They’ve done it again: produced an animation to elucidate some great thoughts of wehre we want to go… enjoy.
This is the very first installment of what I hope will become a Body, Soul and Spirit series of posts that will meander around most of the topics that keep fascinating me since a while.
Starting with a meeting with a great and lovely man in Basel, Switzerland who remembers a long line of incarnations in a, for me, absolutely credible way and context, I’ve started to reconsider most – and in the end probably all – of my convictions connected with body, soul, spirit, consciousness, life and what, who and why we are. (In my hippie-days Death used to be a more or less constant companion, and now s/he is in a new way, faced with the endingness of individual life a couple of times recently. This surely also plays a role: a renewed fascination with each night’s fading of awareness and the life of dreams, and the reappearance of more or less the same person in consciousness upon waking up…)
I will not be very philosophical, in the usual sense of that word, about this, even though I’m in love (philo) with wisdom (Sophia). This inquiry is also very personal, anecdotal and hopefully at times poetical. I might also rave and be full of pathos for something or other… we’ll see. What’ll be my guide, or should I say guides?, are my fascinations with what appears in the theater of what it is to be ‘me’. I could, of course, also call it the arena or the clearing – that space in which matters, things, imaginations, illusions and the real alight; what we ordinarily call consciousness, that mode of being alife that ever eludes our grip of understanding; trying to understand consciousness is as if the eye were trying to see itself, when the best it can do is see itself reflected in a mirror.
Modes of being alive
Being conscious, aware; being taken; in a pensive mood, reflecting on important and not so important, but urgent matters; reverie; witnessing, choiceless awareness; in the flow, totally immersed in sensual immediacy… many of the possible modes of being alive, and some of them mutually exclusive. When, for instance, I’m in a reflective mode – and mood, as often I am these days – I can’t really witness being reflective more than generally, can’t reflect and be choicelessly aware and without judgement at the same time. Isn’t reflecting closely considering a matter, the way the soul participates in life for instance, and looking what this means, what are the concepts being nourished on soul and what are relevant experiences, and what have interesting persons said about this matter? Witnessing this reflection I wouldn’t follow one thread or another but rather I’d let them all unfold as they please as, also, sensations of breath come up and unfold and whatever else unfolds or pops up in consciousness. Witnessing is mostly passive, and only active in extracting oneself from being caught up in any of the phenomena that are witnessed.
Certainly, when in a deeply enlightened mode of awareness, everything can be done or not done – but then there is no witness, no anyone, and, really it is so beyond anything that means something to me as human that I’m not really interested in ‘getting there’ again. Also, those that are supposed to be there – claiming it for themselves or others claiming it on their behalf, the followers or disciples – do not have any characteristics that seems truly valuable; on the contrary, there seems to be an atmosphere of megalomania around them, an air of absolute altitude, an assumed divinity that unpacks as utterly undesirable social context. The unresolved power-issues around that mode of aliveness in our day and age – enlightened teachers abusing their students – are such that however true and beautiful that mode is from the inside of it, it is best left alone.
On the other side of the spectrum, or so it seems, is flow, a mode of being alive that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has made popular; flow as total immersion into what you’re doing. In sports it’s been called ‘being in the zone’. Witnessing could be said to be transcendent to everything that appears and flow as being totally immanent – you’re totally in it. You can witness the flow of events but then you’re not in the flow because being in the flow collapses any kind of witnessing as activity that plays a role, even though there is a particular kind of awareness available. But it’s more that the awareness of it is part of the flow as a whole than that the flow would happen within consciousness. For me this happens in dancing with closed eyes, easily, or in something called body-flow, where the body can just do what it feels like doing… It’s mostly a very sensual experience, being in a physical sensing mode.
Seems I had to do some explaining to come to the main dish I’m serving here which is that these modes of being alive are in a very large sense mutually exclusive. We are polymorphs, being with many (poly) forms (morphe) and – something I might pursuit at a later time – maybe there is really no unity below all this; although there is the idea that “Isness” – a German term coming from Meister Eckhart, “Istigkeit” – would describe that essential unity, something Mister Tolle calls The Power of Now. Nevertheless we cannot both be in the flow and witnessing at the same time. We could do that in a team, with a third friend then reflecting on what we’re doing, you in the flow, me being choicelessly aware of all this. Which brings me to another very mysterious mode of being that I’ve been blessed to participate in at times: the mode of we-fullness, as I keep calling it, the mode of being with others in such a way that you are deeply convinced and experience yourself to partake of a collective being, the ‘circle-being’ , the first inkling of a collective consciousness, I think, the becoming aware as a living multi-personal field.
Back to the main dish. As we do not eat hors d’oevre, main dish and dessert all at once, as that would maybe not taste so great, or at least very different from tasting them separately, so this goes for the modes of being alive. The “One Taste” (Ken Wilber’s diary-like book on being in non-dual mode most of the time) is really a “special taste”, a “particular taste” that some people like and evangelize about; but it is neither superior to other tastes, unless you like it, of course, nor is it the basic essence of all other dishes. The commonality is that it’s all food, but that doesn’t make it one, dish.
Honoring all meals and dishes we are served by life and psyche, by being and soul, by the gods and whoever else cooks them (including all the cooks inside of us) means neither reducing them to the recipes nor to their essential ingredients but eating them with mouth, nose and everything else, actually tasting the meals and the company we eat them in.
We’re polymorphs, able to take on many forms – or maybe it’s forms that take us on; it’s voices that speak us, maybe the voice of the enlightened spirit, the pensive wizard, the flowing joy, the heroic responsible person, the mystic poet and so endless on. There is no need, whatsoever, to become monotheistic about diversity, to call on our unity, to invoke our oneness, to go for the One that keeps it all together. That, as it reveals itself to me more and more obviously, is the naked emperor whose new clothes of the unity of his realm really do not amount to anything but the ego’s (or hero’s) vanity. Yes, in a certain mode of being alive I have experienced an all-pervading oneness, an ecstatic experience par excellence. But it is only in reflection that I can turn this into the essential or absolute or superior or ‘real’ (maybe even with capital letters); a reflection I’ve followed for most of my life. But not so anymore as I’ve come to honor the multitude of meals and cooks, all feeding the soul.
And this post, quite obviously, has been created in a reflective mode of being.
I’ve been having fierce debates with neo-liberal conservatives recently, people that keep up the faith that the climate catastrophe is just ‘leftist propaganda’, that the recent and still going financial-turned-economic disaster is caused by big government, or by Marxists or similar. At the same time a report was published by the United Nations Environment Programme that climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century even if the world’s leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges (here), which hardly anybody believes they will – unless We The People force them to; and are you willing to bet, say 25% of your year’s salary that We The People will force them? Ah, right, you probably won’t.
In the mean time some wonderfully willing and amazingly well-connected people embark on a journey to change all that; I think it’s a couple of Million world-wide. Good people. Wonderful people. We would all love to hug them. And then we go into the next super-market and buy…. ah well, we didn’t make much money last months so we cannot afford any fancy stuff, we need to buy the cheaper things; not produced sustainably or ecologically.
We would love to do the good thing, but what choice do we have given our income?
On another note, but connected – bear with me -, Â just a week ago I met an amazing person, a man who remembers being in the crowd around Jesus… got crucified himself. And the way he talks about this in conversations is so very low key, and at the same time with such certainty, that it has made me reconsider some of my base assumptions which doubt reincarnation to contemplating what it would mean if the soul is indeed eternal, coming back again and again to the planet – for whatever may be the reason for this; if indeed it has a reason.
My new friend is not an airy, fairy New Age person – he made his first million by the age of 24 – and he’s also not the slick marketer of any esoteric stuff either. He’s smart, has a very good working intuition, is also quite down to Earth and with an intelligent heart. Can’t just dismiss his stuff off hand. And he reminded me of some very interesting material I unearthed years ago where reincarnation would be the simplest, most plausible explanation (some BBC stuff published years before the archaeological proof of the memory someone had from a previous life; the content of that memory not being recorded anywhere before).
Maybe all this stuff strikes an emotional chord… Almost a year ago one simple question changed my whole relational life – and started me on a deep emotional experiment. In January this year my father died. Recently the other grandfather of my son died. Last weekend a former student from the time I used to be an enlightened teacher, died of cancer – a woman the age of my girlfriend; one of the students I loved for her rebelliousness, for really wanting to know.
What is going on in the world at large and in my own life’s context seems to be about life and death, and on the grand scale it concerns the whole of humankind – and from how I respond emotionally to the active ignorance of much of the elites I take it that I’ve started to take the inactivity and the downright denial – except maybe in some lip-service of no real consequence to ‘doing something about it’ – personal.
If I still were an enlightened teacher I could easily transcend all of this; “I am not the body, I am not my thoughts and concepts and beliefs; not this, not that; net-neti.” I would simply stay with “Now”. And in a way this still holds true. There is a private way out. It’s effective. Just ask, “Is this true? Can I really know it is true?”, and since an honest answer will always transport you to the transparent Here and Now, the Still Point at the Center of Everything, and since remaining there for a while will let you taste non-dual presence, this private way out still works. I can take it. And so can you. But for whatever reason this isn’t really satisfactory to me anymore – meaning, “I don’t wanna go there, really.” Maybe this whole enlightenment thing is a much too private paradise – utterly real when there, and always good for a shot of transcendent joys. But then, really, I think the dice have fallen and the choice is… “I’m here to incarnate – become and truly be flesh, be fallibly human, be pretty much like many others; probably like you in most respects.”
That is how I keep on arriving time and again on the scene of desperate humanity, of molested humanity, of experiencing-lots-of-atrocities humanity; a bit of an activist, maybe. My contribution are concepts and practices around “collaboration ecology”, teachable experiences around “embodied collective consciousness”, and practical and implementable insights into the “living field“. And over the last couple of years through the Web and its social communities I’ve been embedded in networks and ‘meshworks’ (which I’m very much co-creating at this moment in time with Gaiaspace; that’s a disclosure, I think). And increasingly the most divine question that a friend of mine heard from Gods mouth on Mount Shasta seems to be, “So what?”
Humanity at the beginning of the 21st Century is coming to know and understand it’s suffering. Some of this state of affairs has been predicted by many, me included: The financial collapse (caused by, basically, unbridled egotism and greed), the climatological disaster (only we thought it wouldn’t come so fast), societal break-down (the neo-liberal and conservative break-down into myopic pubescence in the US is just one visible sign of that), and I could go on and on singing the apocalyptic blues.
This is the demons we face, the shadows that humanity must incorporate instead of polluting the whole cosmic environment with it.
What have we done to the earth?
What have we done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered
And ripped her
And bit her
Stuck her with knives
In the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down
(Jim Morrison/The Doors, “When the Music’s over” [I exchanged ‘they’ with ‘we’])
Maybe I’m too much entrenched in German history, the apocalypse we as a people (even though father was in the Resistance) brought upon the people of Europe and the world in World War II. Maybe the tears I cried in the Spanish Synagogue in Prague over the atrocities the Germans committed in Theresienstadt were not mine to cry, and Rabbi LÃ¶w’s laughter I heard in my soul when I prayed for forgiveness for my people’s monstrosities at his grave seemed to tell me that much. Maybe also, lying on the ground of one of the major battlegrounds, not being able to stop sobbing for hours has shown me that mourning over our collective murder, pillage, rape, plundering, imprisoning and hurting each other and much of nature is needed.
We cannot fix this. We cannot undo the damage we’ve done to each other. The European people and nations have massacred the North- and South-American inhabitants, we have enslaved Millions of Africans – to just name some non-Germanic monstrosities that have shaped the world many of us profit from – this is the shadowy past, and its consequences are what we experience today – the sins of our fathers and all the generations that have come before. Are those that profit from a crime and do nothing to stop the criminal behavior not also guilty?
The egotistical, anti-social behavior of our elites that have led to the ecological and societal disaster we witness (and that we all are part of and support by much what we do day to day) has to be faced, and we have to do what is natural when seeing all of that – mourn, and see that what we need is a true metanoia, a change of heart, a change of our core… and mourn, for this true transformation is not something we can make happen. It’s out of our hands. We cannot fix it.
We cannot fix this as we are. We cannot fix this with the systems that have supported the disaster in the first place. We need to simply face our enormous shadow, a shadow that has built up in centuries of denial and turning a blind eye. Yes, maybe, it is overwhelming. Yes, I would also love to squirm out under the weight of it and point a finger at those that are much more guilty, the captains of industry, reckless bankers, compromising politicians, inhumane bureaucracies. And as I said in the very beginning of this blog, there are those that are extremely resistant to any kind of change that would profit any larger group than their clan or political tribe. But those of us who can face this, be assured, that is what we need to do.
We need to forgive before any kind of real healing can happen. And then, having faced how we’ve become as we are as humanity at this day and age, having forgiven ourselves by the powers of our very core-nature, Beauty happens – I know, it happens again and again when I face the shadow, when I’ve mourned the unfixable past, when I’ve felt the loss of so many good, beautiful and true people, when I’ve looked our “fair sister” in the face disfigured by humanity… and she smiles on me.
And then I “hear a very gentle sound” beyond what Jim Morrison could hear, beyond wanting the world, and wanting it Now!
The very gentle sound I hear are the beginnings of a new symphony, an emerging culture that is being born in the midst of humanities mournful and painful labor. And since it is a global being, a world-soul emerging from the womb of our defeat, a humanity like it has never before existed in history, we cannot say anything about it. We can state our hope, we can say that we expect a society that will look much closer to a non-egoic paradise than the most enlightened societies that have ever existed on Earth before. But we can neither hasten this birth nor can we stop the labor.
Knowing this the dark age of ecological disaster, societal challenge and financial-economic debacle all of a sudden doesn’t need anybody fixing it. It needs open hearts and minds doing and being what they’re called to be and do. We need humans courageously facing life as it unfolds in the flesh, in the body, in our societies so that they can lend a hand, an eye, a foot where they see a real need. We need people waking up to their embeddedness in the webs life has been weaving in and around them. We need people to hear the calling to be alive, now, wherever we are, just exactly the way we are – and having faced, and whenever it appears facing again, our individual and collective shadows we open to the incarnating emergent humanity and what it brings.
My twitter-stream has many tweets like these:
ColinUdeLewis “Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power.” James Allen
WilliamHarryman “95% of your emotions are determined by the way you talk to yourself.” — Brian Tracy
bfederman A man’s own self is his friend. A man’s own self is his foe. Gita
Good advise, wise words, wonderful and inspirational stuff reflecting, I think, some of what goes on in the larger ‘community’ of world-change agents, spiritually savvy geeks, integralites etc. that I feel part of. Contemplating these and many similar tweets I was inspired to put this statement on twitter:
We might be moving from transpersonal to multipersonal, from transcendence to polysemous diversity, from individual to distinctively plural
Nurturegirls response got me interested to see where this spontaneous tweet takes me when I unwrap what this means for me. So here we go…
With “transpersonal” I’m refering to Transpersonal Psychology which put Spirit and metaphysics back into Western psychology. The dean of Integral, Ken Wilber, has expanded it to a much larger system which he calls Integral Psychology – which, in turn, is part of his much larger Theory of Everything. People who have been following this blog probably know that I am critical of Wilber’s views, and most of all his vertical spirituality with an Absolute or Non-dual at it’s pinnacle, implicitly downgrading whatever is ‘below’ – but that’s a different conversation I don’t feel like getting into now except for my tweet’s topic of trancendence, the movement that rises forever up the (spiraling) vertical axis, going beyond body, mind, matter, and endlessly on until it has gone beyond everyone and everything… this is what we’re moving away from and towards polysemous diversity; which I will come to a bit further down.
Vertical spirituality used to be my orientation since I was 14 years old when I first read about yoga and silence (1967) right until the very day I was finally enlightened 33 years later; yep, you’re not supposed to say that, but bear with me. Actually I call this happening Grand Disillusionment because it was basically nilling everything I thought meant anything before this happened. But, silly me, this level-change was just the end of a strand that had been in development since my very young years fuelled by the kind of thought-food one gets as a hippie becoming meditator becoming deep seeker becoming spiritual teacher becoming guru and then, finally, dropping out of that whole game altogether.
You see, my whole journey was fueled by the conviction that a single self or Self actually exists. But the idea of being or having a self/Self is really a nest of meaning and reasoning that very much reflects our cultures’ need for capable individuals (from latin, “non-dividable”) that have a permanence and consistency that can be relied upon and that can be (made to be) responsible. And our type of meaning-making needs a center around which it revolves and to whom it refers, so there you are…
This is very sketchy, and much more can be said about the self/Self, its sources and status – maybe another time; for I also want to mention two basic perspectives in Western, and maybe Eastern, culture:
The ‘scientific’ view which is basically saying that ‘out there’ beyond our skin, and even inside of it, there is just accidental matter that we, our mind and consciousness, project onto. So, for instance, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; it is not a feature of a flower or a sunset or a person or the galaxy. The same, obviously, goes for truth and everything else. All of this is “in the mind” and not “out there”. (That there are laws governing energy-matter that are objective and not projected is an interesting conondrum most empiricists carefully avoid; this doesn’t take away the basic conviction, though, that really matter is absolutely devoid of spirit, essence or whatever else you can project on it.)
The other perspective is formed by the ‘absolute truth’ that people, things and even processes have an essence, a soul, a spirit in and of themselves. This is taken to mean that beauty is not really, or only in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is actually part of being a flower, a sunset, a person or galaxy. In this view the beauty in us resonates or in some other manner communicates with the beauty out there – we recognize truth, beauty, the Good or God that is there already whether we know it or not. We find it, it is not projected at all.
These perspectives seem very contrary but they have something in common, the idea of a subject, “in here” and an object “out there” – the idea of a singular “me” and plural “other” or “you”. (An idea that Ken Wilber and his Integralites have expanded to a quadriga, “I, we, they, it” – the 4 quadrants). This subject-object orientation system is so pervasive and seems so natural that we do not often question it. No, and aren’t there enough beautiful and deeply meaningful systems of thinking, spiritual practises and day to day life that show subject and object, I and other, inside and outside to be really real and truly true?
To unhinge this a little bit and come to a proximation of what polysemous diversity might allude to let’s look at some experiences we probably share.
Remember your last “silver moment.” You were talking with a friend maybe, or even a stranger, and you forgot all about the time and everything else; the flow of the conversation was so wonderful, you even forgot yourself. And now, as you remember this, you might not recall what exactly you were talking about but you do remember the ‘spirit’ of it, the breath, the “silver in the air” or however you want to characterize it.
Do you remember a critical moment in your life with several people involved? Maybe an accident, a fire, a thunderstorm out in the wilds or something similar? How everybody just acted in unison, nobody being in charge, really, but everything got done in no time at all?
Or do you remember a great moment in sports when your team was suddenly “in the zone” and acted as a unity, unstoppable?
What is characteristic of these moments or times is that there is no self-awareness, no individual consciousness to speak of – you’re present, you’re aware of everything that goes on but in no way as a self or self-aware. There is, rather, a polyphony sounding around a melody common to all participating voices, sometimes taking in even some of the more perceptive spectators as in sports. This, I would say, is a very natural way to be; acutually I think this is the way we often are, only we don’t notice it because the flow is not sparkling so bright as in our “silver moments”.
Does the transpersonal, evolutionary view help us understand this or, and that’s what we’re approaching here, help us turn into artists of polysemous diverse ecologies of being-together? It does, and doesn’t.
It does in that we have co-evolved as aligned (tuned in) groups of humans. To be synchronised with others is wonderfully adaptive and helps along the continued survival mightily – from multicellular beings to swarming insects, flocks of birds, fish-swarms and herds, the same pattern has been used in nature countless times. So it’s not really amazing that such highly complex beings as humans are polyphoniously connected – a great diversity of voices ‘swarm-creating’ meaning, stories, understandings and yes, identities.
And it doesn’t, because the individualistic view that is part of the fundamentals of transpersonal psychology and vertical spiritualities or religions is operating with the assumption that we are a single subject, residing somehow in a skin-encapsuled cell-ensemble, in the head maybe or the heart.
We are also biased towards clear – simple, singular – meanings. Meaning should not be ambiguous or, since that term is often used in a negative sense, polysemous. This basic assumption has taken progressively hold of our collective psyche since the birth of modern science. But we only need to look at children or people who haven’t (been able to) loose their imaginative powers to see what rich meanings things can have. Who would insist to a child that a heap of sand cannot be a mountain in which dwarfs dig for gold?
If these ideas about ‘swarm-creation’ are right than meanings continually flow-emerge between us, in the polyphony of voices and forces that we are embedded in – the so-called internal ones and the external ones. When we experience a “silver hour” with friends diverse meanings flow polysemously between us, and it is the very flow in which we delight. Were one of us to single out a meaning and individualise it, that would be the end of the silver in the hour…
Don’t get me wrong; I do not believe the silver hour to be better than other not so silvery hour. Rather it’s hinting at an evolutionary possibility for human-kind that I see dawning. The subject-object orientation isn’t wrong or illusory, the transpersonal and integral view that proposes a vertical path of transcendence is a beautifully valid orientation – it is the individualized version of being human. We’ve worked very hard as a species to differentiate enough so that we can actually regard ourselves as seperate individuals with rights and responsibilities. Yet this is no end but rather the stage for the next step, where we use what is natural to us – silver houring – develop it into an art and use it to adapt to the challenges we now face in the exponentially complexifying realities we live in. Being an individual with a transpersonal, trancendent agenda was perfect in the much lesser complex times before massive globalisation, the ‘good old times’.
But now we’re in realities were two airplanes hitting the WTC can cause worldwide mourning or were political choices in the US can cause a global financial break-down, for instance. That all is one is not a spiritual statement anymore, it’s stating the obvious. The interconnectedness that goes with this has transformed, though. In a less complex world only a decade or two ago interconnectedness did at most linearly influence other beings, systems or processes; now interconnectedness means is a massive, uncontrollable, exponentially influential process. In this situation meaning is always polysemous, diverse and complex.
Individuals can’t handle this. Teams like we’ve known them in all kinds of organisations cannot find real solutions. Clear meanings cannot connect multifaceted challenges comprising multiple unknowns with the people and resources needed for the emergence of adequate solutions. We need coherently self-organising collaborative and collective intelligences to adapt to this situation. The technical means are either here already or on the verge of becoming available.
The ‘imaginal cells‘ are realizing who they are and starting to align with each other all over the world. You are one of them. So happy we’re connecting…
Providence has hidden a charm in difficult undertakings which is appreciated only by those who dare to grapple with them. — Anne-Sophie Swetchine; The Writings of Madame Swetchine
The day has only just begun and Madam J. dropped by much more forcefully than she did yesterday. Only now, given the right circumstance for this investigation, I could uncover again the deep, and in a way soft sadness that’s underneath Madam J’s trappings. I don’t know where this somewhat paralyzing feeling comes from. It is connected with a feeling of being forlorn and seems to want to be beyond consolation.
Do I need to go through this again and again and again?
I would so much love to be in my generous heart, and in my sadness I also know, that this cannot be ‘done’. I remember the change I wrote about yesterday, and keep reminding myself of it. And looking out of my window across the street to the houses on the other side of the street I know that behind those windows there are all kinds of people with a multitude of feelings, some maybe even with the type of sad feelings I’m having. All of us are casted in roles and a play that we have both chosen and not chosen, moved or at least effected by the feelings that go with that. And then I think if I should choose a very different course than the one I’m taking now, “Would that make a real difference?”
Reflecting on my life and its different periods, full of all kinds of searches and journeys towards change, toward exploration, towards an enlightened life. And I see now that I’ve always moved, even in the times that were very much enlightened, with my general feeling. Never mind the period of my life, there were always irritating, challenging and even desperate times. Surely there seems to be an overall movement into more encompassing levels of being with and in this world we all share, but that doesn’t seem to effect the feelings other than allowing me to feel more intensely, more fine-grained and more unrestrictedly.
“No salvation from feeling,” I think. But then, would I want to be in a place where there are no feelings at all? No bodies that are prerequisite to feeling? (Not that I remember how it was without a body, but I seem to be convinced that feeling needs a warm-blooded vessel, at least the kind that I’m looking at now – including the extatic and blissfull ones.)
Thinking of the people that I’ve hung out with more or less intensely that are deemed to be ‘enlightened’, they also where feeling everything, and, come to think of it, some were quite unconscious about what they were feeling and how it influenced their behavior. Actually in their teaching and in what they expressed it was clear that they regarded themselves as having transcended this. But from where I stand now I would say that transcending this is not an option. From my perspective, enlightenment as I’ve seen it manifested is just the most sophisticated denial of the fires of the living available for us.
So would I exchange what I’m going through in this situation for another one? If I could pick and choose from the shelves of destiny like it were a super-market, yes certainly, I would. Real life is different though, and there is – apart from miracles that are just that, miraculous – real limits to what is possible.
I’ve chosen to not do the classical things, separate, create pressure, sulk, etc. But even if I would go, there would always be “negative feelings” and the challenge that comes with that. So really, the only true choice is between being fully alive with feeling and opening up to unforeseen possibilities that come out of the feelings themselves…
When the larger waves of sadness crash on me, what I said above doesn’t come to mind, that’s obvious of course. What comes to mind is headlines and scenes that reinforce me feeling sad. And “unrestricting myelf”, being with my feeling, also means to simply not take the easy ways out what most of these headlines and scenes offer – “Close down”, “Create more distance”, “Get angry and take revenge”, “At least change the topic”, etc.. So sadness remains, even if I really have no idea where it comes from, what it does mean beyond the obvious phrases that can be used in such a situation – and which actually are used by some friends if I don’t stop them from consoling me, offering help, advise or righteous anger.
The sadness makes me tired, is incapacitating me. So in the course of the day a slight tinge of anger, a kind of “leave me alone!” vibration, has helped to keep me going, though. If I were to boldly exaggerate I’d say that the sadness makes me want to lie down and fade away whereas the anger channels enough energy to me to keep on going.
In all of this there is also the notion that even though ‘challenging’ feelings might be specific to the state I’m in, feelings of bliss are also state-specific – they come, for instance, in times when my whole soul expands to embrace all existence and non-spacetime as well. So feelings are state-specific, and the states to which these feelings belong exist independent of the developmental level I’m generally on. They can be likened to parts of our body that remain more or less the same, regardless of our development: Just as a hand so is the pain of a baby the same hand and pain that an old, wise man might feel, and the joy of a little kid is the same a wise old lady feels.
If this is more than a notion and holds true – and right now I can’t remember situations in my own life where it hasn’t – then as much as inner growth and maturation is beautiful, the basic challenges remain, at least if one goes for being “aware and feelingly presenct;” this being shorthand for the continual practice of ‘unrestricting’ myself, reality-dialoging my hunches, ideas and yes also what the feelings tell me. By reality-dialoging I mean, if a person is involved asking them, if this or that feeling is correct, Â or telling them what touches or moves my heart right now. Even if that is in itself something that makes me feel “ashamed to ask”.
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.
The last trialogue The We of Us [alas, link no longer functioning] was published here on May 21st. Since then there has been two posts by Michel Bauwens of the P2P-Foundation on his blog; one in which he talks about my post “We are the Next Buddha” and one where he looks at Helen’s post “The Next Buddha will be a Collective” (which sparked of my post after I realized that we already are the Next Buddha). Also there have been quite a few interest comments added to the posts in this interwoven thread on “We-Fullness” as we’ve started to call the emerging melody which I encourage you to look at.
Bruce — whom we hope can participate in our next we-alogue — has added significant and beautiful posts on Deep Dialogue (Part 1 & Part 2), and now 3 incredibly helpful posts on The Flowering of Intersubjectivity (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
Helen has also looked a bit closer at one of the topics we touched upon in our last trialogue, the question “Could there be a hierarchy of collective Buddhas“?
In this trialogue we talk about the young integralists, the fastness of the ego and development, we touch on trails of breadcrumbs and helpful stories, the art and discipline of we-full living,portable sacred spaces, connecting loops and what We-culture is,learning from ourselves and finally some interweaving. Helen is in Brussels, Doug in Berkley, California and Mushin in a little village near Prague in the Czech Republic.
After saying hello and some preliminary remarks about the quality of our connection …
Doug: I have been sharing the We a lot with young people from New Zealand. There are 20 people from New Zealand here for a youth retreat. It is called a collaboratory: Youth Insight Collaboratory.Starts this afternoon.The youth have been gathering the last three days in California coming from three continents.
Helen: How many will you be?
Doug: A community of 40+, with American youth and adult members, and then some volunteers who will take some of us on a beach outing.This all comes from the same moment I met Morel (one of the organizers of the Edge of Emergence meeting were we 3 connected for the fist time).From the same gathering.
Mushin: And I just want to mention that there are interesting people engaging with our conversation some of which we will surely invite to participate in some of our future we-alogues.
Now we take a moment of silence — the way we like to start these we-alogues.
Doug: I want to tell about this room full of these young people being absorbed into this awareness.In the meditation we had, and they showed up.
Helen: How did you experience that, Doug?
Doug: A lot of light. And also I have been evidencing with them a lot of connectedness to their body.They are very attentive and they have been flying across the world, so they take care of their body to be awake.
I was up early this morning and I ran into some of them, and they were responding to how present they were since time they have had arrived.They are in their young 20s.
Mushin: One of the persons who wrote comments on our last trialogue, Lynn, she is also 23, I saw in her profile.Young people seem to be catching up on that We-fullness rather early.
Helen: Yes, it’s the integral babies;Even if they haven’t found it yet they are very awake and bright souls.
Mushin: I feel called in this regard to create a trail of breadcrumbs, by that I mean us finding metaphors and story-lines so that it can somehow pave the way so We-fullness can easily flourish without people having to go through crystallizing ego structures.Do you think that’s possible?
Helen: I don’t know, because the ego is so fast that sometimes it gets there first; it works so fast that actually it gets a hold of things before they hit our awareness.Our direct experience gets labeled and fragmented almost before we perceive it, in between our perception of it and when it hits our brain it gets labeled and fragmented. But there is something else that is coming to me now.An inquiry whether or not that matters; because if we are present holding that we-full space then anybody coming into the field,whether they perceive it or not is being permeated and drenched in that space, a bit like sheepdip — there is a metaphor for you :-).
Mushin: As you were speaking about the fastness of the ego and fragmenting I was also thinking, “If we are holding the container it really doesn’t matter for the We.” But it does matter for the individual, the single person.I guess that’s where the bread crumb metaphor comes in.There needs to be a kind of collaboration of the ego function, or the individuality with the We, and for that to happen the ego needs good reason, that is, good stories.I think the ego lives by and through stories.Good stories will somehow help it feel the the goodness of that collaboration.I think the ego is always best motivated with goodies.
Helen: I have just been revisiting a paper by Susann Cook-Greuter about the nine stages of ego development, and in particular where she describes the higher, unitive stages, the Alchemist and the Ironist she calls them.The description of those stages is based on her research, people demonstrate those stages.It is fascinating how she describes the relationship between the consciousness and the ego.Susann Cook-Greuter is one of the leading development psychologists, she is one of students of Loevinger.
Doug: I have one other thing to bring from what we are saying a few minutes ago.When you talked about the bread crumbs and storylines… I’ve been a conscious of the role of one that has journeyed on the way to elderhood relative to the youth that I guide as my mission.I am very aware of being a storyteller when I’m in their presence.The stories just come out in the moment, and these young people are incredibly present to the stories and the teachings therein.And then they’re commenting, loving the stories.This is about Wu wei, action without action — in the way of being that I am with them in that role there is a telling of the stories as a way of transmission that is called forth in their learning journey.They love that, so that happened this morning…
Mushin: As you’re speaking about stories, breadcrumbs and storylines, I am considering that we-fullness and the We we are talking about is a new storyline.And just as the old stories have been told by good storytellers, and I think we as elders to young people…We tell stories.I often find myself doing that also, mostly stories of my life, experiences or stories that I’ve read.This is not so much a mutual storytelling, it is still one-way.The we-fullness is there, having a focus on that now I can experience it, but I doubt that it is experienced in the sense that we are having and focusing on; they experience it as a beautiful atmosphere which accompanies storytelling occasions.So what we are doing here now is — the We spinning new stories.And that seems to be an art that we are learning.
Helen: Can you tell more about this art?
Mushin: Take our conversations here: They differ from ordinary conversations because they are contemplative, that means as we are speaking we are aware of the speaking, and we are aware of each other and the nonlocal we-fullness, and we are consciously upholding it.So that would be part of this art.
Michel Bauwens in his post picked up on your term pattern cohorts… What emerges in we-fullness is patterns.And we are unpacking these patterns rendering them to each other in the story of we.
Helen: I keep having this image of Indra’s net where each of the stories reflects all the other stories and is reflected in them.That implies we are weaving some kind of Indra’s net with the conversations we are having, and with the way in which we are tracking other conversations and weaving them together, detecting the patterns in these different stories and holding them up so that people can see them. But not only the patterns in their own stories but also the shared patterns.And this is basically what Michel has done.He has picked up our conversation and is showing it to his interlocutors, saying, “Look, these people are talking about the same thing and they are taking it up in these languages and words, and here is the gateway into their conversation.” — it is nice to find soulmates.
Doug: From the time we first met until now I am quite conscious that in describing this part of my lifestyle recently or choosing to bring the story of the trialogues and the we-fullness to someone, that this invokes a sacred space.It’s quite subtle, but there’s a different quality in the choice to tell what we’re doing and to invite someone to open up to what is We.Sometimes I really miss we.The field is strong enough so I am conscious of the gap…
Helen: What is coming to me right now, and we’ve mentioned it a couple of times before, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am to.” We have convened this We and it is always there and not only for me — before I laughingly have referred to myself sometimes as a portable sacred space… but this has become three times stronger, and I’m noticing it in the way people respond; it’s as if this we-ness has become a dominant part of my personality.
Mushin: When I consider how this We influences me then it’s almost as if I’m becoming a spokesman towards other people who still see themselves as a lonely isolated I.Immediately or almost automatically, this is how I connect to Helen saying that it has become dominant, I take others in to the We that we are.And it is being sensed, and it is being felt I think. If you use Indra’s web instead of Indra’s net, it’s as if one immediately starts to weave a person in to the web, into the We.
Helen: What degree of volition or will is needed by the other in order to stay in the We?
Mushin: If I look at my history, where I am at now, it is the result of a development.Resulting from this development there is a voluntary focusing on the We, holding the We — like you say, Helen, I’m a portable sacred space. It’s intentional.It’s a doing that is becoming more and more automatic, but there are times when there is tensions with friends or my girlfriend so then there is a stronger willfulness needed to come back to the We.
But for others to stay in the We…You would need to have a kind of grounded basic feeling of being embraced by a bigger We, and then embracing this bigger We yourself, turning that into a discipline, a daily discipline of often looking at the we-fullness or we-emptiness of a situation.Some situations are not very full of We so you bring it in and other situations are we-full so you don’t have to bring it.
Helen: Through the habitual filters of the egoic mind, why would one want to be in a We — there is this whole groupthink…?
Mushin: Because you don’t want to be alone. Talking with my girlfriend Janshi recently about what in systemic thinking is a concept of loops… I’m using that concept in my training; we are working on loops of our basic assumptions, believing in something and also something else, and then there are tensions between these beliefs. And yet this tension is also creating a kind of balance; so I asked my girlfriend, “What do you think this balance is for?” And she said, “It’s aim is to be connected to others, connected well.” And as she was saying that I saw that this is a very natural tendency. If for instance you give children no chance to talk to you or relate to you, to be we-full with you, then if they’re small enough they will even die.So it’s obvious that the psyche is absolutely predestined for we-fullness.
Helen: As we hold that we-space and expand it around us even non-localy… as we hold the we-space that we have created with each other people feel it and they do come into it.And you’re right, there is something that is part of our birthright and part of what we are being called into as the next stage of our development. It is possible that if you’re walking into that field that your sensory mechanism, your energetic mechanism is going to pick it up and resonate with it whether or not you know how to interpret it with your egoic are rational mind. How you going to interpret it depends on your developmental filters.But fact is that you will feel it.It will be picked up in some way and that puts you in an altered state of consciousness ever so slightly.
Doug: Have you heard of David Suzuki, the Canadian environmental cosmologist? There is a metaphor for the field we are talking about and the effect of we-fullness on those in our surrounding; this is a scientific analogy that comes from him.Molecules of the breath that I breathed in in Japan within hours are breathed in and become part of beings in Vancouver. Our life energies is merged and integrated with the same stuff molecularly with those of beings all over the world within hours.
Mushin: That makes me think of Masaru Emoto, the Japanese man working with water crystals and resonances.If we claim for air the same properties that he claims for water then we breathe spirit into each other; inspire, inspirare, “breathing together.” That’s going on all of the time and has been going since the beginning.So there must be a difference to that situation now as we are coming to We-culture.So is what we’re doing now creating a We-culture, turning this into a We-culture?
Doug: It is very simple, “What do we as a society put our attention on?”We do this by choice, so we-fullness can become a choice.Therefore being an accelerator of the formation of we-culture is an elemental choice of beings.
Helen: This is waking something up in me in the moment, saying, “What do we choose to pay attention to?”
Doug: It’s a very powerful phrase.What do I have my attention on? Then you can direct it.Shaping and influencing in leadership is about calling into question what does the group have their attention on? And then it instantly shifts…
Mushin: Self-consciousness means being conscious of yourself, then we-consciousness is being conscious of us, us-consciousness is being conscious of the We that we are.We are moving from self-consciousness to we-consciousness in some way, and as we are putting more and more attention on that then the we-consciousness inevitably will grow.
Helen: It’s a learning curve.Basically we are becoming consciously competent at holding the We, and there are times when you need to hold it consciously and other times when it’s more automatic.So that is the learning curve.And it is incredible how much faster one learns when one is awake.
Mushin: We can actually learn from ourselves… how easy that is!Much easier than learning from some other. If I had to learn from somebody else there is always the possibility of resistance, my ego and their ego, who is right and who is wrong, and all that stuff.But when we are learning from ourselves,there is none of that resistance.
Helen: This is something I’m learning with a colleague. Since we did the Women moving the Edge there is a very strong sense of a We… once you’ve had this extraordinary experience like we had, once you’ve been through the eye of the needle, you don’t get back again.
Mushin: The first time I really experienced this was 15 years ago.And I forgot all about it, I didn’t remember any of this anymore, it just disappeared.I remembered that there was something special there, the sense of being together but really I forgot all about it.This brings me back to the breadcrumbs and we-culture… at the time of the first experience of this I was busy with quite another story.It was the story of my personal enlightenment. I was concerned with moving up the ladder of a spiritual conquest, of spiritual development, of being able to doing this and that, to meditate deeply, etc.So my attention was very much on myself.And even having had that we-experience didn’t change that.Somehow it needed the development of the last 15 years for me to be ready and willing to create a we-culture and not be so concerned about myself.
Doug: There is a power and a limitation in the illusion and fantasy of progress that you were caught up in in the past, and in its essence it’s very self-oriented
Helen: And yet you have to go through it.
Mushin: That brings me back to the young integralists. It seems that our job as elders is to create we-full containers and we-cultural memes and powerful stories.I think this ego development of trying to conquer Mount Kailash, climb the Himalayas and do this whole heroic story is necessary, at least for men.What is valid for both genders, to reach my happiness, to first be happy myself and to then spread it.Thinking about Robert Kegan’s curriculum for fourth level consciousness, on that level it is all about self, self-empowerment, self-trust, self-reliance… so the question is, and this is maybe something for the next trialogue, how to embed this quest for self empowerment, self-reliance and so on which is absolutely needed in my view, how to embed it in such a way in we-fullness and we-space that as you’re climbing your personal Mount Everest that you can easily jump off any place on the mountain into the we-space, and to be embedded, to be embraced and even empowered on this journey, being encouraged on this self-journey that eventually will come to an end.
Doug: I would like to introduce you to one of the youngsters from down under. (Doug introduces us to Karl and him to us.)
Karl: It’s really a privilege to join you. Doug showed me the transcript or montage of the trialogue you were having, and I am enthralled. I’m with these 20 young people, and we are looking at how we shape the future and the spaces between us… (long silence)
Helen: This silence is also a part of our trialogues (I usually don’t transcribe these silences 🙂 ; Mu.).
Mushin: We-fullness is also emerging from the interweaving of silence and words coming through one person or the other — opening up, different colors coming through different voices — whereas the silence, of course, comes through all of us. (Silence)
Helen: I am getting such a surge of spirit right now. Just hearing Karl speaking about what these young people are gathered together to do.
(After Sam, another young man from down-under says hello to us it is time for Doug to start the retreat and we finish this trialogue.)
An archetype is emerging – the archetype of a participatory, integral and pluralistic spiritual culture.
People all over the world — caring about the life on and of this planet, and experiencing themselves as embedded in continually expanding networks and environments — are seeking genuine, open and constructive dialogue and mutual support in their work towards a better world and spiritual wholeness: one planet on which all beings are at home.
Until very recently in our history values and practices have been mostly generated in vertical structures, and this is especially true regarding life-guiding or value-generating structures of learning, practice and daily life, the structures of spirituality and religion. Whereas in many ways the Internet has provided ways and means to transcend and surmount ‘verticality’ and promotes a co-creative, participatory and pluralistic approach to all kinds of matters and processes (P2P, Wikipedia, open source programming, sharing economy, conscious capitalism, distributed research, Web 2.0 & 3.0 etc.) this approach seems to be missing very much in spirituality and religion.
Also the spirituality that is now on the increase in business, psychology, politics, and numerous other fields of human endeavor is almost entirely ‘vertical’ in teaching and structure, being founded mostly on what is often called perennial philosophy. This philosophy acertains that the material world is the shadow of a higher reality, that spirituality and religion (re)establish the link between the human soul and this higher and ultimate reality, and that the Ultimate Reality, whatever name it is given, is the Absolute (principle/space) from which all existence originates and to which all will return.
Even the post-60ies, or ‘modern’ spirituality – after freeing itself from ego- and intrinsically ethnocentric views, from materialism and scientific reductionism – is still enthralled by the perennial philosophy and happily believes itself to aspire to, be informed or blessed by, and basically move around a singular Transcendent Sun common to all faiths, creeds, mysticisms and spiritual paths and practices.
This spirituality seems to resonate with the situation in astronomy when we believed that our sun was the center of the universe.
We have had to learn, though, that obviously this universe does not have a center at all or, to put it differently and just as true, the universal center is everywhere. And yet, when it comes to our spirituality we are very reluctant to take serious what we have learnt from studying the heavens astronomically. We object to the image that there are numerous Transcendent Suns around which meaning, understanding, love, devotion and divine, true and valid mystic experience revolves. And even then, surrendering one’s defenses against this understanding, one still would love to salvage some of perennial philosophy’s tenets by believing these Suns to turn around a common Center. And indeed, it seems that some Suns do; for instance the Suns of most Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths turn around the Monotheistic Galactic Center. Yet, other Suns do not turn that way, they participate in and form other constellations in different Galaxies of our local cluster.
The present day spiritual explorer, teacher and finder is having to face a huge challenge – to come to grips with the undeniable non-centeredness of the cosmos, the plurality of suns and galaxies, the undoing of all ‘cosmic justifications’ for vertical structure and certainties. This might be as scary for us as it wasn’t when it was possible anymore to reasonably doubt Kepler’s, Copernicus’ and Newton’s discoveries. The beautiful certainties of old are evaporating, and with it what gave purpose and meaning to life. All of a sudden we find ourselves in an endlessly open universe that doesn’t turn around us or around what we hold sacred anymore. The One Transcendent Sun setting and a multitude of Stars lighting up the mysterious darkness we now find ourselves in.
This is the challenge: seeing that there are no pre-given and objective constellations in the skies anywhere, and wholeheartedly facing and embracing this freedom; moving from a bi-directional, vertical understanding of the Highest and Lowest towards an omnidirectional, participatory, co-created, radically pluralistic reality.
It dawns on us, a cosmos with innumerable Suns around which a multitude of constellations of experience, understanding, faith and meaning are configured and brought forth, all participating in the dynamic matrix of the mystery we call reality
Formerly embedded in what I’ve been calling “vertical spirituality” it was a personal existential/spiritual crisis which made me realize what I’ve tried to sketch above. Since then I have come in touch with numerous people all over the world moving in this general direction. This in turn has convinced me that, indeed, what is emerging at this time and age is more than a personal revelation. It is an archetype emerging, the archetype of a pluralistic, polycentric, participatory spirituality which is surfacing in many ways, reckognized and not yet reckognized, and being explored with numerous methods which mostly are still very much experimental.
Now, after the the crisis has led me into these truly awesome and beautiful whereabouts, exploring the consequences of such a sea-change in understanding, living, feeling and teaching, I have started assembling material for a book that I hope to write – a portrait of the emerging archetype and how it translates into action, teaching and community all over the world.
Hopefully the book-project in due time will also become a web-plattform for people wishing to communicate what is emerging here, and finally an Academy that will provide an institution where teachers can learn, where students can connect, where all of us can study and learn from each other what richness this emergence offers to us and all of mankind.
At this moment I am seeking financial support of ca. 30.000 € for this project.