Musings on the Law of Two Feet

Peg Holman pholman at
Wed Aug 11 09:35:28 PDT 1999

Like Larry and Barry, for me, the law of 2 feet is about following what has
heart and meaning.  It is a fundamental reminder of personal responsibility
for one's experience.  One aspect of this that I haven't seen discussed yet
is using your two feet to stand up for what you believe.  Sometimes 2 feet
let you move, other times, they support you where you are.  I think that is
the ultimate gift of the law.  It requires being very clear about acting
from passion and responsibility.

Peg Holman

-----Original Message-----
From: Barry Owen <barryo at HOME.COM>
Date: Tuesday, August 03, 1999 4:37 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

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