Shame, Trust, and Being Yourself: Highlights from Adventures in Clean and Northern Taste of Clean
by Marian Way in Adventures in Clean
Within Caitlin Walker and Shaun Hotchkiss’s beautiful and welcoming home in West Kirby, two wonderful events unfold each year: Adventures in Clean and Northern Taste of Clean. I am normally deeply immersed in these events, facilitating, organising and working in tandem with Penny Tompkins, James Lawley, Phil Swallow, Shaun and Caitlin. For months, I look forward to savouring Shaun’s gorgeous food, enjoying the beach and the nearby woods, forging new connections, rekindling existing friendships, having interesting conversations, joining engaging workshops, gaining a wealth of new ideas - and climbing aboard the Whirly Gig, an experience in itself.
However, fate had an unexpected twist in store for me this year. Two days before it all began, I started coughing, sneezing and experiencing peculiar symptoms. As I forged ahead with my preparations, a thought gnawed away in the back of my head — could this be Covid? I wouldn’t want to infect anyone… but neither would I want to miss these two brilliant events. I pressed on, packing my bags and filling my car with petrol, but I knew I’d need to take a test before my departure. And when it turned out to be positive, I could scarcely believe it. After avoiding Covid for more than 3 years, it had chosen this moment to strike!
I told myself that at least I might be able to go to Northern Taste – but it was not to be. I was still testing positive and so I stayed at home and missed it all – like billy no-mates! Although that’s not true, because I received lots of lovely messages from people telling me how much they missed me, and Phil even made a video of everyone at Adventures waving ‘hello’ and ‘get well soon’.
So, what did I miss? That’s the question I’ve been asking since then. Fragmented titbits have reached my ears with tantalising glimpses of what went on. I’m clearly never going to get a comprehensive report – there were too many people and too many perspectives for that – but here’s what I have pieced together so far…
Adventures in Clean
One feature of Adventures in Clean is that there are pauses in the facilitation, when participants can ask questions to learn more about what the facilitators are up to. One participant, John Goodey, told me that he really benefitted from these question-and-answer sessions: "Being in the presence of of people with such incredible skills and witnessing sessions that seemed to be full of poetry and beauty was already thrilling and exciting - and to be able to 'get behind the scenes' and make sense of what was going on, from the facilitator's perspective, helped me to feel that I was making sense of it all and that this excellence is something I can move towards."
John was not the only person focusing on his professional development; this year there was a higher proportion of participants than usual who were there more for professional than personal development, and several of them requested supervision for their own coaching. A theme that arose from the supervision with James was the need to pause after the client has responded to “And what would you like to have happen?” and to really consider, ‘What is this all about?’ before coming in with the next question.
Penny enjoyed the supervising. She says: “There was an opportunity for me to supervise a facilitator to develop an important sequence in the client’s metaphor landscape and then to ask, ‘And what was the first thing you noticed before [that sequence]?’ – where the client discovered a part of the landscape they didn’t know was there. The facilitator could then practise maturing the landscape in a way they hadn’t done before.”
A big feature of Adventures in Clean (and Northern Taste) is the Whirly Gig, expertly facilitated by Shaun and with opportunities for others to have a go. And now it seems we need to warn future participants about a previously unknown side effect of going on the Whirly Gig: it can bring on fits of uncontrollable laughter, aptly named as the “Whirly Giggles”. This all began with Emily Edwards’ profound exploration of trust during Adventures in Clean. This was a serious, entangled and complex issue for her and as she was travelling within the 3D space of the Whirly Gig she suddenly saw a vivid image of herself about to jump out of an aeroplane, along with a message: "Just go." She says: “I had a moment of clarity: that trust could actually be quite simple – and that it was already there. And there was something in the simplicity and suddenness of this message which gave me the giggles! Shaun was trying hard not to laugh with me, but it was too infectious, and soon he was also laughing uncontrollably, along with everyone who was watching.”
Azi Khatari used the Whirly Gig to explore the edge of her authentic self. She says, “I found the edge of my authentic self then was able to go beyond it and experience the sensations of going beyond, then going back to it and going before it and I realised I can expand the edge of my authentic self. It's an edge that can be extendable, expandable, and that's quite an empowering thing to figure out. I loved it.”
John (Goodey) was working on his ability to balance his own presence (which helps to create trust with his clients) with the neutrality required for clean facilitation. He took this topic onto the Whirly Gig and after only 4 'moves' he decided to stop because, "I felt more complete than I have ever felt in my life before."
I also spoke with Pascal Clarkson who told me how amazed he was that being asked just a few clean questions could enable him to physicalise a state of ‘stuck’ which felt like he was literally standing in sand up to his shins, unable to move. This happened during a session when he was describing his experience of “teetering on the edge of something - being pulled forward and at the same time, something pulling me back”. The personal development work Pascal did over the few days of Adventures in Clean gave him many insights into a pattern he has around making choices. He says, “I now realise this is a much bigger pattern than I had previously thought. It is happening on a large scale and at a small scale, and now I am back home I’m finding opportunities to become aware of it in the moment – and to do something different.”
Northern Taste of Clean
Caitlin says that the real highlight of Northern Taste for her was going to three sessions, one after the other: ‘Shame and humiliation’ followed by ‘Trust for you is like what?’ followed by ‘How do you know when you’re being yourself?’ This led her to consider what kind of people she needs to spend time with so she can be more of herself more of the time. She says, “Somehow these pieces combined to create a deep shift in my system and a new path for personal and professional relationships.”
Kimmy Bailey ran a session on how her consultancy team used Clean Language questions, metaphors and Systemic Modelling to co-create their culture and their protocols for working together. She spoke about how understanding people’s metaphors has helped her and her fellow team members to make sense of one another’s patterns, including the ones they were previously bored by, concerned about or wanted to avoid. She considers Clean Language to be a tool that develops relationships; by using clean modelling people feel more deeply connected and are able to go the extra mile within their team.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was central to a session instigated by James, with lots of interest and input from others. The discussion centred around how AI could contribute to Clean Language and how Clean Language could contribute to AI. The most innovative idea that emerged was – how can we set up Chat GPT to behave as a client so we can practise our Clean Language skills? Given that everyone wants / needs to practise, this idea caught on and two or three people opened their laptops there and then and started to find ways to make this work.
I’ve also gleaned some ‘snippets’ from the Northern Taste of Clean space on the Clean Campus:
- Olaf Lewitz ran a session called ‘Clean Slate’ during which he shared a method for finding "elephants in the room" and appreciating how we've nurtured and raised them together (although we might individually have hated them and blamed others for their existence). You can read more about this on the Clean Campus.
- Richard Dyter shared a decision-making process inspired by David Grove's Emergent Knowledge from Matthew Hudson's book 'The Eternal Moment of Now' and by some academic research into 'associative decision-making'. You can watch a recording of him talking through this process here: https://youtu.be/G1gJzJYrHwA
- Rachel Gilmore facilitated an adaptation of Clean Space that she calls Coaching by Nature - a guided, silent, mediative experience, where explorers are invited to identify a topic or challenge, establish 6 spaces, notice their environment and what they know in these positions and what they know now about the topic or challenge.
An intended consequence of creating a professional symposium like Northern Taste of Clean are the networks that emerge…
- Tina Mayfield and John Goodey both work in schools, but with completely different ways of engaging people. Tina takes a bottom-up approach, starting with children who have been excluded from school, while John works with senior leaders. They met and had a long conversation, sharing their respective approaches - and they're now planning to continue this conversation and to consider how they might work together in the future.
- A call for support to think through how to gain funding for research into shame and humiliation has become linked with a project for ratifying clean approaches as a form of evidence-based therapy.
As well as all the planned Clean Language sessions, it seems I also missed lots of exciting 'extra curricular' activities:
- Caitlin and Jacqueline Ann Surin – who travelled from Malaysia for the events - happened to be in Liverpool the day before the Eurovision Song Contest final and came across a fabulous drag queen playing fantastic disco tunes in the street, so they stayed and danced for an hour or two.
- A small group went out one evening to see, “Getting Better: Michael Rosen in Conversation with Jordan Stephens”, where the acclaimed author and poet took them on a profound journey, sharing his personal story while exploring the intricate process of recovery. The show delved into the depths of human resilience, examining how individuals can find the strength within themselves to live well again, even in the face of the darkest times. He did this with incredible humour and Penny said she had a laughter hangover by the time they left. It also turns out that Michael once interviewed Penny and James for his series “Word of Mouth”, which you can listen to here.
- On the Saturday evening, one group enjoyed the beautiful sunshine when they walked out to Hilbre Island at low tide to enjoy the stunning views, big skies and the seabirds there.
- It was Jacqueline’s birthday during Northern Taste of Clean and Michael Oskam and Pascal baked her favourite Dutch pancakes. There was also a cake and a beautiful Covid-safe candle ceremony.
- Emily Edwards and John Goodey improvising on the piano. Emily was playing 'Chopsticks' when John offered to play with her. She played just the black notes while John kept the peddle down and added in some base. Then they swapped roles and John 'went wild' with Emily following and responding to him. John says that there were some parallels with Clean Language: "It was an experience of feeling heard, and it created a great deal of trust between us." You can watch the second session in the video below.
As you can see, I missed a lot!
And I'm going to give the last word to John Goodey: "What I was struck by, on both events, was a sense of community, spontaneity and flexibility. I came away with next steps for my own skills development, with lots of new contacts in my quest for how to take Clean Language into schools."
About Marian Way
A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.
Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.
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