our skin, our, um, gender, you know, all of these aspects of identity. Then we tell stories and create valence about those identities.
Sure. Like we assume types of power based on what we know about somebody.
Right. And so just to get explicit, like in the United States of America, the fabrication of Whiteness is something that has been reverberating through this country for 400 years. You and I both inhabit bodies that are classified as white. And so we both privilege from that.
Totally. And so again, and when I was in college, I remember reading the wages of Whiteness, which I'll try to dig up a link to where even the lowest class, you know, white trash, dirt, poor dirt farmer was still better than a slave, like hours. That was the wages of whiteness. Like even the lowest of the low totem pole. White Guy. Still one tick above. You know, and that is, and that's one of the things that helped reinforce the system. Obviously fear comes up when we try to the...oh man, we're going to talk about this now, like the, the making of a quality makes, feels like dis-equality to people who are that one tick above. And now it's like, Oh shit, I'm just the same as everyone else. I no longer even have that.... Just terrible.
Right. And still how so in this like very large conversation that I feel is, you know, I'm just like one tiny little helper in it and there's millions, millions of people around the world and around the country contributing to the connection/ Disconnection conversation ...is to recognize like there are consequences and costs of the disconnection story and behaviors to every single person operating under the illusions told and the disconnection stories. It's like, oh, sure. Like, so if we look at privilege and oppression, it's like obvious how, um, any group of people inhabiting like the oppressed vector side are not winning in the disconnection story. But then when we look at the privilege, um, the....my experience, uh, I have a very embodied experience in my life.
I've experienced near fatal accident and healing for eight years and the somatics of, clearing trauma. Yes. And I believe the human organism. And I've experienced how the human organism, when we are not connected, we're not, we don't, we literally don't have as much life force accessible. And the burden of what, um, hate does in the body to organs, and to our systems, and to our creative capacity, and to our energy and to our hearts. And what fear does and what, um, what like deep, like long held anger
In traditional Chinese medicine...So I, um, we'll bring this in. I did a medical Chigong practitioner training last year cause medical Chigong was very important for me and healing my own body. Traditional Chinese medicine, they're, they're, um, like five, at least five. There are more. But like there are at least five main organ systems that are looked at and they all have what's considered a psycho-emotional aspect. So if we look at the liver, for example, the original nature of the liver is kindness. The acquired nature of liver is anger. When we do not have clear boundaries because the liver is the organ that filters our blood when we're not like correctly filtering... Than we feel violated. And that can make us angry.
Hmm. So when we can release those, those negative experiences, that positive experience is available to us.
Yeah. And that so many aspects, I mean there are plenty of scientific studies that have better demonstrating that deeply held emotional experiences in our body have physical ramifications.
So, so like it's all, it's like one thread pull on this whole system and the reason to come back to like why wayfinding is because the sensing intelligence...see, getting there! we didn't lose it.... Um, the sensing intelligence in our beings just like a plant that is sun-loving is always moving towards the light. It's always moving towards that which feeds us. And so when we tap into that listening, it will tell us how to navigate into deeper relationship with each other, into greater trust, into clear understanding of what our needs are. Um, the grief that we haven't yet released, the forgiveness we need to embrace. And when we clear away the blockage or stagnation, then that creates the space for flow.
Yes. Yeah. Well, so I want to ground this because this is really, I know that this stuff is valuable and you know, just from the simple aspect of when a company thinks that when we think we're separate from nature, it's okay to pollute nature, right? When we are separate from other people, it's okay to create, um, more unequal, more inequality by our practices. Right? Um, and the question of like is this, you know, I have a friend who's, who's an engineer and he's at inner conflict with himself because he's automating jobs and he knows it's create stress in him where he's like, I'm an engineer and I'm doing my best work and I'm creating misery in the world so that I can make money and pay for the coaching and the retreats and my own growth. And like what the actual f about that. And so my question for you is, um,
I know that people need some of this work. I know that what companies generally ask for is how do we go faster, cheaper, and smarter. And you know, when I come into an organization, it's like, okay, facilitation skills, we need those. Because it helps us sell better and build better, you know, innovation, product design. Like that's my entry point. Um, how, where do you start the conversation with an organization? What are they asking for and what do you want to offer, right? Like what's the balance of like of the conversation of like, oh we are think we're getting this but I slipped, you know, you're putting spinach into the brownies versus like maybe I'm, maybe I'm, you know, cynical or, or small minded and companies are like, "yes, Larissa show us how to wayfind!" But I'm guessing that people are like, Hey, can we talk about inclusion and power?
Like that's something I know. Do you know what I mean? Like there's an anchor point for every consultant who's listening and then there are many like how do you mix the like here's what I, here's what they're asking for versus like here's, here's my north star. Cause I'm guessing that not every company is, is where your, there's not enough teal companies in the world who are asking for that. Is that wrong? Like, do, do you under, do you, do you follow them?
I totally understand that question.
And a lot of people are asking for conversation, help us redesign all the conversations at our company. Right. That's not, that's not a, that's not a thing. It's like the secret sauce. So I'm just assuming that that's potentially of your context too.
Yeah. So I worked for several consultancies, um, and I also had a business prior to wayfinding. Um, and we're at this interesting moment in cultural evolution where if you look at the phenomenon of companies caring more about their people, companies caring more about the earth. But also if we like just look at companies caring more about people. When you start pulling on this thread like this desire to be a more human work workplace to value culture, to value the human experience at work, to make meaningful work, to have purpose driven work, you start pulling on that thread and what you surface are all of the tensions around disconnection. And so what comes up is an integrity moment.
And I tend to accelerate the consideration of that question.
That is the most wonderfully euphemistic phrase! "I accelerate the consideration of that question" ...you are a catalyst for crying. That's what I'm hearing.
Well...it's basically like...So here, here's what I, here's how, here's an example of a conversation cause I will work with people at different levels and through the course of my career I have had a shifting baseline of, of um, base requirements. So now one of my base requirements for, um, engagement is like if I'm going to do a deep engagement with the group and this is excluded from if I'm like doing a workshop for them or we're doing a ritual or a ceremony or like things that are even more "entry". Um, but if they want to step into longer deeper work, one of my requirements for being in relationship is to have permission to mirror the points where I see, um, ego being surfaced and how it impacts the infrastructure of the company.
Yeah. Being willing to call out.
Yes. Because if I don't have permission to do that, then I'm dancing around the whole conversation that I can see that I know is impacting every other conversation. And so what I illuminate is, look, you can either invest in a brand new strategy, which is like building a house on like a rotting, like set of a rotting foundation or broken foundation. And so like you can sync like the money and the time and the energy and like the branding campaign for the new strategy and then the internal employee experience branding campaign and then like, oh, like it's, we still have a leak. Or we can do the courageous thing, that is uncomfortable and that will require us to put down aspects of denial. And to go on the exploration to see what courageous and connected leadership looks like.
Yeah. So what I love about that is the thing that I've been thinking about lately is in any conversation, any interaction, there's uh, there's surface, there's, you know, we can have a fact based exchange where there's a willingness to go deep and to go even deeper. And,,, It's just interesting to hear how you're looking for signals of their readiness and availability to talk about the real stuff. And to create a boundary for yourself of, Hey, listen, I'm not going to make myself vulnerable and participate in a toxic culture. Like I don't care, you know, if you want me to come in and do a ritual a week for the next 10 years, it's like, whoa, there's no interest in what's really going to matter about that. So it's just really, I love hearing how you're sensitized to that
it is a really nuanced conversation because, um, because then it raises the question of compassion and engagement. So I, I have a deep belief in human beings and I also know how the structure of the human ego operates, you know, and so that it's, um, I love supporting people who are open. I am not in the business of like, I'm not brought alive by the act of Oh, of opening, of being like, oh, I don't care about this at all. To then being like, oh, maybe like there's a, there's a level of commitment or current operating investment of energy in the disconnection, in disconnection patterns that there, um, so many practitioners and service providers who their contribution to the cycle is like, is like, let's start considering more connection based worldviews and paradigms without using that language.
Um, and my sweet spot, I also just know like my, we can't live in all parts of the ecosystem, you know, and my sweet spot is have you started playing with some things and do you really have this longing? Because also there's this amazing aspect in human beings, once we start to experience more aliveness and creativity and connection and more power in self and in group, and to see what becomes possible, then we're like, let's go. And it gives us, that gives us the motivation and the fuel to encounter what is uncomfortable and to heal and to be courageous and to try new things. And that's, and then, and then when like people start seeing it working, they're like, oh my gosh, look at this. And so also in the grounding, I can give an example.
I worked with the founding team of four partners for nine months, did a cascading rite of passage from their relationship constellation to their relationship constellation, um, with their six reporting directors and then how that like respired out to the rest of their organization. And that we did relational healing and um, asking like, how are, what are we bringing to the table that gets in the way and what are the unconscious aspects of our inhabitation our and to acknowledge what's occurred to date.Because we can't move on very well if we don't acknowledge.
And that requires tremendous slowing down and tremendous noticing, which is uncomfortable and people would rather not do it mostly. So I, I feel I'm looking at as the facilitator of this conversation...We're getting close to our time together and so on. I'm wondering is, with all of that time thinking about, um, two things, one, what happened, we talked about that we should talk about, is there something that we haven't touched on about your work that's important. And one thing that I'm thinking of is we haven't really talked about ritual and designing ritual. We just seeded that in the beginning and we're like, oh, that's another thing. Because rituals are things that sometimes I think we think of as given and wrote and like Passover, which is a ritual. Versus like designing ritual. And I think for me, I'm trying to think about how teams do need to have rituals and, and I'm wondering like where your ritual work. That's something I'm interested in talking about. Maybe you want to talk about something else, but that's, that's sort of what's on my mind of like something I really want to get from you before we, before we go, what else is on your mind that you want to touch on before we go?
I'm happy to go there. Okay. I have one thing I want to say before....
She''s moving her fingers like a Mr. Burns sort of way
So, um, one thing, so the story of wayfinding, um, that name, which this is important and the honoring.. Wayfinding is, um, if you look it up online, it's like considered the skill of being able to navigate, um, like poorly marked paths or unknown territories. And it can be like dead reckoning or value across landscapes are how you cross oceans. And, um, I, after my master's I had the wonderful fortune to learn, um, you know, skills of becoming of a place again. So animal tracking, wilderness survival, wildcrafting and, um, learned from a man named John Young.
Can you give us some links to that where people can learn more about that stuff?
I remember reading Todd brown stuff where it's like,
John Young was mentored by Tom Brown... He was Tom Brown's first mentee and he was the first one who received this like deep, deep nature connection mentoring. Tom Brown is a man who lives in New Jersey who was mentored by an Apache Elder names Stalking Wolf
which makes them, doesn't sound as interesting as he is. Like, he's from Jersey, not New Jersey.
Hey, let's not dump on New jersey for a minute...they take a lot of heat
Sorry. I'm from Manhattan...it's part of our story.
No, no, no. I get it. I get it. It's part of the story.
but I mean for me, like when I think of Tom Brown...the thing where he's touching your chest and like using yourself as a pendulum to try and understand where to go to next. Like there's some really deep stuff when it comes to wilderness... Being in the wilderness and, and not losing your way. Hashtag not a metaphor
exactly like the, um, to recognize the indigenous lines that John was representing, this teaching to me. So like a Acumba of east Africa. I'm Hawaiian Culture, Lakotas and Apaches of North America. Um, the, these like different traditions of, of understanding how to read the signs of place and life. And wayfinding specifically was a role in Polynesian navigation culture. And so that they're, uh, anthropologist named Wade Davis wrote a book called the wayfinders about different wayfinding traditions. Um, in like the largest aspect of the definition. And I grew up as a sailor. And the conversation between wind and water was in a lot of ways, the beginning of my understanding how to listen to subtle, very clear, but also complex patterns. To find our way. And so that's, that's like the line and that's the honoring that I want to give and naming that.
And that's also how it connects to ritual and ceremony because in that, um, training and this, it was a similar part of my life and my dad died the first ceremony, I designed was my dad's memorial service. And it was a really amazing opportunity and I realize like what a beautiful creation of love it got to be because we, it was, uh, you know, we weren't following a rote religious form for my dad's memorial service. Um, and then since then having the experience of ceremonies from different traditions and realizing this erosion of symbolic acts where as symbolic animals, when we externalize an experience with /through metaphor or um, you know, whether it's like where you were working with fire or, um, like I did an initiation ritual with a philanthropic board the other day where I had them use redwood seeds to symbolize the seeds that they're planting for this large vision they hold and then Pacific Ocean water because it's the water that unites their countries of the members present and then the branches to represent like, what are you putting down as you start this? So there can be more space.
When we do that, it actually more deeply imprints into our being the consciousness of our choices and the updating of the stories and the internal conversations we have. So I choose ritual as, um, as an important vehicle to bring people into spaces of coherent awareness and meaning and to let their aliveness breath through in ways that we're not used to. And I also know that we are, we often feel like ritual and ceremony are like need to be deeply steeped in tradition because of those, the like disconnection reverbs that have been happening through time, a lot of ceremonies and rituals have been lost. And one of the beautiful things about human beings is we can listen to the energetic needs of a group and create an experience that meets them there. And in that way we're reweaving what's needed.
I think it's beautiful and very much in line with my thinking of how I design a facilitative experience as an experience of where are they now and where do they need to get to. But we're speaking not just to their intellectual needs but to their emotional needs and providing them with metaphor to ground them. that is really powerful.
So I have a question for you.
A question for me?!
Yeah. For you! So when you, cause we, we have a similar frame and I'm curious, what are the things you consider when you see where a group is at present and where they need to go and how do you decide what to put forward to help get them there?
Hmm. Well, I mean like you said, it's a question of like what they're ready for. It's a question of like the aperture, like what, what their level of interest is. Also like, you know, a nine month engagement with, with the six person leadership team, like that's great to get that level of buy-in. Um, in my own work, uh, stretching it out from this is not going to be a two day workshop. It can't be a two day workshop. People love it for just be a two day workshop and it's so much easier to do that. And so to me, like very often I still do think about the like, hey, how do I fit this into the smallest amount of space possible? For me, I think it's a question of when I teach facilitation stuff, I, I talk about how, um, the metaphor, the model you use determines what ingredients you put in.
And so like, I'll reference and if you haven't listened to it, it's one of my favorite interviews, um, with Kate Quarfordt. Um, her, she uses this four seasons, a wheel that she co-created with one of her students. And when I teach people the four seasons, we all, they're like, wait, celebration and, and reflection are, are the part of the, the, the, the cycle? And I'm like, yes it is. And as a winter in my mind, I had my palate on when I was, when I was a teenager because, because of my mother, um, who will listen to this? Thanks mom. I love having my colors done, but it was weird. Um, winter is about regeneration, right? You can't, you can overwork soil, right? It's not doing nothing in the winter, right? It's you, you, you plant mustard grass and Dandelion and you just turn it over and then it's good again, like you, it needs to rest.
And two years ago when I did a facilitation masterclass with my friend Mathias, who does a lot of visual thinking stuff, he's super into reflection and I don't think I was, I don't know if I'd done the, the, the interview with, with, with Kate at that point. He really spearheaded, he's like, no, we're going to do this if we're going to this masterclass, right? We need to have like 30 minutes of reflective journaling before lunch on day one and like 10 minutes of reflective journaling... after lunch on day two, and I was like, wow, nothing, right? Like people are paying money for this experience. We have to do things with them and teach them things. Um, but like giving them time with themselves is, is regenerative. Right? And so to me, it's actually like what's in your spice rack at all, right?
You have some things in your spice rack that are not in my spice rack. Um, like water from the Pacific Ocean, not on my spice rack, right? But reflection is, and celebration is like, I've seen people run innovation days and workshops where, you know, at least they know that everyone in the group should high five each other, right? Like at least like the littlest moment of like, yeah, we did it. Versus like, no, we need to share the story of our project and I've, I've done this, made this mistake myself where people have created this thing and you're like, okay, great, let's do the critique. And it's like, well, no, they need to share it out. They need to get the, the reinforcement that they did a good thing, right? And so to me like it's about what are your, what are even your ingredients of the experience?
And so to me, like my fundamental ingredients are opening, exploring and closing, generating, supporting and then landing and then like what you put into those things are whatever. But to me, like I think celebration and reflection are now will, like because of Kate just baked into my brain of like those two seasons, autumn and winter are just essential to me. Kate if you're listening you, you're the best. And that wheel, even if I don't use it explicitly, it's implicitly, always part of what I do. Where there will be celebration. There will be a reflection. Does that answer your question at all? I don't know.
It totally answers my question. I also learned the wheel. The um, you know, many, many cultures have a four part, um, in particular many Native American cultures you know, medicine wheels...And what Iearned from John Young, It was like what are the eight directions or these energies that like flow to each other? Cause we can, and this is why to make this accessible. If someone's like, what are you talking about? I don't like what are the seasons? Um, this is the reason why ergonomically when we show up to a meeting, if we dive straight in, yeah. Straight into the content. It's interesting because if you think about showing up to someone's house and you get in the door and they're like, welcome, completely sit down for dinner, you're like, Whoa, whoa. Was that like, where was the arrival?
Where do I hang up my coat? I take my shoes off. What's going on?
Exactly. Hi. Nice to see you. We need to have opening just like we need to have sunrise just like we need to have spring.
Also like I don't think anybody would argue that...Well, what's interesting about Kate's approaches, like obviously there are these moments in the year, but this is when we'd go back to your, your not your thing. Um, but like the thing you mentioned about how we are disconnected from nature is like what really pisses me off about daylight savings is this idea that like that we should just like have the same working hours all year long, but we aren't connected to nature. Like there should be winter out. Like, you know, it's like summer Fridays. Like there should be Winter Mondays, right? Just get to stay home and be depressed, you know, or just can I sleep later on a cold day like this? Like I just need some more time with my oatmeal. And so we, we obviously work, it's a very, it's a privilege to say the lake that my work should flow with the seasons. There's a lot of people have jobs that like we all rely on people showing up and doing what has to be done right. Regardless o f how they feel. But we also need to talk about the cost of that...Wow we're just spiraling. I love it.
I like it because these things...one of the patterns I've seen in our conversation (This will be the last thing I say) is the capacity for these topics to expand to like great, take up great space and to occupy, you know, a lifetime of work or long engagements with clients or hours of conversation... But they can also pack down, they can like go down into a little seed yes. Into a little high five. Into five minutes of journaling that there are ways to start and sprout and keep going. And I am, uh, I have loved this. I am so grateful to you for the conversations you host for the reflection that you host on how we have conversations. Um, and when, when I learned about conversation factory, uh, and your work, I was just so excited that you invited me to participate. So thanks.
Thank you. Okay, well, so like I want to ask you one more question. This is those as this is one of Tim Ferriss' favorite questions and I, and it just, it, it sparked in my brain. So I'm going to ask you like, cause we're talking about seeds and Compacting it down and planting that seed. Um, one of his favorite questions is like, if you could, if I'm going to give you a billboard. Hmm. You know, on a very, very, you know, well traveled highway, um, what's Larissa's message to the world that belongs on that? Like the, the thing that you want people to, you know, and I remember they have to be able to read this, uh, at at 65 miles an hour and not die.
Her left eyebrow has gone up ladies gentlemen. And
I'm gonna, I'm gonna give you two variations of it cause I'm like, oh, this 60 miles an hour, um,
Tend your aliveness like a precious flame... Or variation B...
That was good. I liked that.
Thank you. Or: Tend our liveliness, like a precious flame.
That's really lovely. Thank you. And, and being aware of and sensitized to that alive in a room and a group in an organization that is the skill of all the people who want to create change like you first, which was to your question of like, how do you even know what's going on? You're like, well, I have to, I feel it. I detect it. You know, looking for little little twitches and putting two and patching together a narrative from that.
Well, it's been a wonderful conversation. I really appreciate you making the time. It's really lovely to have this reflection time with you. Um, I will call ...and scene!