Compiled by Mark Walstrom
"Around the globe humanity currently faces three extraordinary threats: the threat of annihilation as a result of nuclear war, the threat of a worldwide plague or ecological catastrophe, and a deepening leadership crisis in most of our institutions."
"A new leadership is needed for new times, but it will not come from finding new and more wily ways to manipulate the external world. It will come as those who lead find the courage to take an inner journey."
"Authentic leadership comes from the moral force of character, not control."
"Real power begins on the inside with self-awareness and self-acceptance."
"I am sure that as you listen you will hear the ring of truth."
The Evolutionary Accelerator
By many accounts we are currently at one of the great crossroads in the history of mankind. Never before has so much been possible. And never before has so much been at stake. The human family is being challenged to realize a new level of identity, responsibility and purpose.
On one hand, we are positioned at the threshold of the period of greatest abundance the world has ever known. A technological revolution is sweeping the planet, creating unprecedented advancements for humanity.
On the other hand, accelerated change has brought significant consequences. Due to industrial and technological developments, we find food not fit to eat, water not fit to drink, and air not fit to breathe. The devastation is becoming painfully evident in the breakdown of individual lives, institutions, communities, and the planet.
If we are to navigate successfully through these times we will need to bring ourselves to the challenges in a fresh way. This will involve a fundamental shift in our way of being. It will mean cultivating more profound and far-reaching levels of wisdom, creativity, and inspiration. It will require wise leadership, not just by designated leaders, but by everyone.
It has taken an ecological catastrophe of global impact to wake us up to the dark side of unbounded economic growth and unlimited technological progress. How is it that human beings, with all of our highly developed mental faculties of reason, logic, and foresight behave in such destructive ways? We like to think of ourselves as the most intelligent and evolved species on the planet, however there is mounting evidence this is not true. It is obvious that our well-intentioned, but misguided, behaviors have created a crisis of enormous impact. We can either continue on this path of self destruction or change our ways toward a more life-affirming direction.
Our current manner of solving our problems has proven ineffective and often counter-productive. We must look beyond the surface of the many crises now facing us and investigate their underlying cause rather than treating the symptoms. The words of Albert Einstein offer us wise counsel as we undertake this challenge: "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it." It is time we view the landscape of our lives with fresh eyes.
Understanding the Problem
In essence, humanitys self destructive behaviors can be thought of as programming errors. These programs that now influence our behavior and our development are not found in our genes but in our minds. They are our attitudes and values: the way we perceive ourselves, others, and the world. They determine what we believe is important. It is our mental mindset that determines most of our day-to-day decisions.
Biologist Richard Dawkins refers to these thought patterns as memes. Our ideas, values, perceptions, beliefs, and assumptions are all memes. Like genes, memes reproduce between people. Memes determine our cultural heredity in the same manner that genes determine our cellular heredity.
Also, like genes, some memes are useful, some are less useful or outright harmful. A meme that undervalues people of different cultures, races or classes can spread contempt and strife throughout society. These memes are like viruses that spread between people and make society as a whole sick.
This is what causes turmoil and creates separation in our culture. Our minds have become infected with a belief system that is unhealthy. It is these misguided mental programs that lie behind much of our interpersonal conflicts, shortsighted decisions, and harmful behaviors. Often these programs are not part of our conscious awareness.
In essence, humanitys self destructive behaviors can be thought of as programming errors. These programs that now influence our behavior and our development are not found in our genes but in our minds.
The Individual Shadow
(C. Zweig, S. Wolf)
Each of us contains both a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde, a more pleasant person for every day wear and a repressed self that remains in hiding most of the time. Negative emotions and behaviors jealousy, greed, deceit, resentment lie concealed just beneath the surface, masked by our more proper selves. Known in psychology as the personal shadow, it remains untamed, unexplored territory to most of us.
Without exploration and integration the shadow remains hidden and continues to be projected on to others in negative, and some times harmful ways. Adolf Hitlers actions are an extreme example of the damages that can be inflicted by the power of the disowned self. For most of us the shadow leaks out in more subtle ways that are not so obvious.
Many forces play a role in forming our shadow selves, ultimately determining what is permitted expression and what is not. Parents, siblings, teachers, clergy, and friends create a complex environment in which we learn what is acceptable, proper, moral behavior and what is not.
Rarely do we live lives that are authentic to our true selves, but rather our lives mirror the perspectives we have inherited.
All the feelings and capacities that are rejected by the ego and displaced into the shadow contribute to the dark side of human nature. However, not all of them are what we consider to be negative traits. There is gold in the shadow as well. This obscure treasury includes not only those characteristics that the conscious personality does not wish to acknowledge but also our undeveloped talents and gifts that have been neglected, forgotten, or buried.
The Shadow At Work
(C. Zweig, S. Wolf)
As money is the currency in the marketplace, power is the currency in the workplace. And it is parceled out not only in salaries but in stock options, benefits, and square footage. Some workers feel as if they have no power; others rule over a small turf; still others have a bit more, although they still feel powerless in relation to their superiors. And those near the top push for access, as if power by association is the prize. Finally, those few who have the power to define and the power of the purse are believed by others to be almighty powerful.
When any kind of power remains hidden in the shadow, we feel small, helpless, dependent, and even defeated in the workplace. We may become reactive, expressing anger inappropriately or instigating dissent among others. We may complain and blame others for our circumstances, remaining ineffective and expecting to be rescued.
Of course, power itself is not evil; it is power used as a shield that generates shadow issues at work. Power may be actively expressed in intimidating threats, critical comments, treating others with disrespect, and the persistent need to be right. Or it may be passively expressed in shaming, innuendo, or withholding behaviors that others experience as a "power trip." Either way it leads to feelings of superiority and inferiority, creating a perpetrator and victim.
James Autry, former Fortune 500 executive and award-winning author, offers another angle on the shadow side of power: "The great power quest," he states, "provides fertile opportunity for the increasing army of management authors and consultants. The result is an outpouring of books about management and leadership that now competes with popular fiction for bookstore shelf space. When one of these books appears, many executives jump at the latest promise of sure-fire success, a new consulting group is born, and business people all over the country find themselves forced to embrace yet another management flavor-of-the-year."
In his book: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker Palmer identifies five specific shadows he believes are critical for people in leadership positions to explore:
- Insecurity about identity and worth our identity is based on external performance. When we are insecure
about our own identities, we create settings that deprive other people of their identities as a way of buttressing our own.
- The belief that the world is a combat zone. If we fail to be fiercely competitive we will lose.
- The belief that we have to make everything happen. It leads to stress, burnout, despair, and imposing our will
- Fear of chaos. This shadow is projected as rigidity of rules and procedures, creating an attitude that is imprisoning rather than empowering.
- Denial of death. Leaders who participate in this denial often demand that people around them keep resuscitating projects and programs that are no longer alive. With our denial of death lurks the fear of failure.
People in leadership positions can become especially vulnerable to the negative power of the shadow because of their elevated status and potential influence over large numbers of people. However, people in leadership positions also have an enormous opportunity to help others bring forth their full potential. The degree to which a leader can successfully deal with the corporate shadow is the same degree he or she is able to deal with their own shadow.
The Collective Shadow
(C. Zweig, S. Wolf)
In addition to the individual shadow we are confronted with the collective shadow. The dark side of human nature is made visible each time we open a newspaper or watch the evening news.
In our society we see the growth of shadow excesses everywhere.
- In an uncontrolled power drive for knowledge and domination of nature (expressed in the amorality of the sciences and the unregulated marriage of business and technology).
- In a self-righteous compulsion to help and cure others (expressed in the distorted, co-dependent role of those in the helping professions).
- In a fast-paced, dehumanized workplace (expressed by the apathy of an alienated work force, the unplanned obsolescence produced by automation, and the hubris of success).
- In maximization of business growth and progress (expressed in leveraged buyouts, profiteering, and insider trading).
- In a materialistic hedonism (expressed in conspicuous consumption, exploiting advertising, waste and rampant pollution).
As money is the currency in the marketplace, power is the currency in the workplace. And it is parceled out not only in salaries but in stock options, benefits, and square footage.
- In a desire to control our innately uncontrollable intimate lives (expressed in widespread narcissism, personal exploitation, manipulation of others).
- And in our ever present fear of aging and death (expressed by an obsession with youthfulness and longevity at any price).
These shadowy aspects run the width and breadth of our society. However, the tried solutions to our collective excess may be even more dangerous than the problem. Consider, for example, the recent fervor of religious and political fundamentalism in our country.
Meeting the Shadow
(C. Zweig, S. Wolf)
In ancient times human beings acknowledged the many dimensions of the shadow. Inscribed above the portals of the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi "Know thyself".
Our shadow self remains the great burden of self knowledge, the disruptive element that does not want to be known. We cannot look directly into this hidden domain. The shadow by nature is difficult to apprehend. It is forever in hiding, as if the light of consciousness would steal its very life.
The aim of meeting the shadow is to develop an ongoing relationship with it. A right relationship with the shadow offers us a great gift to lead us back to our buried potentials. Meeting the shadow calls for slowing the pace of life, listening to the bodys cues and allowing ourselves time to be alone in order to digest the hidden messages from the disconnected parts of our self. Through shadow work we can:
- achieve a more genuine self acceptance, based on a more complete knowledge of who we are;
- defuse the negative emotions that erupt unexpectedly in our daily lives;
- feel more free of guilt and shame associated with our negative feelings and actions;
- recognize the projections that color our opinions of others;
- heal our relationships through more honest self examination and direct communication;
- and use the creative imagination to own the disowned self.
To protect us from the destructive forces of the individual and collective unconscious, we have only one weapon: greater individual awareness. If we fail to learn from the spectacle of human behavior, we forfeit our power as individuals to alter ourselves, the organizations we are part of, and thus the world.
Cartoonist Walt Kellys Pogo said it simply: "We have met the enemy and the enemy is us." Today we can give renewed meaning to the idea of individual power. The frontier for action in confronting the shadow is as it has always been in the individual.
Looking to the material world for the satisfaction of our inner needs is the source of much fear. We fear any changes in our circumstances that suggest the world may not be the way we think it ought to be for us to be at peace.
We may fear losing our jobs because of the loss of income and the possibility that our lives may not be as comfortable. We may fear failure for the disapproval it might bring or for the loss of self esteem. We may fear having nothing to do because we might get bored. We may fear the unknown for the perceived dangers it may contain. We fear uncertainty, not knowing whether or not we will find what we are after.
Here lies the sad irony. In the final analysis, what we are all after is a more satisfying state of mind. We want to be happy, at peace within ourselves. Yet the very nature of fear makes us more anxious in the present. And a mind that is anxious cannot be a mind that is at peace.
To protect us from the destructive forces of the individual and collective unconscious, we have only one weapon: greater individual awareness.
Many of our fears are not so strong that we would label them fears. They may just be concerns, little nagging feelings we have about the way things might turn out. They may not even be conscious concerns.
Nevertheless, however intense or mild they may be, they fill our mind with thoughts. This is our self talk, the mental chatter we carry on with ourselves. This is the voice in our heads that comments, often critically, on everything we, and others, do. It is the voice that speculates on the future. It wonders what other people are thinking and how they will react. It worries about making the right decisions. It is concerned about having enough money and being able to cope.
This is the voice of fear.
Besides giving rise to much unnecessary fear, this mental chatter keeps us trapped in time. For as long as we are listening to our internal dialogue, our attention is caught in the past or the future we miss out on experiencing the present. We have lost the present moment.
Similar fears underlie our concern for saving time. We fear that we will not have time to do all the things we think we must do if we are to be content.
Americans define themselves by work. Today time is a measure both of productivity and efficiency. The more we work, we believe, the more we produce; the more we "use our time well," the better our work will be.
Little wonder, then, that time is so often equated with money. We apply the same materialistic mindset to both. We convince ourselves that the more time we have at our disposal, the greater will be our opportunities to find more happiness. But again we are looking to the future, to the surplus time we will create. Again we miss the enjoyment of the present moment.
Fear also plays havoc with our relationships. It undermines the quality of our relationships with our partners, our friends, our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers and our bosses. Fear of intimacy is a major obstacle in many organizational settings. Intimacy is often missing in organizations even though people are hungry for connection. People need to come together and dream. What governs our ability to dream together is safety and intimacy. Without familiarity we protect ourselves and dont trust each other. With a failure to trust we dont go to the edge with each other. What suffers is the dream the personal and collective dream.
Not only is fear the root of our problems, it also leads us to resist the changes that would help solve our existing problems.
Change is the nature of our existence. There is nothing we can find that stays the same. Still, we struggle to control change. We want what is dynamic, spontaneous and impermanent to be static and controllable. We try to construct our life so that we can predict and control it. Change can threaten our careers, threaten our relationships, threaten our positions, threaten our sense of control, threaten our feelings of security, or threaten our freedom. If this is the way we see change then it is quite natural for us to resist it.
Yet, as much as we may resist change, we cannot prevent it. If the current patterns continue, change is going to come faster and faster. We will need to become more flexible, more free in ourselves, to accept change. Change itself is freedom. It is the end of attachment. To experience change as freedom, we must learn to let go of our many unnecessary fears.
To the body fear is a danger signal. The body doesnt stop to determine whether or not the danger is real or explore how it should respond to the possible danger.
Our need for self esteem, recognition, and approval can be threatened by the fear of failure, the fear of looking foolish in front of others, the fear of criticism, and the fear of being rejected. Uncertainty or anything else that makes us feel insecure can likewise be perceived as a threat.
The trouble is that our bodies respond to these psychological threats just as they would to any physical threat. So we find our hearts thumping, our palms sweating, and our muscles tightening, not because of any physical danger, but because of some danger we perceive within our minds.
If this occurred occasionally, there would be no problem. But most of us encounter such threats several times a day sometimes several times an hour and the body seldom has time to recover from one false alarm before the next one is triggered. Before long our bodies end up in a permanent state of tension.
For many of us this underlying tension is so much a part of contemporary life that we rarely notice it. Only when we relax fully do we realize just how tense we normally are.
Over a period of time, this background tension begins to affect our thinking, emotions and behavior. Our judgment deteriorates; we tend to make more mistakes; our perception becomes poorer; we may become depressed, feel hostile toward others, lose our temper, act less rationally, or behave abusively.
Meanwhile the toll on our bodies is manifested in various ways: aches and pains, indigestion, insomnia, high blood pressure, allergies, lowered immunity, illness and sometimes premature death.
The personal downside of Americas work ethic is stress and burnout. The psychological and physical damage of stress contributes to missed time at work, lowered production, alcohol and drug abuse, and skyrocketing health care costs
and on and on. Eighty percent of accidents are caused by "human error," and the more stressed a person is the more prone they are to error.
The toll is high for everyone concerned: loved ones suffer from an absent spouse or parent; workaholics suffer physical and emotional deterioration from the demands of a one-sided life; and corporations suffer high turnover in executives.
Also, fatigued and tense people tend to make poor decisions. More often than not stress makes us feel more vulnerable, more in need of defending our own interests, more caught up in our ego-mind!
Managing the Mind
Because we are caught in the belief that our inner state is at the mercy of external events, we usually try to manage stress by managing the world. We seek to reduce or eliminate the circumstances that we believe
are causing our stress. And we seek to minimize the effects that these stresses have on our body and behavior by exercising, eating healthy or giving our body rest.
While these may be helpful courses of action, it is also becoming clear that the mind plays a crucial role in most stress reduction. Often, it is not the situation itself that causes stress, but the way we perceive the situation.
We must adopt this alternate way of seeing a situation if we are to survive the consequences of ever-accelerating change. Adopting this meme actually gives us much greater control over our inner responses. We may not always have much influence over the situation, but the way in which we perceive a situation is something over which we have a great deal of influence. We always have a choice as to whether we see change as a threat or as an opportunity. Thus, we always have a choice as to whether or not we upset ourselves over things.
Learning to manage our own thinking and perception is more than a practical means of managing stress. As we learn to work with ourselves in this way, we are learning to free ourselves from limitation and fear. We are beginning to challenge some of the fundamental beliefs that control our lives and that lead us to behave in shortsighted ways that are seldom in our true best interest.
The values imparted to us through our upbringing, education and social experience have seduced us into accepting a set of assumptions about what is important, what we need, and what will bring us fulfillment. As a result, we behave as if happiness and success come from what we have and do. Our conditioning is so pervasive that for much of the time our inner knowing remains hidden.
If we are to deal with the root cause of the crisis now confronting us, we must awaken from our trance and regain a fuller contact with our inner wisdom. We need the cultural equivalent of dehypnosis. But while waking from ordinary hypnosis is a simple matter, awakening from our cultural trance is not nearly so simple. With our cultural conditioning, the situation is the opposite:
- Our consensus trance is not voluntary, it begins at birth, without our conscious agreement.
- All authority is surrendered to the parents, family members and other caretakers, who are initially regarded as all-knowing.
- Induction is not limited to short sessions, it involves years of repeated reinforcement.
- Clinical therapists would consider it highly unethical to use force, but our cultural hypnotists often do: a slap on the wrist or a severe reprimand for misbehaving. Or perhaps more subtle but equally powerful, emotional pressures: "I will love you only if you think and behave as I tell you".
- Finally, and most significantly, the conditioning is intended to be permanent. It may come from the very best of intentions, but it is nevertheless, meant to have a lasting effect on our personalities and on the way we evaluate the world.
This is why awakening from our cultural trance involves far more than a simple snapping of the fingers. One may need to shed a whole life time of training because there is a lifetimes worth of extremely powerful induction to be overcome. "The first problem for all of us," wrote Gloria Steinen, "is not to learn, but to unlearn."
Many of us remember times when we experienced a moment of self-liberation. The trigger may have been some spectacular scenery, a touching encounter, or the birth of a child. Whatever the reason and sometimes there is no apparent reason we are taken out of ourselves and see things without the layers of judgment and concern that usually cloud our minds.
In those special moments we feel more aware, more fully in the present, no longer in thoughts and concerns. There is a sense of liberation, a release from the humdrum affairs of the world. Perhaps there are feelings of awe and wonderment, a deep connection with ourselves, with others, with nature, and sometimes the whole of creation. We may remember what it is to be fully alive. In those moments we are free.
The realities of our day-to-day waking consciousness and of these moments of liberation are so different that it is almost as if a mental fence divides the two.
On one side of the fence we are caught in our mind in our thoughts, our anxieties, our judgments and our fears. So deeply ingrained is our attachment to what we believe we should be thinking and doing, there seems no way over that fence. Indeed, for much of the time, we have totally forgotten there is another way of being.
But when, for one reason or another, we find ourselves on the other side of the fence, it all seems so simple. It is clear that I need do nothing to feel at ease and at peace. All we need do is relax and let go of our fears.
In this state of consciousness, the true meaning of non-attachment is apparent. It is not, as it is often interpreted to be, a withdrawal from life a lack of concern, a lack of responsibility, or a lack of feeling. It is simply that we are no longer attached to the need for things or events to be a certain way. In this state we are free to respond to the needs of others without the aura of self-concern that troubles so much of our thinking. Mahatma Gandhi put it very clearly:
"Detachment is not apathy or indifference. It is the prerequisite for effective involvement. Often what we think is best for others is distorted by our attachment to our opinions: we want others to be happy in the way we think they should be happy. It is only when we want nothing for ourselves that we are able to see clearly into others needs and understand how to serve them."
One may need to shed a whole lifetime of training because there is a lifetimes worth of extremely powerful induction to be overcome.
A mind in the present moment is free to experience what is. This does not imply that one no longer takes any notice of the past nor considers the future. There is still much to learn from the past, and many ways we can influence the future and thus improve the quality of our lives and the lives of others. The difference is that, once liberated from its state of trance, the mind is no longer lost in futile concerns about things that happened in the past, nor is it caught up in anxieties about what may or may not happen in the future.
Instead, we can focus more fully on the task at hand.
The Art of Letting Go
All that we are aware of are various tangible aspects of the self that we are conscious of our personality, character, memories, ambitions, habits, beliefs, feelings, intelligence, failings and so on. But such attributes are conditional by events and can change with time. Beneath the conditional self is a single, permanent, unchanging, independent self.
The challenge is to become more directly acquainted with the underlying self. The aim is to bring mental activity to an end and so reach a state of "still mind". The heaviest burdens in this life are not our physical burdens but our mental ones.
A still mind is a mind that is free from fear, free from fantasies, free from ruminations about the past, free from concern about what may or may not be happening to it. It is a mind no longer disturbed by the many thoughts that come from believing that fulfillment lies in what we have or what we do.
Consciousness itself remains; you are still awake, you are still aware. Once the ego-mind is silenced we discover an inner calm and peace. We become aware that we are connected to a consciousness that is vast. And from this state of consciousness comes a depth and breadth of creativity, wisdom, and inspiration that is not accessible through our ego-mind.
Coming of Age
Our current state of ego-mind is not something we are stuck with. It is just a reflection of our as-yet incomplete inner development, both as individuals and as a species.
In the beginning of civilization the general consciousness was probably similar to that of a young child people were aware of the world and aware of themselves as physical beings, but had little sense of themselves as an individual self. What evidence we have of life in early communities suggests a much greater respect for nature, and attitudes less materialistic than those found in modern civilization. It was the development of tools and the move away from an agrarian culture toward urban civilization that sowed the seeds for the emergence of
a more ego-centered consciousness.
The more ways we discovered to manipulate and change the world the more our belief that we were individuals in control of our own destinies was strengthened. As our abilities grew we seduced ourselves into believing that such prowess could satisfy all our needs, psychological as well as physical.
This preoccupation with our own well-being led us to become increasingly self-centered. More and more we saw ourselves as separate individuals, each concerned with his or her own fulfillment competing with others for the means to achieve it with all the danger that entails.
It is important to see our absorption with material things as an unavoidable phase in our development. It is equally important to see it as a passing phase. Most of us do mature. We learn from our experiences (to varying degrees). We learn to be less self-centered; we learn to take responsibility for our actions. We become wiser about human nature and less attached to our possessions.
Today, information technology is leading to an emancipation from work itself. Automated factories produce cars, electric motors, television sets, radios, cameras, computers, and digital watches with almost no input of human energy. In banks, offices, warehouses, and supermarkets, information technology is increasingly taking over functions previously performed by people. Accountants, lawyers, pilots, architects, draftsmen, doctors, engineers, secretaries, and others are being released from many of their routine tasks.
The consequence is plain to see. The more developed nations are no longer heading toward full employment but toward ever-increasing unemployment. Unemployment is usually seen as undesirable both personally and socially, and something to be fought against at all costs. Yet, somewhat ironically, it is the very thing we have been striving for.
From the dawn of civilization, people have been seeking to work less not more. To this end we have invented a wealth of labor-saving equipment plows, windmills, waterwheels, pumps, weaving looms, milking machines, combine harvesters, lawnmowers, elevators, washing machines, food processors, microwave ovens, power drills, vacuum cleaners, electric pencil sharpeners, automatic car washes, and motorized golf carts, to name just a few. The intention behind almost every technological development, from the first stone axe to the automated teller machine, has been to reduce the time and energy we spend in physical toil. Yet now that we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor-saving efforts, we are holding on fiercely to the very thing we have tried for so long to leave behind.
On the one hand we love work for what it brings security, self-esteem, comforts, human contact, challenge. On the other hand we resent it for what it demands of us the time we have to spend at it, and the energy and freedom it seems to take from us. How many of us, if given the money we now receive from work, would still choose to spend our time in an office, a truck, a store, a print shop, or a coal mine? The majority want what work gives, not the work itself.
We fear unemployment not because we fear the loss of work itself, but because we fear insecurity, uncertainty, loss of self-esteem, material discomfort, and possible hunger all things that work has helped us avoid. In addition, since our economics are based on the input of human labor, wide-scale unemployment can spell disaster for a nations economic well-being.
The question we should be asking is not how to maintain employment, but how to create an economic system that can distribute resources and enhance our well-being, while at the same time fulfilling our age-old wish to be free from unwanted toil.
To be truly free we need to go beyond our cultural conditioning. We need to be free from our attachments, from our concern for past and future times, from our illusions, from unnecessary fear.
The freedom we now need is the freedom that allows us to think more intelligently. The freedom to draw more deeply on our creativity and use it in ways that are in our true best interests; the freedom to follow our vision and find that which we truly seek.
This new freedom requires a new kind of work work on ourselves. In this respect we have not reached the end of work at all. There has merely been a shift in the areas of work from outer to inner a shift to the next phase in human evolution.
The next major transition will be the transition to the Consciousness Age the development of the human spirit. Inner awakening offers us what we want. Beneath all our searching we are looking for inner well-being peace of mind, happiness, fulfillment. All our material progress is, in one way or another, aimed at fulfilling that inner quest. The more we wake up to this fact, the more the focus of our atten-tion will shift from material progress to the means to achieve this inner goal directly.
It is important to see our absorption with material things as an unavoidable phase in our development. It is equally important to see it as a passing phase.
Life is dynamic. It is changing, moving. Because we risk becoming dogmatic and conceptualized in our life, it is important to push at the edges of our understanding. Our questions become the investigation of that conditioned state, and its transformation.
The more we awaken to our inner selves, the more creative we can be. And the more creative we become, the better we can apply ourselves to todays challenges. We could learn as much in the next twenty years as in the last two thousand.
The "New" Paradigm
Look in a dictionary and youll find the word paradigm defined as "a pattern, example, or model." But the word paradigm has more recently been used in describing the fundamental assumptions that are commonly held about the nature of the world. A paradigm shift occurs when the old set of assumptions no longer holds true and then a new paradigm develops that everyone recognizes and applies.
The most recent paradigm shift was the Copernican or scientific revolution. The scientific paradigm is based on "objective" knowledge. According to this paradigm all truth exists outside of the individual. We have depended on externally based information or people who are considered experts for truth, regardless of our inner experience. This dependence on outer knowledge is what shapes our opinions, our behavior, our reality.
While the scientific paradigm of objectivity has led society to trust only objective evidence, the findings and theories of current sciences and other fields of study are suggesting something else. Recent discoveries, coupled with the personal experiences and longings of many of us, have moved us to a view of the world as being a connected whole.
The emerging paradigm recognizes the role of individual consciousness, the inner experience of individuals, including intuition, emotions, creativity, and spirit. This emphasis on human consciousness elevates the importance of people and includes our subjective experience in decision-making.
We need to be re-formed in a way of knowing that embraces the paradox of subjective and objective truth, a way of knowing that does not collapse into either inward or outward illusions, but one that brings us into a living dialogical relationship with all we know so that our knowledge itself will be a source of community rather than control.
In the old paradigm knowledge was power and it was kept to oneself. Now it needs to be shared. When we come together and dialogue around the difficult questions, learning is created. When it comes to learning and intelligence, though, our cultures understanding of how it is measured and, therefore, what it is and how it is cultivated, needs to be liberated. Our understanding of human nature is too small.
There is no static template that a person or organization can follow for success. Rather, we need to view the world and act as if there is a process going on, instead of following a fixed ideal. We need to consider changing our fundamental assumptions, our paradigm, so that we can contribute to its success.
In truth this new paradigm is not new at all. The idea of an inter-connected universe transformed by consciousness has been realized, formulated, and expressed for thousands of years.
Building Community at Work
(P. Russell, P. ONeal)
Community, which is now based on the mutual protection of possessions, territory, or property, is not working.
The emerging paradigm recognizes the role of indivi-dual consciousness, the inner experience of individuals, including intuition, emotions, creativity, and spirit.
If we do nothing to stop it, community naturally expresses from our lives. It is inherent to our humanness. It is the representation of the fact of our connectedness.
What we do to stop ourselves from community is myriad. Every concept we cling to divides us. We embody our shrinking world in communicating through more complex technological means. The human connection is lost we become isolated from each other.
Why have we stopped communing?
Community requires a radical simplification of our lives. When our focus becomes our inherent relatedness, not survival, then what we do with our lives and how we do it drastically changes.
Community at work can be free of ideologies, power struggles, politics, and personal agendas. Instead, work community can be based on the direct perception of relationship How will decisions be made? How will money be earned and distributed? What is ownership? Or, on a more global level, What might occur if the basis for political organization is not defense or security? If the primary basis for business is not profit? If the basis for education is not IQ?
The exploration of these and other important questions form the basis of such a community. Like life itself, such a community will always be moving, changing, and self-revealing.
The professions are filled with people who entered their fields with passionate commitments and the desire to serve, but who are now burned out, cynical, depressed, or worse after years of ignoring their inner needs and responding only to external demands.
Why, then, in the education of professionals, do we focus so heavily on technique, ignoring almost completely the inner qualities that make work fruitful? The reasons are many and complex. But they begin with one fact that we, especially in the West, are threatened by the inner world. We find it easier to remain in the outer world of technique where we can manipulate objects and cultivate the comforting fantasy that we are in charge of things.
Formation is premised on the notion that, without denying or abandoning the outer world, we must reclaim the reality and power of the inner life. We must learn how to do the inner work that can make professional life fruitful both for ourselves and for those whom we serve.
Formation assumes that we have an "inner teacher" that has a continuing capacity for discernment, that continually calls us to reclaim our truth and connects us with our innate creativity, inspiration, and wisdom even though we may ignore or be deaf to that teacher most of the time. It is a process of creating a quiet, focused, and disciplined space in which the noise within us and around us can subside and the voice of the inner teacher may be heard.
The Conscious Leader
The wise leader is like a sculptor, chipping away at the raw material to enable the authentic spirit of each individual and the collective spirit of the organization to emerge. It is a liberation of the spirit of service that empowers human society rather than enslaves it. Leaders can replace short-term goals with a long-term vision; rigidity with flexible cultures; logic-driven analysis with conscious creativity, hierarchical power with individual empowerment; problem-focused approach with opportunity-focused approach, and competition with collaboration.
Leaders of the new paradigm will honor their inner wisdom and support others to connect with their inner wisdom, instead of relying on outer impersonal forces alone. Each person will be valued as if they mattered.
Community requires a radical simplification of our lives. When our focus becomes our inherent relatedness, not survival, then what we do with our lives and how we do it drastically changes.
Whatever our role in life we are beginning to realize the value of listening to our inner knowledge and creative impulses. This is where consciousness begins. Our inner experience provides us with a unique view of the world and guides our actions. The key challenge is to apply inner knowledge, intuition, compassion, and spirit to the challenges of our personal and professional lives. The ways in which this is done can be different for each individual, each organization, and each situation.
The words of author Parker Palmer takes us to the core of what it means to be a conscious leader: "Consciousness, yours and mine, can form, deform, or reform our world. Our complicity in world-making is a source of awesome and sometimes painful responsibility, and a source of profound hope for change. It is the ground of our common call to leadership, the truth makes leaders of us all."
The wise leader is like a sculptor, chipping away at the raw material to enable the authentic spirit of each individual and the collective spirit of the organization to emerge.
Mark Walstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He can be contacted at (616) 222-9857.