This book tells a story.
A story of a group of women intrigued about what else was possible if they were fully present with body, heart and mind and then engaged in an inquiry that was complex and inspiring. A story that unfolded over the span of six years and 13 gatherings. Of course, it grew out of other stories, of a Flemish circle practice group and a study in Evolution of Consciousness. Over the span of this action research project it touched many of its participants in many different ways; always pointing to living more of their potential.
This book maps out a journey a group or a team can go through.
We started with a hunger to get to grips with ‘the magic in the middle’ we experienced in some dialogue circles. Building on the ancient circle practice – as we knew from Art of Hosting – we explored, reflected and explored further. What exactly makes up the difference between empathic and generative listening – and an empathic conversation and a generative dialogue – as we noticed in Theory U material? Could we learn something of the age-old Quaker practice – to only speak when we ‘quaked’? How to be in a process where all involved are peers, and no one has official authority over the others? It turned out to be a journey with two distinct phases – and possibilities – where in the first phase we learn to be present, fully embodied in our selves and open to the others and what is going on in the group. In the second phase we build on this capacities gained to expand our awareness to the wider context of soul, time and space.
This book points to a collective potential that is hardly tapped in our current society.
We hear the need expressed for some new collective sense-making and meaning-making. Our old maps and practices aren’t fit anymore for the complex issues we see ourselves confronted with. We need non-rivalrous, collective coherence that will bring forth the best collective wisdom, nothing less will do the trick. The practice of collective presencing will build our inner muscles to feel and understand when we are actually in coherence (which is different from a new-age kind of harmony), to uncover our shared assumptions that block us to see novel solutions and will invite us to reconnect us, on a deep level, with nature, place, time and the more subtle world. It challenges a lot of our fragmented worldview and will bring us to conversations and actions were we are in flow – because we want it, desire it and need it.
This book is my personal harvest of this action research project.
Although no step was taken – and will be taken – without deep involvement of many different people. Lots of women initially, and since we started the Open Sessions, online on The Stoa, men are present too. My hope is that this body of work – this collective practice – will help your group/team to live out more of its inherent potential. There is always more to uncover and we are in deep need of that more that is also possible!
What others say about this book:
Bonnitta Roy — founder of Alderlore, associate at Perspectiva, professor at Graduate Institute
“People all over the world are recognizing the need for creating resilient communities and for building capacities for collective sensemaking. While, most people working in the field of collective practice focus on one or the other as separate domains, Ria has identified them as locations along a spectrum of skills that people can cultivate by participating in group process. Communities are built from deeper, more intimate practices of embodied dialogue that Ria calls “circles of presence.” This is a transformational process which, over time, creates the experience of co-presencing and emergent possibility. This leads to the second phase which Ria calls “circle of creation” where the group becomes capable of generating insights that can disrupt collectively held unconscious habits of thought, and lead to new possibilities for action. Participatory action, in turn, establishes powerful “virtuous cycles of learning” through which enduring new paradigms arise. You can read a host of other books on we-space and circling practices, but there you will be locked into a single domain that is blind to the other possibilities. In this book, Ria has succeeded, both intellectually and through the wisdom of practical experience, in connecting the parts into a greater whole, which is the standard by which all the other styles should be evaluated.”
Bonnitta is founder of Alderlore Inc, a non-profit education center offering insight practices for people who are entering post-formal modes of thinking. She is an Associate at Perspectiva where she working on the foundations of transformational education. She is an associate editor at Integral Review, and a resident professor at The Graduate Institute.
Julie Arts — senior faculty Presencing Institute:
“Collective Presencing offers a practice and a framework, that is very much needed at this moment in time. We are becoming more and more aware that fundamental change doesn’t happen overnight, top-down or rationally. The practice of collective presencing takes the idea of Participatory processes to a whole new level of depth.
Ria’s book offers a lot of clarity about the path of ‘letting go’ and ‘letting come’, crucial in the process of innovation and change. It deepened my personal practice, for myself as a human being (self-awareness); and it helped my work as a facilitator: to be able to invite others into that journey more confidently.
But for me the most unique gift of this book is ‘language’. Ria was able to give words to concepts that are intangible and/or that are so often used in the world of social change without having a shared understanding what they really mean. I often went back to one of the chapters to find and share one of these descriptions.
The book unpacks the many different processes and skills needed in this change process in such a way that I became more aware about what Presencing really means.”
Samantha Slade — co-founder Percolab and author Going Horizontal:
“Anthropologically speaking, we humans know perfectly well how to work, live and play in and with emergence. We engage in emergence in different informal spaces, but mostly without noticing. It’s in our nature, and yet, we undervalue emergence. When we speak of breaking through to new paradigms and the socio-ecological transition, the keystone is working in emergence together, and tapping into the potential that abounds. Collective Presencing, is a critical piece of writing that helps us begin to really see this realm of the subtle the human species carries as a gift. Collective Presencing helps us hone our emergent capacity and bring it forth.
If you work in co-creation and emergence, or aspire to, then this book is for you. It helps you see what you might already be doing well and amplify it. It helps you have a view on the field that is so elusive to name. It helps the intangible feel more tangible, at least for a moment. Ria Baeck invites us into her treasure trove of discoveries, built form a life time as research practitioner.”
Samantha Slade, Co-founder and steward of Percolab (international network of self-governed businesses) and author of Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-Hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time.
Reading your book, I get words for my experiences, for what I know deep inside. You give words to things that you experience unconsciously. I read it and it resonates in my belly.
Following along with your book is amazing. I’m so grateful you are publishing it like this, each chapter like a hike in the woods with a naturalist, an exercise in effort with delightful details pointed out along the way. It is substantial and helpful.
It names so many people I know and love and references to writers like Abram and O’Donohue who also guide my heart. Thank you.