What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?
Understanding that the map is not the territory leads
one to ask:
Do the maps (mental models) we are choosing accurately
align to the structure of this world, understood as a dynamic energy
system, and truly guide our participation in the evolution of an integral
What is your personal experience of collective
wisdom in groups?
During a five-year retreat in the Nevada high-mountain
desert, I worked on a farm located on the eastern border of the Great
Basin National Park. Home Farm, as the HQ for the School
of the Natural Order (SNO) is called, provides an uncluttered setting
for deep personal inquiry and reflection, plus daily opportunities to
apply one’s insights. A unifying field was often present among
the resident farm hands, nurtured by regular meditations and grounded
during the daily chores of tending gardens, orchards, and livestock,
preparing meals, harvesting, maintaining equipment, and attending classes.
These activities were more about relationship building, exchanging of
stories about our inner landscapes, attempting to clarify our personal
discoveries, and sharing how we were learning to put them into practice.
At SNO, the system of general semantics is used as a primary tool for
articulating the ancient wisdom teachings and correlating them with
modern scientific principles.
Along the way, I worked with several organizations that
had well-articulated and challenging vision statements. Their missions
were to create or discover, test, and make available to their communities
the best tools, resources, and/or learning environments for explorers
on various paths of self-manifestation and harmonious and sustainable
community building. Among them were Point Foundation (publisher of Whole
Earth Catalog), the Board of Trustees at the California
Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), The Cultural Integration Fellowship,
Innovation Associates, and the Society for Organizational Learning.
While striving to evolve beyond merely reifying
and using their vision statements as currencies of exchange, these organizations
were facing the challenges of translating their lofty visions into the
daily activities of work, learning, capacity building, and interpersonal
relationships. Life at these organizations was filled with experiential
opportunities for experiencing collective wisdom, distributive leadership,
and creative inter-participation, born out of genuinely shared common
values and common purpose. Often, at team retreats, workshops, annual
meetings, or community gatherings, when the usual organizational structures
were not in place, a unique quality of energy would envelop the group
wherein creativity would abound and significant learning was accomplished.
What is it about the work in this field that excites
you and connects you to your own deepest self?
Probably the most significant connection is a developing
understanding that each individual represents a unique aspect of the
universal dynamic energy field or life force. Each, in her or his own
way, represents a potential contribution toward a collective ascension
of consciousness and a co-evolution of sustainable cultures and communities.
Collaborative participation, in mutually agreed upon
creative endeavors, provides many opportunities to discover, reflect
upon, and apply newfound personal insights regarding emerging individual
and collective capacities. Experience has shown that when individuals
share similar aspirations, engage in generative dialogue, honor diversity,
and work in harmony, they collectively create a potential in the field
for great advances, such as expressed by this quote from the teachings
of Agni Yoga:
"The manifestation of evolution should be inseparably
linked with the improvement of the life of the people wherein the success
of the design depends not on a uniformity of colors but on the reverberations
of contrasts, for out of contrasts a picture of special significance
may be revealed."
First Light Village, LLC (a cooperative - sustainable
futures by design) and The New Alexandria Studio (a non-profit - learning
environments for the new millennium), were founded as starting points
for such a vision.
Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of
what brought you to this work.
On a late summer rainy afternoon, aged nine, I was wading
in an irrigation ditch on our family ranch in Montana, feeling the earth-warmed
water leaking into my rubber boots when the words “a life of philosophy”
crossed my mind. Some months earlier, this experience was preceded by
a near-drowning incident where my whole life flashed across my mind’s
eye and awakened something in me for which I had no words but felt intensely.
Some years later, the need to respond to those deep inner
stirrings moved me to leave my international banking career. As the
journey of inquiry progressed, more substantive teachings, maps tested
and refined over time by elders who had traveled integral paths of self-manifestation,
became available. To me, the really good maps seem to perpetuate the
energies for generating one’s own inspirations, speak of freedom
of possibilities for self discovery and actualization, suggest establishing
harmonious relationships with the environment, and encourage us to share
our stories with those who might be interested.
As I have come to understand the rhythm of my development
process to be one that usually begins with experiences over time that
are followed by extended periods in solitude, meditating, reflecting,
reading, and journaling as a way to find meaning in those experiences.
Insights are one thing. Sharing and applying them in ways that are useful
to others is quite another. A key lesson learned is about discerning
the difference between true-to-the-territory maps and false-to-fact
Teachers, mentors, and “travel guides” appeared
when needed. Their philosophic center-points varied as widely as the
uniqueness of their personas and chosen livelihoods. They have been
strangers, friends, children, elders, well known and unknown, and those
who were most difficult to love. The elder travelers shared stories
about the importance of functioning in such a manner as to bring about
an understanding of our individual roles in the evolution and ascension
of consciousness. For them, meaningful purpose is about making high-quality
energy investments in the future of the future. They taught about questioning,
laughing, and caring.
Pivotal moments, as such, have come during meditation,
observing the beauty of a sunrise at Mt. Fuji, riding in the engine
of a freight train roaring through the nighttime mountains of Montana,
and in the simple pursuit of right livelihood. They have been present
driving a tractor in hay fields on the high mountain desert, in remote
viewing experiments, driving a bus full of school children, washing
dishes in a hospital, sculpting marble, and in the loving embrace of
my wife and son. Sharing and applying the learning along the road have
given life and meaning to the gifts of knowledge, challenges, and understanding
received from so many. And so it goes…
How would you like to be available to others in
Current research includes exploring how we choose, authenticate,
and use maps to orient ourselves. Will they offer us guidance on journeys
that fulfill our highest aspirations and call us beyond the familiar
to a more encompassing sense of ourselves?
According to Alfred Korzybski (1933), “The map
is not the territory.” However, when the maps (mental models)
we use are similar in structure to the territory they are meant to describe
they offer predictability, minimize surprise, and increase our chances
for success in balancing the inner and outer dimensions of our lives.
My mapping interests extend to any combination of signs, symbols, assumptions,
scenarios, evaluations, theories, beliefs, interpretations, mental models,
etc. that we might refer to as maps. Another interest being researched
is about how we use language and how language uses us.
How might this work and research contribute? What
Links to this site or others:
Auroville - A universal
city in the making in south India
California Institute of
Integral Studies (CIIS)
School of the Natural Order
The Long Now Foundation
Institute of Noetic Sciences
Whole Earth Magazine