Agency and Grace, and the Story about my friend’s third Ear

Happy New Decade! Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

First off, I’d like to say thank you. It’s pure enjoyment connecting with you in this way. As 2020 is looking to be another year of collective growth and expansion, I’m looking forward to continuing to create pockets of space for reflection and the opportunity to take a breather right here, right now.

Listening seems to be on the agenda for many people these days. Whether we listen too much, or we don’t listen enough…

Typically we think of listening in two ways—the outer listening and the inner listening, where the outer listening (listening to and for external impulses), more often than not, takes precedence. At least consciously. 

In a conversation with a friend recently, she surprised me by sharing the story about her “third ear”. I liked it very much and got her permission to share it.

My friend, Anne, has been an Open Space facilitator for as long as Open Space  has been a thing (30+ years). Open Space is a form of self-organising and a powerful and simple way to run productive meetings, workshops, or conferences. In its most common form, the process centres around issue(s) of importance to any person willing to take some responsibility for it.

For those of you who have not come across Open Space Technology before, I recommend checking it out. It’s a fascinating, inspiring, and empowering meeting technology. It has Four Rules and One Law—the Law of Two Feet.

The Four Rules are:
1. Whoever come are the right people.
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
4. When it’s over, it’s over.

The Law of Two Feet says: “If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they can go to some more productive place.”  

The first time I participated in an Open Space facilitated conference I was bewildered by the lack of structure. I remember feeling very uncomfortable as my conditioned perspective had me wonder what could possibly come out of such an unstructured approach?

Well, it turns out, a lot.

One of the basic premises of Open Space is that you take responsibility for what interests you. For example, if you’re at a conference or workshop and you have something that you’d like others’ input on, you offer it as a topic for conversation. Each topic or issue is then assigned a meeting space. Participants are invited to decide which topics they are interested in and they apply the law of two feet and wander over to the relevant discussion. Sometimes lots of people show up, sometimes only a few. Other times none at all.

There’s no judgment. The law of two feet. 

As an Open Space beginner, I felt incredibly awkward, rude, and disrespectful if I decided to leave a discussion and go someplace else. But there’s no judgment as I am taking responsibility for what is important to me. Over time I have gotten used to the law of two feet as part of how Open Space works, but it clashes sometimes with how the world at large is run.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded that I ought to make the principle of the law of two feet conscious in all areas of my life because…

…what the principle is really about is agency and grace. Two things we can’t have too much of.

So, what about the story of my friend’s third ear?

Well, Anne and I had been talking about how we both follow resonance and divine (inner) guidance. How both are fundamental principles for how we make decisions and decide on next steps in our lives.

Working as a facilitator of groups where you open space for emergence, as Anne does, it’s important to give that emergence a voice. As Anne shared her story with me she explained how she had to learn to be present in every moment and just respond to each moment as it showed up and trust that her response would continue to hold the open space of agency and grace. She learned to listen to the energy of the group and follow it meticulously using her “third ear”, her ability to listen for resonance and dissonance in a group using her whole being, not just her physical ears.

I’ve never thought of my own practice of listening with my whole being as a third ear. I like it very much. Thanks, Anne!

If you were to describe your third ear, what would you say?

It’s a new year and a new decade. Last year was a fire hose of experiences and learning that took me way beyond my comfort zone. As a result, I have revisited my values and have come to some inspiring and interesting insights—insights that I’ll be coming back to in the not too distant future.

In the spirit of Open Space, I’ll close with some of the things that I’m bringing with me into this new year and decade. Things that will help me to show up fully in this year of 20/20 vision : agency, grace, and the principle of the law of two feet.

What things are you bringing with you into this new year and new decade?

Until next time…

..from my soul to yours,


*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives. Fika (pronounced ‘Feeka’) is Swedish and means taking a [coffee/tea] break.

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