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.

Neighborhood is the New Wilderness

Neighborhood is the New Wilderness

I have to say it again: Neighborhood is the new wilderness. Love that. Wish I’d said it myself but I didn’t. I do want to go to the neighborhood wilderness though: build a little cabin . . . off-grid, wood stove, birds and animals, my sweetie.

No I heard the phrase, almost in passing, day before yesterday from Peter Block in a little “workshop.” His book Community: the Structure of Belonging was so important to me when I first encountered it ten or so years ago. The book is about imagining a future that is distinct from the past. At heart it’s about a new kind of conversation, one we haven’t imagined yet.

IBuckminster Fuller famously said that to change something you don’t fight the existing reality, you build something that makes that reality obsolete. That’s another way of saying a future distinct from the past. Peter’s work is the best way I’ve seen how to do this! .

The opposite of the existing reality is to make friends out of the strangers in the neighborhood. Being amazed and very happy to learn that our unknown neighbors have deep dreams and talents and gifts just like us. And big hearts just like us.

The new “getting to know you” is also the new activism. It’s the revolution, the one that’s been dreamed of for so long. It’s not about overthrowing evil tyrants. They can fall in their own time. In the meantime, we can do our own work

Could we have the great rest instead of the great reset? Yes, but not yet. Freedom takes time and practice freeing ourselves. It takes something besides fighting the enemy.

The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 430 years before they left and then they were 40 years wandering in the desert before they made it to the kingdom. The people weren’t all united on leaving and of course, the Pharoah didn’t want them to go. Seven plagues fell on Egypt while the Pharoah said no but finally he had to let the people go. We already have many of the plagues falling on us. How long before we leave the consumer culture that is enslaving us?

Come join this small group conversation on Thursday at 11 Eastern time. We’ll practice making the polarization obsolete and welcoming strangers and each other. We are using zoom (maybe practice local later). We’ll be in groups of three and then together reflecting on what we’re noticing. It’s free to join.

If you CAN’T make it but get the idea, share this email with a friend and copy me. Friends can join my mail list at

We’ll do some other free experiences. Later there’ll be a closed group that will give opportunity for a mutual social field that can support all of our deepest dreams coming true. If any of this appeals to you, take a wild risk and jump in for something different  this Thursday. 11am Eastern, 4in the UK, 5 in western Europe, etc.

This is an exciting seed of a new direction. Feel free to jump in even if you’re not sure what I’m raving about. The new wilderness is under our nose but we so often miss it. Hope you’ll join us and see what can happen for you. ​

Simple thoughts about the complicated virus

There’s so much to say about the virus, it has so many dimensions. So I’ll keep it simple and share just two thoughts from today.

Earlier this evening I was speaking with a friend in Poland about how it is for her. She was telling me that if feels like the end of the life we know, the one we’ve built together, all of us, over so many years. In her inner world she’s OK she says, but when she goes out and sees the empty streets that before were full of life and people, there’s a sadness. Not a sadness for the evening but  something more. It feels like a stranger has moved into the house and the world has changed

The number of cases, the progress back and forth, the safety measures don’t interest or touch her. Something else does. She recognizes there’s a virus, is not in denial. She’s just not moved or called to what we’re doing about it. If feels like most people in her town don’t share her view and she walks alone.

She mentions Marshal Rosenberg’s story about the two wolves: There are two wolves and the one you get is the one you feed. I fear this wolf the society is feeding may devour us. I was trying to write about this wolf but I was unnerved by his stare. Luckily there’s another wolf.

This makes me think of a different animal, a beautiful tiger we’ve brought from the wild and put in a cage with a sign on the front that says Tiger. He’s alive but not living a tiger’s life. Soon he may forget the jungle.

Another Covid-related thing that happened today.

I  was on an exploratory zoom call this morning and had a sense that each of us carries hidden or taboo voices that are hard to share, but that welcoming these taboo voices, giving them room to speak if they want, is something we can do for each other. For me, I had Covid in mind. I wrote down a few lines about this then and turned them into a little poem just now, after the talk with my Polish friend that echoed the theme. A lot of things echo that theme at present. It’s like the stranger in the house, there when I go in the house. He and I have to have a talk. .

If you’re interested in joining a zoom call to explore the virus personally or experientially (or perhaps the challenging time since they’re likely related), respond to this email and I’ll send you an invitation with some times.

Take good care,

and here’s that little poem.

The Hidden Voice

I welcome you speaking the voice
they put the taboo on.
I’m thrilled when I hear you speak the voice
that might cast you into the darkness.

Some nights I wonder, do we all feel this?
Do we all long to go together
down and down in the dark on a narrow trail?

Down in that darkness
the Taboos are there and look up
from the dishes,
astonished to see us finally coming
single file down the path to meet them.

One of them said they’d been waiting
a long time.

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.”

Women and men love each other

Women and men love each other

Here’s a simple lens I find useful for looking at what’s going on in society and in Self. It presents an image of what balance looks like and​ what imbalance looks like. The ​consideration of the image presents a context for showing where imbalance is and what helps bring the system back into balance.

What helps bring the system back into balance brings us back into balance.

​The picture represents the love between the masculine and the feminine. Of course these are the yang and the yin from Chinese philosophy but I prefer to think of them as masculine and feminine​ because they are more easily felt into and seen as relevant to ​the modern sensibility.

When I look at the picture I see right away that the masculine and the feminine are out of balance in our time and very much needing to move toward balance.

I created this version of the image from two flowers in my living room, just what I have at hand. The geranium is the masculine and the African violet, not flowering at the moment but glorious when it is, is the feminine.  By extension let these two represent the two poles that make the manifest world everywhere. They’re the positive and negative magnetic poles, the light and dark, the above and below, the without and the within, the dry and the moist, the proud and the shamed. Each pole only makes sense because of the other, only exists because of the other. The masculine and the feminine, too, only make sense in terms of the other.

The masculine and the feminine are biological facts – male and female – as well as elemental principles. This is important because if we confuse the two we can get statements such as ​the feminist slogan, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” This is biologically true, at least at certain times, but the feminine principle will always need the masculine to be fully itself, as the masculine needs the feminine. The ​masculine and feminine principles are parts of the same greater whole and so parts of each other.

This isn’t a philosophical essay though but a practical one. I maintain that the awareness of the mutuality of the masculine and feminine principles is a necessary basis for effective action. It’s a ​map for understanding.

To read it and understand this, let’s separate the two poles and look at them individually. We’ll bring them together in a moment. When I say, “look​ at them” I’m bringing in a third party, the looker and his or her consciousness. This is important because there is no perception without a particular consciousness perceiving it. And women and men, being ​themselves different, will perceive each pole differently. So we’ll look at each pole from the perspective of both women and men. And each pole has a light and a shadow side so we’ll look at each of these. So we quickly get eight perspectives, the light and the shadow side of each of the masculine and the feminine as seen by the masculine and the feminine.

Look at the masculine from the masculine side. He experiences the light side of the masculine as upright, strong, honourable, in service. In short, potent. He experiences the dark side of the masculine as weak, dishonourable, shameful, useless.

The feminine experiences the light side of the masculine as light-filled, rapturous, exciting, inspiring. She experiences the dark side as aggressive, hurtful, domineering and frightening, or something like that.

Archetypally the masculine experiences the positive side of the feminine as beauty, eminently worthy of devotion, sacrifice and service. The shadow side he experiences as devouring, insatiable, undermining, enraged. She on the other hand experiences herself as deserving, cherishable, caring, worthy of being fulfilled. On the shadow side she may feel unhappy, unsupported, unloved, frustrated or vindictive. All the “un” words point to the emptiness, unable to receive.

When I stand back and look at the representatives for the masculine and the feminine, with the geranium and the African violet in the picture, what stands out for me is the beauty of the two together and generative possibility of the polarity. Also it seems clear to me, that women and men deeply love each other forever and alway, irrespective of whatever entanglements are going on. The relation to each other (either physically or archetypally) is what gives meaning to our lives. The polarity between the two is ​the dynamic curent makes love flow in ever increasing waves. It’s the great engine that underlies change, the underlying harmony in the world. 

It’s also clear that​ the flow of love between these two poles is seriously disrupted in our world. This disruption is an underlying foundational pattern that doesn’t just show up between women and men  but everywhere the yin and the yang, the masculine and feminine principles are involved.

Which is everywhere.

If you like you can contemplate the image of the two together and see how they are showing up in ​your life. You can see ​how you fit into this story. You can easily see where you are contributing to the balance, where you’re contributing to the unbalance and what you need to do to move toward more balance.

​Positive change happens when men or women act to support mutuality between ​​the masculine and feminine principles and work to ​​​support it. ​We don’t know if it will be enough at this stage, but it’s ​the right thing to do, action in accord with what is. ​We’re not separate from the system but part of it so what we do do ​will matter and have an effect. ​Anything ​less is abdication of responsibility and agency. ​

The outcome ​will depend on​ “the will of heaven,” the source that created whole system and the beautiful polarity in the first place. ​

Activists and the field beyond “us” and “them”

Activists and the field beyond “us” and “them”

​How can we work better together on a survivable future? What supports climate activism, and climate activists, in being more effective?

Here are some observations using Regenerative Culture (Regen Culture) as a lens. (Regen Culture is Extinction Rebellion’s (XR’s) branch that supports activists.) The​ observations are filtered through a lot of exploration of small groups and what seems to work, some limited exposure to local groups here in Canada, and reading between the lines on the text communication channels, locally and internationally. ​Some conversations with friends here and in Europe played a role too. I’ll point to what I take to be difficulties and make an observation about a possible direction. I’m open to correction.

The challenge facing social changemakers is enormous. But the challenges in Regen are a snapshot of a pattern showing up wherever people raise their heads above the cubicles and, like astonished prairie dogs, marvel at the complexity of what we’re facing.

Many Regen Culture people in Extinction Rebellion (XR for short) ​are frustrated with their connection to XR. Some or perhaps many don’t feel they’re being listened to or that their gifts and unique contributions are being received. Some are confused about the censure of XR co-founder Roger Hallam or what it means; some are adamantly in favor of the Green New Deal and others don’t think it’s XRs business; some have specific requirements about how hierarchy, patriarchy, privilege and decolonization should be handled; others don’t feel they should be touched at all. And others fear speaking up about these difficulties lest they be disliked. And who’s in charge here anyway? Reading between the lines on Mattermost, and with some personal contact, I’m guessing that this concern is widespread across the global community and not just where I am in Canada. ​

It’s important to say I don’t think it’s a personal failure of the individuals within the groups that things are this way. It’s not that individuals are doing it wrong. Each person is coming in wanting to make the biggest contribution they can.

And there’s a very good reason for the confusion nonetheless.

Regenerative culture in its deep structure is a child of the existing culture and has adopted that culture’s core assumptions. Though the content of XR is different, the core assumptions have migrated like a parasite from the mainstream culture without us seeing or imagining it.

In the prejudgment I’m talking about, the prejudice is the one in favor of “us” and “them” thinking that’s deep in human culture. This is hard to ​get experientially because much of it is not even cognitive. “Us and them” thinking is woven into our sexual, ethnic, religious and national identities. We define “us” in terms of “them.” We’re not like “them”, we’re “us”. This is our identity we’re talking about so it’s firmly held and hard to see​. So for example, we become emotionally charged against those who we think are doing it wrong. The wrongdoers might be the obvious candidates like government or the polluters but we also feel pressured to “other” our own members and we fear lest they do the same to us.

Another way to ask that question is, is there something beyond “us and them” and can we find it? I think the answer is that yes, there is something, but it’s difficult to discover because of how deep the split is. ​”Us and them” thinking is deep-rooted. All previous cultures, presumably going back to the earliest warring tribes were based on it too. Identifying and even thinking of getting past “us and them” is a very new idea. To actually do it experientially is a new capacity of self, one we grow into slowly.

​”Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

Here’s how this tendency to “us and them” thinking shows up in the groups we may think it wouldn’t.

To belong to the culture or the group there’s a strong but invisible pressure to conform to the others, in thought, behavior and deed, and this pressure increases the more the others and the group are important to us. This pressure is constant. Generally speaking, we humans feel tremendous pressure to conform so can we belong and not feel the pain of not belonging. We’re anxious to prove that we are part of “us” and not one of “them”.

Being part of Extinction Rebellion or DA does not give us any kind of a pass from this tendency. The pressure to belong is at the level of system, not content.

We think of ourselves as free-thinking individuals. To an extent that’s true but we humans are highly social beings. Tribes did not produce free-thinkers first but social cooperators; free thinking comes later. We survived from infancy by bonding with our caregivers and conforming to their wishes, in order to be safe in the world. Our identity is tied up with theirs.

As adults it’s still true that our identity comes from our secure bonding to the people who are important to us. We know instinctively what words and actions connect us more deeply to others, strengthens our bond with them. And we know instinctively what threatens our belonging in the tribe and what would get us into trouble. We know what lowers our status or even risk our expulsion if we say or do it.

It’s not that we lack courage to think outside of the allowed tribal culture; it’s that we seldom see the possibility. The imperative to do what it takes to belong is so much the norm, that we can go our whole lives without noticing that we’re shaping ourselves to fit in. We literally don’t think of it. This is as true for rugged individualists as it is for the seeming timid. We literally don’t think of it until we do.

In a meeting of activists who don’t know each other well, no one know if she really belongs or not. Each person may have many different contradictory voices inside herself. For example, imagine a new person, a young woman say, who is just out of school and concerned about the future and whether she wants to bring children into the world. She likely will have a story on whether she belongs based on her age, skin color, income, religion, sexuality, trauma background or any other thing. But most of these voices are private, not public. She may have deep seated beliefs about what others in the group need to do to believe in order to be OK in her opinion and so is wondering when she can share her ideas or whether she’ll fall into disrepute if she ​does. Are men in the group fully welcome or should they stand down because of privilege? And how much and for how long? Is patriarchy the problem or something else? Should there be equality of outcome or equality of opportunity? What should be done in the present generation about decolonization from the past?

And of course it’s not just this young lady ​fresh out of school. Everybody else in the group is wondering about which parts of their experience are welcome too. The only safe thing to say is very superficial stuff about the activist group itself and why we’re meeting together.

The proclaimed reason for the group (in XR these are the three demands) are only a small part of what interests these others.

There are a many holes to trip over as our horse gallops forward in search of a new regenerative culture.

When all this remains hidden, the group can accomplish little because part of everyone’s energy is tied up with staying safe for the reasons mentioned above. Risks are hard and a paradigm or phase shift is impossible to even imagine. The unsafe tribe becomes skittish, afraid of ambush from the enemy. It’s preoccupied with keeping the dissident voices out.

​A way forward?

The amazing thing is that this entire dynamic continues only because it’s hidden.

There’s a simple way forward once this dynamic is allowed to be seen, once it’s on the table in front of us. We don’t have to solve the problems we thought we had. It’s more like we have to listen to each other.

I repeat that ​the challenge we have isn’t anybody’s fault. The groups we have now are a natural outgrowth of the culture that we inherited. ​There underlying structure is of a conscious “us” we welcome, and an unconscious “them” we try and keep out. Activist culture​ everywhere borrows this dynamic from mainstream culture and we can’t help but be caught up in it.

The traditional way to solve a problem is to ask for a better analysis because that’s the way it keeps everyone safe: Just study it more! But analysis, as Peter Block, one of my mentors said, is interesting but not transformative. ​It’s not enough

There’s no way around the need for us to risk listening to each other just as we are, to let those hidden voices be heard. It’s certainly more fun than the alternatives.

Listening to each other’s lived experience includes listening to the dissident voices in each other with respect, listening without trying to change or convince them. We don’t need to see the world the same.

But how could this be accomplished?

With the most simple human technology. For example, imagine being in a group of three people, within a larger group that has many other groups of three, with each person speaking to these questions.

What are you paying lip service to that you no longer believe?

In what way are you contributing to the problem in the system you complain about?

How is the regen culture experience like your psychological or emotional or spiritual life?

What gifts for the whole do you keep in exile?

What are you experiencing now?

And many other similar questions. See how these allow others into our world rather than keeping them out? Somewhere along the process of listening to each other and saying what’s true for us, we may see, may experience that we’re in this together. This takes earnestness and sincerity because all this listening and speaking can be faked, something to get out of the way. But it’s a step toward experiencing there’s no “them”, no other to project on. We’re just humans listening to each other – rather than blindly striving for competitive advantage which is the rule in the “us and them” world. At a certain part of stumbling along​, regeneration may find us, all by itself. I don’t want to whitewash the difficulties but ​it’s important to remember what’s possible.

Regeneration is ready already, ​even when we’re not.

If an experience beyond the “us and them” does enter the group, many people notice. ​This distinct experience, often called collective intelligence, is a liberation from the strict limits of ego thinking, like taking off a tight shoe and wiggling toes.

We’re not less of an individual, in fact we’re more of one yet somehow we have access to the intelligence and wisdom of the others too. We have an exponential increase in smarts, not just an arithmetic addition of one plus one.

I ​believe we’re at the very beginning of something important here. We’re learning to break through the ​shackles of the past to see something that’s glimmering ahead in the darkness.

 It’s a sense of possibility, even Presence, that perhaps has been searching for us all along.

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!

While we’re busy making other plans

While we’re busy making other plans

I like John Lennon’s saying that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

I take from that that there are hidden agendas and intentions that make things happen, dynamics beneath the ones we usually think. This is an interesting lens to look at politics or our own lives. What’s hiding beneath those plans we make?

Could this be part of it?

The message isn’t the words and content we say but what we mean, revealed in the voice quality with which we say it. It’s not the action we do that determines the outcome but the quality of energy with which the action is done. Oppositional energy creates opposition. Disrespectful demands create refusal to comply. Similarly inner alignment and clarity bring coherence to the system and right action flows from that peaceful space when it’s needed. Respect leads to respect. Unheard dissent lead to further discord until they’re heard.

If that’s true it follows that the way to influence is to put more clear aware agenda-free energy into the system. It’s to co-regulate (get into transparent reciprocal relationship with) the other people and other parts of the system. If I’m not in such relationship but still demand that others do something, I’m unlikely to be successful. My demand refuses to meet the other as an equal. It implies that I know better, or even that I am better. It will be refused unless compliance if forced. If compliance is forced then there’ll be payback later. Life will happen while I’m making yet more plans. Of course we can never be more than relatively clear and transparent with our own dynamics.

Even so, often we just accommodate ourselves to the world and let the hidden stuff stay hidden. I know this from personal experience. It’s easier if it’s them that has to change for the world to be right, harder if it’s us. To the extent we know it’s us, we start to be a light unto ourselves. When that light is shining even a little bit, it inspires others and makes them feel anything is possible. Everyone can see it because that’s how we’re made. We’re as sensitive to that light as sunflowers. This understanding can jump from person to person. But if that happens, it’s a by-product, what happens below the surface while we’re busy making other plans.

Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

Inside activist culture

Inside activist culture

​Inside Activist culture

I received a phone call this morning from a friend in Germany who’s active in Extinction Rebellion. She was concerned about the ​activist culture there, how it favors action over reflection, a masculine doing over a feminine being, how it has little tolerance for the hidden or secret voices of members which were paved over with a tendency to group think. 

​People often ​come into activist groups​, exploring, and ​don’t find the welcome or the home they want. ​There are voices in them that feel unheard or unwelcome, not reflected back. They can’t quite find themselves here. ​

This isn’t about Extinction Rebellion, but about activist culture in general. Activist culture tends to unconsciously ​conform to the values and structures of the larger culture, even as it tries to confront ​them. It’s ​similar to the larger culture in the pressure for conformity, the lack of space for listening. When we sense this ​pressure (and humans, being the supremely social creatures we are are tremendously good at sensing it) we immediately know it’s risky to show up and speak up just as we are. ​We know what the group norm is and we conform lest we become unpopular quickly. This emotional riskiness and lack of safety is much like the wider culture which also favors a more superficial conformity.

The more we can counter this in ourselves and in the activist culture, the stronger we’ll all be.

So here are some thoughts on what ​something better might look like, ​​sparked as my ​thinking usually is, by another conversation. ​

Hidden beneath the conformity are fearlessness and vulnerability

​What does the conformity and suppression of individual voice cover up? ​One way to say it is our ability to experience both fearlessness and vulnerability. 

​Fearlessness is distinct from bravado or martyrdom. It doesn’t suppress other parts of ourselves and diminish or belittle them, as if we’d be stronger that way. Fearlessness is based on a free choice, consciously chosen. In fearlessness, every part of us is lined up behind the action and we actually feel grounded and ready. We recognize our friends who are there with us too!  Fearlessness isn’t really possible as a solitary act because ​to the extent it’s a solitary act we’ve no one to be fearless for.

Vulnerability is distinct from collapse or weakness. It means knowing the risk and showing up anyway with an open heart. Vulnerability also opens us to the trauma that’s part of the human experience, what we’d like to pretend wasn’t there. Trauma is in the larger human body and every family’s history is touched by it. ​Welcoming our experience sooner or later means opening to trauma and even the fear of death. Like fearlessness, ​vulnerability is also social. ​We can’t be vulnerable without others to be vulnerable to. Another thing that vulnerability means is daring to go at our own ​speed and to respect and take care of our own needs. It’s a form of self-care, including for parts of us we may have been denying our whole lives.

Neither vulnerability in the sense I mean it, or fearlessness, are possible without intentional places to practice and improve in. That’s because the social norm is to not welcome them.​ It’s not socially safe to risk either vulnerability or fearlessness.  

​Hidden beneath the conformity: tension between the individual and collective 

A​lso hidden beneath the pressure to conform is an ongoing but almost always invisible tension between the individual and the collective. The more he or she speaks with an original voice – the less she conforms – the more she risks being excluded. But the more she conforms to the group and suppresses individual doubts or concerns in order to belong, ​the more she disempowers herself and the less truth she has to contribute. (​Read more about this in The Singular Place of Dual Blessing​. Dual Blessing is the place where we make room for both sides of the paradox.)

​We can ​explore this personally and practically in​ small groups that name these issues and welcome others​. ​

My secret wish​ is that everyone ​have an opportunity to ​do the work that can’t be done alone​, both for themselves and for the ​sake of the work. ​Otherwise we’ll ​”unintentionally” ​propagate the unconscious biases of the larger culture-  and feel frustrated doing it. ​​

​We need ​the messy, emerging-in-the-moment voices we have, just as ​they are to get the ​transformation work done. ​Need it ​both for the work and for ourselves. 

​Check under  Groups, above, for practice opportunities! 

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.)