Self-Empowered Spirituality

(This is the non illustrated version; after I get proper permission, I will have some beautiful pictures alongside this blog)
I have been writing about what I consider true 21st Century Spirituality before (on my zaadz blog), about Open Source Spirituality (here & on zaadz), and now I’ve had the opportunity to test some of the principles in the first free seminar I facilitated in over a year (I did work with managers etc.; but that was all a set agenda – this was not).
Looking back to the times when I was still a guru, more or less, there is a remarkable difference in how I felt during this seminar; there was none of the very subtle tension, the subtle power-game that was always there in the back-ground for me in the past. (Just to be clear: I perceive that subtle tension in retrospect – if you would have asked me then, I would have most probably denied its existence.)
Let me explain: When you are guiding people towards a higher spiritual realization on a vertical ladder of ascent to a spiritual ‘highest goal’ you must be both, at least one step further than they are (so as to also provide for the ‘transmission’ of the energy from a higher altitude), and you need to have ways and means at your disposal to help them move upwards. This is possibly one factor for that subtle tension.
Another one is that, when there are other men present, there is a basic masculine principle at work – you have to ‘prove your status’. Since the spiritual leader, guru, master, or whatever you want to call him, is also the alpha-male, and this also always translates as status, it is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) under attack. Hence, tension.
The spiritual path understood, as it almost always is, as a path of acention (Wilber, Cohen, others love to talk about altitude; a higher/lower hierarchy where higher is regarded as ‘more enlightened’) you quite naturally needs leaders, gurus, masters, ‘spiritual teachers’. If you are called to play that role, as I felt I was for some 6-7 years, then quite naturally you always stretch to the ceiling, do your very, very best to stay within the higher reaches of your realization all the times (at least when you’re not in the realm of sahaj samadhi, spontaneously going on, which nobody is as I know from being personally with some ‘enlightened teachers’ in their private life beyond the need to ‘perform their role/service’).
People who have been following this blog know that I quit my ‘spiritual career’ a year or two ago, and have – to my own satisfaction at least – deconstructed the myth of the spiritual authority significantly, and I’ve also shown the patriarchal, authoritarian, gender-biased and abuse-prone tendencies in what I call ‘vertical spirituality’. So I won’t go into that here now. I just mention it to explain why I – in retrospect – know that I was under tension before, and now I’m not. The whole drama of that type of spirituality seems to have dropped off from me, and I’m very happy that I took that long a break from conducting or facilitating free and open-2-all seminars.
Since some of the participants in this seminar used to participate in my seminars in former time, in the beginning of this one I firmly deconstructed my leader’s role and our tendency to look for expertise and leadership in areas which belong to our heart of hearts, our innermost being. And as that was well taken, the beauty and joy of mutual empowerment and support, the mutual apprenticeship that flowered where incomparable and a source of a ‘group love-affair’ without the collusion that very easily crops up under such circumstance.
Creating Dynamic Presencing constellations, doing a constellation (Hellinger style) on helplessness, anger and sadness, and using all kinds of other methods to both, look at issues that challenge us, and freely explore the deeper spiritual and mystical dimensions – the seminar revolved around self-empowerment, finding and expressing what we really and truly want, and gaining trust in our indwelling authority on all things that concern our deeper life and higher meaning.
Being truly and effortlessly at peace with myself as a malleable, fallible, imperfect human crossroad of being and becoming; championing mutual empowerment and mutual apprenticeship; understanding that it is a most joyful activity to be true to myself and others; doing and not-doing what I truly want and thus being an encouragement to others to do likewise, it has become visible, clear and obvious (in a real-time situation, in the experiment of this 5 day seminar) that the vertical energies and powers (the light that streams down on us from ‘on high’; the angelic forces that can ‘overshadow’ people; the healing that emerges from deep sources of being; etc.) are truly natural to us and therefor naturally unfold in a field of people that move to a more authentic space, that are courageously being whoever they find themselves to be, in a field without a leader claiming or (subtly) expressing higher authority, revelation or enlightenment in word or behavior…
I’m well aware of the ambivalence and paradoxical nature of an endeavor where I was clearly facilitating the process and leading in some manner, yet, as a servant of people re-claiming their own spiritual authority and power. And when someone said, “What you have been expressing these days – I already knew it inside of me; maybe it wasn’t as clear, but it was there…” I was very, very happy.
So what have I learnt?

  • Dynamic Presencing works just as wonderful when I hardly ‘do’ anything; it is self-generating significant experiences for its participants which shows as:
    – streams of light pouring down from ‘on high’
    – waves of spiritual & also simple joy
    – feeling to be one with all creation
    – feeling human closeness / intimacy
    – liberation of ancient sadness
    – being “overshadowed by” and eventually becoming an angel
    – seeing the factuality of the beauty of all things
    – participating in divine ecstasy
    – seeing deep into the soul of an other
  • I’m relaxed utterly, being whatever it is I am; feeling whatever I feel
  • I don’t have to do anything
  • Not having a spiritual goal in mind I freely surf the waves as they appear on the shore of my awareness
  • Deconstructing external authority, and reconstructing one’s inner guidedness relaxes everyone
  • It’s very, very easy to truly listen; not as a method to get anywhere but as a� natural happening
  • Affirming my fallibility and imperfection is joyous and relaxing
  • I have a new gusto for spiritual experiment and research.

So I’m happy to embark on the path of doing more of these seminars – and the organizer of this one already booked me for next year (to do a whole series; among others a training in “Dynamic Presencing Constellations”). And I feel I’ve reached a milestone on my mission to:

Co-create a society and culture that supports and empowers individuals and groups to live according to their innermost values and insights, and that can make their living with what they really, really want to do.

Integral We-Fullness – A Trialogue (The We of Us – Part 2)

TogetherThe 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.)