Praxis in action.

Just yesterday I thought to myself, “writing in my blog is starting to come back to me, I could be interesting again.”  Now I sit here looking at the blank page and wonder what it is that might be interesting today.  I’m not sure, and that is kind of boring to write about.  I find that sometimes if I just begin the words do come and there is something interesting for me to reflect about.

The staff meeting this morning goes well.  I ask the question that I proposed here yesterday.  “What did we do right during those particular record breaking months from last year?”  The conversation almost immediately turns to the three months that we did so poorly, and all of the external factors that we can’t control — possible reasons why we did badly in September, October, and November.  I try a couple of times to reroute the conversation and Leslie M works at it as well, and finally we get there.  Here it is:  a customer commented yesterday that every time she comes into our store it gets better and better.  Then we talk about how we are in the state of constant improvement, that we upgrade what we’ve done in the past and do things a little better as we learn.  We point to the example of the second floor.  It was only two weeks ago when Alan attended the meeting that the group  hatched the idea of creating a sale room, painting, reorganizing the fixtures, and tightening up the displays.  The second floor is transformed and new ideas emerged today to make it even better.

In facilitation work, and I suppose in life, I am absolutely committed to the idea of inner reflection — to praxis.  To stop for a moment and do ‘praxis’, that is to ask questions about our shared experience of actually doing the exercise that we were doing.  So today, we stop the discussion to do praxis together.  We ask the good questions, what are we doing when we ask these questions? why are we doing this? what is is like for you personally? how does it feel?  The most amazing discussion quickly appears, led but Heather who speaks about how it gives us a chance to feel part of the business and to honour one another.  Liz says how nice it is to feel belonging.  Everyone has interesting and thoughtful comments about what we are doing together.  The air feels electric with connection and everyone seems to feel that they have a voice.  I hope they feel that way, since we work so hard at it.

I reflect for a moment with the group on an insight that I had, and that was that it seemed hard for all of us not to go to the negative and instead focus on our strengths and not our weaknesses.   Everyone agrees that they experienced something similar.  I wonder how often we sit with ourselves individually and begin with a question about our accomplishments, and soon find ourselves focusing on the things that are not done at all, or not done well.  Why is it that we are so hard on ourselves when we have the power to give ourselves space to celebrate our successes?  Here I am, a living example of this very thing.  I notice now that I opened this entry with just such a statement.  Since what I write today is so related, I’m going to leave it as an example. Often I delete the opening paragraph after I’ve found my way into the writing.

Later in the afternoon I would on crafting a workshop about questions that create community change and my mind goes back to the morning. I think about how do you craft good questions together.  What real techniques, examples, exercises will help to create the very best questions?  Then once we have those questions how can we begin to explore them with new questions that will add detail, illuminate, refine, and expand our thinking not contract it and bring us down into a place where we are focusing on the weaknesses.  We must built and encourage our strengths and our ability to question well in such a way that the weaknesses and factors beyond our control are no longer pertinent or credible.  It’s a bit strange that we give power to unknown factors, instead of focusing on the things that we do know and letting that inform our future.

In the doing of these things today, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that when we work on anything we have two parallel processes taking place.  Those are: the activity or exercise that we are undertaking, and the reflection on the shared practice of doing the activity.  If these things can be done in harmony then we can achieve alignment of purpose in the doing both, and we can make our activity congruent with our reflection.  We use the same process to do the activity as we to do reflect on the activity.  One informs the others.  It’s a self adjusting system that offers us great internal wisdom.

Now I think about the question from this morning in the quiet of my office.  Why are we successful?  Why did we have a record breaking year in the midst of a recession?  Perhaps it is because we are reflexive, that we have started to internalize praxis, that we reflect with one another in a way that allows us to honour one another. Perhaps it the practice is a safe place for respect to grow and that in turn results in giving each of us a voice with the others.  If this is one thing that we have been doing unconsciously, what will comes of us and the store as we make this part of our retail practice?  How does this relate to the feeling we have of belonging, or the customers’ feeling of belonging?  Gosh I am excited to see where this all may go, but one thing is quite possible.  Sunworks could have another record year and customers will continue to come in and notice that thinks are getting better and better.

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