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Glenna Gerard

Ojo Caliente, New Mexico


What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?

What is it we require as individuals and collectives, to create and sustain environments of trust and mutual respect and what are the practices that empower us to do so?

What do we make possible when we choose to be fully present, i.e., show up, pay attention to what matters to us and creatively live into our questions?

In what ways does partnering with the Land hone our capabiliy for presence, deep listening and discernment as individuals and as collectives?

What is your personal experience of collective wisdom in groups?

I have experienced the emergence of collective wisdom in groups gathered for many different purposes: to deepen individuals personal practice of dialogue; to explore a topic of safety within a large manufacturing plant; to create a vision for a community; spiritual retreats, and so on.

Some characteristics I have observed when collective wisdom has emerged are:

A dawning awareness of individual interdependence and the power of this reality to create both harm and wholeness within living systems, including the group itself.

A recognition, even awe at, the beauty, the mystery and clarity of perception which become possible when individuals are willing to suspend judgments and pre-set stories about reality, letting go of attachments to “being right”.

A listening grounded in pure curiosity, even a longing to experience and appreciate the essential being of the other.

A joyful acknowledgement that our interdependence grants us power and responsibility.

The emergence of compassion for ourselves and others through which we are able to transmute information and even knowledge into wisdom and respond in ways that support our inherent, yet often forgotten, wholeness.

I believe it is important to add that I have not observed collective wisdom emerge spontaneously, that is without cause. In each instance there has been some form of explicit intention to create the conditions for its emergence through the ways in which people are with one another. This intention may express in many ways. The way the physical environment is arranged. A particular process for engagement. A conscious practice of mindfulness in service of self and other. A willingness to experiment, the opening of hearts and minds and the loosening of closely held certainties.

What is it about the work in this field that excites you and connects you to your own deepest self?

Recent experiences during the dying and death of my father have brought home to me once more, and with magnified power, the knowing that “love is all that matters”. I believe we all long to give and receive love. And, yet, we use so much of our energies in activities and pursuits that bring us suffering and may often result in anger and violence. At best a terrible waste. So, I ask myself each day how do we bring forth wisdom to live the formation of a world that encourages the flourishing of aliveness and loving? One way is to engage in practices that help us develop our capacities for listening, being curious, honoring differences…such as dialogue. Another, is to learn to “think out of the box”. Not so easy, for we stand within our learned stories/boxes, surrounded by and embodying the current thinking and feeling of our worldviews. How do we engage the unknown, where possibility lives? What are the practices that enhance our capacity to be all that we are, individually and collectively? How do we develop the eyes of compassion through which love sees and knows what wisdom is? These questions inspire and focus my attention daily and inform all my work with individuals and groups. I believe living these questions is my contribution to the field.

Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of what brought you to this work.

The initial impetus lies in my childhood. From the time I was about 8 years old my dad would give me books to read. Many of them were written by or about spiritual teachers from different paths, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Sufi. I read and I ended up shaking my head over and over again. I was mystified. I remember going to my dad saying, “Dad, I don’t get it. Why have all these religions been fighting with each other? Can’t they see that they are all talking about the same thing, the same God?” Already as a young girl could see the violence that is generated when people believe that the story of their God WAS identical with their God. It seemed to me that such cases of mistaken identity fueled most of the religious wars throughout the centuries. I did not understand. I had not yet the self awareness to experience how grasping at one definition of truth can create so much suffering. Now, I know all too well. My response has been to develop a passion for creating open and honoring conversations between people. This has taken many forms…yet the essential thread of a vision of love replacing violence through understanding has remained.

How would you like to be available to others in this field?

I always welcome conversation with others who are exploring the edges of what is unknown to them. The joy of stimulating one another’s inquiry and insight is a wonderful gift. In addition, I am professionally available for speaking engagements, designing customized retreats-programs-workshops - all with the aim of helping people develop their capacity for individual and collective wisdom in ways that directly impact the quality of day to day life and relationships.

Links to this site or others:
Presence Walkabouts
National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

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