I was invited by the Lucis Trust to present on my experience of leading systems change, my understanding of inner change and my love of the living earth for their annual World Goodwill Seminar that was held at the Amba Hotel in London and broadcasted live online.
It was a great pleasure to make connections between The Lucis Trust and the Psychosynthesis Trust - two organisations that have a special source connection with Alice Bailey and Roberto Assagioli having been good friends and Work colleagues.
Here is a link the video footage of the day as well as my presentation below.
It was the summer of 1978 – over 40 years ago.
My little 6 year old body lay face down on the wooden dock peering between the gaps in the boards into the clear water below. As I visually entered the under water world, I spotted a round smiling sunfish hiding behind the long stalks of seaweed whose ribbon- like stems were swaying with the current. A small freshwater crab darted off to the right. And a school of minnows passed by to the left – there were dozens of them, or maybe even hundreds - they moved together like they were one big fish body.
I would lay there on that dock for hours just imagining myself as a little underwater creature playing with my underwater friends.
This is how I spent much of my childhood – in a very fortunate and privileged situation growing up in New England in the US – being immersed in nature and in frequent deep relational contact with the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms.
This shaped who I am today – someone who is very tuned into the intelligence of nature and someone who sees the world as a living system – a wide web of interconnected relationships through which existence expresses its whole self.
Fast-forward 40 years to my life now – here talking with you.
What I’d like to do in my time with you today is to share my experience of using the qualities of nature’s intelligence to organize for change – and to explore the question:
“How can groups – informed by natures’ intelligence – help us be more effective in our service of goodwill?”
I would love for you to go away from today with some thoughts for what you can practically in your role as a group member – whether that be in your organization, community or family - so that you can be an even more effective in your service of Goodwill.
I will be drawing on my experience of working in and leading groups such as:
· The Finance Innovation Lab - A social change organization I initiated whilst working at WWF the conservation Charity. The Lab is bringing all kinds of people together to create a new financial and money system that serves people and planet.
· In my role as Executive Director of The Psychosynthesis Trust – an educational charity that helps people to ‘know and transform’ themselves through a transpersonal psychological framework and philosophy. The Trust, seeded by Roberto Assagioli, has esoteric roots as Roberto and Alice Bailey were good friends and worked together as World Servers.
So WHAT is a group and WHY are groups so important for the context of our time?
What is a group?
Well, think of examples from Animal Kingdom – that might be herds, flocks, swarms, gaggles, forests – or the Human Kingdom – tribes, communities– even the human body is a group – made up of 50 Trillion cells working together.
So for me - a group is a collection individuals working together in relationship towards a common intention – and in this case of Goodwill – serving a purpose beyond themselves for the benefit of the whole.
Why are groups important now?
We are in an in age of rapid breakdown of our human and ecological systems. As we know from the adaptive cycle of nature – breakdown, death and destruction are natural – think of a forest fire, a volcano, a flood. After rapid destruction in nature what you normally see is a rapid flourishing of the new. New species come about that were never able to establish themselves in the old ecosystem.
What I think is SO exciting in this age of breakdown is that we have an amazing chance to sow new seeds: new ideas, new stories and new solutions for a different energy frequency for humanity.
However we need make sure that these seeds are incubated in conditions that allow them to become strong, coherent, resilient and well resourced. Groups are INCUBATORS which will give us a chance to ensure the new seeds of consciousness survive AND thrive. This won’t happen if we continue to work as individuals or even loose networks of people.
Over the past few years I have been tuning into the work of Alice Bailey. And one thing that really stands out for me is her continued reference to the importance of groups in bringing about a more enlightened consciousness.
She says “How can groups form an entity for a focal point for the transmission of spiritual force to a needy and waiting world? How can we move from a place of personality reactions to a place of group realization?”
Assagioli said “A group is not just a place or a gathering of people, it is also an evolving field of consciousness that gives birth to new ideas and ways of being’.
There are 4 main roles I see in groups in expanding consciousness:
Their role in:
· Providing greater collective intelligence: the challenges we face are complex which means we need to look at the challenges through as many different vantage points as possible. In groups we can see more of the whole, more of the truth – including seeing the root causes and possible solutions.
· Offering more resilience: – working on the edge of change and being in service is not easy as we are going against the grain of cultural and social norms. We are often seen as outliers. So we need groups of like-minded and hearted people to help support us emotionally so we can sustain the work and ourselves over time.
· Giving access to shared resources: the challenges we face need infrastructure for sustained effort and holding – and thus human and financial resources. Groups are important as they are a great way to pool tangible and intangible resources.
· Having stronger voice: As an individual I might get ignored if I am talking about things the mainstream has not yet seen or understood. However if a group of us pull together a common narrative for change – it is harder to ignore this just as a ‘ marginalized voice on the edge.’ A group has a greater chance of changing embedded stories in the landscape of our culture.
However humans are not very good working in groups or between groups – so we need to learn and develop this skill.
Our cultural stories and habits and capitalistic system and incentives celebrate and reward individualistic behavior – so you could say that working in a group is rather counter-cultural and going against the grain of the current paradigm.
So although working in a group is very challenging - I believe that this is ONE OF THE most important leadership skills we need to learn and teach now.
Learning from Nature’s intelligence
So how can we adopt qualities of nature’s intelligence, which have served it very well for millions of years, and apply them in how we work in and organize our groups of humans?
What do I mean by quality?
There are many qualities of nature to learn from: creativity, self-organisation, adaptation etc. However I am going to focus on just 3 today.
· Energetic fields
Going back to the Lake in New Hampshire – the lake had its own purpose – to be an ecosystem which provided life for all that is in it. And all of the creatures and plant forms had their own inherent purposes to. The crab to be a crab. The fish to be a fish. And the seaweed to be the seaweed.
In nature, purpose is very clear and this allows pure life energy to flow through them into manifested form.
Why is purpose important in groups:
In a human group or organisational context – having a clear purpose is important as it acts as the North Star around which people can self-organise for their fullest expression. You think about all of the great social movements in history –the most successful ones had a clear purpose that mobilized people over a long period time.
In an organisational context, what I have found in leading the Psychosynthesis Trust, is that investing time into clarifying our purpose has been so valuable – our emerging purpose is “To help people to know, master and transform themselves”.
Our organisational purpose- or our ‘why we exist’ - helps people to have sense of serving something beyond themselves, it cultivates a desire to collaborate and gives people a sense of autonomy so that they can make better decisions at their local level. Overall as an organization we are becoming more efficient, effective and creative - with more flow and ease.
Our purpose has been developed through our worldview of seeing our organization as a ‘living organism’ having an unfolding life purpose of its own.
Through many dialogue interviews and workshops with our staff and community- we have tuned into the original founding purpose which Assagioli helped to seed over 50 years ago – and then we are blending this with what we now see as our emerging purpose that is relevant for today’s context.
We are asking ourselves questions like:
· What are the needs of the world?
· What are our talents and skills?
· What do we have energy for?
What this means as an individual in a group
And what I believe is important for group coherence and flow – is for me as an individual to do the work to understand my deepest purpose relates to the group and its purpose. And in turn to understand how the group purpose can contribute to the unfolding of my own purpose - they are interrelated.
I have been doing a lot of work tuning into my own souls purpose. I am constantly inquiring into ‘What is my deepest and purest essence? How does my essence want to express itself?’
It is something along the lines of “Building the Infrastructure for Interconnectivity to Reveal Itself”.
I love asking big questions and weaving webs of people and potential together. So my role in groups is often the pioneer, the framesetter, the resourcer.
Questions for you:
· So what is your group’s purpose and how can you enable better alignment around that?
· What is your emerging souls purpose? What are you doing to actively cultivate and reveal its clarity?
· How does your purpose show up in groups – what is your role in the group you are in? What unique contribution are you making?
Going back to the Lake in NH - I remember one year the town overstocked the Lake with Bass fish to attract more fisherman and tourism to the Lake. The overstocking of the Bass fish led to a dominant species taking over the Lake. Soon after that the Lake became quite dead. When I laid on the dock after this there is very little movement, very little life.
That’s what it like now in our society - for example systems being controlled by the dominant species of the big banks or energy providers or high street retailers.
Why is diversity important in a group?
What do I mean by diversity – whilst I think diversity in terms of gender, race and age is important – I think we are at risk of getting to caught up in appearances of diversity – rather than qualities of diversity.
Diversity that I am really interested in is different perspectives of thought, emotions, wisdom and energy being able to be expressed in their multiplicity whilst maintaining unity of some sense of a whole.
Its not just from a moral imperative of inclusivity and fairness that I think its important. But it is also important reasons for our survival and ability to meet some of the greatest challenges.
In the Lake context - it was an ecosystem that was able to sustain itself for a really long-time as there was no one species that dominated – the diversity allowed for adaptation and balance.
I think this will be very important for us to work in groups as climate breakdown really starts to hit – Diverse groups of people coming together to share different skills, capacities and resources helps us to adapt and absorb shocks to the system.
Better Strategies and Solutions:
When I was leading the Finance Innovation Lab, our meetings would include activists, bankers, academics, policy makers and psychologists – together were we able to see many more aspects of the complexity of the problem of the financial system.
We brought entreprenuers and activists together with policy makers to work out a policy that would make it easier for smaller banks to enter the market. The policies, when worked on from diverse perspectives were more relevant.
We also brought policy makers and activists together with entreprenuers to develop new business models for finance – new banks, new currencies , new savings products. The diverse perspectives were able to develop – as the complexity scientists say - ‘fitness of the new niches’ so that they had a greater chance of survival.
So seeing more of the truth, having more creativity, developing better strategies – and coming up with better solutions – allowed us to be more effective in our change efforts.
And I don’t know about you, but when I am in a group that has diversity- I feel a greater sense of aliveness – more of the richness of life is being able to be expressed through the whole.
What this means for the individual?
New skills needed
Convening and sustaining diverse groups is not easy and it requires all of us in service of good will to build new skills – this is what we teach in psychosynthesis
I have had to learn to:
· Holding paradox – in a group there many truths we need to build skills of holding this multiplicity whilst holding unity
· Embracing conflict as a generative force – finding ways for the group to work though this together and to appreciate difference.
· Understanding the diverse parts of ourselves– the many sub-personalities that make up my whole – how can I synthesize different aspects of myself – such as my mystic and pragmatist - so that I have greater coherence in my relationship with myself and others.
So a question for you?
· How diverse are the groups that you are part of – how could you play a role in inviting in more diversity?
· So how are you developing your skills to synthesize diversity in groups and in yourself?
I loved watching schools of fish at the Lake, flocks of Canadian geese, ant colonies at work. These fields moved together as one body. There was an intelligence whole that was greater than the individual parts.
When I was working with The Finance Lab I would find ways to work with scientists to help inform our work. One person I involved Rupert Sheldrake as I was interested in the role of morphic fields in social change. I had asked him – What is a morphic field? He said it is a ‘region of influence’. ‘A field is shaped by what has gone on before, it has strong habits it has a sense of an illusive wholeness.”
Why are morphic fields important in groups?
Paying attention to the field of the group helps you to tune into the invisible habits and patterns. It helps you to see what is really wanting to be expressed and manifested – it’s a form of deeper intelligence that is much greater than our limited rational mind and ego structure.
At the Trust we have been tuning into the organization as a morphic field. One way we have been doing this is by using systemic constellations. Systemic constellations is a tool that is helps us to tune into the mysteries, the habits, the forms, the relational dynamics and the goals of the organization.
We have used systemic constellations to better understand who in the history of the Trust has been excluded, what roles are not in the right relational place in the organization, or what truths have been denied or suppressed?
Seeing our organization as a morphic field and using tools that help us to tune into the invisible energies has brought about more consciousness, coherence and flow. And it has also fun to observe the synchronicities that reveal themselves the more we do our work in this way.
What this means to the individual?
As an individual, I feel like I am beginning to perceive the world in brand new ways.
Working in an energetic field has also revolutionized how I relate to others –including learning to relate through the sensations and intuition that I am picking up in the field through my body.
What skills can you develop?
· How can you develop your use of tools to engage in energetic fields - like tools of systemic constellations, transpersonal psychology, learning to facilitate group relational dynamics?
· How can you develop the different ways you relate to others - including your embodied felt sense between you and another or in a group?