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Cindy Wold
Minneapolis, MN
Writer, Thinker, Creator, Convener
Recent Activity
Amy, Thanks for this post and link! I have not attended a Death Cafe, but now I'm thinking about starting one! A class of mine this semester is an "Exploration of Death." I'm encouraged to break the silence and separation of death from the consciousness of the living. Philippe Aries wrote, in "Western Attitudes toward Death" that for a thousand years (before the mid-1700s) "people had been perfectly adapted to this promiscuity between the living and the dead." (I happened to like that turn of phrase.) Cheers, Cindy
Toggle Commented Sep 18, 2013 on Death Cafes at BeautyDialogues
1 reply
(From a paper I wrote recently for a class I'm taking) This is a question that appeals to me because it invites an exploration of the paradox of death. I am tempted to claim a sophisticated and detached peace with death and dying. That would be easy to declare on paper or out loud as I sit, safe and comfortable, at home or in a classroom. I may even really believe it. But it seems inconsistent with the panic that gripped me recently when a large insect landed on my arm. I screamed, flung it off and stood hyperventilating for many seconds while trying to seem merely surprised. This primal reaction is part of the paradox and what I think of as the cruel joke of death. To me, the insect on my arm, while probably benign, was perceived outside of my control, as a terrible threat. I can imagine taking an objective interest in an insect on my arm, but when the situation arises I react with full primal fear. That is when the reasonable becomes unreasonable and sophisticated detachment breaks down. I think that is how it would be with me and death. I can’t predict. In the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2013 at The Wold
Summer trees like shaking angels Listen to a warm, sultry song And break open with sweet music That spills in the hot street like rain Summer trees, sky-bound together Like green mountains heaving the clouds Carries me to secret shade lands Where tame light kneads my weary eyes Summer trees, the mothers of life, Loving, keeping silent vigil, Wearing gifts of heavy offspring, Exchanging breath with me as one Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2013 at The Wold
The blank page on the screen stared back at her like a blizzard on a flat prairie. If only the screen snow would stop, she thought, the lumps of her words would begin to show themselves. If only the screen sun would shine, she thought, the words would warm and begin to grow. She typed a “T.” She typed “The.” “The” what? She thought. “The” what? She typed sentences. “The timid traveler told the shaggy chef that the world would end tomorrow and would she prepare a last meal of supreme deliciousness.” “The color of the table made a classic contribution to the heavy hall.” “The small white bat flew around the dining room light, looking like a circus midway ride.” “The only thing I can think of is this.” “The shallow folly of fancy flowers is that they will live forever as such.” “The only thing that is true is that there is more than one true thing.” “The ghost watched in stillness as the table conversation turned to paranormal occurrence and automatic writing.” “The cold dark room smelled of musty peat and old wine.” “The warm meadow burst with flowers and bees.” “The telling was the only way... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2013 at The Wold
On this hot July day, I lean into the tilt of the backyard swing. The heat of the day cradles me like a swaddled baby. In stillness, I breathe the ready air, and lost breezes tease my face. I lose myself. Could it be 98.6? Sitting in my shaded refuge, I turn my head like a silent owl. I become invisible and day creatures play a symphony of sight and sound. I rivet my owl head to a loud tweet and a red flash draws my eye. A cardinal lands on the fence and seems like flame in the heat. "Hot hot hot" I say to myself as I surrender to the brew. Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2013 at The Wold
by Cindy Wold, co-author of The Art of Convening Some of us are fortunate to have the Art of Convening method as a practiced tool at our disposal when we conduct our gatherings. But many of us also often attend meetings and gatherings where we are neither the convener nor the host. What then? Well, if we’re lucky – as I often am – the person in charge follows (at least loosely) the principles and practices of the Art of Convening. In that case, there is a sense of inclusion and a predictable togetherness generated in the course of the gathering that is rewarding – and for me sometimes taken for granted. It takes only one occasion every once in a while to remind me of how fortunate I am to have the AoC so widely used in my circle of friends and colleagues. One of those occasions happened a few months ago. Occasion: I was invited to a meeting of people interested in organizing a community group. Here is the anatomy of what I consider a dysfunctional, non-AoC meeting. The host (I'll call him Terry) of the meeting, who I assumed would be the convener, sent a “come if you want and stay for all or part of the time” type of invitation to a 4-hour meeting with a date, time and place via email, and communicated that we would discuss a way to collaborate on an ongoing project that would be made clear to us at the meeting. I agreed to attend, but only for 2 hours, conveyed my intention to him, and arrived on the stated date/time at the designated place. Only one other person was there when I arrived, and she knew no more than I about the delay in others arriving – or whether we’d missed a cancelation email. Since we hit it off well and were having fun conversing with each other, we decided to wait for a while and see if the others showed up. After about 30 minutes we started to think we had gotten it wrong and were about to exchange... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2012 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold, co-author of The Art of Convening I've really been interested in a book that came out last year - around the same time as The Art of Convening - called Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by MIT Professor Sherry Turkle. The main point of the book, as told by Turkle in her TED talk in March 2011, is that a generation of "digital natives" have grown up in a world where electronic contact is perceived as natural. Unfortunately, it often substitutes for genuine human connection - while at the same time, engendering a yearning for the kind of real connection that is often missing in these managed digital environments. Turkle also spoke this year, on March 1st, 2012, at TED. That talk, titled "Places We Don't Want to Go," has not yet been published, but in the blog post that describes it, (TED talk is now available here) Turkle is quoted thusly: A teenager asked me, "Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.” There is a feeling that conversations are difficult because we don’t have the ability to edit as we talk, and so can’t present the exact face that we’d like to. Human relationships are rich, and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology. We sacrifice conversation for mere connection. Read that quote again. Now read it again. It occurred to me, reading that paragraph, that the real value of the Art of Convening has not yet been manifested. The ability to have a "real" conversation may be slowly lost as a skill as our culture becomes more and more dependent on a "performance of connection" rather than genuine connection. Like Turkle, I'm not suggesting that digital devices and methods are not useful or that we should junk them, but the ability to connect, for real, is no small thing - and many of us will require help to engage outside of the digital performance arena. Our ability to "see" each other - not the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2012 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold In Convening and Thanksgiving - part 1 I wrote about the "Inner Game" of convening and how I tend to follow the convening wheel to lay the groundwork for a Thanksgiving gathering of family and friends. I've been doing this internal work of learning to know myself better, clarifying my intentions and appreciating the gifts of my guests for weeks. I covered the parts of the Convening Wheel: At the Heart of the Matter, Clarifying Intent and The Invitation. There are 6 more Aspects of the Convening Wheel. Another part of the inner game for me is to think about what we're going to do together and share my thoughts with those who are coming. I equate this to Setting Context (Aspect 4) for my gathering. I don't send an "agenda" for Thanksgiving, but I share with everyone what time I expect them to come and whether or not I expect them to bring something. Also, I share what we'll do first (usually gab), second, etc. and (very important) what's on the menu and what time we'll eat! Sometimes it doesn't seem necessary to do this (we've been doing Thanksgiving gatherings all our lives!), but I find that the tone is much more relaxed when everyone comes knowing what to expect. I Create the Container (Aspect 5) by decorating our environment with candles and something pretty on the table. I like to have everyone at the same table in my gathering - even if we have to stretch extra card tables into the living room! As I said in part 1, I've gotten into the habit of creating place names and putting them around the table - but people can also trade places if they'd like. The important part is to let everyone know they are welcome. In my Thanksgiving gathering, once we are at the table, I Hear All the Voices (Aspect 6) by asking each person to say one thing they are thankful for. Sometimes someone will also bring a writing that we take turns reading out loud. The first time we did this felt... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold I'll be hosting the Thanksgiving dinner at my house again this year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! I love the delicious food, the connection, expressions of gratitude, leftovers for days afterward (or sometimes weeks) and of course the people. As I move into this time of year, the Art of Convening reminds me that gathering my family and friends requires more preparation than just buying the food, planning the menu, cleaning/decorating the house and confirming the guests. It is now that I am accutely aware of the "inner game" of convening. I've learned over time that when my family and long-time friends show up in my environment, so do the memories (some fond, some not so fond), old conflicts, celebrations, hurts, confusion or chaos I may have experienced with them - whether I'm consciously aware of it or not. While the Art of Convening was initially developed to help organizational leaders have more effective meetings, I have learned that the same principles that are effective in a work or organizational context are also effective when gathering family and friends - and possibly much more necessary for cutting through the clutter of our history. I've experienced first hand how much the inner game of convening can make or break a gathering of those closest to me, more than any other preparation. Now is when I see the value of keeping a regular (or, more likely in my case, irregular) practice of exploring who I am. I go for walks alone, meditate, and reflect on myself - quietly revealing what I'm ready to discover. This kind of practice is the center of the convening wheel, At the Heart of the Matter. I'm doing this because I know that the experience of being with the people closest to me will move me, one way or another, and I need to know during this powerful time, clearly, who I am and how I want to be with them. I remember the gathering disasters in the past (some not so distant) - either tense politeness or explosive arguments - when... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
Doug, Thank you. I'll send an email. Laurie, What a wonderful practice! Tibetan bells, when I hear them, seem to cut through the external and internal "noise clutter" I may be experiencing and help me to be more present. If that is what it brings to your gathering, I see it very much as a practice of concentration - and love. Cindy
by Cindy Wold I started a graduate program this fall and am interested in carrying “love” as a scholarly topic of study and as a theme for my program. As I research this topic I am finding many others who are taking love as a serious phenomenon worthy of understanding for the sake of human wellbeing and effective relationships. The time seems right to dig deeper into this subject. I find myself, still, passionately interested in studying the meaning and practice of love. I say “still” because this is not a new interest. It has its roots in many life experiences, in reading and study and, surprisingly, in the co-authoring of The Art of Convening! Many years ago I read Erich Fromm’s classic book, The Art of Loving. In the book, Dr. Fromm posits that love is a not simply a sensation we may or may not be lucky enough to feel, but is indeed an art which one must study and practice to master. In the book he gave advice on how to both recognize and practice the art of loving. When I collaborated with Craig and Patricia on writing The Art of Convening book, I began to think about one of the practices of loving that Fromm presented in his book: the quality of concentration. According to Dr. Fromm this meant attending very deliberately to what one was doing in the moment, and multitasking as little as possible. He also took it to mean that we avoid, as much as possible, what he labeled “trivial conversation.” Avoiding trivial conversation doesn't mean that everything we talk about has to be of grave or overarching importance. It means that what we talk about be genuinely of interest and meaningful to us and our conversation partner(s) and not just an exchange of pithy clichés or memorized talking points. In other words, we are urged to bring our conversations into the realm of truth, genuineness and recognition of the other. I began to realize that The Art of Convening was a book that described a detailed method for bringing exactly this condition... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold Do you ever find yourself in a group of smart, lively talkers, stimulated to speak, but not willing to wrestle for the floor? You are content to listen because your complex and rich internal process is busy making connections and formulating new ideas. This is sustaining you while you listen intently to the others - some of whom are saying what you may have said anyway! Perhaps you, like me, are an introvert. I recently read a book by Devora Zack called "Networking For People Who Hate Networking" that presents some interesting ways that introverts and extroverts can be different. One idea Devora expresses that has been most enlightening for me is "extroverts talk to think and introverts think to talk." The book provided me with new insights about myself, people like me, and people not like me. So, how does that relate to The Art of Convening? There is a story in The Art of Convening book called The Introvert, Extrovert Dilemma. In the story, the convener, Pam, notices when some are dominating the conversation in the meeting she is leading and some are not speaking. She pauses the conversation and then asks for the opinion of each person on the topic at hand - one at a time. This practice creates a space for each voice to be heard and for the introverts to express themselves without having to interrupt someone else or be interrupted. Then Pam resumes the open conversation with everyone. When a convener does this and the conversation continues, the discussion is informed by everyone and may proceed differently. The introverts often have something essential to say that will bring a better outcome to the meeting - whether they think it is essential or not. I think of myself as an introvert with "social impulses" and don't experience my preferences as a handicap, but I have to admit I like a structured way to express my thoughts. The story reminded me of the great value The Art of Convening can provide in groups where introverts and extroverts are co-mingling. Do you have... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold Have you ever been judged? I know the answer to that, because we've all been judged. We're judged every time we walk among others. For the very same behavior or characteristic we can be judged positively (especially by our moms!) or negatively (as by our arch nemesis if we have one). My own judgments are both involuntary and continuous - like breathing. Sometimes those judgments help me make sense of the world, but more often than I would like, if I have the opportunity to test the judgments I make, they can be amazingly wrong. That is, unless I have triggered the "self-fulfilling prophesy" kind of judgment. We are all multifaceted human beings, and as such could display characteristics that show us to be shallow barbarians one minute and deep, thoughtful geniuses the next. People judge me (and others) using all kinds of criteria - by the expression on our faces, by the shoes we wear, by the condition or color of our hair, or perhaps by a blog entry. A momentary lapse of manners may be judged as refreshingly real by one person and as unnecessarily crude by another. A challenge I struggle with sometimes when I convene or participate in a group is setting aside my judgment. A key principle in the Art of Convening for the Aspect of Hearing All the Voices is to suspend our judgment. But my brain is constantly making conscious and unconscious evaluations of the people I am with - and others often seem to be doing the same thing. Like a frisky puppy, judgment chews on my hand and vies for my attention, becoming more stealthy and present as I struggle to banish it. So, rather than fight with my judgment and try to get rid of it, I have decided to treat it like a puppy I've brought along, but is not participating. I take the time to train her to sit quietly at my feet or under my chair, until my meeting or conversation is over - then I take her away with me somewhat better behaved,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
Cindy Wold is now following Center for Purposeful Leadership
Jun 24, 2011
Kath, thank you! Good advice that I will use. I also wonder if there are judgements getting in my way if the truth is not coming out of my mouth. It really is so much the inner game...
Toggle Commented Jun 24, 2011 on Convening and The Truth at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold Someone asked me today what I imagined would make the biggest difference in improving the quality of an upcoming conversation. I thought about it a bit and said that it would be telling the truth. I don't think that people intentionally lie, but I think all of us like to manage our persona and make a good impression. We want to get along with others and may unconsciously utter clichés instead of offering thoughtful, relevant talk. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, but I am sometimes in exchanges where that kind of thing is practiced to an extreme - and it wears me out! Also, it is impossible for me to develop a sense of trust in my conversations when I believe that truth is not forthcoming. Most of us are not privy to knowing what THE TRUTH in capital letters is, but we do know what we are experiencing and thinking in the moment. It is uncomfortable for me to openly share my genuine experiences and thoughts when others are not doing the same - much like the feeling of being watched from behind a one-way glass. That doesn't mean we have to bare our souls and tell all, or expound fully on our areas of expertise, but it does mean that we have to be real. In The Art of Convening, authentic engagement is defined as simply the genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for others. It's not entertaining, persuading or manipulating, but it is very energizing. Using the principles and practices of the Art of Convening make it much more likely that participants in a conversation or gathering will authentically engage - which means telling the truth. What is your experience of truth-telling and the Art of Convening? Cynthia (Cindy) Wold is a Co-author of "The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations" Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold Some people have said that when they try using the principles of The Art of Convening and and the Convening Wheel in their gatherings, they are sometimes accused of being "controlling." This has happened to me too. A Convener doesn't control what people say, control thinking or control the outcome of the gathering, but we do guide participants of our gathering into a container of safety so that everyone in the group feels free to speak truth and be listened to without fear of being interrupted, spoken over or harshly judged. And we want to guide the structure of the gathering so that we honor everyone's time and purpose. So, is that being controlling? It isn't being controlling in the negative sense of the word, but of course it's controlling like driving a car or making dinner is controlling. That's why I think the aspect of Creating the Container in the Convening Wheel is so important to pay attention to - especially the inner container. The challenge that comes along with Creating the Container, fittingly, is Reluctance to impose our will on others. Many of us know this challenge. My knee-jerk reaction to the accusation of being controlling is to deny it. The label has so many negative connotations that I want to distance myself from it. But there is a difference between "being controlling" and asserting some control. When I follow the principles in The Art of Convening and ask for permission to convene, lay out the terms of our engagement clearly and ask for agreement, I'm less likely to come off as "being controlling," yet I am asserting some needed structural control. The participants are free to accept or not. Rather than recoil from this kind of accusation, I'd like to think of control itself on a continuum where the extreme lack of control is a complete dissolution of boundaries resulting in confusing chaos and the extreme presence of control is total command and lack of freedom. Neither extreme is desirable. A balance, somewhere in the middle, is best. It is a worth the effort... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold Almost everyone I know is interacting on Social Media these days. Since most of these interactions are asynchronous, I don't typically think of Social Media as a place to "convene." But I've been seeing some wonderful interactions on facebook that seem to exemplify a principle of the Art of Convening. For example, on facebook I've noticed that often status posts that inform or enlighten us about something we don't already know, even if very interesting, can pass by with little or no comment, while posts that address or ask a question as simple as "what's your favorite color?" elicit an avalanch of responses and a kind of instant community. In The Art of Convening, the chapter on Hearing All the Voices speaks to the importance of asking a question that taps the commonality of the group. The question needn't be specific to the topic of the gathering at hand. It can be as general as "what kind of weather are you having?" or as specialized as "What's your favorite element of the periodic table?" as long as it taps something everyone has in common. This is likely to produce what is called an "Arc of Recognition" from each participant to each of the others. The Arc of Recognition paves the way for a meaningful conversation in our gathering. I love to raise these kinds of questions and am fascinated by the responses. I guess that's the point. We really feel connected and excited when we find how others are like us. A question I like that taps this commonality is "what is your favorite memory of kindergarten?" Do you have one? There are many differences between the intentional, synchronous convening we do in person and virtually that The Art of Convening addresses and the asynchronous interactions in social media. But I think that knowing the principles of convening can be helpful for connecting in all kinds of settings. Cynthia (Cindy) Wold is a Co-author of "The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations" Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
by Cindy Wold Many people are surprised when they read "The Art of Convening" book and learn about the Convening Wheel model. There are nine aspects to the Convening Wheel that take us from the knowledge of ourselves, or The Heart of The Matter (center), to a Commitment to Action (top left) at the close of our gathering - but we don't actually begin to formally interact with others in our gathering until we get to aspect six, Hearing All the Voices - 2/3 of the way around the wheel! That's because what is prominent and important in the Convening Wheel model is the Inner Game of convening. For me, the Inner Game is also the most intriquing and the most challenging part of convening. It is intriguing because of the presence of riches - the riches most of us carry around internally that often remain invisible to ourselves. The exploration of those riches, for me, is exciting and sometimes astounding. The metaphor I like to use when I think about those internal riches is that their discovery yields gold that I can "spend" on my gathering. The Inner Game is challenging to me because this internal exploration requires continual practice or else it tends to depreciate. My internal condition is always changing, so knowing what it was a year ago, or even a week ago, may not yield the gold I want to spend on the gathering at hand. Luckily, the cache of internal riches does not seem to deplete with time, and a good effort almost always yields more than I expect. Some of the Inner Game components covered in the book concern knowing who I am, knowing what I really want for my gathering, bringing myself to genuinely want and welcome each and every participant, and consciously setting the stage for our engagement. The Aspect Strengthening Exercises in the book provide great tools for doing this exploration or finding a place to start. Recently, Craig and Patricia Neal posted an article on the Heartland Circle blog called "The Inner Game of Convening," where they emphasize the continuing... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book
Check out Craig and Patricia talking about the Art of Convening book on a Fireside Chat with Lisa Haneberg on the Management Craft blog. Lively discussion and some interesting concepts from the book. Use the link below to get the blog post. The podcast link is included in the post: OR Listen to the podcast now by clicking here. Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2011 at Art of Convening and Book