What it’s all about





I’m going to post my thoughts regarding our time at the 2016 Pioneer Network Conference in more depth next week. Today, I would like to address an incident that occurred during the conference orientation on Sunday. It was a little unsettling and it affected me in a personal way.

It happened as Barry Barkan of the Live Oak Institute and one of the founders of the Pioneer Network, was closing the orientation with what he described as a “solemn ritual” that went back to the early days of the Network. In a gentle and reverent tone, he instructed the group of a hundred or so orientees to form a circle around the auditorium. As we linked hands in anticipation of a prayer or a pledge or some version of Kumbaya, Barry bowed his head for a moment, then looked up and did this:

Put your right hand in,

Put your right hand out…

Oh, that.

Let’s get something straight:

I don’t do the Hokey Pokey.

I don’t put my whole self in

I don’t put my whole self out

And I certainly do not “turn myself about.”

But I did on Sunday.

Barry Barkan, Miracle Worker, got me, a life-long anti Hokey Pokier, to perform this absurd children’s dance. And I liked it.

It wasn’t the social pressure. A good portion of the group chose not to participate and I could have easily joined the ranks of my brother and sister Hokey Pokey objectors and not have suffered any of the awkwardness of being the lone dissenter.

I did it not just because Barry is an instantly likable person …

I mean look:

Solidarity through Hokey Pokey

Solidarity through Hokey Pokey

I did it, and I liked doing it, because his approach, the buildup and the subsequent surprise (Humor 101), was utterly disarming. It allowed us to drop our social armor and just have a bit of fun.

The moment was made possible by an understanding of how we were perceiving the situation, the use of humor to lighten the mood, and the reliance on an indirect approach. Had Barry taken a direct approach and told us to get in a circle for the Hokey Pokey because it was the designated time for the Relax and Have Fun portion of the orientation, I would have indeed “put my whole self out”… of the room. As soon as I navigated the one-way traffic jam at the door.

This really is “what it’s all about.” A person centered environment means that as we approach and respond to our elders, we pick up on the cues that provide us with an awareness of how they as individuals are perceiving the situation and use this as the context for our interaction with them. An unhurried and indirect approach with a light touch creates an atmosphere of cooperation and reassures our elders that they are in control.

I didn’t have to do the Hokey Pokey. I wanted to. And I would do it again, reserving of course, my right to refuse.

10 thoughts on “What it’s all about

  1. Joan Devine

    Yang,,, how beautifully stated. Thank you for sharing, for caring and most importantly for doing! It was such a privilege to meet you and the other CNA Bloggers at the conference. You are an inspiration to us all, showing us how to “put your whole self in” everyday!!

    1. Yang Post author

      Thank you, Joan! It was an amazing experience for all three of us. So happy to meet so many like-minded people. Just a great conference and a great organization. It was like coming home!

  2. minstrel

    What a great comment, Yang! You managed to touch on so much and see so much in that Hokey-Pokey moment and give us so much to reflect on. “Amen!” to finding the sacred within the silly. Thank you, Yang.

    1. Yang Post author

      Thank you, Minstrel! One of the true highlights of the conference for us was meeting you in person. What a nice surprise!

  3. nurserona

    Yes, Barry has the kind of effect on people…and has for as long as I know him (38 years). Thank you for sharing this story…and reminding us to be present to the truth in the room and in our hearts.

    1. Yang Post author

      Actually Anna, I didn’t realize exactly who Barry was or his role in starting the Pioneer Network until I sat to write the blog and looked up the Live Oak Institute. Both an honor and a pleasure to meet him.


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