Cooperating with Transformation

Living Deeply into – and from – the Emerging Future:        Cooperating with Transformation

My current ‘mooc’ experience is very much focused on transformation. Its title/theme – ‘leading from the emerging future’ – is almost by definition a transformative, transforming perspective. It seems to involve leaving mere change in the dust – via a totally transformed view of change, while ushering in a new future consciousness – a novel consciousness in relation to the future. It targets transformation, anticipating transforming outcomes across the board – self, society, business, organization.

I have been revisiting some of my earlier efforts to ‘get my head around’ transformation, especially vis-à-vis change. This was a particular issue for myself a few years ago, while experiencing being a graduate student again, in a Human Ecology program (then at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland). We were tasked to undertake some ‘action inquiry’ and I – hoping to further my education as an educator – focused, initially, on the question: How can transformation be facilitated intentionally, in a teacher and their teaching, and in their (own) – and their students’ (own) – wider worlds? In the course of my inquiry the question became: What can be learned through ‘living deeply’?[i]

The action inquiry at the time related to the domain of education, and advanced adult/professional education in particular, through an intent to serve those (in mid-life or mid-career especially) with a noticed appetite for specifically transformative learning. My perceived change-agency at the time revolved around personally embodying the necessary transformation and, potentially as part of a wider movement, paving the way for a societal embedding of such transformation-enabling later-life education. The driving vision at the time became ‘enabling an infinity of personal evolutions’.

That ‘Living Deeply’ action inquiry has stayed with me, notably because of my engagement of an inner inquiry into the nature of ‘transformative change-agency’, leading to some still interesting ‘unpacking’ efforts. Drawing on my integral worldview, individual change-agents were reframed as holons – being simultaneously a ‘whole’ and a ‘part’ of a larger whole. This entails that ‘agency’ is always in the context of ‘communion’, and the associated wider/deeper/longer frame of reference. Holons, in addition to the capacities for agency and communion, also have the capacities of self-transcendence and self-immanence[ii]. These extensions – well beyond ‘change-agent’ – seemed better aligned with the notion of transformation addressed in Living Deeply. I found myself gravitating away from an old, rather entrenched, ‘agent of change’ leaning, in favour of an increasingly intriguing ‘facilitating transformation’ stance.

Transformation also appeared to place ‘change’ in perspective. I speculated that:

“Change appears to be something short of transformation, making the notion of ‘transformative change-agency’, for example, somewhat problematic. Transformation encompasses ‘change’ to a new higher, wider, deeper ‘form’, but ‘change’ does not necessarily encompass transformation. Perhaps change is most at home within the status-quo, respecting the existing ‘form’, having a more exterior cast (such as observable behaviour) – in contrast to the more interior cast of transformation”.

I was sensing transformation as directly associated with consciousness – and with core values, world-views and perspectives. It also seemed to engage the spiritual dimension, quite naturally.

Agents of change or transformers of consciousness: what was it to be? Agents of change could be a shallower response, that may have its place en route to a more evolved positioning, such as pushing further into the realms of an ‘agent of transformation’. The analysis would then shift, to consider from what old form, to what new form. And the related consideration of how transformation can be achieved, in oneself, in others, and in society more generally.

Living Deeply (LD) was especially informative on these fronts, beginning with the transformation of one’s own consciousness. You can only directly participate in the transformation of your own consciousness, but in doing so you can then influence – be a contribution to – consciousness transformation on larger scales. William Torbert et al seemed to underline this critical self-transformation ‘end’ for action inquiry – as helping ‘individuals, teams, organizations and even larger institutions become more capable of self-transformation and thus more creative, more aware, more just and more sustainable’ (2004, 1; emphasis added).

What was learned then about transformation, that could be considered transforming? I was immediately inspired by the connection made in a statement in the LD Foreword: “By transforming our consciousness, we participate in the transformation of the world” (Thurman in Living Deeply (LD) vi). Here was an opening to a more participatory paradigm – a passion of mine, but in the context of a very personal project: “Transforming your own consciousness may be the most important thing you can do for yourself and the world” (LD 3). The ‘Who’ of transformation is simultaneously singular and plural; personal and planetary.

Rather than something ‘out there’ to be got or had, I was somewhat taken aback by the representation of transformation as ‘an ongoing natural process that’s available to you right now. It’s something you can cooperate with in ways large and small, every day of your life’ (LD 6 emphasis added). The cooperation context was/is very intriguing – a conditioner of the facilitation I had been entertaining: intentionally facilitating transformation requires actively cooperating with transformation, on the level of abiding consciousness. If personal transformation is a cooperative venture, might collective (consciousness) transformation be a collaboration? The ‘What’ of transformation is realized through cooperation with your always/already consciousness.

Shifting one’s ‘worldview’ is central in all this: ‘who you are now, and what you have now, contains all you need for a richer, fuller, and more joy-filled life’ (LD 19). Is your worldview large enough? How can it be enlarged? According to Frances Vaughan: ‘It requires inner work and an appreciation for how that connects to being in the world, and the outer work of action and service’ (LD 20). How best to pursue such integrating, and ‘integrated-ness’? Seeking new vistas – the ever-more-elegantly-all-encompassing configuration – has always held a particular attraction for myself, but I recall being jolted with the realization that this needed to be succeeded with a subtle revision: seeing with new eyes.

Paraphrasing Marcel Proust, Rachel Naomi Remen observes that ‘the voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new vistas, but in having new eyes. The familiar is seen in a completely new way. Nothing changes, yet everything changes’ (LD 20). All the while ‘consciousness is constant – the transformation is in the individual (from the limited self to the whole self… from being limited and small to being whole)… the wholeness (consciousness) never actually goes away’ (Nityananda, in LD 21).

Transformation is about opening to new possibilities (recognizing that your current view is only partial) and seeing with new eyes (LD 22). Might this be the route to enabling an infinity of personal evolutions? New eyes… new ‘I’s… the eye of spirit… from I to We… from I-dentity to We-dentity. The ‘How’ of transformation lies in shifting one’s view, one’s worldview, to inside more than outside… to seeing with new eyes… to entertaining the transpersonal.

As an educator I was struck by the parallels between the notion of education as a drawing out (of what is already within) and of transformation as something that happens naturally, ‘as false selves are shed and buried elements of yourself are retrieved and integrated’ (LD 21). Who you are ‘authentically’ doesn’t change.

In terms of educational strategy: ‘Like the gardener, rather than making transformation happen, we create the ideal conditions for natural transformation to flourish’ (LD 67). Other appealing metaphors included: catalyst and crucible; soul fertilizers; labyrinth guide; and ‘coming home to yourself and your own true nature’ (LD 175). Sensibilities worthy of cultivation included: self-reflexivity, equanimity, creativity, curiosity and compassion. I wondered: What ‘mix’ of soul fertilizer might best serve adult professionals in transformation shift-mode? The ‘Where’ of transformation could be as close as your metaphorical garden.

The ‘integration’ experienced/sampled in this particular action inquiry consisted of ‘living deeply’. Sounds simple; too simple perhaps? Except that ‘living deeply may require nothing less than a complete transformation of the way you view the world and your place in it’ (LD 1). It involves ‘an engagement with life, in all its various complexities. It is a moment-by-moment process … being present for all that life offers isn’t always easy’ (63). Transformation often asks for something to die so that something new can be born (30). It is about becoming… ‘becoming more open, loving, balanced, authentic, kind and generous’ (201). A letting-go – to let come. An emerging future disposition. Cooperating with transformation.


Merry, Peter, 2008 Evolutionary Leadership: Integral Leadership for an Increasingly Complex World. Integral Publishers

Schlitz, Marilyn Mandala, Cassandra Vieten and Tina Amorok 2007 Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life. New Harbinger Publications/IONS

Torbert, William and Associates 2004 Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership. Berrett-Koehler: San Francisco


[i] ‘Living deeply’ refers both to the title of the book that was the main focus of the inquiry (see Schlitz et al, 2007), and to the underlying practice attempted in the course of the inquiry. The book includes some end-of-chapter exercises in ‘experiencing transformation’, and is accompanied by a DVD of nine guided/experiential ‘transformative practices from the world’s wisdom traditions’.

[ii] Based on Ken Wilber’s work on integral theory, Peter Merry (2008, 124) elaborates on the capacities of holons (everything is both a whole in its own right and part of something bigger) as follows:

‘Agency’, the capacity to clarify identity, wholeness and boundaries, and express this in the world;

‘Communion’, the capacity to connect to whatever is outside those boundaries;

‘Self-transcendence’, the capacity to go beyond one’s current stage on the evolutionary path;

‘Self-immanence’, the capacity to hold all one’s parts and past together in the present, healing and integrating past patterns.



Causation vs Pausation – Beyond Cause-Effect




The Transformative Power in Pause-Potential

Some wonderings…. Can you pause – for a moment – that could be potentially transformative?

A pause as a stop, that is actually a movement, in the direction of new possibilities, for some growth, some development – of your consciousness, your self-awareness.

A pause that enables a cessation of your conventional default ‘auto-pilot’ mode… that is actually a creative act, triggering a change in trajectory, a novel perspective.

Are you ‘up’ for intentionally harnessing the power of pause, for exploring what might be generated, by giving pause a chance, to fundamentally change you?

Fortunately, my formal professional practice in recent years has been complemented and enriched by participation in a ‘community of practice’ – more informal, but highly informative – if not occasionally transformative. We hold ‘inquiries’ that interest us as a group; one inquiry a few years ago was around ‘the power of pause’[i].

I am being drawn back into that inquiry now, as I notice the stillness practices gaining prominence in new social learning initiatives, such as the presencing featured in U Lab work; stillness as a protracted pause. The presencing that is enabled in the stillness (at the bottom of the U, in the core of one’s ‘You’) can release incredible potential – that can be literally transforming. Which seems like a rather good fit for a course that is all about transforming… business, society and self [ii].

I’m sensing that there is perhaps a causation of sorts at work here – that is possibly more ‘pausation’. Again, I find I am being given pause – to reflect on its professional development potential, as part of the discernment of one’s ‘prof-essence’ [iii]. For those who might initially resist stillness practices, an invitation to simply pause might garner more attention, in the spirit of some experimentation – not so much in the realm of cause and effect, but more in the field of pause and potential.

I again take heart from my earlier exploration into the power of pause. The inquiry was highly generative, a testament to the value of the dialogue that can be achieved in a community of practice that affords a unique combination of amenity, intimacy and curiosity. Invariably, such inquiries – which often felt like pregnant pauses in my then ‘normal’ professional life – transport me into new realms of experience, which take the form of what I have come to call ‘in-sightings’. These often manifest in, literally, new terms – that attempt to capture the essence of the insights. That particular inquiry had me wondering about the possibility of pause as the root of a phenomenon on a par with causation; namely, pause as linked to pausation (in the same way that cause is linked to causation).

It seems to me that so much of what professionals profess nowadays is based on an appreciation of ‘cause-effect’, rendering much ‘standard’ or ‘conventional’ practice as applied science. This has often felt unduly limited – and limiting – to myself. What about not only the application of science as a frame for our practice, but also the application of art (or the arts), and the application of humanity (or the humanities) … and enacting such multi-dimensional integration by design? Is this cause for pause?

Might pause – and stillness as protracted pause – power such a reframing? Potentially, I would suggest – if pause was associated with pausation, in a world where ‘becoming’ was as privileged as ‘being’, where we take our leadership cue from what is already emerging. Pausation targets what that might be – what might come into being – as much as causation effectively targets what has been, or what is currently. While we obviously must continue to pay homage to the power of ‘cause-effect’, can we also equally credit what I sense is its twin – ‘pause-potential’?

What are the ‘pausatives’ in pausation? The initial inquiry provoked me quite profoundly to confront how I relate with respect to pause, to making it operable in my terms. My ‘pausatives’ emerged as interesting conjunctions – with convention, with creativity, and with transformation [iv]. Part of my sense of pause is associated with a break from convention (an absence of pause) into ‘post-convention’ (pregnant with pausation).

The power of pause initially felt most compelling in the context of programmed experiential personal/professional development activities, with the conscious injection of an opportunity to simply pause – from what was otherwise a normal course of events, or a regular/routine flow of experiencing. No other requirements, or expectations – of the facilitator, or the participants. Just a pause. An opening of sorts, a clearing. A suspension of what might otherwise be the case. A letting-go, with the possibility of a letting-come.

If we think about it, most of our awake existence is characterized by an absence of pause in this respect – we are more likely to be on active, ongoing, busy ‘auto-pilot’, which can also be code for being ‘other-driven’. An actual pause is therefore – almost by definition – out-of-the-ordinary, if not outright extra-ordinary… when we consciously opt to check in with our Self. As such, it is a break with convention, but it is not so much unconventional, as post-conventional – if the underlying intention is effectively to tap the potential in the pause.

To pause, in this sense, is essentially – perhaps without fully ‘knowing’ it – a future-regarding, rather than past-respecting, move – taking it beyond reflection as retrospection, and beyond therapeutic intervention. Indeed, it is less a therapy for what might currently ail us – that we might want to put a stop to, or cease – than an active whole-seeking intervention, in the sense of action with a view to enabling a new envisioning, tapping into the potential, in ever-more-whole-making. In some interpretations, the (pause-potential) intention would be less around what ‘ails’ us, as what ‘wells’ us… what supports/enables our ongoing well-being, by attending to our well-becoming.

Etymologically, the root of ‘well’ is ‘whole’. Pause represents a potential whole-making place, dissolving divides, effecting integration – in service of our evolution (with ‘our’ defined in the best, broadest sense of the word). Consider that to ‘evolve’ is to become ‘ever-more-whole’. The invocation to pause can thus also be extended to embrace all dimensions of our selves – not simply body and mind. Pause can intrinsically invoke the intelligence in one’s heart and soul, and spirit; the potential in pause, pause-potential, is potentially infinite. ‘Prof-essence’ thus becomes an inner place for evolving what you profess, in the moment – an awareness of your awareness arising.

[i] A longer commentary on this particular inquiry, held in 2012, may be found here:

[ii] See:

[iii] For more on the notion of ‘prof-essence’

[iv] See Endnote 1, above, for more discussion of these conjunctions.

The Purpose of Place (Michael Jones)

The Purpose of Place (Michael Jones, The Soul of Place, Glossary entry, p. 264-265)

[I have been collecting several of the ‘glossary’ entries from Michael Jones, in his book, The Soul of Place   I feel – in these glossary entries especially – he is helping us into some place-based languaging that can advance our own placemaking efforts. This one is on ‘the purpose of place’]

“As we enter the world of leadership, being place-based is how we keep the dream of childhood alive, and with this dream, the source of our own creative power and well-being.

Being place-based also respects the appetite many have to engage our world through something more than the anonymous transactional relationships that make up much of our public lives. When we feel connected to a place our relationships are more meaningful and significant and we tend to the places in our world in a more caring way.

Experiencing the soul of a place also reminds us that we are ‘creatures of belonging’. As such, places help us feel more rooted, more at home and more connected to something larger than ourselves.

Raising the consciousness of place also increases our awareness of the extent to which we are shaped by our surroundings including nature, culture and community as much as we shape them. That is, we learn to appreciate how each evokes something from the other and that we are essentially sentient beings whose moods and emotions are deeply influenced by the subtle forces of tonality and atmosphere that move around and about us.

So, the purpose of place is to inspire a new guiding narrative, one rooted in a shift in our world view from seeing our environment as a backdrop primarily constructed out of impersonal bits and pieces of things, a legacy from the industrial age, to a world that is alive, complex, artful and intelligent – a world of place”.


Presencing Prof-Essence

Learning Journey u.lab 2016: September 15, 2016: Presencing Prof-Essence

Although I’m now retired (but actually re-firing!) the past week or so has found me in ‘back-to-school’ mode, re-engaging with an extraordinary ‘mooc’ – a massive open online course

I first engaged with this course in its previous iteration, last Fall, while in Scotland. This course is a very big deal in Scotland right now (there is a discrete  U Lab Scotland ‘supplement’ to the main course – delivered by MIT through edX). This Fall my experience of the course will be from Canada, from my current home base in North Saanich, BC. I hope to focus more on this particualr experience in future posts – as I sense into the new course ‘field’ that I expect to be tilling in coming weeks and months. For now I will simply indicate that….

I am particularly interested in the course because of the focus on transformation – especially in relation to my ongoing interest in transformational professional learning. I have already set an intention of sorts for myself in relation to the course, building on the presencing that is central to the U Theory that underlies the course (NB while the focus is on presencing the course is equally concerned with its counter-point, absencing). Because of my ‘professional’ learning interests, my intention revolves around ‘enabling the presencing of prof-essence via professional-self design’. This would be one’s ‘professional essence-in-action’, borne out of one’s heightened awareness of this potential dimension in anyone who identifies as ‘professional’.

Such ‘prof-essence’ is for aware individuals to design themselves – and with like-minded, like-hearted, and like-willing others – as an engine of transformation, as a manifestation of their transformency, as their leadership in action. The u.lab involves experimenting with development of capacity for ‘leadership from the emerging future’. The professional-self design I have in mind would seek to ‘source’ the requisite leadership to help actualize the wellbeing that WE – the highest achievable collective – seek to will into existence. Not simply through the work of our minds, but also – and perhaps moreso – from the centre of our hearts and the depths of our souls.

I am conceiving ‘prof-essence’ as three professional ‘makings’ at work, each encompassing a key transformation: praxis (personal – from ‘me’ to ‘I’, from small self to large Self); ethos (interpersonal – from ‘I’ to ‘We’); and poiesis (trans-personal – from ‘We’ to ‘All of Us (beyond ‘them and us’)’. The associated ‘self-design’ engages several elements, each of which might be perceived to contribute to one’s ‘prof-essence’. The elements include consideration of various ‘pairings’, ‘standings’, ‘settings’ and ‘transformings’ – which I will seek to address at greater length in the course of the course. For now I will simply mention that the ‘pairings’ entail an effort to cultivate particular awareness of, and a particular intent to align: self and service; soul and role; spirit and purpose (one more ‘inner’; the other more ‘outer’).

These ‘makings’ are further conceived as part of a larger ‘whole-making’ endeavour, aligning with a wellbeing imperative – as the bottom-line, and highest aspiration – closing the divides, in greater integrations of integrated-ness – on our insides, and integration-ability – on our outsides. The ensuing wholeness may be envisaged as an integration of the classic virtues – goodness, truth and beauty, in a movement devoted to ‘ever-more-whole-making’. The emerging future I am willing – as our existential ‘pull’ – might therefore be an infinitely compounding G.T.B. … perhaps G~T~Bn ….

[If you are curious about the course, check it out at:

And for a quick ‘taste’, sample the short mini-course designed for curious u.lab ‘newbies’: The latter can be completed in around two hours]

Exploring the Inner Ledges of Knowing


[In 2014 TEDx Victoria invited folks to address ‘The Pursuit of Knowledge’, and I surprised myself by dreaming up an offering. It was not selected for presentation at the time, but I came across it again recently, and find that many aspects are still alive for me.

 I have been hoping for some time to experiment with having a web-site presence, and tackling some blogging – and my idea back then, for a focus, is still vibrating. It seems to want to get out – some inner goings-on that want to come out into the light of day. Here’s my opening out-coming… my coming-out, into the blogosphere. I’m curious about any curiosity this sparks in you]

Out-comes and In-goes: Exploring the Inner Ledges of Knowing

I have a curiosity about the pursuit of a particular type of knowledge – self-knowledge. The scope of the pursuit is through ‘inner work’. This places ‘it’ squarely in the realm of consciousness, as a complement to ‘outer work’ in the realm of concrete form. The operative motivation is in service of greater ‘integrated-ness’ (on the ‘inside’ – our inside) and greater integration-ability (on the outside – our exterior world).

I have a particular interest in ‘off-the-ledge’ (outside the box) ways of knowing and being, that stretch the notion of knowledge and related conceptions of understanding, especially through more ‘integral’ framings, that privilege whole-making.

Consider. Knowledge can seem to be mostly or mainly about outcomes – about what emerges from a linear inquiry process – essentially and/or especially objective in essence, and often having the quality of being certified by a scientific method framing. But what about the inner workings – the inside-goings-on – that may determine the evident outcomes?

Consider further. Knowledge is as much subjective and inter-subjective as it is objective and inter-objective. The pursuit of such inner self-knowledge, about the worlds of I and We, merits as much consideration as the pursuit of knowledge about the worlds of It and Its. And pursuit of knowledge about the past and the present needs to be matched by the pursuit of knowledge about the future.

Suggestion. New dispositions are needed to pursue such expanded forms of knowledge, to achieve the necessary comfort and capacity to sufficiently engage new horizons… to go out on limbs that are ledges – at the edges of knowing and at the interface with the unknown. An inner self-knowledge disposition favours the mobilization of novel perspectives – to help peer over the ledge: outcomes and ingoes; in-sights and out-of-sights; under-standing and over-standing; inner-standing and outer-standing.

Privileging the future, as much as the past or present, also invokes new inquiry territory – the cause-effect of the conventional scientific method becomes the pause-potential of a post-conventional orientation; thinking and doing are complemented by presencing and enacting, and a prime concern with being and becoming. The transformational power of pause beckons (another blog – to come).

Hypothesis. Knowledge is not the preserve of a remote institution, nor something produced by an inanimate process. It is fundamentally subjective and inter-subjective. Each of us possesses an amazing instrument – our selves (ideally our Selves) – gauging qualities and quantities, with sensitivity and sensibility. Each of us possesses a vast consciousness, full of discoveries to come – a source of unimaginable growth and development. Each of us is part of a wider field – of mutual resonance, alignment and synchronicity – that can feed us… knowledge-in-the-making, to be pursued.

Tweet-meat. Knowledge represents out-comes that depend on in-goes – inside-goings-on, that we also need to more consciously pursue – at the ledge of our knowing.