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Richard R. Austin

First Light Village, LLC
1611 So. Utica Ave. #259
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104




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 consciousness?

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 formulations.

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 this field?

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 say ye?

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 (SNO)

The Long Now Foundation

Institute of Noetic Sciences

Whole Earth Magazine

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