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Learning Diversity: My Bumpy Start on a Personal Change Journey

By October 21, 2016 No Comments

As a young professional and emerging entrepreneur whose central work is in diversity – I held my breath as many in the nation watched the rash of violence making its way in cities across the country in the last few weeks. As a woman of color working to improve diversity within organizations, it was hard not to feel angry and confused at what I could do about the things going on around me. I’d like to share this anecdote to exemplify what the meaning of this space has been to me in the two-weeks that I have participated in U.Lab with my Impact Hub Boston colleagues.

My name is Monique Alvarado and I am an Impact Hub Boston host in the Fall 2016 cohort. Previously, I’ve been sharing my personal journey through U.Lab and experiences forming my own entrepreneurial effort at Impact Hub Boston as a Grad Student in Organizational Psychology. In the most honest way – recent events in our nation had me experiencing what our group had just learned in the Impact Hub space as an absencing arc:

 

It was clear that I was stuck in the top section of the arc with a closed mind

It was clear that I was stuck in the top section of the arc with a closed mind.

 

The U.Lab Wednesday group began Sept 19. From the initial live-session I had been extremely motivated and pumped to start building on these intentions. Many of us had brought intentions for change into U.Lab and my personal intentions are best represented by my portion of our co-initiated picture:

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  1. To use myself and my love for the world as an instrument for change

  2. To leverage integral and Indigenous knowledge systems to heal the soul of organizations

  3. To use my knowledge to support people living with various forms of intersectional diversity

 

 

On the day of the first Wednesday U.Lab session the reality of the world hit. Most of the week, I had been pretty sick – trudging through like adults do to make the best of my day and commitments while carrying that heavy weight on my heart. I had to stay extra-hours at work to finish an important project and felt the frustrating edge of carrying that weight into Boston rush-hour traffic while wishing for a hovercraft (MIT – I hope you got that!) running an hour late.

More than once – I had thought, “Forget it Monique, go home – you are already going to be late and your head is in a bad space – you should probably cocoon.”

Although this was happening – something else said, “Get thee to Impact Hub, Get thee to Impact Hub – you will find a way.”

I barged into the Impact Hub Boston U.Lab room, anxious and trying to calm down, only to see a circle of focused, centered, and conscientious people. I’m not sure what I was expecting – but judgement was not something I walked into.

Allie Middleton, a trainer in Social Presencing Theater (SPT) from The Presencing Institute, OD, consultant and long-time colleague of Otto Scharmer was facilitating our session. Despite my embarrassment of walking in late, she happily integrated me into what was a very focused discussion on the necessity of mindfulness and listening to the body first. I initially had no idea what she was talking about. I knew it was close to the week’s readings – but it was not the typical boring lecture format I was expecting and I listened intently.

She communicated a state of flow from leading movement from our bodies first – to connect the divergent vs convergent mind”. She then led a mindful moving meditation activity called the “20 Minute Dance” – influenced from the movement work of Arawana Hayashi, another practitioner with a basis in Social Presencing Theater.

By being open and saying yes to what some people would call “absurdity” or “irrelevant” – it was clear that a calm peace entered the room.

None of this was the theory or classroom discussion I expected. However – it was transformative. By the time – I found myself and the entire room playfully folded into themselves – it was clear that a different kind of learning took place. Allie went on to explain how this simple activity had become central to some of her social impact work. Others in the session remarked how different it felt.

Being in the present moment and listening to both my body and the message of the present – I was able to let go of all the vitriol. My mind moved to a present place where I was able to think much clearer about all of the things that were once frantically swimming in my head.  After the session – there were some wonderfully intense discussions on art, the nature of change, and people’s previous experience with Theory U. Most of all,  I discovered the unique journeys of some of my other mates in the space.

The following lessons in Co-Initiation happened for me this week:

Yes, I was a busy and stressed out adult.
Yes, life got in the way of something I wanted to focus on.
Yes, the world had turned upside down.
Yes, I didn’t achieve 100% perfection.

But that was okay, I made the choice to say “this space could be good for me and I am gratefully lucky to have access to it” and as a result I found:

I was supported and my chosen community cared.
I wasn’t alone in these feelings.
Listening and forming an intention is a process that takes time.
Moving from a closed heart and mind to working on maintaining an open stance can be the lynch-pin to a dynamic new change effort.

The result:

By taking my feelings into that mindful practice and staying in the moment, I was able to center myself long-enough in a conversation with my U.Lab and Impact Hub Boston mates to say  – “Hmm… maybe there is something I can do. It doesn’t have to be perfect – I can just try.”

The next day – I took my feelings of using artistic expression and this new idea of social presencing to create a safe-space and prototype a group tentatively titled “Artists for Impact.” My intention is to help use art as an instrument to talk about the very things many of us want to change in our community.

All this – came from the power of a 20 minute “dance” and a generative conversation with other people that want to change the world as much as I do.

The next U.Lab topic is: Co-Sensing and I’m beyond excited to see what the next week’s journey holds.