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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Setting and place.

One of the most fascinating (to me) practices, both in the world of self-helpishness and in terms of business biggification is working with setting.

I’ve hinted about this in stories about the Playground — the elements that came together to create it, the process of moving from a tiny idea to something that exists and breathes, the amazing things that happen with the right setting.

And we’ve talked a bit about the symbolic powers of setting.

The way this blog space here has a particular feel and a vibrant, crazy, fabulous culture that lives here. How it’s both instantly recognizable and constantly evolving.

Anyway, when setting works, the most extraordinary things happen.

And everything you can accomplish within that setting ends up being far bigger, deeper-rooted and generally more astonishing than what you can do without it.

So sure, I can teach brain-bending wacky things anywhere, and it will be outrageous and great.

But even though my duck and I give good content, it’s always going to be better here than on some random blog (that’s partly why we don’t write guest posts). And it’s going to be better at certain real life spaces than others.

That’s why I spend a lot of time thinking about setting.

Setting for rituals and practices. Setting for teaching. Setting for experiencing things. Setting things up to make the entire experience more charged, more grounded, more silly and playful … whatever is needed.

Unlikely choices.

Even when you get this and you know setting (place + culture + look + feel + essence) is another doorway into big, powerful experiences — what my friend Maya calls transformative shit…

There’s always the doubt that it will work this time.

And it can be hard to understand why a certain setting is necessary or meaningful for making it easier to access certain types of (mostly symbolic) doorways.

A couple of people commented on how bizarre it seems — to them — that my Week of Biggification program in November is at such a super fancypants location.

To me it was a clear choice — not a secret hidden “method behind my madness” one, but a very intentional sense of this-is-what’s-needed.

So I’ll use this as an example to help us talk about a particular use of setting — we can also think about other ways to apply this without necessarily changing location.

Setting as a way to intentionally challenge yourself.

The Playground challenges people to be playful. With costumes and blocks and markers and cushions and blanket forts.

For the Week of Biggification, we have specific things we’re trying to shift. And the setting is special because it holds qualities that can help us do that.

And this is important, because these are some pretty deep, intense, life-changing (in the I-am-still-me-and-yet-everything-is-different-now way) experiences.

Yes, it will also be hilarious and full of epic goofballery. But we’re doing some hardcore deconstruction of stucknesses and rebuilding.

So. Not at a retreat place. We’re doing it at a very gorgeous, posh hotel.

We’re challenging ourselves to discover where our discomfort lives. We’re challenging ourselves to interact with qualities of comfort and ease, and do things differently.

And we’re challenging all of our assumptions about what we know about ourselves and the world. Asking, as always, what are we wrong about?

With love. And sweetness. In a place of beauty and wonder and other-ness.

Setting as a way of intentionally getting used to fabulousness.

This means: not being intimidated by wealth (whether being around it, having it, or being present in a world where it exists).

What this doesn’t mean:

This does not mean even slightly that this is a lifestyle you need to adopt or that this has anything to do with how you’ll want to live.

After all, being the sovereign power in your internal kingdom of you-ness means you always get to make choices that are comfortable for you.

As your business grows, you do not ever have to spend your monies on anything that does not support your you-ness and your values.

For example: despite being all biggified, I don’t own a car and don’t plan to. I know the qualities I want in my life — simplicity and sustainability are always at the core.

So this is not about having or consuming or acquiring.

It’s about choice.

You might decide that as you biggify, you will donate all your wealth to helper mouse organizations that do important change-the-world things.

You might decide that you will donate some of your monies to the causes that are in your heart and invest the rest in your business to create more good in the world.

You might decide that you are ready to have a healthy, cozy relationship with things that are comfortable, and that this kind of having is part of how you create a supportive environment to help you do your best work and give back.

I’m cool with all of those things.

I just want it to be a choice, not a reaction. A conscious, intentional, loving way of being in the world, not something that comes from stuckness and lack.

And I want everyone who comes to the experience that is this Week of (mindful, fun, silly, powerful, messy, clarity-inducing) Biggification to go through a process.

And to come out the other end feeling safe, comfortable and unintimidated.

So if you decide poshness is not for you, it’s not about judgment or otherness, it’s just about knowing what you need.

And if you come to the conclusion that you are ready to have more sweetness and softness and beautiful things in your life, that you can reach that in a way that is grounded and stable, not reactive and not defensive.

Ideally, we’ll all start out a little wide-eyed and uncomfortable in our surroundings. And as we go through the many processes of the week, we will end up getting to that point of yeah I belong here too.

Setting and location as a place for big, crazy change.

Outside of Asheville is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the world.

One of the reasons I decided that this hugely intense experience had to happen in this particular place is the power and beauty there to help us through it.

The mountain is extraordinary. The views are breathtaking. We chose November because the colors are exquisite. And also because I knew this was the right time.

The mesmerizing green green green of the hillside and the trees. The faded autumn colors: pinks and oranges. The faint pale purple of mountains in the distance. The rain. The outrageous sunsets.

Being in a place of beauty helps a lot. It just does. It is a facilitator of magical things.

The setting as a place for good things to happen.

The place where we are staying is exquisite. And crazy. Like this:

It’s on a mountain. You enter at the top.

And then you take an elevator down to get to your room.

The biggest challenge at the Week of Biggification might actually be people not wanting to leave their rooms because they won’t be able to tear themselves away from the windows.

Luckily, just as the Pacific ocean did incredible things for us (Remember? Dance of Shiva on the beach?) at the Destuckification retreat last January, this is a place where amazing things can happen with grace and ease.

It’s also a place to be cared for and to practice being cared for. Which is something we’re all going to have to learn to get more comfortable with if we want to biggify.

And I’m expecting this will be one of the side effects: one more thing we’ll be able to take back into our businesses and the rest of our lives.

It will also be a ridiculously fun place to run around with magic wands and clown noses, should you want to. Because that’s what I will be doing.

The actual point.

Well, a few points.

  1. Setting is something you can create anywhere. It lives inside of you. Like culture.
  2. At the same time, in order to have setting live inside of you and access it’s power, sometimes you need to go experience it.
  3. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a big, complicated change. In Hebrew we say, “change your place, change your luck”. Any movement that alters your perspective is probably good.
  4. Setting is something we get to consciously interact with, even at those frustrating times when we’re in situations that feel narrow and stifling — when we don’t seem to have much choice in our setting. Small, symbolic things count too.
  5. Once you learn how to be comfortable in more glorious settings, you can bring that comfort/beauty/appreciation/expansiveness into all sorts of narrow spaces.
  6. Changes in setting, like culture, can help you feel way more okay with being biggified. Just like how using the Friday Chicken to check in with people who are also going through the same stuff makes all that stuff seem less hard to bear.
  7. It is useful to intentionally use setting as a way to challenge patterns, surprise yourself, unravel what needs unraveling. And it is equally useful to use setting to help you feel safe and supported.

And that’s where I’ll stop for now.

And comment zen for today.

Working on this stuff is really hard. It brings up all of our internal “but but but” and all of our rules about how things have to be. If anything I said stepped on your stuff, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention.

And if you can’t make it to our Week of Biggification, thinking about setting and place is totally a way of symbolically being there, and maybe this will help you incorporate these principles into some aspect of what you’re working on.

Because really, when we talk about the power of setting, we’re INVOKING it.

Which means just thinking about this can move some things around in your brain and in the your internal culture. That’s what I’m hoping it will do for me too. Can we brainstorm on this?

p.s. Our Week of Biggification (password = pickles) is nearly full, but take a look. If you are on of the people for it, I would LOVE to have you there. And if this isn’t the right time, I will adore you anyway. xox

15 Responses to Setting and place.

  1. Jesse
    Twitter: persnicket

    (The Playground challenges people to be playful.

    Whoa. Having a moment here. Had not thought of it as a challenge but it so was a challenge. Need to let this one percolate.)

    That “change your place, change your luck” thing seems to be in the air lately. What is the actual phrase in Hebrew?

    I can testify to anyone who’s curious just how insanely powerful the idea of Place was to the Rally. So easy to dismiss, but so very, very key. I hope all the right people find the retreat and get to see the power of the mountain, too. Can’t wait to hear about it on the other side!
    .-= Jesse´s last post … Recess- house-building with monsters- and unintended consequences =-.

  2. Tori Deaux
    Twitter: ToriDeaux

    Oh, this is the so-hard-to-put-into-words stuff. But I get it, even if I haven’t got many words, just now.

    The words I do have? Hmm… I typically put a lot of effort into setting for other people – maybe not so much for myself, though. I wonder why?

    Also, it seems to me that the sort of setting you’re talking about is part of metaphoring… Metaphor Mouse seems to be all about creating an internal setting that is different, a new culture for neural pathways to grow in, pathways that find ways around the blocks and stuckedness and ickyfactors.

    More brainstorming, please?
    .-= Tori Deaux´s last post … The Circus- In Three Rings Or Less =-.

  3. chicsinger simone
    Twitter: simonebernhard

    I grew up in Asheville and down the hill from the GPI (the posh hotel/spa where the Week of Biggification will take place). I can personally attest to the lush gorgeousness of the space and location. It is hard to imagine a better setting for the fabulousness that is sure to happen at this retreat.

    There is something about AVL that is inherently biggifying; music sounds better, food tastes incredible; the downtown has a vibe that is open and rich. The air feels pregnant, somehow, shimmmering and full of possibility.

    It broke my heart a little to see this event (which I know would change my life) in the very heart of where my heart is and not be able to attend, but I know that whoever goes will be blessed and enchanted by the mountains and AVL.

    I think there’s an old Cherokee Indian blessing/curse that goes something like “if you ever go to Asheville you’ll always come back.”
    .-= chicsinger simone´s last post … Saks Fifth Avenue That is all =-.

  4. Molly Gordon, Self-Employment Coach
    Twitter: shaboom


    I usually call this “context,” though there is something friendlier in the word “setting.” And I love that you say it’s not just the external stuff. Our internal landscape, the patterns of being in our bodies, the habits of mind, the moods that sometimes go virtually unnoticed, are all settings that we may be able to gently shift.

    I love that you are setting this event in a posh location. It shakes things up. It invites people to notice how a change of setting affects the way the relate to themselves and others, not to mention to biggification.

    Playing small is a habit. Sounds like your setting is the perfect context for shaking up that habit. And for being pampered at the same time!
    .-= Molly Gordon, Self-Employment Coach´s last post … Authenticity and Self Employment Deb Bailey =-.

  5. Elizabeth
    Twitter: elizabethhalt

    Thank you, Havi! I was thinking that it would be fun if I could attend in spirit – to somehow work on similar themes that week as if I were at the retreat. This has given me an idea about a setting. My favorite hotel at the coast sort of feels similarly to me. The only reason I tried it at all was because it was dog-friendly, and I still remember how much I enjoyed my stay.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last post … ode to joy- volume 36 =-.

  6. Rupa
    Twitter: theyogaofliving

    Thank you, Havi, for the opportunity to brainstorm a bit on the subject of setting.

    I see setting as being similar to one’s choice of clothing. It’s often an expression of one’s internal culture, but not always. Sometimes clothing is a conscious attempt from the “outside” to play around with, or directly influence, the “inside.”

    Like when we wear an outrageous costume, or even a “business costume” (outrageous in its own way) to make a presentation, say, to a group of bidness people.

    The suit is not me, just like the fancy hotel is not me, but it influences my internal culture. I stand straighter and make better eye contact than if I were to wear my usual flannel shirt and destroyed jeans.

    It seems to me you’re offering your adventurers the opportunity to try on an exquisite outfit for the sheer feeling of it. How I wish I could be one of them! :)
    .-= Rupa´s last post … It Seemed Like Such a Good Idea at the Time =-.

  7. Beth says:

    Once I took a class on ethics and aesthetics. It was interesting to study the ways in which we shape our surroundings, and they in turn shape us. We studied everything from churches to schools and malls. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to underestimate space and setting. It’s funny how it so much of that lives internally but lives unnoticed until something changes externally.

    Also, that test I was scared about… I passed. And it’s going well and steady and joyful (instead of panicked). Just wanted to share. :-)

  8. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    Every setting is sacred, including luxury hotels and a sleeping mat rolled out on the sidewalk. The soul is at home everywhere.

    Yet our bodies, our incarnate selves, feel at home in particular settings, in familiar landscapes, in geography whose contours we know by heart.

    Consciously choosing to meet “otherness” with receptivity and love brings us home to ourselves. Each particular setting we incorporate into our lives brings us to the truth at the heart of all things–that we are at home everywhere, and everyplace has need of us too.

    I love that you’re holding your retreat at this beautiful hotel in Asheville, Havi. Places of beauty bring a visceral experience of wholeness. Beauty of setting restores our inner beauty. Abundance in setting waters the seed that flowers in our own hearts–and in our first chakras too.

    And since we give what’s within us, the beauty and abundance of your Biggification Week will radiate out to make the world richer, fuller and more spacious.

    .-= Hiro Boga´s last post … Nine years ago- today… =-.

  9. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    You know what I love? I mean, among other things?

    How thoughtful and intelligent you guys are. It goes back to the culture thing. I can write about big concepts and know it won’t go over people’s heads.

    Anyway, thank you for all these beautiful ways to think about this.

    @Hiro – what a gorgeous, wise way of putting things. I might have to take that sentence (“consciously meeting otherness with receptivity and love brings us home to ourselves”) and put it somewhere I can see it.

    @Beth – ethics and aesthetics. An absolutely terrific topic for a class. Love it. And am now full of curiosity.

    @Rupa – ohmygoodness the clothing metaphor is so perfect. Of course! You just saved me several paragraphs. I will use that one next time I talk about setting, and credit you. :)

    @Elizabeth – mmmm, of course you are attending in spirit. It was such complete joy having you at the Destuck week in California. I love the idea of you being part of it through ritual/place.

    @Molly – MOLLY! Hey sweetpea. I adore you. And your words about setting/context are just right. Also about the power of shaking things up. (Guys, no one shakes things up like Molly. Just saying.)

    @simone – you are so right. It is the most enchanting place. We will miss you and be whooshing magic out your way. Kiss!

    @Tori – totally. Metaphor-ing IS one of my favorite ways to create settings, structures, forms for things. It makes things come to life. And it’s funny that you also put the emphasis on preparing for others instead of the internal stuff. Because I am crazy about setting, but I also forget to do this for me.

    @Jesse – oh yes. That was SO. MUCH. FUN. And the whole “challenging ourselves to play” thing … I guess playing is so much fun (markers! mess! victory!) that the challenge is pretty hidden. Which is neat. It’s like Shiva Nata. You know, untangling your deepest patters while you laugh at yourself and flail around to music.

    Anyway, hugs all round for all the interesting thoughts. I am definitely going to be thinking about this more. And maybe over time I will find the metaphors too.

  10. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    This is lovely. I’m just taking it all in.

    Years ago, I was introduced to the concept of querencia — a place where you feel centered, safe, truly at home, and wholly yourself.

    @Rupa, I also thank you for your remarks on clothing! “A conscious attempt from the outside to play around with, or directly influence, the inside” — yes. That really resonates.
    .-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … Re-invention =-.

  11. Andy Dolph
    Twitter: acdolph

    Talking about setting brought to mind how much I love seeing a great show in a grand old theater like the Wang Center in Boston – it takes something wonderful and elevates it to even another level,
    .-= Andy Dolph´s last post … Awesome Website Extravaganza – My Story =-.

  12. Amber
    Twitter: AmberStrocel

    I often think that I’m not particularly affected by my surroundings. I’m one of those people who can ignore mess and clutter and just focus on a computer screen. And yet, it’s definitely true that certain places affect me in special ways. I particularly love the ocean, for instance.

    I wonder what would happen if I paid more attention to my surroundings? If I decided that being in pleasant spaces was important? That’s something interesting for me to think about.
    .-= Amber´s last post … Exiting Gracefully =-.

  13. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart

    Like Amber, I think that I’m not affected by setting. Just me and my laptop, anywhere you want.

    And yet, this is patently ridiculous. Even when I’m out and about I spend ages thinking (and often travelling) to exactly THE coffee shop, mall, bookshop floor where I want to write TODAY.

    Our apartment is pretty chaotic at the moment, having just moved. I have claimed a chair in the corner of the bedroom by the window where I can see the door. I’m typing there now. It helps me feel safe and settled in the midst of the ‘chaos’.

    But I don’t care about setting… :)

    I love that you’re running this week in such a beautiful place. Biggification in a biggified place – makes sense!

    (And OH my heart longs to be there and it’s not my time. x)
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … A private conversation between me and my Internal Editor =-.

  14. Kaleena
    Twitter: Kaleena

    Agh! This is so wonderful. I was never able to fully comprehend why beautiful bookstores and lush vegetation that seems to want to take over civilization, gives me such a feeling of wide-eyed groundedness. In other words (ones that may make sense), surroundings can really throw you off, or they can have the power to bring you back into yourself. Then you can begin to carry that feeling around even outside of the setting. Wow. I love it.

    I think I’m going to play outside for a little bit.
    .-= Kaleena´s last post … Maps =-.

  15. […] Havi’s post on Setting and place, Kathleen of Spiral Songs and Grace Notes commented about the word querencia: meaning “a […]

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