Musings on the Law of Two Feet

Larry Peterson lpasoc at
Tue Aug 3 06:27:55 PDT 1999

My thoughts are similar to Barry's.  It is a permission giving "law" not one
that is followed to the letter. Within the broad definition of "learning or
contributing" people have lots of images. I usually refer to it as doing
with your feet what you normally do with your mind when attending a
conference. If you no longer are giving or receiving energy in the group,
then you are taking away from what is possible there. It is better to take
full responsibility for your own "state" and physically move, rather than do
it only in your head. It encourages people to actively attend to their own
mind/body energy and do something about it. Hopefully, when people stay, it
is because they want to say.


Larry Peterson
Associates in Transformation
41 Appleton Ave., Toronto, ON,
Canada, M6E 3A4
Tel:/Fax: 416-653-4829

lpasoc at

-----Original Message-----
From:   OSLIST [mailto:OSLIST at LISTSERV.BOISESTATE.EDU] On Behalf Of Barry Owen
Sent:   Tuesday, August 03, 1999 7:36 AM
Subject:        Re: Musings on the Law of Two Feet


For me, the law of two feet speaks more of following what has heart and
meaning for me. I do not think of it in terms of "leaving" a situation but
more in terms of moving toward something for which passion has arisen.

With this in mind, I think that if I am neither contributing nor receiving
(even when I am "having a good time") my mind will begin to wander, and I
will no longer be able to be fully present . . . most often when my mind
wanders, my body follows right along . . . and I end up being somewhere
contributing and receiving.

This occurs without conscious choice-making - it simply happens. I do not
believe that I "force" myself to leave a situation in which I am not having
fun (or am not contributing or receiving - or as an excuse to get away from
an uncomfortable situation) because I know that there is a reason for me to
stay if my mind has not yet departed . . .

This, for me, is the essence of the law of two feet - when my mind wanders,
my body follows right along.

Good day to all,

Barry Owen
The Owen Group
5518 Kendall Drive
Nashville, TN 37209
Phone 615-356-2888

Simply living the FourFold Way in Open Space

My Worldwide Open Space Web-site:

----- Original Message -----
From: koos de heer <koosdhr at>
Sent: Tuesday, August 03, 1999 3:43 AM
Subject: Musings on the Law of Two Feet

> Hi All,
> I have been thinking about the Law of Two Feet.
> In the book it says that "When you feel that you
> are neither learning nor contributing, you go
> elsewhere." Maybe it has to do with my Dutch
> Reformed upbringing that I like to examine rules
> and laws closely. In this case, it made me think
> that the Law might benefit from a small addition.
> I know that Open Space generally benefits from
> less rather than more - I will get to that too.
> It occured to me that it is rather serious - as
> long as I am learning and contributing, or even
> if I am doing only one of those two, it is OK.
> Strictly taken, this would mean that there are
> two valid excuses to bash the ego of the speaker
> or the convener: I am not learning and I am not
> contributing. But how about: I don't think it is
> fun here? Even though I may be learning a very
> important lesson here, or I may have a great
> contribution to make to the group, if I don't
> want to learn that lesson or if I am sick of
> discussing the topic that I have been teaching
> about all my life - I can also be very miserable
> and the best thing for me to do could be to go.
> And of course, in the spirit of Open Space, I
> would encourage anybody in that situation to
> go elsewhere. I have seen people exercise the
> Law of Two Feet in situations where I had the
> strong impression there was a lessen for them
> to learn, but if the person would rather not
> be there, learning will hardly be effective.
> On the other hand, I can be in a situation
> where I am not learning and not contributing
> but having a great time. Does that mean that
> I should leave and make myself useful? This
> certainly appeals to my Calvinist upbringing
> mentioned earlier!
> Of course, in my vision of OS, there is nothing
> wrong with having a good time and I will stay.
> So that made me think of making an addition to
> the Law: if you are neither learning nor
> contributing or if you are not having a good time,
> go somewhere else. This could work for me: I can
> be contributing and even though there maybe things
> that I'd rather do, making this contribution here
> and now is important so I stay. Same for learning.
> In the ideal situation I will be doing all three,
> but if not, two out of three ain't bad and I could
> even do with one.
> But this led me to another question. Do I have to
> have a reason for leaving? I think this is not the
> idea of the Law of Two Feet. The idea is that I
> could be in a situation where I find myself
> starting to feel miserable and really not wanting
> to be there. The Law is there to remind me of the
> fact that I have a choice. Not the reasons why are
> important, but the fact that I have a choice and
> that I am the only one responsible for the
> situation that I am in. Even staying and feeling
> miserable is perfectly OK. The only thing that is
> not OK is blaming someone else for it.
> So now back to the Less is More thing. Maybe we
> need not an addition to the Law, but simply a more
> general version: whenever I find myself in a
> situation I don't want to be in, I can go. And if
> I am explaining it to someone, I can use all sorts
> of examples about learning, contributing, having a
> good time, being too lazy to get up (or too afraid),
> or whatever, to stay or not to stay.
> When I started writing this, I did not think
> it would turn out this long... Anyway, I am very
> interested in your thoughts on this.
> Cheers,
> Koos
> ------------
> koos de heer
> auryn management advies
> utrecht, netherlands
> mailto:koosdhr at

More information about the OSList mailing list