By the Light of Collective Intelligence

By the Light of Collective Intelligence

Much depends on the strength of the lantern we hold up to see where we are, our surroundings and the possible paths through the deep woods around us. A dim lantern won’t shine deep into the dark. It won’t clarify the looming shadows.

How do we make our lantern burn brighter and more stable, since all else will follow it?

“What makes lanterns burn bright is their connection to other lanterns. What makes intelligence come into its own is being directly connected to other intelligences.”

The answer is: We combine it with other lanterns.

This is not additive mathematics, one plus one plus one. No.

The light that helps you see what you need to see is the light that’s more than the sum of the parts.

This light is an exact parallel with collective intelligence – an intelligence that’s more than the sum of the individual intelligences that make it up. The concept of more than the sum of the parts doesn’t make mathematical sense. The concept doesn’t help you feel that extra quality, a kind of pre-existing Presence that you hadn’t noticed until now.

What makes lanterns burn bright is their connection to other lanterns. What makes intelligence come into its own is being directly connected to other intelligences. This is a felt experience, immediate as a kiss. It’s an actual connection, not a concept.  

Connection, my friends, connection. ​​Being right or being wrong, and all the other ways we make differences between us matter more than connection, matter not. They smoke up the glass on the lanterns. ​

Though it seems counterintuitive, knowing other’s opinions on important issues doesn’t make the lantern light stronger either. Being curious about the people who hold the opinions, being interested in their lives, makes it burn brighter. But opinions, not. (I don’t mean that opinions don’t have a place but that they’re a function of connection or common illumination. Without connection they’re divisive.)

This is the time for lanterns, illuminants out there in the darkness finding the way.

I think this process is well alive in the world. An ​brightening is happening and available for those who earnestly join with others in pursuit of the common good.

Or so it seems to me. Take a moment and tell us what you think.

The Surprising Visitor

What do you need to move through this time well, something more than just getting through it still standing. Could we actually use this time to emerge stronger and more resilient?

The question may seem crazy when we’re struggling to keep our head above water, when people close to us and maybe we ourselves are feeling anxious or afraid, gripped by something bigger than themselves and not knowing how to cope. I’ll return to that good and practical concern in a moment

But for now, what would a best experience be like for us?

A natural and healthy first impulse is to want to see and hear each other. There are beautiful and elegant ways to do this, active listening, Empathy Circles for example. (You can google Empathy Circles if you’d like to try them.) For me though, these tend to reinforce where we already are, and constrain what’s possible. They have the side-effect of keeping us within our bubble.

Empathy and listening are part of the foundation but there’s something in addition to them that makes everything come alive. I’ll use the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes which most of us in a western tradition have heard a version of, as a way to make the distinction.

As Wikipedia describes the story:

The Emperor’s New Clothes (Danish: Kejserens nye klæder) is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes”, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally a child cries out, ‘But he isn’t wearing anything at all!‘”

Beautiful is it not? The emperor was naked but no one could admit it, even to themselves. If the people in the story were practicing empathy together they would each pretend to see the clothes and no one would say that the Emperor was naked. The reason for that is that our perception is very much based in social norms and what can be said and seen, rather than what we actually think, feel and see. (Getting past that is the subject of my book Evolutionary YOU.)

However, the Covid-19 coronavirus is presenting us with a situation that, in order to fully respond, we have to move out beyond social conformity. It invites us beyond our isolating personal performance of being intelligent and competent and handling it well. To rise to meet it, something more like what the spiritual traditions call “waking up” is required, something beyond our conditioning.

We’d need a way, or more likely ways, to allow the mysterious “other” that we don’t know yet to enter the closed system of our conditioning. Although all of us have the hardware capacity for these ways, they usually take practice and development to be more available. What’s needed is something like Socratic dialogues in which conversation, and especially questions that arise in dialogue, flush out unacknowledged assumptions and errors in thinking.  David Bohm, the nuclear physicist whose passion was the underlying unity of things was trying to do something similar with his group Dialogue process.

Does all of this sounds difficult and arcane and kind of impossible? I think it’s better than that.

We’re in a time of “cracking open” when reality reveals itself to ordinary people inquiring together. As long as we’ve been humans we’ve been sitting around the campfire under the starry skies contemplating the nature of what it means to be here, trying to come to a greater understanding. This sense-making is what we humans do, all of us, and something we care about deeply.

Right now, because what we knew for certain is no longer certain, there’s a renaissance of meaning-making. It’s easier for us to step out of knowing all the answers. We’re all shook up already. From an ordinary seeker’s perspective, someone looking for the deeper meaning or the Holy Grail, this is a golden age. Though we have different capacities by training, we’re all ordinary people, little Frodos on a journey if we dare to be and care. More is available than we think.

The Biblical saying has it that the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking to devour you. That may have a certain truth but we could also say that Taoist-like masters are also going about in unassuming garb, entering into your meaning conversations and playfully show you simplicity itself. Both poles arise together.

Approaching new conversations that may serve us now requires qualities that no one of us has perfectly – but that we may have in the collective when we come together on purpose. Truth may be like rocks scattered everywhere in the field of consciousness but perceptually unavailable to us while we’re in our “isolating personal performance.” But when we we come together to purposefully explore, we stumble over the rocks continually.

Some things worth doing are worth doing even in a small and miserably humble way; they have their own beauty for that reason. I know that I don’t have all the pieces and sometimes am very stupid indeed – wanting to run away for example – but I am hearing that a few people are interested in exploring together and so would I.

Some elements of group exploration would be 1) empathy, 2) some ways of letting the unexpected in 3) an explicit request to not do it perfectly (perhaps including the willingness and the “ability” to make public mistakes) , and 4) a time for reflection about what worked well and what didn’t so we can learn to learn together.

This last part is important. Few people realize that they, that we, have the capacity to create forms and structures that can be helpful to others. Moreover, this is one of the most creative and satisfying things we can do. I believe it to be a natural human capacity. We are not just recipients of meaning’s hand-me-downs from an earlier generation.

Our emerging capacity to care for each other is the surprising visitor.

Back to the beginning again, being involved in this pursuit with others helps take us out of the worry zone into a place where our own problems seem less interesting. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French priest and early evolutionary said it beautifully, “There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.”

Einstein’s great distinction


I love Einstein’s great distinction that we can’t solve a problem at the level of consciousness that created it. It’s familiar to almost everybody yet it usually goes by very quickly. I invite you to take a moment with me and consider the powerful implications.

You can’t solve a problem at the level of consciousness that created it . . .

I take the levels of consciousness to be our isolated egos on the one hand, and the wider intelligence that surrounds them on the other. To use a metaphor, the isolated ego is like a small house we live in with the curtains drawn, an ego-house. Outside of it is the big wide world and the street with all the other people who stepped outside their ego-houses too. The higher level of consciousness is a natural community.

This shift to move outside our habitual way seems to be happening, with more or less clarity, for many of us, maybe millions of us worldwide. For others this language doesn’t make any sense at all, not yet anyway, though it points to something that’s theirs too.

There’s no praise due for seeing there’s another way any more than we deserve credit for a sunshiny day at the beach. We didn’t create the beautiful day. It’s a pure gift given to all. It doesn’t mean we’re better than others, if we see it.

Making the shift out of the isolated ego world into the wider world is a practice, not an on-off thing, not a quick fix. We’re learning how to do it, slowly, slowly. We’re practicing leaving our ego-house isolation and coming out into the street and looking around with the other people who came outside too. When we’re out there with them, we quickly see there’s more possible than we thought. In fact, seeing that there’s more possible than we thought is what the shift in level consciousness is. We see that there’s another world out there beyond our little ego-house. It was always there but we didn’t notice. This different world is vastly richer than the usual consciousness. It’s beyond the consciousness that got us into this mess in the first place.

But what’s that wider, collective intelligence like? It’s so vast and varied that each person sees it in a different way and each person is correct. But it’s ordinary too. Many of us have noticed it in “we-spaces” and many times too.

Some things that people commonly see about it, or notice when it’s pointed out, is that what’s beyond our present level of consciousness was already there before we popped in and noticed it. It’s been there all along but we just weren’t aware of it; we were paying attention to something else. We also see that it’s vastly bigger than the little house we were living in. We see that it belongs equally to everyone – or that they belong equally to it. Importantly for thinking about the climate situation and what to do about our modern dilemmas, we see that this greater consciousness is intelligent and purposeful.  It’s the root of intelligence and purpose. Things succeed or fail depending on whether they’re in accord with the greater reality or not.

It’s the Tao, mysterious and impossible to define, but the real doer!

That higher level of consciousness knows what it’s doing. It’s already created everything, the whole ecosystem with each of us in it. It knows what it’s doing and we can work with it to determine our action and our own direction.

I’m using lofty language here but the simple reality is that Einstein was right. We can’t solve the problem we have – climate change or the other global issues – with the usual mind that characterizes our world. We’ll need a wider perspective. Even what “solve” means shifts; we see we’re part of a larger process where the outcome isn’t in our control in the way we fancied.

The presence of others helps us remember what’s beyond our ego house. Higher consciousness is naturally transmissive and being in the presence of others who are nurturing it helps both it and us grow in the world. It seems clear that while our effort is required, we can’t do it alone. Bruce Lipton says it nicely, “When you break up the individuals from a community into individual units, they become disempowered because it’s the collective consciousness and the collective energy of the group from which power comes.” We can’t do a collective endeavor alone. Alone we can become defeated by the weight of the challenges we face but the greater consciousness feels inspiring and inspired.

Even when we’re in the middle of things and don’t know where we or they are going.

Change is a shift in consciousness

Change is a shift in consciousness

​My friend John Heney has referred to our normal experience of the world as an “isolating personal performance.”​ This seems to me a telling phrase, one I can certainly relate to ​from personal experience.

In this essay, I want to take this experience of ​isolating performance and place it beside the experience of Presence or non-​performance and ​offer some ideas about ​moving from one to the other.​ Along the way this I’ll show ​the relevance of this to our moment, to climate change and ​adapting to a future we may ​not be able to “fix.” 

Warning: 1. Along the way there will be ​​bad cartoons. ​2. When I say that “we experience … [this or that],” I’m referring to the usual mindset, the everyday sleep the spiritual literature speaks to. ​That’s not all we are, of course. The everyday sleep IS the personal  performance.

​The purpose of the performance of an isolated self is to maintain or improve our ​right to belong well in the human community.​ ​The social norm is to want ​very much be on the good side of the status measurement​s that indicate worth: rich-poor, succeeding-failing, enough-not enough, blame-forgiveness, high-low, ​valuable-​not valuable​ ​. . .  ​​​Most of us, most of the time are involved with this. ​​

So when we experience stress and difficulty, which we inevitably do, ​the natural thing to do is to look to that solitary self to understand ​what went wrong. ​Most therapy and most healing modalities presuppose this solitary self. It’s been with us throughout evolutionary history; it’s what we know. Yet the solitary self​ has a limited understanding of what’s going on. It sleeps or it wouldn’t experience itself as solitary and separate ​the way it does.

​​In a crude characterization a caveman might raise his eyebrows at, ​the world of the solitary self looks like this:

​​The normal sleep of everyday life is one of continual judgement and evaluation, trying to find a good place relative to others. The wider context isn’t in awareness. 

Where​ is the wider context, you ask? Where is the deep love we ​know in all this? 

​It hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s all around. We’re inside it and we intuit it and ​sometimes experience it. But what’s in the foreground of normal awareness is our relationship to others, high and low. Compared to ​the immediacy of this normal perception, ​talk of love comes across as an abstraction, ​secondary. 

​The reality may be that we’re bathing in ​the greater reality, held by it continually. But ​we usually don’t see it. We’re spellbound by the drama of the world. There ​may indeed be a “divine comedy,” but usually we see something closer to the Jerry Springer show. 

If we manage to move past or forget about the judgemental and evaluative mind, what’s ​already there shows up.

A second cave man drawing might ​show it like this:

​We’re immersed in a greater whole, represented by the yellow​. ​We’re touching everything through it since the ​wholeness is undivided. High and low, big and small don’t matter much. 

​Underneath and around the dramas where we protect our fragile self-sense and try ​and get by, we’re connected to others and made of the same stuff as them.​

We’re each in ​exactly the same relationship to the whole as everybody else. This is the great leveler. The commonality ​sits underneath our seeming world of differences, the one in which the norm is to perform to prove our right to belong​. ​When ​we’re noticing this greater whole, others appear not​ as other but as expressions of the same thing we are. Status and judgement ​are not very relevant or interesting. ​Uniqueness is valued because it ​gives us scope for creative partnerships. 

​”What is greatest in human beings is what makes them  equal to everyone else. Everything else that deviates higher ​or lower from what is common to all human beings makes us less. If we know this we can develop a deep respect for every human being.

​(Bert Hellinger observed this, while/ after reading the Taoist source book, 

Tao te Ching.)

​The world of struggle for higher and lower ​status is ​easy to see when we look out at the entire world​. It’s less visible to us at the local level but the ​same dynamic applies there​.

If we’re able to move past it and see each other inside a larger whole, a different dynamic comes into view. The individual characteristics and experiences of others, represented below by the letters, are seen as values that each person in “the field’ has access to.

​When the individuality of each person is ​genuinely welcomed, then the qualities of each become available to the others in the field. This sense of ​collective intelligence can be very palpable​. It’s not a rare or difficult experience. 

We’re in a different relationship to the whole and everything changes. Rather than holding on to some truth, what is is emerging in the moment.

This wholeness has many names and none. “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.” Presence is a word for it that resonates with me but whatever we call it, the thing ​the word refers to is​n’t a word. It’s what is and a direct experience of what is. ​Presence isn’t inert and doing nothing. It’s full of energy. It is energy. ​​It’s effortlessly doing, wu wei, as some ancient Chinese called it.

To be an effective change agent, we’ll do well to be aligned with Presence, by whatever name. Otherwise we’ll project the game of opposites onto our enemies and​ their problems will become ours. Presence tends to integrate problems.

Another person’s difference is another way to experience how the wholeness is expressing. ​The possibilities for collaboration are literally infinite. Every person can combine with every other in any way. Basically, ​everything comes clear in Presence.

​By ​definition the direct experience of this “beyond the opposites” noticing is neither hard not easy because ​. . . it’s beyond the opposites. The opposites are inside it. It’s a spontaneous manifestation like happiness or laughter and it’s not further away than them or more foreign than them.

​But like them it can’t be ​”accomplished” directly or by intention. 

Presencing Practice, because of its simplicity, helps bypass some of the ways we get in the way and ​subscribers are welcome to join in a practice session. ​(Click on Groups above.)

Climate change as celebration of consciousness

Climate change as celebration of consciousness

Few of us talk about the inner side of climate change, surfacing the inner angst, sense of pressure or despair we may feel. But when we do we see it as a burden and a problem. It shows up as, “Oh my god, how am I going to be with this?” A hundred, a thousand questions arise: how will our families understand it, how real is the science, Green New Deal?, how does Climate Change fit in with Focusing or other practices, what are the implications for counseling, political considerations. The list is endless. We don’t know where to start. The point is we experience climate change as burden and we talk about it in those terms, a problem to be fixed. In short we wish it would go away.

I don’t deny the sense of burden at all. An underlying dynamic there is that the burden shouldn’t be there and that climate change shouldn’t be there. We frame it as a problem. We treat it much like our world generally treats death, as a consummation to be avoided at all costs. But as we know, many experience the spiritual acceptance, peace and love they’ve never experienced before as they approach their  deaths. And many who witness others in this process do too.

I’m not saying by this comparison that climate change means we’re all going to die. I truly don’t know that and am not invested in it. But it seems very sure that much of what we’re identified with isn’t going to survive. It seems clear that some parts of our identity based on our lifestyle are going to “die,” metaphorically speaking. (I like Jem Bendell’s formulation that collapse is inevitable, catastrophe probable, and extinction possible.) As a simple example, we’re quickly depleting  a limited resource base – but you know that.

Climate change as problem is rooted in the same mind that sees death, whether literal or figurative, a problem. It’s the problem of denial. But never before have we collectively faced the problem of denial, or of death. We’ve just quietly gone on our way out the door into the great  beyond, single file and one by one. But we’re not dead yet. We’re still here and we’re here in the same room.

So what is this that we’re confronting, here together. And there’s that confronting word, a problem again.

We’re in this together and we’re in this as individual consciousness.

But here’s the rub. Climate change is not an individual problem primarily. Actually, none of our problems are individual problems primarily. Treating climate change as an individual problem gets off on the wrong foot by missing the crucial context, that we’re in this together.

Desperately, intimately, we’re thrown together in this situation where what it means to be human and alive is right there in the middle of the room with us. The question we never asked is being asked now.

I’m reminded of Mary Oliver’s question, “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”. But here together the question becomes “What are we  going to do with our wild and precious life?”  What are we going to do with our wild and precious common life? Which is our consciousness, our one mind. “Consciousness” is in no way an abstraction. It’s a lived experience. We’ve always lived in consciousness but are usually distracted by the getting and losing that are the concerns of the usual day. (The word I like for it is Presence because it reflects the intimacy and relationship more clearly. I don’t use the word because people have no idea what it means.)

The ability to tune into Presence with each other is natural to us, very like what it is to be human. But it’s usually unnoticed and is eagerly practiced even less. I find it highly useful to turn my attention into this common space, rather than pre-select working on my worry or private issue, though that’s there too. My private issue often opens up into the common space, releases and lets go. Symbolically it “dies” into the greater life. Then we become curious about whatever-you-call-it after that surrender. It’s not a word.  

It’s celebrating our moment-to-moment experience of consciousness or Presence. And it’s celebrating how each one of us is experiencing it differently, growing our collective learning, helping us rise to new understandings. All of this is a far cry from the lonely, though entirely understandable bewailing of our outcast fates.

(If you like, come join a simple exercise in group exploration this Sunday, July 14th. Details here.

The gold in hidden climate change denial

The gold in hidden climate change denial

Can it be we’re all grappling with various stages of denial, even those of us who – like me – have been working on it for a while? I think we do know what’s happening, but our knowledge doesn’t easily percolate down to where we actually live. I’ll share very recent thoughts, some coming into focus this morning on a springtime walk with my brother.

Truly knowing that profound change is on the way due to climate would mean the knowledge would settle down through all the layers of our self: the way we think of our self as we walk down the road, our sense of purpose around what we’re doing, what it is that we do, the way we present ourselves to our friends.

The network of our relationships is a kind of knowing too. It forms a body of knowledge about the world that’s updated moment to moment as we move about in it. Feedback from the world acts as an ongoing verification of what to expect, a proof that something is a certain way. And that means “business as usual.”

But sureness about coming climate change, or about social collapse isn’t something we know in an embodied way like this. Everything in our world counterindicates it. Everything shouts that that tomorrow will be just like today.

And so we don’t trust our deep knowing. We want to return to the public truth because it’s so much more comfortable there for us. It’s uncomfortable to be, seemingly, out there all alone with the weight of it. As David Whyte says:

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
   at least we are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
   the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now

We don’t want to go down into facing or feeling it all. Who do we know who’s been there? We literally can’t imagine sensorially what that means: the body is way behind the intellectual appreciation. It takes time. And moreover, to do deeper work on denial, it’s almost essential to have a community to do it in. If we can find a little toe hold where it’s not business as usual, we can acclimatize and practice a new knowing, dress rehearse it, see if it’s real for us.

Our denial is strong and devious, like the devil. But the blood and the bones are deeper and they already know what denial doesn’t. A part of us intuits the truth, even though we deny it.

There’s a close analogy to perennial philosophy here and the whole search for wisdom. We deny climate change in much the same way that we deny what the greater part of us knows.  We can’t believe it, or rather we refuse to believe it. The truth whispers to us but we go through the game of pretending we don’t know, indulging in a mad search for something easier to live with. Like the squirrel outside my window just now who’s considering crossing the road, we’re engrossed in a particular point of view on the world. The problem of denial is the problem of manning a lonely outpost on the world, determined to make our plan work, even though something simpler might work better. Even though what we want is already present, already here. The knowledge we want is deeper down, shared by all of us, part of the commons. It’s acceptance and Presence.

Wendell Berry says that we shouldn’t measure another’s intelligence by the mastery of some specialized information but by “the good order or harmoniousness of his or her surroundings.” In other words, it’s not what we know or believe about climate change but how that knowledge is living well inside of us, how we’re learning to embody and live it. Down there, everything is OK. Going deeper is a process for all of us and it takes time. As we do we’re likely going to find some of the wisdom we were always seeking. That’s just part of the territory down there. This is a good time to find meaning, even Presence, the realization that this moment contains what we is the one we always wanted.

And a free drop-in group to explore all this tomorrow, Sunday May 19th, at 1pm Eastern, 10 am Pacific, 6pm UK, etc. Send an email to andrewcartermacdonald at gmail dot com and I’ll send you the link.

“What if it’s just for me?”

“What if it’s just for me?”

What if it’s just for me? What if higher consciousness is just for me and not a gift to the world? (Instead of me out there peddling it like a snake-oil salesman.) Just for me!

Have I even thought about receiving it?

What if the gift of Presence is just for me and all the anxiety about how to get it, or manifesto it, is just so much dandelion fluff drifting in the wind?

What if bad poetry is really OK?

I keep on repeating it because I do: What if it’s just for me?

What if no one can see the flower that grows on the lonely height of the mountain?

What if I can see the lonely face of the other, the never-seen-before face, and see it just for me, without trying to be helpful again?

Because what if it’s just for him too!

It’s the me that sees me I’d love you to see. And I love to see in you the you that sees you. All the finery is just foreplay before we look at each other and see the real thing. The cover-ups don’t hide who we are and sooner or later we’re unmasked by our trembling and suddenly humble love, try as we do to not let it happen.

Your public voice and your unique voice

Your public voice and your unique voice

Recently I’ve had numerous conversations, in workshops or intentional places, with people responding to the question, “What are you experiencing now?” It’s a naked question, a brazen question, a rude question. Certainly an unfamiliar one when it’s really asked and there’s room to respond.

Yet people can powerfully moved by having five minutes to respond to it – perhaps no one has ever asked them before. (Here’s the simple presencing practice I’ve been using for this.)

As the phenomenon of political correctness indicates, there’s a gap between what we say in a given situation – and what we privately think. We switch between what we really think and what we think we should think. And we do it continually, automatically, without noticing we’re doing it. It’s especially when a direct question like “What are you experiencing now” is asked (in a workshop or other intentional setting), that we notice our public and private voices aren’t the same. Oops!

The social norm is that the public voice is much stronger. The private voice is far harder to find.

It’s not that we don’t need a public voice and persona. We certainly do!

But our private, unique voice is not easily seen in this world – that’s why it seems so unfamiliar to be directly asked to speak from it. And moreover, we have no common language for all of this.

The public voice is strongly dominant but we maintain a polite fiction that we’re being an individual all the way.

The invisibility of our unique voice is evidenced by the face that we don’t explore our immediate  present experience with others. We might explore it in meditation or mindfulness practice, but not publicly, not transparently even to ourselves.

Instead conversation centers around events, people, things. We invent philosophies and religions. We make plans. We analyze and describe.

But our direct unmediated personal experience, the voice that’s closest to our hearts, is seldom requested or welcomed. The private voice gets deeply habituated to not speaking out loud – it feels safer keeping mum. And naturally enough, when sometimes it’s forced to speak, it tends to arrive with confusion and uncertainty, wondering if it’s safe and OK. In an atmosphere of welcome, it starts to find itself.

The public voice is more concerned with differences between people, the private voice is more alive to out shared humanity.

The public voice maintains the status quo while the private voice is more the voice for change.

The public voice speaks what everybody knows and the private voice, always unique, speaks what no one’s imagined yet.

Public voices never speak directly to you but private voices always do. Unique voice even speak for you because it speaks to what we have in common. The sharing of the private real voice is a revolutionary act, or rather an evolutionary one. You can watch the public voice on the news every night if you’ve a tv but the private voice has to find its own way and its own place to speak and listen.

And it takes time and work to find and develop it. It’s a process and a practice.

I’m just getting underway with an ongoing closed group exploration into unique voice,  – Change Agent Practice. It includes Presencing, using the “what  are you experiencing now?” question, with all the safeties and care that we can bring to it. And it includes group coaching to use the  group to support our  making changes inside and out. And more.

This group is just gathering  steam with the first leg, the presencing practice. This will continue and the others added when we’re a bit stronger. Do come try the presencing practice out and see how it is for you. If you know of any change agents who need support and challenge, will you forward the Change Agent Practice page to them. And consider it for yourself as a way to move forward with what you’re wanting to do, create and be.

Schedule and more coming soon.


Everything comes clear in Presence

Everything comes clear in Presence

Everything comes clear in Presence. Yet Presence can’t be described or forced, proven or produced on demand. Everything you can say about the Tao, which isn’t much, can be said about Presence. (Holy Spirit, we can only make little songs about you, skipping-rope songs.) We hear the melody. We see it on the faces in all the different ways. Transparent Presence makes everything visible.

The ancestors wait in Presence. The pain of the long past is there as is the joy, as is a fountain of words and colors moving out into the world. Presence is pleasure’s simple joy.

Presence arrives like sleep. Effort doesn’t help. Nothing helps. Nothing hinders either. Presence is waiting for you. The impossible koan of your own partial perspective relaxes in Presence. You’ll always be only you, always be only Presence. You’re like a shrub growing in a forest of Presence. You’re helplessly part of the vastness, the pain, the comedy, the working itself out, the privilege, the mystery. You’re stuck with it, given it, blessed with it.

Present to it. You’re a part in a play of Presence.

It’s a feeling. The feeling of feeling Presence is like touching. Presence knows us and Presence is being known, the actor in the costume. Any fool can feel Presence and that’s good to know.

Presence must be bigger than death since death rests in it. Pain is the part of the drama before resolution.

Everyone comes to Presence their own way. Everyone comes to Presence the same way.

Illusion gives way. It gives itself up. In bereftness the strong arms of Presence hold us and we wonder whose arms it could be. Illusion can linger a long while and Presence is perfectly uninsulted. It doesn’t change at all.

No one could presence all of Presence. Yet even a little taste is the whole thing. When you’re screwed up, it’s Presence that screwed you up, knowing it’s all alright and because it loves you and your birthing helps the world so much.



Being effective in this bewildering moment

Martin Buber wrote an amazing book in 1923 that has endured and perhaps will endure as a classic. It was called I-Thou. In vivid poetic language that is as fresh today as it was then, he spoke a timeless truth. (Here are excerpts that give the flavor of his writing.) Humans have two modes, I-Thou or I-It. I-Thou is relational and we speak to and from the whole of ourselves. I-It is transactional (my word) and the It can refer to He or She. I-It makes the world and the other an object outside of ourselves.

This is a vital distinction but not one we’re taught or conditioned to notice. Yet everything flows from whether we’re approaching the world as I meeting Thou, or I meeting It in every moment. “On how one orients himself to the moment, depends the failure or fruitfulness of it” wrote Henry Miller.

Activists are trying to change something in the world. If  we do activism from an I-it perspective – an ideology – we’ll try and change what we don’t like, not seeing we’re part of it. We’ll not be plugged into the entire ecosystem of the problem, whatever it is. We’ll just see some of it, a part that we or someone else, has judged as bad. And we’ll try and change that bad thing. Unaware of the whole system and not present enough to notice the exquisite feedback present in the system, our actions become part of the problem.

I-Thou mode, approaches the issue reverently, nakedly. Recognizing we’re part of that field we get feedback immediately from ourselves. We get immediate feedback from others too: We can look at them and see immediately if life is being served here.

Recently I was with a friend and we both became aware of the I-Thou dimension. We’d been sharing what we were experiencing in the moment and we noticed the strong sense of immediacy. What I thought was that this relational connection – which was palpable and alive, like a current – is always going on. But I usually don’t notice it.

I-It is safer, easier to inhabit. I-Thou is always present, but usually I’m not.

There’s a practical application to this. We want to be effective in this bewildering moment. We want to help. Yet only I-Thou is able to help. Spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti said it like this: Action has meaning only in relationship and without understanding relationship, action on any level will only breed conflict. The understanding of relationship is infinitely more important than the search for any plan of action.

Understanding relationship doesn’t mean having a theory about connection; it means being directly present to it. We can also be directly connected to not being present. That’s I-Thou connection too because it’s being real with what is.

It feels good to acknowledge that I-Thou connection is there, a part of us, even though we may not know. Much of life is like that! Electricity was there before Tesla or Edison stumbled upon it. It was always there but we didn’t know about it. Everyone’s experienced I-Thou, the sense of reverence in the presence of another, and forgotten, again and again. Yet when we’re not tapped into the dimension of I and Thou, we’re in a world of our plans and fantasy outcomes and nothing real can result.