Reflections on our recent Integral Community Seminar

It’s been over a month since we gathered at Whidbey Institute on gorgeous Whidbey Island for our 2011 seminar. Over 50 of us came together to explore and experience what integral community feels like, looks like, and what it takes to evolve the collective, both within ourselves and amongst us all. Most of all we came together to see what potential next steps emerge from evolving the WE.

It was an incredibly rich week. I look back and am so heartened by what happened. To tell you the truth, I was both excited and a bit nervous leading up to the seminar. This seminar was about discovering and exploring a new field together, pushing the edge of what we knew together! Territory that is so much more emergent than established. There was a definite sense of diving into the unknown.

I have never said this of one of our seminars or of other events I have attended, but this time it was such a palpable experience: the presence of the Holy during these days on Whidbey.

So, what happened? Many things. I’ll share some of the highlights from my perspective.

One thing that struck me right away was how ready this group was for depth and authenticity. As soon as a deeper chord was struck in any of the presentations, or experiential offerings – and this was the case right from the very beginning – the group was right there to meet that depth and take it further. And so we very quickly went deeper within ourselves, meeting ourselves more fully… simple honesty held in compassion, with a sincere willingness to grow, to discern, to heal, to shed and to be present. We also went deeper between each other. We listened to each other, not just the words, but below the surface, learning to be present with our whole self to another whole self.  Learning that there is no limit to inquiry and presence.

Moving from our focus and our discernment practices in relation to self and other on to the “We” that resides amongst all of us, we dove into a regular exploration of this “We”. This collective presence or We-being that emerges when we gather together to listen, to be present to and express that which is greater than the sum total of all gathered, was delicate at first, and fleeting. As we kept on practicing, it quickly became more tangible, palpable. We practiced in various group sizes, configurations and with a number of formats… sometimes bumpy, sometimes tender or tentative or awkward, sometimes blown wide open and holy. Practice helped. By the end of the week it often took just a few seconds… gather in a circle, sit up straight, show up fully, listen deeply, give it a voice. Above all, listen to what it offers; it speaks from the Future. Upwellings of gratitude, honoring, blessedness, healing and challenge poured forth. Seemed like we were getting better at it in silence, speaking from that place was still very much a growing edge for the whole group.

I was also very touched and amazed by what an authentic relational container can do for healing, for renewal, replenishment, and hope. What could take years of therapy or inner work as an individual, could be met, felt, and released within moments, hours, a few days. A river running through and on – with no damming or flooding, simply enabled to pierce the self, and flow through and on. Lauren Worsh, one of the seminar participants, expresses this so beautifully:

“As I return from the exquisitely wonderful experience of sharing a week in the embrace of a consciously evolutionary collective (the Integral Community Seminar), I am struck by the recognition that, as a group, we embodied a balance of listening and expressing, and of yin and yang, unlike anything I have ever experienced. And what was possible because we began to enact this balance together was an unfolding of immense depth and dimensionality, held in a healthy, breathing, responsive container capable itself of growing and flexing to meet the needs of the moment. The experience of participating in an aware and consciously emergent collective was nourishing beyond compare. Unimagined dimensions and capacities were awakened and quickened in me, evoked in and through the alchemy of our We. I have begun to glimpse the power of what we can heal and what we can create when we genuinely surrender into our true nature, as Love, as a unique holographic microcosmic Self concurrently arising also as a larger whole-of-humanity Self (which is itself a part of ever larger collectives) — our power as conscious Love as a collective is unimaginably immense. What overwhelms and frightens us from the vantage point of the somewhat aware individual human, can be effortlessly resolved at the levels of consciousness accessible to and enacted by the aware collective.”

I also delighted in the sense of connection with the greater We, spread afar geographically, but more tangible with the help of technology… skyping Thomas Huebl in from Tel Aviv and feeling the immediacy with which he was present with everyone. Having Trevor Malkinson from Beams & Struts blog on a daily basis live from the seminar, and receiving people’s comments and connection in response.  Witnessing the fb threads of conversation and inspiration creating ripples.

Also a highlight, and great help for me as a co-organizer, was the smooth functionality of the outer realities of running such an event – from the newly added kids’ program to the amazing help from volunteers with setting up the spaces, the incredibly nourishing food, and the beautiful natural setting offered by Whidbey Institute. Thank you to all those elements! They make our job so much easier and fun and yummy!

Another insight gained through the experience is how we really need to keep practicing and experimenting this new way of coming together. It’s not just gonna “fall on our heads”. Coming together beyond the Ego takes real-time practice, which includes the individual practice of ever-increasingly dis-identifying from one’s Ego. Evolution of the “We” requires evolution of the “I”, and the evolution of the “I” can be quickened and supported by the evolution of the “We”. Given the current state of the world I can think of nothing more pressing or effective in bringing us closer to sane, healthy, sustainable and ethical choices. I hope we can increase our communication and connection with other initiatives around the globe working at evolving this next stage in consciousness evolution, that of the “We”.

So let’s keep on practicing – preparing the ground within ourselves by working the inner “muscles” of our own discernment between ego and authentic, as well as getting together with others who share an openness and readiness to dive into the exploration of emerging the “WE” in our midst.

At Next Step Integral we are looking forward to taking our next step along these lines… we are presently looking at two possible streams forward:

1)  Another Integral Community seminar in 2012, that offers a deepening of the practice and experience

2)  An “Evolving the We” festival, expanding the size of the event, spreading the experience to many more people

Let us know what you think, where you’d like to see us take this. We are listening. There is always more to learn, ways to improve and evolve our offerings.

And so, over a month after our seminar, I am remain heartened, I feel more hopeful, I truly feel we are evolving. And I thank each of you for You, for the work you do to bring more honesty, more kindness, deeper listening and Big Heart to yourself and all your relations.

To our mutual evolution!