How to put in words an experience that cannot be contained by words? How to bring in a few lines an experience of humanity that stands with one leg in the future, making room for insights that bring up awe and raw fear at the same time?
This was IOCTI for me this this year. But let me start it from the start.
IOCTI - or the International Organizational Constellations Training Intensive - was created in 2004 by Jan Jacob Stam, a Dutch pioneer in the field of exploring and applying systemic dynamics in organizations and the founder of the Bert Hellinger Institute The Netherlands. As Jan Jacob admits, the initial impulse was “quite political.” “Before 2004 we would meet a lot and exchange experiences in Germany. With IOCTI I wanted to explore if there was room for the international community to also meet in other places,” he says. The first two IOCTI editions took place in the Netherlands. Then, they moved to Mexico (twice), Spain, Uruguay (twice) and, ultimately, Slovenia, where we gathered last week from Oct. 6th and Oct. 14th. With the ninth edition IOCTI is going back home – the next gathering, planned for October 2020, will take place in the Netherlands.
In short, IOCTI brings together the best in the field of systemic dynamics in organizations worldwide. I intentionally don’t write systemic dynamics in business because organizations mean so much more. From cases applied to whole state institutions – the Latvian Police – to cases that bring together farmers, schools, hospitals, communities, non-governmental organizations and their stakeholders, IOCTI is a continuous, multi-faceted and multilayered exploration. This word, exploration, probably describes the best the mindset of the people present at the IOCTI gathering.
Systemic earthquakes and other fireworks
Now, for those of you who know me, you know how much I love my clarity, structure and advance planning. Well, to someone like me, IOCTI is a systemic earthquake. In a way I was already connected to this “I don’t know” energy well before the event started – till last moment I somehow couldn’t decide whether I should attend it or not. The balance was tipped when I received the possibility to run a small evening workshop which I felt would be particularly useful for the systemic community – Personal Branding for Systemic Facilitators. At that moment I knew I needed to be there.
Then came transport. From Prague to Ljubljana there are no direct flights. In the end I settled for a bus ride, which I booked literally a bit before departure.
Then came Natasa.
Natasa Cebulji, the wonderful, tall, blond, energetic founder of the Slovenian Institute for Systemic Constellations who organized IOCTI 2018 together with her team. She was kind enough to pick me up at the bus station and take me on a ride to our hotel in Bled. On our way we started speaking about our work. And she came with the suggestion that, if I want, I could have a workshop on Wednesday morning on one of my relevant systemic projects.
Long story short, I jumped. I took the hand Life offered me and I jumped. And boy, what a ride that was!
Highlights, insights and pearls upon departure
Here are some of the main highlights of a week walked in ups and downs, fear and grace, not knowing (information) and knowing (that I was loved and held no matter what).
- Bled is an INCREDIBLE place. I fed my soul on its beauty for years to come. No words are enough to describe its magic – you must see it for yourself.
- Slovenian traditional music is a marvel. Lovely to listen too, one whole adventure to try to sing it.
- People are hungry to learn from the Masters. Just to be in their presence and access their Wisdom. In a way, Masters give us more than wisdom – they give us hope that all this what we are experiencing is meaningful and can serve. This Hope is sometimes more nurturing than learning, tools and transfer of information.
- It’s ok not to know. It’s ok to go slow. It’s ok to trust the client and let the wisdom of the Client, the Constellation and the Group do the job. Experiencing giants like Gunthard Weber opening their inner process while working – priceless.
- We need to take conscious care of ourselves. As facilitators, we have an obligation to attune to our own container (body, emotions, spirit and soul) and consciously expand it so we can hold the space that is requiring us to work with.
- During my workshop I realized how powerful the forces we work with can be. In the second part I dared stepping aside from my plan and work with the energy of the group. It took us to a place where all I could do as a facilitator was to assist, hold, honor and bring it to an acceptable ending. Even though I experienced it as a “black eye,” many people shared later that it was one of the most courageous parts of the workshop.
- Co-creation is one heck of a job. Staying with our multi-layered awareness while being present for ourselves, for the others and for the process is tremendously confronting. How to stay in that energy with respect for one’s needs and boundaries and yet open to the transformative co-creation process?
- There are fellowships of soul. You simply recognize each other. You then stick to each other. You wonder: am I asking / needing / being too much? And the other is still there. You take in and in taking in you give the other the experience of being taken. Accepted. Only that you learn this later, upon your departure. For some reason, we always become aware of our impact on people upon departure.
- A walking constellation with friends while taking the boat to the church in the middle of the island on the Bled lake. Priceless.
- Insights brought by a workshop on systemic explorations in the role of technology and artificial intelligence in our society:
- Technology is not the problem. We are.
- Technology keeps us connected as long as we remember what it means being connected.
- We need to start seeing and hearing the Forgotten – those excluded by the technological evolution. Their pain is real, overwhelmingly real. We cannot build global sustainable well—being without including the Forgotten in the bigger picture.
- Women MUST be part of the technology development world. Through their intuition and inclusion women make sure that what it being born will serve the entire society.
- There are systems where saying YES to doing business can mean paying the ultimate price – one’s life. We need to be aware of that when we reach out to working with clients from these systems.
- Seeing you masters dancing wild while wearing a Goran Bregovic t-shirt – priceless.
I return home sated, confronted, sad and hopeful. My head cannot contain yet the potential of all of our explorations. My body is tired and weak, expanding when my other containers contract. My heart… Maybe this is the main insight I take away from Bled. If I want to work from the heart (and I cannot do it otherwise anymore), I need to embrace my fear – that raw fear that brings shivers into your hands when you feel the approaching presence of Grace. And yet, the only good thing one can do is to stand up, take off your shoes and other unnecessary property, chin up, open up and do this work. Just do this work. The system will take care of the rest.
Thanks, IOCTI! Thanks, Natasa and your team for creating the space for these miracles to happen. Thanks, Jan Jacob and all other teachers, with us or sending us love from home. Thanks Bled and Slovenia for reminding me how it feels being alive – really alive. Thanks, friends and soul fellows. Till we meet again… till we meet again...