A Sense-making challenge so vast

The world’s in a vast transition, a transition so vast it’s holy in its dimensions.  It’s bigger than us, bigger than we can grasp or understand. Like the Tao it can’t be named. It’s like a birth process. A new kind of person is emerging, sometimes crawling, from the wreckage of the old. A new self is possible that’s not based on the isolating assumptions of the past. No one knows how to do this and no one can teach us how to do this, with Step 1, Step 2 . . .

But we can help each other.  

Mutual exploration of our common situation is the future of, the evolution of, self-development and what it means to be human. It’s the evolution of human consciousness if there’s to be a future. People turn to each other after they’ve given up hoping that the various systems will provide for them. They sense that there’s something new possible with their peers, and become companions to each other. They connect for mutual benefit and extend generosity to each other. As they do they start to tumble forward into something no one expected.

Each step of mutual self-help depends on the consciousness and awareness of the participants. Although we’re peers not everybody is equally skilled and experienced. When something old is dying and something new’s being born like this, discernment and feeling in the dark are required. It takes a community to find a new way, a new way for itself.

As we stumble and tumble forward we start to see a scaffolding we didn’t imagine. It’s the inherent scalability of our mutual exploration.

In addition to mutual benefit and generosity within a group, mutual benefit extends naturally between groups too. When groups and communities connect into a network, they’re stronger than  the sum of their parts, just as individuals become stronger when they connect into a group. And networks of networks are and will surely emerge as well. They’ll do it because it will increasingly become evident that this will be mutually beneficial. Joining together will increase the intellectual, emotional and practical intelligence of the all the members. The skills of each will be increasingly available to all.

This “vision” isn’t new. It’s the dream of a passionately united humanity. With our incredible powers of destruction now, our rivalrous ways are no longer compatible with survival. This awareness that this is so and the necessity it heralds already goes about in the world like a roaring lion, waking people up and turning them to mutual exploration. They bow to the greater force, the birth process at work here and align with it with gratitude for its gift, come what may. It just happens.

Such a help I’d wish for everyone!

Such a help I’d wish for everyone!

​Lovely art by Jylian Gustlin​. Check out her stuff.

Such a help I’d wish for everyone!

​Here I celebrate the value of safe, respectful groups for  keeping our head in a time of change. But there’s a secondary and hidden value in group spaces that is seldom noticed or spoken about. ​ 

​It’s true that we tend to do much better when we’ve full room to express ourselves, when we can tell others what we care deeply about and have it welcomed and received on the other end.

When we feel that our honest experience is welcome, that others will receive it, then ​more of that experience rises to be spoken. When there’s a welcoming space for each of our stories, people relax with their own story and feel willing to contribute it. And they have enough attention to fully hear the other. This welcoming space is rare in our world, which for very understandable reasons, has downplayed our deeper concerns. But without room for them, community is limited. ​Community becomes conditional on conformity to the community rule and not rocking the boat. We go along because objecting and speaking up costs us. It could reduce our perceived worthiness or our membership in the group. Both are painful and we ​often avoid these, usually without being aware we’re doing so.

But if there is a good place for us to bring our truth, and we sense ​who we are will be well heard, we do speak up. We also relax and have room to listen to the others.

That’s when the unpredictable side effect happens: We start to notice something beyond our individual contributions, an emerging collective understanding that we’re all part of something bigger. As with sex, this collective understanding, collective intelligence, is difficult to describe or define to someone who’s never experienced it. But it’s hard to miss for those who have.

When this secondary sense kicks in, something beyond our normal focus comes into play. It’s ​easiest to describe ​in the language of metaphor, because imagination is part of it. Here’s one for today: Sometimes it’s as if the stories start to speak to each other, rather like kids playing in the centre of the room while the adults talk.

​There’s a counterintuitive message in this. It’s that secondary conversation, when the stories talk to one another, is where the important stuff happens. ​This is where the real work gets done. The “adults” conversation just sets the secondary conversation up, creates the conditions for it to happen.

We can​’t make the good thing happen, but we can help it along by setting up the conditions where it’s more likely to happen.

And happen it will. We humans are wired for it, wired to notice it, wired to respond to it, be interested in it. It’s a natural capacity of our consciousness. But we seldom notice this larger energy because the primary prerequisite is almost never met in conventional social – or “spiritual” – circles. The primary prerequisite is that we be welcome as ourselves without having to conform to a group assumption, belief or behaviour. This is historically almost unprecedented. But in the absence of it, the awareness of ​the deep commonality we share is on hold. We’re stuck with the ​conventional “first-tier” conversation. We remain caught in our slightly atomized, isolating personal performance, and unaware of the collective mind we share and its enormous power.

But it’s there nonetheless, a potential waiting patiently for us to ​work with.

Telling My Story

I’ve been avoiding telling my own story.

For several days I was writing a blog post about how we needed more honest personal story, more sex and gender in our  conversations. Then I noticed I wasn’t telling my own.

Telling is unfamiliar because I’ve been very close-mouthed about great chunks of my own story, forever.  Though much easier, it’s still difficult to talk about my early childhood and the pervasive experience of abandonment that persists from it. Hard to be fully with it and breathe and claim it, like the simple human thing it is. Hard to stay compassionate to self when I subtly re-abandon myself to go out into the world in search of belonging.  Because that depth feels from the inside as not normal and I’ve feared no one else could understand, I try and pretend it’s not there.

There’s something delicious in all of this though. The experience of not-belonging, so deep has it been, has made me very sensitive to it in my environment. I have an acute appreciation for other people’s sense of abandonment or belonging. It’s where I live and breathe. I’m continually drawn to people’s sense of belonging and how it lives in them. My early experience stamped this on my soul.

Often I want to intellectualize about this. Like now, I want to tell you about the gifts. And there are gifts and I’m very happy about them, but I’ll put that off for now. In fact, living in my intellect has been my relative safety and in recent years, I became a sort of lay scientist of belonging. (I wrote my book, Evolutionary YOU in the voice of that lay scientist and it’s probably the best description and celebration of how we belong or don’t. You really should read it.)

In that book I only alluded to my own story though and kept it at arm’s length. It didn’t feel safe to talk about. There were implied family secrets that a child’s sense of loyalty felt must be obeyed.

Part of the story from my childhood, and I’m speaking with a child’s partial understanding here, was that I was a keeper of my mother’s secret. She didn’t love her husband as much as she loved me. And perhaps another  man from before. Our bond was built of that secret and it was at the core of me. “Was.” It’s not right  to say “is.” Stepping out of that birth caul has been a long process and an incredible gift, the only one I ever wanted. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Everything comes together in the turning of the story. For a lot of my life I missed my father and wanted him to see me but he had his own abandonments. Not trusting women with my heart, I sought out safe companionship with men in men’s groups for personal connection. A long time in them helped me to start getting my attachment needs met because I was well accepted there. I saw and felt and knew that men were good and capable, and loving. They were not evil patriarchs. Even white men. Men are good, in so very many ways.

I edited and wrote for an alternative men’s journal over many years. We hosted numerous conferences for women and men to explore gender too and some of it was deeply experiential and helped me a lot, helped all of us a lot.  But the early pattern of abandonment, not being seen into being as a self, reasserted itself in my closest intimate relationships with women, in those love relationships where the early dynamic was rekindled.

I still feel called to support men. For me. The trashing of men and masculinity that’s in the courts, academia and now, in my country, the law, feels like a tremendous and dangerous burden for men, women and children. Part of claiming myself is speaking to that, making room for our gendered and sexual selves in new conversational spaces.

I want to make room for “trauma” too, for the equivalent of my early childhood experience. No individual is immune from “trauma” because trauma is in the race. It doesn’t show it’s scary face to every  individual of course but it’s somewhere in virtually every extended family and when it’s in the family, it’s in us too. It’s part of life. We are the products of a difficult experiment: World wars, unloved childhoods, forced migrations, famines and murder weave through the race along with the love and the beauty. All these hard things may be the bewildering face of love anyway.

I want a new conversation that makes room for all of these parts of ourselves. Not safe ivory tower conversations, the forms of which society has created for the very purpose of keeping out the stuff it doesn’t feel it can handle. Not spiritual-only conversations that seek unity and bliss and avoid the rough edges where we really live and breathe. Like sex and gender. Like early trauma. Like later trauma. Like love.

I don’t mean we have to talk about these things, like a project. I mean that it’s good to make them really and truly welcome because when they’re not, and because they’re real  for all of us already, we’ll live a guarded life, afraid of them erupting. We’ll be their jailers even as we put on brave faces.

We don’t know how to do this yet. Thank goodness. Because when we think we know how to do it, it probably means we’ll do what we’ve always done to keep the important stuff safely away.  We’ll try and manage the divine process.

The good news is, there is a “we,” brothers and sisters that want to do this. There’s also an unnameable evolutionary process at work that many in the “we” have felt. I put my trust in that as quickly as I can. I’ve tried running the universe but, as I’m sure you know if you’ve tried, it was no fun and it didn’t work at all.

More to come on this. Sign up above so you’re sure to get it. And note, a Small-group Intensive starting mid-October or early November. You can register now.

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When consciousness groups play nice

When consciousness groups play nice

When we’re in “consciousness groups,” do we tend to downplay our own agency, our “mission” so we can get along? Do we forget about our purpose or forget that we even have one? Do we unconsciously play it safe so we can be “liked” and not ruffle too many feathers?

More generally, does the consciousness community as a whole tend to do this playing nice?

I’ll raise my hand. I do it! And it’s not because I’m Canadian.

These two are ever-present and in dynamic tension. But at this time they’re out of balance. This is also the tension between feminine and masculine. I’ll leave that out for this week because it deserves its very own post. Or posts.

Here let’s think of it as the tension between co-regulation and individuation.

I love “co-regulation.” It’s a word associated with trauma researcher Stephen Porges whose amazing work shows how, through the vagas nerve, humans “co-regulate” with other, or fail to, regularly. We fall into  a sympathetic response in which we resonate and harmonize feelings and senses. Co-regulation is a word for what’s at the basis of social interaction. Consciousness groups and we-spaces and and group spaces are all about it.

Individuation is the movement toward going our own way, becoming our one-of-a-kind self, becoming ourselves.

Now it is true that neither of these poles exclude the other, that they’re both informed and partly defined by the other one.

But in practice, today, the co-regulatory movement is much emphasized. In the online world, peace, love, and harmony are in and get the likes. Individuation look rough and uncouth, upsetting.

Our personal missions need the roughness of individuation. The very idea of mission is an individuated notion. Many of us get-along folks can keep on putting it off.

In my work with systemic constellations, I’ve been excitedly diving into mission lately, how to bring it to the surface in a simple way that puts purpose first and connects it to the rest of our life. It’s exciting partly because I’m seeing my own life challenge in a new way.

Let me know if you’d like to chat with me about bringing your mission sense more into alignment with the rest of your life. You can schedule a 31 minute exploratory session here or reply to this email. I’d love to learn how this is landing for you.

As mentioned all this talk of the two poles is indeed related to the two poles of feminine and masculine.  Of course! This is a an important discussion for the consciousness community too, one that we haven’t looked at enough. We’ll have a peek inside that rich and beautiful Pandora’s Box soon.

Write to me personally or leave a comment and let me know what mission challenges you have. Or don’t!