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The Alchemic Journey Towards Wholeness – the Heart of Regenerative Leadership

April 13, 2021

The ancient Greeks had the slogan ‘Know Thy Self’ above the doorways of some of their most sacred temples. Why?

In my previous article on The Essence of Regenerative Leadership, I explore how cultivating a more intimate relationship with one’s own sense of self is vital for the shift in human consciousness we now need for enabling regenerative futures.

In this article, we delve into aspects of the inner journey towards wholeness, and explore its importance for these epochal times.

First, let’s explore how this journey towards wholeness relates to leadership. In doing so I shall draw upon the work of leadership specialists like Parker J Palmer and Otto Scharmer as well as insights from further afield.  Second, we shall explore the hidden depths of this inner journey, drawing upon the psychological work of Carl Jung and also Alchemy, an ancient science of the soul.

So, first, ‘Leadership’ – a word that conjures up grandeur and ego, and yet is really about humility and soul. 

Just as it can be argued that every human being is made for communal life, so leadership can be anyone’s vocation in varying degrees, as in community everyone leads and follows in myriad ways.

The origin of the word ‘leadership’ finds its root in the old European word ‘leith’ which means to cross the threshold, to die and be reborn, to let go of old ways of being-and-doing in order to embrace the new.

This speaks to the inner journey involved in true leadership – to go inward and gain perspective on our own individual (and collective) constrictions, habits, foibles, limitations, strengths, weaknesses, gifts and fears.

Just as the yin-yang symbol conveys the light and dark aspects of life, so must our journey towards wholeness embrace light and dark or else it is not whole.

There are some useful tips and tools amid contemporary thinking on positive psychology and the power of positive thinking. Such tips and tools can help equip the leader to deal with the challenges of the day, and even get-things-done more effectively and efficiently. And yet the journey inward is an intense journey of inner shadow and light, beyond the realms of positive thinking. Positive thinking, if overly focused upon, may encourage a habit of polarising thoughts and situations as good and bad. Yet as we journey inward, we can sense into all aspects of the yin-yang wisdom of life.

As regenerative leaders, we are creating conditions for life to flourish within-side ourselves, so we are authentic in our walking-the-talk (with the failures, mistakes and falls this humbly invites). We are also helping enable the conditions for life to flourish in others, as we hold-space for others to feel safe enough to embark on their own journey towards wholeness. And we are enabling these life conditions across teams, organisations and social systems, so these collective systems nudge towards allowing more authenticity, diversity and inclusiveness – spiritually, materially, socially, ecologically.

As leaders, we also need to be acutely aware of our own presence and the effect it has on others. It is natural for humans to project light and shadow. Noticing our own projections is a powerful way of gaining perspective on our own presence and blind-spots.

Leaders can tend towards extroversion, by bolstering a light-filled projection outward, and then suppressing an ever-expanding shadow within, that then seeps out in other ways. We might, for instance, offer wise-counsel or give advice regularly throughout the day, or hold-space for others to work through their problems. Then, after a while, perhaps on a day when we are tired and triggered, we begin to resent why people can’t just think for themselves and stop whinging. As a result we might become more direct in our feedback – which depending on how it’s delivered may be just what the situation calls for, or it may be out of sych with the situation.  We may learn to notice the trigger within us, and inwardly explore what this trigger is revealing: our own inner light and shadow tensions, our own inner soul and ego evolutions. We might begin to notice ebbs and flows, tensions and energies within our own sense of self.  This is the journey inward, the journey beyond compartmentalisation of outward-extroversion, positive-thinking,  inner frustration, anxiety or insecurity. The journey towards wholeness is one of integrating our own fragmentation, of becoming more attentive to everything that is going on within us, regardless of whether we judge it good or bad, light or dark. 

As a leader, understanding the shadow within us, and how we project on to others, is of great importance. This shadow affects not just our perception of others and then our judgements and opinions of them, which may cloud our listening, feedback and acceptance. It also directly affects others efficiency and effectiveness due to our power as a leader to influence others, either constructively – opening them up to explore, question, learn, grow into their own selfhood while unlocking their innate brilliance – or destructively – closing them down, limiting them, creating defensiveness and fear in them that deflates their creativity and locks-up their brilliance.   This is where our own journey towards wholeness gets magnified through our leadership, as it is all too easy in positions of influence to transfer our own stuff, rather than transform it. Transferring spreads pollution, transformation brings regeneration.

Our inner soul-gifts and virtues (for instance: patience and equanimity) are conveyed through our relations with others. I may know that I have a general tendency, for instance, to be impatient. This does not mean I simply practice to bite my tongue and force an artificial pent-up type of patience into my relations with self and other. Yes, certain coping-mechanisms may be useful in certain situations, and yet these coping mechanisms merely maintain the status quo, rather than invoke transformation. Instead, my ability to notice when the impatience starts off within-side of me, and sense it, give it my conscious awareness, rather than suppress it. Then I can allow its power over me to ease through my awareness, and therefore reduce down my urge to overly project outward on to the other. This is more than positive thinking. This is inner shadow-work, depth psychology and self-transformation.

As Annie Dillard knew,

‘In the depths are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here.’

The gift of this realisation of reality is within us. We are each born with this gift. Often it can be buried deep under trauma, hurt, fear, stress and busyness. 

It is a learning journey to become more intimate with ourselves, it takes time, practice, careful attention and discipline.  For instance, a daily practice of noticing our thoughts as we wake-up, and practicing some mindfulness or bodymind energy-work to provide access to the substrate Anne Dillard refers to, followed by moments of reflection and journaling throughout the day to notice triggers, tensions and learning, and then the space before sleep to notice our thoughts, reflect on the day, and once again practice some mindfulness or bodymind energy-work to go deeper within, over the world’s rim. This requires practice and discipline to find out what works best so each day informs the journey towards wholeness.

‘Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.’ – Parker J Palmer

In exploring this ‘hidden wholeness’ within us as leaders, Parker J Palmer speaks to 5 shadow-casting monsters we encounter on this inner journey.

  1. Insecurity – the first shadow-casting monster is insecurity about identity and worth. Leaders who have an extroversive tendency may find this insecurity hard to see, yet it is there. Sometimes extroversion has been constructed as a result of self-doubt and the insecure feeling sensitive types feel when ‘performing’ in any social setting. This creates shadow and inauthenticity if left unchecked. Soon we become overly-hooked on, or even dependent upon, this external persona or role we have projected, as it gives us a sense of self-worth. Yet it is projection, not wholeness. So let us look inward, and become intimate with our own inner insecurities and nagging self-doubt, and see beneath veneers and masks we have constructed with skill and effort.  The reality is, if we are projecting our own insecurity through our role as ‘leader’ we might create settings that deprive people of their identities as a way of defending our own insecurity. We might close-down another or overly-defend a point, or not open-heartedly listen to the other, or too eagerly assert our view, because of our own inner instability and grasping.  It remains up to us to find our centre, to ground and feel rooted in our own inner-soil, the ground-of-our-being. Often the dynamics we find in organisations today are riddled with ripples and repercussions from insecurity.  To help overcome this shadow within, we first need to become conscious of it, and notice how it shows itself in us – this requires self-authenticity, humility and courage. Second, as we become more intimate with ourselves as we journey towards wholeness, we start to appreciate that identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others. This speaks directly to power dynamics, and the inner realisation that the ego needs power and control yet the soul (our deeper truer nature) does not, as it is able to sense the abundance, reciprocity, cyclic seasonality and synchronicity of how life really works.  Hence, the threshold crossing of letting go of old constructs, old ways of engaging, and opening into a deeper self-agency where ego serves soul.
  • Competition – the second shadow-casting monster is the conditioned belief we have had stuffed in us through mainstream education that nature is inherently selfish and competitive, and you have to dominate or be dominated in life to get anywhere. This belief that life is a competitive battleground is rooted in a worldview of separateness, that we are nothing but separate ego-selves struggling for survival in a dog-eat-dog world.  We either win or lose. With this perspective life becomes a vast combat zone. War-mentality is everywhere – it has infiltrated the climate change movement with ‘the war on carbon’, its prevalent through the COVID pandemic with the ‘war on the virus’, its rampant in politics, in business, in our approach to health, and our approach to education.  Competition has become so pervasive because we have made it so. In nature competition is actually far outweighed by collaboration in its influence on evolution.  As we journey inward, one of the gifts we receive is the deepening realisation that life is flowing with inter-relationality at all levels seeking harmony more than competition.  This inner knowing helps us ease off from a narrow-minded war-mentality that sees only winners and losers. We can relax a little and grow into sensing and responding within this participatory experience of life where everything informs everything else.
  • Functional atheism – the third shadow-casting monster comes out of the hard-won experience that to get things done I need to put my head-down and take responsibility otherwise nothing gets done. If it’s going to get done well, then I will have to do it through stress and toil.  Again this belief has been encoded in us from early on in our lives.  Yet, once again, as we journey inward, another gift is revealed to us – sometimes we need to get out of the way and allow things to happen with more flow and less stress. We learn we do not need to carry the heavy load and can share more, trust more, empower others, and see different richer outcomes unfold far beyond our original perceptions.  In the leadership research of action logics this relates to the shift from conventional expert-achiever level of leadership into post-conventional individualist-strategist leadership where we learn to open up and trust not just those around us but also the complex systemic dynamics and hidden ordering forces at play within teams and organisations.  We begin to be able to flow as nature flows, realising there is a hidden wholeness seeking to reveal itself if only we trust in life, let go a little and ease into it.
  • Fear – the fourth shadow-casting monster is a biggy, fear.  Fear is rife in society today. It has a corrosive effect on us. Underpinning many of our fears is the larger fear of chaos, that if things are left to their own devices, we will be subsumed into chaos. This fear drives us to form certainties and controls over our lives so that we save ourselves from chaos and make something of ourselves. We feel a need to orchestrate, control and order the messiness of things through analysis and prediction.  We need systematic methods, procedures, models, methodologies, rules, laws, otherwise it will be chaos. All of this creates an ethos of imprisonment rather than empowerment, and so we undermine our brilliance and serve up a shallow version of life, all because we fear what lies deep within us. Once again, the gift of insight we receive during the inner journey is that chaos is not to be feared. Chaos is here all the time in life, it is what underpins all creativity. It’s like trying to surf while fearing the ocean. It is the ocean that creates the waves that allow us to flow. Life itself emerges out of the dark-chaos-void. There is no need to fear the void, in fact, as we open into it we become more creative, more in-tune, more alive.  This is part of the threshold crossing of letting go, connecting into source, so as to invite in the new.  This opening into the nothingness-beyond-everything is essential to regenerative leadership, and is what allows us to ease off the incessant fear, and create the conditions conducive for life. To actually live into this, rather than espouse it, is to be regenerative, which means letting-go of fear and control and trusting in life.  These threshold crossings of letting-go happen all the while, as we can’t wash ourselves of fear and control we can only notice the fear within us and then let-go into the tension the fear creates, and see what happens.  Our fear of failure or chaos does not actually materialise, instead we evolve as we go over the rim into the depths.
  • Death – the fifth and final shadow-casting monster is the denial of death. Our society has shunned death, and many of us deeply fear it. And yet it is a vital part of life. Imagine life without death – there’d be gridlock. All things must die in due course.  In some societies, death is celebrated much like birth is celebrated. Opening in to the cyclical seasonality of life is to open into an aspect of nature’s wisdom, that the death of autumn-winter brings the fertile conditions for new birth and growth in spring-summer.  Much of today’s busy corporate cultures seek to celebrate endless spring-summer inventions, launches, growth-markets, new gadgets, yet negate the decline and renewal of autumn-winter. Hence the cultures and strategies become unsustainable, fragile and unfit for the future.  The fear of death also manifests as the fear of failure, or doing something wrong.  Yet, it is through failure that we learn and evolve. Death brings rebirth. Out of the failure comes new insight.  This is the wisdom of life. Once again, the inner journey gifts us with this insight, and by experiencing our own inner ego-death and seeing how letting-go brings deeper insights and soul-knowing, we start to recognise the wisdom inherent in the cyclic seasonal flows of death-birth within life. These seasonal flows can form a healthy rhythm within our regenerative business, starting with us as leaders.

So now we’ve explored some of the leadership aspects of engaging on this inner journey, we shall enter into the second part of this article, which probes the depths of this inner journey itself. 

A caveat here, much of this inner journey is beyond words, and is more the province of poet, psychologist and mystic.   What follows here is inspired by the ‘godfather of psychotherapy’ Carl Jung, and also ancient wisdom traditions, in particular the European/Middle-Eastern tradition of Alchemy, as a way of deciphering this inner journey.

Let’s dive into the inner depths of our soul transformation.

As we enter into a more intimate relationship with our own selves, we start to become conscious of 3 lenses or filters through which we engage with reality.  The first and most readily available lens is that of ego-consciousness or the rationalising mind, and the voice within our own head that is pretty much incessantly talking all the time.  Gaining perspective on this voice in the head is an important part of this inner journey. Meditation, body-work like yoga or Tai Chi, contemplative or reflective practices like journaling or free-writing, are all useful tools to help us start to gain perspective on this voice-in-the-head, and gain some distance from it, or help ease its hold over us.

Then beneath this first lens of ego-consciousness is a second lens deeper within us. As we learn to notice the voice in our head and gain distance from it, rather like being on the balcony looking down onto the dance-floor of our own mental gyrations, we may also start to gain perspective on more of ourselves beyond the dance floor. Other parts of ourselves beyond the voice-in-the-head are there in us and often lie beneath and inform the thoughts and emotions on the dance floor.  We may begin to sense into shadow projections, trauma, inner wounds, our inner child seeking to play and unlock its creativity, and also a spaciousness underpinning all this, which we might call the Self, true nature, soul, it does not matter what we call it, whatever label feels most right for us. Here we shall call it soul.

As we gain intimacy with our shadow aspects and inner recesses of our soul, we may also – through advanced meditation practice – start to sense a deeper underlying field of non-judgemental numinous depth, which is quite beyond words. This might be referred to as the realm of Spirit, Source, the Tao, that which cannot be named, the ineffable, the universe, field or void. Again, it does not matter what we wish to call it, whatever best resonates.  This is the third lens, which is a deep and potent presence pervading all life in inner and outer ways, and if we so choose we can, with our attention and intention, learn to access it through our soul (the second lens). As we ripen our soul’s capacity to receive this spirit-wisdom, we may then start to comprehend and apply it to our path of life through our daily ego-awareness (the first lens).  This is the gift we have as human beings, procreating with the creative life-force of the universe, becoming masterful within our own life-path while contributing to the magnificence of existence.  Yet to do so requires a level of harmony and coherence within-side ourselves so that the three lenses resonate as best they can amid our everyday stresses and strains.

Noticing and gaining perspective on the ego-machinations of the voice in the head (the first lens) is a useful first step. The second step, on this journey towards wholeness, is sensing into our soul-scape, noticing its mysterious ways and understanding how the tensions within the soul unfold into our destinal path of becoming more of who we truly are.  This is where Alchemy as a science of the soul can aid us (just as other ancient wisdom traditions can too).

What follows here will not be for everyone, as it has mystical connotations, and yet is grounded in empirically-based studies of the human psyche. 

The soul can be described as having 2 aspects. 

As we are now entering the realm of the soul, these 2 aspects can be given archetypal imagery.

These 2 aspects of the soul are symbolised as the serpent and the bird. Or to be more specific, the snake and the white dove, or the dragon and the eagle.

One of the powerful insights Alchemy affords us is that it understands how each aspect of the soul has both masculine-feminine qualities. (One might prefer to say yang-yin qualities, as these masculine-feminine qualities do not relate to gender or sexual orientation.)

The serpent is outwardly masculine (yang) yet inwardly feminine (yin); whereas the bird is outwardly feminine and inwardly masculine, as we shall explore.  The tension of these opposites are both within the serpent and also within the bird, and also between how the serpent and bird interact. This interplay of tensions provides for the rich concocting forces we need for soul-transformation to alchemise. 

The serpent is that aspect of the soul which attunes with a power or force or divinity concealed within physical nature and in the instinctual forces of the psyche within us. It is engaged with when we engage in practices that encourage an embodied, experiential, phenomenological, sensory engagement.  For instance, when we are swimming in the sea, or when we dance in a nightclub, or engage in sexual intercourse, we are engaging these instinctual physical forces in a vivid way that we can feel. These instinctual forces are also influencing us in less all-consuming yet still potent and powerful ways throughout everyday life.  They are activated through all sorts of interactions, whether it be an email-thread, a social media post, a lively meeting, or a zoom call, for instance.

If we take movement and dance to exemplify this inner instinctual dynamic, we can see how we can be conscious of or unconscious of these forces at play within us.

We may not be consciously attuning with these instinctual forces when we are dancing in a night-club after a few drinks, for instance, and yet we can become conscious of these forces either when engaging in dance-therapy, through movement applied to leadership such as https://www.moveleadership.com/  or a structured practice such as social presencing https://www.presencing.org/aboutus/spt/about , or through a movement-based bodywork practice like Tai Chi or Yoga, for instance. Then we consciously feel the flow of energy within the body, rather than be subsumed by it.   

In this way, we can allow for our inner-sensing to notice, purify and release blockages of energy-trauma (what Yogic philosophy calls Samskara) from within us.  This inner release and purification process is an important part of the journey towards wholeness. The releasing of blocked energy within us (and also within our collective systems, such as our organisations, as they too hold trauma) allows for greater flow, and better alignment with the energy of life. This is a process of learning to go inward, notice tensions and deepen into the centre of our selves. When attending to an organisational system, it requires the systemic-awareness to sense hidden ordering forces at play within an organisational culture.

This requires patience, non-judgement and the courage to attend to inner pain and stuckness so as to become more open to life – more vulnerable yet more whole.

It is easy (and enjoyable) to enfold conscious movement and breathing practices into our everyday rhythm. For instance, we may wish to undertake some body movements between zoom calls, to enliven our inner energy and help rebalance any inner tensions, or go for a walk or jog inbetween meetings.  There is nothing wrong with doing such, in fact there is a lot right with taking this time-out between meetings as scientific studies show that it greatly enhances our performance.  Yet the thrust of this article is not simply about increasing our output, it’s about enriching the quality of flow we bring into each and every meeting. It’s our quality of consciousness that allows for deeper authenticity and trust to spawn generative discussions with others, and enable richer more regenerative cultures to flourish from the inside-out.  This is good for us, it’s good for our relationships, it’s good for team performance, it’s good for business, it’s good for the brand. It’s a no-brainer.

Let’s go back to the serpent and the inner-tensions it symbolises, as there is much in this for today’s stresses and strains.

Within this serpent instinctual aspect, is a pull of opposing forces that creates tension. This tension can either pull us into blind reactivity at the instinctual level, or create the crucible for us to move through the tension. To use the neurobiologist Candice Pert’s expression, the ‘bodymind’ (our entire body is pervaded by mind at brain, heart, gut and somatic levels) becomes our vessel, our cauldron for the tension to create a mixing that causes alchemy to occur within us. This alchemy is in the form of self-transformation, as we open up our bodymind to the flow of energy, and open up our perceptual horizon to a deeper realisation of reality. We sense more of ourselves, and we sense more of life as it really is.  We become more alive.  Rather than the instinctual forces subsuming us, they enliven and emancipate us.  Hence this psychic-tension within us can reveal a deeper sense of purpose, and with it a soul-transformation unfolds.

The serpent is wisdom immanent within nature, it is of this world, not transcendent beyond the world.  The transcendent or universal aspect of the soul is symbolised by the bird.

Earthly-immanence and heavenly-transcendence is referred to as ‘di-polar’ –a horizontal (earthly)  pole and vertical (heavenly) pole creating a cross-of-life.  Often when we are walking through a graveyard, we may see a cross set in a circle, above gravestone. This is symbolic of the circle of the soul and its di-polar aspect. It is also representing how our soul lives on after our body dies.

The horizontal dimension of the cross-of-life, is the realm of nature and its hidden ordering forces innate within this life-force field where the serpent tensions lure us into being overcome by instinct and create blind reactivity in us, or trigger awakening in us to go through the tension and evolve into a deeper revealing of reality.   

The vertical dimension of the cross-of-life, is the realm of spirit and its hidden ordering forces innate within this universal-force field that the soul integrates with to gain insight upward into light.

Let’s further explore the serpent aspect as its powerful lure is something we shall encounter on our inner journey, and is sometimes overlooked in some spiritual disciplines that seek to negate or control the urges and instincts of life by focusing more solely on the upward journey to light (the bird).

The serpent is the way into the spirit innate within nature; it’s the way into the third lens (spirit) from the second lens (soul).  As Jesus noted, ‘Raise a stone and thou shalt find me, cleave the wood and I am there.’

Nature provides spiritual illumination, what the alchemists called lumen naturae a ‘light of nature’ that is indwelling in us and in nature, which is embodied through our instincts and somatic bodily intelligence, which can then inform our emotional and intuitive faculties.

Learning to quieten the voice in our head, and then learning to come out of our heads and into our bodies more – through practices like yoga, Tai Chi, heart-breathing or body scanning – helps activate this latent soul-potential we have within us. The serpent is aroused.  There are certain yogic postures and movements that have been devised to specifically arouse the serpent within.

In the book Regenerative Leadership, we speak of Activating our Super-Nature, which explains this process of integrating different ways of knowing within-side our own bodymind, the somatic, emotional, intuitive and rational aspects of our psyche, within the alchemic vessel of our own selves. This allows us to open up into the light of nature within and all around us.  This is the immanence found in life itself. 

This serpent relates to the libidinal forces of psychotherapy and the kundalini forces of mystical tantric transformation practices, where energy is aroused in the base of the spine and awakens the major chakra centres up the spine reaching the crown at the top of the head. The serpent contains both masculine-feminine qualities. It has a masculine outer-form (cold-blooded reptile) and feminine inner-form (embodied, sensuous, moist and flowing).  In alchemy this relates to the elements of earth-water.  We learn to ride the serpent-dragon by noticing the tensions within us and rather than blindly allowing our instinctual urges to get the better of us, we allow our consciousness to shine through the darkness of our inner depths. The grit of the tension transmutes to reveal a pearl of wisdom whereupon we see more of ourselves; we become more whole. This is one aspect of the soul – the earthly aspect, which contains an every-playing tension or dance of masculine-feminine within us. 

The other aspect of the soul – the heavenly aspect – relates to the vertical pole of the cross-of-life, or the transcendent aspect of reality, symbolised by the bird, which is feminine in outer form (the warm-blooded bird) but masculine in its inner form (clarity of reason, direct illumination). In alchemy this relates to the elements of air-fire.  This is the universal field of energy beyond this space-time world yet entering into this world all the time.

Through meditative and contemplative practices we can allow our bodymind vessel to cohere and attune with this universal energy and allow an awakening of our soul-faculties of insight, intuition, synchronicity and flow.  We gain super-sensory faculties that are a natural part of being human.

The soul can ripen in its powers, so as to consciously receive spirit-wisdom from both earth (via the serpent aspect) and universe (via the bird aspect).  This ripening happens through a play of inner tensions created through opposing forces within the psyche.  Alchemy offers intricate processes, inspired by nature, such as separation-purification-reconstitution and divergence-convergence-emergence (which we apply to organisational development in the book Regenerative Leadership).

There is also a seasonal cyclic nature to our soul-transformation. Just as the growth of summer gives way to decline and death in winter, and winter provides reflection and renewal for spring into summer again, there are cyclic cycles of death-rebirth going on within our own psyche all the time. Noticing these seasonal phases is an important aspect of the inner journey whereupon we are experiencing biorhythmic waves of dying and birthing in order to become more of who we truly are.

The crucible of soul transformation is life itself, and the tensions that it unfolds all about and within us are life’s learning ground. The ego-consciousness of the first lens tries to avoid or collapse tensions to keep us safe, yet in-so-doing, undermines our soul-evolution. Hence, we need to cultivate a healthy relationship between the three lenses within us – first (ego) second (soul) and third (spirit).

This inner journey is not about seeking serenity or bliss-states that are attained during quiet solitude and meditation, or vivid highs, extreme sports and epiphanies. It is about living into the inner turbulence of continual tensions triggered by ordinary daily reactivity, desire, passion and fear, into extraordinary super-nature insights that reach into hidden recesses within our psyche.  This is exploring the hidden wholeness within and all around us.  It may help to study nature, yet not merely in a reductive-scientific biologically-classified kind of way, but also in an open-hearted, intuitive, phenomenological kind of way. It’s what Goethe referred to as active-seeing where we sense into the essence of things beyond the labelling and human-imposed judgements, moral ethics and ego-projections. Let go of the voice in the head, open the heart, and see with the whole bodymind, and allow the serpent and bird to entwine through our full-bodied experience. This is what Otto Scharmer refers to as Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will, and its well within our human capacity. The more we practice  this, the more we can welcome it into our meeting conventions and daily business rhythms.  This is what the future of business is truly about.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st Century will not occur because of technology, they will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ – John Naisbett

This is an opening up into life, by opening in to our inner nature and outer nature in a more embodied integrated way. This allows tensions within us to unfold in an unhurried pregnant way where emergence is appreciated (as uncomfortable as this undefined uncontrollable birthing-process is for the ego with its need for clear-cut answers, directions-of-travel and controlled outcomes). We enter an inner space of not-knowing, of surrendering, and as tensions churn up inside us, it can become quite unsettling, even maddening at times, and the temptation to react with the ego or get subsumed by the instinct is always there.

There is danger as we dive inwardly on this journey. The earthly serpent injects venom that may either paralyse or awaken.  Every trigger is a crucible for paralysis or awakening.  It all depends on how we alchemise, cook and purify. Life, all the time is offering the ingredients to awaken.  Sometimes the more we dive inward the more we feel the vortex of the ego holding-on for dear life. The voice in the head gets louder and more frenetic as we drop over the world’s rim. The urges of the instinct can blind us, lull us into the lure of our own inner fantasies, power-plays, fears and feelings.   We need to be of the ‘flesh’ yet not consumed by ‘flesh’.  This is walking the razor’s-edge.

It is a developmental process where we move towards reconciling the bird’s super-sensory insight with the serpents somatic-energy, as our consciousness expands and the deeper meaning of life emerges with us, reaching beyond flesh-fantasy and ego-projection/narcissism/victim-mentality, cutting through old patterns as dawn-breaks, we see with new eyes.

Image Source: https://www.holdenqigong.com/how-to-blend-fire-and-water-inner-alchemy-2/

This is a threshold crossing, and is a letting go and reaching beyond much of what today’s consumeristic digitally-distracted society subsumes us with.

Learning to discern when we are alchemising an inner struggle into transformation, or when we are being subsumed into deeper darkness of terrestrial sleep is the art of the hero’s journey or pilgrim’s path.

The serpent of the dark moist recesses of earth-water is destined to rise from the reptilian state into the dreams of its celestial origins, an ascent to the supernal regions of the psyche where it alchemises with universal energy.

This can be symbolised by the tree with its roots and branches. The everyday embodiment of our values and cultural-beliefs is the root-system drawing nutrients from the earthly realm of the soul.  The learning nutrients are the systemic ordering forces and constellations of power-plays, gossip, behaviours and such like that can be made more conscious, more authentic, more alive and embodied.  Then there are the branches and leaves where the nutrients from the culture of the roots engage in alchemy through photosynthesis – value-exchanges, synergies and evolutionary purpose of the organisation are enlivened. Then the nutrients are taken back down into the cultural roots of the tree. It is a continuous exchange of roots and branches, of inner culture, outer strategy – emergent and evolutionary in nature.  The self-management of Teal-Evolutionary business is served by both the roots of inner wholeness and the branches of outer strategy and purpose.  As Frederic Laloux knew, it is both Evolutionary Purpose and the Journey towards Wholeness that allows the self-management practices of today’s future-fit agile organisations to come alive and truly thrive.

We might see how each day is a way into the inner journey towards wholeness.  Each season, rhythm, tension, day and conversation can – and perhaps ought be – undertaken in a sacred manner. These tensions sure make for turbulence but do not need to be seen as struggle, but rather a continuous dance of opposing tensions – the tantric dance of loving life in all its fullness.

As spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle notes, ‘Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.  How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.’  This gives us tremendous hope; hope that comes with Trust in Life.  As we learn to let-go and trust in life, we see more clearly, we discern more readily, the crucibles and thresholds of our own learning journey towards wholeness.  This is for free, no MBA or PhD required.  We are all students of life.

This individual journey towards wholeness – what Jung called individuation – is actually relational and communal in its nature. The alchemic vessel is our own bodymind, our own inner excitations, insights and evolution. Yet, this inner self is a soul-seed planted in a rich milieu of relations, an ecology of life. As we become more intimate with the immanence within us, and more transparent with the transcendent all around us, we find ourselves realising our destinal path, and living more responsively to the communal life of the social systems we participate in.  As our self-awareness deepens, so too does our systemic-awareness, and our ability to regeneratively serve our community. Our own inner evolution contributes to communal evolution. We sense into and live the Golden Rule of loving thy neighbour as thyself, through knowing thyself intimately.

We find true vocation upon understanding our own intricacies and then offering our inner gifts to serve life.  This is the art of becoming a Regenerative Leader, the leader who learns to attune with the wisdom of nature while serving the evolution of consciousness itself.  This is what it means to be truly human, to live up to our name as Homo sapiens (wise beings) in service of life on Earth.

As the playwright, social activist and former Prime Minister Vaclav Havel knew, Consciousness precedes Being. There is consciousness flowing through everything, through every act, and we can aid this consciousness through our own authenticity, in terms of how we show-up.

‘The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human modesty, and in human responsibility. Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better, and the catastrophe towards which this world is headed, whether it be ecological, social, demographic or a general breakdown of civilization, will be unavoidable.’ – Vaclav Havel

All too often we apply yesterday’s fragmented digitised ego-consciousness to our future scenarios of sustainable living and leading. This is not what regenerative leadership is about.  Regenerative Leadership invites in a revolution, a root-and-branch transformation in our own selves as leaders, in our teams, organisations and wider social systems.  This is an inner transformation that informs the outer change we need for all life on Earth to thrive.

These are pivotal times, an old way is dying and a new way is being born.

The old mythos (worldview-story) of separation, scarcity, competition, control and fear is still gasping for air, holding on for dear life.  We must first notice this in our own selves, in our own triggers, tensions and projections, and allow these insights to inform our own transformation. 

The old Logos (worldview-logic) of mechanistic-thinking, linear cause-and-effect, reductive logic is no longer serving us. It is no longer able to deal with the complex systemic challenges of the day.  The Logic of Life that we find innate within nature, within the universe, is the new way. A living-systems way of leading – this is the logic of Regenerative Leadership. The time has come.

join the LinkedIn group if you have not already:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

Regenerative Leadership – why now?

April 7, 2021

‘It’s hard to imagine a more relevant and timely book at this point in our existence and one that has become even more so in the face of the global pandemic. While many of us recognise the faults and the unintentional, but horribly destructive and deeply demoralising consequences of the ways our societies now operate, few can imagine what it is we can realistically do instead.

With increasing division and polarisation, rising inequality, burgeoning levels of poor mental health and catastrophic damage to the natural environment we are dependent upon for our survival, our experiential quality of life is heading in the wrong direction.  When we spend the majority of our time doing something we wouldn’t choose to do if we could afford not to, so that we can spend the minority of our time doing what we want to do and even then, often wishing for something else instead, we want to know: how do we get off the hamster wheel?

In Regenerative Leadership, Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm guide us to the answers. They remind us that we are living organisms, rather than standardised machines as the corporate world has come to think of us. They show us how we are an intrinsic part of the natural ecosystem and the possibilities available to us when we reconnect with all its rhythms, cycles and incredibly vibrant diversity.

In a world that has come to value money above life and where inanimate organisations are prioritised above the humans who created them and for whom they were created, this book is a highly practical, evidence-based and beautifully narrated explanation of the leadership we so desperately need right now.  As we work harder and longer than we ever have, in some of the most challenging circumstances we have ever faced, it’s time for us to see how our largely unconscious expectation to operate as if in an eternal Summer (infinite and continuous year on year growth), is neither possible or desirable.

Thank you to Giles and Laura for guiding us back to (our true) nature.’

‘Hutchins’ and Storm’s Regenerative Leadership shines a bright light on one of the most critical, and least understood capacities required of anyone and any institution seeking to work regeneratively—understanding and living into the three-fold dynamics of what the book calls the DNA of regenerative leadership. By growing the consciousness required to simultaneously work on developing ourselves, the wholes we are a part of, and the unique contributions we and they are called to make to the larger life world we depend on, we just might be able to achieve the regenerative capacity the Earth is asking for.’  

–  Pamela Mang, co-founder of Regenesis and co-author of Regenerative Development and Design.     

‘The clarity, inspiration, synergy and wisdom of Regenerative Leadership is breath-taking. It offers a rich delicious mixture of theory, case studies, invaluable tools and leading edge practices and insights. For leaders genuinely seeking to be effective, sustainable and successful while contributing to making the world, and their organizations far better places this is the must read book of the year. I couldn’t put it down.’ 

–  Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE, former Chief Executive  of 157 Group, Centre for Excellence in Leadership

‘Hutchins and Storm demonstrate that they are clearly at the forefront of a new leadership paradigm that maps an emerging model for sustainable organization in any institution that wishes to thrive. Regenerative Leadership is built upon developing awareness of self and system that embraces the wisdom of Nature alongside creative human consciousness. It is an ideal model that recognizes the potential of living systems to revive organizations and leadership to be effective drivers for the next step in our human story. Hutchins and Storm know what they are talking about – and we should start listening.’ 

– Kingsley L. Dennis, The Sacred Revival – Magic, Mind & Meaning in a Technological Age

Thank you for the support of these specialists in their field and many many more people who have written reviews of the book, and those of you who are kindly sharing the book, mini-reviews, photos and comments on LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social media – you know who you are, and we deeply thank you for this sharing-the-vibe.  Laura and I are blown away by the interest in the book, and from hearing how it has inspired leaders from all walks of life to start being the change they wish to see in their lives and in their organisations.

Just last week Laura has been interviewed for CNN on Regenerative Leadership, so perhaps the scales are tipping in the right direction, and finally what the world needs is actually starting to become mainstream, or atleast more widely accepted.  There is always hope amid these tumultuous times!

In case of interest, here is a podcast interview Laura and I recently gave for The Edison Electric Institute:

https://electricperspectives.podbean.com/e/002-global-circuit-thriving-under-crisis-with-regenerative-leadership/

Feel free to join the Leadership Immersions LinkedIn group here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

And watch this short book video here:

And you can find more about the book here at www.regenerativeleadership.co

Thank you for your support and sharing : ) Happy spring-time 2021. Times they are a changin’ Each of us creates trim-tabs to shift this transformation in the right direction. With Love, Giles & Laura

The Essence of Regenerative Leadership

March 31, 2021

This time of year has long been celebrated as a time of renewal; a death-rebirth process that happens at certain times in our lives to enable our individual and collective consciousness to evolve.

This time of year can be celebrated as a threshold crossing for us to deepen our life-journey of self-discovery, in-so-doing learning how best to serve others and the wider whole; to become more regenerative as we renew ourselves.  As the famous poet Rumi noted, it is only by being faithful to our deeper truer nature that we can find right-relation with the world, and then attend to solving the ills of the world, which are deep, and need our depth.

‘If you are here unfaithfully with us, you’re causing terrible damage.’ Rumi

Amid the global-crises and local-stresses we each face, there is hope. 

Rays of a new dawn are lighting up a new way for how we behave individually and collectively.  Underpinning any evolution in thinking and doing, is a worldview shift, a shift in our orientation with self-other-world.

The Regenerative Journey is a journey towards futures that enhance the fabric of life on Earth while also enabling our organisations to come alive and our people to thrive. It’s a journey of learning. This journey starts with a more intimate relationship with our own sense of Self.

Who Am I?

One might ask that question to oneself repeatedly, over and over, during the days and nights ahead, especially over this time of spring unfolding and winter retreating. See what responses come from inside ourselves as we ask this simply question of ourselves. It is not a frivolous inquiry, but an important one that we often overlook in our schooling or further education, so caught up we have become in the outer-pursuit of happiness, of ungrounded-doing, of exploring new landscapes, new things, yet divorced from who we truly are. Enter today’s malaise.

‘The greatest voyage of our lifetimes is not in the seeking of new landscapes but in the seeing with new eyes.’ Marcel Proust

Who Am I?

Am I this incessant voice inside the head, providing a running commentary on pretty much everything that happens in my life?   Perhaps there is more to me? There is ofcourse, as I can witness this voice, and even quieten or gain perspective on the voice-in-the-head, even transform it and redirect it, if I so choose.

Am I these emotions that rise up when something happens and I feel triggered, whether standing in-line in the shop, or taking part on a zoom call, or receiving an email, or playing with the kids?  Perhaps there is more to me? There is, as I can witness these emotions rising and falling away, and even sense into underlying traumas and wounds, and go into these and find release, even transmute my emotions, if I so choose.

Am I this body, with its strengths and weaknesses, aliments and aches, and all the somatic sensations and instincts it offers?  Perhaps there is more to me, as I can witness this body and sense into its underlying intelligence and aliveness, even enliven and cultivate the flow of energy in my body, if I so choose.

Am I a rich concoction of the past experiences I have experienced and the anticipations and dreams of the future? Perhaps there is more to me, as I have always been there in the mirror, regardless of experience or dream, and I can transform my dreams and even re-enliven my memories, if I so choose.

And I know that I am not the car I drive or the house I live in or the collection of material goods or intellectual property I supposedly ‘own’. I can transcend all the worldly toys, tools and temptations, if I so choose.

There is something underneath the outer forms of everyday experience, and also something underneath the inner expressions of mind and body: a deeper sense of Self, something that can witness and draw insight from the inner-outer worlds we experience.

There is a field of consciousness that my Self is a part of and draws from as it journeys through life in this bodymind vessel of ‘I’.  Consciousness is not limited to my brain or my body, science now shows us that consciousness pervades not just the entire bodymind but beyond me, in life itself. We can learn to attune our bodymind to better flow with life’s consciousness, to become more conscious, more whole, less fragmented, less separate, more interconnected.  This is a death-rebirth process: a dying of the small ‘ego-self’ that has a scarcity mindset of separation and competition that pervades the self-other-world dynamic we show-up with; and a birthing/revealing of a deeper Self aka Soul. Through this threshold crossing, we can allow the rightful centre of ourselves to lead, and the ego to become a useful tool that serves the Soul.  This is a metamorphosis within us, a death-rebirth process from scarcity into abundance, from imprisonment into emancipation, from control-and-separation into emergence-and-interconnection.  As spring time emerges from winter, as buds unfold all around us, we can invite in an unfolding within us. If we dare to cross the threshold.

The adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves extensively studied adult psychology, and presciently spoke of the times we are in as ‘not merely a transition to a new level of existence, but the start of a new movement in the symphony of human identity.’  What beautiful words conveying the music of life, as we move into new way of being-and-doing.  Its not just the outer-doing from industrialised pollution to circular economics and regenerative design, its also our inner consciousness, our inner-being. This is at the heart of being regenerative – aligning the inner-outer, yin-yang of life.

‘A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty’ – Albert Einstein

This can feel rather overwhelming, or perhaps a nice-to-have luxury amidst the busyness, stresses and strains and crises of today’s volatile hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it world.  Alas, it is essential. Much more essential than Big Data or AI for that matter, as they are tools, which without adequate consciousness applying them will run amok.

The essence, our inner essence, speaks to what it means to be human: This ability to emancipate ourselves from our own delusion of consciousness which Einstein so eloquently points to.

Without this essence we are cut adrift, ungrounded, and all-but lost, tossed this way and that in a volatile world of ephemeral needs and desires.

Myself, Giles Hutchins, and my co-author, Laura Storm, write about this leadership transformation in our book Regenerative Leadership, and explore the tools and steps required for this Journey towards Wholeness to happen in our organisations while surviving amidst today’s tumultuous business climes.

Here is a podcast where Vice President of Edison Electric Institute interviews Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm in discussing the challenges we now face in creating regenerative futures amid this post-COVID world:  https://electricperspectives.podbean.com/e/002-global-circuit-thriving-under-crisis-with-regenerative-leadership/

As well as the seismic shifts in transforming our own selves, and our social systems, there are also lots of small steps we can each take every single day. Architect, inventor and philosopher Buckminster Fuller, referred to these small changes that create regenerative ripples throughout the system as ‘Trim Tabs’: where the minute informs the momentous.

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Elizabeth — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, “Call me Trim Tab.”

The truth is that you get the low pressure to do things, rather than getting on the other side and trying to push the bow of the ship around. And you build that low pressure by getting rid of a little nonsense, getting rid of things that don’t work and aren’t true until you start to get that trim-tab motion. It works every time. That’s the grand strategy you’re going for. So I’m positive that what you do with yourself, just the little things you do yourself, these are the things that count. To be a real trim tab, you’ve got to start with yourself, and soon you’ll feel that low pressure, and suddenly things begin to work in a beautiful way. Of course, they happen only when you’re dealing with really great integrity.’  – Buckminster Fuller

As Bucky knew, every act with intention and integrity shifts the system. The minute contributes to the momentous. And as adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves knew, we are experiencing a momentous leap in human-kind right now, not just a transition but a new symphony of human identity is emerging-evolving right now. And our minute acts with great integrity tip the scales as our social and organisational systems metamorphose from old to new. Exciting yet challenging times to be alive, to become more human by becoming more in-tune with Life = Regenerative Leadership.

In a recent podcast interview the US filmmaker, Susanne Taylor, asks me to explore the inquiry – what would you do if you ran the world?  I suggest that what is of the utmost importance is not simply the policies and governance, but the will, the deep desire, the knowing – which can be reignited in us (as it is always within us) through awareness and education.  If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we might see that much of what we think of as education today is brainwashing, conditioning, conforming, controlling and limiting our sense of self, twisting us down pathways where we feel impelled to wear masks, and so corrupting our self-other-world dynamic. We need education in its truest sense, as the Greeks meant it when they came up with the word, which for them meant to draw-out the essence of who we truly are into the world – an education that is enlivening, emancipating and empowering for the Soul.   Listen here for more on ‘if I ran the world’: https://suespeakspodcast.com/14-Giles-Hutchins/

And so there are now three questions to ponder on this Easter, if we so choose:

  1. Who Am I?
  2. If I ran the world what would I do?
  3. What are the small minute acts, the trim tabs, I can start doing today and tomorrow?

I am often asked by leaders – ‘What is the essence of Regenerative Leadership?’ – the essence is within us. It’s the essence that is within everything. Being regenerative is being natural. It is a process of opening to our inner nature and outer nature. It’s an educational journey of learning to flow as nature flows. Nothing more, nothing less.

What is within us is within everything. Once we understand this truth, we step outside of the parameters of our individual self and come to realise the power that is within us. This shift in awareness is a very simple step that has profound consequences’ – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, mystic

Are you ready to step into the new symphony of human consciousness?  The Journey towards Wholeness starts right here, right now.

‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.’ Bob Marley.

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

The Emerging Economic Renaissance

March 13, 2021

A new political-economic paradigm is emerging in northern Europe and parts of the Asia-Pacific region that could signal a major turning point in human history. Like the time when humanity awakened to the fact that the world was round, rather than flat, this new paradigm radically challenges our perceptions of reality and the systems we’ve created to guide our lives.

This is a guest blog by author of the new book Economies That Mimic Life by Joseph H Bragdon.

The impetus for this emerging shift is the increasingly catastrophic failure of humanity’s conventional GDP-focused political-economic system. What started in the industrial age as regional and global competitions for hegemony and resources eventually developed into two world wars, expensive military arms races, ecological overstep, climate change, species extinctions and a surge of borrowing as those in power sought to solidify their hold on authority. Over the past year the fragile structure of this debt-driven competition has been exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, causing widespread disruption in global markets.

So what is it about the emerging new paradigm that could reverse this self-destructive trend and alter the course of history? The answer is deceptively simple.

Instead of perceiving economies as bottom-line, capital-driven devices for growing GDP and profit (increasingly at the expense of people and Nature), the new paradigm sees economies as they really are: as sub-systems of life, whose primary assets are people and Nature and whose goals are to preserve the continuous wellbeing of all life on earth. By such means, it resolves into a reinforcing loop, where means and ends serve one another rather than conflict. Simple. Logical. And remarkably effective

Economies That Mimic Life

The wonderful thing about this living system approach is how it generates economic success as it reduces humanity’s ecological footprint. In doing so, it overcomes the increasing frictions between means and ends that have plagued the mainstream “neoclassical” model and driven it to the edge of ruin. This is not to say that transitioning to the life-mimicking model will be easy. But in the final analysis it comes down to whether the citizens and leaders of a country want to go down with a sinking ship or whether they want to find a more secure way forward.

Because the two models are so fundamentally opposite (incommensurable), attempts to find a compromise solution will almost certainly fail. That’s because their foundational assumptions conflict as can be seen in the following table. Consequently, the most promising (and profitable) way forward is to abandon the neoclassical model and adopt the life mimicking one.

That said, it’s important to understand that the life-mimicking model is not a set destination, but an adaptable pathway forward – one that can (and must) be amended by continuous observation and learning as political-economic conditions change.

Comparison of Working Assumptions and Practices

Living System ModelNeoclassical Model
Economies are:Sub-systems of biosphere, societyThe dominant system
Governance:Egalitarian, networked, decentralizedHierarchical, centralized
Mission:Maintain healthy living systemsMaintain authority, control
Values:Primacy of living assets (people, Nature)Primacy of non-living capital
Vision:Optimize living assets (circular economy)Optimize GDP, profit
Leverage:Living asset stewardship (inspiration)Financial gearing (debt)
Mind-set:Holistic, qualitative (non-linear)Reductionist, quantitative (linear)
Metrics:Focus on learning, adaptation (means)Focus on results (ends)
Learning:Multiple loop (open-ended)Single loop (follow the rules)
Risk:Being only generally right
(Lack of precision)
Being precisely wrong (Climate change)

 As one can easily see, the foregoing assumptions and practices reflect radically different worldviews/paradigms. Historically, each evolved to remediate the failures of a prior system. Therefore, just as the living systems model emerged to redress the failures of the neoclassical (industrial era) model, the neoclassical model emerged in Europe from the 17th Century Enlightenment as Europe sought to break free from the constrictive norms of the feudal system.

The power of the living system paradigm is in seeing the living world as it really is rather than a notional construct for continuous GDP growth and capital accumulation. When we approach economies as sub-systems of life rather than super-systems that transcend life, we attain what Donella (Dana) Meadows called a dynamic leverage point where “a small change in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”[1]

Such was the case in the evolution of the life-mimicking Nordic Model. Although its holistic approach has ancient roots in teachings of the Buddha and Confucius and in the practices of traditional cultures, the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland are the first to apply it to modern industrial cultures.

The Nordic Model

Nordic countries today are regularly placed at the top of global surveys on prosperity, quality of life, health, democracy, freedom, innovation, productivity and sustainability. As bastions of open, free markets, they have also become global innovation hothouses in renewable energy, bio-tech and circular economy practices.


In the course of becoming more prosperous, Nordic countries have developed a system of robust universal safety nets. Although supported by high individual tax rates, these strengthen their economies by providing an abundance of healthy, educated, secure and motivated citizens. As a result, Nordic countries today have some of the industrial world’s highest labor participation rates and per capita GDPs – advantages that support the funding of their safety nets. Compared to the lose-lose outcomes of the neoclassical model, this interaction creates a dynamic win-win reinforcing loop.

Which brings us back to the earlier mentioned vulnerabilities of the neoclassical model. As the US and other large industrial economies try to protect their regional and global hegemonies, they exploit the very sources of their strength (people and Nature) and borrow far more than their weakening economies can afford. Consequently, while Nordic economies go from strength to strength by partnering with Nature and nourishing their people, the US and others operating on the neoclassical model fall further and further behind.

Economics That Mimic Life by Joseph Bragdon

This breakdown/breakthrough saga is powerfully transformative, as described in my book “Economies That Mimic Life” (https://www.routledge.com/Economies-that-Mimic-Life-From-Biomimicry-to-Sustainable-Prosperity/Bragdon/p/book/9780367625993). Dedicated to my late friend, Dana Meadows, it offers compelling evidence of her belief in Leverage Points as a way to meaningfully transform systems.

Activating Regenerative Organisational Cultures

February 6, 2021

It’s a fascinating time to be involved in transforming organisational cultures.

At present I am fortunate to be involved in some really interesting organisation transformations ranging from purpose-drive B-Corps to large financial service providers.

Every organisation is a unique conglomeration of individuals, team-power-plays, psychological agency, value propositions, strategies and tactics, wider ecosystem relations and market forces.  No two organisations are ever the same, just as no two leaders are ever the same. That is what makes leadership and organisational development coaching so rich and fascinating.  And yet, there are some underlying dynamics, some core truths that underpin the diversity of every organisation and team.

This article explores these underlying dynamics so that an essential simplicity amid the swirling organisational complexity of the day can be revealed.  These powerful yet simple truths are what provide anchor, rope and compass through stormy seas as these.

First off, what do we mean by ‘regenerative’?  It’s a word that has a buzz about it, perhaps even the epicentre of the new zeitgeist rising in our consciousness.  And with any buzz, its portrayal can lose its essence.

To be Regenerative is simply to be Natural. To become more whole, less fragmented, more alive, less disconnected, more in-flow.

‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.’ Lao Tzu

Being Regenerative is a journey. It’s a journey of attuning with Life.  It’s a way of living, leading, designing and implementing products, processes, cultures and ecosystems that enhance Life.

All the time, through our quality of attention and intention, we can slip between being regenerative and degenerative. We can slip between flowing in harmony with life or falling out-of-kilter with the flow of things.

An important step on the Regenerative Journey, is to become more sensitised and aware of opening into the inherent grammar of Life. This is embodied and experiential more than it is rational and analytical. 

Falling out of the flow of things is a natural part of our humanity as long as we catch our fall and learn to flow, by noticing and then realigning. This is the art of living wisely. Without this practice of noticing and learning to be in harmony with Life our evolution is undermined.

Opening into Life is a shift in consciousness.  A simple shift in awareness; though not necessarily easy. Amid today’s busy hurry-up-get-on-with-it overly-rational-analytic business world the flow of things is easily obscured.

Lest we forget, it is an essential part of our human nature, to be Natural, to flow with Nature’s Rhythms.  All ‘regenerative’ is about is opening up to more of our human potential while being in accord with Life.

Much of today’s managerial business logic is at odds with how life works, and so we face the difficult challenge of letting-go of thought forms, mental habits, emotional baggage, internal constrictions, and ingrained assumptions that get in the way of our own regenerative potential.

In the book Regenerative Leadership we unpack the Logic of Life for leadership and organisational development.  By comprehending the Logic of Life we can learn to attune with the rhythms and dynamics of the Regenerative Journey. The 7 principles of the Logic of Life are:

  1. Life Affirming – life creates the conditions conducive for life to flourish. We become life-affirming when we are being natural and authentic.
  2. Ever-changing and Responsive – life learns, adapts and evolves through an ever-changing context. In other words, life is developmental and evolutionary, ditto for our cultures; constant learning and growing through being responsible and responsive.
  3. Relational and Collaborative – life consists of systems inter-relating with other systems, nothing is completely isolated, everything is relating. Yes there is competition in life, yet collaboration is the over-riding evolutionary dynamic, and separateness is an illusion we create in our minds, it’s not how life really is. Learn to collaborate through cultivating cultures of trust and transparency not politics and power-plays.
  4. Synergistic and Diverse – life thrives through diversity. Tensions of difference act as crucibles for novelty and creativity to emerge. Celebrate difference and hold-space for allowing creative conflict to be transmuted into generative emergence through dialogue and deep listening.
  5. Cyclic and Seasonal-Rhythmical – life ebbs and flows through pulsations of in-breath, out-breath, day-night, waxing-waning, summer-winter, death-rebirth. Nature’s rhythms invite in reflection, rest and renewal as well as creativity and productivity. Cultivate rhythms of winter-summer being-doing amid daily/weekly/monthly business practices.
  6. Flows of Energy-Matter – life is made up of flows of energy and matter. Ditto for our organisations, which are full of flows of psychological and relational energy.  Let’s not get overly caught up in org charts and team definitions when what really makes us come alive is free-flowing energy. Notice flow, stuckness, energy-drains and catalysers. Practice organizational acupuncture.
  7. Living Field or Source – life is permeated by immense potential energy that scientists now realise is a potent presence in everyday life. This field contains an informing consciousness. Through simple practices we aid our capacity to open to this wisdom.

Remember – Life is Regenerative.  This is about realigning back into Life, and in the process we become more alive, and our organisations thrive.

Transformation unfolds, it is not forced. By creating the conditions conducive for life our people and cultures flourish.

Life is mind-blowing.  Our rational minds might like to define it into neat-and-tidy biologically-based facts and figures, but life defies much of what the mind’s logic can grasp.  For instance, a small leaf quivering the the breeze high up in the tree, has more sophisticated innovation packed into it than nano-computing or Big Data. A humble blade of grass trampled underfoot is far more complex than anything we humans have ever designed, and to boot, it’s organic, non-toxic, totally regenerative – beneficial to life. Our complex innovations are all too often highly toxic and exploitative of the natural and social systems we inhabit. This is what happens when we forget the underlying Way of Nature – we fall out of harmony with Life.  To fall back in line with Nature does not mean a back-to-nature regression or anti-technology movement, far from it, it is what will propel human-kind into the next Revolution of Innovation and Development, a Regenerative Revolution. Technology is a powerful tool that can help humanity evolve, as long as we remember and embody the wisdom of real life. Otherwise it can be a distraction, obscuring our evolution, perhaps unintentionally catalysing our extinction.

Look deep, deep, deep into Nature and you will understand everything better.’  Albert Einstein

All about us abounds immensity of complexity.

Yet amid this complexity is a beautiful simplicity. A hidden thread of wisdom is here right before us, if we so choose to see.  This wisdom is what will fuel our [r]evolution and heal humanity.

This hidden thread of wisdom – Nature’s Wisdom – enables our human organisations, cultures, values, team dynamics and individual behaviours to become more whole, more real, more vital, more human, more natural.

This wisdom is simple yet profound. Let’s explore…

There are two currents in life, and the confluence of these two currents creates the Dance of Life. Nothing more, nothing less.

These two currents, can be called Yin and Ying.

Here is the ancient symbol that conveys Nature’s Wisdom, pure and simple:

Yang – Yin

Doing – Being

Movement – Stillness

Outer – Inner

Masculine – Feminine

Me – We

Reductive – Relational

Responsive – Receptive

Light – Dark

Summer – Winter

Action – Reflection

Hard – Soft

As I explored in a recent blog article about Alchemising Tensions:

Neither side of these tensions is more right or more preferable than the other, and each situation invites us to bring in more of one side than the other.  It’s an alchemic dance, a communion of opposing tensions. The Dance of Life.

And yet there is another secret found all around and within us if we so choose to see. Nature’s Wisdom shows us the way the Yin-Yang dance unfolds. The Way of Nature.

From the proportions found in our feet, to the proportions found in trees; from the patterns found in flowers to the patterns found in estuaries and coastlines; from the spiralling of water in our kitchen sink to spiralling galaxies, there is a quintessential thread of timeless truth:

Yin informs Yang

From the feminine spawns the masculine. From the inner comes the outer.  The Being infuses the Doing.  Stillness informs Movement. In order for the Dance to be in harmony with Nature we need be mindful of honouring the soft-power of Yin first-and-foremost. As the Yin informs the Yang.

‘To live in accord with Nature is to live virtuously.’  Seneca

If we wish to be regenerative in our own selves, in our teams and in our company culture, then we need to begin with this inherent Wisdom of Nature, otherwise what flows from us will be degenerative, and we shall then spend unnecessary time and energy mopping up our degenerative activities.

The time has come to target the source of our degenerative behaviour. To attend to our own attention.

Inner presence informs outer purpose.

Countless corporations currently spend vast sums on all-staff training and development programmes that attend to shaping outer activity while overlooking inner presence. Little wonder not much changes other that the outer wrapper. 

Well-intended programmes honing value propositions, mission statements and cultural values that overlook the inner essence of the living organisation and its leadership consciousness are not going to catalyse the Regenerative Journey.

Many of these well-intentioned corporations have spent millions on purpose and culture programmes with little return-on-investment other than jargon that people soon forget. An SVP Head of Culture, of an award-winning market-leading corporation once said to me ‘Purpose is everywhere, we need a new word, as its lost its way.’  As if changing the word will make things better.  It’s simply that we have been focusing on outer-purpose while overlooking inner-purpose. The Doing of ‘purpose’ has become bland because it’s no longer flows with Being.  Like with so many things, we have objectified ‘purpose’ into a neat and tidy object that then lacks vitality and essence beyond some mission-statement North Star. There is so much more to purpose than a North Star when we embrace the essence of Life and emancipate Purpose to flow in accord with Nature’s Wisdom.

The ‘yin’ has been known as the ‘soft’ and the yang known as the ‘hard’. Today we still find many leaders trying to ignore the ‘soft stuff’ of essence, inner-purpose and presence, while busying themselves with the ‘hard stuff’.  It’s this out-of-kilter overly yang Doing disconnected from Being that is the root cause of our downstream degenerative behaviours, decisions, designs and cultures.

What does this all mean in practice?

Let’s look at three dimensions of the organisation:

  1. the individual leader;
  2. the team and its intra and inter-operable dynamics;
  3. the organisational culture and structure
  1. Leadership – We have two tools to help us on the personal developmental journey:
  • Self-awareness
  • Systemic-awareness

Self-awareness is first-and-foremost about us getting to know ourselves, so that we can build our trust in life. As we become more conscious of our projections, insecurities and shadows, we enrich our engagement with life, and reach beyond yesterday’s bubble.

Thoughts, opinions, assumptions, and worries about what has been (the past) or what might be (the future) can stir up emotions inside us which trigger anxiety, stress, and distraction. Before we know it, this mental noise has created a version of life that is not reality – not what is happening right before us. If we were able to release ourselves from this mental chatter, we could experience life in a less distracted, more present, and more conscious way.

‘Above all, to thine own self be True’  William Shakespeare

There are some simple yet powerful tools we can practice to enliven our self-awareness.  See the book Regenerative Leadership for more on these tools.

Systemic awareness is a natural capacity we all have as human beings. Systems nested within systems are the very stuff of life. Systemic awareness is our ability to sense into the network of systems within the living organization and throughout the wider stakeholder ecosystem, including our family and friends, local community, supply chain, customer network, and wider ecology of life. 

“Learn how to see. Realize everything connects with everything else” Leonardo Da Vinci

It is through this deeply felt sense of life’s complex inter-relating system dynamics, that we attune ourselves with a new way of seeing the world.  It helps us shift our perception from viewing the organization-as-machine to realizing the organization-as-living-system. 

Systemic awareness goes hand-in-hand with enhanced self-awareness, coupled with what we call in the book – Activating our Super-Nature – where we allow an integration of different intelligences within us to open ourselves into a systemic way of attending, where we can more subtly sense life beyond separateness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness: The Alchemy of Self-and-Systemic Awareness

 

When we alchemize the dynamics of self and systemic awareness we step in to Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness invites in the ‘yin’- calm inner grounded-ness and awareness of one’s own triggers, habits and shadows combined with an intuitive sense of the inter-relationality of living systems. This consciousness seeks authenticity, thinks systemically, designs for complexity, works with tensions, spawns life-affirming futures, and understands the Logic of Life.

When we allow the ‘yin’ beingness to infuse our doing, Life conspires to aid us, and we begin to notice synchronicities, coincidences, chance encounters and intuitive insights. This is Nature’s Wisdom flowing through us.

2. Team Dynamics

Inviting in the ‘yin’ and then the ‘yang’ into our team dynamics ensures we create the cultural ground for flow. Holding-space for each other, enabling trust to form so people feel they can bring more of themselves into the working environment. This allows the ‘yang’ creativity to flow more readily.  Social technologies like Theory U, Feedback, Deep Listening, Art of Hosting, Systemic Coaching, non-violent communication methods, etc. all greatly help the ‘yin’ of team dynamics. Then we can start to embrace agile ways of working, workflow management, effective communication, daily stand-ups, check-ins, etc. so the Doing is infused with Being.  In my previous book Future Fit there are a load of team practices and liberating structures to enable this yin-yang being-doing at the team level.

A short video here about Future Fit

  • 3. Organisational Culture

In Regenerative Leadership we spend a lot of time on Living Systems Culture – the way to enable the organisational culture to become regenerative, through applying the Regenerative  Leadership DNA.

We also provide organisational tools, checklists and coaching questions to aid the Regenerative Journey, including a Regenerative Leadership DNA Assessment Wheel and Systems Mapping exercise. These tools activate dialogue across the organisation.

Through leadership coaching and living-systems interventions, one can help the organisation to start to see more of itself. This helps blind-spots, stuckness, acupuncture points and nodes to be acknowledged.  People start to gain agency as an active participant in the system.  Through their own presence and awareness they can start to contribute to regenerative ripples that enliven the system.

One technique I have used over the years to great effect through my organisational development work is the concept of Background; Middleground; Foreground.   Much like a masterpiece painting or well composed orchestral music, there is the Background – the underlying essence, the underpinning vision and purpose that infuses the Middleground (lived cultural values) and Foreground (embodied behaviours, decision-making protocols, daily practices and rhythms).

Getting into the essence of things is a far deeper exercise that revisiting vision statements or rewording mission definitions.  It is a case of tapping into the essence of the living organisation, and is often best done through deep-dive leadership immersions. When these immersions are conducted round the fire in nature we get to the essence of things. Far from the madding crowd and distanced from the distracting mobile device.

(The ancient woodlands of Springwood are only 45mins from London and 15mins from international flights and main rail hubs, yet provide secluded spaciousness for tapping into Nature’s Wisdom)

As we access stillness we tap into the ‘yin’ that informs the ‘yang’.  To attend to outer statements, value propositions, values, behaviours and metrics without first sensing into the Background essence is, alas, applying the very same level of consciousness that created our problems in the first place: Doing without a depth of Being. 

The time has come to evolve our human awareness, and evolve our human cultures so they become regenerative.

In summary:

There is an inherent Logic of Life that we can learn to listen to.  It is this intelligence and wisdom we now need to help our organisations thrive in the volatile times ahead.  Paste on agile ways of working to a disconnected culture and time and money will be wasted.  We need culture + structure aligned, and we need the ‘yin’ to infuse the ‘yang’, then we can start to attune to Nature’s Rhythms and find the flow of the living organisation while people become more human, more alive, more whole, more in harmony with Life.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st century won’t occur because of technology, they will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ John Naisbett

When Being infuses our Doing, we have Awakened Doing. Out actions align with inner-purpose. Purpose then, is not espoused or forced, but lived from the inside-out, it comes alive through us, and we become regenerative.

Our outer actions become a conduit for a different quality of consciousness than that which created today’s manifold problems. This is the beginning of a new dawn, a new stage in our human evolution. It begins when our outer actions align with the Logic of Life, whereupon we open up to the magnificence of existence. 

The adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves, through his painstaking research, saw this latent potential in human consciousness being born in our social systems today, and his prescient work is coming true through the exponential interest in organisational applications such as Teal-Evolutionary, Theory U, sociocracy, agile and regenerative leadership.

This is our destiny, and its beckoning call is becoming clearer and more noticeable by the day, as old ways breakdown to reveal an inherent grammar innate within Life.

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ’struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. –Hopi Elders’ Prophecy

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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

A short video on the book Regenerative Leadership:

Crossing the Threshold with Nature-based Coaching and Leadership Immersions

January 21, 2021

Times they are a’changin. Even the nature of change itself seems to be changing – ceaseless churning change of the catalytic variety concocts this pregnant moment of seismic breakdown and breakthrough.  I foresee the next couple of years as simultaneously challenging, transformative and full of potential.

Those of us engaged with transformational leadership work will know that periods of dysfunction and crisis often precede a step-change in evolutionary advancement. Therefore, these are fertile times for an evolutionary shift in leadership consciousness. Let this epochal hour of breakdown-breakthrough not go to waste, but rather spawn a necessary [r]evolution in consciousness. The future of life on Earth depends on it. The future-fitness of our clients’ organisations depends on it. So too does the mental health and wellbeing of our client’s families and personal lives. 

This article seeks to explain: firstly, why a ‘threshold-crossing’ is an essential part of the evolutionary advancement of our coaching clients; secondly, what the nature of this ‘threshold crossing’ is; and thirdly, how coaching-based immersions in nature provide a powerful way of holding-space for this threshold crossing.

  1. Crossing the Threshold: To die before you die

The phrase ‘to cross the threshold’ means to undergo a metamorphic process of ‘dying and being reborn’- to endure a shift in ‘inner’ self-orientation and ‘outer’ worldview. It’s a deep psychological renewal that transforms how we relate to our inner-selves and our outer-world, enabling us to become more in harmony with inner and outer nature. The ancient Greeks used the term ‘metanoia’ to describe such a shift, ‘meta’ like in metamorphosis is to ‘shape-shift’  or  ‘move beyond’ and ‘noia’ relates to ‘true understanding’: to transform the understanding of our sense of self and how we relate with the world.  

Over many years of coaching senior leaders, experience has shown me that for a leader – or for that matter any adult – to undergo a step-change in psychological evolution, one needs to hold-space for both the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ dimensions of this threshold-crossing: the worldview shift and the inner access to one’s deeper truer nature. All advanced adult developmental models, ancient wisdom traditions, and depth psychology approaches such as Carl Jung’s Individuation Journey and Parker J Palmer’s Journey Towards Wholeness, speak to this inner reorientation to ‘Know Thy Self’. And systemic change specialists, such as Donella Meadows and Peter Senge, know that shifting the worldview of the outer system is a primary leverage point for systemic transformation.

2. Shifting from What to What?

In my latest book Regenerative Leadership, co-authored with Laura Storm, we explore the worldview shift unfolding during this time of breakdown-breakthrough, and how it applies to leadership and organisational development. We explore the dominant yet dying Age of Separation and an emerging Age of Regeneration – where humanity remembers its deep connection with self-other-world.  You may have started to sense the word ‘regenerative’ entering the emerging zeitgeist. It’s a word that can be applied to all aspects of life, from regenerative agriculture through to regenerative leadership consciousness, and involves an opening up to life’s evolutionary dynamics of relationality, receptivity, responsiveness, rhythm and renewal.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness, as defined in our book, correlates with developmental psychologist Clare Graves’ work on Tier 2 Consciousness (i.e. Yellow, Turquoise and Coral in Spiral Dynamics) where an embodied cognition of living-systems is activated in our psyche. It also relates to what organisation specialist Frederic Laloux and integral theorist Ken Wilber refer to as Teal-Evolutionary. It is an ecosystemic awareness that draws upon the Logic of Life, an embodied living-systems way of leading and living that seeks harmony with the way life works.   This is not new, it’s timeless. For instance, over 2,500 years ago Lao Tzu noted, ‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force’ and Confucius noted, ‘Those in harmony with nature hit the mark without effort and apprehend the truth without thinking.’ Yet this is also cutting-edge contemporary thinking confirmed by scientific findings that show how being in nature, and opening up to nature’s wisdom, helps us become more compassionate, creative and connected. The explosion of interest in everything from forest bathing to wild swimming speaks to this rising interest in reconnecting to the rapture of real life.

Today our dominant leadership awareness is largely mechanistic and reductive, tuning-out the rhythmic and relational dynamics of how life works.  The result being: linear chains of production that create ‘outer’ toxicity and silo’ed hierarchies of management that create ‘inner’ toxicity.  The vast majority of people today work in organisational cultures that sap people’s creativity, purposefulness, ingenuity, resilience and empathy. Whilst many organisations pride themselves on being efficient and effective the cold reality is that many of our human interactions, decision-making protocols and meeting conventions are woefully inefficient and ineffective. The root problem here is mechanistic leadership logic. Change the underlying consciousness, and the logic shifts. Shift the logic and the culture can transform in inner and outer ways.

To shift from a worldview of separateness and its mechanistic logic into a worldview of interconnectedness and its Logic of Life, requires a threshold crossing. This allows leaders to sense the organisation as a complex adaptive emergent system rather than seeing it as a top-down hierarchic machine. Our understanding of change, systemic interventions and transformation deepens in recognition of how life works. It also helps us perceive the ecosystemic nature of our own presence as a leader, and the presence of the organisation immersed in a sea of stakeholder relations including the wider social and ecological systems which are all interdependent and interwoven in measurable and immeasurable ways. The other side of all this complexity is a beautiful simplicity, found by crossing the threshold.

In terms of the ‘inner’ dimension, regeneration is a return to our true nature through a journey towards wholeness. This journey is as fresh as it is ancient, and it opens us up to living with more presence and purposefulness; exactly what these times invite of us.  Through my coaching working in nature, I blend the shamanic and spiritual with the scientific and sensorial so all of our natural intelligences (rational, emotional, intuitive, and somatic) are enlivened. Then we unlock human potential, touch our true nature, and connect more deeply with the world around us. As Ghandi noted, ‘as one changes their own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards them.’

3. Why Nature Immersions?

There is now a wealth of scientific evidence showing how being in nature significantly improves our empathy, our ability to reason, to deal with change, cope with stress and listen more effectively to others. These are all basic qualities for 21st century leadership. Yet there is much that science is still only scratching the surface of when it comes to the transformative effects of being in nature.

I have taken hundreds of leaders through nature immersions. Immersions can range from half a day in the woods through to multi-day sessions that include overnight solos or even structured vision quests (you can find out more about the practicalities and science of these leadership immersions here). 

Many of the senior executives I coach can have strong aversions to anything that might seem hippy-dippy or woo-woo at first glance.  Some fear it might involve tree-hugging or Kum Ba Yah moments.  Hence, I have learnt to interweave time in nature with science-based insights about how nature works so the intuitive, emotional, somatic and rational aspects of our knowing are engaged adequately, usually starting with the rational as that is the most dominant in many leaders today. For instance, I might explore the interconnected systemic nature of life through microscopes whilst out in the woods, and by describing how trees communicate through the soil and the air, or how bacteria display highly sophisticated communication and adaptation methods. Or I might draw upon how organisational cultures can learn from nature’s 3.8bn years’ worth of tried and tested R&D by explaining about biomimicry, bio-design thinking, chaordic cultures and regenerative leadership. Or I unpack how ecosystems work by visually explain the shift from mechanistic thinking to ecosystemic awareness in a way that satisfies the rational intellect while providing an embodied experience that the coachee can fondly recall many moons after. 

Within an hour or two any hesitation or resistance a client might have to an immersion in nature usually evaporates to reveal receptivity for inner and outer developmental work.  Then, around the camp-fire a deep dialogic space for generative listening is held, as ego-masks and psychological armour melt for true nature to be touched. The client does not easily forget these moments of deep presence and purposefulness, and can call upon them when back in the busy work environment. Thus, both horizontal and vertical development takes place in these immersions, as clients gain a wider capacity for everyday resilience (horizontal) and an invitation into up-stretching their inner and outer orientation (vertical).

What happens in just a handful of hours in nature is – in my experience – of an order of magnitude deeper than a coaching session held either in a comfortable armchair or over zoom.  And socially distancing in fresh forest-bathing air proven to strengthen the immune system is a COVID-mitigated way to do deep work. Now more than ever people crave time in nature, time that is held in a way that gives them permission to be vulnerable, open-up and let-go of masks, while sensing into blind spots, projections and developmental learnings.

Giles Hutchins runs nature-based leadership immersions for leaders, facilitates deep-space for coaches and their clients, provides training for coaches, and personal adult development amid 60 acres of ancient woodland in an area of outstanding natural beauty with easy connections to London and airports, visit Leadership Immersions. He is also Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy. His latest co-authored book is Regenerative Leadership, other books are Future Fit, The Illusion of Separation and The Nature of Business. He blogs at www.thenatureofbusiness.org

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In Service to Life: Regenerative Leadership for 21st Century Organisations

January 13, 2021

David Lorimer is Director of The Scientific and Medical Network, and also Editor of the magazine Paradigm Explorer. He has kindly reviewed the book Regenerative Leadership, by Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm, a book that he sees as a highly informative and inspiring must-read for leaders in every sector

Book at be found here: Regenerative Leadership

REGENERATIVE LEADERSHIP, by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm, Wordzworth, 2019, 351 pp., £29.99, p/b – ISBN 978-1-78324-119-4

Book Review By David Lorimer

I don’t personally need convincing of the requirement not only for regenerative leadership, but for a regenerative approach as an overall policy goal, and in such a regard, this widely endorsed and beautifully produced book is a brilliant and succinct synthesis of leading-edge scientific, philosophical and ecological ideas with practical examples of how readers can apply regenerative leadership to their own working lives. It is written with admirable clarity and articulates exactly the regenerative vision we now require to work with the principles and dynamics of nature. Both authors bring decades of experience of the sustainability agenda as it relates to business leadership (www.regenerativeleadership.co).

The first part is devoted to breakdowns and breakthroughs, analysing the deeper roots of our current crisis resulting in a ‘growing imbalance [and separation] between humanity and nature, masculine and feminine, inner and outer, and left brained and right brained awareness’, aspects that we now need to integrate in order to ‘read the patterns, relationships, energies, insights, and intelligences innate within life’ as ways of reconnecting with the logic of life (p. 24). The authors identify a growing ‘complexity gap’ in the business landscape, arising from viewing the organisation as a machine and from a flawed consumerist business model associated with ecological degradation – exploiting rather than serving life. This leads to all manner of stress to manifest in us as individuals, as well is in economic, political and natural systems. So the question is how we design flourishing ways of living conducive to life, which entails moving from reductive machine logic to living systems logic on a leadership journey of reconnection: regenerative business calls for regenerative leaders (defined on p. 70).

Part 2 describes the DNA of regenerative leadership based on the logic of life and incorporating Living Systems Design, Culture and Being. This is all very clearly set out with diagrams describing life and leadership dynamics, the former in terms of a dance of convergence and divergence leading to emergence, and the latter an interplay of self-awareness with systemic awareness resulting in ‘regenerative leadership consciousness’. Throughout the book there are further reference points of quotations, insights from nature, business insights and opportunities to dive deeper, one of which is Michael Harner’s essential elements of core shamanism (p. 96) that spell out the relational principles of the kind of worldview that we all need to adopt. The authors explain their own version in terms of seven principles of the logic of life – life affirming, ever-changing and responsive, relational and collaborative, synergistic and diverse, cyclical and rhythmical, flows of energy and matter, and living systems field. Throughout the book, they show a remarkable grasp of such ideas and their potential applications as well as appropriate methods of training. There are corresponding ‘DNA strands’ in the chapters on Living Systems Design and Living Systems Culture with many relevant practical examples.

A further key element is Living Systems Being – ‘how we show up and nourish our relationship with our inner nature and encourage others to do the same.’ Here again there are six DNA strands: presence, coherence, patience, silence, abundance and dance, with corresponding definitions, objectives and guidance. Practical people might initially regard this as peripheral while it is in fact central. The third part provides some useful diagnostic tools to measure the alignment of your organisation with the logic of life and a living systems approach based on a number of questions and a related points system. Then people can create personal and organisational ecosystemic maps with corresponding features and relationships, with the outer orientation on the left and the inner on the right.

Finally, there are answers to frequently asked questions and further suggestions for personal practice, including journaling, quiet time, deep listening and opening up to nature; practices of silence, dialogue, story cafes and the way of council can also be applied organisationally. For the reader, such processes have to begin with the quality of our inner state as it ripples out through our lives and relationships. I was amused but not surprised to find on the final page that the logic of life is nothing more or less than Love, which creates the conditions conducive for life. As the authors note, they could not have put such a message up front, but it was good to see it plainly stated at the end. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a highly informative and inspiring must-read for leaders in every sector.

You can find the book Regenerative Leadership through all major outlets and also here at this website: Regenerative Leadership

You can follow Giles Hutchins’ blogs at The Nature of Business

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Time to Reinvent our Humanity, and Learn to Turn Tensions into Crucibles for Evolution

November 25, 2020

It is indeed a fascinating and also challenging time to be alive. 

 As COVID-shocks erode edifices of normality, underlying systemic fragility becomes easier to see.  It’s not just COVID, or the American Presidential election, mushrooming global debt, imploding commercial property values, monstrous market volatility, rising mental illness, soaring suicide rates, or the immediacy of the climate emergency.  It’s all of these combined, and so much more.

Such levels of stress in all systems create a pivotal moment where we either adapt and evolve out of this breakdown, or hold-on to the crumbling status quo, facing into the inevitable car-crash.

It’s a supreme moment in our human history!

Break-down naturally invokes fear, and an ever tightening-grip of holding-on to the safety of the status quo. Saving the status quo is too late – even if we’d wish to. Afterall, evolution is all about evolving through such transformative periods of break-down with break-through.

Are we up for evolution?

Scientists have long realised that evolution experiences fits and starts – relatively long periods of steady-state incremental change, and then significant shifts of breakdown leading to breakthrough- its known as ‘punctuated evolution’, and it’s how life on Earth adapts and evolves. 

Breakthrough involves a shift from status quo thinking – a reaching beyond our current bubble into a deeper and wider worldview, whereupon we evolve as humans. This breakthrough moment can be a time of immense innovation, not just at the product/service or business model level, or structural ways of working, but in terms of our worldview, of how we perceive ourselves, and our sense of place and purpose in the world.

All change please!

It’s what this supreme moment asks – demands – of us.  Can we rise to the challenge of the day?

Profound shifts are affecting the way we work, how and why we do things and the purpose and meaning we bring to our organisations and social systems.  What’s shifting goes way deeper than digitisation, agility and product innovation.  As the futurist John Naisbett notes,

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st Century, won’t occur because of technology. They’ll occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’

Whether it’s the swift shift to digital ways of working, the rising demand for authentic leadership, the increasing interest in agile purposeful organisational cultures, or the need for people to gain coherence and focus amid distraction, the blurring of home/work-life, or rising stress-levels – the desire for a root-and-branch transformation of how and why we do things is afoot.

The danger of being distracted by the noise of break-down is the inability to hear the songs-lines of breakthrough beckoning us beyond system-collapses into new ways of thinking, and new ways of perceiving – new ways of being human.

Necessity is the Mother of all inventions! 

It’s time to reinvent our humanity.

We are being prodded, cajoled, woken-up from our status quo slumber, so that we can awaken a deeper perception beyond our current bubble.

We are in need of reinventing not just our products, organisations, political institutions, economics, urban-planning, education and health systems – but all of it and more. This tumultuous time invites us to reinvent our purpose, to re-find, renew and reconnect with what it truly means to be human.

What an epic time to be a leader?!  So much of what we thought we knew is open for question.

Let’s not rush, or be hurried into panic, projection, blame, or fear-based thinking, as such hurried fearfulness merely entraps us in status-quo thinking.  To think outside the box, and beyond the bubble, we need to relax, let-go, open-up and become more present, more coherent, more connected.  Hence why the leadership immersion work I do here at Springwood, where we immerse leaders into a deeper sense of presence, with digital distractions and every-day noise left behind for a few hours, has such a catalytic effect on shifting leadership consciousness amid these transformational times.    (For more on such Immersions, see here)

The answers lie before our very noses if we so choose to see – the Logic of Life is here to help us shift into a new way of working, leading and operating.  Laura Storm and I explore this is in the book Regenerative Leadership, packed full of business examples, tools and techniques to help us become more life-affirming in business and beyond.   It really is the only viable way for us to evolve and breakthrough as leaders, while helping our organizations thrive and our people come alive amid increasing volatility.

Let’s invite a pause into our lives, a stepping back, so that we can gain perspective of what is unfolding, ahead of 2021 – which will be a pivotal year of breakdown-breakthrough.

In this supreme moment, we might wish to ensure we are not all-too-frantically shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic with the music of yesterday still reverberating in our ears, deafening our capacity to hear the future beckoning us forth.  For the future has already been shown to us, if we so choose to see with fresh eyes. It’s the Logic of Life, nothing more, nothing less. It’s all around us, and its deep within us. It’s in our hearts and minds, if only we’d dare to listen with clear ears, and see with fresh eyes.

The reality is, the human psyche is involved in a world of tensions. Our developmental learning happens in this world of tensions.   We might wish to seek ego-control of these tensions, by collapsing the tensions into right/wrong, black/white surety and certainty, yet this breeds one-sidedness through projection and polarisation. It creates separation and exclusion, the very logic which created our problems in the first place. 

If we seek to up-stretch beyond breakdown into breakthrough, then this struggle for evolution starts right here, right now, in our own hearts and minds, by seeking learning within the tensions not collapsing the tensions into surety yet one-sided imbalance and dis-harmony.

Holding the tension open allows evolution to unfold, for something new to emerge out of the tension.  This is the essence of the Logic of Life.

Collapsing the tension before it’s fully-pregnant, creates prematurity, half-cut learnings, and an undermining of life’s learning potential. The risk here is, we get stuck in breakdown, unable to reach beyond the tensions of the day, caught up in status quo thinking, not quite crossing the threshold, no quite entering the new dawn of deeper realisation.

Alchemising Tensions

Tensions of difference are an inherent part of this duality-of-experience we live within, here are some of these tensions we experience day in, day out:

Yang – Yin

Outer – Inner

Masculine – Feminine

Me – We

Reductive – Relational

Doing – Being

Responsive – Receptive

Light – Dark

Summer – Winter

Action – Reflection

Neither side of these tensions is more right or more preferable than the other, and each situation invites us to bring in more of one side than the other.  We can become conscious of the tensions and therefore notice when we may wish to bring in a bit more of the other side of the tension to ensure harmony, rather than one-sidedness. It’s an alchemic dance, a communion of opposing tensions. The dance of Life – where the space between the notes informs the music just as much as the notes themselves do. 

By example:  it’s become fashionable in some circles to talk about a shift from Me to We – and yet this need not be a swing from one-sidedness (‘me’ – individuality accentuating into individualism) to one-sideness (‘we’ – collectivity accentuating into collectivism).

We perhaps all in our hearts know (when we deeply ponder on things) that we need a mix of both the social/collective ability to live together in harmony, and the personal and entrepreneurial freedom of expression for our unique individuality to thrive.  It’s the diversity-and-inclusion, the diversity-and-unity, not one at the expense of the other.   

When we become too entrenched in one side being right and the other side being wrong, we undermine the richness that the tension affords us.   What lies before us now is so much more than old polarities like capitalism v socialism. For sure we can learn from our socio-economic experiments with capitalism and socialism, this can inform what lies beyond the tension.

A ‘middle way’ can emerge, where a healthy dose of individuality and collectivity work in tandem, in harmony.  Inevitably, it means a pendulum swinging or spiralling flowing from a bit more ‘we’ focus at times, and then a bit more ‘me’ focus other times – this is the nature of life.    No stasis, only the movement of non-equilibrium while questing for harmony.

As the founder of VISA, Dee Hock, notes:

‘When we behave as though the linear, mechanistic, separatist, cause-and-effect perspective is the only way to understand, we mentally disconnect from the beautiful, magnificent flow of life and retreat into ever smaller compartments of specialized denial.  We no longer affirm the mystery of endless connectivity and wholeness – awareness that we, the quark and the universe, are both one and many, both infinite and finite, both particulate and whole.  We begin to shrivel our life into the whining, puerile, pitiful little concepts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, ‘get’ and ‘keep’, ‘win’ and ‘lose’. Life is emptied of content. Self-interest and greed become worthy of emulation. Winning is all that matters. Wealth, fame, and power become deities to worship. It is a desperately sick society that does so; a society that turns its back on life and moves toward destruction and death. It is just such a society we are creating.

It is an equally sick society that denies separability, individuality, and difference. Such a society loses the creative force of conflict, the formative tension of opposing forces, the vitality of change, the creativity of difference, and the beauty of distinction. It sinks into uniformity, conformity, and indifference. It would be a great mistake to sink into such a grey miasma in an effort to correct present ills.’ – Dee Hock, Founder and former CEO of VISA

Life affords us rich tensions.  And the breakdown we are living through allows tensions to surface more readily, and in-so-doing we can rise to the challenge, and allow these tensions to reveal deeper wisdom that impels our evolution. Breakdown stimulates breakthrough.

The reality of today’s situation is – we have a major shift in worldview happening.  An old worldview dying and a new one being born.

The old worldview finds its roots in the scientific-worldview of Newtonian cause-and-effect, reductionism and linearity. This influenced the organisational-worldview of Taylorist organisation-as-machine and the socio-economics of Freidman’s short-term profit maximisation for some at the expense of the many.  It fuelled the pitiful trade-off mentality of ‘win’ and ‘lose’, ‘me’ versus ‘you’. When he was CEO of Unilever, this is what Paul Polman noted about such a mentality:

‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs, that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else. That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works and what business is for: Milton Friedman’s optimisation of short-term profits. We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’  – Paul Polman

The much admired award-winning former Chairman and CEO of Interface, Ray Anderson said, ‘We have been, and still are, in the grips of a flawed view of reality – a flawed paradigm, a flawed world view – and it pervades our culture putting us on biological collision course with collapse.’

The old worldview is a collective myth – a dream or vision that is no longer relevant. While great strides in material betterment have been achieved through the mechanistic separatist worldview, we now realise it has come at great expense – pollution and stress of our inner and outer worlds.  The dream becomes a nightmare, as the unconscious psyche cajoles us into a new dream.

This new dream is within us, its birthing through us. It’s a new way of living on this planet that aids evolution of life on Earth.

As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell knew:

‘One thing that comes out of myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come.  At the darkest moment comes the light.’

The darkest moment is upon us, and it invites us to hear the real message of transformation. The new myth, the new vision, that forms the basis for the new worldview breaking through, is the vision of allowing the individuality of each person’s own maturation to inform and contribute to the collective capacity of our human society to work in harmony with Nature.

 ‘The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not the people, but the planet, and everybody on it. And what it will have to deal with will be exactly what all myths have to deal with – the maturation of the individual, from dependency through adulthood, through maturity, and then to the exit; and then how to relate to this society and how to relate this society to the world of nature and the cosmos.’ – Joseph Campbell

As former CEO, Dee Hock knew – it is a desperately sick society that turns its back on life. And today’s society is that sick society, as it’s turned its back on nature, no longer able to sense into the Logic of Life.  Yet this sick society is breaking down and the new is breaking through.  Let’s be careful, to ensure the new society emerging does not lose the vibrancy of opposing forces, the creativity of difference, and the beauty of distinction.

The trials of life are what bring new possibilities. The field of what it means to be human is deepening, if we have the courage to hold the tensions rather than collapse them.

What helps us hold the tensions and see beyond them?

We have two tools to help us as we journey:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Systemic-awareness

Self-awareness is first-and-foremost about us getting to know ourselves, so that we can build our trust in life. As we become more conscious of our projections, insecurities and shadows, we enrich our engagement with life, and reach beyond yesterday’s bubble.

Thoughts, opinions, assumptions, and worries about what has been (the past) or what might be (the future) can stir up emotions inside us which trigger anxiety, stress, and distraction. Before we know it, this mental noise has created a version of life that is not reality – not what is happening right before us. If we were able to release ourselves from this mental chatter, we could experience life in a less distracted, more present, and more conscious way.

‘Above all, to thine own self be True’ – William Shakespeare

When we draw our awareness out of the reactive ego-mind and gain perspective on its ramblings, habits, annoyances and projections we become able to assess situations more calmly and wisely.  We sense tensions for what they are, learning platforms. Life becomes less about oppositional conflict and more about integration and reconciliation.

‘Authentic selfhood of the human being is neither created nor does it evolve in some Darwinian or quasi-Darwinian fashion, but it is alchemically integrated from the opposites of light and dark, good and evil, masculine and feminine, conscious and unconscious. It is not by simple extension or a lineal path of growth, but by the oppositional conflict and eventual reconciliation of the oppositions that the fullness of being is restored within the individual soul…the growth of the soul has as its goal a state of integrated wholeness rather than a condition of moral perfection.’ Stephan Hoeller

The more we become aware of our mind-chatter, and the more we notice tensions within and all around us as crucibles for learning, the more we allow space for our true nature and inner vitality. We are then able to reach beyond separateness and sense interconnectedness. We can start to tune in to the Living Systems Field – what quantum scientists call the ‘quantum field’ which is all around and within us, all the time.

Just as the dawn breaks right after the darkest hour, so too does the dawn of our psychological inner-awakening occur after the darkness of tension reveals the light of illumination.

Hold the tension to allow illumination.

‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ – Carl Jung

As we learn to cultivate our self-awareness, our dominant mode of perception shifts from a largely left-brain hemispheric rational-analytic ego-awareness – that senses only separateness and linearity – into a more balanced left-right hemispheric rational-intuitive ego-soul awareness – that senses inter-relationality and systemic complexity. We become more authentic, more in touch with our inner nature, more in touch with the complexity of living systems all about us, and can sense our participation within life. This helps us attuned to Life.    It’s our birthright as human beings. It’s our natural capacity to sense harmony with life, as long as we help ourselves reach beyond the bubble of our outdated worldview.

As the author of Holism and Evolution, Jan Christiaan Smuts, insightfully notes in his ground-breaking and profoundly influential work, “the apparently individualist Mind is in reality deeply and vitally influenced by the universal Mind.” And as another influential explorer Gregory Bateson knew, it is through attuning our mind with the Mind of Nature (aka, the Logic of Life) that we learn to live in harmony with Life.  Bateson posits that the most important task today is to learn to think in this way of nature, to learn to be attuned with nature’s wisdom. Hence, the power of leadership immersions in nature, as they allow this inner coherence of ego-soul awareness.

‘True wisdom consists in not departing from nature, but in molding our conduct in accordance with Her laws and model.’ – Seneca

Alongside self-awareness, is systemic awareness, our 2nd tool to help us navigate breakdown into breakthrough.

Systemic awareness is a natural capacity we all have as human beings. Systems nested within systems are the very stuff of life. Systemic awareness is our ability to sense into the networks of systems within the living organization and throughout the wider stakeholder ecosystem, including our family and friends, local community and wider ecology of life. 

“Learn how to see. Realize everything connects with everything else” Leonardo Da Vinci

It is through this deeply felt sense of life’s complex inter-relating system dynamics, that we attune ourselves with a new way of seeing the world.  It helps us shift our perception from viewing the organization-as-machine to realizing the organization-as-living-system. 

In Complexity Theory, there is the notion of strange attractors. A system can reach a threshold, a limit to its capacity, after which it bursts and transforms into its next-stage of evolution. The field shifts, and the system starts to behave in a different way, influencing different parameters across the organization.  When it comes to human behavior, this calls for a need to unlearn what we had been learning about the organization’s behaviors and observe its new behaviors as the organizational field shifts.   

Systemic awareness goes hand-in-hand with enhanced self-awareness, coupled with what we call in the book Regenerative Leadership  Activating our Super-Nature, where we allow an integration of different intelligences within us to open ourselves into a systemic way of attending, where we can more subtly sense life beyond separateness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness: The Alchemy of Self-and-Systemic Awareness

When we alchemize the dynamics of self and systemic awareness we step in to Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness invites in a calm inner grounded-ness and awareness of one’s own triggers, habits and shadows combined with an intuitive sense of the inter-relationality of living systems. This consciousness seeks authenticity, thinks systemically, designs for complexity, works with tensions, spawns life-affirming futures, and understands the Logic of Life.

The alchemy of self and systemic awareness creates the Regenerative Leadership abilities to:

  • tame and train the ego;
  • gain perspective on shadow-aspects, triggers and habitual behaviors;
  • sense our inner knowing;
  • embrace life as a learning journey;
  • deal gracefully with adversity; 
  • seek wisdom beyond rationality – embracing the intuitive, complex, ambiguous, non-linear nature of reality;
  • become comfortable with the uncomfortable;
  • not simply ask a question and seek a solution but live a question and sense the synchronicities that respond to this lived question;
  • strive for wholeness by cultivating the masculine and feminine aspects within us;
  • deepen our relationship with life/nature, tap into the Living Systems Field, and apply living-systems insights.     

(Source: Regenerative Leadership, Hutchins & Storm)

Education-based methods today are largely orientated and shaped by the old worldview of separation, control and materialism. Today, what is urgently needed, are education-based methods that inspire rather than suppress our attunement of self-awareness and systemic-awareness, and that enrich our self-other-Nature integration. It’s why I focus much of my work on leadership immersions in nature (see Leadership Immersions).

The Latin root for the word ‘education’ is educere meaning to ‘bring out’ or ‘lead forth’. The pioneering British economist E.F. Schumacher recognised that humankind’s greatest resource is education and the West’s state of crisis may in part have to do with its wrong approach to education. For Schumacher, it is the wisdom that education produces which is paramount; a wisdom which allows each of us to be true to our authentic nature while enhancing the quality of our interrelations, or as Schumacher put it, becoming truly in touch with our centres, where our daily conduct shows a sureness which stems from this inner clarity.

To summarise:

We are currently facing a whole array of wicked systemic challenges, ranging from climate emergency to mass biodiversity loss, from COVID to widespread mental illness, mushrooming sovereign and personal debt mountains to economic models that debase and corrupt the social and ecological fabric we all depend on. The current system is at breaking point; continuing down the status-quo road brings the inevitable car-crash. We won’t navigate our way out of this status-quo road without changing the logic and worldview by which we operate. Today’s dominant leadership logic and rationalistic-reductive worldview is rooted in a mechanistic mind-set that spawns from a worldview of separation, domination and hyper-competition.

We need to call upon a different logic – a different quality of consciousness – than that which created our current problems in the first place.  We need to look beyond status-quo thinking and invite in something deeper, something all-together more human and more natural.   Today, there are signs of such an awakening; cracks of light emerging that reveal a new way of attending to life beyond separateness and mechanistic-thinking.  The Logic of Life – the way nature has been working for billions of years – enables us to reach beyond mechanistic thinking. This living systems logic draws from a worldview of relationality – aka ‘inter-being’ – recognising that we are all participating as inter-relational living beings within the interconnected super-organism of Gaia, our home – nothing is entirely divorced from anything else. From quantum entanglement to ecosystem relationality, everything participates.

We are but weaves within this interwoven tapestry of life, and by becoming conscious of the depth and breadth of this tapestry, we learn to live in right-relation with life and its inevitable tensions. This brings us vibrancy, vitality, growth and meaning in our lives – sources of real and lasting happiness. The worldview of participation, and its Logic of Life, can be applied to how we lead and operate in business and beyond.   It’s what we call the Regenerative Leadership DNA Model in our book.

“The world is changing fast and organizations are not keeping up with the pace of transformation.  This book – Regenerative Leadership – invites leaders to catalyze the necessary regeneration to not just catch up, but to lead the world into the 21st century.”  – The former Executive of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres

Regenerative Leadership is a quality of leading and living that draws upon the Logic of Life, and enables our organisations to come alive and our people to thrive amid these times of increasing volatility and turbulence.

The alchemy of self-awareness and systemic-awareness enables us to cross the threshold in leadership consciousness from mechanistic to living-systems and shift our worldview from one of separateness to one of interconnectedness.  

When we are tapping into Regenerative Leadership Consciousness we allow tensions to reveal deeper insights. The dualities of life – like yin/yang, masculine/feminine, me/we – do not get polarised into dualisms, instead they are alchemised to allow the creative unfolding of life’s potential. The crucibles of tensions reveal insight and illumination.  It’s time to reach beyond the tensions of left versus right in politics or individual versus collective in society or competition versus collaboration in business.  It’s time to open up to the insights that the dualities of life afford us, as we expand our human-awareness, and become more human, more alive, more consciousness. This is what our future beckons forth in us, if we so dare to cross the threshold into a new story and a new logic.

‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil itself but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.’ – Peter Drucker

Feel free to join the Leadership Immersions LinkedIn group if you have not already: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and the new business paradigm Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner, coach, keynote speaker and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK where he holds-space for clients to create life-affirming futures for themselves and their organisations.

Reinventing Human Beings  – Creating the Greatest Breakthrough of the 21st Century

August 1, 2020

Amid these fast-moving and volatile times, how do we enable ourselves to become more purposeful, creative, agile and wise?

How do we help our humanity not get overwhelmed by the ever-widening and deepening challenges of the day, and instead consciously adapt and evolve, so we thrive amid volatility?

I came across this image recently and it sums up some aspects about the future we face.

 

There are two pathways ahead of us – 1) baton-down the hatches with fear and control, sicking to Business As Usual (BAU) and hoping the waves will pass (they won’t they will only get bigger until we wake up) 2) open-up and realise what these waves are wakening us to, while learning to surf on the edge of chaos by becoming more human, more alive and more wise.

Pathway 1 chooses fear and degeneration. Pathway 2 chooses life and regeneration.

Read more…

The Time Has Come To Cross The Threshold – death/rebirth of self and system

July 10, 2020

Amid this time of upheaval and systemic challenge, we can reveal wisdom-seeds of a new way starting to spawn deep within us and within our social systems.

All transformation starts with a rupturing of the status quo. Breakthrough is preceded by breakdown.

This is what we are experiencing today.  From mass migrations, social unrest and increasing mental illness through to pandemics, climate change, ecological degradation and economic turmoil – a civilisation is dying and a new one being born.

At the heart of this systemic shift is a transformation in worldview upon which our beliefs are founded – a shift from a mechanistic worldview of separation to a participatory worldview of interconnection.

In short: the dying yet still dominant worldview today perceives life as a purposeless random affair, where separate individuals and competing organisations struggle for survival in a dog-eat-dog world. The lens of perception through which we perceive ourselves and the world around us is a narrowed-down lens. It objectifies the world into separate objects and deterministic push-pull relationships. It assumes life is like a clockwork machine that can be understood by examining the parts.    We have trained ourselves over generations of schooling to see this narrowed-down view.  It has become acculturated in us to such an extent that much of the time we don’t even question it, thinking it’s the way life really is. We analyse, extrapolation, categorise and manipulate the world around us, and lose our inherent empathic connection with life.  This creates a sense of separateness and insecurity that then fuels an ego-need to compete, control and dominate in order to be safe in a fearful world.   This atomisation of life, society and the individual desensitises us creating imbalances in us. We attempt to satisfy these inner tensions through outer material betterment and techno-fixes, unable to see that it is our inner imbalance that is the source of the problem.

The new worldview being born dares us to open-up this narrowed-down lens of perception, so we can perceive more of how life really is and enliven our empathic connection with all of life.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

This task that Einstein refers to, is the key to solving the social, environmental and economic challenges we face today. It involves a widening of our perceptual horizon that shifts the way we interrelate with ourselves, each other and life.  It’s a shift in consciousness from separateness to interconnectedness.   It is a home-coming, as it re-engages us with more of who we truly are, and how life really is. With it comes freedom, expansiveness and a humbling responsibility to find accord with life through our own coherence and connection.

Crossing the Threshold

This opening-up to more of reality, is a threshold-crossing, where the old sense of self starts to die, and a new sense of self is born.  It’s a psychological death of letting-go that welcomes in a richer experience of life.  It is as radical as the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to the butterfly.

 

“How does one become butterfly?’ Pooh asked pensively.

You must want to fly so much that you‘re willing to give up being a caterpillar,” Piglet replied.

You mean you die?” asked Pooh.

“Yes and no,” he answered. “What looks like you will die but, but what’s really you will live on.” 

– A. A. Milne

 

To die and be reborn is the task of our time: individually and collectively.

The Journey of Crossing the Threshold lies at the heart of all world myths and wisdom traditions. It is the Journey of overcoming the inner challenges amid a world of opposing tensions.

To begin to sense the wisdom contained within the alchemy of life’s tensions is to sense the wisdom that pervades life.

To apply a contemporary framing to Crossing the Threshold, we can draw upon MIT’s leadership specialist Otto Scharmer and his Theory U, which draws from ancient wisdom tradition.  We have to journey down the U by letting-go and opening-up our mind, opening-up our heart, and opening-up our will, so as to connect to Source at the bottom of the U. From this place of inner coherence and connection, we can start to engage in right thought, right relation and right action. A new, richer perception unfolds, and our orientation of self-other-world shifts.

(source – Presencing Institute)

We cannot expect ourselves to come up with real and lasting solutions to today’s challenges without first knowing how to let go and connect to Source.  Yet how widely taught is this in our Universities or Business Schools today?  We are all-too-consumed with the dying worldview that objectifies the world with machine thinking – the very thing that skews our capacity to connect to Source. Hence, fashionable movements like Agile, for instance, get mechanised and superficialised into the outer ‘doing’ techno-fix part. The inner dimension of how we more effectively open-up, collaborate and engage systemically, is often overlooked and so the well-intended movement fails to truly transform ourselves and our organisations in any deep and lasting way.

Connecting to Source

Right at the heart of crossing the threshold is the capacity to tap into the life-force or Source within and all around us.

This inner connection to deeper parts of ourselves and reality is a very natural capacity we all have as human beings.  For the large part of our human history we lived with this deep connection to Source, yet as we became more mechanistic in our thinking, we drew ourselves away from this interconnectedness.

There are many methods and practices to help aid our reconnection with Source.  Practices such as meditation, walking in nature, playing a musical instrument, dancing, singing, sleeping under the stars, and such like, can aid us.  Yet to have a deeper more lasting transformation from an old separate sense of self into a more interconnected sense of self, requires an intentional practice over a longer time period, often involving a ‘dark night of the soul’ – months perhaps years through which we may experience depression or inner-shifts that feel uncomfortable and challenging, yet are part of a death/rebirth process.

Intentional practices where we work on letting go of the old self, connecting to source and creating space for the new self to be born and nurtured within us are useful.  I have found that Vision Quests in nature are powerful in this regard – a well-held intentional space of being in nature for atleast a day and night, preferably longer, where we allow our awareness to soften and our perceptual horizon to open-up while being in nature, connected close to the earth, and receptive to the plants, animals, clouds and sky around us while gaining space from everyday habits, routines, distractions and to-do lists.  I have experienced my own ‘dark night of the soul’ and also enjoyed many nature-based vision-quests. I have personally felt the wisdom innate within nature, and the healing and transformative power this wisdom provides. I have also applied this wisdom and healing through the coaching work I do to aid people through their own threshold crossings and dark nights of the soul as they go through important life inflection points, while finding deeper purpose and coherence in their lives.

‘We have today to learn to get back into accord with the wisdom of nature’ – Joseph Campbell

Gaia Theory, Facilitation Ecology, Quantum Physics, Depth Psychology, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking, Cybernetics, Complexity Theory and other 20th century scientific discoveries illuminate the systemic, participatory and interconnected nature of life and consciousness.

Today’s dominant yet dying worldview still holds-on to separateness, and sees consciousness as something limited to within our own brains, even though Nobel Laureates and award-winning scientists now know otherwise.

The task of our time is to learn to let go and connect to Source so that we can get back in tune with the wisdom innate within nature.  It’s this wisdom (and its medicine) that we desperately need to help us find solutions to today’s challenges; solutions unencumbered by the same logic that created the problems in the first place.

It can seem a bit paradoxical to suggest to the busy business mind that the wise course of action for the leader is to stop, pause, take time out, breathe deep, connect and then sense and respond.  But this is what is needed now, amidst all this cacophony and confusion.

The other side of complexity is a beautiful simplicity.

In my latest book co-authored with Laura Storm, Regenerative Leadership, we explore how to connect to Source and access the wisdom of nature – a process we refer to as Activating our Super Nature.

Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung extensively researched different human intelligences everyone has access to:  intuitive; rational; emotional and somatic

The intuitive way of knowing has often been related to the element fire, and also to SQ or quantum intelligence – this intuition informs us as we bring this insight into our daily awareness, influencing our decisions.  Opening up to this intuitive intelligence requires us to reach beyond the grasping busy-mind of our daily awareness, to quieten, and still ourselves, so we can better cultivate this receptivity.

The emotional way of knowing has often been related to the element water, and also to EQ – the feelings within us, ebbing and flowing, inform and enrich our daily awareness, influencing our decisions.  Opening up to this emotional intelligence requires us to not simply react to feelings but sense-inward, allowing our feelings to have space, so we can consciously respond to these feelings. It is a subtle yet important shift from reactivity to responsiveness, from blind emotional outburst to informed emotional intelligence.

In 1995, Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence highlighted the importance of emotions and emotional intelligence (EQ) for leadership development and organisational learning. Goleman found that how we cultivate awareness of our own and other’s feelings and unconscious bias, then consciously respond to these feelings and filters in appropriate ways, helps our leadership potential.   Studies show that EQ out-performs IQ as a predictor of job success and performance capability.

Then in 1997, the neuroscientist Candace Pert’s ground-breaking work Molecules of Emotion provided more insight into the integration of body-mind sensations, feelings and thoughts, in what Pert referred to as the ‘psychosomatic network’ – an integrated system of psyche and soma. The psyche comprises the nonmaterial aspects such as mind, emotion and soul, and the soma comprises the material aspects such as the cells, organs and tissues.

This brings us on to another of Carl Jung’s ways of know: somatic intelligence. Our somatic and sensorial way of knowing has often been related to the element earth, and also to PQ.  This is the sensations we have in our body, for instance, gut pangs, or tickle in the throat, hairs on the back of the neck, or chest perturbations. Our soma (as Pert scientifically explored) is full of psychosomatic sensations that inform our psyche. As we allow ourselves to quieten and sense into the somatic intelligence within us, we enrich our conscious awareness and invite intelligence into our daily awareness, so as to be better at sensing and responding to changes within and all around us.

And finally, Jung’s fourth way of knowing, is the rational analytic intelligence – which has been related to the element air, and also to IQ.  This tends to be the dominant intelligence we call upon  in today’s busyness. Our head-logic, the analytic mechanisations it creates, is what dominates today’s meetings, conversations and decisions. It is but one intelligence within our human repertoire, yet when it dominates too much, it can suppress our other ways of knowing.

When we allow these 4 ways of knowing – intuitive (fire), rational (air), emotional (water), somatic (earth) – to cohere, we allow these 4 elements of nature to integrate in their rightful way within is. As we integrate these 4 elements of nature, we open ourselves us to the 5th element, the Akasha, or what the brilliant scientist David Bohm referred to as the ‘ground of all being’ – a generative field that permeates space, it is the Source within and all around us all the time, if we so choose to tap into it. We tap into a quality of time/space that accesses wisdom.

To summarise: By integrating our 4 ways of knowing, we tap into the 5th element: our true nature, and the wisdom of nature within and all around us. This provides access to the synchronistic and systemic capacity we need to thrive in times of increased volatility.   We tap into the generative field of life – what the ancient Chinese called the Way of Nature. This is our super-nature. It is well within our natural capacity, and all it requires is for us to integrate our natural human repertoire within us and find accord with nature around us. It’s an inner-outer attunement calling upon and enlivening self-awareness and systemic awareness.

This is the important basis for awakening our humanity, and for dealing with the root cause of our plethora of crises (whether it be climate change through to rampant social inequality and structural racism) what lies at root is a flawed way of attending to life that needs addressing at source.

What is happening to us biologically when we activate our super-nature?

The Neurological- Biological Threshold Crossing

By placing electrodes over the body and taking blood samples, etc., researchers have found that our brain-wave frequencies, neurological networks and hormones change dramatically when we cross the threshold and connect to Source.

A shift in brain-wave frequencies (beta-alpha-theta-gamma-delta) occurs. It can be summarised as a shift from a dominant beta-state to more propensity for alpha, theta, gamma, while beta is still present. We have access to a wider bandwidth of brain-wave frequency, rather than it being narrowed into beta-state.

This opening-up comes with a ‘sweet spot’ of left-hemispheric and right-hemispheric brain integration. The corpus callosum coming alive, and there is an electromagnetic alignment at the head-heart-gut level.  Our bodymind coheres.

With this neuro-biological-electromagnetic coherence, brain scans show a sharp rise in high wave amplitude brain wave-energy. It seems the brain’s way of being shifts into a new stage of consciousness.

Our capacity to access consciousness from the ‘field’ enhances.  Likewise, our systemic-awareness of what is happening in our team and organisational dynamics greatly enhances.

As a brief aside: At school we may have been taught to see the brain as the originator of consciousness. Advanced neurology and consciousness studies now indicate something quite different.  The brain is an ‘inhibitor’. Its primary purpose is to inhibit the sea of sentience/consciousness of this reality we find ourselves immersed within.  It tunes-out frequencies, signals and resonances that are deemed irrelevant or unhelpful for our day-to-day functioning and survival.

It tunes us out of the immensity of the ‘field’ we are immersed within, so we can separate out what is important to us, narrow-down, focus-in, and delineates the otherwise fluid connective reality we inhabit. This is radically different from the brain being seen as the sole originator of consciousness.

It has been said that looking for consciousness inside the brain is like looking for the radio announcer inside the radio-set. Yes, we need to attune the radio-set to ensure the right connectivity, but that does not mean to say the radio-set suddenly becomes all-there-is, far from it.

As we activate our super-nature, the ‘inhibitor’ function of the brain is loosened, so that our ‘bandwidth’ for connection is widened – we can access more ‘radio-stations’, to use that analogy, while still being able to tune in to specific stations as we wish. Our consciousness becomes like a super-power, whereupon we can learn to detect more of what is useful for us to tune-in to, so as to help us understand what might need attention in different parts of our selves and social systems we live and lead in.

If not handled correctly through time-honoured practices and approaches, this super-power can become over-powering, even maddening – too many felt-senses, energies, images, voices, resonances – confusing the hell out of us, overrunning our capacity for coherent purposeful engagement with life.

The opposite is also true.  If the inhibiting brain is too tight, too grasping, too narrowed-down in its inhibition, it can tune-out the very essence of life that informs our sense of place and purpose as human-beings. We get caught up in an illusion of separation, and see only individualism, materialism, anthropocentrism and egotism.  This leads to the contagion of consumerism we are inured in today.  It is our present malaise of the mind.  We are inhibiting too much of reality, focusing too much on our own self-reflection – enter the story of Narcissus.  Yet, just as there is hope contained within Narcissus’s fate, as he falls in love with ‘self’, falling into nature in the process, there is evidence of our narrowing-down scientific rational-analytic attention piercing its own hall of mirrors.  At the macro-scale in astrophysics, the micro-scale in quantum physics and the meso-scale in morphogenesis, facilitation ecology, neurobiology and developmental psychology,  our narrowing-down razor-sharp focus is cutting through to see the innate inter-relationality of our reality.  Our ‘return’ back into real life.  The Journey of Separation starts to arc back towards Reconnection.

Back to the neuro-biology of what happens within us during this activation of our super-nature, as left and right brain hemispheres cohere and brain-waves cohere with the deeper waves of the heart and gut: in the instant of this brain energy surge, neurological and hormonal transformation happens both in brain and body.

And within the centre of our brain, the pineal gland is activated.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology. They will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ – John Naisbett

Let’s look at what is actually going on biologically when this pineal gland activation happens.

Pineal Gland Activation

Scientists from the URSI General Assembly – Baconnier, Lang and Seze – have found small calcite crystals, less than 20 microns in length within the pineal gland.  These seem responsible for electromagnetic transduction that takes place in this pineal heart of our brain.

The pineal gland is a transducer, a neuroendocrine transducer to be precise. It’s an antennae and reverberator. It receives an incoming signal from this deeper electromagnetic field we are immersed within.  Then, it reverberates, like a tuning-fork, which informs a shift within us.

Put another way, as the inhibiting tendency of the brain opens-up to the field, the pineal gland, like an antennae on a radio-set, picks-up a signal from the field. As it is a transducer, it starts to pulsate, reverberating with this energy it has picked up, like a tuning-fork.

This is called a ‘piezoelectric effect’, which occurs within the tiny calcite crystals. These tiny crystals pulsate, creating an electromagnetic field in the pineal gland that excites a change in hormonal activity and a change in neurological  and nerve activity throughout our bodymind, emanating along the spinal nerve and throughout peripheral nerves, emanating this energy to our tissues and organs, and in turn, to every cell and sinew of our soma.

In terms of the hormonal change this piezoelectric reverberation triggers, it seems that this electromagnetic change influences a ‘methylation’ process, a chemical transformation (one might say, ‘alchemy’) where methyl compounds undergo transformation. These methyl components are key to so many activities such as DNA repair, rational reasoning, the activation and deactivation of genes, and our ability to fight off infections. As a direct consequence of the pineal gland piezoelectric shift, methyl compounds in the hormones melatonin and serotonin are affected.

The production of melatonin (which invokes receptivity, relaxation, contemplation, introversion, sleep) interweaves with the production of serotonin (which invokes responsiveness, energised aliveness and extroversion).

As melatonin goes down, adrenal cortisol levels go up, and vice versa. Adrenal cortisol increases our focusing-in, assertiveness, desire to move-forward, and progress. Too much can lead to a sense of grasping, which can warp into impatient pensiveness, stress and anxiety, in certain circumstances hedonism or mania.

Chronic stress affects the natural levels of melatonin and serotonin and the process of methylation that sees melatonin and serotonin shift between each. Chronic stress creates incoherence rather than head-heart-gut coherence, and this incoherence tunes us out from the field. We get caught in high-beta brain waves, which increase the propensity for fight-flight amygdala-hijacks which breeds further stress.

Heart Entrainment

When we cross the threshold, and connect to Source, we allow our brain-waves to entrain with the deeper waves of the heart. This is called ‘heart entrainment’ which shifts the body’s electromagnetic coherence, along with shifts in the nervous, endocrine and neurological networks throughout the body.  Hormones change. The production of DHEA increases. DHEA is known as the ‘mother hormone’ due to its influence on other hormones like oxytocin, and the increase in empathy, trust and connection this creates in us. We shift our consciousness from separateness to connectedness.

Much research has been undertaken into the heart as an organ of perception (along with the gut and brain.  The heart is the body’s most powerful electromagnetic sensor and transmitter, continually decoding the vast array of electromagnetic and quantum signals radiating in our lived-in environment. 65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells which are wired into the nervous system, gut and brain.

The heart governs our bodymind’s sensory, neural, nervous and instinctual systems. There is now scientific evidence pointing to the heart perceiving and decoding intuitive information from our surrounds (‘direct perception’) and then updating the brain and gut, which then respond to this information. Hence, ‘extra-sensory perception’ in the form of intuitive feelings, premonitions and clairsentience come on stream through the direct perception of the heart (see one such scientific study here).

‘And now here is my secret, it is a very simple secret, it is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ – The Little Prince

With pineal gland activation and head-heart-gut coherence, we become more alive, more conscious, more coherent and more open to nature’s wisdom.

It seems we receive a biological upgrade which enlivens our capacity for relationality, self-awareness, systemic-awareness, empathy, receptivity and responsiveness. This, inturn, when conducted regularly with life-practices amid shifts in our Life Conditions, can provide advancement in our ‘adult developmental psychology’. We can shift from what psychologist Clare Graves’ research refers to as Tier 1 to Tier 2, characterised by a worldview shift from Separation to Inter-connection.

At the personal level – this bio-psycho-socio-spiritual boost may or may not contribute to a persistent and lasting up-stretch into a different level of psychological maturation. This depends on how we integrate this ‘shift’ into our daily life.  Through daily practices of living-systems-being (see Chapter 8 of Regenerative Leadership) we can learn to cultivate coherence and connection to Source more frequently, thus enriching our general self-awareness and systemic-awareness to become Regenerative Leaders.

I would like to finish this article with a rather long yet insightful quote. I believe it is highly relevant not just for what lies in the recent history of the United States of America, and so informing some of today’s ruptures, but for what lies within all Western cultures.

This letter was sent in 1855 by Native American Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Tribe to Franklin Pierce, President of the United States in response to an offer to purchase the Dwamish lands in the North East of the US, currently Washington State.

The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer, for we know if we do not so the white man may come with guns and take our land. What Chief Seattle says you can count on as truly as our white brothers can count on the return of the seasons. My words are like the stars – they do not set.

How can you buy or sell the sky – the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? We will decide in our time. Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves and his children’s birthright is forgotten. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the redman. But perhaps it is because the redman is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to listen to the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am a savage and do not understand – the clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lovely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind itself cleansed by a mid-day rain, or scented by a pinõn pine: The air is precious to the redman. For all things share the same breath – the beasts, the trees, and the man. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

If I decide to accept, I will make one condition. The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am a savage and I do not understand any other way. I have seen thousands of rotting buffaloes on the prairie left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive. What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast also happens to the man.

All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.

Our children have seen their fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriors have felt shame. And after defeat they turn their days in idleness and contaminate their bodies with sweet food and strong drink. It matters little where we pass the rest of our days – they are not many. A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods will remain to mourn the graves of the people once as powerful and hopeful as yours.

One thing we know that the white man may one day discover. Our God is the same God. You may think that you own him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the Body of man, and his compassion is equal for the redman and the white. This earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites, too, shall pass – perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by the talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

We might understand if we knew what it was the white man dreams, what hopes he describes to his children on long winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds, so they will wish for tomorrow. But we are savages. The white man’s dreams are hidden from us. And because they are hidden, we will go our own way. If we agree, it will be to secure your reservation you have promised.

There perhaps we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last redman has vanished from the earth, and the memory is only the shadow of a cloud passing over the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people, for they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. If we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your memory the way the land is as you take it. And with all your strength, with all your might, and with all your heart – preserve it for your children, and love it as God loves us all. One thing we know – our God is the same. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot escape the common destiny.

And so to summarise:

When we lose our connection to Source, we become ungrounded and up-rooted from the wisdom of life, and lose our innate biophilic empathy for life.  We lose our inner coherence and our head, heart and gut are no longer in alignment. The pineal gland is no longer activated, and our hormonal balance is affected, and high-beta brain wave patterns form, tuning us out of the intuitive, emotional and somatic intelligences within us. We grasp at an ego-sense of ‘self’ in outward material ways – status, job position,  number of likes or fans on social media posts, selfies, etc. Enter the world of hollow consumerism.  Signs of a dying civilisation that struggles to smell the stench of its own decay. Yet decay breeds new life, a rebirth.

To find real and lasting solutions to today’s trilemma of social, economic and ecological stress and strain, we need to rebalance the inner and outer dimensions of life by reconnecting with our true nature within and with nature all around us.  Then we Activate our Super-Nature and bring a quality of consciousness to our solutions fundamentally different from that which creates today’s problems in the first place.

A powerful tool to help is a well-held Vision Quest or overnight solo immersion in nature, where we engage in simple yet powerful practices to let-go of our old ego-self, connect to Source while activating our super-nature.

Then, we see a beautiful simplicity the other side of all this complexity and stress in today’s world.

‘The greatest voyage of our lifetimes is not in the seeking of new landscapes, but in the seeing with new eyes.’ – Marcel Proust

It is only then, that we can truly begin the path of turning the Journey of Separation into a Journey of Reconnection and Regeneration.  This helps our selves, our families, our organisations, our communities and the wider fabric of life on Earth, as we wake up to the magnificence of existence and begin to see the sacredness in everything – and then the words of Chief Seattle and other Indigenous Elders do not fall on deaf ears. And we remember the Way of Nature, caring for it as the newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat.

Nature immersions and vision quests can enable this threshold crossing by opening-up our consciousness, and enriching our innate biophilic, empathic, participatory engagement with life. From this place, we seek solutions that deal with root causes as well as down-stream effects.

The time has come, to cross the threshold.

For a series of short youtube podcasts that explore the Illusion of Separation and our way beyond it, see here.

join the LinkedIn Nature Immersions group if you have not already:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and Natural Business Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner, coach and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK where he holds-space for clients to create life-affirming futures for themselves and their organisations.