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Creating a Language of the Future

What creative facilitation can we use for a new future? In Chain Reaction #141 Sue Stack offers an exercise using imagined/real words of the future.

Handrawn image of a person inside a tree, with large roots. Words written underneath - "writing as the earth"

We are in the final stages of a zoom workshop - Developing a language and a vision for the future – that I am facilitating. The participants are reading a shared google document, made up of mini narratives of the future that we have each just created in 15 minutes. I am astonished at the stories that have emerged. My breath slows, my heart opens, and I feel tears in my eyes. Somehow, together, we have captured essences of moments, quality of being, and philosophies of life that are deeply healing, and working with, the earth. They offer a glimpse into a future that my heart is yearning for.  

We share comments on the stories - what stands out for us, what patterns we notice and what we experienced in the process. We are surprised at the cohesiveness between the stories as if each person is giving a glimpse of a larger whole. Several people say they did not expect to be able to project themselves into a future and see it enough to write about. They are astonished about where the writing came from. One says she felt the earth’s energy coming up her body into her hands, and she was writing as the earth. 

As I reflect weeks later on the workshop, I wonder how much the framing of the activity opens doorways to the possible. So often in our workplaces and our decision-making we rely on the cognitive; on dialogue/debate, on agendas and outcomes, on our individual thoughts. How often do we allow another part of us to come to the table – the dreaming self, unconscious flow, or the somatic self? Writing narrative, particularly inviting stream of consciousness, can help one tap into not just one’s own wisdom but collective social-eco-spiritual wisdom. 

I offered two prompts in the writing exercise. One was to choose a word from a list of about 30 words that I curated as contenders for a language of an aspirational future. There was an invitation to write a story that could illustrate that word, perhaps set in the future. Some of these words come from old languages, nearly forgotten. Some are made up, each with a definition. A prompt like this offers a seed and a doorway. In hindsight, I wonder what seeds we are offering and nurturing, particularly ones that invite surprise in our normal ways of thinking, helping us to see sideways beyond the world views we are swimming in. 


tikkun olam  


* collective soul work for the healing and restoration of the world 



* opposing forces working together for mutual benefit 

* simultaneously an autonomous whole and an independent part 


old english 

* a union of neighbours pledged to each other for the keeping of the peace 


(yiddish - shayna means beautiful) 

* when the times are distressing and fearful there are still moments of beauty that can help anchor us to a world of wonder. 

The second prompt was a guided visualisation, that I made up in the moment, opening myself to the world, not knowing what might emerge. We grounded ourselves in the earth, our feet sinking into the soil and rock until we were mingling our toes with each other in the centre of the earth. Then we breathed the earth energy up into ourselves and imagined it coming through our hands into our writing, inviting the earth to write us, or write through us. So perhaps it is no surprise that for one person this experience of writing as earth was so palpable, nor that many of the stories featured a deep relationship with the earth. 

Creating a language of the future - workshop prompts


  • Imagine what words might be in use if the world was a different place. What words might express what our hearts are yearning for? 
  • Choose a word from the list.  
  • Imagine connecting deep into the earth and allowing the earth’s energy to come through you.  
  • Allow for stream of consciousness as you write a narrative – a story, a moment, a poem – where this word could be a character, a plot, a message, or a theme. 
  • Read other people’s stories. Reflect. 
  • Invent new words for the future. 

So here is my next thought. Where in our facilitations do we give space for the voice of the earth? How do we invite it in and what modes help us access it? How important is it to do this? Bill Reed, Shifting our Mental Models, provides a framework for a spectrum of environmental actions. He suggests we need to change from a language of ‘sustainability’ and ‘restoration’ (each with connotations of humans fixing the non-human world) to the notion of ‘regeneration.’ In regenerative cultures humans are working with or as the more-than-human world that has its own sentience. What does that mean for us facilitators in the processes we use to design workshops, as well as in the activities and framing we choose? What does it mean to bring a regenerative worldview to the art of facilitation? 

I wonder, was the earth all along my co-facilitator?

Dr Sue Stack is an educator, researcher, writer and artist experienced in holistic and transformative learning.  

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