How I brought Deep Adaptation into my workplace
“Because, are all the people wonderful? No. Are some of them extremely challenging? Yes! (laughs) But there’s something about how you manage that, how it’s managed within DA spaces that makes it really enriching and really powerful. And yes, as a consequence, I disengage very quickly from spaces where this is not the case. And I did find, for a period, that I was just dismissing those spaces. And just going “I don’t want to engage in that, I’m not interested.” And then I guess I went through a bit of a, a bit of a realisation around… Just because those spaces don’t offer that doesn’t mean I can’t bring it? (long pause) Just because they don’t welcome, it’s not practice, doesn’t mean I can’t still be “that,” and if it makes people uncomfortable then perhaps all the better? (laughs)”Kat Soares
What has been my experience of the Deep Adaptation Forum?
The Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF) is a unique place, where I can feel less alone in the way I’m thinking, and where I can have fruitful conversations about the things that matter most to me. Volunteering in DAF is so fulfilling it feeds my soul. This is why I spend so much time doing it. I find Deep Adaptation (DA) activities, conversations and processes so enriching that I will prioritise them over anything else in my life. They fulfil an important need that I’ve always felt.
I have made very deep friendships in DA, from which I am learning a lot – and established relationships into which I can bring my whole self.
On the other hand, taking part in DA spaces has also made some personal relationships outside these spaces more difficult, when I don’t find the same level of openness in them.
What has come out of it for me?
Engaging in DAF has enabled me to become more tolerant and at peace in dealing with people who don’t see the world like I do. I have become more confident and better able to face the world outside the DA community. It has also enabled me to feel strong enough to voice my disagreement when it’s important that I do so. And as a result of feeling more confident, I feel more inner resilience, which is satisfying.
DA spaces are very enriching and nurturing. For a while, I used to dismiss spaces where people don’t bring their whole selves. Now, I see myself as someone who can bring some of this way of being and relating to spaces where this isn’t normal practice.
These days I’m better able to stay calm when people lose their temper, and I’ll invite people to engage with me on a deeper emotional level, in a playful way. Thanks to my practice in DA spaces, and the people I’m learning from, I’m not triggered so easily. I have more capacity to hold space for, and relate with, people who aren’t like me.
DA has made me even less ‘employable’ than before, because I only want to work in places that are as nurturing as DAF spaces. But now, I just don’t care about not being employable!
What am I learning in the doing?
I now feel able to speak up and voice my disagreement more often, and in non-belligerent ways, including in work settings. This happened, for instance, during several high-level work meetings (including senior government advisory panel meetings).
I explain much more readily than before that I’m engaging with DA, and what it’s about. Prior to joining DA I wouldn’t really talk about my perception of threats from climate change, other than to trusted or known friends. DA has allowed me to build a fluency and confidence in these topics and to more fully integrate it. So naturally it is part of my expression now in all settings. Not as a doomer, but as a curious seeker of truth and change. This brings about stimulating conversations.
The type of language I use and the way I hold space have changed since I started volunteering with DA. My way of working is now more explicitly about relationship-building, respect, curiosity, compassion, and understanding.
What difference does it make in my life and that of other people?
My work in DAF has encouraged me to stay in my current job and engage with it in a more playful way. I have directly implemented in my daily work some practices that are very habitual in DA spaces, such as ‘presencing’ and check-ins at the beginning of meetings, co-creating agendas, and other practices based on more feminine ways of operating.
My involvement with DA has changed the way in which the team that I lead is functioning, and also my board. Our way of collaborating has shifted, and people are more relaxed with one another and more present to what they bring into the space. And I’m noticing that other spaces are shifting in that direction, too. This could be in part thanks to my work in my team, and how my way of working has shifted, although it’s hard to say exactly.
I have also been encouraging others to do so in their own workplace. For example, four months ago, I introduced Deep Listening principles to a professional team. Recently, I had a meeting with them, and was gratified to see they were mirroring some of this behaviour: they did some presencing at the beginning of the meeting, for example. They also seemed less impatient, more tolerant and more curious: more people are being actively called to voice their opinions – although people tend to revert to their old patterns of behaviour when there’s a sense of urgency.
Another example of how my engagement in the Forum has been impactful for others outside: I recently organised an anti-racism training for my team on the basis of the training that the Diversity and Decolonising Circle organised in DAF back in November 2020. The training was led by the same facilitator, Nontokozo Sabic. This training has been instrumental in supporting a National Environmental Movement (comprising more than 60 organisations) that are now engaging in the hard of work of decolonising their ways of operating, to increase their accessibility and value to marginalised groups within their local areas. This work is new but enthusiasm is high and commitment is firm no matter the challenges.
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