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.

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.

Facebook junk food

Facebook junk food

A friend wrote about her frustration with Facebook where commercialism and self-aggrandizement rule (she didn’t use those words). Here are a few of my thoughts it, not the whole truth most certainly . . . Mostly they’re from my book Evolutionary YOU: Discovering the depths of radical change which is about escaping the control of the social matrix we think we already know about. I added the junk food metaphor just now.

In the tribes of old, we lived in full view of each other. Members were fully and constantly updated on what other members were doing. That was the tribe’s way, and there was no place to hide. In other words, long before Facebook, in our ancient past, tribal members were caught in an ongoing celebration of belonging and checking for the stone age equivalent of Likes. Everything we did reaffirmed our belonging and how much (or how little) we belonged to the tribe.

Facebook updates make this status-checking behavior more visible to us, but Facebook is just piggy-backing on the social architecture that’s already there: the need to know how we’re faring in the group and how “Liked” we are. How much we belong. Facebook members may check twenty or thirty times a day, but in the tribe of the past, this was constant, ongoing. The matrix is our past, whatever it may be in our future. 

The difference, and it’s an important one is that in the tribes of old there was a context of kinship and agreed upon social values so the connection was nourishing. FB by comparison is closer to social junk food.

There are a few nutrients in there. There are added vitamins in junk food too. The body takes in and assimilates whole foods in their contexts, food grown in healthy vibrant soil and local if possible. But with FB, the wholesome article-vitamins are denatured because they don’t come within a wholesome and complete context.

People are seldom able to actually use the intellectual, emotional, or spiritual material they get from FB to understand something more deeply. If they do, it’s in spite of the medium not because of it. FB doesn’t help to build a body of knowledge, live in it or connect with each other.

But it’s incredibly compelling.

Status and belonging are the invisible dark matter in our social space. Just like the dark matter in space pulls at us and is not seen, the need for status and belonging tugs at all of our exchanges. Beneath the stated purpose of the get-together, people have an underlying and more basic need to be accepted and respected – to belong. Although we seldom are conscious of it, this need is the glue of social cohesion and everything else rests on it.

We maintain our physical comfort by, for example, moving slightly or adjusting our sitting position. We loosen our too-tight clothing or scratch the momentary itch. In much the same way we monitor and maintain our social connection. With a similar effortlessness we bring our actions and thoughts into harmonious alignment with what fits into the culture. Just like our balance orients us to what standing upright feels like in the moment, our conscience orients us to what feeling and acting “upright” are in the moment.

Belonging is the hidden subtext in group settings and the hidden subtext underlying our mood and thoughts when we’re alone. As long as the dynamic is hidden and invisible, we’re shaped like Plasticine dough by the pressure to belong. Our sense of meaning is pulled subtly this way and that according to different loyalties. Meaning becomes free-floating, unmoored, not tied to our sense of self.

But when you’re seeing this, and especially if some other tribe members do too, you’re no longer under the influence of the tribe’s hidden rules. You’re now, at least partially, in a we-space where the rules can be rewritten.

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.)

A deeper welcome and a higher belonging

A deeper welcome and a higher belonging

Many of us find it difficult to accept and trust what we’re seeing, feeling, sensing around climate change and the other the big issues of our time. We lack solid self-support systems and can’t easily trust ourselves. We feel vulnerable and at the mercy of large world forces. We may be concerned about climate change and it keeps us up at night. Or we’re drawn into partisan conflicts that are unsettling.

We feel that if we step outside the circle of peer expectation there’ll be no one there for us. We’ll be hung out to dry. We fear we’ll be alone with all our bridges burned. The traditional supports with steady jobs and religion based in the community are no longer there to support us.

We lack a solid self-support system. By a solid self-support system I mean the inner and outer supports that tell us that, at least for now, we’re in a friendly world where we’re welcome just as we are.

Support doesn’t mean co-dependence, that someone else will do it for us. I mean self-care that includes trusted others, on our wavelength as part of our lives. I feel a hunger for this in people I speak with. I feel it myself. Doesn’t everyone have a deep need to be welcomed and acknowledged, seen for what they’re bringing?

The art of the future is the deep welcome. It’s the self-care that extends to the part of us that feels unwelcome and not wanted in the moment, that feels blamed for what’s not working. The opposite of welcome is shutting the door in our own or another’s face saying you’re not what I wanted. You’re not important. You’re not worth it. That’s the voice we  fear we’ll hear if we really show up.

What we really want is the deepest of welcomes. We want a welcome too for the part of us that wants to make the world a better place while we can, our dreams. What we usually do, settling for less, doesn’t work. Settling for less might take the form of resistance (saying yes but demonstrating no in our actions), or resignation (giving up and plodding through), or rebellion. I mean rebellion in the sense of being against something and not for; I don’t mean Extinction Rebellion which I see as pro-active activism.

 The deep welcome, our place in the world, is claimed, not given. But we can’t claim it sitting on a meditation cushion. It’s in relationship in the everyday world where we practice the art of deep welcome.

This deep welcome, this self-care is a primary political act. Activism is important, but to the extent it lacks the spiritual base it’s ineffective. The self’s real nature IS deep welcome anyway. It wants, we want, to take in the world and contribute. We want to live and be a part of it.

This deep welcome is something we open to gradually. At first it’s  an intellectual idea that we may like a little or a lot but still aren’t practiced in. We don’t know how. (I’m not speaking of meditation and personal practices that are important but not enough in my opinion, not the firehose that is available to us now.) Secondly it looks like welcome groups with respectful conversation, honest as we can stand – and a lot of listening. Third is Presencing Practice, a moment to moment welcoming of what’s coming up. Presencing Practice carries on into our daily lives.

The core understanding is the felt knowing that it really is safe to be ourselves, even that we don’t have to do anything but be ourselves and live our lives, and that we’re deeply welcomed and held as we do so.

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.

What change will take – and what it might give

Societies and groups can be relatively open to change, or relatively closed. They’re not all equal in this crucial respect. Some are much more able to support evolutionary growth than  others. Societies with a rigid “ordained-by-god” structure can severely repress movements for growth, even over many centuries. Our own western democracies since the 18th century enlightenment have done a historically unprecedented job of being open to change and enjoy the success they do because of this openness. The changes that are coming though, due to climate change and related global effects, they’re largely closed off to, in denial of. They’re simply not equipped for it.

If we want to explore the future and truly pay attention to the science, including the possibility that  we may not make it, we’ll need a different context. And the mainstream won’t give it to us because it doesn’t have it. The current mainstream context is business as usual, an extractavist economy going on forever. The actual context of our moment, as I see it, is that business as usual is on a very short timeline. 

A future beyond denial won’t be given us. We’ll have to create and it for ourselves.

No small matter. I want to suggest some of the characteristics of the new context that we’ll need. It will need a lot of filling out by personal experience. In fact that personal experience and lived contribution is the essential characteristic, the realization that we’re in this together and can’t break through our own denial without others. Effectively, we become crucial parts of each other’s context. And that’s the first characteristic of the new is that it’s done relationally with others.

It also needs to be deeply open to unorthodoxy, to honest truths from participants.

It needs to be frequently reinforced and move toward being a default normal. If it isn’t the default normal, then the mainstream is the default normal, and the mainstream doesn’t understand what’s happening. You can’t visit a new context once a month or even once a week and have it take. Much like meditation, which is also a new context, it needs regular revisitation.

The new context needs to be economically sustained in a way that’s not completely derived from the mainstream economy. It will need to be sustained by the human values of the participants as they put their energy, including, likely, some of their money, behind what they want and value.

It should be replicable so that others can rapidly join in.

It needs to be open to people at many at different stages of awareness. Some people will simply realize that possible extinction  means waking up now; others  may be deeply experienced in Presence (a word for  the ever-present divine context).

The personal, by which I mean the emotional, spiritual, and financial, cost of the new context needs to be explicit so people know what they’re getting into. If the new context is one of transparency, then the it needs to be very transparent about itself. 

All these help support a new way of being with ourselves and with each other. There’s no limit to what that new way will give us. It’s “Presence,” all we ever wanted and it’s new every moment. The limitation is our commitment to the way things used to be.

I hope to have a group together that meets these criteria very soon. I’ll be holding a taster event July 6th or 7th, which you can read about 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.

On not knowing what to do

On not knowing what to do

Well, there’s a nice image for you! Some of you might recognize it as two cards from the OH deck, a radically improvisational way of generating images. The deck has 88 “frames,” words, and 88 impressionistic images, many of them much less friendly than this one today is. It’s definitely not all sweetness and light. Using a device like this, or a poem, can be a writing prompt or deepener, as it was today for me. It can also be a way to start off a group because everyone will take a very different meaning from them. Reality is individually constituted. 

What I see today, as the writing’ll suggest is that there’s a world of pain out there. The Tower of Babble comes to mind.

Yes sometimes there’s a space inside in which communication happens. Is that true?

I have a story that we don’t yet know how to respond to these times. Sir David Attenborough made a speech today at the UN Climate Conference today about the condition we’re in. It came, and so far it seems it  will go without making much of a wave.

Why so little response?

It seems that it’s very hard for us to know now, how to respond to messages. We used to know, in an earlier time, in a seemingly easier world. We used to have our categories all neatly packaged. This goes here, that goes there.

But that’s no longer the case. Now we don’t know how to respond as we witness the world that doesn’t know how to respond either.

We’re like the fishes who don’t know they’re in the water. We’re learning to swim in a medium that we haven’t  recognized yet. Many people have pointed to it but it doesn’t have a name, at least one that’s stuck. (The evolutionary present?) If we’re over 50 or so, we can perhaps remember a time when we could feel that our small part was a part in a story that we understood, an agreed upon story. We were part of a bigger venture.

Now . . . not so much.

And this is terribly painful for many of us. We feel the underlying malaise and we see its effects on the people we love who cope bravely with it. And we don’t know what to do. Perhaps this dimension has always been there and we’re just waking up to something like a universal compassion for each other, caught in this fractured existence. It could be that a natural Boddhisatva-like impulse of witnessing this, wanting to gather the others in and work together, is rising, rising everywhere but only seen by some. We don’t have a way to note it and signal it yet. Seeing this may be part of seeing that we’re caught up in a deep – or high – “Tower of Babel. “Not just that they are so caught up, the George H. Bushs a and the Justin Trudeaus but that we are too.

In that sense our illusion might be instructive.

But sitting here this morning I’m also noticing that I’ve been talking about things. Talking about my experience rather than from it.

What’s happening right here as I sit on my ergonomically ruinous couch, pen in hand? There’s the sound of the too-loud fridge and I hear too  what I think is the hot water for the radiators, gurgling as it circulates in the bowels of the small building. My stomach is full and my body still, at peace for now with this unknowing.

I was just in touch with the daughter of one of my oldest friends, and he’s in my mind as I sit here. This Nameless Friend is an almost-recluse who’s been living in the woods up north most of his life, estranged from almost everyone. No one in his original family has seen him in a long time and neither have I. His daughter and he are out of touch. He’s in my mind now,  part of my story and I want to see him.

But right now he could be a metaphor for how we all are, alone and speaking a language only we fully understand. Not sure exactly how the twists of fate, providence and free will brought us to here.

So I’m sitting with a feeling or an imagination that I often have, that there’s something important that we’re each looking for, or if not looking for, intuiting, that we usually can’t touch together. We feel part of it in our highest, and often in our darkest hours too, but usually we forget it, caught up as we are in the minutiae of living.

Caught up in making ourselves understood in the modern Tower of Babble – a full time job that many of us do as we continue with everything else. If there’s a saving grace, it’s that we recognize sometimes we’re in this together.

If you enjoyed, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below and tell us about it.

If you want to explore in depth with others, join a committed group starting soon. I think of it as a Soul Camino . . . a three-month personal exploration you”ll undertake with a committed group of others.

I’ll be hosting at least two drop-in groups throughout December  to practice Presence.  I think this process has a lot to commend it as a way to gain insight and relief from the effects the modern Tower of Babble. Come try it out. The times and links are on the page.

Let me know if I can help you with my guiding practice, which largely consists of deep listening so that what you’re wanting can come more to the surface. You can also choose a free discovery session for 30 minutes, or the time you want. Longer times are offered on a Gift basis. Please let me know the amount of time you’re interested in when you book.


All our efforts are toward Presence

All our efforts are toward Presence

All efforts are toward Presence. All our efforts in therapy or self-help, or whatever are part of a larger effort, our reaching for Presence.

But what is Presence? It’s not an object so no words can really catch it. It’s more like the lived experience of right now, a now that we’re not escaping or wanting to escape, a dawning recognition that this is the right place and time, that we’re the right person and this is the moment to live. That we’re part of a shared endeavor that is going along perfectly

“All efforts are toward Presence” means that whatever we’re trying to do for ourselves or for others, it’s the best shot at service we can manage right now. It’s our highest expression, now.

Think of this as what we’re doing: We’re sitting with trusted companions of competence and experience who were all dedicated to the good of the whole, all sitting there wondering how Presence would emerge and how they could bend their talents to accomplishing it. That’s one way of saying what we’re practicing – even if some of the others don’t know it yet.

We’re not practicing perfectly of course. Of course not. This isn’t about our dreams of accomplishment and perfection, necessary as they are to sustain us. This isn’t about our saving ourselves, which we can’t do. Presence is before all that and all that happens in it. It’s the answer to prayers in the sense that the prayer is no longer  necessary.

Presence is what we were praying for all along.

And it can’t be contained. It’s not more in the colorful image at the page top than in the darker image on the left – hidden Presence looking back at you.

Words, images and metaphors can make us think Presence is something concrete and fixed, defined. But beyond our wants and needs, Presence is there and everyone intuits it and dreams, secretly, of nothing else.