Interlude in Limbo

in limbo

1. Lit. a region of the afterlife on the border of hell. (In some Christian religions, there is a limbo set aside for souls that do not go to either heaven or hell. This sense is used only in this religious context. (*Typically: be ~; remain ~; stay ~.) The baby’s soul was in limbo because she had not been baptized.

2. Fig. in a state of neglect; in a state of oblivion; in an indefinite state; on hold. (*Typically: be ~; leave something ~; put something ~.) We’ll have to leave the project in limbo for a month or two. After I got hit on the head, I was in limbo for about ten minutes.
In Limbo (my title) by Solve Sundsbo

My dreams, my hopes have shattered. The dreams still in waiting of fulfillment don’t have my spirited input in deed and consequence.

All my intimate relationships have broken up, and the one I intended to be true… it’s hopeless.
A deep understanding of my father’s words, five years before he seized the opportunity to die, that he was tired of it all and that he wanted to go.
As I’m entering into all this, deciding not to avoid the pain inside, the dark cloud of thoughts in my head, I see that unawareness doesn’t cure suffering, and never has. Escaping with organic chemicals, distilled or grown,  escaping into stories as told on flat screens and pages, drifting off in any way, may alleviate the churning sadness in the guts and heart, the actual emotional pain coursing through my innards. But it doesn’t alleviate the suffering, at best it postpones it. Until now.

And in the middle of this, as I walk the streets, an acute clarity of vision arises. As if the shallows were removed, the flatness of the mental screen. A fleeting shine in the eyes of a child far away hits the inner eyes with freshness, opening up the sky of clear vision even more. There is no hope in that, it’s the flicker of the inner sun. As if a star shows up momentarily in the clear dark.
Picture by Eve Sussman

Intentions? Face it and withhold nothing.
Feelings? Hopeless sadness.
Activity? Contemplating shattered dreams, broken promises, manipulations, the hurt and suffering I instigated, the wounds of treason and destroyed intimacy, and yes, sure, the friends that are not here in the flesh, the embraces I refused, the endless self-boycotts and failures I meticulously produced. The unawareness, the sleep, the obfuscation of the pain, the projections, the escape of thinking big thoughts and grand projects, and all the myriad ways to numb the sense of hell that humanity keeps warm for all creatures, the doom hanging over us all.

Ah, yes, calling on my enlightened oasis, energizing my inner bodhisattva, hopping into the non-dual dimensions … I could do that. But I’m not in the mood to leave the limbo, knowing these spaces to be truly empty whereas this limbo is substantially alive.

I’m lost. And accepting the intrinsic purposelessness of reality, of what is substantially alive, how could there be assurance or certainty? Where would you place a foundation in a bottomless polyverse?

I’ll stay here and be lost until I’m found, if being found is part of the pattern of my life’s reflection on the waters of the Mystery. As in my darker dreams where I know where I’m going, where I do have a goal to reach, but everything conspires to thwart me reaching any significant advance.
As my friend  says, “I got drunk in another place. Let the one who poured me the wine find me and bring me home, if that is where my steps are to lead.”

And over night, in my sleep, I left this place. Transported by my inner tribe to another sky.
There is an inkling somewhere of a meaning not translatable to any other spaces, like something lurking at the threshold of awareness, never to enter, always around the corner; like a dream just before we remember it.
And there is this other idea that I connect to my experiences with the Circle of the Heart. In it we always reach the place where we have to accept our utter failure to make ‘It’ (in that case the We, the Circle Being) happen; were we have to accept that we cannot do anything more to invoke, conjure up, install, (co-)create the “Next”. It is utterly beyond our reach, our grip, our power. We have to die to our ability. And then, of its very own accord, it may enter…
Raffaelle Monti, The Bride, 1847

The Living Field, Participatory Design & Collaboration Ecology

field1Physics has discussed fields for quite some time but the term can very well be used in the context of the noosphere, our ‘inner’ landscape, the dimension inside and between living beings. Then there is the so called ‘knowing field,’a concept to explain the remarkable phenomena that happen in family-constellations; these phenomena are also explained using the ‘morphogenetic field’ theory as popularized by Rupert Sheldrake. Shall I mention the “Buddha-field”, a realm existing in the primordial universe outside of space time, produced by the Buddha’s merit? Hmmm, maybe. But surely I’ll acknowledge the ‘energy-field’  as I have been using the term in the “energy-work” I do since 1987, a term that later, upon leaving my role as a guru behind I’ve dropped to use “dynamic presencing” instead because it is a method, really, a way to create a greatly coherent region within the Living Field that connects, informs and enlivens living beings.

A field in physics is an intrinsic part of each point in space-time; we could say it informs that point and/or expresses it’s forces or properties and how it interacts with other points in space-time. A physical field can be measured by the proper gadgets.
field31A knowing field, as we encounter it in systemic constellations can not be measured with physical gadgets because it is not a physical property as we know them at this moment in history. But whoever has participated in a constellation and ‘all of a sudden’ knew things about the person s/he was representing will attest to its informative reality. Having both facilitated and participated in hundreds of systemic constellations I can affirm, “The knowing field is as real as the understanding you get by reading this constellation of letters, these paragraphs.” In some way a well facilitated constellation makes implicit knowledge, emotions, tendencies etc. explicit – deep, often transforming understanding surfaces through the dynamically located presence of representatives in a constellation.
The morphogenetic field [derived from Greek: morphe=form, and genese=create] as Rupert Sheldrake uses the term is also not (yet?) measurable by any means we know of but it gives us an elegant explanation of what helps form such sophisticated ‘things’ as plants or bodies. Genes act upon fields, which then act upon the developing organism, goes the thought. Ever since Sheldrake has experimented and written elequently about these fields they also are taken to be essentially non-local, and the theory also can explain why after, for instance, a substance has crystallized for the first time in one laboratory the next crystallization in a different laboratory far away happens both in a similar way and a tidbit faster; as if the field informs the substance of the ‘best way’ to form a crystal. In a very interesting way it is Plato’s theory of forms all over again.

With the Buddha-field we explicitly enter the dimension of spirituality. In essence, similar to a morphogenetic field, a Buddha-field would inform the aspirants on the Buddhist path by surfacing as enlightening experience or insight within the inner ecology of mind, the personal noosphere. A Buddha-field would differ from, for instance, a “Christ-field” as what it causes to surface in the inner ecology has different forms and different associations attached to these, but both fields (and other such as the “Aura” or “Subtle body field“, for instance) are surely part of the “Spirit-field” as it unfolds within and between conscious beings.

field5The Living Field that I have been accessing for the first time some 35 years ago but more systematically and consciously the last 25 years mostly through dynamic presencing and systemic constellations, and in the last 5+ years increasingly with circles of the heart and spontaneously in other contexts as well… the Living Field, in my view embraces all non-physical fields mentioned above in as much as they express within and between living beings. It surfaces as meaning, inner depth, beauty, healing, empowerment, solidarity, mutuality, to name but a few way that it comes to light. If we consider the effects a coherent living field can have on participation, engagement and collaboration and its consequences in social or financial benefits we might even arrive at quantifiable effects and eventually measurements in the future.

Most if not all of us have experiences of the living field. Remember the last time you were talking with someone and time faded away? You got so involved in the conversation, being absorbed in both listening and speaking, following the thread of the conversation, open, authentic, in full sympathy-mode… It was a “silver hour”. And when you remember it you don’t necessarily remember the exact content of that conversation; but it’s spirit still turns you on when you think about it. This is what a coherent living field can feel like.

As human beings we are super-social animals. The Living Field has evolved with and through all our ways of being together, and feeds back into it. We all know it immediately; it feels good, nourishing. It is most likely the main cause of the happiness a rich social life brings – and the suffering a lonely, disconnected life causes. It is connected with our emotions and most likely our highest ethical values that guide our every day actions (giving us ‘negative’ feelings when we do not move in the direction our ‘highest values’ indicate). We could regard the life-orienting values as ‘attractors’ in the living field, and because we are super-social we can very easily feel what moves the person we meet. A resonance in the living field between people creates some coherence that strengthens that particular constellation of values. A “silver hour” then is an event when a good conversation moves into higher and higher resonance: values are aligning, meaning is apparent and shared on the fly, empathic flows meander into blissful estuaries.

field6The Living Field spans the whole spectrum from the experience of being one with a Supreme Being, or Nature to the instant spark of sympathy upon seeing a stranger, from communication with disembodied entities to sitting in a circle with friends, from intuiting where the person sitting opposite you comes from to inspired teamwork. Yet, for the purposes of this post I refer to the Living Filed most of all in the practical context of participative design and the ecology fostering collaboration.

I have worked a lot on the concept but most of all on the practise of Collaboration Ecology in these last 2 years, co-creating social networking software and practices for community managers, community builders or whatever you want to call these new professionals serving the community and giving it a strong voice in the top-management of a social network. Getting to know Jascha Rohr recently and discovering how close our ideas on many of these issues come I’ve come to understand many of the principles underlying the creation of an ecology of collaboration as participatory design.

Imagine you have to create something that will be used by many people. Let’s, for example take the product to be a little park in a new neighborhood. Ordinarily the local government calls on some expert park planners or landscape architects, lets them draft some plans, presents these plans to the population through some bureaucratic procedure and then decides what it’s going to be. It then has this plan implemented by a company making the cheapest offer on tender. After a very long time, usually some years, the park is finalized and within a year or two it looks quite ugly because the city doesn’t have enough money to keep it in a beautiful state (if indeed it was that in the beginning), and since it’s not theirs but the government’s park the citizens do not take care.

park2Now imagine you involve many people from this neighborhood by using a process of participatory design. This means the citizens, maybe supported by a professional or two, don’t get to vote on 2 or 3 plans but actually collaboratively create the plan themselves in a participatory process. Because the facilitators of the participatory design process know of the power of a coherent living field they take much care for it to unfold its power; they create the beginnings of an ecology of collaboration. Making the plans within a coherent living field deepens the connection between people so that it is often amazing how fast and smooth the collection of ideas and wishes and the deciding on what is best for the common good goes. Obviously such a process turns all participants into stakeholders of the end-result, the park. And since it is not just communal property but has turned into a common good the likelihood that it will be received and kept beautiful for decades by the neighborhood is great. Actually it is most likely that it will be a focus of a coherent living field in the neighborhood much beyond clear psychological and social factors introduced by the participatory design process.

Grassroot-movements, since their first big bloom in the Sixties, have grown so much that this way of organizing is very much a standard among “concerned citizens”. When grassroot-movements have to deal with more traditional power structures (businesses, governmental organisations, etc.) the top-down approach of these organisations and the bottom-up structures of grassroot-organisations can cause very challenging situations.
Yet, looking at a situation like this as a living field that could well do with some more resonance allows us to look for ways that both types of organizations can connect maybe more harmonious. This is exactly, what a Collaboration Ecologist does – he’ll be looking for some kind of process that everybody would be willing to engage in, a process that would bring everybody together for some hours so that a sense of “We’re in this together” can unfold. From the point of view of the living field this means that a higher coherence and first level alignment of forces within the field can happen.

One of the first steps of a collaboration ecologist will always be to create a process (involving as many stakeholders as possible) where everybody will listen to each other and deepen their understanding of a) what ‘we’ are talking about and b) who is involved. Next this is deepened and reflected upon. If this is done by talented people and there aren’t too many ‘prickly plants’ in the collaboration ecology a coherent living field starts to form. If this can be pointed out a quantum jump towards community and mutual understanding can happen that greatly enhaces the richness and will very fast lead to strong results of “what we’re talking about.” Whoever has participated in a process like this that led to a high coherence in the living field will be deeply touched by the experience and motivated to engage much more strongly.

Knowing about, but most of all having been immersed knowingly in the living field lots of times helps. And at the same time the challenge for the facilitator of these participatory processes remains the same: You need to put yourself at a point where you are willing to change, willing to surrender to what emerges in the process itself, trusting that what human beings – often almost in spite of themselves – tend towards is strengthening the resonance of a living field. Understanding this and helping to orient the field towards practical collaboration is the fine art.

I see participatory design and it’s implementation as something that naturally emerges from a coherent living field that is looked at with the purpose to create an optimum ecology for collaboration.

Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field — I’ll meet you there. ~ Jelaluddin Rumi





A wordl cloud of the most frequent words in this article
A wordl cloud of the most frequent words in this article

Hieros Gamos

The first Circle of the Heart was quite an intense happening. 23 people followed my Invitation and were willing to experiment – an experiment that was to show all of us what “authentic community” really means.

My account of what happened during the first Circle can only be a general one. If you would like to know what it is like to commit yourself to be part of such a circle for 10 to 12 hours I can only recommend you participate in of one of the next Circles of the Heart (October, 23rd & December 3rd 2006).

During a Circle of the Heart a very natural process unfolds (a process that has much similarity to what happens in a personal meditation). In its first phase, the “pseudo-” or “cliché-phase“, in which the Living Field is still incoherent, we are convinced to be isolated from each other and the world. The group – in the beginning – acts as if it follows these rules: “Don’t say or do anything that could hurt someone. If somebody says anything that irritates or annoys you, act as if nothing has happened or as if it hasn’t really touched you. If differences of opinions arise, change the topic.” The purpose of these rules is to minimize differences between people or to ignore them, and not to get too close to others. To follow these rules curbs truthfulness and honesty. People speak in generalities, and let others get away with it.

As soon as the group understands that it is following these rules it drops them since they are experienced as being debasing, and thus individual differences cannot be ignored anymore. The group enters the second phase; it stumbles into confusion and reacts with fight or flight, with struggling or trying to escape. (The confusion seems to result from the awareness of being separated from others and the world, so one has to assert oneself and defend ones positions and opinions. In confusion one strives only to create a better constellation or “version” of already known forces and situations – a willingness to authentically change would put the foundation of ones security and safety at risk.)
The struggle is characterized by continually trying to convince and persuade, to convert and heal others from “wrong” points of view, and give then “good advice”. The whole struggle and strive is aimed at obliterating differences and winning others over to ones own position. In doing this the group doesn’t think of itself as struggling or fighting, rather – with “the best of intentions” – people want to help others… but they do so by means (like persuasion, conversion, healing, good advice, etc.) that don’t work.
When the group doesn’t struggle it looks for a way to escape from this confusion of separation. This “escapism” has many faces, among others the desire to control, to organise things; the groups looks for leaders, some people go for ostentatious independence, try to forge alliances with their partner or others in the group; they play question and answer games or make joking comments on what goes on. A new attempt to escape confusion – I call it ‘self–realisation’ – occurred when a member of the group (and then a few others) said, “I feel good when I express myself; I realize myself by doing so, that makes me feel wonderful.” These individual’s delight turned the rest of the group into a passive audience of their self-realization-alliance.
This confusion (which seems to be a good representation of the state of affairs of our civilisation) is based on fight and flight in its widest meaning. Both reactions are based essentially on preconceptions and judgements, on expectations and hopes or fears, following the adagio, “I am different from you, a unique and therefore isolated individual that is not one with you and the world. In essence I am totally alone.” The hope is, of course, that someone – a hero, teacher or master – or some happening – an illumination or insight – will allow one to escape from confusion, and the fear is that it will not happen (although one isn’t much aware of both tendencies in general).
By struggling and trying to escape one only manages to avoid the next step… a very uncomfortable step into the unknown.

When the group (or in private meditation the person) understands and acknowledges that it cannot satisfactorily organise chaos or transcend it by fight and flight, and that everything it has done so far has led it only into dead alleys – not being able to achieve some sense of “authentic community” (or “authentic self”) – all doors close on the group. As a consequence more and more members of the group are willing to acknowledge their failure, and they start to confess their feelings in this regard.
Now the third phase has begun, which can only be characterized as letting go. Because the “old ways” obviously don’t work there is nothing one can do but to give up ones ideas, possibilities and everything one thinks and holds dear. Into the silences that are now much more frequent than in previous phases, and intense rather than awkward, people speak of their true feelings; they say how they feel right now. They speak about their failures and their inability to do something about it. The group faces the facts…
And it looks as if the group has entered mourning – similar with the sorrows one experiences when separating from a partner that one does still hold very dear but with whom one simply cannot live and be together anymore. If the group is open to this grief, its helplessness and the pain it feels in this situation, without any other comfort than listening compassionately and without comment to each other – if the group can stand this uncertainty without trying to fix or heal it, if it can stand this emptiness without trying to fill it with the ways and means of confusion, if it goes willingly into this darkness…

… by and by other voices sound out of the silence, “It is wonderful to just sit here and listen. I feel held and carried.” “I feel a delightful peace.” “There is a deep silence and openness inside.” In the fourth phase it slowly becomes apparent to all – authentic community. (In meditation one could call this phase ‘authentic self’.) In this We the individuality isn’t dissolved but rather embedded in a new context. Somebody maybe says, “It appears as if we are one body with many heads and arms and legs…” Or, “I can feel you inside me.”
The Living Field is now coherent, and one can feel that one is part, or better still: an organ of a greater, living whole; one feels to be embedded in it. And it is clear to everyone that this unity was not created but rather the group has stumbled upon what is already there, “It is as if the hand becomes aware that it belongs to the body. All it let go of was the conviction that it is something special/separate.” People speak of the unconditional love they feel, of a free and open space in which everything and everyone can be as they really are, of a deep feeling of fulfillment, of the endless richness of being related. The unity in the midst of diversity comes to the foreground, and is celebrated times and again with a rich and beautiful shared silence.

This phase can without exaggeration be called hieros gamos (divine marriage), and due to its fecundity it leads quite naturally to the fourth phase, the phase of inspiration. It is indeed inspiring to listen to the living unity, to the authentic We. How does it want to express itself? What does it tell me/us? What does it want to show me/us? How is it manifesting itself in life?” We can get a sense of seeds of our ‘future’ coming into being. We listen for what wants to realize and manifest in the manifold, diverse life: ways maybe that give meaning to our life, because we now have a heartfelt intuition for how to serve the Greater Whole – out of the living unity come occasions how to co-create the True, Beautiful and Good.
The experience is deep, powerful and clear – if we listen to the living unity that we now feelingly belong to we can again, and maybe for the first time really, use what in the confusion-phase only served our isolation, and the glorification of our self and our own point of view. Now the purpose of organization is not to hold chaos at bay anymore but it serves the development and unfolding of all beings (whatever they may be). Now different views serve our mutual enhancement and the widening of our horizon instead of restriction and segregation. The hierarchical pecking order gives way to a holarchy where greater talents, abilities or skills do not support the rule of one over the other anymore but rather they help everyone to unfold within the frame of his or her possibilities, serving the integration of the entire spiral of life’s evolution. The wish for control and the will of separate persons and their interests gives way to the desire to follow the tendencies of the “coherent, living field”.

This can lead into the fifth phase of crystallisation in which talents and resources group themselves around the seeds planted in the fourth phase, like atoms assembling around a crystal. This phase unfolds only when the group (or the person in meditation) wishes to create something concrete – a project, a company, an organisation, a prototype or a process. This flows into the sixth phase of feed-back in which the new (a project, etc.) opens to what “the universe” or the context has to add or say. And the seventh phase finally is that of manifestation or realisation.

Because the first prototype of the Circle of the Heart (which itself is now in its sixth phase in this process) last Wednesday was not aimed at creating something in this manner I want to leave it to further experience which factors and developments are paramount in these phases. It seems obvious, though, that they differ from the former in that they need much more time to fully develop, thus probably being infused with more “Mini-Circles” (phases 1 – 4) that we have discussed more in depth here.

Finally I would like to communicate a few notes I’ve made during the first Circle of the Heart.

  • In all phases I follow the process itself; no matter what I have already experienced and what I know about it, I let it go and listen to the phenomena as they unfold.
  • Time and again I’m surprised and delighted by the effectiveness and precision by which the process itself navigates us through these phases. In the second phase I just reported a few times to the group which of the seeming ways out are actually not so, and this only after the group has sufficiently tried these ways and landed in a blind alley… I only speak after they’ve actually experienced this, and serve the group by pointing out what they already know. (I highlight the obvious. And it was helpful to set times in which I was allowed to “intervene” next – for instance at 3 o’clock and then again at 3:45.)
  • In the first phase it was helpful for the group to be told the “rules of artificial community” (see phase 1).
  • In the end of the third, beginning of the fourth phase it was helpful to say that it pained me to see how when somebody showed “a broken heart” others tried to heal or comfort them.