It takes two to speak the truth — one to speak and another to hear. — Henry David Thoreau
What we most need to do is to hear within us the sound of the Earth crying. — Thich Nhat Hanh
When we explore collective intelligence and wisdom, we should not make the mistake of assuming that only fellow humans can inform insights, provide evidence and support decisions. The wider community of life, the embedded intelligence of ‘the pattern that connects’, the practice of asking nature (as nature) can inform collective intelligence and wise action as well.
[…] When it comes to participatory decision-making, accessing collective wisdom and tuning into life’s inherent intelligence, many traditional cultures offer powerful technologies of the sacred, rituals and practices that should not be dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ to our modern societies. To the contrary, we need to recover these deeper forms of listening and gaining insight in order to recover the wisdom we have lost in an avalanche of information and knowledge. Our methodologies tend to be focused on (rational) thinking alone, but deep insights can be gained from processes that include and value sensing, feeling and intuiting as part of decision-support.
Three such practices have helped me personally to experience collective intelligence in action and to gain deeper insights into and through my relationship with life. All three have deeply informed and supported my work as an educator, facilitator and consultant; and have deeply affected the quality of my own interbeing with all my relations.
For me, personally, the practices of mindfulness (connecting to the wisdom within), council (connecting to the wisdom of the group), and solo time in the wild (connecting with the wisdom of nature) offer important pathways towards regenerative cultures, as they are embodied direct experiences of our interbeing. These technologies of the sacred are more than simple practices, they are ways of walking in an ancient lineage of living the questions. They can guide our healthy participation in wholeness.
Council is an ancient way and modern practice, spanning many cultures and religions. In council we listen to the whole: the people and the place, earth, water, fire, air — the living planet. The practice elicits an experience of true community, a recognition that each voice needs to be heard, that every person has a gift, a story to share, a perspective of the whole. It allows us to share our common humanity. Every time someone opens up and shares what truly moves their heart, in heartful listening we are given the opportunity to experience that beyond all our differences we care about very similar things.
Council creates space for new insights and understandings, wisdom in decision-making and the healing of differences. More than being just another communication tool, the deep practice of council allows us to access and experience collective intelligence and group wisdom, offering a way both new and ancient of guiding collaborative processes.
Council is a non-hierarchical form of deep communication where each person is empowered to speak. Its primary intentions — listening and speaking from the heart — encourage genuine self-disclosure and attentive empathic listening. The quality of deep listening extended by everyone in the circle towards the person holding the ‘talking piece’ contributes to creating a container of deep trust and openness.
Once this container is co-created — also helped by an attitude of ritual — it enables us to share deeply from the heart. Often people find themselves expressing a quality of insight and wisdom that they did not know they had. In these magical moments, people speak from a place that is deeply nourished by the collective intelligence and wisdom of the whole group and beyond as the guidance of the ancestors, of future generations and of all of nature is invited in at the beginning of the council.
Council encourages participants to speak from their own experience, making I-statements rather than speaking in generalities for others. As the practice deepens, participants achieve greater tolerance for different perspectives and greater understanding of the feelings of others. Council can help us to develop our ability to mediate conflict non-violently. It offers a simple but powerful contribution to the creation of a culture of peace and understanding.
Council lets us experience empathy and compassion as the bedrock of our own humanity. There are many forms and lineages of council practice. One of the organizations that has contributed significantly to promoting and sharing the practice of council is the Ojai Foundation in California. It has brought council to schools, hospitals, prisons, and into the boardroom of major companies.
Jack Zimmerman and Virginia (Gigi) Coyle provide an excellent resource for exploring many different forms and applications in their book The Way of Council. In recent years some of the elders of the Ojai Foundation have helped to train a series of council trainers and council carriers in Europe and Israel, leading to the creation of the European Council Network. Taking part in a number of Gigi’s workshops and working with the community of council carries and vision quest guides has offered me inner sustenance and deep learning on my own path as an evolutionary activist.
Solo time in the wild
Spending time alone in nature, with an open heart/mind, maybe holding a question or maybe simply letting one come, is also a valuable ally for evolutionary activists. Solo time in nature can generate powerful insights. It serves as an effective way of letting go of the old and inviting the new (story) into our lives.
Rites of passage ceremonies exist in all of the world’s indigenous cultures. They are an important marker of transition, transformation and change in the lives of members of these cultures. The transition from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood into eldership, the transition into parenthood, the confirmation of a new role in the community, the intentional and ceremonial leaving behind of modes of thinking and acting that no longer serve us — these important moments of change and transformation can be energized and celebrated through rites of passage ceremonies. They serve to support individuals and help them to recognize their unique gifts and potential, for their own benefit, for the benefit of their community and for the benefit of the world.
In the industrial growth society we have done away with traditional rites of passage or turned them into ineffective vestiges of their ancient counterparts. Vision quest, or vision fast, is a powerful ritual that can help individuals to mark these important life stages and transitions in a meaningful and helpful way.
For most people, there comes a time in life when engaging in such a ritual could be an important act of transformative innovation at the very personal level of our own way of being in the world. Rites of passage ceremonies enable men and women of all ages, but especially young adults, to engage in an age-old ceremonial pattern: completion of an old life, movement through the threshold of the unknown and return to the world reborn.
People in transition from one phase of life to another often find deep meaning and guidance in this process. It is a path that has been followed by human beings for many thousands of years. When it is time to consider such a ritual, these questions call us:
Who am I?
What do I have to give?
How can I heal my wounds and leave behind habits that no longer serve
How can I become an effective agent of positive change?
How can I love this world, every day a little bit more?
What is my true calling?
How can I serve?
Just as meditation connects us to our inner wisdom and intuition, and practising the way of council connects us to the collective wisdom of our people and community, nature- based rites of passage rituals — or simply spending conscious solo time in nature — connect us to nature as a profound source of insight, guidance, vision and strength.
The School of Lost Borders in California, Sacred Passages in Colorado, and the Eschwege Institute in Germany are among the many places where you can start to explore the power of modern day rites of passage for yourself and experience how these rituals can help you to step into your own full power as an agent of positive change in this world.
For me, solo time in nature is an important source of insight, creativity, meaning and vitality. I have seen in workshops I co-facilitated how such immersion in wild nature, combined with council and other practices, can have a deeply transformative effect on people.
Shortly after my own first vision fast in 2008, I read Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joe Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers’ book Presence (2005) and was delighted to find out about John P. Milton’s vision fast work with global business leaders. John’s programme seemed to have had a profound effect on many of them. I met John only a few weeks later when he paid a surprise visit to the Findhorn Foundation. He gave me a copy of Sky Above, Earth Below (2006). The book describes many useful techniques for meditation, conscious movement, and visualizations to draw strength and insight from our conscious participation in nature. It has been a treasured companion.
Mindfulness practices, council and solo time in nature can support us on our path of living the questions, individually and collectively. We are all making a difference, not just by what we do, also by what we say, the questions we ask, the way we think and invite others to think, but most of all by how we ‘show up’.
The quality of our being in and through relationships and how we help others relate to the future potential of the present moment changes outcomes. Setting an intention about who we want to be, how we want to behave, and what we want to activate in the world and affirming this intention every day in our thoughts, words and actions is a practice of personal transformation that catalyses cultural transformation.
The most effective way of writing the narrative of interbeing into humanity’s collective consciousness is by living it with compassion for others and our own failures on the way. If enough of us become culturally creative evolutionary activists we will contribute to the emergence of diverse regenerative communities and a thriving future. Listening more deeply is an invaluable source of insight and guidance for all who are willing to follow that call.
My Life is a gift from the whole of Life to the whole of Life […]
— Tom Atlee
[This is an excerpt of a subchapter from Designing Regenerative Cultures,published by Triarchy Press, 2016.]
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Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.
Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures