Lovely art by Jylian Gustlin. Check out her stuff.
Such a help I’d wish for everyone!
Here I celebrate the value of safe, respectful groups for keeping our head in a time of change. But there's a secondary and hidden value in group spaces that is seldom noticed or spoken about.
It's true that we tend to do much better when we've full room to express ourselves, when we can tell others what we care deeply about and have it welcomed and received on the other end.
When we feel that our honest experience is welcome, that others will receive it, then more of that experience rises to be spoken. When there's a welcoming space for each of our stories, people relax with their own story and feel willing to contribute it. And they have enough attention to fully hear the other. This welcoming space is rare in our world, which for very understandable reasons, has downplayed our deeper concerns. But without room for them, community is limited. Community becomes conditional on conformity to the community rule and not rocking the boat. We go along because objecting and speaking up costs us. It could reduce our perceived worthiness or our membership in the group. Both are painful and we often avoid these, usually without being aware we're doing so.
But if there is a good place for us to bring our truth, and we sense who we are will be well heard, we do speak up. We also relax and have room to listen to the others.
That's when the unpredictable side effect happens: We start to notice something beyond our individual contributions, an emerging collective understanding that we're all part of something bigger. As with sex, this collective understanding, collective intelligence, is difficult to describe or define to someone who's never experienced it. But it's hard to miss for those who have.
When this secondary sense kicks in, something beyond our normal focus comes into play. It's easiest to describe in the language of metaphor, because imagination is part of it. Here's one for today: Sometimes it's as if the stories start to speak to each other, rather like kids playing in the centre of the room while the adults talk.
There's a counterintuitive message in this. It's that secondary conversation, when the stories talk to one another, is where the important stuff happens. This is where the real work gets done. The "adults" conversation just sets the secondary conversation up, creates the conditions for it to happen.
We can't make the good thing happen, but we can help it along by setting up the conditions where it's more likely to happen.
And happen it will. We humans are wired for it, wired to notice it, wired to respond to it, be interested in it. It's a natural capacity of our consciousness. But we seldom notice this larger energy because the primary prerequisite is almost never met in conventional social - or "spiritual" - circles. The primary prerequisite is that we be welcome as ourselves without having to conform to a group assumption, belief or behaviour. This is historically almost unprecedented. But in the absence of it, the awareness of the deep commonality we share is on hold. We're stuck with the conventional "first-tier" conversation. We remain caught in our slightly atomized, isolating personal performance, and unaware of the collective mind we share and its enormous power.
But it's there nonetheless, a potential waiting patiently for us to work with.