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.”

Some feedback on online calls

Some feedback on online calls

I spoke to a few of you who’ve been on live Zoom calls and learned more about what’s working and where we might go.

Here’s some of ​what I took away (special thanks to Betty, Laure, Andrea, Lynn):

You like it when we break out into small groups, to do “Presencing practice” or something else involving open-ended questions. You like to be able to meet one on one with others journeying in a similar way. We will definitely continue with this.

I also heard this: We each have a specific sensitivity and gift and it’s important for us to have this witnessed. This unique gift doesn’t belong only to people on our calls. Everyone has their own. But many people are primarily immersed in the consensus reality and so are less attuned to what’s uniquely true for them. When this is the case they’re less able to speak up about their specific sensitivity because not speaking up about it is the consensus reality. Most people in the mainstream are not deeply aware that we’re in a profound social shift or that that social shift is also an equally important personal shift for them. By engaging this shift with peers we help each other better navigate the landscape.

The personal journey is likely to be unprecedented for us in its depth and challenge. It’s deeper and more challenging than we expected. Childhood or adult challenges may be, and perhaps probably are, up for re-examination. People in this exploration space have more than likely experienced significant bumps that have partly moved them out of consensus reality already. They’re attracted to the group because a part of them realizes that the mainstream reality wasn’t answering their questions. The group doesn’t have answers either but we have a resonant “field” in which the answers show up if  the field of exploration is well nourished.

I’ll repeat that challenge and edge are inevitably part of the mix as we move past consensus reality into what’s emerging. Individuals in the group may see or understand things that their usual daily contacts don’t see or don’t resonate strongly with. For these reasons, it’s great to connect with others who are like us. These people tend to become natural allies or colleagues. The more we’re able to be transparent about what’s alive for us, the more others recognize us as their natural colleagues. Some group members will naturally want to make alliances with us, perhaps to do projects together when the time is right, or just as friends.  The new relationships between individuals and between the individual and the group zone itself can be life-changing.

Being ” transparent about what’s alive for us” can be as simple as sharing what  we’re curious about, what’s emerging. As we show up with each other more transparently in the group, there’s some transference to how we are showing up out there in the world. We help each other show up more genuinely.

And for a far-out thought, just for a moment. A conscious group is akin to a multi-limbed organism that is slowly becoming conscious of itself and its capabilities. The “I”s in the group also are aware that, without being diminished, they’re also a “We.” The more the group organism is conscious​, the more it’s able to move on its own, to find its own direction, to learn more about its nature. I truly believe we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible.

​Groups I host are part of an ecosystem of many conscious organismswaking up together to what’s possible together.

​​New times for regular calls

Every second Sunday at 1pm Eastern, 10 Pacific, 7pm CET.  No more calls on Thursday for now as it’s not a good time for many.  The next group will be December 29th, January 12th and 26th, etc. Subscribers will receive the link by email.

All are welcome. If ​you can ​”resonate” with the above, you’ll fit right in. There will be a less challenging  ​option of the Presencing practice available, for those who are new to it. Hope to see you!

Those inevitable and messy blind spots

Those inevitable and messy blind spots

I started a conversation early in October, a place for unfettered talk via videoconference around self, climate, and our uncertain future: the Inner Climate Collective. It was to be a place where the internal and personal dimension was to be very welcome. I’d been exploring this in drop-in groups and one-on-ones conversations for years. Could we have a more committed group and learn from each other?

Some brave people said yes, we could.  So we started.

Well, how did it go?  

Speaking personally, it was messy. I ran into one of those inevitable blind spots, as you’ll see. The first calls felt strong positive high energy. I was very happy.

But then I went to the opposite place where I felt a lot of discomfort. Our numbers were small to start with but spread over nine time zones we had to split into two groups with different call times. My idea had been to have frequent ongoing contact to build trust and acceleration of our process. The reality was that people were split into two groups that wouldn’t even see each other. People were busy too and couldn’t come as often as I’d imagined. I felt I hadn’t delivered what I said. I felt anxious and angry, and personally triggered, about not doing it right. Nor did I feel I could talk about it because it was my job to do. I had to succeed and I didn’t want to look less than perfect.

I think I’ve busted that illusion.  

The takeaway is that having the conversations that matter are perhaps inevitably going to involve making mistakes and hitting our blind spots. And that even not handling them very well is OK too.

The alternative to risking is staying safe within party lines. The commitment to staying within the lines ensures we’ll do the future like the past. Truth-in-the-moment is risky and it can be messy. I want to make that messiness more welcome and I know I’m not the only one. I have friends who look for exploration places where they don’t have to put on faces and pretend.They highly value the places where it’s safe enough to explore with others.

Those “deeper layers” and the messiness that connects  into personal and collective trauma need to be welcome because messy personal and collective trauma are part of the human experience. It’s clearer today than ever that collective and individual trauma are woven into the climate predicament and working with them is part of the future.

Everything’s rising up to the surface for re-evaluation now. Every individual is going to be challenged in their own way and will find their own way.

I see people who are willing to go out to meet this as pioneers of a different conversation. It’s a conversation that will be much more exciting than Netflix or Facebook. It will change our lives vastly beyond what those can.

Can it be that that new conversations, not only in ICC but in thousands of places, are the next frontier? Against all odds I think they are and that they have the power to change the world. But it’s difficult to enter fully in because that greater thing is unknown and scary. It’s no wonder we’d want to stay safely on the familiar and known side of the border, as long as we do. 

On the other hand, what a  joy to cross over, to not have to pretend and to simply be with what’s present, whatever that looks like. Can we learn to do that? That’s what the Presencing  practice, the core practice of the collective, helps with. But it’s not really the practice that’s important. It’s us and our willingness to show up, be with each other and trust the moment.