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Come in, sit and feast on your life

Welcome to the table or fire of this collection of reflecting questions that hope to create a place for gathering, for telling stories and sharing wisdom. This monthly collection of reflecting questions wants to provide individuals, families, communities, teams or groups with the opportunity to connect, weave meaning and share stories in ways that fascinate and transport us.

The Story: The table has always held the possibility for me of gorgeous transporting conversations if we dare to ask questions of which we don’t know the answers to and share questions that hold the magic of transporting us to other worlds with reflections we have never named or thought of before.

On a long walk, with my dear friend, Griet Bouwen, somewhere along the Belgium coast, this idea of providing reflecting questions on the photos I have taken from all my adventures in the last couple of years, was born. Recently another nudge happened on twitter when my friend, Stephan Marchant wrote to me, saying: “I just imagined you would create a list of beautiful curious questions we could ask to one another sitting around the fire”.

And here we are, with my commitment to every month share a collection of reflecting questions with a theme from the photos I have taken over the last 10 years of traveling the world as I sat at numerous tables having gorgeous, moving conversations.

The Ocean Theme: I grew up next to the ocean in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and my fondest memories of my childhood relate to losing time whilst playing on the beach, riding waves and catching small fishes to only throw them back when we leave in die late afternoon. December is also the time for our summer holidays here in the southern hemisphere and the time when we camp next to the ocean for three weeks, which open up the possibility of reflection and making so  many memories. I therefore chose the ocean as my first theme to create a beautiful backdrop for the reflecting questions for this December edition of the Table Conversations. These are all photos I have taken over the past ten years, where light and beauty called me through my cell phone camera lens.  

What is it about? The collection of reflecting questions for December focus on endings, futures and our relationship to the pandemic with the ocean as the photo theme providing us with its wild beauty.

Who is at the table? These questions can be reflected on next to any table or fire, individually, in groups, families, teams and communities.

Guiding practices when reflecting on these questions:

Re-dignifying Practices

When we reflect on these questions, individually or communally, the invitation is to create a podium for human dignity in every conversation. The re-dignifying practices stand central as ways to be with people that ignite the beauty and dignity of their lives (Tom Carlson 2017). These practices understand the societal discourses that play out in our human relatedness with one another and are therefore not mere rules or methods for better communication, they do and are much more.

These practices bring the gift of respect which comes from the Latin word “respecere”. “Specere” means “to see” and is the word that “spectacles” come from. “Re” means that we are challenged to look again. The word respect therefore challenges us to see again and look again beyond the labels and judgements we so easily fall into.

The re-dignifying practices provide the environment for conversations where we talk about things that really matter without thinking that we know what people mean. We create spaces where we welcome all the voices and respect the diversity of meaning and ways of seeing the world as gifts that can assist us to move forward together.

Re-dignifying Practices for Re-authoring Conversations facilitate a movement from what we normally do to an alternative way of being with one another and with ourselves.

Re-dignifying Practices for Re-authoring Conversations facilitate a movement from what we normally do to an alternative way of being with one another

Avoid You are invited to
Judging and evaluating Be carefully curious
Assuming Ask questions that you do not know the answer to by using the vocabulary of the narrator(s)
Fixing, solving problems, intervening and interrupting Elevate the narrator to primary authorship
Giving advice and reframing Listen and be open to be surprised and transformed
Giving compliments, positive judgements, applause, feedback and affirmations Share gifts through the ‘offerings of our moved hearts’ (Tom Carlson 2017)

As we listen to the storyteller or organisation/community, we are touched, moved or struck by what we hear. We therefore share the offerings of our moved hearts with one another.

  • What were the gifts you received form each person in the group?
  • What were the gifts you received from the conversation?

These gifts (Block 2008) are contextual, specific, timely and created in the conversation; they can never be reproduced in the same way. As they are given, I believe these gifts are folded into the rich fabric of our ‘human becoming’ (Winslade 2009).

  • We share gifts by saying: “The gift I received from you in this conversation is …”

When we receive a gift, we are invited to accept the gift with a “thank you” and not to diminish the gift by saying things like: “I was born like this”, “It is nothing special”, or “There are other people who are better at this than I am”.

When human beings share gifts with one another, they open richer descriptions of one another’s identities that also help participants to understand which gifts they are already bringing to their communities or the organisation and which gifts they want to bring even more fully.

Human dignity is invited through re-dignifying practices, the creation of human connection and the sharing of gifts. These re-authoring practices bring human aliveness that invites participants to see themselves and one another anew, and as we do, transformation of our relatedness becomes possible. As we welcome all the voices and respect the diversity of meaning and ways of seeing the world as gifts, it can assist us to move forward together in a transformed relationship to all the things of the world.

Acknowledgements: These reflecting questions have been inspired and infused by the ideas and practices of Narrative Therapy, Peter Block’s community work (2008), Gervase Bushe and Bob Marshak’s Dialogic Organizational Development work (2015), Jeff Zimmerman’s (2018) interpersonal neurobiology, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht’s (2004, 2014) writings on meaning and presence, my colleagues, Tom Carlson (2015-2017), Griet Bouwen and Marianne Schapmans (2015-2020), many conversations with my co-journeyers across the world and my beloved country, South Africa.

You are welcome to contact me if you have any further curiosities:

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