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September 30, 2014

Reflecting on life in my 40’s

I’ve been having flashbacks to my own childhood lately and I’ve figured out why …

My eldest boy (Griffin) is 11 years old and, for some reason, 11 is about the age when I can vividly recall events, moments and interaction with my dad. That year was 1983 when Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ was released. Coincidentally, my dad and I had our first children at precisely the same age (within 3 days of each other).

So, when doing things with my kids, more and more I am remembering my life at 11 … when dad was my age. When I took this photo of Griffin emerging from the surf after riding a few monster waves, I remembered dad’s look of pride. I didn’t surf at 11 (hell, I wish I had), but I still remember dad praising me and giving me words of encouragement. I find myself doing the same with my boys and maybe even in the same ways as dad did with me.

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GeoffBrown | Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments Off

November 8, 2013

To the gal’ who constantly amazes me

Ingrid and I were married 15 years ago.

It seems impossible that a decade plus 5 years has passed. But, as we reflected (just now) on all we have done, experienced and created in that time … well, it’s like a lifetime of moments compressed into 15 years.

We bring out the very best in each other and this has been the secret to our relationship flourishing. I have the deepest admiration for Ingrid – as a great mum, a loving partner, a caring health professional and a committed member of our community. I count myself as one of the lucky ones.

We share a passion for living life and being present with our boys as they grow. We don’t want to miss a second of their journey toward becoming good men. As close friend of mine, with 2 boys (now young men) who have left home keeps reminding me, “Geoff, these are the golden years!”.

Our family celebrated Ingrid’s 40th on a boat, swimming with Whale Sharks. Ingrid didn’t want a party … she wanted our family to experience something memorable. And for me, this photo of Ingrid says everything … happiness, reflection, contentment and wonder.

GeoffBrown | Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments Off

September 8, 2013

From Coast to Coast

We have lived outdoors under sun, moon and stars for over 4 months and I’ve lost track of how many sunrises and sunsets we’ve witnessed. Now we are travelling south, down the east coast, where the sun rises from the ocean and sinks behind the Great Diving Range. The difference feels disorientating after spending so long in the west.

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I watched the sunrise at Kinka Beach this morning – just south of Yeppoon and touch north of Tropic of Capricorn (approx 23° South … the southern most latitude where the sun can be directly overhead). On the west coast we crossed the same line at (about) Waroora Station, just south of Coral Bay. This Capricorn campsite on the southern tip of Maggie’s Beach was our favourite. We have camped at many locations, but at Maggie’s we were alone and everything about it was wild and alive.

Our hearts, thoughts and vehicle are heading home – Aireys Inlet at 38° south. Awaiting our arrival home are friends, family, our 2 dogs and colder marine waters. But first we have a few east coast pleasures to indulge in. Tomorrow we sail out to Heron Island for a (well earned) 4 day break from the trailer and canvas tent walls. Then 4 days mooching around Seventeen Seventy before heading further south in Noosa for point breaks and outrageously great gelati! Until finally we camp for a week in Scott’s Head – the NSW seaside town where our year of travel began.

Unlike the constantly changing itinerary of the last 4 months, I’ll bet a Noosa Gelato that we stick precisely to the east coast plan above!

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments Off

September 7, 2013

Principles for Traveling the Offroads

5th Aug. 2013

As I watched the sunset against the northern Bungle Range last night (this post began weeks ago!), I began to imagine myself (for the first time in months!) working with groups and doing what I do – facilitation. Before we left back in May, my friend and colleague Andrew Rixon said, “I'll be interested to read about your reflections and learnings from the road trip”. On a number of occasions I've tried (often too hard) to write a clever piece about the lessons from this trip and how they might relate to the world of facilitation. Early on I even tried to keep up with my favourite blogs. About 8 weeks ago I let go of these compulsions entirely. I've been surprised (and Ingrid delighted) as to how little attention I have given to anything work or home related. I also wonder how on earth we are going to adjust to the routine of life when we arrive home on September 29!?

2nd Sept. 2013

As we travel south toward home along the Queensland coast, Ingrid and I have been reflecting on the people we've met, places visited and family life on the road. Whenever we talk like this, recurring themes emerge … I suppose these are like principles for travelling the off-roads. Here are a few …

Prepare meticulously! Early in the trip we spent 12 days along the Gnaraloo/Red Bluff coast and we nearly ran out of food and drinking water! This was a wake up call. Had something gone wrong on the rough roads out of Gnaraloo, we may have been reliant on others for help. From this moment we prepared for extended, remote trips with military precision and we've learned that you can't wing-it!

Be prepared to abandon the plan! Anyone who has travelled knows this one. We have altered or abandoned many of our well thought out plans. Because the next day (or even the next hour) is impossible to predict, staying open to the unexpected is what makes this quote ring true …

“The zest is in the journey and not in the destination.” Lynn H. Hough


When it's time to move on … move! That feeling of needing to move on is like an itch that needs scratching. After 1, 3 or maybe 5 days at a camp, Ingrid might give me that look that clearly says, “I'm ready to pack up and go.” Or, the kids might sing out together, “We wanna go mum and dad!” When you feel it's time to move … move!


Its in the eye of the beholder! Everyone sees places through their own eyes. We have learned that Caravaners (with Air Cons) give glowing reviews of campsites exposed to intolerable levels of heat and sun. Fellow travellers in camper trailers and tents tend to give better advice … but not always. We've learned to go and find out for ourselves.

 

Finally … let go, connect with each other and find the flow!

With 17 weeks behind us and 4 weeks down the east coast to go, have turned for home. A trip of this length will, more than likely, happen just this once. I know my boys so much better. The boys themselves are thriving and their relationships have strengthened. Ingrid and I feel like we are in our 20's when we backpacked around the world back in the 90's! We have had a chance to be a family … together day in, day out … without school or work to separate us … it has been a gift and an adventure that none of us will forget.

 

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Facilitation, Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments Off

June 9, 2013

Settling in to a new pattern of living

Written a week ago & published today …

Our family is into it’s 3rd week of 20 weeks on the ‘off-roads’ of Australia’s North West. As a family unit, we have only just found our rhythm with the set-up/pack-down of the tent, 4WD navigation and the discipline needed for home-schooling 3 young boys. You can read about our adventures over here at Camping Feet.

I awoke this morning (at a remote beach under Goulet Bluff just south of Monkey Mia) with a renewed focus after a few days of unsettling (gale force) winds and lack of sleep. It’s taken time to adjust to the change and uncertainty that comes from leaving behind a life of work and school, a house, 2 dogs, a car and a community of friends and family. We have slowly found our roles that contribute to a well oiled camping machine. The kids are learning what they can do (that’s useful) and we parents are learning to let-go of control.

As I reflect on the time it has taken me (and us) to settle into a gentler pattern of living off-road, I started to think about the groups and teams that I work with. Here are some first cut thoughts (as I sit in our 4WD heading north to Carnarvan) …

I’ve spent my life working with groups and I’ve learned that it takes time – days of ‘doing stuff’ together – for a group to find it’s mojo. Time for conversations, playing games, relationship building and time for individuals to get in touch with their own inner game. Time is needed for a group to build a shared understanding of the world (as it is now and how it could be in the future) and co-discover what needs attention … all whilst practicing the art of suspending judgement.

At some point (and not all groups get there) groups/teams naturally start to experiment with solutions and test their ideas for actions. They find a core purpose that builds energy and keeps them on track when the going gets tough. Individuals have a sense of their role and need a high degree of autonomy in order to thrive. They learn to improvise together and they begin to realise the potential of group genius. Collective action toward something bigger than the group may then follow.

These groups may have started as loose networks of people with a shared interest scattered across a community. They might be a newly formed committee or a new team within an organisation. Whatever the context, groups begin to look outside of themselves and serve the greater good. The conversations about themselves and their own practice become a broader conversation with communities and stakeholders around them.

Of course none of this group stuff is linear … it’s messy. How long does it take? Well, it all depends … there are no hard and fast rules, only broad principles and practices as a guide-beside. Questions of leadership crop up everywhere and groups have to face up to their fears and struggle with the questions that keep them up at night. “How do we proceed amid such uncertainty?” … “How do we make sound decisions in such change and complexity?”.

I think I’ve learned to sit more comfortably in that space of “not knowing” … and to trust and be present to whatever emerges next. On this 5 month family journey, we are learning to gently push our adventurous edge, whilst remaining safe. Everyday we are faced with countless choices, decisions and opportunities. Everyday we grow stronger and closer as a family.

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GeoffBrown | Facilitation, Gone Supping, Leadership, Yes!And Improv | Comments Off

January 18, 2013

Rhythm of Camping

I am writing from Coles Bay, Tasmania – famous as Australia first Plastic Bag-free town!

After 3 weeks in Tasmania we finally scored some waves this morning – a lovely little right at Bicheno. Whilst waiting for set waves on my SUP I started thinking about the rhythm we are in on this leg of our journey around Tasmania.

We have stopped asking each other  the question – “What time is it?”. Our day is quite simply regulated by the rumblings in our tummies and the rise and fall of the sun. We have realised how time-bound life is at home. We are also cherishing every moment of this time-boundless trip. Whilst I write this, Ingrid and Griff are playing a card game, Lachie is writing his journal and Hamish is playing music on the iPad. No plans and no deadlines. It’s living a life of Open Space where passion (doing the things we love) is bounded by a discipline … a responsibility for things like keeping our camper organised and for teaching (un-schooling) our kids on-the-road.

    

Left – Kids keep the daily budget so we can stick to our target!
Right – Our Mr7 (Lachie) writes a daily journal … he has a unique “in-the-moment” style

I’ve been applying Open Space Technology to my work with groups of people for years now, and every so often the simplicity of the Open Space principles amazes me. Like I said above, this camping trip is not bounded by the clock on my iPhone – “Whenever it starts is the right time” and “When it’s over it’s over”. We have a plan but we riff around the pre-thought notes and, like this morning’s surf,  seize opportunities as they arise – “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have”. We meet people along the way and form new relationships. In the remote bush camps, kids are amazing at launching into a day of beautiful play without the toys and stuff we left behind at home. Kids are not selective about who they play with and, from what I’ve observed, apply the principle “Whoever come are the right people” naturally.

And on that note … I’ve got two kids at my side pestering me with a sing song version of “I’m Hungry …”. I’ll leave this post with selection of kids’ creations in and around campsite across Tasmania.

                        

 

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments (2)

January 13, 2013

Watching & Listening

We are currently on an off-road camping adventure in the island state of Tasmania. If you have been tuning into the news (anywhere in the world) you’d know that Tasmania is in the grip of bushfires. They are burning in the south-east, centre, north-east and north-west of the state. Our thoughts and best wishes are with everyone who going through this. Last Friday our own community (Aireys Inlet) was on high alert with high temperatures and winds. From high up, just below Cradle Mountain, we were nervously watching Victorian conditions as well.

   

So far, we have had some good luck and have made some good decisions to keep clear of the fire affected areas. We would have struggled without access to internet though. The Tasmanian fire service website has been helpful and the BOM site (via the iphone app) has allowed us to look a few days ahead and decide where to go. Our solid understanding of bushfire behaviour has been invaluable as well.

Yesterday we left Lake St Claire National Park (after some beautiful SUP’ing) a day early than our plans and headed between the fire affected areas on a warm but very calm day where main roads were safe. The forecast of high temperatures and savage winds materialised this morning and the sedate fire flanks (all across Tasmania) raged to life into active fronts. Emergency warnings are out everywhere and communities across Tasmania are on high alert … with some being advised to relocate.

Yesterday at 2.30pm we arrived, by ferry, to Bruny Island. The southern most island that is (currently) free of fires with camping grounds located right on the beach. From our southern vantage point, we had a light sprinkling of ash falling from the sky carried by strong NW winds from the central island fires. Here is an eerie photo of the sky to Bruny’s north – the large Tasman Peninsular fire is somewhere in the distance.

The sanctuary of Bruny Island is quite something indeed! In search of a National Park campsite, we drove from the north tip to southern most point of Cloudy Bay. This place is a paradise … I could move here in a heartbeat! So, whilst we wait for the fires on the east coast of Tassie to re open, Bruny will be our home along a thin strip of land known as the ‘Neck’. Here are a few pics taken so far:

The strip of land linking the north and south of Bruny Isand known as The Neck. Our boys watching ‘almost’ surfable barrels out in front of our campsite.

   

Bruny’s Sour Dough & Cheese Makers are divine!

   

Food and wine is a huge focus on Bruny, here is a description (of the food at the Bruny Hotel) and some evidence!

  

Next Stop … Hobart where we have Mona, Salamanca Markets and The Hobbit (in 3D) in our sights!

GeoffBrown | Gone Supping, Story | Comments Off

August 2, 2012

Listening

How well do you listen? It’s a practice that I have to continually work on in all aspects of life – as a parent, partner, friend, family and consultant. Like with most of us, my attention tends to drift toward my thoughts, ideas and next thing I want to say. With discipline and practice I have learned to really listen when facilitating groups. Here are some other people and ideas who have taught me about the art of listening:

Chris Corrigan and listening – I have developed some habits and techniques that turn my attention toward the group. Lately I’ve been practicing this simple breathing technique that Chris Corrigan writes about here. Chris’ technique helps me to tune into the “sound” of the group conversation and provides another way of reading the dynamics between people in the room.

Herman Hesse and listening – I have just read Hermanne Hesse’s Siddhartha. A character named Vasudeva the Ferryman teaches Siddhartha the art of listening. Siddhartha feels the joy and connection that comes from being listened to. I just love Hesse’s words in this passage …

“Vasudeva listened with great attentiveness. He took in everything as he listened, origins and childhood, all the learning, all the searching, all the joy, all the suffering. This was one of the greatest amoung the ferryman’s virtues: He had mastered the art of listening. Although Vasudeva himself did not utter a word, it was clear to the one speaking that each of his words was being allowed to enter into his listener, who sat there quietly, openly, waiting: not a single word was disregarded or met with impatience: Vasudeva attached neither praise nor blame to what he heard but merely listened. Siddhartha felt what a joy it was to be able to confide in such a listener, to entrust his life, his searching, his sorrow, to this welcoming heart” p. 88 

Theodore Zeldin and listening – I have been learning a lot about listening by applying a principle to every conversation I’m in. The principle is this … “I am willing to emerge a slightly different person from this conversation with you”. When you start a conversation with this principle in mind, it is amazing what you hear from the other person. This mindset helps me to be still, quiet and attentive. There is a richness to the conversation that is lacking when I am swept up by my own thoughts and inner voice. I learned this principle in working alongside David Gurteen who shared this quote by historian Theodore Zeldin

 “The kind of conversation I’m interested in is one in which you start with a willingness to emerge a slightly different person.” Theodore Zeldin.

 

 

Johnnie Moore and listening – A few years ago friend and co-conspirator Johnnie Moore taught me a phrase that has stuck with me … Notice More, Change Less. It’s the idea if limiting your interventions and not playing the role of outside expert in trying to make stuff happen. Johnnie has taught me to simply “support what is emerging from within the system, not operating on it as the cold outsider.” In his Change This manifesto with James Cherkoff, he builds on this idea of a willingness to be changed in our interactions …

“In the world of improvised theatre, which inspires a lot of our thinking, the player who tries too hard to drive the narrative is accused of scriptwriting. The one who tries to tell jokes is encouraged to stop gagging. The real skill in performance is to fully take on the offers of the other players and be changed by them. Then what you offer back is likely to develop the drama.”

Viv McWaters and listening – A willingness to “emerge a slightly different person” opens up learning possibilities in every interaction. It’s not about agreeing with everything either … sometimes the lesson is simply that other people hold a different point of view to me. In Applied Improvisation we apply the principle of Accepting Offers. Saying ‘Yes And’ builds on what the other person offers. It means that others walk away from conversations knowing they have been heard and understood. This “knowing I’ve been heard” outcome is critically important in building relationships and trust. Viv McWaters writes about this principle here and says

“Adopting a ‘yes, and…’ mindset is all about accepting offers. You don’t need to like the offer, or even follow-through. It’s about the initial moment of acceptance rather than rejection. It’s about seeing that there’s more to making a choice than it’s either this or it’s either that. It’s about noticing the offer in what others say and do. Sometimes it’s hard to notice an offer – it’s a small offer, or it’s tentative, or it’s hidden amongst a whole lot of noise. Make big offers yourself. Notice the offer in what others say and do.

To accept is such a gift. To be accepted is such an honour.” Viv McWaters

So, here’s my offer to you and reminder for me … during the next conversation you have with someone (anyone), experiment with these listening principles. I’d love to hear what you notice and learn from this!

 

 

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Facilitation, Gone Supping, Leadership, Yes!And Improv | Comments (1)

July 25, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Ingrid and I just returned home after 4 days and nights away from our 3 boys. Some would call it an indulgence, but 4 days gave us a chance to talk … endlessly. We noticed how much missed them and how time passed so differently with just the 2 of us to attend to.

It even gave me time to capture our time away in this very playful doodle … the story of our 4 days away …

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GeoffBrown | Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments Off

July 22, 2012

The pulse of the southern ocean

There are few forces on earth as powerful as the ocean swells and tides. In response to lunar forces and weather patterns, they shape our coastlines and have the power to transform whole dune systems overnight.

Down here along the coastline of south western Victoria, the vast Southern Ocean plays her tune. She’s unpredictable and only fools dare not respect her power. Pulses of swell travel thousands of kilometers to reach our shores. Each pulse of swell forms a unique wave, different to every wave before it.

The sands along our beaches shift and move beneath the water surface continuously – nothing stays still and everything is moving. When the sandy bottom forms banks of the right shape, the waves on the surface break in long, pleasing lines. This is what brings a smile to face of surfers who call the coast home. When such banks appear on a section of beach, the rumors between locals spread and swarms of wetsuit-clad surfers converge to surf the incoming waves.

The reefs are a more consistant proposition for surfers. The impact of the waves erode and change the reefs over hundreds of years – barely discernible over the career of a surfer. But, like the beach breaks, every wave that breaks across it’s rocky surface is different. The swell size, direction and frequency together with the wind speed and direction are features that all surfers build an understanding of. When all of these factors line up in the sweetspot, everything gets put on hold. Builder’s tools are downed, consultant’s computers go into sleep mode and even some shops will say “Closed, back from surf in 2 hours”. Surfers will happily drive interstate on weekend to catch waves likes theses …

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My home town of Aireys Inlet has its own surfing culture and history. There are local’s breaks and secret spots. The one thing that every surfer has respect for is the ocean. Her power and unpredictability. From beautiful and inviting one moment to ugly and menacing the next! Knowing your limits as a surfer and learning to read local conditions are prerequisites. Respect for fellow surfers and an understanding of the culture is just as much a part of it.

Good friends of ours in Aireys grew up in the most south-western coast of Victoria in Portland and Cape Bridewater. They grew up with Adam Robinson and his family and Adam’s incredible surfing skills on on full show in this video. Enjoy the surfing the delights of Cape Bridewater …


Surfing Cape Bridgewater from Rob Dog on Vimeo.

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Gone Supping, Living Systems & Complexity, Presentations & Slideshows | Comments Off

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