Chapter 8. Subtle Simplicity: We-in-Here
8.1 Dying in Atlantis
The question “What is Life?” is a linguistic trap. To answer according to the rules of grammar, we must apply a noun, a thing. But life on Earth is more like a verb. It repairs, maintains, re-creates, and outdoes itself.
– Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, What is Life?
Did I ever tell the story of remembering the last seconds of being alive in Atlantis? I was doing a daily exercise during a 9-day workshop when I found myself catapulted into the last seconds of my life in Atlantis, looking back over what I had done in that life… and it was terrible! Being in this workshop, this memory came up totally unexpectedly. We were invited to do a daily exercise for 30 minutes to sense into anything we encountered: a chair, an insect, the road, the house, whatever… Over the days, I had felt an increasing resistance to doing this particular exercise – a resistance I didn’t understand. Finally, this hugely intense memory released itself in deep, deep crying. In those moments, back in Atlantis, I had the visceral realisation that the whole world was literally collapsing due to human actions, and I had had a part in creating it! I had used my subtle sensing and intuitive powers in deep synergy and co-creation with my male partner, for the sake of ‘power over’, for the sake of feeling god-like. The pain of this dawning realisation in those last seconds of life was quite excruciating. A central element was that, as a woman, I had been holding back part of my inner knowing, a part of what I knew that life should encompass – maybe a love for life itself? In this Atlantean society, we had become very skillful at harnessing subtle energies to co-create what we desired; many couples were trained in that competence. In those final seconds I realised that Atlantis was crumbling because of our misuse of the human creative power. And as I saw this I vowed to myself that I would never again go into the subtle energies and their link with creation – this co-creation between matter and energy – hence my resistance to the daily workshop exercise.
In telling this story, I make no claims for the truth or literal reality of past life experiences, but I do know that this experience was very, very real to me! It was a deep and sudden knowing, wherever it came from. I suspect that I am not the only one to have been traumatised in our creative power and vowed never to use it again. Now, though, it seems to me that we are being asked to become collectively conscious of this, to re-member our relation to the power of creation, while at the same time taking great care that no trace of our habitual patterns (of power) remains. No trying, no pushing, no pulling, just the noticing, the witnessing, the presence – and realising that there is creation power in these acts, particularly in our relationship with the Earth. In my view, as humanity we are reaching that potential in this current era.
Introduction to Chapter 8. Subtle Simplicity
As long as you think that nature is ‘out there’, then you have the basic separation that allows you to see the environment as ‘other’ and people as distinct from that, and that separation of ‘self’ from ‘nature’ is really what white man brought to civilization. That is the disease, the deep, deep wound that will be healed one way or the other in the decades to come.
– Paul Hawken
On the map of the Circle of Creation we are entering the third column, the We-in-Here, ‘Here’ being understood as both place and time. Not place and time as we register these on the surface level – rather, we focus here on the subtle dimensions of place and time. At the same time, place becomes the whole globe, and time becomes an entry point to the grand scale of evolution. In the same way that the individual is a unique entry point into the collective space, this place, this time, right here and now, is a unique entry point to all of Earth and to unfolding evolution itself.
In the wider evolutionary time frame, recently some humans have been on a journey of individuation which has now reached the extreme of separation and fragmentation. We see this especially as a strong disconnection with place – with nature itself, both locally and globally – and with time, specifically what I have come to call ‘natural rhythm’. How can we as human beings identified with our mental and conceptual capacities, fall back onto the surface of the planet, back into our actual, real, natural context? Exactly here and now? This reconnection has a relevance quite different from most of the stories of civilisation we have been telling ourselves.
For some, consciousness is seen as non-local in space and time; somewhere outside our bodies, outside our minds, outside the planet we inhabit. But embodied consciousness – awareness, mindfulness, presence, whatever you want to call it – asks us to ground that consciousness in our bodies, in the physical time and place where we are right now. There is immense creative power in this, especially as we hold the intention to do it together in this collective practice.
How we define ‘in-here’ is critical. It relates to subtle place and time, to interweaving with the subtle context that we find ourselves in. But it is crucial to understand that we include here more than just the human community. The ‘here’, this planet where we live as humanity, is shared with living beings beyond number. Planet Earth, too, is nested in something larger, and larger, and larger. So, we share this ‘in-here’ with myriads of creatures, from the impossibly small to the vast expanses of the universe. They all have some energetic presence. More still, it includes the non-material dimensions, the intelligences that we don’t see, the subtle realms, which we are beginning to co-create with. Of course it is complex, on all manner of levels.
In this complex context, allowing insights and novel actions to emerge from this space of We-in-here, we learned that planning comes down to collectively seeing and understanding the next minimal elegant step.
Chapter 6. Taking the Leap: I-in-Now
Cosmogenesis is organized by communion. To be is to be related, for relationship is the essence of existence. In the very first instant when the primitive particles rushed forth, every one of them was connected to every other one in the entire universe. At no time in the future existence of the universe would they ever arrive at a point of disconnection. Alienation for a particle is a theoretical impossibility. For galaxies too, relationships are the fact of existence. Nothing is itself without everything else. …
The universe evolves into beings that are different from each other, and that organize themselves. But in addition to this, the universe advances into community – into a differentiated web of relationships among sentient centers of creativity.
– Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story
In quantum mechanics everything is connected, but it is more than that, it is deeper: all your connections define who you are. That is quantum mechanics.
– Aaron O’Connell in his TED talk on: Making sense of a visible quantum object
Welcome to the New Paradigm
Welcome to the final part of this book – the last 4 chapters. Welcome to the new paradigm – an integral paradigm that is quite unlike what we are used to: it is not even about fields; it is not even co-creative, because creation is always ‘co-‘ in some sense. It is generative in all directions, but are there still directions and dimensions? This is all the way up and all the way down, but is there still up and down? Welcome to the soup of life!
In this soup, we can still make distinctions, but boundaries and all that is ‘thing-like’ are no longer the focus. Our ‘boxes’ keep expanding in all directions, until there is precious little stability or structure left to the box. Reality and life are understood as something like Indra’s Net, with every mote of reality reflected in every other. Even the metaphor of soup falls short, because in a dynamic process we don’t get the unity of a blended soup. Rather, what is real and alive is a multiplicity and an infinite number of unique dishes, with a combination of flavors we have never encountered before.
It is hard to describe a dynamic and alive process in words, especially in a language like English that organises standard sentence construction along subject-verb-object lines, as if the connection back from the object through the verb to the subject didn’t exist, and as if all other influences – like the context and history of this subject-verb-object – is of no relevance. The best linguistic signposts or heuristics illuminating the essence of this new paradigm have been words like ‘interpenetration’ and ‘interweaving’, ‘potential’, ‘dynamic process’, ‘love’, ‘creation’ and ‘generative’. Notwithstanding all these considerations, I will still offer another map, complete with classical boxes, to describe both the possibilities and the pitfalls we can encounter in this journey to becoming a Circle of Creation. Need I repeat that the map is not the territory? We make distinctions not because these different parts can or do exist on their own, but only to be able to focus our attention on one part of this constantly unfolding dynamic process.
Unlike the boxes in the Circle of Presence map, (which pointed to levels or movements in awareness) the vectors in the map of the Circle of Creation can best be seen as bridges or interfaces between the manifest and the invisible or the subtle. I like to think of them as wormholes, although I don’t have the credentials to assert whether the scientific definition might fit or not. This interpenetration of the subtle and manifest goes much deeper than ‘having a relation to’ or even a reciprocal influencing; it is more like different coloured tendrils of smoke mingling and blending together in swirls and waves, constantly changing into new forms. It is important to remember that this interpenetration and interweaving is always already happening. When we start consciously to practice participating in the potential present in the current moment – in and as life itself – it seems we become more deeply immersed in life and can close some of the gaps that are still part of our mainstream culture and world view.
Perceiving the subtle clues and energies that the world offers us – whether these reside within or alongside the physical realm – requires deep listening and receptivity. As a Circle of Presence we have become well versed in sensing those subtle signs. We have learned to open our arms and full bodies to this realm that is so much more extensive than we had ever imagined. Sensing into the subtle realms can become a very conscious action and intention. It must be informed by the subtle seed planted in our receptivity and openness.
We have noticed over time that people easily fall back into business-as-usual after having seen some new meaning (at the bottom of the U in Otto Scharmer’s terms, or after some participatory processes). As soon as we move into any kind of specific articulation or activity in order to make something happen, the practice of presence and authenticity tends to be forgotten. We see this happening all the time: the pace of conversation accelerates, the timeline is planned, a structure is placed on what needs to happen, the leaders decide… all of it! Our conditioned Western mind seems to rejoice in the return to known territory, where it can apply what it already ‘knows’ and what it thinks is really true.
What if, instead, we were to sustain our practice of being present and authentic as we move ‘up the U’, or as we start to sense how this newly shared collective meaning might translate in terms of organisation, structure, hierarchy, evaluation? When someone has the presence to call everyone back to presence and grounding, it is possible to have a collective sense of the next date, to innovate structures and workflows, to live the paradigm to its fullest.
The ultimate purpose of a Circle of Creation is to build collective capacity for generative action. By ‘generative’ I mean both generating something novel and also ‘re-generative’, the capacity to heal and take the broken or hurt into a process whereby we can create more aliveness together. The capacity to be open to everything that is present in this moment makes it possible to generate a subsequent moment that holds less obstruction to that aliveness and can flow with life in general.
Generative action of this kind can sometimes manifest in an instant, as it moves in resonance with the subtle. Ideally, there should be no movement, no action – even if it is only the minimal next step – until an overall coherence is present. Just as someone with perfect pitch can distinguish whether two notes are exactly the same, so there is a need for us to develop our capacity to sense the ‘pitch’ of coherence, when the physical is aligned with the subtle. When this alignment is present, the action is not really ‘decided’ or ‘taken’, but will happen as if of its own accord.
One substantial difference between a Circle of Presence and a Circle of Creation is that classic group dynamics are no longer part of the picture. There is thus no longer any need for a trainer or facilitator to guide these processes. Instead of being focused on what others in the circle say and do (or not), attention is fully grounded in the ongoing collective inquiry and the shared field of awareness. Facilitation – or hosting – merely supports the conditions for emergence. We learn to see and to be constantly aware of the ‘inter-effecting’, to use a word from Gendlin, and the interrelated moving. Like hosting a constellation, there is no linearity and we go with what the phenomena show us.
Orienting to the map for the Circle of Creation
The first column of the map builds on the work done in I and Myself and I and You. Having deeply integrated your subtle perception and most of your shadow parts, your path has not come to an end. Rather, you will notice a calling from deep within – your life’s or soul’s calling. It is an invitation to integrate work, passion and life, to align everything into a unique and joyful existence that is more emergent than planned (I-in-Now).
What becomes possible when we are all following our life’s purpose and we feel attracted, invited, nudged and drawn to come together in a collective inquiry? What emerges when we pool all our resources, knowledge, expertise and presence in service of something greater? It seems to us that participatory collectives arise in relation to a possibility whose time has come. It is as if a confluence of potential gives rise to a subtle thickening in the fabric of the cosmos which functions as a strange attractor around which a collective can form. The purpose of such gatherings is neither conceptual nor prompted by any sense of urgency. Rather, information relating to purpose is gleaned from the subtle, much in the same way that animals in a herd sense when they need to come together to weather some external danger.
From the collective sense of purpose of We-in-Now, we expand out as in the previous map, to embrace also the context in which we find ourselves; the collective of humans enters a conscious relationship with the greater whole. Context is to be understood here not just as the environment or physical space, but all that is included in subtle place and time. This transcends just humans as co-creators, to include our brethren the animals and the living realm of nature, natural rhythm and right timing, the unique powers of a place or space and more. It is surrendering to collective inspiration and collective ‘insighting’, a lived experience of the body, mind, heart and will of life itself. (We-in-Here)
Finally (in the map, not in the experience) the collective engages with a potential that is present but not yet manifest – a full participative interpenetration and interweaving of all realms of existence and all beings (We-Now-Here-and-Potential). All separation has fallen away. We are equally in awe of what is and in love with what is possible next. The notion of ‘experience’ is absolutely key here: this generative action is an embodied, multi-sensory phenomenon where joy, beauty, curiosity and amazement at life are the benchmarks.
Quote from participant:
I feel my own awareness so different than it was this time last year. There is so much more relationship that I am aware of; so many subtle levels, inside myself and also with others, and with nature and the earth, and the invisible beings that are all around us. I’m now learning to keep them also in my awareness, as well as my physicality. It is extraordinary – like a sunbeam that shines on the little pieces of dust that you normally don’t see. And learning to be at ease with that is the first step, in preparation for something that we just can’t see yet. – Helen
Taking the leap
Setting the scene: One evening in May 2009, the core group of Women Moving the Edge is having a Skype call, linking the US (Boston), Belgium and the Netherlands; five of us are present on the call. We are debriefing the sixth gathering, which ended a few days ago. I am ready to take a leap of faith. What follows is an edited transcript of that call.
Ria: I now see trapeze artists in the circus tent, they release their grip on one trapeze bar and fly through the air to grab the other … leaving behind the security of the old system – be it money or whatever kind of structure – and living on the edge in a lot of not knowing, but where you feel very alive and vibrant – this kind of lovemaking with some new form that is not really manifest yet. You can’t touch it or hold it, but it comes alive in the relationship with it, in the lovemaking.
For me, it’s about being fully alive, participating in life, a life that is totally connected with earth – and not confusing the earth with ‘the world’ that’s going on.
For me that is a very clear picture in my mind. We are so used to living in the ‘world’ – which is very much built on concepts and ideas translated into stuff and structures. But this ‘world’ is not connected with earth and life – or the sacredness of earth and life (of course it’s connected in some way, because it’s here and manifest)… I don’t want to be new-agey about it, more like being real about it. Very real!
Lisette: When you were speaking about ‘the world’, sometimes I am aware that most conversations are not about what they seem to be about. What we are doing, so busy in the world, is not what it’s about at all – even in this conversation. The whole Women Moving is about opening ourselves up as energetic vessels to a new form. It’s quite funny – everything that seems to be going on in the world – it’s NOT about that!
Ria: This seems like the solution to the riddle: OPENING OURSELVES UP AS ENERGETIC VESSELS TO A NEW FORM. I want to write that in big capitals in my notebook!
Helen: So what does that mean for us?
Ria: What it means to me, as a very concrete consequence, is that I will give more attention to the new form that’s arising – that means that I will trust more that the universe will provide me with money whenever I need it and go more fully into writing my book rather than first making sure I have enough money and then, if there is time left over… I will more fully make that leap.
Lisette: I usually do this in private, but when Ria took the leap – my immediate impulse is to give you an amount of money.
Helen: I had the same impulse. It is done sister!
Ria: It feels so much like lovemaking. God!! Thank you!!
Ria: It was like in (tantric) lovemaking, where you can have plateaus, building up the energy, going higher and higher, finer and finer. When Lisette made her offer, it felt like an energy entered my body. I didn’t do anything for it. Very much like lovemaking energy! That’s the perfect description – going up my spine. I’m sitting here smiling all over the place…
Nicanor Perlas has a model about leap learning, based on The Hero’s Journey of Joseph Campbell. He talks about the call, the question that moves you; your life’s question as the framework for your experiences. If you say ‘No’ to this call, something deep in your psyche dies, because there is no real separation between yourself and this deep question. Nevertheless, to be open to the call is disturbing to your identity. Building on this individual challenge, he asks us: “Are we going to accept the call, as a human species?” What is the challenge for our collective identity? Nicanor speaks of the leap, because there is a discontinuity between the known past and the future that is possible. That future can only come from the call, your soul’s calling. While this may feel pretty threatening to our day-to-day identity, many of us do feel called, hear our souls whispering and act accordingly, sometimes against all odds. A real living and active relationship with this call is a powerful entry point to a new sense of being in the world.
One of the practices of the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter is the Art of Calling . The practice of this art embraces both the feeling of being called and the act of inviting others into this call. Many of us who have been on the path of ever deepening authenticity (Circle of Presence) feel at a certain point that we need to do something that hasn’t been done before. This can take a lot of different forms: opening a conversation about an issue that was never mentioned before, starting a project without knowing where the money will come from to complete it, convening people in ways and combinations that have never happened before, quitting a regular job and daring to follow the heart’s desires…
Answering the call means being absolutely personal, fully authentic and using your highest potential. Paradoxically, the experience seems to tip so that the personal becomes impersonal, while remaining truly unique. During the years when I was actively involved in the path of 5 Rhythms dance, I had many experiences where, after many hours of practice, it was not ‘me’ who was dancing, but I had come to a point of surrender to the inherent movement in my body that resonated with the music. I had ‘become the dance’. The dance was happening through me, my body was a receptive empty vessel in service of what was coming through. Nevertheless, this dance was still very personal and unique: when it is coming through my bones and muscles – my solidified memory and unique combination of genes and circumstances – it looks quite different than when it’s coming through someone else’s, and both are uniquely beautiful. An Iranian dancing friend calls this the paradox of minimal interference and maximal engagement. It is deeply unique and authentic, very personal, and at the same time it has a free-flowing energy that makes it impersonal.