The word "cynefin" is Welsh. As nearly as I can track down, it is pronounced "KUH-neh-vin". (I welcome correction from any reader fluent in Welsh.) I happened across it on Facebook, on an inspirational image which proclaims that it is "a Welsh word for a place where a being feels it ought to live. It is where nature around you feels right and welcoming." It is one's personal habitat, one's natural home. (See image at bottom, click to enlarge.)
How lovely that such a word exists. For me, a cynefin must be a place in nature, away from human presence. All my life I've gravitated to an assortment of cynefins, conscious of the attraction but not aware of the name for such places. I've lived and traveled across the breadth and depth of the United States, with forays into Canada, Mexico, and Vietnam. My personal cynefins are both micro and macro ~ places of enclosed intimacy, and places of sweeping vistas. So many come to mind ~
- the foothills and canyons of the Rocky Mountain Front, on the verge between mountains, prairie and sky
- high crests in the back country of Glacier National Park, near treeline
- isolated sandy beaches and marshes in South Carolina
- the Grand Canyon
- the remote reaches of the Sonoran Desert
- the African subtropical savanna
- any remote Caribbean island
- the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska
- any whitewater river
- placid lakes in New England
- isolated beaches in Sonora, where the Sea of Cortez and the desert meet
- flying. alone.
"Cynefin" had been adopted by cognitive psychology to refer to a problem-solving mindset that takes into account "the relationship between man, experience, and context". Originally developed for use by business managers, it seems applicable for groups and individuals seeking knowledge management in complex social systems. Here is a video of Dave Snowden describing the cynefin model.
But back to basics. When you close your eyes and allow your mind to go blank, what places emerge as your own cynefins, your own places of rightness and welcoming? What is their appeal for you, in your heart of hearts? Are you in one at this moment?