In the U-Process, the bottom of the “U” presents workshop leaders with several facilitation challenges. First, by its very nature, presencing is thought of as a solo activity. But because this is an area where we often find ourselves needing to let go of some of the things we hold dearly, it can be scary. Having the support of the other workshop participants can be extremely useful. Second, because people have their own rhythms and internal processes, it is hard to force people to “presence on command.” To enable “co-presencing,” or collective presencing, we need to create the conditions that allow us to find quiet and calmness together—a “space of filtration,” where we can let everything fall away, so that what is essential can surface.
In a Change Lab, when we get to the bottom of the left-hand side of the “U,” we are often “full.” By completely immersing ourselves in the problematic situation that we are trying to address, we feel overwhelmed. The complexity is swirling, and we come up against our own limitations. We are faced with two options. We can surrender or give up. Giving up is just that—it’s running away and going back to the way things were before. Surrendering, however, is about accepting rather than resisting; it involves facing reality instead of going into denial. It’s the ability to set aside what you are certain of and letting the uncertainties take you forward. It’s acknowledging fears and limitations, and going forward into unknown territories anyway. Surrendering is also about radically accepting the problem—of embracing it, of loving it
This exercise helps us embrace the problematic situation and ourselves. To do so, we find it helpful to facilitate a shared experience—in this case, the telling of a classic story—that enables everyone to start from a common place, spend time in silence, and then come back and share their insights. Participants communicate first by modeling their “ahas” with clay, then by talking about them in a small group, and finally through journaling. Because the hand often knows what is in the heart before the head does, this step of physically crafting the insight in clay draws out true understanding more fully than how the head might perceive it.
The metaphor of the frog in the story becomes a shorthand way of reminding ourselves of the power of surrendering and of a basic tool to get there.