Setting a field for potential to manifest
Thank you to Alexander Evatt for transcribing this interview! (Note, I read through the transcript and there are a few ‘lost in transcription’ moments which I hope to fix by getting another transcript done. I share this version for now because there are some real gems in it, but it needs some polishing and proofing.)
Daniel: Thank you so much for making time for this conversation.
Pamela: My pleasure!
Daniel: For me, it’s already been a lovely learning journey to have this conversation series that I seem to be doing. I’m surprised that’s what’s emerging. I’m calling it, The Regeneration Rising and conversations about regenerative practices. And I already had a really nice conversation with Jason Twill, that Dominique dropped in on, she couldn’t make the whole call. We were talking a lot about the connections between both Australian and Maori indigenous wisdom and how they actually see resonance with the kind of thinking and intention that is in regenerative practice and how those wisdom traditions can mutually fertilize each other to some extent.
Jason really deeply opened up with a personal story. So yesterday when I talked to Bill I also asked him to start with his personal story. Regenerative practices acknowledges that the work really starts within.
It’s ultimately about shifting Consciousness, ways of seeing, the way that we ask questions and observe ourselves and how we even frame how to respond to the question how we can add value and regenerate a place.
I would love to hear how you got into all of this; what were the stories, and the moments where you just felt called to do this kind of work and then inform yourself on how to do it so well?
Pamela: Specifying moments is always interesting. Let me start with a more general statement. I kind of popped into life as I think from the early days as a very strong advocate proselytizer sort-of-personality. So a lot of my life; early life in school and college and in the few years afterwards were filled with peace movement with civil rights. I mean, I was out there sure that we were going to transform the world and do it next week if we could just think and push hard enough. And that was a lot of my, you know, I was out organizing things at Stanford around the Vietnam War and in 1962 nobody had even heard of it at that point in our area. But that kind of carried me forward — that was I didn’t felt it was really important to be responsible and take a roll.
And then I got one of those sort of up-the-side events and our daughter got cancer, and it was bone cancer. She was 11 when that happened and she was truly one of these old souls just quite a remarkable human being and we travelled that journey with her for three years. And one of the things that I learned that she helped teach me, and many other people, was how ephemeral the kind of functional things we do and successes we see and how exterior they are to what and who we really need to be.
So, during the time I had been working with Carol Sanford. Our daughters met when they were 2 years old and were best friends. And so that’s what sort of started that relationship. Carol and I had been working on a number of things and she had started going to Charlie Krone’s sessions and working with that group. And so she’d bring back and we talk about what she’s doing and I’d go out and bring it into my practice. All this was while dealing with the family and Jessica and supporting her. So, it was in the background hovering but not the central focus.
So the thing that I got out of that was there’s a saying by Gurdjieff — who’s sort of is one of the key people in Fourth Way Work which was part of the lineage of this work, “Man cannot do.” And I didn’t really ever understand that until that experience and I thought sitting there with her, ”I cannot do but I can be and become something that can make a difference but I don’t know how the hell to do that”.
Daniel: This reminds me of one of my favorite Gurdjieff quotes,
”We have to stop thinking of ourselves as beings that do and have to start thinking of ourselves as doings that be.”
Pamela: Matthew Fox has a similar statement. He said,
”We should call ourselves human doing it’s because of the way we focus.”
So, a couple of weeks after Jessica died. I went for the first time to actually sit in on Charlie’s sessions. One of the things that it did for me was, coming into that place and state of; being really present with not the functional knowledge things that were going on in the session, but the energy and the quality of energy and the ‘being’ that was present. That took on a tangibility for me that I had never really experienced before. So that was my entry to this work. And a lot of people when we talk about what we’re working on shifting the thinking tend to think of it as an intellectual process.
It’s always challenging for people to say, and as an intellectual process, it’s abstract and it’s a challenge for people to get over it. Because we are so firmly taught in Western culture that thinking is about intellectual exercise. It’s actually a functional process. So that’s how I got involved and it gave me time to sort of really — I think the question I was asking was what kind of instrument do I need to be? And it took me a couple of years to figure that out. Because the institute I worked with was focused around business. That was the way to get involved. I’d always been in social causes community organizing and so on. And this shifted. I learned an enormous amount as a result of working in business. I am happy to leave it behind as soon as I could.
Daniel: Same here. Could you say a little bit more, so this was the institute that Charlie Krone ran?
Pamela: Yeah. There was something called, The Network — a network of consultants who worked and learned together from a particular lineage. There were three folks, whome Charlie was one of, who kind of were the cord of the information and the formation of that. And the roles they described for themselves had to do with ’right being’, ’right action’ and ’right knowledge’ as opposed to hierarchy.
Charlie’s role was right knowledge and that really was appropriate because that was his work. I mean, it just was continually weaving together multiple lineages. Some very ancient some more recent, David Bohm to the Sufis to Edgar Schein and John Bennett systematics was a very big part of it. It was right knowledge in the sense of knowing; not a thing known but the process of knowing. And I think that’s a critical distinction to make. I think it’s one of the reasons why this work feels more resident to indigenous people; the understanding of knowledge as knowing, as a process and is continuing becoming very much more kindred then the Western sense of knowledge.
Daniel: This is fascinating because Bill and I spoke about this yesterday that this work is dynamic. So, on the one hand, it is completely built on a deep lineage of these people and is constantly evolving — so it’s not a kind of going back to Bennet in that sense — but always being informed and inspired and revisiting these frameworks to then bring them into an even more appropriate application right now right here.
Pamela: I think the keyword there what you just said Daniel is ’evolving’. Because we have a tendency in the West to sort of take and run into some wall or difficulty and say: “okay this doesn’t work anymore we’ll find something else or we want to find our own distinctive place and so we give it a new name and say this is much better”. We are doing this with sustainability now. It’s interesting to see, you know, suddenly the sustainability isn’t good enough. It’s a failure. It’s not far enough and nobody seems to be asking: ”Well, maybe we didn’t really understand what sustainability meant in the sense of a living world”.
So evolving, you know, if you look at the sciences, Einstein moved science far away from Newton, but he encompassed he didn’t negate what Newton found, he encompassed in a larger picture of understanding. And Bohm did the same thing. So I’d like to think that what’s happening with this work is that it evolves — that its encompassing in a larger understanding and deeper understanding not changing. But it requires really understanding what’s important.
Daniel: This Dynamic — like what comes to mind is the spiral. I mean in Wilber’s frame it will be called transcendence include rather than transcend and exclude, to build on it. And also when you think of it as a developmental pathway, as an evolutionary pathway, the entire pathway has to be available to people on the learning journey or their personal development journey in order for them to find the entry point where they’re at. And so in that sense it is dynamic and it is co-present. But there’s always an evolving edge that pushes it.
Pamela: It is gyer I think — not just a spiral but it’s actually moving in encompassing more as it moves up. Yeah, I think that’s exactly right and I’ve come to appreciate the importance of understanding something which is different from no knowledge about it before I try to evolve or build on it or extend it in some way. You know in many ways what for us evolution is about — it is an endless regeneration.
If we don’t understand what’s at the core essence of something and we try to improve it. We end up imposing a pattern we’re bringing in from somewhere else.
And we see this has happenning over and over again; in Western colonial times in science and business, in the way we plan cities. We with the best of intentions are looking to improve but we don’t truly understand what’s at the core heart that makes something who and what it is. And that’s at the very very heart of what we are working with them in; this particular cosmology and ontology and technology that makes up what we’re doing.
Daniel: I find this fascinating to me personally on two levels because, on the one hand, it’s working with the potential rather than working with the problem. Like really being placed sourced and working with the knowledge — that whatever you do in any place no matter how small or how large if you’reworking biorigionally its co-present with the whole world. So actually the local world is also a global work.
But then at the same time, as you were saying, that I was sort of tugging on my own mask. It was landing in me with regards to that long lineage that you were just describing that has been nurtured by people like Charlie Krone, yourself and Carol and people in Regenesis. I absolutely and enjoyfully am a humble apprentice still learning the depth of that frame. And I guess my excitement about wanting to have a conversation — before I maybe even fully deeply understand the depth of it — is that it so strongly resonates with the two other main influences in my thinking. Because it has a lineage connection. Henri Bortoft and his wonderful book, The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way Toward a Science of Conscious Participation in Nature, and this almost phenomenological approach that Goethe brought in that was reminding us:
“To stay present with how we bring the world into being how our organizing ideas actually shape what we think is out there, but it’s not. We’ve created it by the way we enter in relation with it.”
That was really influential for me when I was at Schumacher College and in 2001–2002 and I worked with Henri directly and then about ten years later. Or like seven years later actually. I was in Findhorn running a unitard workshop on, I think it was, Zero carbon housing and sustainability in the built environment or something. And somebody signed up and Alice my wife, who at the time was the secretary for this unitile training center who I was working with said,
”check out the website of this person who’s just signed up. They are called, Decision Integrity with their office down in Pitlochry and I think you’ll like the website”. So, I looked at the website and it was Tony Hodgson’s website. Tony is in the IFF, that he later invited me into, the International Futures Forum. And the connection here is that Tony was in JG Bennett’s research lab the head of research and Henri who was Bohm’s PhD student at Birbeck College came and worked at Coombe Springs as well. And so both of them in very different ways; Tony with this world systems map that you can see behind me there and with the work with Three Horizons and all the frameworks that are curated within H3 Union and the International Futures Forum gave me so much. And then Henri with this particular attention to our way of seeing is so central. And that’s why I’m so excited about it and maybe a little bit too full of energy to explore where these things can meet.
Pamela: Yes, they do. And I mean phenomenology is there another core to this work. When we were working on developing Regenesis, Charlie was involved in bringing it into all of the sessions that we folks were involved in with him. He started using that to be able to bring people, who were not much in that world and much more business-oriented, into beginning to experience things from that level more explicitly. And it’s the term we use often when we talk about ’storing place’ and try to really first experience the essence in its core.
Ask, what are the core patterns in the place? It is to step in and walk around and be conscious of how that place is processing us?
We are literally being processed all the time by the places. It’s another way of saying, and this was Charlie’s phrase that he was using with the group who was working with a bio-dynamic vineyard — one of the first ones they were trying to set up. He used the phrase,
”Just walk around and observe how it is processing you”.
Now that takes Consciousness of what’s going on inside of us. And that’s one of the things I actually would like to talk about Daniel. Because I think there’s a lot of exciting and wonderful things being written now shared and disseminated everywhere around; things like regenerative agriculture and regenerative economies and so on. It’s a really optimistic and powerful and hopeful time in all of that happening. So, one of the things that we’ve been doing is sort of saying okay this is great. Because when we started Regeneration anything that had to do with biology you couldn’t find it anywhere else or maybe regenerative brakes in the 90s. It was such an obscure sort of thing. So it feels like it’s finally now taking its place.
So, what is our role and the role of our work in this now vastly quickly expanding learning ecosystem? Where can we uniquely contribute value in it?
It’s an ongoing dialogue with us, as part of how we work, on continuing to evolve what we can bring. And as I look at out and read, one of the things that keep coming to me is something you referred to as sort of self-development or personal development. And I think people don’t have when they hear those terms. They hear them through the filter of the way we normally think about things like personal development or self-development. And so I want to just address that a little bit because I think that’s one of the things that we do and have developed a way of enabling people to work that’s distinctive to this.
It sort of starts with the reality that we as humans exist in essentially two worlds you could say. So, we’ve got an intrinsic world we live in an extrinsic world and they’re always both at the same time.
The intrinsic world it’s an inner world and it’s kind of the mental processing that goes on in that. If we’re aware of that it is sort of signals to us; who we want to be, what’s going on, how we want to behave in a situation and so on. Most of the time we’re not even aware of that metal processing. Most of our thinking is about the extrinsic which is what to do about the world out there. What we should be doing in relationship to it.
The issue then becomes when we are unconscious of the intrinsic processing — which is developing how we respond and engage with the world. And we don’t even see that and we’re only looking at the outside, we tend to become active beings. That’s what leads to this emphasis on doing because we’re not in charge. So this is one of the core pieces in this work, when we work we call it a developmental process. But we’re always working on actualization and realization, working on being able to manifest new effectiveness and capabilities while realizing greater potential. And never separating those two because that’s at the core of the gyer you were talking about.
So, the challenge is how do we become conscious in the moment of how we are processing our world and processing the thinking within ourselves.
Daniel: That is at the core of personal development, ultimately even the conventional understanding of personal development is leading up to that point where you can feel a reaction rising and then you can reflect on how your own filters and your own triggers have produced that reaction before you then respond to the situation.
Pamela: I think it’s at the core when it is truly self-actualizing. But most of the practices for working on that are all about going off and into a retreat or meditation. All of those are really valuable and important processes and they all have a role at different times and places.
What we work on is how do you actually use life moment by moment as a school for working on that in oneself.
And so it requires more will and discipline to be able to do that. But if we’re really going to evolve who we are and our being we have to do it while we’re working. And so a lot of the practices and the frameworks that we use and the kind of, ’working together to support each other to be friends’ on the work of this is about bringing that into a meeting at work or a presentation to a client. It is like, how can I bring that consciousness of the inner processes and how it’s affecting the outer and bring them into harmony while I’m striving to actually do something significant? It certainly has bolstered by meditation practices and by retreat practices. But ultimately that’s where it’s got to be brought to bear in order to really make the change from ‘human doings’ to ‘human beings’.
Daniel: As you were speaking about this with regard to how you function internally as a team within Regenesis and when you do the work as a community.
Pamela: How do we aspire to work.
Daniel: I was briefly reminded of the kind of rite of passage work or vision quest work I’ve done and the importance of when you come back from the mountain and you tell your story of the process of mirroring of having somebody else reflect the story you tell back to you. Is there any practise that you’ve developed in the team like how to gently remind somebody to take that second-level observation of the own practice and observation?
Pamela: You remember or did you come in contact with one of the sort of core frameworks we introduced at the beginning of The Regenerative Practitioner was three lines of work?
Daniel: Yeah, of course.
Pamela: So, first-line work is about developing the self to fully realize ones ’potential’ — that’s another word that’s kind of soft and gets pretty flabby. But if you sort of think of potential is the gap between what I am now and what I could be if I was fully pursuing and realizing my purpose — which means a contribution to something larger. So that would be what the actualization at that first line work.
The second line work; I’m taking on stewardship for supporting those I’m working with to also be on that path but always in relationship to our collective aim of contributing to something larger in the world. So, in a sense, it’s moving upscaling but it’s different from nested wholes. It’s not the same thing. But it’s the way we work together.
So, there’s a whole number of practices. Part of it is to move a team — one of the things we’re trying to do through The Regenerative Practitioner courses studying cohorts and we’ll be bringing the same thing encouraging it to start the co-learning network up next year. And to give people the support in structuring second-line workgroups — in a sense even though it may not be in your own team or business, but it can lead to that. Ideally it is. But it’s where you have friends in the work who gathered together who have a similar understanding and not necessarily all infects better if they’re not all at the same level. It’s like learning tennis you want to practice with somebody better than you, but you also gain by helping along somebody who’s resourcing somebody who’s coming along behind. So having those kinds of groups where people are working on their first and third-line, but getting support for building the Consciousness in from folks who can work in ways together to do that.
You know, just the little things, I’ll give an example from a course we ran in Vancouver. One of the little mantras in this work is to start from potential not problems. Starting with problems is starting with what’s in the past. We had a two-day retreat at the end of the course and by the end of it people were — and these were people who just met some of them were from the same company but some of them had just met the beginning of this two and a half months — listening to somebody reporting out and saying, ”okay David you’re solving a problem again”. And they had permission to do that because they were co-learning. I think that’s the key thing.
It’s about, ”I’m inviting you into my development and I invite you with the understanding that we have a similar practice and respect for each other. But I’m inviting you to be a friend in the workgroup to me and I welcome being reminded. I don’t want feedback. I want to just have something that just sort of wakes me up a little bit and makes me be conscious again of how I’m processing myself in this context”.
Daniel: Sometimes I notice that there’s such a specificity of language that then also in order to very clearly say one thing, you then create this sort of the dual list opposite and that almost creates sort of no-no’s. Like “case studies” or “feedback”. How would you distinguish somebody to be reminding you to stay observant of your own processes of observing and feedback, such as, ”you’re solving a problem again”. Isn’t that feedback as well?
Pamela: We worked to create a particular energy field. People have been through a process and they are struggling to understand to deepen learning and to apply it together. So, they are all experiencing themselves as being on a learning path. And part of this is they are talking openly about the frameworks that they’re trying to bring into their personal and professional lives to bring consciousness to it to think and see differently.
We introduced to you — I know it is a long time ago and you had other things on your mind in the TRP — little things like, “what’s the scope of are considering?” Am I just internally considering or am I actually externally considering and what does that mean?” By internally considering everything relates to me. For example, ”Daniel you’re frowning I must be doing something wrong”. As opposed to, ”Daniel you’re frowning can I figure out what it is that’s not working for you and I can support you in that?”
So that builds a different relationship between explicitly and implicit. You know, this was said in a joking way, it was not a chastising but it became a sort of a wake-up signal as opposed to sitting someone down and saying, “what I’m seeing is that you are continuously stepping back and you start to solve problems”. Usually, feedback is followed by advice, this is very hard for people. I’ve watched this over and over again to give feedback without then giving advice because they have an answer.
And what you do is you rob the person you’re engaging with of their own agency. And that’s really the critical piece because that’s kind of the fundamental base. Without that personal agency, the sense of being able to bring will and strive to create something that I uniquely can contribute to is significant.
If I look at equity, for example, one of the definitions I love that came through in this work on equity was, equity is not about equal starting grounds in a functional material way, rather equal opportunity to contribute to what I uniquely have to contribute. And when you start to think about it that way then you’re starting to say,
“what is preventing people from bringing their unique contribution”.
That’s what we should be working on. It’s not a material thing, it’s more a path. It has material implications, but it’s more a path enabling that path of developing oneself to one’s full potential and giving opportunities to be able to then contribute that potential to things that people care about. My sense is if we were really focusing in on that.
I look at for instance what’s happening the United States and so many of the people who see Trump, as the kind of, a way to justify that they have meaning and that they are of value. But it’s an artificial exterior affirmation as opposed to seeing what’s the real potential they could bring providing infrastructural opportunities and learning opportunities that enable them to actually develop and bring that potential. It is a world of difference. But we have created a void because we don’t do that. We don’t see everybody as having unlimited potential.
Daniel: Being faced particularly last year with the urgency of the climate crisis and trigger points coming in hard and fast and then political situations worsening and evil monsters reappearing, that one had thought dead, like all that fascist and neo-fascist energy that is suddenly popping up not just in the US but in many other countries.
I personally got to a point of returning valueing being more than doing and appreciating what is, and really being with beauty and in relationship and actually trusting that shift. Because it re patterns a new way of being in the world, it has agency in itself and is actually at the heart of it. Because if you try to respond to the crisis and you frame everything as a problem, like climate change or ecosystems collapse, rather than pay attention to where these symptoms come from you might miss the opportunity to respond appropriately.
There’s this strange paradox between urgency and radical slowing down between global problems that could kill large parts of life on earth and actually only ever having one place and one time to react to it that is local or bioregional and happening now.
How do you see all this work, all this capacity building all this sudden surge of attention with regard to; “Yes we want regenerative futures, we want to not just be sustainable. ” Failing to understanding sustainability as a bridge that we haven’t walked across yet and belittling it in any way is the mistaken path to my mind. How do we build capacity everywhere?
Pamela: Yeah, that’s thinking functionally and in functional scale when you say “everywhere”. So, let’s back away. I think it’s a really critical question for our time. I was recently in a really interesting dialogue with an associate, somebody who’s just moved to a new position who has quite a bit of influence and looking to how to use that. You remember one of the little frameworks we use a lot with the law of three. You have to sort of envision this. It’s three forces.
So, one force is usually what’s the activating or affirming force, what gets something started. The other force which meets it on the same plane is the receptive force or the receiving force. And it’s like, if we live in what Gurdjieff called “a 3rd force blind world”, that’s it! We just go back and forth and build force or end up compromising down. But in the three forces, there’s a third force. That’s the reconciling. And that is the one that if we can appreciate both of the restraining and the activating force hold that cognitive dissonance and really appreciate what is the purpose behind each. The way this works is that a third force comes in. It’s like we create space for the reconciling force.
So, in this dialogue with this friend, we were having this exact dialogue and he was saying my God I hate it when they say they only have 12 years and we really need to move fast in this. And so, I was asking yes and if we solve it and we are still at the same place? So, I thought I would send him a little law of three. And I told him we have an extinction crisis or an existential crisis, which deals with that we just might destroy ourselves, the Earth probably will last after, but there’s an existential crisis that is getting more and more imminent and real. We also are right now in the middle of an ontological crisis.
Who do we need to be as humans on our planet Earth? And what do we need to be working on to bring into being?
So, it’s like if we solve one without the other if we take that moment to just be and be in love and fields of caring and support and we don’t work on the other one. Then, you know, we are on the round to figure out what our role is supposed to be. So, we really need to hold them both and what that requires, I think, is a different way. That’s why working on our own state as we work out in the world is so fundamentally critical, learning how to do that.
I’ve been I can’t even say the number of meetings over the last for-five months that we been in planning various things and somebody just says, “we’ve got to move faster. I mean, we just we can’t sit around”. And the minute you go to that state, my experience is, I can no longer see the whole of what needs to be worked on in this moment in this place to deal with this particular situation. So, we narrow our Consciousness in that moment and we lose the ability to be effective on the crisis that we need to meet in terms of out there in the world.
Daniel: This is fascinating because for me, on the one hand, the way you just framed this I feel this very strongly in my own life. It’s this dance even between the tension between how much work do I and put into weaving relationships at the biggest scales of nested wholeness and how much attention do I put into the immediate local bioregional environment? And how much of that is outward and how much of that is really inward and nourishing?
Pamela: But Daniel you are already balancing that. So, what it really is, it’s the process of harmony, how do we harmonize this? You know, harmony is not all lighten. A good Harmony means every single element is playing its role in a beautiful composition. So, you’ve got the opportunity to work regionally to do what essentially we did for in Regenesis. We spent years trying out, developing, testing, learning and coming back and trying out on the ground. And if I thought about the larger-scale impact of that, especially in the early years it wasn’t that great until we began to realize that we need to be working at both levels. And that was when we set up the Institute in 2012 as a way of starting moving towards that aspect.
But you’ve got the podcast you do and the writing you do. So, you’ve got an opportunity to take that experiential hands-on learning, extract from it and put it into language in ways that reach out. And you also have the opportunity, that’s why we talk so much about nobel interventions. You are somebody who started early on with an understanding of the importance of the nested wholes or scales in levels of life, how life operates. And you hit one level and deplete all the other levels that eventually collapse. So alright, you know that, so whatever level you’re working on as long as you’re holding that in your thinking, which means you can’t collapse into the urgency of now — the panic of now is driving me really mad.
Daniel: But like one day it feels incredibly exhilarating and exciting like a flow and meant to be and everything and the other day I feel like why am I torturing myself with this tension of trying to hold all this.
Pamela: Yeah, I listened to John Bennett’s wife — there’s some discussion about where this saying came from — but I think she is actually the one who said that,
“Our being attracts our life and we only get what our being is able to manage.”
There is a more elegant way of saying that but because you’ve been working on growing your state and what you are capable of handling and managing and there’s always going to be that as what you’re talking about the evolving edge.
Daniel: Yeah exactly, nobody promised that it was going to be entirely comfortable the entire path. But I just wanted to come back to two things that bridge very beautifully where we started and where we just got to. One of them was when you were earlier was saying that you were describing how you would invite people into house, the place working on you or patterning you. Cannot remember the exact word you used.
Pamela: Processing. Because that is a really important word. Transforming processes is what transforms something. So, it is different for just any activity.
It is really working to shift your being at some level and the energies you are experiencing that create a different state of being.
Daniel: It reminded me a little bit of that flip in perspective that makes such a difference which is again an indigenous insight. Where indigenous cultures all over the world have been so clear that they belong to the land rather than the land could ever belong to them. So, they are the land. They are expressions of the land, they are being processed constantly by the land and their language is a process that comes out of the land. And similarly when you were sharing this sense of collapsing, not being able to hold the whole, when people enter this panic mode that we need to move faster.
This reminds me strongly of a conversation I had with one of your students, Johnnie Freeland from New Zealand, one of the Maori members of the regenerative practitioner network there. We had this beautiful moment at the Commonwealth meeting in London where I was able to share some of my frameworks and he would then mirror them from his wisdom tradition perspective. There was then this concept of time ‘wahh’ — again Bennett speaks about this too regarding the different qualities of time, like hyparxis.
“The co-presence of the future and the past in the presence and the potential of repatterning or creating the future by repatterning in the present moment”.
Pamela: That is a very Buddhist view as well. The future moves towards us not us moving towards the future.
Daniel: In it comes also this sense that if everything is fundamentally dynamic nested wholeness co-evolving mutuality. Then every conversation has agency and there is no such thing. The people who say we have to move faster think that they are not moving when they are having these conversations. I am testing this and I might be wrong, I am asking your feedback on this. Increasingly I am growing into this insight that, no because it is all energy and consciousness first that then shows up in matter. If we have these conversations, we are actually bringing forth a world into being. Like this conversation has agency right now.
Pamela: Again, here is just one of the things about getting all this. I know it is a lot of wisdom but with a few more years of experience to reflect back on, is that yes that is true and it does not excuse us from continuously working to bring more intelligence and more understanding to every interaction and engagement. To actually actualizing something, committing to bringing something into being. So, I think that it is like a both-and. We can shift the energy field that we are working in when we are able to bring and sustain that nature of state and consciousness. And it allows then people within that same field to shift themselves.
But it is only good as long as that energy field exists. When we step out of it, and everybody has had this experience, where they have gone someplace and have an extraordinary exuberating experience. One of the things that someone we work with a lot that you know is David McConville.
David does these extraordinary experiential events. And what he realized as he began to get more and more into this work was that they were ephemeral; that real changes occurred in that field. But it is ephemeral, so that is why giving learning practices and frameworks to shape how we see and think about the world and bringing in the will and discipline to do that is the only way that we can disrupt these deep patterns and be conscious of when those patterns are present. Krishnamurti’s, one of my favorite quotes is:
“You think you are thinking your thoughts, you are not; you are thinking the culture’s thoughts.”
And most of the time we don’t even know that. What we are not conscious of is that we are living out the patterns of a larger culture that we have been brought in to. And so, I just want to make sure that we don’t. I lived through the hippy age and then through the 70s tea groups and all of that, and I just saw so much of a drop out and be far away children; “because the world is so awful and I cannot do anything about it”.
I really worry that we won’t be very clear about that this is a rigorous practice that we are called to bring. To bring that consciousness in the moment while we are still working on this incredible existential crisis. And we are also working on how humans can become and ’be’. Having watched that through the decades, it is an incredibly important opportunity right now.
We are being called to step up to as a species — a role that is really different from even indigenous communities — that it has got to be grounded back into that consciousness and sense of all is a kinship that all is part of life.
You know we think of rocks as inanimate if you think in terms of cycles of life they were formed out of energy into form; they are observing, providing nutrients and energy into future cycles. If we start to collectively see that sense of ‘multiple time’ in the moment what a difference that would make in how people make decisions in business and politics, in governments and policies. That is my vision.
Daniel: I think we are moving towards that and that the jury is out.
Pamela: Yeah, and the other thing I experience — and this was what I gained in working in large corporations — is part of the sort of fundamental beliefs in this is the power of developing an energy field.
We are always in energy fields and they are shaping us weather we are conscious of them or not.
For instance, if we are in the middle of a mob it is very clear that it is. Same for wherever you are. That is that sense of being processed by a place. We are being processed by the energy field of it. And one of the things that everyone kept saying who had been around for a long time in the network when I joined was, the biggest hazard is that you have to touch everybody in a corporation to make the change.
Create the field in one place and others begin to be: one, drawn to it or it begins to be carried out by those who can really carry that field with them. And you look at this in terms of major changes such as the fall of the Soviet Union. Everybody got touched, then a field started building and then you get the few critical points and suddenly there is a step function shift that nobody could have predicted.
And I think we are at one of those points now because, I am sure like you do I have a lot of alerts on different terms and so on just to get a sense of what is tracking in terms of what people are writing about and what people were proposing and so on in regards to regeneration and everything related to it. Unless we do something really stupid like set of a nuclear war, that our current president is capable of unfortunately.
I sense that it is going to shift in ways that we have no idea of.
Daniel: This reminds me of your entry point earlier of your personal experience of death and transcendence of understanding that death is part of life really brought you into this work. For me one of the big insights when I first started reading about regeneration. It is actually a little book that Ethan Roland and Gregory Landua called when there is a phrase like “design for your own death” when you design a regenerative enterprise. And I thought that that was just such a brilliant question that our current culture is blind to and actively avoids. So, there is this sense that I also was reminded earlier by Brian Goodwin — one of my mentors at Schumacher College — who said to me:
“Daniel the secret of a fulfilling life is to be ready at every moment to give up who you are for what you could become.”
Which is speaking very strongly to what needs to die in me. [I was reflecting on Bill Reed sharing with me that Regenesis regularly questions what it would need to be now if it ceased to exist as it is/was] … a practice of declaring oneself dead in oder to see what wants to be reborn. And I think that is a wonderful practice.
Pamela: Well, let’s relate to regenesis, regeneration.
Daniel: Yes. And we really need to invite people to embrace some of the breakdown chaos and collapse that is now all around us as the unleashing of the potential. Like even you can frame it in complex system terms. A complex dynamic system is most creative at the edge of chaos when most of the structures that no longer serve are anachronistic and have broken down and it is fragile then but at the same time it has all the potential for reorganization for evolution. So, I feel that is where we are at.
Pamela: The ways we hold regeneration, you know I have seen a lot of definitions; renewal, restoration and so on as the sort of same thing. Regeneration is about going back to the source of generation. What was the source of birthing something?
And that is that essence and then bring more life to it. So, in a sense it is like giving up more of who we are is to discover who we really are. What is really our unique essence? If we don’t have that as a core fundamental? In a sense the cosmology is part of it. It is how everything is in the universe and has its own unique essence pattern.
This is Bohm’s work, and it is an ancient belief system. Bohm’s work in terms of the implicit order is the pattern of essence that is constantly informing how things get manifested in the explicit order. But above that is the super implicit, which is the sort of more unpatterned energies that inform that essence. So, can we begin to all have access to that whole scale and bring it forward in terms of how we are working and understanding in the consciousness we are trying to bring?
We will see a lot less of this trying to imprint on others what we think is what progress is and what needs to happen. What we really deeply appreciate and strive to understand and care about the essence that each of us holds; every city, every neighborhood, every community.
Daniel: That is it. Living the questions together. That is what I use as a sort of catchphrase to run through my book. And it feels very akin to manifest the potential that lies in life as Alfred North Whitehead says, “the continues exploration of novelty” but with a connection to the essence of what wants to be expressed in life itself.
Pamela: You know you were talking about indigenous cultures, belief systems and their ways. Vine Deloria, who I am sure you know, was just an amazing person. And one of the things, he has a book where he talks about education with Daniel Whildcat. And what he speaks to is, you need to always start education starting with philosophy. And we don’t. In the Western world, our philosophy and our belief system are embedded and hidden so we start with what needs to be done. And that is where we run into these things.
So, I think part of this is in this urgency of now of becoming conscious and creating the seed bed for coalescence and harmony and to start sharing more openl, ”what is the source of our beliefs about this?”
Why do we believe that? What is the philosophy that is behind what we are trying to do and the way we are trying to do it right now? And those kinds of conversations, having them in those “we got to get moving” moments. If we can take the discipline to say ‘why’ and get to that fundamental belief and philosophy level — not in a vast world sense but right here right now. In terms of what we are arguing about in New Mexico about how do we actually phase out a coal plant and all the jobs that are going to be hit by it in a poor community. So, we can more argue about the large issues like global warming and so on or we can start with what do we really believe is right and good to do here? Each of us, and what is our philosophy and can we learn to see how those can come together? We don’t have those kinds of conversations very often.
Daniel: I do feel that there is a shift like even in a context of government offices or like large corporations. It is much more possible to at least bring in this conversation whether they act on it is another question. But people are kind of seeing that they need a new approach, they need a new fundamentally different way.
Pamela: Yeah, no I agree. I think it is happening. And we are paddling to help support that happen. And I think it is what will enable us. And this is where I think one of the residences of the powerful experience of indigenous communities is; when they are intact you grow up in a whole cosmology and anthology. And so, in terms of taking care of kinships — the river and the salmon and so on — the culture you develop reinforces that and gives people the support and guidance without laying down regulations and hard policies. You continuously reinforce it from a ‘being’ level out. And so that cultural piece is really critical. And is one of the things we are also working on, for people being able to be more explicit and conscious about what are the dimensions of the culture that you really need to pay attention to because they are signs of what the underlying belief is that maybe long dead and frozen and no longer accurate abut it is still dominant.
Daniel: Yeah literally in the physical structures. Like in my PhD work I was speaking a lot about how design goes on designing and how when we live in a city we might put like fibreglass and new wires and new it technology into the old town of Edinburgh. But as you walk through that space you still informed by some design decisions and frameworks that are 200–300 years old.
Pamela: That is why antilogical design is such a powerful way of thinking about that. Because we don’t. All the design thinking and everything else is to get the end product for the moment. It goes on designing its world for long long time afterwards. You are absolutely right.
Daniel: Well, this has been wonderful and I am conscious that I don’t want to take up too much more of your time but yeah thank you so much for this conversation. If it is okay with you I will share this on YouTube and then write a blog post about it to get it to more people and as a beginning of a conversation.
Pamela: And I am assuming because what I tried to focus on Daniel and lift up is one dimension of our work. And I am assuming that Bill Reed and others will pick up the other dimensions. Because you know it can get really. Like I keep hearing people talking about we do mental model trainings. We never use the word ‘training’ ever. And a mental model is somebody else’s explanation. It is not a means to be able to build one’s own. So, if we can just keep working away at that.
Daniel: Yes, that is exactly why I am starting this learning journey. For me it is just a wonderful way of learning myself and then sharing the learning with other people. They will hear what we said differently then we heard what we said. But yeah, I am looking forward to getting these multiphasited perspectives on the work. And the one thing we might pick up some other time is this question of; now that there is such a buzz around regeneration, like I mentioned this briefly with Bill earlier yesterday as well. Because so many people are now taking bits from whatever is out there already and repackaging it in a clever way. In the way that they have always done as a consultancy; to just make something buzzwordy and the new thing and then go out there and say “sure I can help you become a regenerative corporation”. On the one hand, maybe it is exiting that at least the words are out there and people are interested in it and it is opening a much wider wedge for the conversation. But how do we invite people into a process of deepening? Even if it is just a small percentage of those people who are now tuning into this frequency realize that this is actually,
committing to a long practice of self-reflection, personal development, capacity development with the people you work within your community and in your team. And that then, does the work in the world. It is not a quick buzz.
Pamela: We keep showing that that is a much more effective way of working to things.
Daniel: Yes exactly. It might seem slower but in the end, it is faster.
Pamela: And we got to do that. That is that holding and simultaneously realizing more value, more meaning and significance while actualizing something that has a far greater effect and effectiveness and value in the existence world. We got to do both.
Daniel: Yes. Thank you so much. I will just quickly stop the recording.
Here is the recording of this conversation (recorded on January 22nd, 2020):
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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
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