at Work:

A Personal
and Public
Invitation to
Open Space

Michael Herman

Comments and
Questions to:


For Reprints,
Electronic Copies
and Permissions:


previous | contents | next page

Embodying Open Space: It's Already Now


We can appreciate open space stories. We can read articles and books and begin to understand how it works, perhaps even envision using it in places where we live and work. If we go furthrer, we can enact open space in those places, go through the motions of writing the invitation, walking the circle, explaining the principles, opening the marketplace. We know that if we do this, we get better meetings, toward better organizations. And still there is more; there is the potential to embody openness, movement, spaciousness and power in organization, as organization. And this embodiment starts with one individual, a facilitator, a leader, a manager, perhaps, but not necessarily.

To understand the difference between appreciation, envisioning, enacting on the one hand and actually embodying on the other, the practice gets so much simpler than open space technology, or even blowing bubbles. It starts with one person, you or me. It starts as simply as yawning, yes, yawning. We've said open space technology runs on four basic mechanisms: circle, bulletin board, marketplace and breathing. The first three, however, get most of the attention. So now, it's time to focus on the heart of it all. Breathing. Really spirited breathing. Breathing that takes your breath away. It's called yawning!

The practice can be as simple as taking a few minutes to yawn one hundred times or taking five minutes four times through the day to do nothing but yawn. Let yourself yawn as big and open as you can on each inbreath. Let yourself say 'aaaaahhhhh...' as loudly or softly as feels good on each outbreath. If you're able to have a few minutes of napping after each yawning session, the benefits will sink in deeper and last longer. And the benefits are many, but you can discover them for yourself.

We have said that open space is a practice in invitation. So invite yourself to yawn. Open a bigger space inside yourself. Stretch a little. We've said open space is about finding one more thing to NOT do. Yawning is a great way to not DO anything. We've said it's a practice, this opening of space. And yawning, too. Can you yawn on every breath or does it take some practice. Are any yawns the same? And we've said open space is about letting go of traditional control. Are the best yawns not spirited little moments when your breath seems to take you away, as you ease up to an edge, slip over, and then come back renewed, stretched, open, bigger? These are just a few of the ways that we can begin to embody the invitation, practice and letting go that are open space. But open space is also about passion bounded by responsibility, so you'll have to practice this yourself to really embody the spaciousness of it all.

And as you do practice, five minutes here, five minutes there, see if you don't find that all this yawning leads to what you might call a better way to be alive as body, in the same way that open space technology, invited, practiced, surrendered doesn't lead to better ways to be together as an organization. You might notice how many times you're able to have big, climactic, breathtakingly stretchful yawns in that five minutes. You might notice how long your 'five minutes' really lasts. You might look around in your body to see what shifts occur away from the apparent center of your yawning. Notice, perhaps, what you do with your attention while you yawn. Where do you focus, concentrate, cajole or otherwise try and effort? Does it help? And finally, notice how you are with others after one of these sessions. Does it help your work? Does it radiate?

Then look to see the same subtle shifts in organizations in open space. Yawns and other openings happen already, all the time. But the intentional, invitational practice of these kinds of little, momentary, subtle surrenders still hold great potential. Or more accurately, we all have great potential for spacious, easy movement. The heart of the challenge of opening space in organizations and communities, however, seems to begin with an invitation to ourselves... to breathe, to stretch, to open, to yawn. And I think the spirit that moves organizations in open space must come from deep down inside of all of us, from the same place that those big, stretching, catching, deeply satisfying yawns come from. All we need to do is find that place, to find that we already embody it all...yawn...aaahhhh.....yawn yawn yawn yawn....ah ahahahahahhhaahhaaaaaahhhhhh...oh!

Our open, yawning spaces resonate deeply, ripple out easily, radiate brilliantly ...through body, in organization, as community ...aaaahhh...hhhaaaaa...


* * *

Body rests like a mountain

Breath moves like the sea

Heart like the sky



Thanks to Julie Henderson, who taught me to yawn, after
I'd nearly forgotten how. Her work is called Zapchen Somatics.
Visit http://members.aol.com/zapchenma for details.

previous | contents | next page


Evolution at Work: A Personal Journey and Public Invitation to Open Space, by Michael Herman (www.michaelherman.com)
© Copyright 1998-2002 Michael Herman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reprint or distribute without permission and full attribution, including web address and copyright notice. Permission will be granted gladly if you'll just say what you'd like to copy and where you'd like to share it. [email protected]