Dragon Dreaming Spain:
The emergence of a living organisation
Elena Rodríguez Blanco
Edited by: John Croft and Angel Hernandez
“We are an empty centre organism co-created from authentic relationships.”
The amount of courage necessary to allow something to emerge, while being a part of it, requires strong commitment and consciousness in an individual, where trust and authenticity are the main sources of its strength. For collective emergence to occur, the whole needs to be deeply committed to their own personal growth, to a full understanding that everything it’s at the right place, that everything happens at the right time, and that every single person that is part and will become part of the collective is equally valuable. Signing up to have as a purpose “the co-creation of an empty centred organisation based in authentic relationships” is one of the most enriching, and new adventures I have taken as a human and one that has allowed us to constantly go outside our comfort zone and navigate in stretches of time that seemed like endless chaos. The journey has allowed the space for conflict, happiness, pain, love, ego, confusion, healing, silence and sadness to the point where there has been a literal need to “kill” what we had set off to do. Transitioning from a controlled organisation to a living organisation has come with birthing pains where in the end it is the whole that is deciding the direction the organisation is meant to do. Here’s our Songline, as experienced from both an observant and a participant and written with the utmost love and respect for everybody who has been a part of Dragon Dreaming Spain in one way or another, including the whole Dragon Dreaming community as a whole and all those working in service of the emergence, transition moment our society is currently living.
We have forgotten. This is the premise from which much of the Dragon Dreaming experience emerges. As humans, we have lost ancestral wisdom, which is also within ourselves, that if integrated into our current societal models would allow us to spiral and transform rather than falling into the same patterns of separation and violence which have dominated much of our current existence. Dragon Dreaming is born from the aborigine culture of Western Australia and holds the space for that wisdom to be represented in our modern way of experiencing our life: projects.
You could argue that seeing life in project metrics could be a simplistic assumption. However, a project is convenient because it is something which has a beginning and an end, and from which end a new beginning could emerge. So you could put all projects together and effectively get one big project, which you could then encompass into different layers, and you would end up with a tridimensional figure which makes up where you spend your time and energy and begins shaping who you are and defining your life. This life, in turn, will define your unique experience and will also affect all choices you make for your next project, which could be yours or could be in the broader picture, your son or daughter. Wisdom is meant to be passed on from project to project, and the aborigines had it integrated within their culture with a series of practices and rituals, which John Croft and Vivienne Elanta have extrapolated for us in what is Dragon Dreaming in Europe today: A blueprint for understanding projects accompanied with a toolkit of methodologies and concepts through a community that is committed to practicing the Win-Win-Win culture (The triple win stands for Win-Personal Growth, Win-team and communities, Win-The earth and its beings).
Dragon Dreaming in Spain
The first workshop
Dragon Dreaming first came to Spain by a workshop organised by the Barcelona in Transition Association the weekend of 18-20 May 2012. More than 50 people gathered excitedly about the invitation to find new ways of working in projects and through different forms of collaboration. John Croft and Angel Hernandez, who together had felt the dream to bring the Dragon Dreaming culture to Spain, facilitated that first workshop. I remember the liveliness in the room, the questions emerging, and the AHA’s flowing. Many of the things we were experiencing in the workshop resonated with inner truths in our lives, and most importantly answered to our search of a new “how” we could do things differently. Personally, I had been searching for a tool that would allow me to align not only what I was doing with why I was doing it, as a social entrepreneur I was looking at how to integrate my personal development and wellbeing into the project itself. I was interested in the “how” and the culture necessary for that how to be relevant to include our spiritual side as well. Dragon Dreaming opened that inner box of wisdom, and many of us in that room wanted to know more. Luckily, John and Angel invited all of us to attend a meeting the next day to see how we could extend this work into the country, and this is the first time Dragon Dreaming Spain started to be dreamed within Spain.
The dream within the dream
During that first gathering the day after the workshop, John and Angel shared with us the work they had done in other countries, and most importantly in Germany, which had become the first “home” of Dragon Dreaming in Europe. In fact, workshops were being offered for the intensive and the Train the Trainer level of Dragon Dreaming, more in-depth courses for those who wanted to dive into the culture and methodology and in how to share Dragon Dreaming with others. However, the best way to integrate Dragon Dreaming was not to go to courses or to start giving courses, but rather to implement it in as many projects as you could, and to start seeing how it works. After that meeting, I remembered I was inspired to bring all the new learnings into place, and I facilitated a small Dragon Dreaming process for the team I was in at the time to co-found the Impact Hub Barcelona. Practising Dragon Dreaming and sharing it with the teams we were working with was a vital part of understanding it and reawakening the inner knowledge and wisdom within our lives. I am stressing this point here to remind ourselves that reading, exploring and attending courses is how you begin to “know”, to “live what you know” it is important to start wherever you are and start practising the culture. This is the only way to begin integrating wisdom and to create your path onto your next spiralling project.
At the time, I was working closely with communities of social entrepreneurs and was co-founding an organisation whose mission was to democratise social innovation. I knew I wanted Dragon Dreaming to be spread to as many people as possible, and this was aligned with my personal calling to be of service to the community of entrepreneurs. This is how I started working closely with Angel, to see how we could develop and organise workshops in Spain in the coming months. In July that year, I travelled to Germany to participate in John’s Intensive-Train the trainer workshop and to begin planning the dream of Dragon Dreaming Spain. Together with Angel, as we were the green enthusiasts of this mission, we began another dreaming circle for the planning part of this larger dream. I remember we invited John as we started reading out loud some of the dreams which included: “From the workshops, 40 conscious projects that use Dragon Dreaming and other methodologies have been initiated”, “The courses organised, intro and intensive are successful” and “we publish cases of success and failure of our experiments in both digital and analog format”.
In retrospect, the workshops were a success. The first intensive workshop was organised in Barcelona, November of that same year. From it, Julia Ramos, another enthusiast, signed up to the dream of Dragon Dreaming Spain. She promised to organise workshops in Madrid the coming year, where both Angel and myself would be facilitating as I started my learning path. The learning path is a way of learning that had been recommended for methodologies where more than the content is taught; we are embodying a different culture and way of being. This needs practice. In fact, you learn culture from living it with someone else, and in experiencing conflict, celebrations, difficulties and easiness you become more authentic, which is the underlying purpose of the first win of Dragon Dreaming. By facilitating workshops with someone with more Dragon Dreaming experience than yourself, you can explore the culture in the process of dreaming, planning, doing and celebrating the workshops.
In 2013 we began to actively do workshops in Madrid. Julia then started making her learning journey as well, and we began working together. Our first workshop was in the Molino de Guadalemsí, a beautiful ecovillage and space from two of the participants from the Madrid workshops: Johnny Azpilicueta and Alicia Comenge. Johnny and Alicia were committed to practising Dragon Dreaming in their community and shared living space, and Julia and I came to do an intro workshop. Enthusiasts started emerging with every workshop we were doing. I wanted to continue the work in Barcelona, where I lived as well and organised another workshop that falls. We were excited to see people were resonating with Dragon Dreaming, our commitment to the work was strong, but here were many hurdles we had to cross, and moments were we had to be outside our comfort zone.
The need for structure emerge
I am always mesmerised by the pendulum effect. You align ten strings of different lengths with deadweights, and you ensure they all start moving from left to right and the same time by releasing them from the same height and at the same time. And then you see what happens. At first, they start making waves in seemingly organised patterns, but with time they move from periods of what might seem “chaos” into “order”. During the “Chaos” parts, where each string seems to be going at a different pace than the rest the feeling of the observer is that we have lost the pattern. It is the only time that then shows you that they are still aligned, and they will create a recognisable pattern as well. This is to say that different individuals, with their ryhthms, released at different times, and in an environment with own rhythm had created chaos. We knew one way to solve this was to celebrate. While that year we were planning to do a Train the Trainer and it did not occur, I invited the group to a celebratory gathering instead. People from different workshops who felt enthusiastic about Dragon Dreaming joined in Tarragona in December 2013, including our fellow Dragon Dreamer, Ronald Sistek from Chile. It was open, and it was meant to allow the space for different voices to emerge into what could be an organisation. The chaos and being outside the comfort zone, coupled with the energy, love and mission wanted to bring forth a way we could move forward.
The long weekend brought a celebratory space of conversation and joy, of learnings and unanswered questions. We started planting a seed, but time was too short to allow us to formalise a structure and make commitments to that structure. One thing was clear, we had three workshop formats we could continue using to share Dragon dreaming with people, we had a learning path to work and learn, we had enthusiasts ready to do more workshops, and we had a calling to continue doing the dream.
Already at the beginning of the year, an important change happened. There were more people in the learning path. I had finalised my learning path for the intro and the intensive with Angel, Julia was doing the learning journey with me, and Luna Marcén had started to walk her learning path with Julia. This process continued throughout the year as more people were called to join the learning path and begin facilitating workshops for Dragon Dreaming. Talks, small workshops, longer workshops, in cities, outdoors, wherever we were being called or where we had to be, there would be a group of trainers emerging. That year it was clear that the Train the Trainers workshop needed to happen in Spain so that we could have the space to learn and grow together. There was again a feeling of a need for structure, a passion that needed direction, a way forward.
The trainers’ dream
In July 2014, 13 people from different workshops in Spain gathered together to the first Train the Trainer workshop in Tarifa, co-facilitated by Angel and myself. For Angel and myself this was the original dream we drafted coming true. There was a group of individuals signing up to be a community of practitioners and willing to take Dragon dreaming further. More than train, we were just facilitating the space for whatever wanted to happen to happen. We were especially ecstatic when they debunked us as trainers as the group wanted to decide what they should do with the time. This is exactly what we dreamed would happen. During seven days we dance dragons, we laughed, we cried, we healed, we shared, we dreamt, we planned, we celebrated. It was an intense experience full of wonder and surprise, as we were reconnecting with the dream of what Dragon Dreaming Spain could be.
It was not the first time that Dragon Dreaming Spain was dreaming the dreams within the dream. Apart from the time with John, and Angel and myself, the “Spanish-Iberican platform”, as it became to be known was dreamt at our informal encounter and in the intensive workshop in Madrid. There was a sense of frustration, of what seemed “failed attempts” and a renewed hope and expectation. The willingness to let go to create was palpable. And these were the days when through an intense and long process that trainers that were there felt the goal, and mission was active as a sentence as one could find: “We are an empty centre organism co-created from authentic relationships”. We were living organisation.
A living organisation
To be thorough, I could include in this space the many theories and frameworks that exist for these new organisations that are emerging. However, I will cite only one or two of the most recent works as they compile and explain much of the work that has been done before. One framework its Frederic Laloux “Reinventing Organisations”, as he very concisely shows the evolutions of organisations through time and the different practices that they have adopted to fit the new culture and understanding by the consciousness of the people within them. Organisations that are shifting into a new paradigm of working are referred to as “teal organisations”, and they respond to three major shifts:
- Self-management: everyone follows their interests and passions.
- Wholeness: Everyone is looking to be their most authentic selves and be authentic with their relation with others in their communication and being.
- Evolutionary Purpose: The organisation grows organically in the direction that it’s meant to grow.
There is a lot more to these three points and specific practices for each one, but the main guiding metaphor for teal organisations are that they are seen as a living entity, with its creative potential and evolutionary purpose. When we refer to the organisation as a living entity, we are not talking about the individual people within the organisation; we are talking the whole, composed of the parts is a living entity in its own right and can surprise, and go in directions unimagined by the parts.
The structure of a living organism
Now, when trying to define a structure around a living organisation with the structures that we currently have, we might be limiting the evolutionary purpose of the organisation itself. In fact, the purpose of the organisation is held so strong by the mission to which all members have subscribed that as a living organism it will reject a form which it is constraining its growth. We should not forget that in a body, the structure is that is holding the parts. In the human body, we have a spinal chord which holds the body different body parts that are flexible to move and act. Any other structure for the body as whole would be limiting to the functions of what needs to be done. In the body again, we can also find other types of structures, such as empty centred organisations like the cell, where the least amount of energy is at the centre, and most of the movements are happening on its border. Each organ has then developed the structure that was best to fit their evolutionary purpose, and the entire body trusts itself to work.
In the case of Dragon Dreaming Spain, and for that matter, other Dragon Dreaming communities around the world, we have seen how time and time again the structures that were being implemented, be it associations, cooperatives, companies, failed to contain the whole and were quickly rejected by the collective intelligence of the members of community. This can be viewed under some different lenses, and I am sharing what I have observed and in my responsibility with the collective to share my learning to increase the collective intelligence of the group.
These “failures” which have to take a toll on the energy of the group. In fact, they have been the main cause of frustration, resentment and rage as the member who usually proposes the structures put a lot of energy and passion into what they will present, and then after many conversations and arduous processes, it becomes clear that the implementation will not occur. We had had that happen in Dragon Dreaming Spain when after our trainer’s meeting, there was another gathering in December of that year and decisions were taken, and then rejected by the whole when shared.
Now I believe the viewpoint of seeing this process as a failure comes from the limiting patterns and mindsets that we have inherited from the past evolutionary stages and current organisational models. An organism is still alive as long as it has movement, and the Dragon dreaming community in Spain is in movement. The movement that has not occurred is towards the direction we were perhaps expecting it to move, but that exactly is the characteristic of a living organism, that we believe the organization has a soul and a purpose of its own and we are supposed to listen in to where the organization wants to go, rather than forcing it in a direction. It is also completely plausible that the living organism changes according to the environment the way and direction it should grow. In this sense, according to dragon dreaming culture, we are to individually focus on our personal win, as this will result in the organisations most elevated purpose. The general rule seems to be that the level of consciousness of the organisation cannot exceed that of the level of consciousness of its members. This is, in fact, one of the major learnings that we have had, that if we focus on our personal win, acting from an authentic place, all three wins become effective at once, creating a WIN scenario for the organisation as a whole.
Life as movement in a project
In Dragon Dreaming, one of the phases of the planning stage include formulating what is called in Aborigine language, a karabirrdt, and in English, it is a different format to portray a project plan. In it, the different tasks are outlined that need to be performed to meet objectives, that in turn meet the goal. It is a layout that enables you to see how the project interacts at the different levels, which is part of each task, the timeline and the budgetary requirement for each. The karabirrdt is a product of the collective intelligence of the group in the way it is elaborated and singularly reflective of people’s motivations and enthusiasm towards the tasks that need to be performed. Lines are drawn that connect the different tasks, and these connections meet at the beginning and end of the project. When we connect all lines the project feels alive.
Conscious organisations are living organisms. They shift the focus from external decision-making to internal yardsticks of inner rightness. Each is responsible and accountable for ensuring they are true to themselves, and their commitments so that there are no trade-offs between purpose and anything else. This requires a commitment and a trust that each person is doing exactly what they need to be doing, or not-doing, for the organisation to move. Just like in the pendulum waves that I described before, there are periods of immense chaos where every string feels like it will never find its way back to any pattern. These periods of silence, confusion, chaos and even apparent “death” or stop of the project, may be interpreted like its “over” and “every one is watching out for their own”. The moment this trust is lost is when I don’t understand the behaviour of the other, and I begin doubting that they are true to their commitment and that their best way of being true to it, and acting on it, is different than mine. It’s the moment I feel I am separate and I am no longer sharing a whole evolutionary purpose that is going in a direction that I don’t know. When I begin to question what it is that I am doing, and what I signed up to do. However, when you sign up for a living organism, you don’t know what you are signing up for. As any parent would tell you, alive beings are almost never what you expect them to be. A living organisation should, therefore, shatter all your expectations and be the channel to catalyse old paradigm mental patterns in which you based those expectations. That does not mean the organisation is failing you; it means that you as an individual are failing to see the evolutionary purpose that the organisation is bringing to you. Teal organisations are the place where people “involved let the best response emerge from collective intelligence.”
To be part of something that emerges, to be open to an evolutionary purpose greater than oneself requires courage, openness and an immense dose of unconditional love. I admire, respect and will be eternally grateful to the Dragon Dreaming community in Spain, and around the world for showing up and signing up to one of the most transforming experiences society can have today.