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Murmuration Process

Groups in ServiceSpace often manifest in a "just-in-time" formation. A bit like starling murmurations. Whenever there's a need, a group of high-trust volunteers organically magnetize around it, based on availability, interest, serendipity -- and a calling in their heart. That last part is critical, because if sufficient energy isn't galvanized then it's likely an indication that conditions aren't ripe.

From the outside, such self organizing teams can seem chaotic, but after decades of practice, we've seen it to be quite effective in mirroring collective intelligence. It's a bit like circulating something in a high-trust web of relations and allowing it to keep going -- and going -- until it organically comes to a rest. That's when it's ready. Oftentimes the first-draft has no semblance to the final-draft, and yet every bit of it is critical. It's emblematic of the principle of doing small acts with great love, and renouncing the outcome. The beauty is that the final product can never be signed off by an individual, since it is genuinely a collective emergence. That also is a profound spiritual principle for all existence, perhaps. :)

The key to unlock this process, then, is for circle participants to have a shared threshold for surrender. The degree to which someone clings to their contribution is the degree to which circulation wisdom -- the magic of the murmuration -- is lost. For such a field of practice, context matters. In a corporate setting, for instance, the shared threshold could be quite low and one might find it necessary to secure credit for one's contributions -- but here, the field is primed for cultivating a fluid mind. Even if one is not perfect in letting go, it is quite meaningful to have a context whose center of gravity is oriented towards Noble Friendships.

After a while, such an orientation helps ignite a different kind of intelligence altogether. Personally, but also collectively. As Rumi might say, "Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." :)

Posted Apr 16, 2022 | permalink

Piggy Bank

Sometimes you pinch yourself, when you realize you get to live with someone who has a heart like this:

Posted Mar 20, 2022 | permalink

Singing Our Song

At a Bioneers conference in 2003, Holly Near came on stage and shared: "A cellist in Sarajevo went out in the square, when the bombs were dropping, and started playing his cello. Someone from the press said to him, 'Why are you out here playing the cello when the bombs are exploding?' And he said, 'Why are they dropping the bombs when I'm playing the cello?'"

Then she sang a song that sent chills down many spines: Planet Called Home

Posted Mar 1, 2022 | permalink

Humility Of Fluidity

Pods are creating some profound ripples. At its core are volunteers, and this is a emblematic note that we recently saw ...

"Volunteering in this Pod is a profoundly humbling process. Instead of holding a concept with intellectual rigidity, the practice is to hold the spectrum of perspectives with an empathic fluidity. So every time I read another podmate's reflections with a beginner's mind, I invite myself to expand my perspective and see life from the lens of another. It is very humbling to practice discovering the goodness of others and their views, and it's a blessing because I'm released from the prison of my own knowing!"

Posted Feb 21, 2022 | permalink

Noble Friends

What a joy to be reminded of the power of noble friendship through these icons of compassion:

Posted Jan 16, 2022 | permalink

Four Quadrants Of Service

In talking to a friend about the state of the world, I was reminded of this graphic around the Delta variant's spread. It feels increasingly relevant even now.

Posted Jan 12, 2022 | permalink

Note From My Mom

What a sweet note to receive from my mom on my birthday ...

"When I read the name Grace this morning, a memory flashed in my mind. 'Grace-ben' was the Christian midwife who had helped me both the time with your birth in the delivery room. In those days, relatives were not allowed in the delivery room so while your grandmother and a very compassionate neighbor waited outside, Grace or Graceben lovingly welcomed you (and later Viral) in this world. I am pretty convinced like attracts like! Around this time, so many years back, both you and I were held by Grace."

Posted Dec 31, 2021 | permalink

Three Memorable Conversations Of 2021

Among the various conversations, I loved these three conversations with three unique mystics with gigantic hearts of service:

Posted Nov 18, 2021 | permalink

Between Accepting And Fighting

Some reflections from our Awakin Circle today on Marc Lesser's post on the juggle between accepting circumstances and fighting for change:

In response to Ifeoma's request for articulation, here are some words to the flowchart above ...

I love the Serenity prayer that invites us to find the "serenity to accept things I can't change, courage to change what I can, and wisdom to know the difference." In practice, though, we can ignore the service we are called to and start fighting for things that aren't ours to change. It's hard to find that "wisdom" in each moment.

When we accept circumstances, we might just be acting lazy and escaping. Or we might just lose all ground and become a punching bag for others to grow in negativity. In between those, how might we find the sweet spot of responding with equanimity and poise? Strong back, but a soft heart.

Similarly, when we are fighting for change, it can be a reaction to our internal frustration, anger and impatience. Still, in anger, there is a meaningful element of dissatifaction; if we can see that everyone is continually on a pathway of that dissatisfaction, it can lead to compassion. If it isn't in a wholesome proportion, though, it can lead to self righteousness and a downward spiral of hating the other person or world view. In between those, how might we find the sweet spot of responding to dissatisfaction but with compassion? Strong back, but a soft heart.

When acceptance with equanimity comes together with a heart of compassion, an act of service naturally blossoms.

Given our imperfect perception, though, even our acts of service can be easily hijacked by the devious manipulations of the ego. We can start to think that we are special, right, and gifted; we get greedy for change to happen on our timeline; we want to get credit for what we do. As insurance around this tendency, it helps to remember that we are not serving to help or fix others, but rather to transform ourselves through the process of performing that small act of kindness. Then, we are effortlessly grateful that we *get* to give, and we trust in grace to deliver the outcomes as conditions ripen.

Such service at the intersection of equanimity and compassion yields a quiet kind of inner transformation that dismantles the tools of our ego. Less of me and more of we.

That field of "we" profoundly expands our capcity to serve. Because we are no longer burdening our ego with the responsibility of fixing the world, we are free to serve more. Because we are no longer sneakily transactional, our shallow bonds with others mushroom into noble friendship and afford us the resiliency to bounce back from setbacks. Because we want nothing in return, the winds of nature flow through our hollow flute to play a glorious song we never get to hear -- because we are It.

By finding the equanimity embedded in acceptance, and the compassion embedded in transformation, love is made visible. We then serve for our inner transformation, or through our very existence.

Posted Oct 11, 2021 | permalink

Devil's Advocate Or Angel's Advocate

[I recently hosted a couple interviews. Following one, a friend wrote to me about how one of the guests might be two-faced.]

While that has not my experience with this particular person, I do know ample people who I judge similarly -- whether they get seduced by greater power or money or fame.

Over the years, though, I've asked myself if projecting my beliefs of perfection onto others is commensurate with holding my own self up to those standards. What I've seen within me is that I judge others by their actions, but I judge myself by my intentions. I wonder how things might change if I find some parity in that judgement gap?

If I judge myself by my actions, I realize that I'm also quite imperfect -- and then would I expect that from others? If I was leading thousands of people in an organization, is it ever possible to do something that everyone judges to be a win-win? That's hard to do even within two people sometimes. :) Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, if I judge others by their intentions, that also dramatically softens my gaze. Even if I strongly oppose the action, prioritizing the other person's intention increases my capacity for offering benefit of doubt.

You mentioned the show titled "Devil's Advocate" -- that pinning people down, intellectually, about their contradictions could be a good way to open them. Personally, I wonder about the efficacy of that route, given my experience with myself. My sense is that Angel's Advocate might be much more potent, for both the receiver and giver. :)

Many years ago, I met a leader (who then went on to become one of the most powerful heads of state in the world). In our 30 minute chat, I asked him questions like what he does to hear voices outside of yes-men around him. At one point, he abruptly walked out of our conversation. He wanted to influence me, and I wanted to influence him -- and the net result was neither happened.

Sure, if one wants to build a following of cheap followers, holding strong positions and becoming a convincing lawyer for those positions is very adept. But what does that solve? Would anyone even want such a friend? I wouldn't. Surely, I like the idea of critical thought through candid dialogue, but if there isn't a larger field of friendship and trust, it just breeds hostility and polarity -- as is obvious around the world today. If we are to counteract those divides with bridge-building, "Angel's Advocates" feels lot more skilful. In the previous generation, where content was a premium, we marveled at people who were smart, brought up intellectual counter-points, and offered thought leadership. But in today's world of information overload, it's just noise.

More subtly, one of my activist friends asked a monk once, "I have all these good ideas, but no one listens to me." And the monk said, "That's because you're taking a short-cut. You first need to make them your brother/sister, by giving." That's a tricky response, :) because as we walk the path of fraternity, our connection to "good ideas" ends up being radically transformed.

That monk's path is hard and slow, but that's what Gandhi stood for. Ambedkar would frame Gandhi's approach as "tyranny of incrementalism" -- that if you wait for inner transformation in the other person (or a group), they'll keep on doing damage and paving the "road to hell with good intentions".

But that begs many questions. For instance ...

  • what is our relationship to time? I recently read physicist Carlo Rovelli's book on time (see this video, and this article for a synopsis) who essentially says that there's no objective truth to time; it doesn't exist in nature.
  • what is our relationship to scale? We are ingrained with the notion that 10 people suffering is 10x worse than 1 person suffering -- and its converse, that bigger the project, greater the good. Yet, could that just a covert way for our ego to stay relevant?
  • what is our relationship to thought itself? During the pandemic, Guri and I often read the Gita, with our morning chai :) -- and, like so many other sacred texts, it is so explicitly stated that we are not our thoughts and in fact, beware of your thoughts since they are prone to being by hijacked our sensory stimulus.
So, to build on Gandhi's example -- how was he experiencing time, and the spectrum of emergency to emergence? How was he holding the opportunity cost analysis for scale (see a thoughtful analysis of Trusteeship)? And even more broadly, was thought even the primary intelligence (given that he could shut off all thought) that guided his actions? It's a question I often ask myself: what do I know to be true that I haven't thought of?

How do we hold all those evolving metrics in drafting up our momentary theories of change? And then, how do we design solutions on that wisdom? If we want the winds of nature to behind our back, should we bias towards Angel's Advocates or Devil's Advocates? From my experiences thus far, I'm sensing the long arc of the universe bends towards angels. :)

Posted Oct 11, 2021 | permalink

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Projects I'm Involved With

"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."