Aspects of life

Practice don’t Preach Theory U in 7 Breaths! 2nd Breath.



Opening our State of Being “reason” deepens the dance between our soul and body-mind, coalescing into “seeing” and “observing” in a wave of curious asking.


How to practice Theory U? Just imagine how disappointed you are when a meeting ends as it begins with “downloading”. How can you have more conversations that matter in your organization and in your daily life?

You’re in the right place to find out! Here, in this series of articles, we dive deeply into new practices to move through the “downloading” stage and, if we need to, we can always revisit this “downloading” tool.

This article fits into a series which explains how you can effortlessly move through Theory U while at the same time allowing the steps of the U to expand and even transform you. We dance Theory U within a literal and metaphorical Guest House. The breaths refer to whole and complete cycles of the Life Pulse.

The first article in the series offers you a framework and introduces you to Guest House Facilitation and the magical, cosmic principle of the Life Pulse. The second article familiarises us with “downloading” as a tool to process the Self. It is the 1st Breath of the series of Seven Breaths of moving through Theory U.

The diagram below shows where we’re at now in our dance.


Our 2nd Breath is the ‘seeing’ stage of Theory U and as you notice in our diagram it’s also called ‘observing’. I invite you to explore with me what its deeper meaning is!




Overview of the Second Breath Dia04

The Second Breath is again a complete phase of the Life Pulse as the drawing illustrates, an inward movement of contraction (green on the drawing), followed by a moment of stasis (red on the drawing and at the inner edge of the U), an outward movement of expansion (blue on the drawing) and again effortlessly moving into stasis (back to red and now at the inner edge of the U).



We move inward to assimilate what has happened to, and around, us in this magnificent phase of ‘processing the Self’.

How does what is shared so far land in us, how do we feel within the Guest House, how does the teaching reverberate through us?

This inward movement is how we prepare to open our State of Being: reason. What is meant by opening our reason?

The diagram below shows how reason is located at the upper part of our body-mind. For those familiar with the chakra system it is the opening of our seventh and sixth chakras. The seventh chakra stands for our ideas, our mission. The sixth chakra has a front and back aspect: the front aspect being the concepts we can see and the back aspect how we are able to create a vision, that is, a step by step approach to the concepts we see. For more explanation on the chakra system, you might enjoy Anodea Judith’s magnificent book on Chakra Psychology. Opening our reason (or mind in the language of Theory U) is literally creating space in our energy field around our head – 360 degrees.



This inward movement or contraction (green on the overview of the 2nd Breath in the beginning of this article) can be taken as a silent walk in the environment of the literal Guest House or it can be time spent individually in silence or it can be a dancing practice.


I love a dancing practice where you invite the inner dancer to graciously dance with the different elements in the four directions. The inner dancer represents for me our soul, the spiritual being which we are and we dance with our body-mind. We connect with the earth of our body and with the earth around us, the fire inside and around us, the water in our precious bodies and the water all around us, the air and spaciousness inside of us and the breath of life all around us. This is a great practice to prepare us for the opening of our reason.



This contraction, this inspiration completes with another moment of stasis (red on the overview), connecting deep inside of ourselves – at the inside of the U where we gather momentum from the field of endless possibilities to move outward into another wave of expansion.

Each breath is complete in itself and could not be anything else. It is a natural principle which exists in all of life around us and within us – a moment of contraction, stasis, expansion and another moment of stasis.



We are now ready for an outward movement or expansion (blue on the overview). The participants are given some basic guidelines about Guest House Facilitation. I assure them, they are all guests and that any contribution is welcome and valid.

With our reason centres open, we are ready to have conversations which matter and which go deeper. A great way to establish this is through Dynamic facilitation, a powerful technique invented by Jim Rough. You can read more about the practical applications and principles of Dynamic Facilitation (DF) in my book Becoming What is Changing: Exposition).

To explain some of the principles of DF: any contribution from a participant is reflected and written on a flipchart. Four flipcharts are used, three of them with the headings Data, Concerns and Solutions. The fourth flipchart harvests the How-questions.

As a host, pay attention to the flipchart with the How-questions: these indicate a shift in the conversation. A shift can arise out of a contribution to any of the other headings on the flipcharts.

What is written is the responsibility of the participant – you own your contributions and how they are written. If it doesn’t feel completely aligned, ask your host to change what is written.

One of the important principles in DF is that all the participants address the host and take turns in sharing. I invite them all to speak to me and not to each other in order to create safety for the unfolding process within the group. You can speak when the other has completely finished. I explain that Dynamic Facilitation is not a dialogue, it is a “we-flection”, creating space for the “unknown” to unfold.

We move through this wave of expansion, reaching out and sharing through the model of Dynamic Facilitation.

DF allows the participants to move further down the U and truly begin to open their reason. During this expansion they start to explore the next step of Theory U –‘seeing’.

This process allows for an effortless letting go of preconceived ideas and concepts by opening reason (= mind in the table below). What is revealed is a desire to see reality in a new way. The field already affects the unfolding process. You can understand the depth of this phase of ‘seeing’ in the Theory U model (step 2 in our table).

Step 1: “DOWNLOADING”: viewing the world through our habits of thought, allowing our current reality to surface. Re-structuring

Step 7: “PERFORMING”: achieve results through actions, embedding the new into the larger context


OPEN MIND: Re-designing

Step 2: “SEEING”: seeing reality with fresh eyes, suspend judgements, the system being observed is separate from those who observe

Step 6: “PROTOTYPING”: explore the future by doing, prototyping, enacting the new by being in dialogue with the Universe


OPEN HEART: Re-framing

Step 3: “SENSING”: the attention shifts to the inner way of seeing, from object to process. The boundary between observer and observed collapses.

Step 5: “CRYSTALLIZING”: the attention shifts from the inner vision to exterior action. Crystallising vision and intention, envisioning the new from the future that wants to emerge


OPEN WILL: Re-generating



Step 4: “PRESENCING”: Connection to the deepest source

Through the precious New Space Technology of Dynamic Facilitation you hold conversations that matter. You reach deep personal territory and clarify the right how-questions, the longings and the intention.

The How-questions are very important keystones in this phase. In the methodology of DF the shifts literally happen through the fact that a new how-question emerges, a question which always starts with how can I or how can we. They brings us in touch with the deeper sense of “seeing” the reality as it is and we cultivate this by paying attention to the questions.

Otto Scharmer points to the capacity to suspend the voice of judgement, self-judgement and judgement of others as a key feature in this step.

However, I wonder if it’s really about suspending our judgements. I’d like to invite us to take a closer look at our judgements in order to understand them. What is held underneath our judgements? What is our need hidden in this judgement? Unravelling our judgements without judging our judgements is a key feature needed to move from projection into true observation. This is a huge step, even if it might seem a small step in the framework of the U. It is huge to take back our projections and to become aware of where we still function as hooks for the projections of others.

The graphic representation of this second step is an orange circle with blue dots moving to the edge of the circle. In the perspective of Guest House Facilitation the orange circle is the body-mind and the blue dots indicate the metaphorical movement of our soul. T-seeing

We start our soul’s perspective from deeply hidden inside of the body-mind and our soul looks at the beliefs and constructs of our body-mind. Through the movement to the edge of the body-mind, the soul inhabits the body-mind more intensely. This is achieved through the act of opening reason in the energy field of the body-mind.

The dance of our soul and our body-mind continues and becomes more intimate.



Another moment of silence (= stasis, red on the overview) in connectedness arises and we arrive at the outer edge of the U. We are connected and yet we still objectify in order to understand, in order to learn, to process.

Objectification is a hard concept for us to digest and often it feels shameful. We might judge ourselves and feel guilty. Maybe, however, we could consider objectification as a tool which enables us to gain more insight into our organizations, systems and most of all ourselves. It is not good or bad, it is what it is – we do not see the other or the organization as part of us, we see it as an object outside of us. Even if we acknowledge our judgements and are ready to understand the deeper meaning of them and see the underlying need, we still objectify while in this phase.


A real 2nd breath experience

The next picture shows an actual 2nd Breath, which unfolded in a Guest House Facilitation training in Berlin in November, 2014.

2nd breath


Our contraction phase was rather short in time. However, it’s important to name it as a distinct phase and allow integration and assimilation to happen. This is a non-linear process – overall the amount of stasis, contraction, stasis and expansion needs to be balanced.


In this 2nd Breath, the preparation of our food and eating together is all part of the inward movement and of the stasis. We are a literal and metaphorical Guest House and what happens in our Guest House – whether literal or metaphorical – is also a part of our experience within the flow of the Life Pulse. We prepare our food together as an expression of caring for each other and our environment.


We completed the first day of the training with a check-out as suggested in the principles of Circle Practice.



Our 2nd Breath is the opening of our State of Being: reason (or mind). It is the clarification and bringing to light of our judgments. We introduce here one of the New Space Technologies, Dynamic Facilitation, as a magic tool to gently move through this step. And you may have another similarly powerful tool in your toolbox with which to support your group through this first step in Theory U.

We are learning and refining our capacity to ‘observe’ through curious asking. What makes you curious? What do you want to understand more or better?

We begin to recognize what we see and we don’t yet have words to express what we perceive and what we are beginning to understand. Our knowing is still separate from our words.

In order to learn to put words on what we perceive we move on to the 3rd Breath. In this 3rd Breath we begin to open our emotion (or heart) and we dare to stop objectifying.

If you are curious and want to read more, check in with us next week!

Any comments and stories are very welcome. And please share this article through your preferred social media (click on the buttons on the upper left of this article).


With love and appreciation



This series of nine articles could only arise with the amazing assistance of all those magnificent people who attended a Guest House Facilitation workshop or training. They provided me with wonderful experiences that contribute to our dance through the U. One of the participants, Elaine McGoogan co-created in a delightful way through her excellent and fluid editing work!


veerle caminoVEERLE DE BOCK is a social entrepreneur, a change-maker, physician, healer, facilitator, trainer, coach and author of the trilogy, Becoming What is Changing. She spent nearly three decades of her life as a physician specializing in geriatric care, including a 21-year career as department head in an Antwerp regional hospital. In 2003, she began her study as an energetic healer, teacher, process facilitator and supervisor at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, and since 2007 has been leading many other trainees to master these same skills. In 2010 she was trained in the practice of Dynamic Facilitation by Jim Rough, which she now incorporates into her workshops and training sessions. In 2012 she decided to devote her work exclusively to writing, facilitation and coaching. That same year, she devised a new integrative practice of facilitation she calls ‘Guest House Facilitation’, that helps teams learn how to listen and utilise both the inner and outer processes within their organisation, to see it as a dynamic and living organism, and to reconnect to its intrinsic purpose and intention. Her book, Becoming What is Changing: Exposition, is the first part of a trilogy aimed at managers, team leaders and responsible employees who wish to bring this kind of transformation into the workplace, so they can create an environment where people are happy, satisfied and continuously growing.


Contact Veerle about the book, or to discuss coaching/hosting for your organisation at: