Fractal Salons: Spiraling Dialogues about Patterns, Purpose and Love that Increase Social and Emotional Intelligence
READ OR BROWSE 31 TESTIMONIALS *AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST* FROM ABOUT 20 SALONS IN THE *PAST SIX MONTHS* (OCTOBER 2012-APRIL 2013)!
Hello, my name is Scott Hannon. I’ve studied, researched and read about history, society, psychology and happiness for years (in life and at Harvard, Columbia and UC Berkeley). One common denominator to happiness is captured by Psychology Professor Daniel Gilbert in PBS’s series This Emotional Life, who says that that strong, connective social relations and friendships is perhaps most important factor for happiness and fulfillment. A super detailed, academic study discussed in this film showed that happiness spreads through, and is connected to, our social networks!
A Fractal Community Salon is an extraordinary three hour experience with 8-10 people that draws on the best elements of group and network theory, borrowing from the contexts of dinner party, group counseling and academic dialogue to elicit the experience of strong social connection and group relations. This connection is enjoyed during the evening, and the skills learned can be taken out into one’s life and community of friends!
A Fractal Salon is a truly magical, wondrous, unforgettable community experience.
I currently teach Introductory Psychology at Holy Names University in Oakland. I recently completed a Master’s Degree in Group Learning/Counseling/Dynamics at Harvard Graduate School of Education and am studying this topic further in a doctorate program at Columbia Teachers College.
I’ve led/facilitated 45 Salons in the SF Bay, New York City and Boston over the past five years. Below are several photos of Salons from the SF Bay in 2012-13, Scroll down further to see some from Boston in 2011, then read a more detailed description of the Fractal Salon, followed by photos and videos from Salons in Brooklyn in 2008-9. And finally, read or skim the 28 TESTIMONIALS FROM THE SALONS HELD FROM OCTOBER 2012 to MARCH 2013.< < <
While this was not a formal salon, I facilitated/led this group with an amazing group of individuals including Arete founder Guy Sengstock (see http://www.aretecenter.com), meditation teacher Adam Coutts (see http://intromeditation.com/aboutteacher.html), Happiness expert Aymee Coget (http://www.bonfireheights.com/bios/bio_aymee.shtml) green/clean energy financial guru Ken Vanosky and Radical Improv teacher Liam Kircher (left early and so not pictured).
Harvard Graduate School of Education Salon with adolescent boy’s expert Ben Keeler and Stanford School of Education and co-community founder Chris Gripkey (now a tennis pro in Sun Valley, Idaho).
Harvard Salon with New England Conservatory of Music professor Rhoda Bernard (http://rhodabernard.com/), yoga teacher and HGSE student Laura Scher (http://www.examiner.com/natural-health-in-portland/laura-scher) and others.
Many associate Salons with the 18th century French gathering designed to “please and educate”. While there some similarieties between the two, the Salons I’ve put on do not fit the somewhat elitist descriptions one reads about in reference to the French Salons. They are community gatherings in the true sense of community, including people of all income groups, all ethnicities and all backgrounds.
One of the main ways I explain them is that they are social gatherings that are made up of the BEST ASPECTS of a dinner party a discussion group and group counseling.
THE BEST ASPECT OF A DINNER PARTY: In most dinner parties the conversation takes it’s own course, often split up into two or three separate conversation with no structure other than the whim of the individuals. That is the norm for dinner partries. They are usually pleasant enough, but usually the group does not go that deep. In my Salons we are all connected to the same conversation and the result is like that dinner party you will never forget.
THE BEST ASPECT OF A CLASS/DISCUSSION/BOOK CLUB: Most group discussions, classrooms and book clubs have to stay to a book or subject. The discussion can often be pretty conceptual and you might learn something new but you don’t feel like you REALLY got to know the participants. My Salons are still about ideas, but they are designed to be more personal and to go deeper.
THE BEST ASPECT OF GROUP COUNSELING: My Salons have some of the depth and intimacy associated with group counseling, but they do not go as deep at group counseling. We do not do therapy or psychoanalysis, and there tends not to be cathartic emotional experiences. Yet we still get to know each other pretty well. And for some people, this is just what they want…a kind of “group counseling light” if you will.
I suppose you could say that the most important goal of my Salons is to learn new ideas, explore connection and community, and do that in a fun and light way!
We start with a potluck with the idea that food and music are some of the most basic ways that community is created and enjoyed. After a while, when it feels right, I begin the Salon by thanking everyone for showing up and give some context for a Salon (which might be similar to the contents of this post). I explain that in a Salon we strive to stay conncted as an entire group, allowing the conversation to ebb and flow but keeping a certain rigor in our listening so that the conversation follows a kind of “group flow” that is unique to that group. I ask that as the Salon progresses that people strive to connect their ideas to their own experience, bring themselves more and more to the moment. I challenge participants to catch themselves if they get really heady, conceptual, or stuck in the past or the future. I ask people to try to tune in and sense what the entire group wants next, where they want the conversation to go!
I usually begin Salons with introductions. I ask people to share their name and what “home” is for them (this gives lots of flexibility with how to answer, as opposed to “where are you from?” They might share about where they grew up, where they now live, or both. I usually then ask that people briefly share what their “thing” is. I like this question because it allows people to share about what they do for a living, what their main hobby is, what truly lights them up, or even all three. I ask that people be brief in this stage since there are usually 7-9 other people to hear from. Sometimes I ask “What is something good/great/fun that happened to you recently?”
I like to bring a completion to each Salon with a process I learned in California called “I’d Like to Get Closer to You.” Basically each person has the option to choose one person (or even the entire group) and share a thought or feeling they had about them that, upon speaking it, brings them closer to the person or group. Usually these take the form of an acknowledgement, or just choosing to say the thing that has you feel “complete,” whatever that is for you!
As you can imagine, each time we have a Salon the community gets closer and we often can’t wait for the next one. We have had so much success that one of our main issues as a community is how we will be able to fit in my living room. So far we are taking it one Salon at a time.
To give you a sense for these Salons, I’ve included a video of one Salon from June 4th 2008 and a few photos we took at the end of our other Salons in NYC:
June 4th 2008–SKIP AHEAD TO 5:45 TO WATCH AILEEN AND DIANA SING AT SALON #2:
To give you a sense for the conversation part of this Salon, right after this song I asked the group “Where do you need to give yourself a ‘little more room to grow?’” since that was the most engaging question within Aileen’s lyrics.
We started a tradition of taking photographs of everyone together at the end of the Salons. Here are some of them:
May 11 2008: Salon #1, East Village Housewarming Gathering
June 4th 2008: NY Salon #2, A Little More Room to Grow (see video above)
September 21st 2008: Salon and Singing in Williamsburg
October 23 2008: Trip to Sleepy Hollow (not a Salon)
November 9th 2008: Salon #5, New President-Elect!
Novermber 24th 2008: Salon #6, Thanksfulness Salon
December 8th: Salon #7, Who Are We as a Community?
December 21st 2008: Salon #8, Solsti-Salon Holiday Party
January 18th 2009: Salon #9, Acknowledging Family Part I
February 15th 2009: Salon #10, Acknowledging Family Part II/Valentines Brunch
March 7th 2009: Salon #11, Acknowledging Family Part III/Saturday Brunch
March 28th 2009: Salon #12, Increasing Luck (St. Pat’s) in Life, Saturday Brunch which included Magnuss Magnusson (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/magnus-magnusson/7/32/69b).
April 25 2009 Salon #13, Hopping into Spring (Easter/Passover)
ALL TESTIMONIALS FROM OCTOBER 2012 – APRIL 2013 SALONS
1) “Scott made me feel very welcomed and comfortable right away. The Fractal Salon brought me into a state of mindfulness and connection; I think it’s one of the absolutely best ways to make connections with others and I hope this group process becomes embedded in our culture.”
~Marenka Cerny, Marriage Family Therapist (MFT)
2) I had the pleasure and privilege of attending Scott Hannon’s Fractal Salon the other day. One word: Wow. It was amazing how deep vulnerable, open, and real Scott helped us go. With his soft-spoken, kind presence Scott masterfully lead us to have heart opening and soul searching conversations which made us all feel so much closer. It helped us feel together and connected over similar kinds of pain, joy, love, and loss. Scott’s absolutely brilliant Fractal Salon idea should be used at all levels of community and government. After all if people shared as much as we did, and got to see others as humans the way we did in this Salon, the world would have so much less conflict, hatred, violence and bitterness. I really hope the Fractal Salon will catch on like wild fire, making its benevolent masterful creator successful beyond measure Kudos Scott, my dear brother, keep on shining. From my heart to yours.”
~ Alchemyst Mystique
3) “I definitely give this a thumbs up- a double thumbs up…thanks Scott…these are worth going to!”
~Ali Cat, MFT, Speaker on Board of Ethics in Psychotherapy
4) I’m thankful for Scott Hannon, a wizard of group dynamics. I have been deeply appreciative of his mastery of conducting in improvisational situations. He uses a careful balance of direction and gentle guidance melded with a relaxed flexibility to collect and bring in everyone’s energy to create an experiential tapestry. I can remember as if it was yesterday.
I come back to this often: there are people who are very good at what they do, very skilled and well trained – and then there are artists. Scott is one such very talented artist–skilled, well trained, and with lasting deep intent. His material is group dynamics. Looking forward to partaking in more of your art. Thank you, Scott!
5) You are doing such a service to all of us. I am inspired and in awe. Wow….I was amazed by how quickly I deepened into my own vulnerability right from the start. The way you organized the dialogue allowed me to relax into the depth of my feeling. My experience has renewed my trust in the human spirit and the ability to develop community spontanteously.”
~Donna Moletierri, Somatic Psychotherapist
6) “What Scott is creating through the Fractal Salon experience is a foundational piece of what so many people are urgently seeking in these times. He has managed to channel and create a space that evokes conscious exploration, loving community, deep learning, insight, and fun! His masterful facilitation at once puts participants at ease and allows them to retrieve and express their inner wisdom, while experiencing authentic and powerful communication and connection. The artful structure of the topics within the “dinner party” framework levels the playing field, and enables participants to delve into deep personal and societal understanding while coming from their whole being, their embodied hearts, rather than intellectualizing. This unique form of live, loving, open and yet intentional gathering is so necessary in these times of digital friendship, over-intellectualization, and spiritual bypassing. It is so refreshing and such a privilege to have the opportunity to relish the questions- to co-create and discover communally – to joyfully raise vibration in such delicious company. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and I look forward to more!”
~Zoë Wild, Spiritual Life and Business Coach, Wild Life
7) “Scott has a beautiful way of bringing community together. The depth of effort and passion he has invested in crafting the Salon is palatable, and it feels like a gift to be included in such a unique experience.”
~Ali Fogarty, Teaching Fellow, Sociology and Gender Studies, Stanford University
8) “Scott has a profound way of holding the space and container for a group of people to become deeply connected. The conversational art is an orchestra for which Scott is a master conductor, allowing all the instruments of expression to have their place. It is bar none one of the most refreshing connecting community experiences happening here in the Bay Area. Scott is on to something really unique and cutting edge here!”
~Dr. Anna Stid, Chiropractor, Wellness Teacher
9) “I thought about the Salon all last night. It was like a light was turned on at the Salon and burned brightly through the night. I felt electrified with a buzzing hum throughout my body. Thank you for holding such sacred space and opening your heart to the group. So magical and yet so simple…the knowledge that there is nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be.”
~Cathy Goetze, Consultant and creator of film “RE: Invention”
10) “When I reflect on our Salon from last night it brings up beautiful memories and feelings of when people shared their hearts…I felt particularly enriched, as if someone had made a direct deposit into my emotional bank account. Scott, you created a beautiful physical space, and a specific mental context to explore deep and intentional dialogue. It was delightful in the moment, and I’ve been feeling the reverberations ever since. Thank you so much.”
~Knute Kallander, Leadership Instructor, SF State
11) “The Salon was an experience unlike any I have ever had. I immediately felt comfortable and at peace with the group and I am a better person for having attended. Thanks, Scott for bringing us all together!”
12) “Spontaneity, laughter, community, JOY all weaved by the magic and professionalism of Scott Hannon. Come join in as a skeptic and be transformed by the end of the evening.”
13) Had the pleasure of integrating the theme of Mandalas into Scott Hannon’s Fractal Salon last night and what an enriching experience it was to see how very clearly a Mandala is a metaphor for life itself in every possible aspect. I would LOVE to do another soon! My life and art feel expanded as a result of last night’s Salon and I am excited to see what new possibilities emerge for me, you and everyone who attended. Thank you Scott for your vision, wisdom and true giving of your most beautiful self.
14) “Scott has created a structured space where conversation has depth, questions are poignant; I am able to reflect on my life past, present, future. It’s been a field of open-hearted presence. x”
~Anjali Sawhnay, Workshop Leader and Life Coach
15) “I came to my first Fractal Salon with curiosity and trepidation. I love people but groups of people, especially people I do not know, make me feel uncomfortable. I am a bit introverted so in a traditional group gathering, I often let the more extroverted personalities dominate the conversation. Scott created an environment where I felt at ease. I enjoyed his questions about life, creativity, connection. I felt free to share my authentic self. By the end of the evening, the strangers I had met hours earlier felt like family.”
~Kimberlee Reece, Acupuncturist
16) “Scott Hannon’s Fractal Salon is an extension of Scott’s personality: gentle, sweet, tender, thoughtful and caring. It’s an evening of unfolding into the realms of intimacy. Scott takes you on a journey of curiosity mixed with vulnerability that creates a very safe space to open your truer self within the group. I will definitely go again.”
~Elizabeth Cruz, Change Agent Coach
17) “I thought it was fabulous–the type of activity and community I hoped for in moving to San Francisco 19 years ago. Scott has a great talent for group facilitation. He has an excellent sense of “not too loose” AND “not too tight” which both keeps the group on track AND allows people to feel comfortable and not oppressed. He even exhibited this in handling the potluck. He set and kept a tone of supportiveness, openness, space for self-revelation.”
~Lee Robbins, Ph.D.
18) “Scott creates a warm and inviting environment that is conducive to the sweet, loving sharing that happens in the Fractal Salons. The small group environment and the guidance that Scott provides really inspires people to open and share their hearts and creates connection between the participants
~Penny, Marriage Family Therapist
19) “I deeply enjoyed both Salons I attended so far! I cherish the connections I made in both Salons. Scott’s experience as a group guide created an effective container for a beautiful, engaging, fun flow and connection. He helped us co-created a group experience that reflected our individuality and our shared interest while inspiring us and nourishing us on many levels. I loved that the format allowed me to express freely and creatively in a safe space. I will for sure be back for more!”
~Raia Haltam, Bhakti Rock vocalist
20) “What an amazing evening…soulful, loving, kind, enlightening, nourishing…thank you Scott for holding a warm, loving, wise and caring space for a circle of people to come together and share their intimate interior with such a feeling of depth and community. The Fractal Salon makes it so easy to drop in, reach out and connect.”
~Natalie Zeituny, Founder of the Conscious Business Center, NZ Consulting
21) “This is a fascinating meetup. I have been to two so far. First of all, how many of us have the luxury of having a Harvard-trained Psychology teacher whose expertise in group dynamics give you tips on how to be an effective contributor in this kind of setting? Then to try out the new skills with great company, great environment, and great food. What could be better? This experience was exceptional in part because of Scott’s overlaying a Salon communication format with a dinner party. The environment felt safe and heartfelt. I met some really interesting people. I felt heard and had a sense of connection. I learned some new tools for building community. I very much got the sense that the participants were relatives from a larger tribe. The Fractal Salon format allowed us to connect quickly to each other in a safe and heartfelt way, different than the usual ways we habitually socially self-organize. It felt like a flock of birds of different species who learned to fly together. Strongly recommended.”
~Hiro Hashimoto, Physician
22) “Scott succeeded in providing an open, relaxing, comfortable, trusting circle for the group. While guiding the group to feel the energy and to be present with others we blended together and manifested a liberation from guards, a blossoming of humanity. Thank you Scott for providing such a beautiful set up and sharing your passion to get individuals to share some of their deep thoughts and feelings. I would be delighted to join the Fractal Salon again.”
23) “I have attended Scott’s Salons for about 6 months now; they are intimate and guided in a very open way allowing one to get to know the other guests on a deeper level. Scott leads the group by asking interesting questions that allow us to open a discussion in which everyone can participate. Every Salon is different and unique. I have made very dear, deep, meaningful friendships with people who have become very close friends. He definitely attracts an eclectic wonderful group of people. When I can I will attend the next, and the next, and…”
~Ama Nkwa, Hynotherapist
24) “The Salon was quite an insightful experience. It allowed me the opportunity to open up, share, learn and grow in a community based on trust, respect and kindness. It was powerful to co-create something so intellectually, emotionally and spiritually enriching. Thank you very much Scott for sharing your gift with us!”
~Vipul Shaha, MA, Harvard Graduate School of Education, worked for Teach for India
25) “I attended the Dec. 4th Fractal Salon, not quite knowing what to expect, but open to the possibilities. At the very least, I figured that a dinner party with good conversation and good food would be a pleasant evening. Scott provided a warm, safe place in which to share our thoughts and feelings, sometimes very personal ones…we were able to connect on our common “human-ness”. The time flew by, and I think most of us were a bit sad to say goodbye.”
26) “Scott brought together a bunch of great people, and deftly guided conversation toward meaningful sharing. Great stuff!”
~Jesus-Matthew, Yale grad, Computer Science
27) “A remarkable evening skillfully facilitated – thank you Scott! Your ability to seamlessly include two people who arrived after the group had already gathered momentum was truly masterful and a huge boon for all of us. I’m very grateful I was able to be a part of the Fractal Salon and to feel so seen and supported. Mmbop!!!”
~Emily Bouchard, Family Wealth Consultant and Facilitator
28) “Thank you, Scott, for a magical evening! I’d never been to a Fractal Salon and was curious about what that could mean. I was very impressed with your skill at educating us to the structure of the Salon, encouraging us to share deeply (yet succinctly), and to look for that which we find common to our human experience, in spite of our perceived differences.
I arrived at the gathering feeling a bit low in energy and with an over-riding sense of feeling isolated that I’d been sitting with for the past week or so. I was looking forward to the possibility of connection, but apprehensive that this venue could perhaps be too contrived for my taste or make me feel pressured to participate more that I was comfortable with. I was very relieved and happy to find that the format of the evening, as well as the quality of presence and sincerity of all of the participants allowed for a continued deepening of connection and resonance as the evening progressed. I left the gathering feeling refreshed and renewed, as though I had just spent a few hours with very close friends. Gone was the feeling of isolation I had been carrying and my energy was vastly better. I was very grateful to be a part of the group and look forward to another “fractal” gathering!
~Scott Evans, Accupuncturist
29) “This was my second Fractal Salon event and I found it even more interesting and meaningful than the first. I was thrilled to share this with my 23 year old son who fit in seamlessly with this group. Having attended a previous Salon, I was able to really drop into the dialogue and found that I had ruminated about some of our discussion points over the past several weeks and made some new discoveries about my own personal journey. Scott is a wonderful facilitator and is extremely attuned to the group dynamic. One of the best parts was the “after party,” where most of us stayed around and continued to connect with each other. I made some great connections and new friends at both events.
~Janet Pailet, Attorney (who has not attended about 8 Salons)
30) “From October 2008 to June 2009 I attended about 10 Brooklyn Fractal Salons hosted by Scott Hannon who was loved by so many Gothamites (NYC). I eagerly looked forward to being with Scott, whom I affectionately refer to as a brother. Each Salon proved to be unique. People new and veteran always felt at home, in touch with others, and safe. I remember what Scott encouraged: openness, clarity, authenticity and attention to others the room, and that being present in the moment always delivered freshness. The themes engaged our curiosity from one Salon to the next. I enjoyed the uniqueness of the backgrounds, trainings, cultures and enthusiasm that each person brought. How could I have such rich listening from others in such an intimate setting? How could “deep speaking” be possible with people I barely knew until the Salon? Scott moderated a “dinner party meets transformational class” conversation. The guests seemed eager upon arrival and enthralled at some point in the night. Scott used live and recorded music allowed us to entrain and kept our time together from being too much about talking. Thanks to Scott, Ernest, Todd, Julia, Adriana, Richard, Julie, Beatrice, Aileen, Erika, Kim, and countless others my Salons enlivened my time in New York City. Scott has a way of bringing people, places, topics, and temporality into an amalgam of bubbly tastes that only the palate of the soul can savor. For me, Scott Hannon is the Pied Piper of What’s Possible, beyond the veil and outside of the illusion. His instruments of beholding, giving, honoring and ultimately letting go of the process all make for a tune that soothes and reminds. Thanks Scott. May all your Salons be symphonies.”
~David Potter, massage therapist, teacher, healer, actor, magician
31) “The Fractal Salon is a great place to share ideas, learn something new, meet interesting people and do some reflection. It is obvious that Scott puts in a lot of planning and he facilitates the session in a way that makes a space for everyone be as engaged as they want to be. The format is designed to stimulate dialogue which is different typical social discussion. There were provocative questions around the theme of the Fractal Salon that made me and others think in non-traditional ways. We got to know each other in a deep way.”
~Ed Porter, Leadership and Education Consultant (working mostly with Superintentends)