There’s a Reason Why It’s Called The “Art of …”

What is art without technique and is technique alone really art?  “Art” could mean art as it evokes the image of artwork but, really, it is much broader than that –  dance, fitness, sport, yoga, meditation, music, hosting, the work we are in.

I’ve been in a beautiful reflection after a delicious conversation recently with good friend and hosting colleague Jerry Nagel. We were discussing upcoming work in California, Brazil and Minnesota and just after he’d been listening to an interview with Rosanne Cash. She spoke about working with her muse – the muse being the source of inspiration for creative work.  She said she works with her muse all the time.  All the time.  Not just sometimes.  All the time.  A discipline.  A practice.   In little whispers along the way and in more structured forms.

She also noted how performing in front of an audience is not a one-way street although she used to think that early on in her performing career.  Now she knows through experience there is an energetic exchange between the performer and the audience.  Tuning into the energetics.  Fuelling and being fuelled.

My conversation with Jerry started with a curiosity about how working with the muse relates to our work in Brazil at the end of October: Hosting From a Deeper Place with two Brazilian friends, and the purpose of that gathering.  Perhaps it is about how we each individually work with and cultivate our muse, our source of inspiration.  How we move technique to art or if we are already in art, how we grow our artistry in our work and life? Because it is a practice.  It is a discipline.  It is not just present some of the time.  It is present most or all of the time.

We then moved into an exploration of what we do in Art of Hosting trainings, in our work with clients and what’s happening in the field in Minnesota where hundreds of people have been to an Art of Hosting training in the last year or two and some are stepping into a deeper journey to be a trainer but wondering really, what is the path to artistry and what does it take to get to the field beyond good technical skill?

People will often say they come to an Art of Hosting training for a technique – like World Cafe or Open Space Technology.  Or, as some like to say, “to expand their tool kit”.  And technique, particularly good technique, is fundamentally important to what we do and what we offer.  We need to know and practice the foundation or the fundamentals to get good.  An artist practices technique – whether with paint, music chords, performance basics, fitness basics.  I wonder if artists talk about expanding their took kit or if they talk about growing their craft?

Most of us don’t just sit down at a piano and have beautiful music come out unless we are some sort of musical prodigy.  Nor would we expect that.  We would expect, if we were inspired enough, to learn the foundations and know that after we learn the foundation then we have the opportunity to become more and more intricate with the music, the style, the mix of technique.

Some never move into artistry from being a technician and, for sure, not everyone must. However, there is a quality we can observe, hear or sense, that lets us know when we are listening to music from a good technician and when we are listening to music from an artist.  It comes from the heart, from the soul.

It seems to come when we can relax in the technique and live in the art – just as true in hosting work as any other kind of artistry.  Art  bolstered by working with the muse all the time.  Even, maybe especially, when we are not working with groups, we are working with the muse.  Developing a discipline of practice. The practice is the work.  The practic is holistic – involving fitness, health, spiritual and personal practice that allows us to know ourselves - the first fold in the four fold practice – hosting self, being present.  The more we know ourselves, really know ourselves, in addition to the solid foundation of knowing the technique, the more we dip into artistry.

The difference between being a technician and an artist is subtle and dramatic at the same time.  It is something we sense but can’t always name.  It is tuning into this energetic exchange between host and hosted.  Sensing what is there rather than looking for it.  In the looking for it we sometimes miss what’s really there.  In tuning in, we sense the subtleties in the room, in the energy that is present that requires hosting in quiet and/or more obvious ways.  We become like a well tuned instrument.  And it can take years of intentional practice for this to happen.

I am aware in my summer of presencing, where I have not been hosting groups, I have continued to be in the work, practice, discipline of hosting myself – with new levels of awareness and new patterns of joy emerging.  When I begin co-hosting groups again in a couple of weeks, I know in the depths of being, it will come with a whole new level of presence.

With practice, the discipline begins to call on the host.  Time to exercise.  Time to meditate.  Time to invite a conversation – to host and be hosted.  Time to be curious.

Hosting from a deeper place is what happens as we move beyond being good technicians into artistry.  There’s a reason why, when we name a training, workshop or intensive, we often call it the “art of…” The first or surface invitation is into technique and process.  The deeper invitation is into practice and discipline that tips us over into artistry, the understanding of the deeper patterns, the energetic architectures and sensing into the subtleties that show intervention points that are much harder to grow awareness or understanding of when we are in the technical learning of our craft.  It is why one art of hosting training does not a practitioner make.

Technical competence and expertise?  Yes we need it.  It builds a strong foundation.  Artistry?  Where and how does your soul call you into your hosting artistry and what are the subtleties you notice – in others, in yourself – as you tip over?  What muse inspires you to deeper places in your being and invites you to bring more of who you are to what you do?  What journey do you need to embark on to host for a deeper place?

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28 thoughts on “There’s a Reason Why It’s Called The “Art of …”

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  2. This is a beautiful post, Kathy. Thank you.

    I know you know that World Cafe is not primarily a “technique” as much as it is a way of being and learning together… In my experience becoming a good host of World Cafe is an art whose practice nurtures the ability to fine-tune our senses, particularly our ability to listen so that we can better hear the “muse” that lives not only within, but among and between us.

    Any method can be simply practiced at the level of “technique”, but as you say so eloquently, there are precious gifts to be found when we transform technique – with conscious attention and practice – into art.

    • Thank you Amy. I do absolutely know World Cafe is not primarily a technique for sure although there are those who see it as that, who fall in love with it as a technique. In my experience, the real beauty lies in understanding the depth, the underlying patterns, the collective intelligence we tap into and the sense of community and connection that emerges – all part of understanding it is craft. So great to have this amazing process available to us in our work and how much more gorgeous it is when we know it well and can riff off of what shows up in our space.

  3. Dear Kathy, with your words mede me think about the role of the social developer – one that must develop oneself in order to foster development (in groups or organizations). “An artist practices technique – whether with paint, music chords, performance basics, fitness basics. [...] It seems to come when we can relax in the technique and live in the art – just as true in hosting work as any other kind of artistry.” In my experience, the group (or paint, music, moves, in your example) is crucial to allow me to act as an artist, rather than a consultant. Hope we can all be part of one great global masterpiece!

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    • Thank you Joe. Summer of presence added some new colours, nuances, subtleties and boldness to the ever unfolding masterpiece of who I am in this journey, this path, this lifetime. Thank goodness for the journey and for the exquisiteness of all the people who show up on it.

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