Evolutionary Leadership interview

Here is a recording of an interview that Barbara Marx Hubbard did with me for her Shift Network course on Generation One. It was lots of fun and great to have Barbara asking the questions and holding space.

Death and Life

I have just completed the original Quantum Light Breath process guided by Jeru Kabbal during which I sobbed with laughter at the realisation of who I am, who we are and what this is. I took life in and let what is dead go – and I allowed myself to accept that what is dead is actually dead, an old memory hanging around and in the way of what wants to be born.

And I realised that the old beliefs and structures of our civilisation are also already dead. They are dead. Dead. Let it in. They are dead. They are dead and they are deadening for us as long as we cling to them. They are still interfering because we are holding onto them, but I can assure you that they are dead. That is why we are in so much turmoil at the moment.

An economy based on monetary debt, competition, unlimited growth, the privatisation of wealth and socialisation of costs is dead. Energy use based on petrochemicals, consumer excess, unlimited consumption, conflict and pollution is dead. A relationship to nature that involves exploiting raw materials for solely our ends, industrial use as if resources were unlimited, waste and degradation is dead. They are all dead, but not yet buried – and that is the problem.

Anything that dies needs to be honoured for the life it had, blessed and released. For us to let go of our fascination with the dead beliefs and structures of the past, we need to see in them the beauty of the gift they gave, the contribution they made and give thanks. And grieve for their passing. Weep, sob, grieve for the end of something beautiful, honour it and let it go. For it is dead. We are then able to carry forward the essence of the gift that past form held.

We don’t have to fight against the old system, it is already dead. We will only create zombies if we fight it. Bless it, grieve for it and release it. That may be hard to accept, because pushing against something can help to define your identity and give you meaning. But you are pushing against a shadow – it is already dead. And it will deaden you as long as you allow yourself to be defined by it. Let it go – it is dead and wants to be released, not bound in the twilight zone, hanging around to haunt us. Ritually honour it and bury it. It’s dead.

Now turn your attention to life. Life is right here, under your nose, in this very moment, happening. It’s dancing in front of you, trying to playfully grab your attention and seduce you into dancing with it. It’s pushing its way through cracks in the dead concrete of the past, at every moment. It is pure joy, acceptance and love. Let it in. It’s right here, now. Raise your eyes, stop reading this and look around you. Yes, that’s it! you feel it in your heart. It’s so simple people, it really is. We make it so difficult for ourselves. I laugh tears when I see it – oh my word we make it so difficult. Yet it is so simple, so simple.

The past is dead. Life is the present. And the future is calling. Let’s let go, come present and bring this species of ours back to life.

A beautiful moment in time

I sit here my body shaking lightly, blurry eyed with tears that seem to contain both gratitude and sadness, both release and emergence, both pain and promise. The last week or so I have been feeling depressed, in the dark, not quite knowing what was happening but trusting that something was working its way through. Various events in my private and professional life showed up to reinforce the experience – thanks life!

We (Center for Human Emergence Netherlands Alignment Circle) just completed what should have been our holacratic operational call this morning. Of the nine souls in roles who should have showed up five cancelled last minute, one couldn’t get into the call, one had a poor connection and we decided to cancel it. I was left online with Leidje Witte, our Salons Co-ordinator. Just after we decided to end it, Lisette Schuitemaker, our Organisational Spaceholder, managed to get into the call. I ended up taking the opportunity of having these two wonderful women with me to unload my heart and tell them what I had been experiencing the last week. As I let it go, an insight began to emerge between us.

Leidje wanted to ask me about the salon coming Monday (16 April). I had forgotten about the theme, which was traumas and constellations (Hellinger-style), and had also forgotten that we would be marking the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands’ (CHE NL) seventh anniversary (formally on April 20). The very fact that it was our birthday had slipped to the back of my awareness in the depths of the last week. As all of this came back into my awareness, my whole body, heart and soul started to resonate. Funny how life organised our planned operational call to end up this way…

As the founder of the CHE NL, I have of course a certain energetic relationship to the system. In past transitions, I have also experienced the organisational transition in my own body. Now I realise that it is happening again. We and I are approaching our seventh birthday. Our physical body has completely renewed every cell after each seven years. The seven represents renewal as we enter the octave of the eighth that completes and heals the previous seven notes of existence to bring them into alignment and lay the foundations for the next step. So here we are.

No wonder that my experience this past week has been one of letting go of things that no longer fit with my vision of the next phase of my work, combined with energising glimpses of what it would be like for me to fully embody that work. Last Saturday, working with Dylan Newcomb, my new identity emerged: I am a writer, speaker and consultant who supports life-affirming leaders to understand and work with the energetic dimension of reality. Now I am being invited and challenged to fully step into that. Letting go, letting come, and the space in between – silly how one forgets that you actually have to go through it yourself… As I tweeted over Easter: you have to die to be re-born…  The universe tweeting to itself…

The CHE NL is also growing into a new purpose (what we are jointly becoming): “a sacred partnership in evolution”. Exactly how that shapes up is what we are currently leaning into and playing with. At the same time, we are solidifying our expertise from the past seven years into clear products and services that can act as stepping stones for others to find their way, through CHE Synnervate.

I now feel relaxed, a little tired and deeply grateful. My system feels calm. I guess it is happy to have been seen for what it is. I am very curious about what will happen at our salon on Monday, when we constellate what the CHE NL has to release from the last seven years to be able to move freely forward into the next phase. I guess there will be implications in that for me too…That’s the work.

Watch this space.

Thrive – the Movie and the Conversation in Amsterdam

In my role as Director of Wisdom University in Europe, I will be hosting a showing of the movie Thrive and a conversation afterwards on Saturday 12.11.11 at the Hub in Amsterdam (Westerstraat 187), starting 18.30. It launches on 11.11.11 and promises to challenge many assumptions. RSVP thrive.amsterdam@gmail.com. Film showing is free with donations to cover room hire.

Even insiders who have seen it talked about it for days afterwards. My business partner and friend Tatiana Glad, also co-founder of the Hub in Amsterdam, will join me in hosting the conversation afterwards. Thrive recommends that people go to Wisdom University to get academic credits for studying related issues. See also the Thrive website.

The Hague Center for Global Governance, Innovation and Emergence

Just a note to say that the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands has submitted a proposal to the Dutch government to host the Hague Center for Global Governance, Innovation and Emergence. There was a funding opportunity which made us focus an intention that had been around for a while. This is going to happen, whether this particular funding comes through or not. Great partners have emerged, and conversations show that the time is right. A go-to place that initiates, supports and promotes an integral approach to global problem solving. You can download the proposal and accompanying documents, including letters of support from here. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what this Center could do.

Devolutionary Leadership

OK, here we go. Feels like the start of a whole new domain of practice…

The first book I wrote was called “Evolutionary Leadership” (currently out in Dutch and looking for publishers in English and other languages), and focused on what an integral approach to facilitating emergence into integral evolutionary consciousness in self, culture and organisation might look like. It focused on the emerging second curve in this graphic:

s-curves of emergence


The book synthesised WilberSpiral DynamicsTheory ULaszloArt of HostingPeter Senge etc.

During our recent Art of Hosting Integral in the Netherlands, the following thought crystallised, which had been hovering in the background for a while:

The manner in which our dying paradigms, behaviours and systems are let go of is going to have a major impact on the quality of the space in which the new grows.

When an apple is not picked,  it falls to the ground and rots, fertilising the soil and potentially seeding a new apple tree.

As people in positions of power in our established institutions become increasingly aware that the paradigm on which those institutions have been built is largely inadequate to deal with the rapidly evolving and intensifying challenges of the world around us, there are essentially two paths we can take:

  1. We contract into a fear of the unknown, digging ourselves into denial, and lashing out around us to fend off anything that may prove to us that which we do not want to accept, holding on to our old ways for dear life (ironically)
  2. We relax into the inevitable, and open up to the opportunities that that may offer, letting go of what needs to be let go of, in order to take the next step

It has become clear to me that an essential part of our Work that does not seem to have been given much attention, is to find out how we can best nurture the natural decay of that which wants to die in such a way that it fertilises and seeds the soil for the new, rather than poisoning the soil with toxic sludge (so the descending curve in the graphic above). This is very different to attacking and trying to destroy the old. It will go of its own accord. It comes from a place of deep compassion and concern for the energetic dynamic-balance of the whole.

As our conversation about this unfolded, I was reminded of much of the great work that we have done in supporting individuals in their dying process, and someone put me on to the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She identified five phases that people go through when they know they are going to die, and also that those around them go through in their grief. The five phases are :

  1. Denial: The initial stage: “It can’t be happening.”
  2. Anger“Why ME? It’s not fair!” (either referring to God, oneself, or anybody perceived, rightly or wrongly, as “responsible”)
  3. Bargaining“Just let me live to see my child(ren) graduate.”
  4. Depression“I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
  5. Acceptance“It’s going to be OK.”

What I am interested in is how these could play out at a collective level. I remember reading an article once where someone said that individuals when they realise they are going to die get very clear about their life. The author pondered if it would help humanity if we woke up to the fact that we were part of the Sixth Great Extinction on this planet and that our survival was far from guaranteed. Would we then collectively get much clearer about our priorities?

I still notice a lot of denial around me in the formal institutions, and until we start to notice the anger I guess it means we’re not far beyond that denial. However, when the anger sets in, it may not look very pleasant. So how do we develop the capacity to help those in relevant positions to flow through these stages in such a way that they leave more fertiliser than sludge behind them? Clearly practices such as Tonglen have a role to play at individual level. However I would love to hear from people who have experience of or ideas about nurturing the natural decay of established and outdated institutions and practices, and ways of supporting leadership in this process go through a transcend and include process.

A part of the context for this for me is the approaching Fifth Night of the Galactic Underworld (as per the Mayan Calendar work of Carl Johan Calleman) – the phase that in all previous eras has heralded the collapse of the dominant civilisational form. The main difference being that in this Underworld it will happen over a period of 360 days (starting mid-November) rather than hundreds or thousands of years. All the signs are lining up so significantly that for a pattern-scanner it would be irresponsible to deny the building evidence.

So thoughts, links, references please, on how we might facilitate devolutionary leadership…

Dutch Emergence 2 – Healing Collective Trauma to Enable Action

Download the PDF here.

The ego … in its zeal to assert its independence, not only transcended the Great Mother, which was desireable; it repressed the Great Mother, which was disastrous. And there the Western ego demonstrated not just an awakened assertiveness, but a blind arrogance. … The Western ego did not just gain its freedom from the Great Mother; it severed its deep interconnectedness with her. … When the Great Mother [Purple] is repressed, the Great Goddess [Turquoise] is concealed. … And one may – it is a terrible realization – look in vain through Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religion for any authentic trace of the higher touch of the subtle Goddess herself. And that, we will see, would become a perfect and terrifying comment on an entire civilisation.” (Ken Wilber, Up from Eden – my additions in [square brackets] )

We are entering a new phase of our work and evolution as the CHE Netherlands, and it feels like this step we are taking is a fractal of the step the nation is being called to take, and indeed the planet as a whole.

During our retreat at the mid-point of the Fifth Day of the Galactic Underworld (May 22-23) – as the new consciousness really starts to take form in the mainstream and at the same time the shadow energy of the Fifth Night starts to seep in – we were called to a new step. It manifested in patterns such as the need to create clear structure, process, agreements etc, combined with a call to make explicit dissonance that we are feeling as individuals about the way the organisation might be shaping up, and about the way we are choosing to behave as individuals. The general theme was for more earthiness, realness, authenticity, clarity – basically “descending” energy as compared to the “ascending” energy that had been guiding us in recent months. The physical gestures that often accompanied the conversation included a strong slapping of the belly region!

At the beginning of the Fifth Day, we made a conscious choice to push outwards, expand, explore, diverge, ascend – and then to take stock in May. Now we are being called to put the foundations in place so that the many initiatives that are emerging can become rooted and fully manifest (descend).

At the same time as this was going on in the organisation, we have been confronted with a reality in the Netherlands of a very serious issue with the dikes. Marieke de Vrij, a highly respected intuitive, has been getting clear images the last couple of years of weaknesses in some of the key dikes. She had been going through the formal institutions (who had already tested her intuitive capacity and accepted its validity) until a couple of months ago, when she decided that they were not taking it seriously enough, were not moving ahead quickly enough, and did not seem to have the capacity to collaborate cross-institution to do what needs to be done. She decided to sound the alarm-bell in public, firstly amongst the more conscious population.

As she told us her story during the Dutch Confab (on May 29), we probed deeper into what it was in the Dutch psyche and soul that was preventing people from moving into action. She revealed a very significant characteristic, that I feel is not only Dutch-related, but connects to the dynamic that Ken Wilber describes for Western civilisation in the opening quote.

She said that the Dutch have a tendency to stay very much in the head and analytical domain, and that the whole belly and groin area is constricted and cramped. Given that we should move ourselves from that area, it means that there is a sort of action-paralysis, whereby people often find good reasons not to act. Sensing deeper, she explained how the amount of animal suffering in this country is truly unbelievable is you let it in (there was a programme on TV the other day showing young chicks going through a shredder). Somehow, we have managed to cut ourselves off from our sensitivity to the experiences of the animal world, and nature more broadly. That denial has as one consequence the paralysis of action.

In Spiral terms, you can see what she is describing as the transcendence and repression of Purple (the Great Mother Ken talks of above), which is leading to the lack of a solid foundation for the healthy expression of Red warriorship and creativity (to learn about these colour codes from Spiral Dynamics, click here). The way she described the Dutch dynamic was one wherein when people do act it tends to be fairly harsh action that creates turbulence around them, and so rather than act in that way, they hold back and don’t act at all. An emasculated culture. Without the embeddedness of the masculine Red action system in the feminine Purple sensing system, it cannot function healthily for the whole. In the Martial Arts, this is represented in the way you bow to each other, where the action hand is always held in the compassion hand.

One of the things I am initiating to help us engage this dynamic, is some Deep Ecology work, building on initial work by John Seed and Joanna Macy (more recently they refer to it as the Work which Reconnects). In this work, you really connect to the Great Mother, feel who you are as part of that, and listen deeply to what the rest of life is telling you at this time. There has been much critique of Deep Ecology work in the Integral community, mainly because it is not being seen in this evolutionary context. If it is used as a sort of romanticisation of a back-to-nature way of living, then it won’t necessarily serve the evolutionary impulse. If however it is used in a way to deal with the repression of the Great Mother that we have experienced in the Industrialised world (the burning of literally millions of women as witches is but one example of what is creating our collective pathology), then the consciousness that is brought to the process and participants is likely to help release the blocked energy from that repression so that we can move into rapid and effective action in the world.

Building on this insight, I got another one yesterday. I was watching the Trooping of the Colour for the Queen’s birthday in London on TV, and was deeply impressed by the powerful Purple and Blue systems at work. The discipline and commitment of those soldiers to manage to keep it all together was truly remarkable – many having just come back from duty in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It all made me feel a bit home-sick! When my Dutch wife returned, and we were watching the highlights in the evening with our 4-year old boy Finnlo (who loved it!), I was eulogising about the beauty and power of it, and she just could not resonate with it at all! That set me thinking…

The lack of healthy Purple over here is bound to have repercussions for the Blue system (Blue emerges out of Purple, under influence of Red). Blue is also a system that makes things happen – responsibility, commitment to a cause, discipline in the application – all things which I know Andrew Cohen laments as lacking in this country when he is over here. The reputation the Netherlands has as a liberal country reflects a more individualistic tendency – people can choose what they want to do. That freedom of choice, if not embedded in healthy collective systems, can lead to paralysis – and so we go full circle to the water issue. Healing the individual interior Purple and Blue, will create healthy and rapid action out of Red and Orange. Healing the collective interior Purple and Blue should enable the emergence of new systems in the collective to manage the life conditions threat that is now on the doorstep. Revitalised Purple and Blue will also lead to a functional Green where the capacity to engage the diversity in the nation is activated to enable the country to deal effectively with the complexity of the challenges it is facing.

So that’s it for now! Needed to get that down and out. I’m intrigued to know what the Cloggies reckon, and if there are others out there who see this also as a dynamic in their countries or communities.

Dutch Emergence 1

Time to share what is going on over here, as it is truly amazing… We are living through emergence and it is very cool!

As you may know, the Netherlands has been identified for a while now as a place where the potential for “integral” and “second tier” consciousness (what I call “integral evolutionary consciousness”) is particularly high on our planet. Dr Don Beck has been coming here for 10 years and telling people that, but the Dutch themselves found it hard to believe – and challenging to accept. Others have added their voices more recently, such as Deepak Chopra and Lynne McTaggart. It now seems like this nation is ready to step up to it.

We set up the Center for Human Emergence over here late Spring 2005, as part of the network of CHEs emerging across the planet, under the guidance of Dr Beck. We’ve come a long way since then, via a 900-people event March 2006, and ongoing experimentation to walk our talk in terms of our organisational form. It seems the society is now really ready for what we have to offer.

In February of this year, a new Dutch government was formed under the guidance of Herman Wijffels, called back from his role as the Dutch Director at the World Bank by the Queen to see if  he could create a Government from parties across the political spectrum (Christian Democrats, Labour, and Christian Social Union). He took the party leaders away from the media spotlight and party spindoctors on a journey round the country accompanied by an oval table which they kept at all the various locations (good Purple for those Spiral Wizards out there) – and succeeded in creating a coalition that radiated a fresh new energy and what is more came up with what many are calling the first ever attempt at an integral governance model for the coming years.

Now, Herman Wijffels was the first person to accept a position on the Wisdom Council of the CHE NL. He is a strong advocate of Spiral Dynamics, integral thinking and Evolutionary Leadership. (Other members of the Wisdom Council include Prince Carlos de Bourbon – son of the Dutch Queen’s sister – , Fred Matser, Fons Trompenaars, and Marianne Spangenberg-Carlier).

We have been exploring how we can best support this experiment with integral governance. An exciting project is unfolding, in which we will facilitate an integral innovation lab for each of the six streams in the agreement (economy, public sector, sustainability, security, international role, social cohesion), woven together by a seventh stream. This will involvemeshworking Coalesced Authority Power and Influence (CAPI) to create integral prototypes around the challenges that the government has identified. We will work with a development of the U-Process, with six facilitation teams working in parallel and learning from each other as we go. We have contacts at the highest levels and Herman will help us to get the right people around the table for the different streams.

There are a couple of related developments that are worth sharing for now. The Environment and Spatial Planning ministry has landed the two most complext portfolios – environment and social cohesion (including integration). It “just so happens” that we have recently trained up their interim managers department in SDi and equipped them with the PeopleScan tools . We are also supporting them in their internal organisational change process, and recently gave a talk on the whole perspective to a group of high potential middle managers at which the Minister of Environment was present – and she got very excited about our approach, and what is more already knew of Spiral Dynamics and Don Beck!

On the Social Cohesion front, a few of us were invited to a graduation event at the Police Academy of twelve leaders in the Police who have just completed a Personal Leadership course in which Spiral Dynamics Integral played a major role. They’d all be given a copy of my Evolutionary Leadership book (which is full on SDi, Integral and Evolutionary Enlightenment). Herman Wijffels was invited to speak and said he accepted because he was so excited by the fact that they were working with SDi. It is releasing a huge amount of energy in the Police and enabling them to see the issues around integration much more clearly. Via them we have access to the Minister for Integration, and so are beginning to build CAPI for that stream. Maria Jeukens has played a key role over years in getting the Police to where they are now.

And we’ve just launched a project to map the Spiral codes across the nation, to be linked to postcodes via GIS (see www.macroscope.nu, currently only in Dutch though)…

The field is truly crystallising rapidly at the moment. It’s play time.

An Inconvenient Truth

Having seen this film, and having to face what I already knew, the question is, “so what now?”. We either deny what Gore says, or have to embrace it fully, and there seems little space in between. I choose to embrace it. Now what?

Firstly, we can make the most of the relatively harmonious world we are currently living in. Any problems we believe we have at the moment are going to look pathetic compared to what is awaiting us around the corner. So enjoy and appreciate the space and opportunity we currently have.

Secondly, use this precious time to do what we can to prepare ourselves, our organisations and our societies to engage this coming shift in as skillful a way as possible. Develop individual, cultural and structural (ie Integral) resilience. Resilience means to me the capacity to hold one’s centre whilst at the same time responding flexibly to the intense changes around us. It includes the capacity to learn rapidly and self-organise for emergence to a new way of being and doing that is fit for the changing reality. What this looks like in detail is something we are currently working on giving words to and will be putting out there soon. Watch this space!