The universe is not a place, it is a story; it is an unfolding creative event.
– Brian Swimme
I regard the essence of the notion of process as given by the statement: Not only is everything changing, but all is flux. That is to say, what is is the process of becoming itself, while all objects, events, entities, conditions, structures, etc., are forms that can be abstracted from this process.
– David Bohm, 1980
Back in 2005, Brian Swimme released a DVD set about the Powers of the Universe. In it he describes the basic universal powers he has discovered through his life’s work as a scientist and cosmologist. His teaching captivated me from beginning to end. These powers of the universe might surprise you: seamlessness; centration; allurement; emergence; homeostasis; cataclysm; synergy; transmutation; transformation; interrelatedness; radiance. These powers that inhabit and direct the vast universe are also at work and alive in us, whether we realise it or not. While our Western lifestyle might not feel very conducive to emergence, allurement, synergy, radiance, interrelatedness… still these qualities are within the grasp of each and every one of us, and available for deployment at any time.
In his talk about the power of emergence, Swimme tells us that the universe is not a place, it is a story. It is an ongoing creative event. I had to let that sink in. Deeply. If the universe really is a story, then everything in it is a story. In the first chapter I described being present as a process – the process of becoming present. I mentioned elsewhere how my teacher would repeat over and over: “We – are – a – process!” We are always becoming. Life is becoming. In recent years, a new branch of philosophy has emerged: process philosophy. It seeks to explain how every moment is always new, totally novel. Of course each moment is also built on previous moments, on our memories and what happened before, but there is always the possibility for novelty – in every moment!
If life is essentially an unfolding story, then there is no master plan – just a pattern of ever-expanding, ever-deepening, ever-intensifying interpenetration and interweaving, with all those universal powers at play. Ultimately, what we are exploring in these pages are the conditions that must be in place for us to intentionally deploy this capacity to live in the unfolding story of an ongoing creative event, collectively conscious. The universe is not a place, but an energetic pattern. Our lives and identities are not fixed, but unfolding. Our collapsing Western society is not a fixed thing: it, too, is an event that is evolving and becoming.
My spell checker still says generativity is not a word in the English dictionary. But Helen, my friend and linguist, says I can use it safely; it is by now part of our shared language. To me, it is the word that best captures the quality of this unfolding, creative event. In everything that we do, we can ask ourselves the question: does this enhance the life force? When we engage with one of these breakthrough questions, is this quality present in our conversation? Or is it heavy and (too) serious? What if all the collective action research we do from now on can tick the boxes on allurement, emergence, interrelatedness, synergy and the rest?
If we see life – and the projects we find important and the situations we interpret as serious problems – as a process with no master plan, then life becomes more an affair of tinkering. I didn’t know what the word ‘tinkering’ meant when I first read it in a blog post of Nancy White, who wrote about tinkering as a way of creating knowledge. Actually, she calls it ‘playing with knowledge’: “I love the idea of tinkering and find it central to the practice of stewarding technology for ourselves, our communities and networks. Imagine. Create. Reflect. Share. Adjust and go at it again. Experiment. Mash-up and recreate. Build upon the work of others. It is for me a deeply ingrained practice of learning, both by myself and with others, particularly in my communities of practice.”
Life as becoming, life as a process of tinkering, as ‘playing with life’, might present a grand paradox given the urgency with which we experience our problems and the many unmet needs of the world.
Love and Action – Love in Action
What is needed is care; a great deal of patience; and the laying aside of many preconceived opinions, wishful dreams, and the blind sway of demands. There is a need for a certain detachment toward oneself and the world, a gradually maturing equilibrium of all the inherent components and consciousness structures predisposed in ourselves, in order that we may prepare the basis for the leap into the new mutation.
– Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, p.300
Quote from participant:
In Western society, there is no connection between Love and Action. It is not thought of in the same frame of mind. Love and action/manifestation are not connected with the infinity sign, until now. They are connected in the new paradigm. Often when talking about how to make things happen, the concrete is important, but we missed this awareness. What seems to be the force, the cohesiveness, is love that really motivates us to make something bigger than ourselves happen. This needs to come into awareness and full presence… acknowledge that love is in the middle.
Remember my original question, the first one I ever wrote down? What are the basic, universal, archetypal, human principles for living and working communities of the future? Not for the sake of community per se, but in order to create places where everyone and everything – including the Earth – can develop optimally, in order to bring about paradise on Earth? I think these two quotes, from Gebser and from Judy, give the answer. Short and powerful.
We have seen that we can invite the future in – or the potential – and be in a loving relationship with the unfolding of what is next. This is a state of relationship without judgement. Love is not understood here as ‘the good’, in contradiction with ‘the bad’. Rather, love is recognised as a fundamental impulse of life, a mysterious power. You might have noticed: we are back to the quintessential witnessing quality. It is a free flow of energy, with no resistance, no needing to know. Connecting that with action in the physical world is quite something.
When we are aligned – collectively conscious – we don’t attach. Neither in a positive nor in a negative way. It is not always easy. What arises from the new insight might challenge our habitual patterns. Still, when the action, the next minimal step becomes conscious to all those of us involved, we say: “We’ll do it anyway.” That is an expression of love in action.
In 3.2 I shared our view on how emergence – novel insights around a collective inquiry – can happen through the synergy of and ongoing movement between ‘holding space for potential to manifest’ and ‘staying in inquiry for inspiration to show up’. I see this as the process that can guide us to collective wisdom. Now that we have reached the chapters describing Circles of Creation, we move from collective wisdom to generative, collective action. One of my greatest lessons on this journey has been that emergence, related to action, is quite simple: it’s just a matter of getting up and doing it!
Radical amazement with the ordinary
I prefer Enchantment to Enlightenment. May we embrace the divine ordinary. Chopping wood and carrying water.
– John Davis, comment in blog post Magellan, June ’12
While the man of craft and technology surrendered the naturalness of man the domesticator, man today is also surrendering his laboriously acquired second nature, culture, by losing his own artistic skills and workmanship.
– Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, p.306
It was in Greece, at Axladitsa, where I originally started my writing, that Vanessa Reid evoked radical amazement as an element in the practice she calls ‘conscious kitchen’ (knowing where your ingredients come from, who prepared the food, etc.). She pronounced her radical amazement at how the peas are aligned in the pod, how the carrot radiates out from the centre, how the herbs grow along the side of the trail. The experience of radical amazement, too, is related with the practice of witnessing. It’s the joy of recognising the wonder in each other, and in all that surrounds us. It’s radical amazement about the ordinary – just a carrot, just me, just you, just our own uniqueness that feels to us just normal. Just one action, one next, minimal step. Just a try-out, a prototype, and then a next one…
The ordinary is all around us and we hardly notice, and there are novel combinations and synergies that we might not see because they are so simple! When we are present in a shared inquiry – collectively conscious – then we can point out the simple and novel combinations to each other; we suddenly see the treasures. There is an elegant simplicity and beauty, both in the ordinary and on that other side of complexity.
This radical amazement – some might call it sacredness – is a perspective we can have on everything, from the most mundane and most routine chores to any kind of spiritual practice, and all the way to the most technological innovation. If I just list what I have read today and yesterday, the radical amazement for life and for the newly created links in how we live, and work together – it is downright fantastic!
The story of Women Moving the Edge cannot by any mainstream standard be called a success. There were no huge crowds, we didn’t earn a lot of money, hardly anyone on the globe knows about it. But while it might not have been successful, it has been oh, so rich, with such deep ripple effects in all of our lives. What we did was really, really simple: we sat in circle, shared an inquiry, practiced a lot of witnessing and a lot of listening. There were no fancy techniques; no PowerPoint presentations, no specific goals to achieve. Still we created magic, we were filled with awe, curiosity, excitement and brimming with new insights. Our adventure eventually led to this practice called Collective Presencing, which is now being shared out into the world, inspiring others to practice it throughout the process of prototyping and manifestation.
We just lived our lives; we followed our inner guidance, our soul’s calling into our collective calling. We engaged wholeheartedly, with our vulnerability, sensations, dreams, dancing, drawing and everything else that poured forth. Also our intellect, our understanding of what is at play in the big theatre of the world. So much hardship to contend with, so many changes coming our way; we learned how to be with what is and comfortable with the not-knowing-yet. We also learned how to be conscious of all the good things in life that we so easily take for granted. It was simple. And it felt awesome! It still does. Embodied deep living is when radical amazement is possible.
Quote from participant:
I am resonating with the beauty of the ordinary. It seems that everything in Nature is what it is and can be appreciated as beautiful in its simply being and when we can get our judgement out of the way, that leads to a place of stillness. An utterly calm and wonderful place to be. And in that place everything is just right and just is.
Quote from participant:
Let’s be joyful about what we did. We generated something! The wonder! Whoever could have thought we could do such a thing?! We did it!! It is not to brag, but isn’t this amazing?! Incredible. It’s nothing to do with making money – we are all willing to contribute in our own ways – with money, with attention, our voices, preparation, harvest… Trusting the beauty, trusting timing… that leads to co-creation. To move your own flow, and knowing that your own flow is an essential thread in the collective weaving. Denying this leads to our fragmented minds. – Ria
Joy, radiance and bliss
People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life; I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
Since reading the Hacker Ethic, quite some years ago, I have known deep inside me that whatever is there to come or to build, joy and passion would need to be an integral part. Reading the story of how the operating system Linux came into being, and having lived with a son – then only 14 years old – who was full of passion about helping this community of programmers thrive, I knew it was a feature of the future that should not be denied.
I heard later, in many gatherings and trainings that I was part of, the need for more play. I wondered what people were actually searching or hoping for. It is not the play for its own sake, I guess, but this quality of lightness, instead of being so serious about the questions and intentions at hand.
People of my age (I’m over 60 now) have either had to behave, or work, or take responsibility – meaning that a lot of our patterns tend to make us somewhat over-serious. When I’m together with younger people, I notice they are more playful. I am reminded of my grand children (aged 0-10) who love to play and laugh the whole day long. Why don’t we do that? What have we lost in our current version of growing up?
I do think we need more playfulness. We know and deeply realise that not everything can or will be nice and easy, but with – collectively conscious – groundedness and presence, the experience can be lighter, easier and still leave space for laughter, dancing, joy, awe and allurement. Being with trauma, fully realising all the ugly stuff that is going on in the world – witnessing it in a shared space – leaves also space for wonder, bliss and the awesomeness of this thing we call life on Earth. If you are able to live with your heart wide open, knowing quite well that awful experiences can happen, being able to keep the joy in your life while mainstream society is in a process of collapse, this seems to me like a sign that you have given up your attachments to outcome. Most of your ego patterns are gone and you are able to live this life as the unfolding, creative event that it truly is.
I wrote early in early 2009 that I wanted life to be more intense! In my dairy I find:
Things can be serious, but don’t need to be heavy. Serious things can be light, from stillness. The heaviness is not of life itself; it is what we attach to it.
and humans co-create.
That’s to enjoy, and challenging.
Is there heaviness in the bud opening?
in the rain pouring down?
Is not lightness that goes with life?
Many times, in my original Belgian women’s circle, when we would sit in a shared silence I would come to this specific experience that I used to name ‘joyful sacredness’. A deep, inner joy that feels sacred. Helen described it as: joy is a reward for coherence and alignment. When we pay attention to alignment inside and out, we are in flow, it is blissful. If we indeed live in the practice of constantly moving toward greater alignment and coherence, with a greater and ever expanding holier/wholer whole, in ever greater holons, bringing more bits into the batter, then that full participation seems to bring forth some of the powers Brian Swimme discovered: synergy, interrelatedness, emergence and radiance!
In chapter 6 we mentioned: What if following your passion-bliss-joy were the way to live, and creating the new world would be a by-product? Can we imagine all doing that at the same time, in alignment with each other? Life is happening anyway, whether we participate fully consciously or not.
According to Brian Swimme the powers of the universe are not separate powers, but work together in an ultimate and larger radiance, which is beyond description. He says “part of our intention is to be in mutually enhancing relationship.” If more of us stepped into our vulnerability and our unique power, following our soul’s calling in service of a collective calling, would we not be a good example of radiance in the human realm? Vulnerability – as a core element in love-making – seems to be key. It is a gift to ourselves and to the others in the circle. In vulnerability we open up more, something pours through the cracks of a no-longer-needed identity, and a wider space opens up – to embrace more (of others) and radiate more (to others). Radiance bursts forth from the vulnerable core. Surrendering to the wonder of it all, overcome by the delight of each fresh encounter, radiance is born.
Can we hold that much joy? The vastness, the intensity? This level of aliveness is at once exciting and humbling. Those of us who are used to numbing our senses tend to jump out of the intensity. Others of us seek peak experiences but then miss the sense of wholeness, alignment and mutuality. I have already stressed the importance of learning to hold a lot of intensity (link). It is an embodied practice, to hold the intensity of collective trauma, of not-knowing-yet, and also of this exciting aliveness! While we can speak of different forms of intensity, the capacity to stay centred through the intensity is the same.
True radiance doesn’t care what it looks like. That’s how I understand the last of Angeles Arrien’s four principles: be present; show up; speak your truth, and don’t attach to the outcome. It seems difficult for our Western minds to understand that the point in taking action is not to manifest or to create, but to be radiant with life! More and more. The integration of being and doing/living seems like the next stage of species growth, opening up whole new vistas. Radiance seems to be the by-product of a radical generosity, both with our many ways of knowing and with our surrendering to receive the knowing that surrounds and interpenetrates us. We are beginning to understand that to live in bliss is within our reach. We can do evolutionary work in a celebratory way! Do we really need to buy into the idea that it first needs to get worse? What if it is not about getting out of the mess, but getting into radiance, joy, pleasure, flow?
Quote from participant:
That for me is really participating in the radiance – this abandon to the joie de vie, the élan vital, the magnificent burgeoning life force that we’ve shut down to in our civilisation, but it’s STILL THERE! – Helen
Source: Wondering what is becoming possible?
Spirit: Curious for the new insights and answers
Life: Embracing more aliveness.
Quotes from participants:
What comes up for me is the word ‘magnificence’ – health, vitality, coherence are all great words & concepts & things to have, but it’s WAY bigger than health & vitality, it’s this magnificence! How wonderful it all is! And maybe that’s the intention – to join in all that, instead of manifesting something. – Ria
As I listen to all of this, I am aware of how attached I am, fond of my feet of clay; and aware of my appetite, my thirsting for a simple life. How paradoxically that, for me, so strongly reflects or embodies the magnificence. … Somehow the striving for more, for better, for further, is ceasing now; just in order to sink into the magnificence of what is, exactly as it is. We speak a lot about presencing the future, calling in the future. But what would we be calling the future into if not into the already always unspeakably abundant and magnificent present that so often we just don’t see, here in plain sight. Maybe part of participation in the radiance is to hold that steady state – in a way that nourishes the soul, and not getting caught up in turmoil – personal, and in the world over all. – Helen
Awe can blow apart any sense that we know what is going on. The question is, are we looking for the comfort of probing what we already believe or are we looking to experience life as it is beyond our preconceptions. One thing life keeps showing to me is that it is not what I think it is, that my mental frameworks are temporary life rafts that are swept away by the currents of existence.
– Anthony Lawlor, Facebook, summer ‘13
Quote from participant:
The point of the interpenetration is almost to increase the intensity.It is to increase the interrelatedness of all the dimensions in their different aspects – it increases the complexity and it increases the consciousness that is capable of experiencing the magnificence. It is all a huge symphony of joy! On all imaginable levels. Learning to share that with other beings… to open up our consciousness so that others can partake in our senses, but we can then also partake in their vistas, which we normally can’t with our sensory systems. So, it is very much about the interplay and sharing of information. It seems to be about experiencing in many different ways, an ever increasing whole. It is all very ecstatic.
Collective lovemaking with potential
It is surely no coincidence that the German word for ‘creative’ is schöpferisch, from schöpfen, ‘to draw up water’, for the creative person ‘draws up’ from the wellsprings of life, from the life-soul, bringing to the light of day and the thinking realm of consciousness what has been forgotten as well as what has not yet been realized. The creative person externalizes what has been recalled; recollection becomes memory.
– Jean Gebser p 319; italics from the book
This might be a strange title, yet it comes closest to describing what a Circle of Creation is actually about. As mentioned before, my original focus was on the future instead of on potential, and I asked myself: “Collective lovemaking with the future, what would it look like? All elements of lovemaking, wild, deep, soft, everything!?” Actually it is a very good metaphor as it brings up all the lovely feelings of lovemaking, now applied to thinking and sensing the future/potential, of what is to come. By now, we have experienced it: the joy of being in collective flow, like in a collective improvisation, which interweaves ever more aspects of the cosmos. Not just one small group of musicians, but all co-creating together. In exactly that way which is always juicy, always edgy!
It is crucial to be aware of the liminal space, between what is and what is possible. I notice it all the time in the train or underground, people are inside their own bubble, not aware of any connection with anyone else. They withdraw into themselves. Love is when I am aware that there is relationship, when energy is going back and forth. If we put love between us and the potential… us and the wild, us and the deep.. the soft, everything? The collective sourcing, the sharing of the pain and trauma, playing music without asking the group for permission, reading a poem for the first time, it all leads us to realise: to be alive is to be on the edge, together!
For practitioners of Collective Presencing this sensing into the potential has become a habit, a normal state of being. Always – collectively conscious – sensing into what is trying to form, what possible connections might lead to a next minimal step? It is so joyful and expectant, as if constantly on the outlook for what will happen next time your lover is around. The sense of joyful expectation. The sense of Santa Claus bringing gifts that are a full surprise, but just right.
As practitioners, we constantly tune our ears to notice the story coming into disclosure. Having been with practitioners in online circles, reaching across continents, we are sure we can now do this across the planet. The potential for this way of gathering together has been amplified and magnified. We can connect across many so-called boundaries; they are permeable, there can be flow, in simplicity and with a lot of subtlety.
Manifestation – birthing – creation – generativity?
I struggled long with what to call this quality of circle, until I finally settled on Circle of Creation. I was wondering, do we really manifest something? The root of the word manifest comes from the Latin ‘manus’, meaning ‘hand’. Essentially, what is manifest is what can be held with the hand, something solid, tangible and visibly stable. To me, there was too much of the implicit assumption of linear causality in that verb: first there is nothing, then we do something and then it is manifested.
Another version was: are we birthing the new? The mother is not birthing, but giving birth to the child. Did the couple create the child? Did we create this new collective practice? Do I create my garden, when it is full of the mystery of how the plants grow from the seeds? How the perennials come back every year and still grow the same kind of flowers?
Do you remember the dessert cart phenomenon, from the first Moving the Edge gathering? Nobody proposed it, nobody agreed, but one person stood up and the rest followed: the break happened. Nobody manifested this coffee break; nobody created it – or maybe we all did it? Including the waiter who had brought the cart into the conference room. I think our language is just too poor to express this quality of collectively-being-in-the-doing. Most of our language names the linear causality, the manifestation, the things. We long for words and concepts that speak of the complex intricacy, the interweaving, the interpenetration, the ever-widening coherence, the unfolding capacity of ever more generativity amongst us.
Quotes from participants:
Something else that I have noticed from going back through my journal – when you go back over the notes (and our harvest of notes is high quality), with hindsight you can see the prophetic quality. The whole business of holding space for the emergence of the future potential… and is sensing the future not causing it? Is that true? To what extent is holding space for the emerging potential making it more likely to happen; rather than something else?
Maybe holding the space and sensing into what is held has the power to manifest? – Judy
The Bushmen say: “forever there is a dream dreaming us”.
Next: 9.7 Opening to We-now-here and potential
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