It seemed to us that our project was flourishing: 4 gatherings in 2009 and a next one planned in January of 2010. We really felt we were on to something! We started talking about Women Moving the Edge as a separate being, just as we had talked about the CircleBeing. I have already mentioned that trying to ‘define’ something is just a habit of our minds trained to see reality as a collection of separate elements. Soon enough we stopped thinking in terms of so-called beings, while nevertheless retaining the notion that we can share an awareness of potential and resonate with a collective calling, either in a circle of colleagues or in and for a project itself.
Through the diversity of participants in the different gatherings, we learned a lot about the practice and the power of witnessing. “Meeting people where they are and moving the edge while we can.” These gatherings didn’t always go the same way, didn’t always achieve the depth we liked so much – or were attached to? I started to see the whole project as a little stream, meandering its own path. Every gathering was like a flat environment where the stream could overflow beyond its previous boundaries, and afterwards the water trickled back between the banks of the main river. Through these floods the stream was fed by the diversity of women present, in a continuous widening and constant reflection. Without this, there was a real danger that the few of us who were present most of the time and wanted to be in that generative space would circle back on ourselves and get trapped and rigid in our practice.
We began talking about having regular calls, or coming together regularly locally… but none of those ideas materialised. This was probably because such activities were not part of the action research project; it was more about a longing or a need for continued contact and interaction felt by some.
As good Art of Hosting practitioners, we sensed it was time to start harvesting the learning from our previous period. We started a series of ‘book calls’, wondering how our practice of collective presencing could be used to manifest the book now before you. We came in for another learning that we couldn’t ‘make it happen’ and had to listen for right timing. As ever, we could take only the next, minimal, elegant step, and yet the calls were absolutely precious as we were articulating and languaging our deeper understanding of what this whole practice was about. Much of what was spoken then is part of what you are reading here!
Through all these experiences, we started to see that our practice was not just about collective sourcing – important as that is – but also about right timing and right relationship with place. That is when we started to use the term Collective Presencing, for both the book and its related website.
At this juncture, the universe stepped in, in the guise of Kosmos Journal, inviting us to write about our experiences and findings for publication in the Journal. The seeds for this had been laid a few years previously in a conversation between Judy, Ria, Nancy Roof (editor-in-chief of Kosmos) and Helen, who had already written some other articles for the journal. A first article appeared in the Spring-summer 2012 issue.
Kosmos’ collective presencing series – part four
first published in Kosmos magazine, Autumn/Winter 2013
some ideas have evolved or changed since then!
Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth
As we journey towards the Circle of Creation, our starting point is a collective with all the capacities learned in the Circle of Presence—at ease with reaching collective wisdom together. Our journey onward will see us moving into the world of potential and generativity—and ultimately of creation in action—without relinquishing the presence and awareness we have achieved so far, but spreading the nets of our collective inquiry further, wider and deeper; opening up in ever more directions and to ever more dimensions; culminating in a truly shared and generative space where ever more of life can happen through us.
Development towards the Circle of Creation takes the deepening and widening movement of our awareness from the first phase further. The deepening process of unfolding authenticity we saw in the circle of presence continues as one of unfolding generativity, as my capacity to observe, accept, honour and live ‘what is’ now encompasses ever more subtle layers of existence, bringing with it the simultaneous experience of my unique calling and the total interweaving and interpenetration of my being with all of creation. The widening process gradually expands out across space and time to embrace ever more complexity, ever vaster vistas of time and space, ever greater potential. Each successive wave of widening both demands and calls forth distinct capacities, which can be developed through the practices we enumerate in this article.
Journey through the Soul’s Calling
Having stabilised as a Circle of Presence, living with open mind and open heart is now second nature to us. Quite naturally the opening of the will follows as an expression of the soul. Since it is impossible to define something as intangible as the soul, we must content ourselves with giving an impression through multiple descriptions: the origin, the causal impulse; that deeper and expanded self that radiates as Source, springing from the eternal, beyond the borders of life and death, an extension of being that resonates beyond time and space; my own unique expression of the Divine.
Finding my soul’s calling means learning to discern what is uniquely mine to be and do, following a fleeting, often barely perceptible longing. I instinctively recognise the vibrational shift when every part of who I am and all of what I do comes into integration and alignment. People who have made this journey report that they uncovered their soul’s calling nestled just beneath their deepest trauma. Despite the nameless dread that often protects this hidden treasure, the reward is a familiar feeling of deep homecoming. What feels so normal and obvious is simply my uniqueness. As I shed layer upon layer of old conditioning, I learn to witness the subtle resistance or leanings towards grandiosity that are my personality’s response to this new driver in my life. I learn to own all my projections onto ‘the system out there’ and to refrain from blaming and judging it, and I come to recognise myself as a fully empowered agent of creation. Finally, my soul’s calling expresses itself through an ever richer interweaving of my life, work and passion: I enjoy an emergent, authentic life brimming with vibrancy and energy.
My soul also carries the imprint of the potential that I alone can manifest as my life unfolds. The form through which my unique potential manifests will depend on my capacity to listen deeply, and on the dance of my intention and attention with the subtle (and not-so-subtle) promptings that reach out to me from the different realms of existence: material, subtle and causal.
The practices of living from soul bring their own rewards:
- go where the juice is – I keep my senses open to what is life-affirming, sensing moment by moment: what am I called to do now? After taking each minimal next step, I reflect on the feedback from life. Like a dancer moved by my ecstatic muse, I follow the energy of what is really going on under the surface, revelling in the ‘paradox’ that being in my own inspirational flow is how I serve the greater whole.
- allow emptiness – as a servant to my soul’s calling, I am a donor, not of my organs but of the container of my consciousness. Before I can donate it, however, my container must be empty – of judgements, of desires and expectations, of inner commentary of all kinds. Again we find a paradox to transcend: giving up my freedom of choice I find the deeper freedom of not having to choose. Creating space for emptiness, I am available for life to happen through me.
- participate fully in life – this means surrendering to the higher, to the deeper, to the innermost… It implies unswerving commitment to living the truth of my ever-unfolding soul’s path, which is also the commitment to living awake, moment-by-moment, to the minutiae of daily life. It is the commitment to live fully, to let everything in, to feel and hold, to be transformed, breath-by-breath, by that which comes to my senses, and to express my gifts in abundance, holding nothing back.
- cultivate community – although my soul’s path is intensely personal, I cannot follow it on my own. We exist only in this interconnected whole that is evolving all together, which is why I cannot develop in isolation. I need a firm collective ground that holds and nourishes me, from which to draw the courage to walk off the path of convention and blaze my own trail. The presence of others who live from a similar source of inspiration allows me to realise ever more of my potential.
Journey through Collective Purpose
A Circle of Creation comes into being for the sake of its purpose and intent. It is as if an unmanifest potential – something that wants to happen – reaches through the veil to attract the attention of a group of souls who are listening deeply in service of the whole. The circle arises not from the wish or plan of certain people to be together, but because there is a function and potential that can be fulfilled at this time, and life is seeking an open, eager collective that can work this one out.
The practice of circle described in the Circle of Presence is now taken much deeper. While the focus is not on the members of the circle, relationship is core: friendship, trust and deep sharing, authenticity and genuineness are the ingredients of the open container, alongside the shared inquiry and the potential it holds. The interweaving of these elements allows the quality of the collective presence to shift: a palpable, energetic resonance where all limiting, deeply held assumptions have been shed and novel insights can start to emerge.
The focus at this stage is on discerning and serving the collective calling, and the practices promote interweaving in the collective:
- Intention: Where we focus our intent is where things manifest. When consciousness is fragmented, what manifests is incoherent. We have learned that through careful sensing in deep circle practice we can collectively align our intent around some unmanifest potential that wants to come through, in service of greater coherence. Like the banks of a river, the intention – most often expressed through a guiding question – helps to delineate the mystery at the heart of our inquiry, whilst allowing the collective to stay in uncertainty until insight dawns and things fall into place. The process of finding the guiding question is an exacting task that requires time, great precision and alignment of the Circle holding the inquiry. In the case of Women Moving the Edge, for example, we have seen that this is a fractal of the process of each gathering itself: a circle process, not knowing what wants to emerge, yet trying to get a sense of what it might be. Once the question is found, it is simply a matter of inviting others into the container formed by the circle process and the guiding question.
- Invitation: the more complex the ramifications of purpose, the greater the diversity the circle must contain. Opening the circle to others, requesting their full participation, is a gesture of equality and trust and the invitation must have no strings attached. What you are inviting into is participation – inviting the other, and your own self, to step fully into the shared inquiry, without reservations. As the inviter, you must relinquish all notions of ownership of and desire to control the outcome. It is therefore of critical importance to be crystal clear about your intent, formally and explicitly.
- Full participation in process: at this stage, awareness grows that we are participating not only in our own lives, but in a larger purpose – a collective calling, a shared inquiry. This demands a high quality of attention and the intention to be fully present and take full responsibility for the whole endeavour, speaking and acting from a shared inner silence, both individual and collective. This collective is like a puzzle: the unreserved offering of each member’s unique gift, sourced from the soul’s calling, is a precondition for the circle to come to a level of generativity where that one unique thing can emerge that only this group of people can contribute, on behalf of the whole, right now and right here.
- Witnessing is a core practice of the Circle of Creation. It is a co-presencing whereby the deepest aspects of ourselves see and acknowledge the deepest aspects of the other, and vice versa. Where the eye of judgment inflicts wounds, the eye of witnessing brings healing as it moves beyond, to essence. The more of life we can witness together – especially pain, death and disaster caused by collectively and culturally held assumptions – the greater is our capacity to unconditionally embrace and contain everything that arises. As the stakes get higher, more presents itself to be held and there is more to be present to. Collectively holding the turbulence, pain and confusion inherent in the life process with consciousness makes it possible for the collective future to be different than the past. Witnessing serves to honour the old that is passing away, at the same time as midwifing the emergence of novel potential into form. This subtle, flexible, fluid, non-judgmental awareness is not passive: it is a gift that humans bring to the Kosmos.
- Collective sourcing is sensing together into what wants to spring forth from the subtle energetic levels of reality that lie beneath the plane of manifestation. To enter this space, all participants must release any expectation, attachment to outcome, or sense of urgency. All must refrain from jumping too quickly to conclusions or being satisfied with what we already know, in order to hold open the sense of possibility until collective clarity arises from the generative space in the middle. Inevitably, we will experience the discomfort – even anxiety – of not-knowing. Every new inquiry invites a raw, fresh moment of letting go. Holding this collective not-knowing builds on the ability to sit – and live – in the void with no clue of what is next; to hold ever more intensity in the body, without escaping into habitual patterns or re-actions. It is an active, engaging and open waiting until an inner and outer alignment arises in all participants and in the whole. Collective sourcing takes time – and a fine sense of timing. It is important not to harvest the fruits of our collective insights until they are properly ripe. It goes without saying that collective sourcing entails deep listening and silence. The listening is embodied and calls on all our senses, as we tune in inside ourselves, into the collective container, into the unmanifest potential, into the heart of the land. The silence is deeply intimate and intensely alive. It is not an absence of words but the restful freedom of being present and available to listen for the next impulse.
Journey through Subtle Space and Time
As the awareness of the circle widens, in addition to the threads of collective purpose, we begin to interweave the threads of deeper context. At this stage in our evolution, the human being – with all that we have learned, developed and become on our journey to individuation, separation and fragmentation – falls back onto the surface of the planet: into actual, real, natural context. Exactly Here and exactly Now. While our consciousness is in no way bounded in space and time, we are called to ground that consciousness in our bodies, in the physical place and the actual time where our life unfolds moment by moment.
When we – the authors – reached this stage of the journey, we found that our inquiry had shifted from an exploration into a living practice that opened out into a new realm of questions and into the whole of life itself. As our subtle sensing became more refined we found ourselves not ‘in relationship’, but ‘interwoven and interpenetrated’ with a much larger whole, encompassing the more-than-human community. Listening ever more deeply, we learned to attune differently to time and place and to start to co-create with(in) it.
The features that characterise this stage of our journey include:
- Wholeness of knowing – as we reach ever more inwards and outwards with our subtle senses, we come suddenly upon a collective clarity of knowing that integrates and interweaves all the senses and modalities, all the ways in which we know. Our embodied, collective ‘felt sense’ has become a portal to a mycelium of hyper-sensitive, hyper-connected knowing that stretches to infinity. We rediscover something that we have tended to forget: that all our knowing is rooted in the tacit, and that much of our communication arises through resonance – a cellular, bodily aliveness to different levels of vibration in and around us. In a Circle of Creation, our speaking and doing is not linear, it spirals and meanders, all arising from a ground of shared silence, guided by the collective inquiry. Language, models, concepts, ideas and distinctions interweave with the tacit knowing, each enhancing the other. It is crucial that I allow my knowing to be as fully present as the knowing of others, so that the circle’s knowing can be whole. Through this integral knowing, we are closing gaps introduced into our perception of reality by our default dualistic mode of thinking: gaps between the individual and the collective, humanity and nature, tangible and intangible, chronos time and kairos time.
- What if it’s easy? Part of our work as members of the human species is to reclaim our innate wildness and weave ourselves back into nature: to reconnect to the patterns of life, to learn to speak, move and act from there, and to invite that connection into our daily living. When we do so, time becomes an affair not of minutes and hours, but of natural rhythm and right timing. Place is no longer a matter of property we can own, but erupts into our understanding as land that holds the memory of what has happened before. As we re-enmesh ourselves in this way, life starts to flow effortlessly. If it does not, we know for sure that we have somehow stepped out of alignment. When this happens, it behoves us not to struggle or despair, but to look for those elements of our lives that are seeking to come into greater alignment, for the sake of the whole.
- The one next, elegant, minimal step – with the dawning of constant awareness of the interweaving and interpenetration going on at all levels, deep and wide, the good old Action Plan becomes a thing of the past. As if we humans could ever know it all and orchestrate the world according to our wishes. Being collectively Here and Now means that we can only ever sense the next small step to take. It doesn’t seem like much, but we have learned that it works fine! There is elegance and simplicity in it, and perfection was never a game of life anyway. As we travel this unfolding of steps, it is most often in retrospect that we realise the coherence of what has emerged, which can add a deeper meaning to what we have done – as has happened with our adventure of Women Moving the Edge, which has debouched on the practice of Collective Presencing.
Journey through Collective Potential
The whole point of Collective Presencing is to be present to life and to sense into the potential – ultimately of life itself. Learning to do this collectively, guided by our shared intention and inquiry, brings us to a radically different way of relating to the future. We are not so much ‘learning from the future’ (Scharmer), as somehow being in love with what is possible, sensing into it, leaning into it, one small step at a time, becoming this potential as the manifestation of real life. As Scharmer puts it: “there is a field of potential in need of us”, and that is exactly the focus of this collective practice. It is one thing to hold and sense into my own individual potential and my own unique gift, but it is quite another to do that on behalf of larger systems: organisations, cultures, regions, communities and nations – indeed for the whole of our Earth with all its inhabitants, both visible and non-visible: Gaia. The times are calling forth groups of men and women to be of service in this way, on behalf of the whole, so that humankind can learn to create more beauty and well-being with, and for, all of life.
As we pursue the interweaving and interpenetration ever deeper and wider, we come to realise that life is an unfolding, creative event that we can learn to participate in, more consciously and intentionally, together. This journey has brought us – the authors – to a point where we live life as continuous action research, in a dance of constant learning with the abundance of feedback from each step we take – in a reciprocal relationship with a living universe. Far from being dry and heavy academic research, it is an irrepressible curiosity about what more is possible, mingled with a radical amazement at the outrageous exuberance of what is. This, again, is no paradox, but simply two facets of life. Seeing existence as making love with the potential that it holds brings us to a life that radiates energy (and love) in all directions, with an inexhaustible capacity to generate more!
Download the article: 131100 Kosmos-Baeck-Beeth article4
Kosmos’ collective presencing series – part three
first published in Kosmos magazine, Spring/Summer 2013
some ideas have evolved or changed since then!
Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth
In the first two articles in this series (one and two), we introduced collective presencing as a new human capacity emerging at this time. The first article described a journey of individual and collective deepening and widening through a set of practices that can, over time, allow us first to achieve collective wisdom and later to become generative of more life. The second article took a more detailed look at the first phase in the process: what it takes to become a Circle of Presence. We promised that the next article would treat the next phase, the Circle of Creation. On deeper reflection we came to see that the transition to the Circle of Creation represents such a paradigm shift that some wider context is needed before we broach that subject. This article offers that.
We had intended to devote this third article to the Circle of Creation as the collective entity that practices collective presencing at its fullest potential. But there is a big difference between learning to be present in a circle of people (as in the practice in a Circle of Presence, with all that entails in terms of clarity on personal emotional issues and the like) and becoming truly co-creative and generative in and with life itself. The difference is not superficial— indeed, there is a chasm to cross: transitioning from a Circle of Presence to a Circle of Creation is making the same paradigm shift that embroils humanity at this time. This article looks at some of the facets of that shift, and seeks to offer a glimpse of what life could look like on the other side.
The Dawning of Integral Consciousness
As predicted by Jean Gebser mid-way through the last century, integral consciousness is emerging in humanity at this time (1). With the dawning of this consciousness, the artificial structures and boundaries of dualistic thought become transparent, allowing us to ‘see’ beyond them and inviting life to present itself to us more directly, putting us on the path that leads out of the map and into the territory.
The ‘construct-awareness’ offered by integral consciousness affords us fresh insights into our world, illuminating some of the collective blind spots that threaten to draw global civilisation into a spiral of destruction. We see that, as a result of the hyper-rational, dualistic worldview that shapes the dominant culture in the Western world today, every aspect of our society is founded on dichotomies that split the world into mutually exclusive parts. We then organise our lives around the parts as if they were real. We see this reflected everywhere we look: in spiritual and religious traditions founded on the split between light and dark, good and evil; in scientific and professional disciplines sundered from each other by classifications, which have ossified into nigh-on unbreachable barriers; in architecture and lifestyles that seek to protect human society from incursions by ‘wild’ nature, and so on.
Dialectical thinking (actually considered to be the most advanced form of our mental intellectual capacity) sees reality as a tension between thesis and antithesis, to be resolved by means of a synthesis. This conceptual reasoning has a major pitfall: each time the synthesis takes us to a higher level of abstraction, moving us away from the experiences of life itself. The synthesis then becomes a new thesis, reaction to which creates a new antithesis, requiring further abstraction to reconcile the tension in a fresh synthesis. Many centuries in this mental paradigm have done more than enshrine the idea of ‘progress’ as our highest social ideal. So mired are we in dialectical thinking that we now even see evolutionary change in these terms.
The dissolution of artificial boundaries that accompanies the emergence of integral consciousness opens out into a space so different that we scarcely have the words to describe it—indeed, we begin to recognise just how short language falls in conveying the richness of the phenomenological flux that is our ongoing experience. So-called opposites such as inside/outside, self/other, personal/impersonal, body/mind, society/nature, us/them, global/local, singular/plural, figure/ground, before/after, lose their meaning as such—and since such polarities bear no more relevance, the very concept of ‘perspective’ drops away. This brings a whole different meaning to the aphorism “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” As I/we step into this ‘a-perspectival’ space, the world is transformed, and so is my/our experience of it. I/we step out of the map and into the territory. The shift is fractal: the pattern repeats at every level of scale, from the personal to the global, inner, outer, visible, invisible, singular, plural, past, present, future.
In the Circle of Presence, we come to realise that understanding and thinking need to align with the body and our subtle, animal senses—and we practice life accordingly. Living in the territory, unconditioned by maps and models, knowing arises from direct experience, and the entangled body/mind is re-membered as the creative faculty through which new realities arise. The full potential of collective presencing, as it is enacted in the Circle of Creation, widens and deepens the embodiment of this new paradigm, presaging a transformation in every aspect of our experience:
• Being a unique individual becomes the condition that offers the requisite diversity needed for a totally present group space.
• Time and space are interwoven more deeply, more seamlessly into our overall experience in novel and subtle ways.
• Life is being present to the pulse of what is unfolding now, instead of a repetition of past habits.
Where dialectical reasoning creates new mental syntheses from opposite pairings, we are now able to perceive the actuality and phenomenology of life as it unfolds. Instead of understanding the world in terms of static structure, now we see dynamic processes everywhere: the dichotomies of dualistic thought morph into the generative orders underlying the continual becoming of all that is. Even time is liberated from its unidirectional progression from the past to the future, revealing the seamless and eternal dance of the fruit and the seed, whereby the potentials of the future generate the actualities of the present at the same time as the actualities of the present realise the potentials of the future.
The potential implications of such a paradigmatic shift for both the individual and the collective are mindboggling. One defining characteristic that could help to apprehend the new paradigm could be named as interpenetration and/or interweaving. The concept of partnership (meaning relationship between equals) is considered ‘state-of-the-art’ practice in participatory and sustainability circles; one thinks of partnership between people—stakeholders, businesses, public-private-civil society, men and women, universities and businesses and so on. In the new paradigm, partnership is to be understood as a mutual influence that goes in all directions and through all dimensions. We extend beyond partnership with humans only and into mutual relationship with everything that exists, however we wish to parse that out: co-creating with nature, with place, with the social field, with the subtle realms, with the field of potential . . . all the while realising that boundaries exist as membranes of connection and that influence can go all the way up and down, in and out, through the individual and the collective.
Another characteristic of the new paradigm is its focus on and openness to potential and generativity. The narrative of today’s mainstream society is one of problems and solutions, where the present is a problem and the cause is the past. It shows us a world of turbulence and complexity that we must somehow navigate and seek to guide to our ends. The new paradigm offers a much wider and deeper view, seeing the opportunities implicit in the present, building on what came before, choosing to focus on what else is possible and opening to what is emerging. This calls us to be fully present to all that is—perceived difficulties included—allowing it all to participate in the arising of the novel. There is a constant opening up in many directions and to many dimensions, from a present sense of aliveness in ‘this is what is,’ to the possible next unfoldings immanent in every moment-of-now. Our attention and intention are focused on the ever-present process of enacting more of our (human and other) potential. Here are some examples of how life unfolds in the new paradigm, what it might be like—and what it entails—to live there.
Living in the New Paradigm
Beyond Us and Them—by Circles of Expanding Diversity
One difference between a Circle of Presence and a Circle of Creation is the wider meaning of diversity of who and what we invite in. Inviting more diversity runs counter to the unifying trend we see unfolding in the current paradigm: a pattern of inexorable cultural hegemony whereby the dominant culture (let’s call it white Western Anglo-European humanism), maintained by global neo-liberal capitalism and backed by military industrialism, forces more and more people and cultures to capitulate to its values which, of course, represent only a tiny fraction of the sum total of human experience. In the cultural conflicts simmering and exploding by turns all over the planet, we see the truth that cultures are incommensurable: they cannot be judged relative to each other or reduced to common denominators. Yet the loss of diversity that would result from the imposition of a monolithic human culture would preclude any further ability to evolve!
In the Circle of Creation, the meaning of diversity changes, and that with which we can claim kinship and partnership expands beyond culture, gender, even species. We can begin to embrace and express more of our nature than just what we have come to think of as human—much of which we have actually inherited from our animal nature: the capacity to play and bond, our energetic sense of place and space, our instinctive inner knowing about timing and rhythm, a natural synergy of nurturing and leadership and so much more. This is the diversity we must weave ourselves back into if we wish to navigate the complexity we live in with ease and grace.
When we invite diversity into our shared inquiry, this diversity is not restricted to the different views, ethnicities, ages and backgrounds of the people we have called in. To become a Circle of Creation we need not only to be fully present (with thinking, feeling, sensing and reflecting), but also to see the invitation inherent when disturbance shows up and strangers enter the room; we need to engage in deep, generative dialogue and learn how to embrace difference through empathic conversation; ultimately, we need to understand how to speak and live generatively—all the time, with all the people around us and with everything else that exists.
Being fully present in a co-creative endeavour is in itself an expression of love. In cultivating the capacity to be in co-creation with a lot of different people, rather than seeking to be just with like-minded souls, we discover an astonishing truth: you don’t need to like everyone, but you can love them all! (It’s not sympathy but empathy for others that counts.) We speak here of unconditional love, not entrammeled by the attachment we usually associate with that emotion. The love at play here is not the energy of missing someone, or preferring one place, person or situation over another—it is the connective and energetic fabric that encompasses all that is in life and alive—even beyond the boundaries we associate with death. This kind of love seeks to be of service and flows through us, not from us.
Beyond Knowing and Feeling—Through Collective Sourcing
As we learn to experience ourselves as embedded in the continuous process of creation rather than separate from it, and as we step away from our mental models and into direct relationship with what is and what is unfolding, we open up to a wholeness of knowing that weaves mental and conceptual clarity with subtle sensing and, above all, with the implicit, tacit understanding, our felt sense, that comes to us through the body before we can access it with the intellect. All practices of embodiment allow us to more fully and strongly experience that all-at-once knowing that embraces information coming from our inner states and feelings as well as our thinking and noticing from the living world around us.
Whereas we start to practice this wholeness of knowing in a Circle of Presence, in the Circle of Creation we expand it into a continuous collective inquiry. When we see life as an unfolding of potential into an ongoing flow of actual events and experiences, it is natural to stay in inquiry about what is the next thing that becomes possible. In our Circles of Diversity and in life as a whole, we are continually and unquenchably curious about what is next. It is simply how we consciously, intentionally and voluntarily live our human evolution. To remain in constant collective sensing, inquiry and reflection is to stay connected to this eternal unfolding. We learn by experiencing, immersed in the fullness of life, and immediately reflecting on our learning so that we can apply it to the next step and iteration.
Because our inquiry is collective, we help each other experience, recognise and name both the process and its elements as these unfold—never forgetting the role of language as a descriptor of our experience, an evoker of experience in others, not a true depiction of reality. As we invite ever more diversity of experience and expertise into our circle, we find ourselves constantly shifting roles—sometimes master, sometimes journeyman, sometimes apprentice— as we practice the skills present in the collective, at whatever our level of mastery, acknowledging that there is always more to learn, more to refine, more to understand.
Guided by an inspiring question, one which challenges our assumptions and invites us to novel thinking, our inquiry is not closed until some novel understanding—a sudden, collective ‘now we know’—has been reached. This communion in novel attention has a specific flavour to it, a kind of shared stillness that coincides with a shared felt sense: decisions are not taken, they emerge by themselves as a collective knowing what to do. This is hard to describe when you haven’t experienced it, but when you do, you long for this magic in the middle to happen again. In searching for the emergent, we can get a coherent, collective sense only of the one next, minimal step that is aligned and resonant with the whole and that only by using all our faculties of knowing, together.
Beyond Humans and Nature—by Unique Contribution to Life
Integrating humanity and nature goes beyond being ‘sustainable’ or ‘living within the limits.’ As much as this is needed, it does not weave us humans back into nature, nor reconcile us with the animal nature we have inherited from our evolutionary antecedents. Co-evolving, in this context, means that we know our place as humans in a world that is more-than-human and more-than-visible, recognising and accepting that we influence it and are influenced by it. Again it is the interweaving that we need to become aware of. Fully accepting that we belong in the commonwealth of life on Earth means that we experience nature’s life systems—animals, trees, places, etc.—as being imbued with psycho-activity as well as physicality; with subject status as well as object status. And this, in turn, means that we encounter the living, more-than-human world in a reciprocal way, embracing the poetic and intensely intimate and personal responses that spring from our engagement with a psycho-active universe. (2)
The future that our hearts tell us is possible—the future that is not a mere continuation of the past—comes from heeding our own soul’s calling and how that calling responds to the call of life. A living and active relationship with that call brings each of us to live our own unique expression as our best, and only possible authentic, contribution to the whole of which we are an inalienable part. While our individual programming is indeed unique, arising as it does out of our personal history, it actually cloaks the deepest, truest self more than it expresses it. Once we learn to live as our authentic self, responding from that place to the call of life, the personal becomes impersonal—all the while remaining utterly unique. In fact, the more unique we get, the greater our contribution to the whole. In the new paradigm, being of service—as an individual woven into different human and more-than-human collectives— seems to be what life is about. Beyond the tensions of ‘me’ and ‘we,’ serving the whole brings fulfillment beyond imagining.
Weaving our selves back into nature also means coming to terms with and fully ‘re-membering’ our animal nature. So much of what the circle of creation is about—the embodiment, subtle sensing, intuitive right timing, natural rhythm; being an intrinsic part of a tribe or a collective; collectively knowing what is next to do— belongs to our deepest nature and is in no way alien to us as humans. It is part of our heredity from our ancestors in the animal realm. The collective task before us now is to understand humanity’s unique contribution to planet Earth: we are the beings who see Gaia’s beauty; who have the capacity to stand radically amazed at the extra-ordinary of the ordinary and the diversity of creation; who can know ourselves happy.
Throughout evolution, humans have shaped the Earth and the Earth and all living creatures have shaped us. This is just as true today and will be no different in the future. The more conscious we are of how we all—humans, animals and Earth alike—belong to life itself, and how we can co-create the next form together, the more beauty and delight there will be. Part of our unique role is to revel in the feeling of it.
Beyond Masculine and Feminine—by Creating and Generating More of Life
The generativity inherent in the new paradigm can be seen as the natural and exuberant interplay of the masculine and feminine archetypes. Each and every one of the facets described above constantly interweaves with and interpenetrates the others. But masculine and feminine are another dichotomy, another high-level abstraction achieved by subsuming specific qualities of reality. They do not reflect life, which is constantly becoming, creating, generating.
Beyond the collective wisdom that can arise from a Circle of Presence, a Circle of Creation spawns the possibility to generate more of life’s potential; both in the sense of re-generating—replenishing what we have taken and reconstituting what we have damaged— and in the sense of creating something novel that has never existed before.
By ‘generativity,’ we mean creation through discovery and discovery through creation; again the interweaving: we cannot tease them apart. As we lean together in collective inquiry into the realm of unmanifest potential, as we fall in love with the possible future, that which we ‘dis-cover’ gets created. Our inner knowing confirms that what we create is in some way already here: the future potential and possibilities are present, ready and available to be engaged.
The potential that we each uniquely hold needs an active engagement and participation through our unique contribution, in service to something larger than our individual or collective goals—in service to life itself—in order to manifest coherently. Living and creating from this deeper level of soul and kosmic connection, we experience spontaneous upwellings of delight and gratitude because what and how we create adds to the beauty of life. We become radically amazed by the diversity and radiance of all that is, our selves included. Living in this way, we are freed from attachment to the notion that life is only about seeking happiness or getting rid of pain, free to live life as an unfolding creative event, seeing the wonder in the most mundane encounter and being available to serve life at every moment.
Acknowledgement: The authors wish to express their gratitude to Bonnitta Roy, whose work on post-dialectical thought has offered us a framework for the experiences and patterns gathered through our collective action research.
(1) One definition given by Gebser of integral consciousness, which he calls the a-perspectival consciousness structure, is “a consciousness of the whole, an integral consciousness encompassing all time and embracing both man’s distant past and his approaching future as a living present.”
(2) Freya Mathews, “On Desiring Nature,” Indian Journal of Ecocriticism, 3, 2010.
Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth
Our first article gave an overview of the new human capacity we are starting to articulate —that we call Collective Presencing, the purpose of which is to allow us to systematically achieve collective wisdom. We described the two distinct phases that we see unfolding as a collection of individuals learns to become a collective capable of employing this capacity on behalf of the whole: firstly, becoming a circle of presence, then becoming a circle of creation.
This second article describes in more detail what it takes to become a circle of presence. What is the groundwork that individuals must do, through collective practice, in order to come into presence together as a collective container for a ‘circle being?’ And what is the journey like that brings us there?
In the first article, we saw that this first phase is a process of deepening and widening alignment that brings the individual members of the circle into an embodiment of their own authentic selves (deepening), on the one hand, and into a growing awareness of complexity and interrelatedness (widening), on the other.
We can liken the process of deepening to learning to hold a melody in order to be able to sing harmoniously in a choir. In the steps towards building a circle of presence, the individual is learning to discern what is authentic and what is learned and adaptive behaviour. Paradoxically, the way to do this is by learning to hear the melodies of others in the circle. We can discover our unique gifts only in interaction with others. When each member of the circle is grounded in their own authentic voice, then comes the practice of choral improvisation—learning to sense and ride the shifting patterns of the whole.
The process of widening takes us through the self and then beyond, in expanding waves through the other, the group and the field of future potential. Each of these stages of widening both requires and teaches distinct capacities, which are the main focus of this article. It is important to recognise that all these capacities can be learned: we feel that this learning is a crucial task for humanity at the dawn of the new epoch.
JOURNEY THROUGH THE SELF—Developing the capacity for subtle sensing to live an authentic life.
We live our lives in the realm of experience. In the manifest, everyday world, we tend to narrow this down to what we can experience with our physical senses to see, hear, smell, taste and touch. But as we journey deeper through the Self, we uncover a much wider spectrum of increasing subtlety. We notice that our experiences also include ideas, beliefs and emotions. Seeing this, in turn, involves consciousness and awareness—the capacity to reflect on our experiences and witness what is happening within. Harder to discern are the subtle perceptions—the hunches, intuitions and inner promptings that guide our steps along life’s path, if we but listen.
In all of this, the body is primordial. All experience (including reminiscence and dreaming of the future) happens in real time, through the body. Our subtle impressions, while they might not register with our gross physical senses, nevertheless have an undeniable impact on the material plane, and they are felt in the body before they become present to the mind. Indeed, it takes a conscious act of will to direct the attention towards them and allow their messages to percolate through into consciousness.
If we are to dance gracefully with complexity and uncertainty, we need to develop the capacity to sense the subtle dimensions in ourselves, in others and in the environment. We need to learn systematically to notice shifts in energy, vitality, life force, so that we can follow the signals showing us where life wants to flow.
As we develop our capacity for subtle sensing, great discernment is needed. Are we actually sensing something from the future or a prompting from the soul, or is it just wishful thinking or emotional projection? The physical body is both a storehouse of old memories and an exquisite receptor of information from the field around us. If we are to discern between what is old stuff and what is really here and now, we must become deep listeners.
So how does one go about developing this capacity? Many people think it’s a gift: you either have it or you don’t. But in reality, it is an inherent part of what it is to be human, and it can be learned.
The journey involves:
• withdrawing from our default way of seeing —taking a distance from matter itself, taking a wider view with a softer focus so that we can start to notice what is happening in relationships and energy exchange. We must learn to treat the information that comes to us from seeing, feeling, hearing and intuiting as equally valid and complementary to the information provided by thinking.
• slowing down—it takes time to let our subtle sensing reach our consciousness. This can require an intentional change of life—or work style—away from the rat race and towards something more restful and closer to nature.
• practicing sensing in everyday life—learning to stop and ask, moment by moment, ‘What am I called to do next?’ and to stay still until a clear prompting comes through.
• training the body to act as a container to hold the energies of feeling, thinking, chaos and wisdom, on behalf of the whole. Disciplines that train the body/spirit complex include aikido, tai chi, yoga, dance, dynamic meditation and many more. Developing this capacity for subtle sensing allows us to see what is actually happening in and around us without judgement, opening up to the fullness of experience at all levels.
As our field of perception expands, we learn to embrace the subtler layers of our experience, witness and suspend our habitual emotional reactions, and take full responsibility for our feelings, perspectives and actions. This emotional maturity allows us to relax more fully into relationship with others, sharing feelings without interpretation and knowing ourselves to be intimately linked to and held by a greater whole. As we learn to own the deepest parts of ourselves, there is congruence between our speech, actions and deepest feelings. The beauty of our essence shines through. Once I honour my deepest self, the only possible next step is to live my self to its fullest potential.
JOURNEY THROUGH THE OTHER—Developing the capacity to integrate shadow and enter into authentic relationship.
Unless we can be flexible in dealing with life, we cannot be fully present. As soon as a vulnerable spot is touched in our interactions with others, our defense mechanisms kick in. We are stuck acting out our survival patterns—which formed long before we were consciously acting in the world. These patterns are so deeply ingrained that we experience them as part of our personality: they are how we handle conflict and protect our vulnerabilities from others. We all have different patterns, but they all have one thing in common: they prevent us from relating in a healthy way with the other. Before you can relate authentically to another, you must first deal with your own inflexibility and heal the unconscious parts of your personality.
The ‘shadow’ is that part of us which, from our earliest childhood, was not allowed to live in the full light and so retreated into the shade. By the time we are grown, we are convinced it is the other who carries the shadow, not us. What we have disowned now sits so thoroughly in our blind spot that we quite unconsciously project it onto the other, where it looks completely real. Our task is to take back our projection and re-integrate the disowned part it represents. Often we first greet it with guilt or shame. It takes courage and sensitivity to open up and remember it as part of ourselves; when we do, we encounter the hurt child who needs space, attention and recognition. These shadow parts—the things about ourselves we want to hide—are essential to our true authenticity. They hold the gift of who we are; a gift we can bring to the world only when we are fully present; a gift without which we cannot live up to our fullest potential.
Having realised that my inflexibility and charged emotions are my own, there is a huge release of energy: there is no more need to fight, discuss, blame, hold back. I am finally free to embark on the journey towards authentic relationship. I can open my heart to others and see them as they are—no more and no less: as human beings with their own unique wounding and gifts.
The core practices here are:
• deep, clean listening—listening to the other with full attention, beyond, behind, between the spoken words. Simply witnessing and being present to what the other has to share without giving advice or seeking to fix.
• suspending judgement and prejudice—seeing my own beliefs and ideas as only one small part of reality.
• looking beneath the surface to discern the essential authentic self of the other, recognising what lies underneath their personality, wounds, shadows and survival patterns.
• staying open when emotionally triggered—transcending the mechanism of projection to honour the other even as her words ignite my anger or my fear.
• voicing disturbance—witnessing what is going on between the other and me, sharing my emotional charge in order to integrate it and to deepen our heart connection in service of the whole.
• embracing diversity—recognising and fostering the different ways of sharing and expressing in a group.
• impersonal love—being free from attachment, judgement, requirements or expectations; holding and letting life unfold.
As we embrace true relationship with the other, our sense of separateness diminishes. Our experience of ourselves as a flow expands as we learn to hold both the other and ourselves in full focus at the same time. This relational field needs to be mastered before we can live, love and respect on a group level, just as we need practice at the group level before we can start to live together in real emergence.
JOURNEY THROUGH THE GROUP—Developing the capacity to hold a collective field.
In Western society, where the focus is on the individual, we find it hard to imagine subordinating our individual interests to the well-being of the group and to its purpose. In the context of collective presencing, this subordination entails neither submerging the individual identity nor conforming to a group norm. Rather, it is simply the next step in our development, from dependent over independent to inter-dependent; a recognition that we cannot attain our highest potential without the group, and that the group needs our full potential in order to attain its highest purpose. We recognise that if any element of the group holds back, then the whole system is holding back. In this context, leadership rotates or is assumed by the collective. We are all leaders. We participate fully and share overall responsibility.
Once every member is participating fully, each can relax and deepen their trust in the group as a whole. I can open to the group as a community that takes care of me in those areas where I am not the expert. I can follow the suggestions of others who have more expertise or experience than I do. Only when we learn to act out of our unique, authentic self can we experience the full holding of the group. Allowing oneself to be held by the group is as important as offering one’s contribution, but this can often be challenging for individuals used to leading, coaching or facilitating others. Paradoxically, though, it is often when one member of the group takes a risk—showing some vulnerability—that the collective really shows up.
We saw in the previous section some of the unconscious dynamics that go on in an interaction between just two people. Multiply that by (n x (n-1) to get a feeling of what is at play in a group. Opening into the inner realms of the collective means not only releasing our judgements and projections on individuals, but also awakening to the deeply held shared assumptions and mental models of the group which, because they are shared, stay underground out of sight. This shared culture both creates our sense of belonging and limits our vision and understanding. If a group can step beyond these invisible boundaries, new ways of thinking, acting and creating will unfold.
Above and beyond the interpersonal dynamics and shared beliefs, each group operates within a subtle energetic field that is about neither entity nor process, you nor me, purpose nor path. It is neither particle nor wave—rather, it is both. It is the subtle, structuring mesh of our combined potentials—a web of invisible strands holding a collective potential that has never yet seen the light of day. Harnessing the potentials contained in the group’s field is one of the core capacities of a Circle of Presence, and it needs some explaining.
Looking more deeply into the subtle phenomena that lie beyond and beneath the 3-dimensional world of our everyday sensory experience, we discern the realms of Spirit and Source. These two are like the first couple that emerged from the One at the dawn of creation—the first paradox that spawned all the others: light/darkness, yin/yang, inner/outer, masculine/feminine. When we disengage from our immediate experience in order to witness, think and reflect upon it, we are moving towards Spirit—the realm of consciousness and awareness. When we drop down into our bodies, away from words and concepts into the world of ‘night consciousness,’ of subtle energies, sensing and deep inner knowing, we are moving towards Source—the realm of unmanifest potential.
The practice par excellence for connecting with Source is ‘holding space’ for potential to manifest—and that makes it a core practice in a Circle of Presence. It is what good parents do for their children, and what good facilitators do when hosting conversations and change processes in groups. It should also be a core competency in leadership teams required to deal with complexity and uncertainty. Perhaps the greatest challenge in this subtle work is its invisibility: there is no way to observe it being done and no scientifically accepted way to demonstrate its impact. Simply put, it involves connecting, through the body, with the unmanifest potential of whatever is being held—be it a person, a group, a place or a project. To hold space is to open the body and the subtle senses into conscious connection with the subtle energy of present potential in service of what wants to or can become manifest. It demands emptiness and deep inner stillness to embrace this potential without any attachment to a particular outcome, only holding a diffuse intention for the good of the whole. Holding space is an inherently feminine practice, which women instinctively recognise, as they have a natural tendency to hold space for people, places and projects, just as they hold space in their bodies for unborn babies, unconditionally, without knowing what the baby will be like once it is born.
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Kosmos’ collective presencing series – part one
first published in Kosmos magazine, Spring/Summer 2012
some ideas have evolved or changed since then!
Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth
This is the first in a series of articles introducing the phenomenon and practice of Collective Presencing, a new capacity evolving in humanity at this time. Great thinkers have foreseen its coming— we recognise it in Aurobindo’s descent of the supramental and Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere. But what exactly do those terms mean? Where these gifted individuals intuited and envisioned the birth of this new collective capacity at the dawn of the last century, we are now starting to be able to describe it from experience. While many might recognise the phenomenon from transpersonal group work and other such practices, so far as we are aware, this is the first attempt to articulate it as a path and a set of capacities that can be intentionally developed.
We live in complexity all the time these days. There are no simple solutions—not even complicated ones. As our life conditions have complexified, so has our capacity to deal with complexity. And yet the globalisation of our species has itself provoked a constellation of systemic threats of such nightmarish proportions that no one seriously imagines that any one mind can navigate a rational path to salvation on behalf of the whole. And yet that is what we keep trying to do, as we wait in vain for the inspirational leader who can extricate us from the mess we’re in, throwing up our hands in disgust at the antics of our politicians, our governments, our industrialists, our economists, our environmentalists, our scientists… all those ‘theys’ who should do something about the state of the world.
Deep down, though, we know that when we look to our leaders for solutions, we are looking in the wrong place, in the wrong way. Understanding how the universe evolves can provide some clues—the process of complexification that has been underway since the dawn of cosmogenesis has been accompanied at every step by an interiorisation, which allows the mind of the living universe— and certainly that most complex of beings, man—to interpenetrate ever more deeply with the subtle workings of the Kosmos.
There is overwhelming evidence that human consciousness is evolving, moving from collective tribal living, where the individual was totally embedded in the life patterns of the collective; through a gradual, often painful, process of individuation, with the emphasis on the will and sovereignty of the individual; to what is emerging in our time: a conscious return to collectivism where individuated, or self-actualised, individuals voluntarily— sometimes temporarily—pool their consciousness in a search for the elusive collective intelligence that can help us to overcome the stupendous challenges now facing us as a species as a consequence of how our developmental trajectory has manifested on the physical plane thus far.
So human evolution has something to do with human consciousness awakening first to itself, then to its own evolution and then to a recognition of and, finally, an embodied experience of the ways in which we are organically part of a larger whole, as we have always been but have forgotten. As we enter this new stage of individual/ collective awakening, men and women are being increasingly called to practice the new life-form composed of groups of individuated individuals merging their collective intelligence as the ‘Circle Being.’
These collective entities are not made up of a specific, finite group of individuals who stay together continuously. Their DNA lies in the theme of the inquiry; their metabolism is the individual and collective practices that enable men and women to join the collective inquiry. To join the circle is to offer ourselves up to a larger purpose for the duration of our participation and to allow ourselves to be used by the Mystery—our bodies and minds as sensing organs of the whole, and our lineages, biographies and knowledge as resources, filters and facets of diversity through which the future bubbling up in the middle, called forth by the shared focus and consciously-held intent, can find unique expression.
What if creating these collective beings is simply the next step of human evolution, an expression of our next level of complexity as a species, and the next step towards the ever-deeper integration of complex consciousness into the fabric of the Kosmos?
One such collective inquiry, unfolding over the past 5 years, has been held by a core group and a loose network of women, mostly based in Western Europe and the US, engaged in a practice we call ‘Women Moving the Edge.’ From the outset, the focus of inquiry has been on moving the edge of collective intelligence, which has become an embodied exploration of the feminine principle as it is manifesting in the Kosmos at this time. Through periodic gatherings of between 5 and 18 women and regular conference calls with a small core group, we have danced, sung, sat, spoken, painted, wept, laughed, eaten, contemplated and constellated ourselves into an ever deeper experience of individual and collective connection to Source.
The findings of this ongoing collective inquiry are now coalescing into an articulation of this new human capacity, which we are calling Collective Presencing. Not only are we now able to recognise some of the components of this capacity and identify practices that can help us to develop it, one of its essential aspects is that these practices can connect us not only with the natural realm of our living planetary home, but also with the field of unmanifest potential that lies waiting in the subtle dimensions. The purpose of this article, and others to follow, is to begin to unpack some of these practices and to share our intuitions about what they make possible.
Foundational Practice: The Circle
The circle is the mother of all organisational forms, and the foundation of the earliest human cultures—those with the deepest connection to the living world in which they were embedded. Simply using the Circle Practice (1), with the intention of focusing together on whatever question is in the middle, can shift a group from opinionated discussion to reflective shared inquiry.
As the circle continues to sit, over time, with an intention of developing its capacity for collective discernment and wisdom, seemingly extraordinary things become possible. We see two distinct phases in the development from a circle of individuals gathering around a theme of inquiry into a genuinely collective presence able to engage in generative collective action in service of life and evolution not in the Kosmos but as the Kosmos.
Phase One: The Circle of Presence
The first phase is a process of deepening and widening alignment that brings the individual members of the circle into an embodiment of their own authentic selves (deepening), on the one hand, and into a growing awareness of complexity and interrelatedness (widening), on the other. Both dimensions of the process take place simultaneously, but here we unpack the two separately to show what is going on. Although the learning during this first phase unfolds in the individuals around the rim of the circle, the collective context is crucial as the circle reflects back and affirms the individual as she learns to trust her inner and subtle sensing and to feed it back into the centre whenever appropriate.
Each step of the way, the practice involves a paradoxical movement and attention. On the one hand, the feminine opening up to experience, on the other hand, the masculine focusing on a specific aspect of experience.
The deepening movement calls the individual’s focus ever inwards, starting by observing what is, with a focus on my full experience (physical, emotional and subtle) in the here and now, of whatever is arising. This practice builds the capacity to open the mind. As this experience stabilises, the practice shifts to accepting what is, and from there, to honouring what is. Here the focus is on widening and deepening my experience, trusting the subtle sensations as they arise in me, and moving beyond. These practices build the capacity to open the heart. Finally, the practice opens out into living what is, with the focus on sharing and expressing my full experience, including the inner and subtle aspects,rewarded by a growing ability to live authentically. This practice builds the capacity to open the will. (2)
The widening movement expands the individual’s embrace, going through the deepening practices of observing, honouring and living what is, described above, starting with my relationship to myself, and panning out to include my relationship with others, with the group, and with future potential. The fruits of walking this path include a fuller experience of one’s own inner being, a more expansive sense of self and a connection with one’s inner gifts. I gain the capacity to connect in a truly authentic way that allows me to witness the authentic self of another, to heartfully experience our common humanity and to appreciate and invite diversity in any relationship. A corollary of this is the ability to recognise and integrate my own shadow and stop projecting it out on others. I learn how to hold a collective field, enabling me to participate more fully, become aware of shared assumptions and have a deeper appreciation of others’ full potential. Lastly, I learn how to surrender to the future potential, and this enables me to start to perceive the phenomena present in the subtle future field, to source and share from that field, to see new patterns and meaning and act on them.
When enough members of the circle are able to be present on all these levels, they are able to reach authentic collective wisdom.
But more is possible and the circle can move into a next phase.
Phase Two: The Circle of Creation
The capacity to be present on all these levels is now woven together in a shared field of attention where the collective can become an entity in itself. All participants in the group now speak and act in coherence with that entity, still related with the inquiry in the centre. The deepening and transformation of the individuals around the rim continues apace, but the essence of this practice remains collective, and the Circle Practice deepens in certain aspects. It brings us to a place where we can weave human consciousness and intention into the generative processes of life itself. It is a movement towards ever-widening harmony and coherence that echoes through ever subtler realms of existence and can have—we believe—a most astounding impact on the manifest dimension in which we all play out our lives.
This second phase continues the process of deepening and widening alignment, taking it to a place that most of us are unfamiliar with: an experience of the subtle dimensions that our physical senses cannot apprehend, for which we must use subtle senses that we have un-learned to trust. Attempts to speak and articulate in and from these experiences become much more challenging. Our Western language has a build-in fragmentation, which clearly demarcates object and subject as separate entities. How, then, to speak from experiences of wholeness, of interweaving and interpenetration?
In essence, here, we are moving from a basis of acquired authenticity towards what is possible when we live from an authentic and generative space: the true creation that we were born into the Kosmos to manifest.
As in the first phase, the deepening movement continues to focus on the practices that open the mind, the heart and, especially, the will. The widening movement gradually interweaves the individual soul into the many dimensions of existence—space, time and future potential —through an ever richer relationship with the immanent soul in all of creation. What this might mean for the lived experience of daily life is something we are slowly but surely mapping out as our own personal and collective journeys unfold.
From the perspective of the individual, at the outset of this phase I start to focus on my soul’s calling, and to interweave the different levels and dimensions of my self. This process is not straightforward and has its own hurdles: Who am I to have a Soul’s Calling? Shouldn’t I just roll over and go back to sleep? And yet, this stirring calls me to participate, moment by moment, more deeply in life itself. The fact that I am anchored in a collective practice with others in the same inquiry supports me to take one courageous step after another, aligned with life itself. Our personal stories become raw materials into the collective process; we see common themes recurring and archetypes start to emerge. Together, we begin to acknowledge ourselves as subtle, collective and cosmic beings. As time passes, I find myself expressing more of my Soul’s Calling through interweaving my life, my work and my passion; I start to enjoy an Emergent, Authentic Life. This is not something I have sat down and designed. It is something that seems to happen of its own accord when we are open to ever subtler layers in ourselves and in the environment.
The widening process now moves beyond the sphere of the individual and into the sphere of the collective. It is important at this point in the story to remember that the living heart of a collective entity is a field of shared inquiry held in an open container where the potential can manifest. Every meeting of the circle takes place as a continual dance of alignment of unique individual perspectives into a collective intention that can deepen and broaden the coherence of the field of inquiry, enabling coherent and generative manifestation in the world, for the good of the greater whole.
Moving into the collective sphere, then, our undivided focus is now centred on the collective calling. As we interweave the diversity in the group, we lean in to inquire what it is that the collective soul is calling us to do. We learn to hold the intensity, the disturbance, the not-knowing that are invoked by this seemingly impossible question… and to wait. When clarity arises, it comes not out of the minds around the edge, but out of the centre. This is no longer a circle of human personalities, it is a bubble of cosmic consciousness that has seeped through from the invisible realms into the container we have lovingly formed and held, focused not on each other but, as one, on the mystery in the middle. This is the space of collective sourcing. This is what it means to live the authentic collective—the Circle Being.
With the Circle Being now stable, the going becomes almost effortless. Our shared attention is riveted on the field of subtle place and time pulsing just out of range of our habituated physical senses, behind the veil that separates the realm of future potential from the manifest domain. Our subtle senses attuned, questing, to the subtle context of our shared inquiry, we are content to sit, with our physical eyes and ears ‘on hold’ until revelation dawns from the rich field of the invisible and unmanifest. We observe the synchronicities that speak to us of the interweaving of all life, we begin to dare to drop our agendas for Making Things Happen and lean in to a radical acceptance of cosmic timing and place.
We begin to notice that the information we seek is coming to us from nature, from the arts, from the archetypal and mythological dimensions, and so we open up to the abundant and profligate Mystery. Knowing doesn’t come in bits and pieces now, it comes Whole—body, mind, spirit —gross, subtle, causal. Words can portray only the tip of the iceberg. We are invited to colours, lines, textures, shapes, sound and melody, touch, movement, embrace, laughter, tears and an ineffable inner knowing that is hard to express. We release into wonder, surrender into existential trust in the rhythms of nature, the powers of place, and begin to repeat the mantra, smiling: What if it’s easy? From the embrace of this strong, subtle container, we can begin to give language and form to our subtle knowing about whatever project is at the centre of our inquiry. From this place we can see and birth the next, minimal, elegant step out into the field of action—one at a time— trusting that it will wise, that it will serve the whole.
Now at the culmination of the journey—or as far as we have yet been able to perceive—we know we are not alone in the Kosmos. We can focus on playing our full part in the generative processes of life, bringing our collectively aligned intention to play in a full interpenetration with further dimensions of creation, both ‘known’ and unsuspected. We notice the feedback from life itself and respond accordingly, opening our minds, bodies and heart for cocreation with the subtle. We understand that human free will and focused intention are our species’ unique and needed contribution to the Kosmos—a gift from evolution itself, a gift of consciousness to itself. Understanding also that we are not alone in being conscious, we use this gift to invoke the other dimensions into consenting co-creation for the good of the whole. We are in love with the Future, continuously sensing into its unmanifest potential, and we joyfully embark on a continuous collective action research project, funded by the Kosmos.
At the time of writing, we are teetering on the edge of a dawning intuition that the full flowering of this collective human capacity we are seeking to develop is a collective lovemaking with future’s potential: a full-body/mind/spirit, no-holds-barred consummation of evolutionary potential with no ‘little death’ at the moment of orgasm. It’s time to enjoy the Collective, Creative and Generative Life that has always been our birthright.
We cannot emphasise strongly enough the benefits of these practices. The benefit to individuals who participate regularly in one or more such collective inquiries is a quickening and deepening of the maturation process, which culminates in the rich rewards of the Authentic Life. For the collective and the inquiries at hand, the practice brings the benefit of generating wise action on behalf of the whole, as well as a deep, ongoing engagement with the social and natural field—the level from which generative social transformation of the kind we so badly need can spring.
(1) For more description of what Circle Practice entails, see The Circle Way by PeerSpirit.
(2) Readers familiar with Otto Scharmer’s Theory U will recognize our use fo Scharmer’s terms Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will. For an explanation of how Collective Presencing builds on Theory U, go here.
Download this article: 120500 1st Collective Presencing Kosmos overview.
Lots of thanks go to Kosmos Magazine, and its editor Nancy Roof, who gave us the opportunity to publish these articles in their beautiful magazine! (first published in Kosmos magazine, Spring/Summer 2012)