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.

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.

Such a help I’d wish for everyone!

Such a help I’d wish for everyone!

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

Such a help I’d wish for everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your saving grace

Where do we start with all we’re facing? This post points in a surprising direction.

The gap between the mainstream mind and the mind that sees the challenge we’re facing is a wide one. The gap between the two is huge, and the temptation is to approach it, if we can approach it at all, with trepidation. We wish the gap were smaller.

In fact most of us want to minimize the knowledge and tuck it away where we can control or manage it. This can go on for a long time.

Very good people feel this. Highly evolved, sensitive, skillful people, feel this. We’re so not alone if we feel this too.

We think we are though. We feel our particular unique symptomology of craziness, self-doubt, uncertainty, desperation, blame, fear and desolation are pathological. We fear that we’re more screwed up than others and that “they” understand and are handling it so much better.

Uh, no. We’re dealing with an unprecedented social situation here. It’s so all-encompassing and new that no one (almost literally no one) knows how to be with it. We’re learning together.

The “saving grace” is in knowing that, in naming and getting clear on the . . . bigness of this.

When we see and make room for how big it is, we start to see that we’re not crazy, not filled with self-doubt, not uncertain, not needing to blame, not afraid and desolate. We’re not making it up!

But when we pretend all is well or wellish, as “business as usual” would have us believe it is, we deny the part of us that knows better. Maintaining the difference between what we know and what we pretend makes us feel crazy, whatever crazy is to you.

When we can admit how big the problem is, especially with others, we’re not at odds with ourselves. We are where we are. This helps a lot.

Our situation is filled with unknowns. But it can be faced with courage, equanimity and grace. Trying to deny, control, manage, though puts us in the position of trying to deny reality.

My recommendation: Find safe, respectful, welcoming places to be with others who are not “in denial” of the scope of the issues we’re facing. Tell the truth and contribute to their well-being as they do to yours. Eventually we want safe groups like this in our neighbourhoods or blocks where we live. But we can do a lot of it online with people of good will anywhere.

See the next drop-in group – Hello Climate Change – under Groups above. Be sure you’re subscribed to hear of frequent group opportunities. Subscribe at the top right.

Facebook and Twitter miss the good stuff

Please indulge a little rant . . .

” Facebook is not enough for me. I want to know you and to know your struggle, your story as it shows up. I want the vulnerability of your presence. I want to be with you NOW. I don’t even care about your opinions. If your idea costs you nothing then it’s worth nothing to me. This is the time to prepare. We have work to do beyond liking and disliking. I don’t want to belong to the tribe of righteous anointed, hidden away from the unwashed. If we have trouble, I want to look you in your face up close and see in your eyes if you’re looking back and I’d like to receive your gaze. I don’t want to be alone in a simmering war. Let’s meet. I claim the authority of the messed up but willing warrior. I show up fully for that because that’s what I have to give.

Social media and hearing from people outside of real time isn’t enough for me. I find it stressful keeping up with it. I want to know you and to know your struggle. I want your story in real time. I want the vulnerability and realness of your presence so I can find my own. I want to be with you NOW. I don’t care much about disembodied opinions. If your idea costs you little to say or share, then my full attention doesn’t go there. This is the time to prepare. We have work to do beyond the liking and disliking that’s built into our lifestyle, that’s part of the architecture of FB, at least the way I use it and understand it. Liking and disliking is about all you can do with ideas and opinions that float around in a hard to get hold of, slightly disembodied way like so many ocean jellyfish. Beyond liking and disliking is the place of acceptance where what we share is most important and taken just as it is. That’s where I belong. I don’t want to belong to the tribe of likeable righteous anointed, hidden away from the bad people. I’d love to be able to look you in your face up close and see in your eyes if you’re looking back and I’d like to receive your gaze.

Glad I got that off my chest! Thank you! 🙂

Or in plainer English . . . we need something direct but the world, and of course not just social media, swathes us in indirectness at every turn.

Another name for this ongoing tide of misdirection and distraction is denial.

And yet, and yet . . . plenty of us are waking up to see that the ubiquitous denial system we live with isn’t worth the effort we put into it. We’re having what Gail Bradbrook of Extinction Rebellion called a f*ck it moment – when we realize that giving our lives to keeping the existing system going may not be the best option, when we see that the rules have changed and we can choose for ourselves – maybe take care of the people instead. Wherever we are on the change spectrum, and it’s OK to not know where that is, our inner world is being profoundly challenged because climate change poses an existential threat. We can’t help but be affected by it.

And it’s exactly that inner experience that we and others need to hear and witness if we’re to do better. Detached language misses it, misses it all.

The opposite of that is direct connection. In person is awesome but it’s often difficult to find people close by who can and want to fess up to this. So online is often the better choice.

Here too we’re just at the very very beginning of realizing what’s possible.

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.

Your public voice and your unique voice

Your public voice and your unique voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schedule and more coming soon.


Telling My Story

I’ve been avoiding telling my own story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you liked this, or even if you didn’t, consider leaving a comment!

Risk in consciousness groups

Risk in consciousness groups

I’m lucky to have places where I can speak frankly about what’s most important to me.  I can be well heard and hear other too.

I learn, stretch and grow in those generative depths.

But pleasure and expansion aren’t the whole story. Quite often I’m careful, walking on eggshells, wondering how to get my messy as-yet-unformed experience into a common space with others.

This evening I was in conversation with a male counselor and a female feminist academic. As I saw it, all three of us were bravely trying to hold space for our experience around being the sex we were, without being attached to our own experience as being the right one. Talking about it wasn’t familiar safe territory. Our loyalty to our own sex and our own experience could seem to invalidate the experience of the other, could get us in trouble. I relaxed as saw our common struggle to rise  to this.

Sex isn’t the only difficult conversation, of course. Our world is made up of subjects we feel deeply and personally about – but seldom and maybe never speak about directly  with others. Listen (as I’m sure you do) to the conventional narratives around immigration or Russia or the overextended economy, for example – or virtually anything else. The conversation has well-established categories that frame for you how to consider them. It’s about us and them, the right way and the wrong way, don’t you know?

Well no. I don’t know!

I’m hungry for more than that! Probably we all are.

And not just hungry. Apprehensive too, because it’s messy to step outside the conventional narrative.  What if I step on your delicate toes? What if you step on mine?

How does this social tendency to favor safety play out in the conscious communities we’re part of ?

Or does it?

I’m coming more and more to notice my own preference for harmony, bonding and connection. I favour these in groups I’m in.

I think that recognition of our common humanity and sticking with that is centrally important, necessary. But in valuing them I suppress truths and perspectives that may be unpalatable to others. Often. Hardly noticing I do it, I sometimes use consciousness groups for an unconscious purpose: to hide within them from the difficult task of offering what I really think.

If I told you, you might not approve of me, the unconscious inner logic goes. (And I do like to be approved of.)

I’m excited about what might come if we took the risk, if we had a culture of taking more risk, seeing what might come.

But I don’t think it’s just me who’s feeling these two sides calling to us. Wanting to belong deeply and intimately to the social group and also to be our wildly unique self. . . isn’t that just how it’s always been for us humans and always will be? Isn’t that just us all over?

I think it is and I think we’re ever more ready to risk trusting ourselves and each other. More willing to not sugar coat our experience or make nice.

The opportunity to do so is more available than  it was in the past. Historically the social norm was to identify with an all-embracing religious and social structure that did the heavy thinking for us, mostly by ritually avoiding it. We didn’t have to consciously examine the messy depths and were often punished if we did. Certainly explorers received no social support.

But being with the messy challenge to tell the truth was always the heart’s call deep down. Responding to it was always the way we opened up a different future for ourselves, one reaching, unknown moment at a time.

Check here for group inquiries into all this, here if I can help you personally.