Benevolent Space

Most mornings I sit for 10+ minutes and, for lack of a better, not so charged, word, meditate. It was a strong desire to regularly celebrate being present that started this originally.

During this time once in a while I ask myself, “What am I doing here?” A question that doesn’t call for an explanation, although it’s always nice to have one. Telling myself and others stories about the ‘why’ of matters and behaviors is a very civilized thing, isn’t it? Especially if these stories can be ‘liked’ by my spiritual friends all over the world. But when I’m asking this question in my celebrating-presence-time what I’m doing is inquiring into the very practise that I’m engaged in, synchronous to when I’m engaged in it.
So yesterday a two word metaphor appeared that somehow changed the basic outlook of my morning-celebration from ‘precencing=celebration’. In a way it ordinarily has a more shining aspect – as if being present is a doing; of course, it isn’t in many respects, a doing, but it’s still an outflow most of the time. I didn’t really get that before these two words changed the ‘meditation’ to Benevolent Space.

Other than space, which to me is a neutral, never-ending openness for all/everthing to be, benevolent space is more of an invitation to what is good, beautiful and true to thrive. Benevolence [Latin, bene – good, volentia – will) is not neutral at all, benevolent space isn’t open to everything, it does have a membrane  – what that is? I’ll be coming to that.

As I have been contemplating benevolent space it became clearer in the following days that it is deeply connected to what we can call ‘seeing trust’. Most of my controlling tendencies stem from blind trust, and because of that I’ve been been hurt many times when I was a child and later in life as well. So to control ‘things’ in my case was vehemently developing the cognitive, some may call it the intellectual, functioning of my mind. Inquisitive –there is a resonance to inquisition here!– doubt and a tendency to question every assumption, idea, statement etc. and analyse it deeply, was born and sharpened out of that basic pain of a violated, blind trust.
Don’t misunderstand, please, I still love that ability of mine – listening to people I often, almost tacitly, feel/see the assumptions that their stories and explanations elaborate. But nowadays I do not feel the need to point out and criticize these assumptions anymore (well, most of the time, anyways); it’s just assumptions after all, the basic building blocks of any narrative. I also do not need to do any inquisition anymore, neither into others’ stories nor my own, as I’ve said goodbye to Universal Truth or the One Story or the Ultimate Assumption again, most of the time; sometimes, when I’m on auto-pilot it still happens. But then it’s easy to relax the automatic inquisitor, and lean back…

So in my further contemplation within the benevolent space I learnt that ‘seeing trust’ is the mature form of controlling. I actually trust that my and the collective unconscious is benevolent by nature, and moreover that not closing my eyes to whatever appears is simply fine, not compulsory but just okay — its often complex and/or paradoxical what appears, or dark, or …
Clearly, I cannot control anything in the immature sense of the world, but I can, of course, close my eyes to it and act if it isn’t happening or even numb myself to it more or less effectively. That is how immature control works, denial, obstruction, encapsuling, numbing, hiding in hazes; immature control not knowing it’s immature as long as it is immature…

Angela Lergo (Spain), I give you my heart, installation

And so I come back to the membrane around benevolent space: It’s ‘seeing trust’, guarding that space against malevolent influences and behaviors. It allows shadows in, though, as they are not malevolent but actually, once they enter benevolent space, they turn out to be a very peculiar kind of ‘being’, these hurting me’s. Maybe I’ll be writing about my dark friends at some other point.

For now I simply wanted to share the benevolent space with you and thereby expand it into the manifest realms of interpersonal flow.


Integral Community Building & Collaboration Ecology – 04 Collaborating for Community

Collaboration that creates and applies knowledge, understanding and eventually wisdom to create real community is very sophisticated behavior. Apart from subject matter expertise, skills, competence and experience (which are basic to competitive endeavours as well) the communities of practice that Community Development Professionals build require agreement and shared values, trust among individuals and organizations, and the efficient, full sharing of ideas, information, practises and processes. It rests upon the participants’ alignment with common intentions and works towards realizing a common purpose, goal or vision which is typically creative or innovative in nature.

As much as it is true that community development — being a dynamic, interdependent process with a diversity of participants — can be learned only through experience, it is also true that there are environments and processes that greatly enhance this learning. As a complex[1], and because of the required trust, potentially fragile process it needs a safe surrounding to germinate. Professional community development can really only be achieved properly by people who have matured sufficiently beyond the need for personal stardom (egotism), and who have understood that collaboration requires equal respect of all for all. Resilient, sustainable communities can best be regarded as voluntary, self-managing processes that can only be encouraged and facilitated — there will most likely never be standardized practices beyond the creation of an ecology of values, purposes and principles that foster collaboration and the personal contact with and facilitation by a Community Development Professional. The replicability of this process lies in the education of and in sufficient support structures for Community Development Professionals.

Community development starts with rediscovering or creating common ground: shared experiences and/or values, intentions, visions. The environment in which it develops easily is one of being attentively and open-mindedly present to others, giving authentic feedback and “being yourself”, expecting others to likewise be; a willingness to accept differences in perspective, perception and opinion. This is relatively easy once a deep mutual understanding of “our commonality of intention, vision and value” has taken root.

To use economic terms, “Developing community requires ongoing investments in intangible assets over extensive periods of time.” Building trust, which is the major ingredient of effective and successful communities, takes time as does creating an atmosphere or ecology of common values, purpose and all the other hard to measure human traits that community is made of. Engaging conversations that connect people and are the stuff relationships are mostly made of; developing community is an investment in people and their creativity and inventiveness and it involves unpredictable outcomes. Developing communities that have real value, if it is regarded as an actual financial investment done by one or more stakeholders, is a challenging “business” and should be well considered beforehand. However, the economic results are definitely measurable as they demonstrate reduced risks, faster performance and greater or new sources of revenues; and solving organisational, social and environmental challenges through the application of collective wisdom, challenges that, if not handled properly, easily can cause substantial economic losses.



Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5

[1] Actually the process of collaboration is only complex when regarded through analytical and linear lenses. When regarded from within a collaborating entity it is a naturally unfolding emergent dynamic system which is often better regarded as a work of art, ‘practical beauty’ is a term that comes to mind; a beauty that is easily seen in a natural landscape or ecology.