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walking conversations

on Mon 19 Dec 2016

about pausing and listening

I'm writing this to the crunchy sound of feet kicking dry leaves – on a YouTube stream that I've discovered yesterday when I was working on a poem about snowy owls. I was surprised to discover hours of sound recordings of arctic wind, snow storms, snow falling on trees and it helped greatly to focus my mind. I was less surprised now to find there's also a great selection of leave rustling sounds out there.

We walked through dry leaves today through what's left of autumn in Victoria Park. It's part of our team's commitment to close a year that was full of transition and unsettledness in a more conscious and reflective way and get inspiration for the new year: our team is currently just Trupti and Petra. Polly left deep:black in early April to focus on developing her work around narrative facilitation, and Katharine has gone on maternity leave in late April. This was a lot of change to adjust to and brought challenges: especially managing our ambition which has been much bigger than the capacity of a 50%-reduced team. But it also brought new opportunities: Trupti had joined the deep:black team when it was already up and running so she was understandably a bit breathless at times trying to catch up with her running team mates; at least now we were all forced to pause for a moment and catch up together and decide whether to pick up a different pace and change the direction of our run.

This worked, somewhat, to some extend, but we didn't give ourselves enough time to pause and catch-up during the year so we're now starting a coaching process together: Trupti, Petra and a coach – a coach who works while walking through the park, around trees, across grass, through dry leaves. We both instantly relaxed into the gift of being facilitated and being supported to fully listen to each other instead of self-facilitating – which we are so used to given that facilitation is the bread and butter of deep:black. But which is also so limiting when we want to explore deeper issues.

But, again, nothing is straight forward and there were challenges: walking through the park on a winter's day meant no opportunity to write things down – letting go of that sense of security in written notes, something tangible to hang on to at the end of a conversation, to come back to, to follow up. Trusting that whatever we each remember is good enough – of course, most of the time I don't go back to my notes in much detail or I don't understand a few weeks later what they even meant and, as I noticed this morning during a meeting before our coaching walk, I sometimes get so distracted with taking notes that I don't listen fully and then lose the meaning of the spoken word altogether. So not only am I then left with notes that might not mean much to me anymore in a few weeks but also with no other memory of that conversation because I didn't focus enough on what was actually said.

So this will be a trust exercise for myself: trusting that our coach will listen attentively and that between us we will remember whatever we need to remember and that the rest isn't important enough. What I particularly remember from today's walk is the quality of listening we had between us: hearing each other fully without the need to immediately respond. Letting words settle in. Taking time to think before responding – taking time. Taking time. Also, the new questions that came up, the ones we hadn't brought into the conversation in exactly that way: a need for clarity of what deep:black is and how it fits into each of our lives, a need to know what matters most to each of us, and a need to share these things with each other.

I think today is a reminder of the power of listening – whether it's the autumn leaves rustling through my headphones or the ability to fully hear each other without worrying about written notes or complete responses. Nothing important will be forgotten.  


text: petra hilgers

photo: trupti magech



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