A 24 hour journey closer to the Calling Question

The idea of a Pre- Event around the Calling Question was thrown up in the air sometime in the autumn as our design team – Juha, Jan-Erik, Vilma, Stephanie and myself- started brainstorming the second Learning Village.


There is some background for this story. Last year we got so excited about the location of the Learning Village- Suomenlinna- that the whole process took off even before we had any clue about a calling question what´s so ever. The topic around which people would gather and the center of the event constantly came a few steps behind. Eventually we needed to stop and do some extra work in order to make it bright and clear.

There had been other kind of discussion about the calling question, too. Maybe the question was not so important because there were other supportive elements built into the process in any case. On the other hand, a good calling question makes the purpose clearer. It calls up personal ownership and more focused engagement. It brings up deeper perspectives, solutions and passion, and gives energy to fruitful cross pollination as it brings in also people that might not otherwise join us.

landing-helsinkiSo this time we decided to dive into the Calling Question well before the event. Our intension was to spend 24 hours at Suomenlinna in the spirit of the Learning Village: to feel, sense and share about themes and elements that were important for all of us, to acknowledge the personal connection and engagement, and witness how the building blocks would slowly make their way into our consciousness and some bigger patterns might be emerging.

As we were looking for a certain commitment for the process, we put the invitation primarily out to the people that had participated the previous Learning Village. We bravely used an old school method: we asked the people to fill in a form where they would share their passion and intension to come and join us.  Of course there was the philosophy of Open Space Technology playing in the background. Who ever appeared, would be the right people. And what ever happened would  be the only thing that could have taken place. It was not about getting a huge amount of participants or a crystal clear calling question but about having the right kind of people who would feel inspired to do the necessary bridging work- combining their own interests and sensing the world´s needs. And while doing this- we could also get some quality time for ourselves.

Aime, Carmela, Kristiina and Martin (all away from Germany) appeared to the scene. All of them had participated in the previous Learning Village and were familiar with the process.

The elements of the Learning Village were there again but now in a more simplistic way. The magical island, Suomenlinna, was present with its full capacity, but my co-hosts Vilma and Jan-Erik were -despite their efforts- unable to join. The group was small but committed.

The Day.

We started with lunch at Chapman´s.  Funnily-  without making a conscious effort- we touched some big themes like life and death, and what is important at the end. It went easily into the essence and back. For those who are wondering whether this is the Finnish version of small talk (it is!), I think this happened mainly because there was a shared intension and trust and openness built in. We kind of jumped into the groove as soon as we sat around the table and easily shared about issues that were present in our lives.


Juha had chosen for us a nice and cozy room with sofas and armchairs at Augusta. We sat in the circle and our intension was in the middle- to explore the elements of the calling question with curiosity and openness. We would go with the flow as much as possible, use the principles of Open Space and Circle Work as our guidelines. With time table we were flexible: I had a rough plan about the beginning and ending times but otherwise we would dance with the flow.  We would have dinner and sauna at some point in the evening, and snacks and coffee for breaks. It was all set, and what was most important, there was trust and openness right from the beginning.  We had entered into that space without masks or roles, and the circle took us even deeper into our journey.

We started with a little check-in where everyone shared why they had chosen to come to this meeting. It was obvious that everyone had followed their inner urge. According to my rough plan we would do some inner exploration first and then move on to Open Space. I only had one question in mind -recall the last year, what were the most important turning points, insights, breakthroughs and new skills that you experienced in those situations?

Pre-Expo kollaasi

We wrote and drew in silence for a while. When we felt ready we started sharing about our own stories. Harvesting happened automatically as we listened to each other: we marked the most meaningful aspects for ourselves on post-it notes. By the end we had a nice collection of themes. It felt like the elements mentioned in our stories shifted our minds and hearts  and started to search for their own places in our personal system. We did a little collective mind-mapping, and witnessed the picture emerging in front of us. Somehow it took us deeper into our own journey while it also was reflecting the bigger picture at the same time.

By the end of the day we moved from Augusta to Studio Elias in order to mark an ending for the day´s session. We took some markers and papers with us in order to be ready for “something”- but at the same time I was wondering whether we would ever get into the Open Space after all. It did not exactly feel like calling us, it felt like there was still some power left from those story telling sessions. As if some birthing process was in the middle of its energy cycle.

There was also some movement in the air as the island of Suomenlinna was preparing herself for a little night storm.  The nature also seemed to be in sync with our creative process.

The Evening.

There were choices of enjoying an Open Art Studio by a HIAP  artist Mark Bislop, going to Sauna, preparing dinner or just resting.

After a delicious dinner made by Stephanie it was time to make a skype call to those who were interested in joining the event on-line.  We sat at our dinner table, had a lap top on the table, and Vilma and Rainer joined our circle virtually. (The next day I found out that Maria from Spain had joined us in spirit, too. There had been a technical confusion which had prevented her from joining the virtual session.) We gave a little summary of the day and the discussion went deep again.  Polarities, mainstreamers versus the hippy people, how can we build bridges and include everybody, no matter where they come from. What brings trust, how to keep up a welcoming atmosphere. How can one show up in a community and be the best version of herself/himself. After all we are all people, for heaven´s sake!

By the night it was raining outside and our stomachs were full of pasta. We wondered whether we should do a little “pasta walk” to back to Augusta and take a second look at our post-it-collage. But it felt more right to leave it for the morning. So we headed to bed – tired but happy.

Hämärä Pre-Expo











The Morning.

The wind was blowing hard, and our mission was getting more crystallized. We had opened the gates for ingredients of the Calling Question to fly in and they were in full  action.

We continued with the post-it collage and our inner journeys. We shared thoughts about what the Learning Village could be, based on what we had experienced so far and what we would see as its true value. What were the most meaningful insights for each of us after the previous night´s  discussions. We had a circle of the most important insights during our joint 24 hours. Something that could be the building material and corner stones for the next Learning Village. We talked about the power of community, essence of life, meeting the network of practitioners and feeling trust, safety, getting power and support to rise above one´s own comfort zone.

Afterwards I found myself thinking about the issue of trust. We had found it as soon as we sat at our lunch table. How did we manage to do that? The Circle  was of course a powerful tool for connecting to our shared purpose. We were open and listened to each other, witnessed as our purpose took a more concrete form. We chose to be in this place together. We held each other. We had experienced that during the last Learning Village when it welcomed us and took us for a collective journey. Probably experienced that in many other situations, too.  But isn´t it true that somehow we knew how to choose to be there, we have learned to recognize an inner muscle that reminds of it. And when we have that muscle memory we can keep it up and support the web of community for people who step into that space and help them feel safe. The meaning of a Learning Village- even behind any Calling Question can be that, too. And the responsibility for anybody having that experience is to keep it up for others. A communal mindfulness exercise!


After the Pre-Exploration:

As for my own golden nuggets they were constantly coming back to the multi-dimensional connection between the polarities and the supporting power of a community. Communities can provide support when the forceful power of dualism puts us down. Life vs. death, essence and non-sense, strength and sensitivity, mainstream vs. hippy movement, darkness vs. light. We are part of the mainstream and also the transformers. We are in this journey together no matter where we come from. There are polarities everywhere. Polarities indeed are our dear friends. As recognized they can offer some next level thinking emerging. They will push us and make us rise above dualism, catalyze change, breakthroughs, make us go outside of our comfort zone. They can push us to feel separate in order to make us experience a greater oneness. It is like being in a birth channel. Constantly striving for the next level, in our lives, in our society, within ourselves and from that angle we see much more than our own little window. In order to find the next level and the fast lane in the new paradigm we need the supportive power of communities. Learning Village can act as a catalyzing power that helps us to experience the connection between the polarities and above it, to make way for the new – individually and collectively.

Text: Kirsi Joenpolvi

Photos: Kirsi Joenpolvi, Aime Virkkilä-Accorsi, Irmeli Aro

Preparing (myself) for Learning Village 2016

I joined the Learning Village 2016 preparatory meeting in Helsinki on the weekend of Friday 29th to Saturday 30th January.

I was the only participant to fly in from a distance: all the others were from Finland.

When preparing, I sometimes thought that this was making a big effort for something that probably didn’t need my input: I knew Learning Village to be in good hands. But still, I felt compelled to go, “help prepare learning village” as I told friends, with a slightly queasy feeling: what does that even mean “help prepare”? What needed preparing? But well: I was in, I wanted to support this group, this event, a very dear confluence of forces to me, and went.

Turned out the event didn’t need no preparation; but I did.

Continue reading

Hospitality, Do-Cracy, Power and Safety

During the next Learning Village in Sveaborg I will explore the themes of hospitality, safety and power structures. You are welcome to join me on the journey to explore these mysteries!


– HOSPITALITY; the relationship between people, and the practice of being hospitable. What make us feel welcome? What have we learned and what could we still learn from our ancestors and from cultures which foster traditions of hospitality?

– Do-CRACY; what helps us to take action and be the change we need and want to see around us? What is needed to give room for positive activism in organizations, communities and other groups? How is do-cracy related to co-learning, co-sensing, co-acting and being together?

– POWER; are we aware of the hidden power structures in communities, organizations, politics, etc.? What kind of power structures and control mechanisms are useful for the whole and what would help us to let go of stifling unnecessary dysfunctional practices and structures?

– LIBERATING STRUCTURES; what can we learn about rules and principles governing our everyday interactions and life in human systems? What are the minimal structures that help us create great organizations and better life for each and everyone of us?

– SAFETY; what make us feel safe and how to foster conditions for safety. What kind of structures and practices help us maintain safety? How to deal with personal fears and shadows in group context?

Welcome to the next Learning Village to join me on the journey of exploration!

with love,
Jan-Erik Tarpila


Jumping in the cold sea water – by Felix Moser

Jumping in the cold sea water

my personal experiences in Suomenlinna

– by Felix Moser –

 funny how the professional in communication encounters a spiritual experience, and the spiritual traveller meets a professional space to engage in the field of communication

2015-04-02 11.21.03

circle holds it – Suomenlinna hosted – we did it

thanks Kirsi, yes I too have the experience we created a living circle – of healing, co-creating, community and of individual growth

16779088678_fb531a957a_khow I ended up there

following a trail of coincidences -meeting people, like Wilma and committing in shared growth, like Rainer, Lena and engaging with art of hosting in Graz, being invited on short notice “why don’t you come with us to helsinki…?” I came to the island.

lv-male-rowart of hosting I reported my former spouse, with the words “I think I eventually came to meet people who found a way of making the spirit of talking stick approachable for us white sisters and brothers.”

thus learning village with such a calling question had me travel with the intention of contributing the best way I can in creating the next steps towards living circle. That we were bound to succeed fully and without exaltation – as we did, bonding and joining, healing and growing, moving up the spiral of potential for viable communities, and that with science, arts, economics, foodstuffs, dancing, historical and spiritual things complementing each other – yes, quite an experience.

anxiety and naivety


so I arrived with the hosting group the very first day, taking up the invitation to engage freely without any worries about providing structure, safe space for others – I felt great, welcome and safe with everything that had been prepared and the people I met.

oh, and it was so much fun just picking up work as I saw fit to contribute, knowing others would care for the things I didn’t. wasn’t that the lv-experience, and me meeting all those professionals who knew about lv, I was sure – they knew that’s a safe way to operate, there’d be an appropriate summoning of skills among those pros, to match the needs of participants – me being able to peek into background work in this beautifully transparent and open design, but being a participant and a welcome additional resource

only the closing days I realized, this had been quite an experiment for many of you – lucky I am, being part of it.

16344353474_e2049b0df8_kI have been working with traumatized people – both “normal” and with an individual focus of their spirit on reality, done bodywork and schooled my perception. So I immediately realized the emotional distress of feeling the moving sea around me all the time and looking out into the vastness of the sea and flat lands without the secure back or node of a even a single mountain.

I mentioned so in the circle, but otherwise focused on people, spaces and emerging possibilities of learning and contributing. I kept busy. Wilma, asking for my support in her “outing” a seeress among new folks, made me jump into sharing and offering my spiritual side freely – as I am not used to. Not in professional life, not in social life – only among the greater circle of my spirit family who share the notion of a living and communicating universe – many of my friends know me well enough, but wouldn’t agree.

2015-03-27 18.03.39

I came eager to learn on the field of communication, coaching, hosting etc. – trying out, finding out, getting an I idea – if, how I, with my experiences and skills, could maybe take steps towards working with groups or projects like that too. Never done that before – well no, called in an international queer youth meeting in my early twenties, engaging in grassroots politics – being left alone by my fellow activists and failing in every single step of organization – I really fucked that one up (while the participants I was told later were fucking around – at least they were having a great time).

fear and success2015-03-28 16.26.38

must have been that day of emotional escalation, no the evening before that – I caught up with reality, that me acting the way I did, was felt strongly by many, stirring interest, making me feel queasy. First that feeling then, finally getting it, “hey I am doing design for spaces, raising my voice in circle, doing healing work, etc. – having impact on people, I cannot steal around that – I have to start giving, like directly offer what I can give, and stop pretending it’s got nothing to do with me, before I choke on that.

16792617889_1138a27ff2_zso I called my workshop in open space, and there were like so many people, and yeahh – it was great. And there was pro-action cafe with Rainer – inviting me to co-host – must have been the same day, at least it feels like that. Being myself fully immersed in that energy of “poder” (“making meaningful use of personal power, while being respectfully aware and in communication with other and the group as a whole” … sth. like that…) – I found myself in a task, asking for qualities that are at home somewhere on the opposite side of the circle. Moving in the field held by Rainer I saw how I did not manage to balance these complementing energies, yin and yang did not gracefully move with each other.

then the circle with the groan – zone, or how was it called. I should hold the circle, holding the bells, then Wilma asking me to introduce a hooponopono for the group, which felt in the position I found myself completely inappropriate, to offer a spiritual healing ceremony, while the issue brought up was systemic and on underlying power structure.16976807795_33461cbab1_z 16977467062_9b4a015c20_z

somehow that was done by some like a constellation, parallel to the ongoing dispute – and attempts of resolve, while not a single person was willing to leave, matters being unresolved. Me neither, taking myself back, then realizing, though I did not feel personally involved in conflict, my triggers being pushed – I felt so emotional I could not sincerely hold circle, I gave back the bells and left the room.16792618659_627c747c97_z

got coffee, relaxed a little, came back, left, came back, sat down – and then completely out of factional context had an emotional outburst, literally without thinking grabbed the bells – once more blowing into a conflict, actually just being settled this very moment – provoking tears and anger.

I did not feel guilty. Sorry, when I got the picture over the course of the evening – piece by piece – of how terrifically out of place I had been. Amazing how the groan zone energies dissolved, thankful for the chance to apologize and clear things up, beautiful to find a new day with strengthened relations and new bonds coming out of that experience …

16789883567_439f1f5aed_zteaching and healing

… aware of something to learn. How to be responsible in community on a transpersonal level – the best teachers at hand, giving me first insight, before I even knew what I was working on. Thank you Jan-Erik, Nancy, Martin, Amanda, Rainer for your non-invasive input (is that appropriate terminology?) – there must have been more teachings I’m not yet aware of. Thank you all who were there for staying true to the circle, and holding the poise of assuming best intent by each individual – thank you for holding me.cropped-p9094605_header.jpg

… aware of having followed through on an impulse of fear, using the resource I had offered to teach people, turning the beautiful connection to my animal instinct into a weapon. Luckily, there was not much resonance to my fear, a little uneasiness on some parts, but basically community being strong enough to hardly even tremble – on the contrary, using the energy of my onslaught turning it into something useful for all, by means of many well meaning perspectives offered by different individuals. (And that’s only the small slice of my experience in that complex event.)

so I was free and safe, still, to ask spirit about that fear and for healing. Which I found in Sauna, actually with the circle of people there. Everyone talking about jumping into the cold water of the sea after sweating – my initial anxiety turned into fear. I stated I would not

Lena bringing up the subject of sweat lodge, a lot of information on traditional finnish sauna, being a place for birth, community and of goodbye to the deceased being offered – my fear started to become more and more physically tangible, moving down the steps in the sauna becoming intent on going through that, while taking precautions not to faint, cramp or show to much tremor – I shared my feelings, shared sweat lodge experiences, and sang the song of pacha mama…

16354420624_7a4cc85e03_z…I decided to jump into the cold and wide and deep and utterly scary dark water of the sea. Isn’t she the womb of my mother, the earth. Viola sang the song of old mader jord, the vibration weaving around my inner tremor like comforting bands of white linen, I asked for help, to give me support when diving into the cold – walking towards the shore, the landscape moving around me as if I was on a swaying ship, Niilo was reciting the litany of facing fear for me (from “Dune” by the “Bene Gesserit”), thus helping me to focus.

I went in to the knees and came out again, my legs were burning from the cold – consolations and encouragements – I went again and this time I did it, dived in. And stepped out being reborn. A true sweat lodge experience, ceremony being called up not by ritual, but by shared spirit of community. My Thanks and Gratefulness and Appreciation to all of you.

how I start from there

the professional, social and spiritual realms of my experience showed as a whole, not needing to be separated – but me, as an individual being welcome in all my aspects, strength, weakness and vulnerability.

Jumping into the water of life, society, the professional world – showing myself, all that I have grown to be – that was what that fear had kept me from. Now as a small child, I am learning to walk…

16950805606_0d0a12f5a6_k…nurturing the new connections, trying out new fields of working, learning from my peers, following the beautiful unfolding of life, watching out for what might emerge – offering my skills, taking chances, making use of opportunities.

Elselien has agreed to do some coaching for me, making sense of where I stand, orient myself and finding new steps in reasonable reach. I’m looking forward to the workshop Rainer called, doing some real work, and learning.

Wyn from New Zealand and Jörg will be calling for an Marae – experience in Austria, hope it will be at Franz and Waltraud’s place. (still have to tell them about my Marae experience in Suomenlinna).

And I think I will offer workshops myself at Obenaus in summer, since Lena and Rainer casually informed and invited me – I’ve learned, it’s up to me to take up the ball – and take myself seriously.

You only learn what you teach – it is said – I find that to be very true, 😉 Olivier.


…and who knows
what else might come up.

My willingness has been awakened – thanks to You – fellow villagers.

– Felix Moser –

Photos by Irmeli Aro and Jan-Erik Tarpila

Lost in Transformation

                                                      Lost in Transformation                                                                                                                                by Maria Joutsenvirta                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Kirsi’s diary gave me an impulse to continue our collective post-village story telling. Thank you, Kirsi, for being so observant, and for putting important things into words and then sharing them with us! What began at Suomenlinna Learning Village – well, months before already – benefits from a joint reflection of what brought us all to the island, what we experienced and how we can continue being part of a revolution – new ways of working and living – that this planet so badly needs. As was mentioned in the diary, story telling creates connections between us and allows collective insights to emerge.

Story telling can take many forms. Maybe it can help insights to emerge even through digital platforms. So, here is a contribution to our story telling:

Thanks to Juha’s invitation and Kirsi’s, Jan-Erik’s and Vilma’s spontaneous acceptance – plus all the invitation and other work that these guys did after that – we were able to experience an incredible Learning Village on a historical Finnish island. We explored many important questions on so many levels. It was good to know how it all got started almost a year ago and, for example, that our Learning Village was an outcome of a Pro Action Café. Kirsi’s diary helps me understand better some of the things that I experienced during our village. Her words resonate well with my own experiences.

After reading Kirsi’s story, it is clear to me that the Calling Team planted some crucial seeds months before the village. I agree that the place – Suomenlinna – played a key role in our learning experience. The first sensation of something powerful and safe taking over me I felt on the Suomenlinna ferry on Friday (27th) afternoon (at 1.40 pm, to be exact) when I was coming to the village. I shared my strong sensation with others in the circle that we had that same afternoon. What I didn’t know then was that the seed for my sensation had been planted months before the event. Now I know.

 Suomenlinna utu

What brought us to the island? Is it too bold from me to suggest that Suomenlinna was able to collect and connect a group of (crazy) people who were both ready and thirsty to face our collective fears and enter ‘the timelessness’ together?

It is a different thing to enter the timelessness alone – for example in meditation – compared to stepping into it together as a group, isn’t it?

There are many ways to name the timelessness. I use this word because there were so many occasions during our village when someone would refer to the different sense of time that we had co-created. Those who left the village for a while to act in the “real” world of duties and busy schedules and then came back to the village noticed the difference very clearly. Kirsi wrote that circles can feel slow. If they do, is it a sign that one has not yet adapted to the different ‘time zone’ of the timelessness? A circle helps us enter this time zone and reach the space where necessary transformations can take place.

The different rhythm – the rhythm of yin and yang, perhaps – and the different sense of time meant that we were on the island for a specific reason: we were there to transform invisible structures and to create the future that we live now, as was suggested by Rainer at the beginning of our journey. A collective future that opens up itself in the joint present moment.

Some structures dealt with the collective learning process of our Village. Here, the role of the hosts was important. Some quotes from Kirsi’s diary:

As holders we were on a mission of creating suitable structures for emerging processes. Enough structures to hold the process and enough space to get into the groove.” “This was an experiment we were all responsible for.” “Offer what you can and ask for what you need.”


And then there was the “social spirituality” and “healing” side of this experiment, too. Kirsi expressed this beautifully: “The connection between the earth and spirit. The invisible circles.”

The hosting team and our special healers did so well. I think Kirsi is right: The minimum design process did manage to open up a space where the healing could take place.

It is a rare and precious thing when one feels safe, moved and inspired, all at the same time – especially when this happens together with many people. That is what I felt during our Learning Village. That is what I could sense other people feeling, too. Trust. Courage. Sharing. Creativity.

Felix Ympyrä

Our self-steering boat was rolling up and down the wonderful waves, sometimes very joyfully and sometimes a bit painfully, which is a natural part of the process. Yin and yang, indeed. The waves became incredibly visible through the movement of our bodies during the Poder session facilitated by Felix. And also during the smaller session facilitated by Heli. And the sounds were created, too. Wow!

To become wiser in our efforts to change the world – to work and live better on our planet – we have to develop our inner ability to see behind the visible forms and structures in order to reach the more fundamental reality. It can be scary but it is in this deeper reality where the most important transformations can take place, if we allow them to. We have to learn to trust this reality and its hidden powers.

 The wisdom for a sustainable future resides in the timeless space to which we are all seamlessly connected, including our ancestors and those who have not yet come to live with us. It is amazing that we were able to create that space. The future that opens up itself in the present moment gives us the maximum space from which we can work to build a better world. It offers us a place and position from which we are able to see more (of what is possible), feel more, understand more, share more, create more. We learnt that to work and live in the future is to accept what is, and to understand who we are and what we can become.

In a way, the rest is ‘shovel work’. But, of course, we do need good shovels, too.

Meri Suomenlinna

I feel happy that I am part of our collective mission and adventure. What we went through and learnt together at Suomenlinna would not have been possible without wise people armed with amazing powers and skills of ‘creating and holding spaces’. I have to say that I admired the skills of the hosting team every day during our Village. What I learnt from just listening and observing you was a gift in itself!

Those arms hold the key to the future we need. Viva la ‘Art of Hosting’!

It is a miraculous thing when bigger forces take a firm hold of you and lead you to a beautiful island, to incredible people, and to powerful encounters. It ends up transforming you, taking you to an invisible place that you want to inhabit forever. This place is a wonderful mix of knowing (y)ourself and losing (y)ourself. Something very personal and universal at the same time. Enlarging and strengthening of this place is what our crazy world needs. And we did strengthen it at Suomenlinna, didn’t we. Our work continues.


Thank you Calling Team, Co-hosts and all Villagers! Special thanks to Juha who took such good care of us, wild villagers who sometimes broke some – written or unwritten – rules of the island. Probably such rule breaking happens easily when most islanders live according to their clocks and calendars and then there comes this ‘savage bunch’ – to inhabit the island’s caves and saunas – who has no sense of time whatsoever.


Photos by Irmeli Aro

Learning Village at Suomenlinna 2015- the diary

I spent a week with you at Suomenlinna. A week with meaningful conversations, deep circles, flowing dialogue, collective insights, delicious food, stunning beauty around us, surrounded by sea, cliffs and historical buildings. On the whole I felt connected – to you, to Suomenlinna, to our shared purpose. At times I felt confused, impatient, surprised, empowered, loved, touched, balanced, surrendered, and this is just to name a few of the flavors. I was aware, though, that no matter how bitter-sweet it would taste, the connectedness of our shared purpose would eventually catch me.

I left with many questions – and found some answers, too. What is enough of a structure and what is not? What are the most important unseen elements we should see? What are the corner stones for this kind of happening? What did we learn from this – as a group, as individuals, as organizers, as hosts, as participants? As the dust starts settling down I know will see many more insights coming.  So far I am making an attempt to describe what led us to come to Suomenlinna Learning Village. How did it turn out and what really happened during those days together?

Suomenlinna Aurinko

May 2014 at Otavan Opisto

Juha and I sat down at a dinner table in Fairytale Castle, a nicely named hotel close to Otavan Opisto where we had the 4th Art of Hosting training taking place. Juha mentioned that he was running the Helsinki International Artist Program at Suomenlinna and that he was keen on organizing some event there, connected to some aspect of sustainability or new economy.

Then next day we had the Pro Action Cafe session. Jan-Erik asked me to join in the process but we had no clue about the project. We sat at our table with an empty flip chart paper. `How about Learning Village?´ Jan-Erik suggested, and I felt inspired. Ok, enough for a topic, let´s start playing. Vilma came along and infused some action energy into the game. Ideas of potential places were brainstormed: somewhere close to Helsinki in order to make it accessible for everybody.

On the second round Juha came to our table and said, `Hey guys, it sounds like an excellent idea, and I have a place for you. It is Helsinki International Artist Program´s Gallery at Suomenlinna.´ We Alkutekijätstared at him as we were slightly knocked off by this miracle fallen into our laps. There were only yes- sentences: yes, it is a good idea, omg what a place, yes, we definitely feel inspired, and no, there is no way to say no to this opportunity. As for the challenges, we felt we had to be careful not to close the process too soon.

And – yep we had no clue about the calling question.

Autumn 2014-pregnant with the calling question

We started exploring what it meant for each of us to be part of creating the learning village. What were our deeper motives, and why did we feel like being a part of this? It felt pretty important considering the abrupt start of this journey. My personal fear was about not having a calling question that would lead us through the process but would rather lead us to doing something merely out of eagerness – that would radiate into the process.  I was looking at myself. What is this project for me- what is my connection to it? There was something I could not put my finger on. In retrospect it was about Suomenlinna, a place which I had not visited for ages. In my mind it was this interesting museum island in front of Helsinki, where everybody goes in July because its cliffs are so ideal for sun bathing.

Anybody seen any calling questions floating by? Nope, we didn´t know that yet.

2014-10-17 13.42.40-1It was the beginning of October, and we decided to visit Suomenlinna. The sun was shining, the sea was peaceful, and everything looked bright and colorful. As soon as the ferry left the market square I felt thrilled, as if some bigger forces were supporting us. At Suomenlinna it felt crystal clear that we were on the right path and must do the Learning Village. The place was so vibrantly calling for it. The power on the island reminded me of Findhorn, an ecovillage in northern Scotland where I had lived for some years. Juha told us there had been some brainstorming about the future purpose of Suomenlinna. It is an old fortress island with a lot of stone walls, and there have been some darker times in its history. Heavy brick-form memories. During the Finnish civil war in 1918 there was a prison camp of  8 000 prisoners. Many of them were executed and some died of diseases due to the poor conditions in the fortress. It had been a sort of a concentration camp.

How about Suomenlinna being a transformation center for new structures? And what if our calling question was about transforming structures? Something to do with the future we wished to be part of. A lot of energy was felt there. Transformation, structures and future – they were some key words and building blocks for sure.

The elements of the calling question were finally landing. After our visit I was not so worried about it anymore. I trusted we were a part of some bigger picture despite the calling question still being under construction. We started doing all the practical things, e.g. created the Facebook group, opened the website (https://learningvillagesveaborg.wordpress.com), created the Facebook event and spread the word about the event.

The Call went out

We made the design and the hosting process as transparent as possible. Who ever felt inspired was welcome to join– it was our first action towards the liberating structures. Eventually we got really lucky and some happy co-incidents took place, too.  One by one Amanda Fenton, Lena Jacobsson, Rainer V. Leoprecting and Nancy Bragad joined the hosting team. The circle practice was a common element for most of us. Then we got a message from Viola Tschendel, graphic recorder and a graduate from Karlskrona´s Blekinge Institute, whom we had met in the Copenhagen Learning Village. Suddenly the whole gang was there!

The designing was planned to happen on the pre-day, on the 27th of March. It was open to anyone wanting to be part of it; another experiment to keep the design process as transparent as possible. The emphasis was on self-organizing, leading to transformation and the future we wished to be part of. Trusting the process, trusting oneself and acting out of trust. The calling question – now formulated into a very simple one- allowed space for different approaches: what is the future we wished to be part of? What do we want to leave behind?  What are the key aspects we want to take care of on a deeper level? Hopefully the process could reveal which aspects would be more meaningful ones, would be the building blocks for a better future. The invitation was crafted to attract people from various fields and not only the Art of Hosting practitioners but also other change agents from different areas of society, such as business, education, politics, arts and media.

There were lots of tiny little details about the food, accommodations, invoicing and bookings and thanks to Juha, we received so much help from HIAP´s Stephanie Rotko and Ulla Linnanvuo.

Meeting SveaborgThe number of participants steadily increased. It was clear straight from the beginning that we were not doing this to make money. As for the pricing we took a hint from the entrepreneurs side and offered a special price for sole and social entrepreneurs. We tried to be flexible and arranged a sliding pricing scale for individuals who could not stay for the whole time. We also offered a crowdfunding option to support the participants with a tighter financial situation.

Eventually we got 45 participants plus the hosts, so altogether 54 people joining the experience of transforming structures and creating our future; extraordinary people from different corners of the world and from many fields of society, such as NGOs, business, art and education.

The 27th of March arrived. Our international hosts had already arrived as I walked to Tobias –one of HIAPS Galleries with Vilma, my Finnish co-host and Niilo, a villager whom we had accidentally met on the ferry to Suomenlinna. Jan-Erik had kindly brought most of the facilitation equipment in his car as well as welcomed hosts who one by one had arrived to this windy and cool island – the weather had suddenly changed and showed some rougher sides of the Finnish Spring.

After some Skype calls it was great to meet in real life. We sat at the upper floor of Tobias, had a check-in circle and listened to the strong sounds of the wind. It was one of the first circles we would have that day. Exciting! My body was full of energy but I felt grounded, too. It was such a treat to have all these brave (= somewhat crazy) hosts coming all the way to Finland. I knew we were on a path to the unknown but I would rather go there with a bunch of lovely people than alone!

HIAP emptyWe had lunch at Chapman´s and walked in to Gallery Augusta for the first time with the whole gang of hosts. Such a spacious place and soon to be transformed into a welcoming Learning Village center. We toured around the gallery and created the center for the next circle, now open to anyone wanting to join the design process. Little by little people dropped in, more chairs and pillows were added into the circle. We shared about what had called us to the Learning Village, what were our hopes and expectations. Elements of reaching out to the future were put into the center.

Circles can feel slow. But they also create good, grounded, womb-like energy. It is where everybody can build connection to the shared purpose, get to know each other, and build the common field.

The sun set down, the storm slowed down. We started feeling cozy at Augusta. Rainer suggested we would do a systemic constellation on the Design. Constellation would help us to see a holistic picture of a situation. It could show the different elements involved with the process and point out where the healing needed to take place. It sounded like a good idea; let the process tell what it needs, especially as we were on the path of exploring what really was needed.


A picture that emerged in front of us was a complex image of simultaneous and overlapping systems. There were certain key elements: Suomenlinna, its people in the past, transformation of structures, participants, participants that were not yet present.  What touched me most was the strong connection to the place and its people in the past. As we came together and shared about insights happening during the constellation I felt a strong relief in my stomach when I told about my insight. For me it became obvious the place itself was one of the containers and callers. It is why we were offered gallery Augusta in the first place. The past needed something in order to become part of the future. Like Rainer said: why wait, live the future now. Maybe Suomenlinna was a crossroads where the elements of past, present and future could came to one and allow us to live the future now.

Day one, the 28th

The Center of the circleWe started the morning by doing a check-in circle where everyone was welcome to join in. Gallery Augusta went through some multilevel transformation. For the next six days it would become a village center where the learning and inspiration would take place. Our main circle was in the middle of the space. We had empty boards leaning on the walls, ready for harvesting and other action. Felix made some landing marks on the floor. There were titles like work, self-expression, home and creativity. People could add their responses on post-it stickers and put them on the platform paper. Something to think about, to orientate into the process. There were sofas and mattresses in the opposite corner for resting and reflection. More participants arrived. Hugging specialists like Maria, Nancy and Wilma made them feel welcome.
The gallery was filled with laughter and chatting, and some whistling sounds too as Austrian
Wilma expressed some missing words by whistling. It was an ongoing invitation to join the social 16334635034_e4b69c40b5_zfield we were creating together. What was peculiar was that it felt like everybody had been there already since the day before when we started the first circles. We joked that the center of the circle was our love boat, and in retrospect it was not far from truth. The whirlpool was rolling slowly and calling us for our individual and collective journey. We were living in a mini cosmos on spaceship Earth and ready to take off into the future of co-creation.

Somebody rang the bell, and we sat in the circle. People introduced themselves; for some it was the first circle here, for some god knows which one. New people entered, and the circle got widened and rooted people into the process. We were living in the circle field; it was our village form.

Our hosting team was pretty much going with the flow. It felt like a constant movement between the center and the periphery. There were waves of energy which we were listening to. When the center was energized the rest just went on, humming sounds here and there. The kitchen was filled with good smells. We had freedom to choose what to do while tuning in with the whole. It was all good. We opened the market place for Open Space sessions. At first the wheels rolled slowly but eventually the market place got crowded.


As the day went on we could see the structures we had had: check-in, Open Space sessions, lunch, Open Space sessions, dinner and something fun for the evening. There was some discussion about what was the least minimum and if there was something worth adding or definitely removing. We were on a quest for sensing, using our hunches. For participants it meant more responsibility on self-management and use of the law of two feet. Whenever they would feel they could not learn nor contribute to the process they were invited to do an inner check-in, make an intervention or leave the process. As holders I felt we were on a mission of creating suitable structures for emerging processes. Enough structures to hold the process, enough space to get into the groove. Where was the ideal point of balance? The feelings of safety and trust were important yardsticks for sure.

The atmosphere at Augusta felt so good. What was it exactly – was it Suomenlinna, the participants or the center? Or maybe it was the constellation work that was done before anything?

It felt good, and it was needed.

Fear had been a topic in some circles in the beginning. To be here, to come to this island demanded some courage. Not necessarily because it is a windy, rough fortress island in front of Helsinki but due to something else. People had felt resistance and reluctance to come; some had even gotten sick. Maybe it was about sensing some new elements coming into being- individually collectively? Something to do with ourselves and the future we wanted to create?

Luolat Sveaborg

Myles Byrne SprengtportenOn the first evening we had a special guest visiting us – Mr George Magnus Sprengtporten, the contradictory character in the Finnish evolution towards autonomy. He took us to his premises, to a big brick cave somewhere on the island. Very handsome was he considering his mature age and not too gore-tex with his velvet costume either – but in that dark brick cave he made us vividly experience the illusion of dualism, the creative powers of yin and yang, the uniting forces that led to giving birth to something new.

A fairly fitting description for the next few days ahead us

At the edge 

We had talked about the process design in the hosting team, in the context of divergence, groan zone and convergence. For those not familiar with the terms, it´s the jargon describing the process of opening up and the endurance to keep our hearts and minds open while dwelling on the edge of chaos. It is there where the creative sparkles can happen, where the collective breakthrough can take off. The Process Work uses the term `secondary process´ apart from the actual primary process, which in this case would be the event itself. At the Learning Village those emerging moments were crucial and constantly overlapping. Everybody had their own rhythm, affecting the group´s waves, and all of us could add elements to both. Since the hosting process was done in the most emergent way, it created space for secondary processes within the hosting team, too. Last but not least, one aspect of the container was very special- meaning Suomenlinna- so we had plenty of elements for an extra ordinary event!

Horisontti suomenlinna

We didn´t have exact arrival or departure days. Some came for a day or two, some for the whole time. The total length was 4 days, (+1 pre- and+2 – post days), so altogether seven days. In terms of participation the peak was on the weekend, on the first two days. The law of two feet was intensively practiced. This was an experiment we were all responsible for.

How did it feel?

So far so good.

Somewhere there was a groan zone lurking –a phenomenon to be seen. Our village´s  little waves were coming and going, breathing people in and out. Visually the process looked like a curly sausage. A very yoga like.

Sunday, the 29th and the saunas. Check-in circle for the newcomers, village news, and Open Space. The market place got filled in faster than the day before. The process was rolling, and the center felt solid. I attended Amanda´s session about what are we learning about hosting Learning Villages. A question that was pretty much at the core here. The session made me recall some of the best moments I had experienced in other Learning Villages. They were the stories and collective story harvesting, something that created connections between the participants and allowed collective insights to emerge. An experiment to be continued …

Amandan workshoppi

In the evening we had an international dinner buffet where everybody could bring dishes from their home country. It was Sunday evening and the weekend was nearly finished. Some people were already leaving. There was a possibility to go to saunas- to take time for transition or reflect on the past two days.

As we woke up for Monday the 30th, the scenery had remarkably changed. Everything was covered with snow and brought feelings of Christmas. The participation vacuum from yesterday was refilled with a bunch of new people. Feelings of action were in the air. Hosts ran into each other at breakfast – we had no fixed meeting times – and wondered whether it would be the time for Pro Action Café.

Lumi suomenlinnaWe had a big opening circle, almost like the first one on Saturday. Tanja placed a baby spoon in the middle of the circle, and it felt like a part-two of the story initiated at the cave on Saturday night. Would this be The Day – we would give birth to something that ensured a better future? Well, first ourselves.

We opened the Open Space. The market place got filled up fast. The idea of having a Pro Action Café was hanging in the air until lunch. It came up naturally, as it fits well with this kind of action oriented phase. Rainer, the co-founder of Pro Action Café and Felix, his colleague and friend from Austria opened the process. New projects connected to the future were introduced. I ended up at Cris´s table talking about an ecovillage project in Romania. Then I switched off to Erica´s table: how to engage Åland´s government in sustainable planning. And for last third round I explored the next steps of Niilo´s life.

Pro Action Cafe SuomenlinnaIt was our day three, for some day four, for some day one.  At the closing circle we found ourselves talking about some serious stuff. What is the right kind of design? Who decides about that? Should we have Open Space sessions all the way through? Welcome to swim, it is our shared lake, and we all have something at stake here. We went around the corner stones of the calling question- transformation, structures, personal and collective. Some barriers needed to be transformed, inside of us, in our group, in the system. If there was a process map, the timing of groan zone was there. Lena mentioned she had been wondering already when that would happen. We played with the cards given that day. Transparency on the design for the day was at the core of the process ­­­­­- was it our collective decision? Erica said it is important to name whatever there is. What we name then transforms. We discussed the issue for a while and practiced graceful releasing. Let´s meet in the morning with those who want to be part of the design session. The lovely dinner at Pirunkirkko was already waiting, leading to furious dancing later in the night.


Tuesday, the 31st. As agreed the design team (anybody interested in it) met in the morning and discussed the design for the day. The design process was as transparent as possible. It was the first day we had an actual design meeting and announced day hosts. As for the design we decided to continue with the Open Space.

It was the last official village day. Nancy did a check-in circle where everybody could choose their place at the circle according to what time they were leaving. For the rest of the day we would have Open Space sessions. At the opening we re-connected with the calling question, the future we wished to be part of, and invited it to be the source of inspiration. It felt like there was a need to acknowledge the basic structures in order to make the creative forces flourish. It was a good reminder of the minimum structures.

In the afternoon my process of having a closing circle hit on. Closing circles crystallize the main insights, close the process and help to move on. It was the day of many leavings. On the other hand people had been coming and going since day one. Some had even returned. Many would still stay for the post village days. Rainer offered me an insight about having a closing circle as an open space session –yeah, why not. It was pretty much the nature of the process here.  We were closing one part and entering into something new, reflecting and orientating for the next steps.


In the evening we had another closing circle with the hosting team. We processed the most relevant questions and insights for each of us, incorporating them into being. Many questions came to my mind: how can we help people to feel present, centered and safe? What are the minimum conditions for that? How much does it depend on where we are with the process? How can I host myself so that I can host others? The never ending practice. How transparent should the design process be? That was a topic we were dealing with a lot here.

The art of slowing down in order to speed up was such a relevant factor for emerging insights. To ponder all the questions and still be held by the village form was helpful during the closing part of the Learning Village- the “post” village days. We had some minimalistic structures like a check-in circle in the morning and a very relaxed version of Open Space, Martin as our scribe. A smaller group size allowed flexibility with the logistics – workshops emerged at the right time with the right people, meals were co-organized and sauna was available. We were entering the appreciation part of the process, and Tanja´s social ranking workshop was a good add to that. The market place of the Open Space had been shifted more or less to Facebook. It very much reflected the next phase of the process;  we were slowly reaching out to the world while harvesting the main insights.

Open Space Suomenlinna

Invisible structures

What factors contributed to the process of the Learning Village? There were many that were invisible, and some of them even unidentified. Circle was our main operational tool, infused with the Open Space. Energetically it contained everybody, no matter for how long or short they stayed. It seemed the circle practice along with the constellation work in the beginning created a powerful container for the whole time.

Open Space helped us to create the reality for our mini cosmos. It called us to be true to ourselves, to follow our hunches and thus support the system. Everything was equally important: sleeping, dreaming, hosting a workshop. Just being in the mindset of Open Space was empowering – we practiced the law of abundance. Sometimes we stretched the envelope a little more –like `let´s not have any assigned teams to prepare our meals, let´s assume it will work out fine´ (yes it did and we also had Lena…). At times our “system” was a little slow, but when it got an impulse to solve an issue, it self-organized nicely. This brings the issue of trust to mind, to trust the abundance of life – the great assumption that was built within the Open Space and our week together. How to keep the web of trust so solid that it can hold everybody no matter where they come from? One circle practice principle seemed to be very useful at times: offer what you can and ask for what you need. Powerful, self-steering advice. (And be aware of your impact on the system, too).

From the hosting perspective the Learning Village offered an interesting exercise about tuning in with the center. If the center was energized everything was fine. If there was a lack of energy felt in the system there were holders ready to take care of the center. At times a conscious attunement could have made some transitions smoother but nevertheless the self-steering effect guided the process further.

In the middle was our calling question,

but was there something else, too?

It was on the design day (the 27th) when we sat in the circle and somebody mentioned the place, Suomenlinna, could bring too much of Suomenlinna into the process. Considering we are here to create our future and Suomenlinna is pretty much of other things, too. It has historical buildings, brick caves, layers in time and history, a feeling of being “out there.”  It used to be a fortress island, and it has served the arts and culture in the last few decades. Definitely the container consisted much of Suomenlinna: the elements of past, present and future. In order to transform barriers, we needed a strong container for that. What could be better than a masculine, brick-style fortress island that can hold feminine energies like compassion, trust and healing? By being such a dominant structure it created a safe hub where we could get in touch with our most important building blocks. Like love, for example. Boy, didn´t we come here to talk about some serious stuff? To transform the structures and create the future we wished to be part of?  And that brings us to healing and love?


Maybe we can´t find the next level without love. Maybe we are so stuck with our thought patterns that we need to shift our focus first. Maybe that is what we came to give birth here in the first place?

To open our hearts.

Scary, huh?


In the hosting team we had wondered what is enough of a design, what are the minimum conditions, how to find a balance between being and doing. I give credits to us for being so curious as to play with the minimum design: calling question as our center, circle as a coming together point and the rest just coming in as it came. On the last night Amanda and I prepared dinner and talked about the experiences at Art of Hosting events we had had. I joked about us having such a “homeopathic” experience here in Suomenlinna that anything less emergent might feel like too much of a structure. There was something about it I had not anticipated, though. Some aspect of the social spirituality.  The healing.  And the power of Suomenlinna. They were in the center, too. Maybe that was partly due to the minimum design process. It allowed space where the healing could take place. The space in between the past, present and future. The connection between the earth and spirit. The invisible circles. Maybe we needed to go through that funnel of healing in order to do our next bit in the world.

I like this kind of simplicity. The future just asks us to take the next achievable step. For example: how can I keep my heart open and support others to do that too?

Some shift is happening right now. We need systems to which we can commit wholeheartedly and that enable sustainable changes. We need more of a holistic world view. Some facts we know for sure. We can´t do it alone. There must be sparkles of joy, inspiration, trust, respect and truthfulness along the process.

Suomenlinna sure brought me back to my roots, something that inspired me to work with communities in the first place. Communities are places for transformation, learning and support. We played with our edges, helped each other to shift our perception, let the structures go and put some back. We are humans, at times not so perfect and the processes were reflections of that. But somehow the outcome brought us in touch with the center of collective love that is the glue and platform for a better future.

Thank you for that,


Photos by: Irmeli Aro, Juha Huuskonen, Kirsi Joenpolvi, Jan-Erik Tarpila, Vilma Mutka

Sagas of serendipity in Sveaborg

Together we came IMG_4120
on the fortress island of wind and rain
to be a child again
exploring how we would like it to be
to live and work in the future – you and me

Said someone while the first circle was forming:
”break the pattern of always performing”
don’t be too polite, speak from the heart
how to live together – we were practicing the art

”Ask what you need, and offer what you can”
it’s you who makes the change, yo bitch, yo man!
Laughter is the most beautiful sound
building around us a trustful ground

Opening the space for learning IMG_4059
we took the leap we had been yearning
to become the origins of ourselves
– now we know some of us are elves…
To stay in apprenticeship we try
not having to know but asking why

”What should we design and what not?”
It was the topic on the spot
Just minimal structure is needed to hold the space
with openness, transparency and effortless grace

Losing control can be frightening
chaos and order always balancing
in chaordic systems evolving
we are ever practicing
So don’t interfere much, let the sharing grow
people learn in a self-organised flow

“Dancing around the plan” IMG_4108
stirring up a joyful jam
Building solid foundation
leaves room for improvisation
that takes away the fear of unknown
inviting fun and joy to be shown

There’s no one truth anyway
jesters mirroring back what you say
revealing emperor’s new attire
poker face masks are in fire

A soldier 250 years old
with a secret plan unfold
invited us through a journey of evolution
ignited a revolution

So be ready and prepared IMG_4101
keep practicing the unexpected
be a warrior of positive forces
be a rider of serendipity’s horses
share your story, show who you are
inspire others to fly far

Thank you for the music.

Vilma Mutka

Little boy – can we?

Can we help each others to host the space and give room for self-expression, creativity, autonomy and activism? Can we host space without taking space, but giving space? Can we help people be their best selves and include them?  Can we invite people to be part of the community and their life and to co-host, co-learn and co-create? Can we love ourselves and others as we are?


Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside
He was happy;
And the school did not seem
Quite so big anymore.

One morning
When the little boy had been in school awhile,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make all kinds;
Lions and tigers,
Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats;
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said, “Wait!”
“It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.
“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”
“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.
But the teacher said “Wait!”
“And I will show you how.”
And it was red, with a green stem.
“There,” said the teacher,
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at his teacher’s flower
Then he looked at his own flower.
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this.
He just turned his paper over,
And made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day
When the little boy had opened
The door from the outside all by himself,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make something with clay.”
“Good!” thought the little boy;
He liked clay.
He could make all kinds of things with clay:
Snakes and snowmen,
Elephants and mice,
Cars and trucks
And he began to pull and pinch
His ball of clay.

But the teacher said, “Wait!”
“It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.
“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make a dish.”
“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make dishes.
And he began to make some
That were all shapes and sizes.

But the teacher said “Wait!”
“And I will show you how.”
And she showed everyone how to make
One deep dish.
“There,” said the teacher,
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish;
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this.
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again
And made a dish like the teacher’s.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon
The little boy learned to wait,
And to watch
And to make things just like the teacher.
And pretty soon
He didn’t make things of his own anymore.

Then it happened
That the little boy and his family
Moved to another house,
In another city,
And the little boy
Had to go to another school.
This school was even bigger
Than the other one.
And there was no door from the outside
Into his room.
He had to go up some big steps
And walk down a long hall
To get to his room.

And the very first day
He was there,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
And he waited for the teacher
To tell what to do.
But the teacher didn’t say anything.
She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy
She asked, “Don’t you want to make a picture?”
“Yes,” said the little boy.
“What are we going to make?”
“I don’t know until you make it,” said the teacher.
“How shall I make it?” asked the little boy.
“Why, anyway you like,” said the teacher.
“And any color?” asked the little boy.
“Any color,” said the teacher.
“If everyone made the same picture,
And used the same colors,
How would I know who made what,
And which was which?”
“I don’t know,” said the little boy.
And he began to make a red flower, with a green stem.

If you recognize yourself in any of the roles in the story, I’d like to leave you with some questions to ponder.

Each and everyone of us might have been in the role of the little boy in some narratives and stages of life. Many of us walk the long distance to become teachers, leaders, hosts or become authorities in various other roles and positions.

When we are hosting, how do we know what we take for granted? What are our red flowers? If we feel we are responsible and experienced, we might think we know what is good for others and the group and start to make decisions on behalf of others. We want to help people draw red flowers in a proper way. In order to make this justified and manageable we start to subgroup people based on experience, position or based on other suitable factors. Some get the label of a participant, newcomer or apprentice and some are called designers, hosts or whatever. While doing this we might be excluding, passivizing and patronizing people who would and could be useful in many ways and make many beautiful colorful pictures.

When we make decisions and take responsibility on behalf of others without including them in the process or without their seal of approval, we might find ourselves in circles with people drawing red flowers with a green stem. We might also find ourselves in circles where people want to break and escape the circle in order to make all kind of pictures. When the outcomes are not the ones we anticipated even if we have acted in good will, we get confused.

How do we deal with our own insecurity and burden of responsibility to manage others in time of confusion? Do we fight by taking more control? While fighting and trying to help others and protect ourselves we are in risk of finding ourselves unintentionally sub-grouping and scapegoating. Or perhaps we escape and exclude ourselves. Some might freeze and start the painful dance with the shadows?

How can we help each others to host the space and give room for self-expression, creativity, autonomy and activism? How can we host space without taking space, but giving space? How can we help people be their best selves and include them?  How can we invite people to be part of the community and their life and to co-host, co-learn and co-create? How can we love ourselves and others as we are?

with love,
Jan-Erik Tarpila

2015-04-02 11.21.03