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

The Living Field

Published in the German magazines SEIN and Connection

The Living Field

Physics has discussed fields for some time but now the term has been discovered to be significant for spiritual life as well. Readers of CONNECTION will have some working knowledge about the ‘knowing field’ which is used to explain the remarkable phenomena that happen in family-constellations according to Bert Hellinger, an explanation that is closely connected to Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of the ‘morphogenetic field’ [derived from Greek: morphe=form, and genese=create]. Another well known field is the ‘Buddha-Field’, a term that gained wide spread popularity in spiritual circles through Osho’s Sannyasins. And then there is the ‘energy-field’ that I have been using in my “energy-work” since 1987, revealing a most interesting aspect of what fields can be for spiritual seekers.

Bert Hellingers family-constellations are so popular these days that I do not want to bore the readers of CONNECTION with another account of what goes on there. What happened in Osho’s Buddha-field is probably also well known, be it only by the rantings of the Bild-Zeitung or the Stern. The energy-field that I create in seminars and events is not so well known. And because it will play an important role in the further considerations I’d like to draw a short outline from my experience in this field quoting from a report by a friend of mine participating in a seminar in Amsterdam.

“It is the year 1988. We are in a large room, 150+ square meters. This is an open evening for Mushins seminar in Amsterdam and around 35 people are present. At first we were dancing to great music, and when it was over Mushin asked us to form a circle. Then he put a few people in our midst and touched them here and there, placing them in sometimes odd positions. He asked us to tune in to them while he went to the stereo equipment and put on a new cassette — strange and beautiful pop-music. Some people in the middle began to move weirdly and in slow-motion, others much faster. Someone fell to the floor — being caught by a helper. At some point I closed my eyes.

Mushin probably walked by the people in the circle, and must have passed and touched me for I felt a warm laser beam of light penetrating my chest. My legs gave in and gravity did the rest. I fell,  and while falling I dissolved in an endless white space, my sweet shining home. Tears rolled over my face. I was safe, this was home, it had my ‘temperature’; I was delighted. Everything showed its true face: being ONE, resting in itself, round, all-encompassing”

These and other illuminating experiences happen often in energy-fields, and sometimes they happen in other ‘spiritual fields’ as well, experiences that go way beyond the scope of our ideas and concepts about reality. I know from countless experiences that those who partake in the energy-field are catapulted beyond the limits of the personal. Being in this field thus is an alternative to the isolation in the prison of the small self, the ego.

Energy and Information
When I dived into the knowing field of a family-constellation for the first time many years ago I was deeply touched by the perfection that expresses itself in the soul of a family, through people who could not possibly know what they were expressing. The information and often strong feelings came from a source that obviously was not in them,  being representatives they gave voice to those they represented. I was, and I still am moved by the fact that the knowing field expresses the informative and social variable whereas the energy-field (whenever I use the term energy-field, I mean the field that I’m using in my ‘energy-work’) is its mystical expression. Where the soul during a family-constellation is moved by information and knowledge,  body and spirit are moved by energy in the energy-constellations I use. In both fields the movement goes beyond the normal limits and reveals the fact that we are part of much larger constellations than those of the small I.

An interesting connection between the knowing field and the energy field is the movements of the soul in Hellingers family-constellations and the ‘energy-movements’ in my type of constellations; there is a great similarity between the two types of being moved by the field itself. As much as energy-movements happen in family-constellations there is information and knowledge are revealed in energy-fields, spontaneous knowledge that enlightens people’s situation in life. When this became clear to me I could also see in my seminars and events how terrific these two approaches complemented each other, and I sought a better understanding. Not for the work in seminars. On the contrary, I have learnt from years of practical experience that this work grows with the measure in which I can empty my self, tuning in to and acting upon what reveals itself to me intuitively. (Hellingers terms for what I call intuition here is phenomenological view.) I would call this maybe taoist practise, and it happens without words and explanations entirely.

Yet, from this practise interpretations, ideas, concepts and theories accrue. These in turn do have influence on what I do in seminars but most of all on ordinary life, the life I share with most of humanity. On this level well founded concepts and understanding is important and desirable. And by the way, I’m sure that the insights and understandings one finds in taoistic practise can stand the test of reason without fail.

So I chewed on the topic, looked at it from many angles, spoke about it with friends and therapists/experts, and at some point I let it go. “It doesn’t really matter,” I said to myself, “how energy and information are connected,” and I also dropped the elegant but uninformative thought that information is energy in formation,  constellated energy. “Most important is that it works and that it helps people on their way.”
And then, all of a sudden it dawned on me that both energy-field and knowing-field must be the two aspects of one encompassing field, like the two sides of a coin, both poles of a circle, male and female. The energy field is as much an expression of something deeper as the knowing or morphogenetic field is; I have been calling this unified, spiritual field The Living Field.

If we approach the Living Field on the energy-level it expresses itself as it does in the kind of constellations that I facilitate. But if we approach it on the information-level it expresses itself as knowing field. Approached on the level of the formation of biological beings it expresses itself as morphogenetic field. The Living Field encompasses and is the source of the biology, the family, and the larger humanity as it moves with the energy we all share with each other and our surroundings. The Living Field is Soul and Energy of the moment, form, gestalt and dynamics, connectedness and movement. All of this is enmeshed and embedded in the Living Field no exceptions.

All is ONE, or what?

It is an absolute cliché in spiritual circles and it is true as well: All is one. And if we ask around we hear that many people have had this kind of experience. To put it in my present terminology: the Living Field has revealed itself in some depth. About 10 years ago around 60% of the responders on a questionnaire in the USA said that they have had a mystic experience. But we don’t have to look that far. Many participants in seminars or events that create effective energy fields do have mystical experiences of variable depths, my friend’s experience mentioned above is a good example for this. And now an interesting question arises: Why does not everyone lead an enlightened or awakened life after such an experience, but rather keeps on seeking as if this experience never happened?

After reflecting on my own spiritual development and the many mystical experiences that happened I can only say, “Because I didn’t trust my experience, it was too ‘alien’. I rather trusted the convictions I had won so far in my life.” I was convinced, for instance, that I had to have this experience of oneness all the time. But when I really looked into this concept it became obvious that the experience of a separated, isolated personality, the ego had to be part of wholeness because there can be nothing outside of the Whole. All experience is interwoven with the fabric of our being, connected with everything that forms the Whole. Whoever understands and accepts this doesn’t expect his experiencing to be other than it actually is, whichever way it might be, it is already part of the all encompassing whole, the experience of this oneness being as much part of the whole as is the experience of separation.
For spiritual seekers this means that there is no definite or absolute aim or goal. There can be no experience that ends the search but rather the understanding that all experiencing is part of the infinite landscape of being, an organic part of the Living Field in which it partakes. This insight when it has penetrated body and soul has amazing consequences, consequences that reveal the greatness of the mystery in which we are positioned.

Such an interpretation of what these fields are can relax you so that you are finally able to simply do and let be what is appropriate to the situation in which you find yourself in. In this view there is nothing left to be done, except of course all the pragmatic decisions and activities to which our life, our situation and our destiny prompt us.