Identify Networks of Hope – The Power of a Prompt

‘Identify Networks of Hope’ – The Power of a Prompt

[IFF Prompt – 14 Nov 2017]

Hope is a big part of my daily interactions with folk… mostly the hope that my (usually email) communication will find its recipients well, and in fine fettle Hope this finds you well But a recent communication from the International Futures Forum ‘prompted’ me to reflect more directly on the hope I regularly ‘hope’ for.

The IFF helpfully (and hopefully?) circulates a new prompt weekly, selected at random from a ‘deck’ of prompt-cards, developed as short pithy statements informed by the Forum’s work, ‘to prompt us to recall our own learning’: “These ‘IFF prompts’ (have) proved very effective in opening up new perspectives on familiar material and in promoting better thinking and action appropriate for the conditions of the modern world”.

The November 17, 2017 prompt was ‘identify networks of hope’, triggering my noticing that hope was very much ‘on my radar’ at the time… especially after the Nov 2017 Edinburgh IFF breakfast session, where Graham Leicester, the IFF Director, had reported on his ’Tools for Hope’ experience, at the Association of Professional Futurists conference. He had noticed some sentiment around the importance of a shared iconic vision of the future, to collectively draw us forward… a serviceable dream perhaps, such as that in a burgeoning bud about to bloom flourishingly forth. I noticed that hope seems to readily ‘team’ with dream – and possibly also with blind faith in a world worth growing into… through ‘networks of hope’.

All this triggered a deeper and wider recall of previous engagements with ‘hope’ that seem to have stayed with me, and are probably still at work within me, in my own work in the world… but it’s not really ‘stuff’ that I get to ‘out’ often – except when wonderfully ‘prompted’ like this.

What came up included an early inspiration to represent ‘hopes and dreams’ as the ‘stuff’ of planning (my professional field for four decades) from a 2000 presentation. I recall feeling that this was a somewhat risqué perspective to be advancing then – to fellow professionals at least, but not necessarily for informed lay-persons – my main audience at the time.

But, zeroing in more on hope (rather than hopes), and trying to get at its essence, I remain fundamentally impressed by some diagramming in a 1970s book by an early mentor of sorts, John Friedmann, and his ‘Retracking America’. In a chapter on ‘the uses of the future’ he closed with a fascinating conjunction of the (near) future, hope (historical future), and faith (a-historical future) (see image of diagram here). It seems to me that one doesn’t see those (future~hope~faith) on the same page very often; they are mostly different strokes/takes for different folks/professions? But ripe for some ‘networking’ perhaps, some meshing, some meshworking. For example, what might be the weight of hope and faith in H3 (Three Horizons) future consciousness? How might they be more consciously ‘admitted’? Is there an ‘intermediating’ role for hope, between future and faith?

And then there has been the inspiration in the work and words of Eric Trist who helped me to a formative sense of my planning back then, as ‘the organization of hope’, fuelling later encouragement to my students to cast themselves as ‘hope-organizers’. Trist was at work in me in my early forays into professional planning, most notably through offerings such as his New Directions of Hope (Recent innovations interconnecting organizational, industrial, community and personal development). These ideas were first presented in Glasgow in 1978.

“Hope, in the hypothesis I am making, comes from the outside, below, the        middle and across. The degree of hope is greatest when it comes from all        four directions, for these form an interdependent set” (p. 1979, 440)

An interdependent set… a network? … laying out ‘the directions of innovation’ (Table 1, 440)):

Outside – Periphery, not centre;

Below – Bottom up, not top down;

Middle – Community, not national level;

Across – Network leverage, not formal channels.

Trist was very much emphasising networks back then, as:

“…the channels mediated by individuals which cross organizational      boundaries… networks are unbounded systems, complementary to organizations. In organizations people act in roles; in networks they act as themselves. People who have the same concerns, who share the same values, have the knack of finding each other wherever they may be so that very rapidly the interactions resonate through the ‘extended social field’, which is a complementary aspect of society to organization life. As networks form in an extended social field, they are apt to induce changes in formal organizations, as regards policies or even structures, which would otherwise be impossible” (1979, p.441)

Networks as vehicles of hope, as organizers of hope? Trist, speaking in 1978, went on to note:

“Networks have special importance at the present time because individuals are changing faster than organizations. The values likely to shape the future are emerging in individuals. In groups and temporary systems arising from the networks formed by future-oriented individuals lies the greatest leverage for change. This is especially so when these networks, operating in the periphery, coming up from the grass roots and concerned with a particular domain, form a voluntary organization, which contains a number of imaginative people, among whom there are natural leaders – to address the unresolved issues and take action on new lines” (1979, p.441)

Networks like IFF, organizing hope, in service to a better future. Or networks like those now being forged in U Lab contexts (such as U Lab Scotland) , spinning off the application of U Theory by the Presencing Institute ; here I am also finding prominent themes around ‘extended social fields’, being led ‘from the emergent future’. And the ‘creative integrities’ emerging from the IFF work on Three Horizons and Transformative Innovation. Networks of hope – identified. Such is the power in a prompt…

U@Work: Your ‘You’ at Work – Explorations in the application of U Theory

In recent years the Scottish Government has supported a FireStarter Festival, in part as a follow-up to U Lab Scotland involvement in a ‘mooc’ (a massive open online course) delivered through the MIT EdX platform and Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute . I have now participated in three iterations of this course, and in the latest one my focus was on ‘presencing awareness’, especially awareness by professionals of what they profess – their ‘prof-essence’.

The 2018 FireStarter Festival provided an opportunity to ‘trial’ an experiential workshop – a ‘prototype’, exploring an application of U Theory in support of professional praxis-making… ‘praxis’ being positioned beyond one’s normal ‘practice’, involving a much deeper presencing of what’s being professed – one’s professing essence. The workshop content and process is presented here U@Work Falkland Feb2018 UPD RED Final

The February 1, 2018 workshop, staged at The Stables on Falkland Estate, was a half-day/afternoon affair, that attracted eight participants, mainly public service professionals – from different sectors. They engaged with the material presented, in a range of activities to connect with their own experience: some role-playing, guided journaling, small group-story telling (all involving an interest in ‘self-authoring’), and some fortune-telling origami – that was more ‘future-telling’, of the kind of professional they wanted to emerge, as elements of their intended professional ‘praxis’.

I was assisted in delivering the workshop by Alastair Wyllie who facilitated the various activities, and Caren Gilbert – who provided a closing poetic reflection on the workshop: ‘The Journey’ The Journey – FireStarter Falkland [More on Caren at:]

Iain Shaw, Media Education was a significant part-sponsor; valuable initial feedback was provided by Joyce Matthews; and the Edinburgh College U Lab ‘learning hub’, hosted by Valerie Jackman, afforded a congenial environment for developing elements of the prototype.

It is too early to tell if a ‘fire’ has been ‘started’; the burning desire would be to ‘fire up’ a new approach to professional development – among Scottish public service professionals especially – embodying the presencing at the heart of U Theory. This would feature more concern for ‘professional-self design’ (rather than conventional ‘professional development’), and for engendering a ‘fiery spirit’ within, to bolster the courage required – on the outside – for the constructive disruption of all problematic aspects of the ‘status-quo’.

This is expected to required more than simply individuals with a new personal praxis (the focus of this particular workshop), but dedicated ‘collectivities of individuals’ (co-created integrities; professional communities of practice) with a shared praxis – an ethos – delivering compounded benefits, through an uncommon synergy of co-presencing. A future complementary experiential workshop is envisaged, focusing on such ethos-making: Us@Work: Co-Presencing our Professional-Self.


Contributed by Ian Wight PhD FCIP, Senior Scholar, City Planning, University of Manitoba – in his capacity as the workshop developer. Now retired, but re-firing, in his native land – Scotland, inspired by the likes of U Lab Scotland and the FireStarter Festival. He is also occasionally engaged with the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace, presenting programs such as ‘The Possibility in Conviviality’ and day conference offerings such as ‘The Marriage of Spirituality and Ecology’ ]

Presencing Awareness 1. Into Our Wilds ; 2. Being Game

I am working on ‘presencing awareness’ as a prototyping focus in the current iteration of U Lab. Hosting a recent session of the Edinburgh College U Lab Hub I offered some framings around the notion of The Territory Beyond, discovered in the 2016 Rosamund Zander book, Pathways to Possibility.  It was in two parts.

In part 1 the focus was on the theme of The Territory Beyond calling us ‘Into Our Wilds’ Presencing Awareness 1. Into Our Wilds It is part of my effort to explore ‘open will’ territory, via ‘telling soul-stories to our future’ – as part of our crystallizing and prototyping.

In part 2 the envisaged focus, for engaging The Territory Beyond, is by ‘Being Game’, playing ‘the being game’, as ‘playfully’ as possible Presencing Awareness 2. Being Game Both parts draw also on John O’Donohue’s blessing, Axioms for Wildness. This has inspired some speculation around ‘Axioms for Crystallizing’, soul-fully (wonder, desire, service, authenticity, vitality, lightness and courage).

I’m wondering if these offerings might attract some partnering proposals, by others fascinated by the territory of ‘presencing awareness’.

Enlivened Writing – Who am I? What is my work?

The 2017 Edinburgh College U Lab Hub has been exploring different practices and approaches to engaging with the current U Lab course

This has included some reflections on presencing and absencing inspired by some John O’Donohue blessings  and experiments with ‘a pause practice’  to better presence our attentions and intentions, and their relationship.

This practice Enlivened Writing – Who am I? What is my work? around ‘enlivened writing’ is designed to facilitate a deeper inquiry into two particular, foundational, course questions: Who am I? and What is my work? It also includes options to ‘partner’ with John O’Donohue, in a complementary inner dialogue, around more of his blessings – For the Unknown Self, For Work, and For the Senses.

Presence and Absence – John O’Donohue

Some inspiration from John O’Donohue, to resource the U Lab Edinburgh College Learning Hub, October 24th, 2017, which also integrated ‘a pause practice’

Two of his ‘blessings’ from his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, Doubleday, 2008: For Presence and For Absence

[Awakening to the mystery of being here…] 

For Presence ~ John O’Donohue

Awaken to the mystery of being here

and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.


Attending to Our Intending: The Potential in Pause

Guided Reflection ~ The Pause that Refreshes

A Pause Practice – Reflect, Refresh, Reset


[Presencing the absencing….]

For Absence ~ John O’Donohue

May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence,

that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo.

May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere

Where the presences that have left you dwell.

May you be generous in your embrace of loss.

May the sore well of grief turn into a seamless flow of presence.

May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear from.

May you have the courage to speak for the excluded ones.

May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your own life.

May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.

May you be embraced by That in which dawn and twilight are one.

May your longing inhabit its dreams within the Great Belonging.

A Pause Practice – Reflect, Refresh, Reset

A Pause Practice: Reflect, Refresh, Reset – A peek in your mirror.

[Give yourself a break – for a few minutes… when you notice the need…]

  1. Thinking back, over the last little while (the last hour or so, the last day or so, the last few days or so… take your pick – but make a clear pick and stick to it):

… what has had your attention?

[What have you given your attention to? What have you invested yourself in?]

  1. Reflecting on this a little deeper, 

… what has been your intention behind that attention?

[What has been underlying the attention? What has been underlying that ‘underlying’?]

  1. Looking forward from this pause (but from within ‘the now’…)

… what is now your intention, your underlying intention?

  1. How do you plan on attending to that intention?

[in particular… what will you do that’s new? What is your ‘will’? What do you openly will?]

  1. In the next little while – specifically,

… what do you now plan on giving your attention to?

[What do you intend to consciously invest yourself in?… in the next hour, the next day, the next week? …. whatever initial reference period selected]

  1. What possibility do you sense you have just created… in your pause? 

[What future will you emerge? … a new commissioning of your self/Self]

[Notes by Ian Wight, May 7, 2014; revised October 24, 2017]

Building Resilience: Life-Planning + Professional-Self Design

A presentation Building Resilience – Life-Planning+Professional-Self Design inspired by the CIP 2017 Calgary – College of Fellows Panel Session on ‘Building a Resilient Career – Lessons, Learning and Pointers’ June 18, 2017.

Taking off from the Building Resilience theme of the conference as a whole, the Fellows panel session afforded an opportunity to reflect on what resilience might mean – more personally – for planning professionals, in their professional practice. The orientation became ‘building a resilient career’, highlighting lessons, learning and pointers from the panelists’ considerable cumulative experience (in excess of 250 years of combined practice!) The panel also represented a diverse set of experiences, from different sectors and different geographical contexts.

I was selected in part as ‘the academic’ in the mix, largely on the basis of my (more recent) two decades or so in the planning academy, following two (earlier) decades or so in professional practice. I was helped to see the long arc of my own career in planning, beginning as a practitioner, then as an academic, and now – I sense – as a ‘pracademic’ of sorts striving to transcend, while including, my earlier manifestations – in a higher integration effort (attempting to ‘operationalise’ my applied integral theory interests).

Thinking back over my own ‘career’, my early ‘practitioner-self’ seemed to feature a distinct professional identity shift from an initial ‘agent of order’ disposition to a more pronounced ‘agent of change’ orientation – more active than passive, more ‘progressive’ in leaning, more questioning of the ‘status-quo’ (interestingly, I am now inquiring into an ‘agent of transformation’ – allied with an ‘agent of goodness’ – positioning).

My early ‘educator-self’ was very much as a planning educator – standard, conventional, conforming – but it too evolved. I became more of a planner educator, particularly concerned with the formation of professionals-in-the-making, rather than education in the more abstract, topical aspects of planning – as academic discipline (With my now more ‘transformative’ disposition, I am wondering about the ins and outs of ‘trans-formation-ing’ – which is taking me into consideration of new conceptual possibilities, around ‘transformency’ and ‘transformativity’ for example – with ‘whole-making’ in mind).

At present, my ‘pracademic-self’ is exercised by the related challenge of ‘evolving professionalism beyond the status quo’, in the context of contemplating the education of ‘the agents of the next enlightenment’ (which now includes an inquiry into ‘transformers, transforming, transformatively’). The panel session was an opportunity for myself to personally reflect on some relevant ‘emergings’ from this work, and this is what I mainly try to communicate, and document, here – from a ‘professional resilience’ [1] perspective.

My general sensing is that I am now mainly operating in what Rosamund Zander (Pathways to Possibility, 2016) conceptualizes as ‘the territory beyond’ [2] – beyond my earlier (small) ‘self’ manifestations; they are still with me, and within me – but they are no longer so dominant, and dominating, as they were in my past.

My ‘becoming’ now interests me more, especially in terms of my larger, more central Self. The resilience I am seeking to build within myself is not simply a ‘bounce-back’ capacity (in response to set-backs), but more of a ‘bounce-forward’ responsiveness (if not ongoing ‘bias’). This features exploring my leading-/learning-edge, sensing into the emerging future, and always emphasizing my ‘evolving’, in pursuit of the associated ‘ever-more-whole-making’.

I therefore found myself framing the panel theme – especially with planners and designers in mind – as an exercise in ‘life-planning’, calling for some dedicated ‘professional-self design’ (Friesen and Wight, 2009; Wight, 2012; 2014). With particular attention to what I may be ‘absencing’ – and better discerning the ‘presencing’ being called forth (Senge et al, 2004; Scharmer, 2009; Scharmer and Kaufer, 2013). This has crystallized in an interest in presencing – in our context – as ‘prof-essencing’ [3]; a ‘rub’ for resilience, ‘oiling’ the often necessary transformation, automatically making the best of any problematic situation.

From a ‘life-planning’ perspective, certain arenas of potentially unconscious ‘absencing’ merit contemplation in terms of a conscious, counter-pointing, ‘presencing’. These may be rendered as a series of aphorisms – telling tag-lines for some resilient life-planning:

an unexamined life is not worth living;

an undivided life is to be valued above all; and

an unlived life is to be avoided at all costs.

The appropriate ‘prof-essencing’ response seems to involve attention to a set of professional ‘makings’ that – together – ‘make’ a professional a professional (Wight, 2012; 2014; 2015):

a personal praxis, reflecting exquisite life-examination, ranging across one’s thinking (knowing), doing and being – transforming… ‘me’ to ‘I’;

an interpersonal ethos, uniting otherwise problematic divisions (between soul and role especially, but also between self and service, and spirit and purpose) – transforming from ‘I’ to ‘We’; and

a propensity for a transcending (trans-personal, trans-disciplinary, trans-professional) poiesis, manifested in the living of one’s life to the full, as a whole, to the end – transforming from ‘We’ to ‘the All of Us’.

The overall offering comprises four main parts:

  • A teasing out of the above ‘life-planning’ taglines
  • A discussion of attendant ‘professional-self design’ implications
  • An exploration of professional education programming possibilities.
  • A concluding coda/chorus – resilience personified and inter-personified

The presentation also includes a series of appendices elaborating/illustrating some key concepts raised in the discussions, and an extensive set of references to help frame the larger operative education context that seems to be emerging, such as: Education 4.0 (in applied U-Theory terms); beyond pedagogy and andragogy – into heutagogy; ‘inner teaching’ privileging; ‘beyond (Donald) Schon’ – into transformative triple-loop meta-learning; the heady/hearty/soulful realms of ‘curriculum as currere’; and presencing self-transformation, en route to self-transcendence.

[1] Neil Seligman, The Conscious Professional “You are always at choice as to how you respond to any situation, event or person. It is a skill that can be taught, practiced and learnt. That skill is Professional Resilience”

[2] “We’ve come to a new territory – the Territory Beyond – beyond what we know and expect of ourselves as human beings, beyond the norms of achievement or psychology, beyond our ordinary measures of happiness, and beyond what we picture as vitality. Let’s say that in this territory the distinction between what it is that we want and what life wants fades and ultimately disappears. We feel whole and in tune and easily imagine that we are resonating with the shimmering oscillations of the very energy fields of the earth itself. Grateful for Nature’s collaborative presence, we deem ourselves to be joyfully capable of all we can imagine… As you may have guessed, what we are calling the Territory Beyond is located inside you where all creation resides…” (Rosamund Zander, 2016, 189-190)

[3] The ‘absencing’ and ‘presencing’ builds on work by Peter Senge (et al) (2004) on ‘Presence’, and – in particular – by Otto Scharmer on ‘Theory U’ (2008) and (with Katrin Kaufer) (2013) ‘Leading From the Emerging Future’. I have been exploring the implications in a ‘professional-self design’ context – via the possibility of ‘prof-essence’: see blog-post

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”.