The conscious meeting of the “I” and the “We”
When the “I” and the “We” co-inhabit the room, a striking new evolutionary possibility opens up. I call it The Singular Place of Dual Blessing.
Though the word “we-space” has been around for a little while now, it turns out, as many have seen and as you’ll see here too, that the implications of it are as vast as the discovery of the Americas was 500 years ago. It’s a new world in here.
My own consciousness explorations, like those of many of you no doubt, are unorthodox. I spent thousands of hours in men’s groups hearing individual stories and noticing, with relaxation and delight, the groupness, the extra “we-factor” presence that came from being together. I also, after a dissolute youth as a hippy, spent decades meditating mostly outside of the traditions, not being part of a sangha or with a given view of the world. I say mostly outside because I did have some teachers, well-known and not, and was deeply instructed by the way of some non-dual teachers. I learned to work with what was true for me deep down in a bodily sense. I also spent a great deal of time and energy feeling deeply like an outsider, anxious and afraid and self-recriminating, while maintaining a slender tap root down into a non-dual consciousness through my meditation and group pursuits.
All our ways are unique and worthy of a deep “yes.” For me the persistent sense of exclusion and dispossession, gave me a deep feeling for the invisible rules that govern “we-spaces.” It helps to be an outsider to see what inside looks like!
I sought and fought for groups that an “us” with no “them,” where our common humanity was the bond, even if we seldom used such lofty language. Intellectually and personally, I came to see the world as moving toward, and needing to move toward, a common “us,” one with no “them.”
The biggest turnaround is one that is really at the heart of this essay. I’ll point to it quickly here and outline it in some detail later because I really do think it significantly alters the view of the “I-space We-space” landscape and I think it’s generally not seen. (In this case, the fact that it’s usually overlooked is an indicator of its centrality.)
It’s that the groups we belong to, including family, work and spiritual communities, put invisible pressure on us to behave, think and feel in a certain way. We conform to this pressure invisibly and seamlessly out of love and loyalty to the group members.
The trouble is, this out-of-consciousness conformity to group norms creates a conflict with the depth of the self. Now the “I” must suppress its own knowing so as not to jeopardize its good standing in the group. While out of awareness, this dynamic is active nonetheless.
We can’t resolve the conflict while the loyalty to the group remains unseen.
When it is in awareness, a new possibility arises. I call it The Singular Place of Dual Blessing.
Let’s look at the we-space and the I-space separately, and see just how it works that we miss a crucial piece of each . . . ongoingly. Adding in the missing piece profoundly shifts the experience of both self and group. But let’s look at them one by one, starting with the group.
THE INVISIBLE COMMAND OF THE WE-SPACE
What we don’t notice as we go about our lives is that one of the many things that spiritual life or consciousness, is, is a system. It’s a “field.” (A “field” is analogous to a physical terrain; it’s a living space or theatre where our relational life takes place, especially when this is being noticed.)
No, we don’t notice that we live in a system or field. Instead we tend to live in a private ego world!
For example, we think that it’s us and our god and our meditation and our mindfulness. And it is all of these things! But all of these are first part of a system, a field.
It’s evident that we don’t think it’s a system because the literally millions of books and articles on all aspects of individual-self development and personal psychology that have emerged since the dawning of the science of psychology have virtually all assumed the individual perspective.
The result is we tend to think that development is self-development and the spiritual work is personal work. As I hope to make clear though, that’s only partially true and that limited perspective dooms our efforts to failure or limited success.
Here’s why this is so important and so little understood!
Each of us already belongs to many circles of greater or lesser personal importance. These circles include our family (both of origin and destiny), our workmates, our church perhaps, our schoolmates, people of our color, sex, ethnicity or language . . . and more. We’re already in relationship everywhere and flow in a sea of these multiple relationships!
So my friends, here’s the kicker!
Each of our we-space circles has a consciousness of its own . . . and unspoken rules of behavior and attitude for belonging.
And these unspoken rules determine what membership in that group obligates us to act like and to feel like inside ourselves.
This is as true in higher consciousness circles as it is in the bowling league.
One of the reasons we don’t see this happening is that we’re blinded by a root assumption that’s below consciousness it’s so taken for granted. It’s the assumption, deep in our psyche and deep in the historic experience of being human, that there is an “us” and a “them.” Each group or circle we’re in forms itself as a little “us” that’s distinct from “them.” Members become an “us” because we agree that this is “us” and that’s “them.”
“Us” and “them” are foundational assumptions of the present level of evolutionary development for almost everybody. Moving past that unconscious assumption is one way of describing what the worldwide awakening now possible for us, is about. We’re moving toward a world where there’s only us.
(Are you with me so far, at least in a checking out way, because a major point is coming? If you’re not, please write and tell me where I lost you – or where I got it wrong! I’d really like to know!)
All the preceding was a setup to tell you this:
Our membership in circles and networks puts a powerful pressure on us to conform uncritically and automatically to the consensus worldview, internally and externally, moment to moment, as the condition of our membership.
I’m talking about an unconscious pressure to think, feel, and behave in a certain way. Group members are under an invisible pressure to think of and behave toward the leader and members in a specific way and to treat group habits in a certain highly proscribed way. Moreover, a part of us (a watching part of the ego) is delegated to continually watch that we “do it right” by the group. And we hate to get it wrong! This pressure looks and feels like loyalty to the group and as I mentioned, it’s more or less entirely invisible and out of awareness.
When we look at a scene of long-term conflict in the world, we easily see the systemic aspect: the Irish “troubles” between Catholics and Protestants, for example; or Sunni and Shia stresses or Balkan enmities.
What we seldom see though is that we’re all in just the same evolutionary position as these conflict areas when we’re locked into the “us” and “them” space.
The more important the group is to us personally the harder it is for us to see our acquiescence to its worldview. (The more we’re identified with it.) 
Moreover we’re very likely to be already in the “us” and “them” space because that’s the inherited evolutionary consciousness. We’re very prone to think it’s “us” who have it right and “them” who don’t.
And the unconscious rule of belonging to “us” is to not question that. What’s conscious is that loyalty, etiquette, breeding and politeness demand no less of us!
What we don’t see, because it’s a group rule to not talk about it, is that our own culture has placed powerful systemic pressures on us to conform to a specific way of seeing the world.
And conscious evolution and “awakening” are not a part of that way!
This makes awakening really difficult for us! But is awakening really difficult, or is simply that it’s hard when we’re identified with a system that forbids it? In a system that makes awakening and conscious evolution its mandate, it could be that not awakening is difficult.
But I get ahead of myself!
WHAT WE’RE NOTICING INSTEAD
How do we miss seeing the systemic connection if it’s so common?
What is in awareness around this is our conscience. A “good conscience” is what strengthens our sense of belonging to the groups we belong to. A “bad conscience” threatens our belonging.
I claim no authorship of this amazing and very powerful idea. The role of conscience is a central insight of Bert Hellinger, founder of modern Family Constellations.
Just like our balance orients us to what standing straight feels like in the moment, our conscience orients us to what feeling and acting right are in the moment.
We align to the we-space’s hidden rules seamlessly, much like we catch our balance automatically when walking. The system’s rules for behaviour define normal and right in every way and our conscience orients to them unerringly.
This orientating to consensus reality is a social agreement that we have only limited control over because it’s invisible and outside of conscious awareness. The rules for membership are shared intuitively within “the field” of all the members and individuals. In fact, the invisible perception of the membership rules and the related lines of cooperation and agreement between members is what a group field is.
The rules are unconscious unless spelled out
In a usual group, the operating rules are entirely unconscious. They didn’t arise because we thought them through and decided they were a good idea. They came because they’re the consensus reality in the group and we wanted to be in the group. Like the side-effects of a drug, they invisibly attend the group reality we adopt.
Without working directly with our human propensity to adapt to systems, we’re at only limited choice in any particular group we’re part of.
Unless we’re consciously noticing the group’s unconscious system, we’ll tend to subvert our individuality to it.
THE PLACE OF THE UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL
So far we’ve been talking about the power of the group. What we haven’t talked about is the equally important contribution and gift of our individuality to the whole. Western culture is very clear on the centrality of the individual and celebrates it continually. What it misses entirely is the vital context that individuality nest in: the group or community.
Our individuality is the necessary other pole to the group. But let’s acknowledge our individuality here:
You are a unique one-of-a-kind individual and your particular gift is needed for our awakening! That’s literally true: your particular gift, the you of you is a vital key we need.
If you don’t give it, we’ll have to get there another way. Nonetheless, you have a way into the heart of the matter that is unique to you.
For all our culture’s lip service to individuality, it’s much more invested in “us” and “them” thinking. A mature individual recognizes that others are individuals too, something more than “them.” To the extent that we buy into there being a “them” that’s not also “us” we sell out the magnificent uniqueness that we are.
It’s a paradox but only the true individual, only the individualized individual who knows her uniqueness, can know that we’re all the same in that each of us is utterly unique. And not only unique but uniquely needed in this awakening game.
But if we’ve given up our individual depth in order to belong to the limited group, we’re unable to awaken. The group consensus reality acts as a limiter we defer to without realizing it.
And conversely, the awakening world needs the unique depth of each of us to know itself!
When we can entertain both of these at the same time, we’re at the Singular Place of Dual Blessing.
THE SINGULAR PLACE OF DUAL BLESSING
Now we’ve come to the place when both our individual perspective and feeling, and the larger whole are in awareness at the same time. Now we start to see that the “them” we were keeping out is also our own depth.
Now we see more deeply that the profound problems of the interconnected world – pandemics and social control, war, poverty, resource depletion, environmental system decay – can’t be excluded or made into “them” in any way.
They too are “us.”
We see that in a real way, the future is up to us.
Frail, human, uncertain, unfinished, unheroic us!
Welcome to the privilege of starting again in this moment! Welcome to conscious evolution! Welcome to the Singular Place of Dual Blessing!
You’re fully you, you’re fully in relationship with a larger whole that is all of us. There’s no escaping, not really.
It’s true that one way or another, your ass is going to get kicked. Like the biblical truth that will “set you free,” the Singular Place of Dual Blessing will set you free but sometimes it might piss you off a little.
We don’t really get to go back to sleep. But then sleep wasn’t so much fun anyway, was it?
We don’t get a manual or a roadmap. But the good news is we don’t need a roadmap. The good news is we get to discover that who and what we have are enough.
Road maps are for sissies who think that someone else’s way is good enough. It’s not! There’s somewhere to go that only you can go. And the whole needs you if it’s to get where it needs to go!
From the Singular Place of Dual Blessing you realize that there’s something to do that only you can do and that there’s no real choice except to do it. The fact you still don’t know how to do it and never will doesn’t lessen the call. None of us do but that doesn’t change a thing. The Singular Place doesn’t need you to know.
The Singular Place of Dual Blessing is beautiful beyond description. It’s a bitch. It’s gonna kick your ass.
But deep down you know you wouldn’t want it any other way!
This essay was the seed for my book.
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 As many of you “evolutionaries” and integralistas know, the perception of “us” and “them” is related to the evolutionary development or “altitude” of the perceiver and is primarily visible at “first tier”(the relatively low levels of) consciousness. This is true but nonetheless, I contend that not specifically seeing the pressure to conform created by the group is a major impediment to moving into second tier consciousness.
 All we-spaces based on “us” and “them” have as a prime directive that it’s rude or worse, to draw attention to the group rules for belonging. They pretend to be talking about reality not about their pre-judgment. They imagine there are no rules.