Colourful, anarchic, creative, scary, genius, nebulous, challenging, enlightened, and bonkers are all words that passed my mind while trying unsuccessfully to figure out Jonathan Kay a “21st century fool” in a workshop with him in Brighton this weekend.
So what did we do…I could say it’s a bit like improv theatre but that might give the wrong impression. It was very open with little direction (which as a learning-aims driven corporate training type drove me crazy and was probably just what I needed). For example, to paraphrase:
Jonathan Kay – “You’ve got up to two minutes in front of everyone how long would you like?”
Me – “I duno. What for? What’s the point?”
Jonathan Kay – “Whatever you like, how long would you like?”
What was revealed in this and other exercises was the process of how participants work and play. Underlying judgements that run us were revealed – comparable to “meta-assessments” in ontological coaching. For example “I’m not safe” (mine), “I’m not good enough” “I’m not happy.” Others have compared his work to stripping off masks and social roles.
For me, the workshop was about being totally present and seeing what arises from not knowing, not expecting and not trying to figure things out (what I’m doing now). In a word – it was about play.
From an embodied point of view Jonathan Kay is fascinating as he shifts shape with greater fluidity than anyone I have ever known. This makes him hilariously entertaining as he morphs from one participant to another, through archetypes and into a boulder ordering a beer or a can of beans belching. Jonathan is also a master of language revealing word meanings and giving new perspectives on common phrases and names.
Infuriating for me aside from the workshop having zero predictability (scary, scary) was the lack of informed consent as to what we were doing. I didn’t know what I was getting into and was asked to play by a non-rule book I hadn’t agreed to which was difficult to opt out of. Happily both Jonathan Kay and organiser Shaun Young held the day with great care.
One metaphor that Jonathan Kay introduced was that of Cain and Abel. Cain is the end-result driven, organising achieving part of ourselves that runs most of the Western world. Abel is his groovy other side who convenes directly with God and makes us actually able ton do stuff. For some of the workshop I played Cain to Jonathon’s Abel, weird for me as in the corporate training world what I do is pretty edgy. Whether Jonathan’s work has corporate training applications I’m not sure. On the one hand it many be exactly what many companies need to get enAbeled and start authentic leadership dialogue, real team building and creativity, and on the other hand I imagine they would find the package very, very hard to swallow. I wish Jonathan luck with this audience and think he may be ahead of his time.
Thanks to Shaun Young for putting it on – by far the most interesting workshop I have been to in some time.
The payment for the day was all done in an “ethical payment” fashion (i.e. by donation) which was brave of Shaun and bought up some interesting conversations. So in conclusion on Jonathon Kay from me – anyone who can impersonate a can of beans must be worth experiencing!