I’ve just come home from the second Thrivability Montreal gathering this month. As so often happens with these gatherings, there was something special in the air tonight. “I can’t put a word to it,” said one woman in the closing circle.  “It’s a feeling of connection.  An energy.  It’s like we experienced something important together.”  Another man’s take-away was that he realized how important it is “to surround myself with positive people.”

My response to both was that there were definitely positive people in the room, but there is also something powerful to the “art of hosting” – to designing and stewarding a gathering in ways that invite the positive in everyone. Had we gathered around a less meaningful topic and had we sat in straight rows listening to a lecture, our experience together would have been far less moving.  Instead, we began and ended in a circle, with a steady rhythm of small group and whole group conversations in between.  In these ways, we honoured the value and wisdom that each person brought to our shared quest for understanding. We also started by eating healthful food together.  We learned each other’s names. Our setting was a high-ceilinged loft with hard-wood floors and an expansive view of Montreal.  And as hosts, Sonia Di Maulo and I tried to model a level of authenticity and care that invited others to do the same.

When these things come together in a gathering, no matter how brief and no matter what topic, the word I hear most often is “healing.”

Imagine – meetings as a form of healing!

So what is that about? Why “healing,” of all words?

My instinct is that it’s connected to our search for wholeness. I wrote about this after the first Art of Hosting retreat I attended, in a blog post called Finding Home.

More recently, I came across this stunning quote by author and activist Starhawk:

We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been – a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.

When we find this sense of wholeness, healing and home, it has a profound effect on us, as if we’ve reconnected with some pure and transcendent aspect of life. Indeed, Art of Hosting participant Nana Dunn observed recently that “sacred is released in relationship.” Or at least it can be, when well hosted.

The question I’m left with, then, is: What if we designed every meeting with the goal of supporting healing and wholeness among participants? Ultimately, what if we designed every organization with this goal in mind?  What a lovely and radical thought.

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