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Mystery at the Centre


At the core of group work lies something ineffable, something that cannot be described in words. As the Dao De Jing says, "We mould clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that makes the vessel useful." What is that quiet, still place at the center telling you now?


The question that takes a group to what it already knows, does not awaken any of these patterns. The mystery at the centre is the question that takes the group to what it does NOT already know.


The non-physical centre, beyond the purpose ...a couple of levels. A group needs a purpose, and placing the purpose in the center is very powerful. The purpose still needs at its centre hollowness, hole in the volcano, generative emptiness, the Tao of the centre (Chapter 11, Tao Da Ching, the power of the wheel comes not from the wheel or the spokes but the centre where the axle sits)

(QUOTE: from Chris

30 spokes, are joining together in a wheel, but it's the center hole that allows the hole to function. Mould clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that makes the vessel useful. We fashion wood for a house but it is the emptiness inside that makes it livable, We work with the substantial but it is the emptiness that we use. )

In the Art of Hosting community of practice, trying to understand the concept of stewardship, we began by asking ourselves, by reflecting (30 of us) what the stories were, "What stories of your work inform your stewardship of this community?", and we mapped those, and then we asked the question, "What questions or insights are about stewardship that arise from your stories of work in the world", and we mapped those. The diagram were that the stories were outside of us, and the questions and insights were inside of us, and so when we are doing our work in the world we are facing away from each other, but we have this centre of insights "at our backs'. When we are engaged in questions and insights in our community of practice, we are facing each other, facing towards the centre, and we have our stories and our work in the world, propelling us into relationship. So what we discovered was that there is a constant flow... a cow standing on a torus looking over a fence at a piece of grass on the other side, and the cow fears that it can't get to the other side, and then it climbs into the torus to get to the other side....there's no inside and out, in this kind of a journey, our work turning in always leads us to coming out, when you're part of a group, your going out always takes us back in...and so the shape that forms is actually a torus, with each of us rotating around our own centre, AND touching into an empty centre that lies between all of us, and this is the place of the mystery, of generative space of emergence, of creativity. We each also bring our own empty centers, our questions, ... every group has an empty center or...we're bored, we're's the mystery,

Cautions & Caveats:

An attachment to outcomes can collapse that centre (hired by some body, with a budget and a schedule and other constraints) - ego strength for facilitator...don't fear the unknown, Fearing the unknown will prevent a group from holding its empty centre...(so for the facilitator, work out your fear in advance, so in the group you can be CURIOUS!)