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Deepening Our Leading by Being-in-Nature: Accessing the Mind of Nature

October 12, 2017

It is now becoming more apparent to many at the leading-edges of leadership and organisational development that there is much we can learn from nature for future-fit business.

We now know that simply being in the great out-doors improves our ability to learn, be more creative, open up to different perspectives, be more empathic, listen deeper, share better, and be more insightful.  Scientific research shows that being in nature improves us physiologically as well as psychologically in myriad ways, some of which we are only just starting to understand. Here are some of these findings:

  • Being in nature reduces pulse rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels (Chiba University)

 

  • Being in nature and disconnected from multi-media increases creativity by 50% (Atchley et al, 2012)

 

  • Being in nature leads to improved cognitive functioning and mental well-being (Kaplan, 1993, 2001)

 

  • Spending time in nature boosts the immune system and increases resistance to cancer cells (Qing Li, 2009)

 

  • Walking in nature improves memory by up to 20% (Berman, et al, 2008)

 

  • Connection with nature has a significant positive effect on autonomy, personal growth, and sense of purpose (Nisbet, Zelenski, Murphy, 2011)

 

  • Affiliation with nature gives a greater sense of meaningful existence which in turn boosts well-being (Howell, Passmore, Buro, 2012)

 

This is all good stuff.

And yet there is something else, something deeper; something more phenomenological and – dare I say it – psycho-spiritual to this ‘being-in-nature’.  And to describe this, I am now going to use Nature with a capital ‘N’ and also use the term ‘Mind-of-Nature’.  Here, Nature is not just ‘out there’, its within and all around us, the implicate and explicate realms of life, the Mind permeating all matter, the Tao and its ever-flowing élan vital or life-force that enables us to become more human in this more-than-human world of ours. It is this deeper Nature that we must learn to cultivate within ourselves and through our relations to be more conscious, more agile and more harmonious as future-fit leaders in these times of increasing volatility and uncertainty.

Let me explain.

There is more to life than what we generally perceive of with our daily conscious awareness. Psychologists might call this daily awareness ‘ego-consciousness’ or the rational mind.  I would like to draw on the profoundly influential and insightful work of the 19th century American philosopher, William James, who lived from 1842 to 1910 and whose work has influenced many great minds after him such as Bergson, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Putnam, Whitehead and Bertrand Russell.

James explored how everyday experience has a depth to it, an interiority that goes beyond what the ego-consciousness or rational mind can easily grasp at and yet is influenced by.

James noted, ‘Reality, life, experience, concreteness, immediacy, use what word you will, exceeds our logic, overflows and surrounds it.’  For James our mind-world relation is a stream of consciousness. He famously said:

‘Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.’

As we allow our ego-consciousness to permeate more readily, we allow more of these deeper realms of consciousness to pervade our awareness.  This is where Nature comes in.

Being-in-Nature actually shifts our consciousness; it helps us open up to and integrate these deeper realms of consciousness.

While our rational mind eases it grasping grip, our ego-consciousness permeates more readily with our sub-conscious, somatic body-sensations, emotional intelligence, super-consciousness/spiritual intelligence and the Mind-of-Nature pervading life.

Let’s briefly explore what we mean by ‘Mind-of-Nature’.  First of all it can be said that this Mind-of-Nature is synonymous with the World Soul immersed within the Cosmic Mind-and-Heart of this universe (aka: Overmind, Supermind, the Tao, the Akasha, the quantum plenum, the cosmic hologram, the Divine milieu, etc.).

This Mind-of-Nature is essentially beyond words, it is ineffable, and best experienced as a subtle felt-sense and psycho-spiritual experience.  Here, the best we can perhaps do is to explain two interwoven aspects of this Mind-of-Nature: the ‘immanent’ and phenomenological (a felt sense, presencing within the enlivened moment, an inter-relational engagement of our self-other-world which affects our ‘bodymind’ as an embodied experience); and the ‘transcendent’ and psycho-spiritual (an intuitive knowing and integrative unfolding, a synthesising of our psyche as it becomes more whole, which affects our attentiveness and inter-relation with reality.)

[As an aside, I use the term ‘bodymind’ which was first coined by Dianne Connelly, the bodywork and wellbeing specialist, and then by the neuroscientist Candice Pert. The term ‘bodymind’ conveys that our mind is actually an integrated network throughout our entire body, of which our brain, heart, gut, lymphatic and nervous systems all play a dynamic part, right down to the sentience of our cells and the milieu of their surrounds. And this ‘bodymind’ is part-and-parcel of, and continuously inter-relating within, the Mind-of-Nature pervading our local and non-local environment. Nothing is separate, everything is inter-related through semi-permeability.]

In exploring this immanent aspect of the Mind-of-Nature, we can draw upon the insights of the social ecologist Gregory Bateson, who himself drew upon and helped shape informational theory, complexity theory, cybernetics, anthropology, sociology, systems-thinking and ecology.  Bateson noted that our individual mind forms part of a matrix of Mind, a sea of inter-relationality interwoven throughout our social and ecological systems. He famously referred to this immanent mind as the Ecology of Mind, to emphasis the relational nature of this Mind.  He noted:

‘The individual mind is immanent not only in the body…there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a sub-system, the total interconnected social and planetary ecology.’

Now, let’s attend to the transcendent aspect of this Mind-of-Nature. We can draw upon all sorts of psychology-based models of consciousness to help us with this, such as Sri Aurobindo’s integral psychology, Ken Wilber’s integral philosophy and Spiral Dynamics’ Tier 1 and Tier 2 definitions, as well as the fascinating quantum and cosmological discoveries of many ground-breaking scientist such as the Nobel laureate Max Planck, who famously said, ‘the Mind is the matrix of the universe’ and the British scientist David Bohm who said, ‘the true ground of all being is the infinite, intangible, spirit that infuses all living beings.’  Here, we see that we are going beyond the notion of immanent inter-relational systems within systems throughout our social and ecological world, into a transcendent perspective of Mind pervading our entire universe. Mind is not just an integral aspect of matter and our physical realm, but also the inter-relational ground of all being, influencing us locally and non-locally, both phenomenologically and psycho-spiritually.

This universal mind has been referred to by scientists as the quantum vacuum, zero-point energy field, dark energy, the quantum plenum, the cosmic hologram, and other descriptors. It is the very same all-pervasive presence that prophets, philosophers, seers and shaman throughout the ages have long understood, with names such as, the Tao, Shekinah, Divine Ground, Motherly Space, Akasha, the Great Mother, Christ consciousness, that-which-can-not-be-named.

At this juncture, it may be worth sharing a simple model that attempts to convey how our daily ego-conscious awareness inter-relates with this deeper Mind-of-Nature.

As the great Renaissance mind, Leonardo Da Vinci, reminds us:

‘Learn how to see and realise everything connects with everything else.’ 

It is this ‘learning how to see’ that we are opening up to here; and our being-in-Nature catalyses this ‘learning how to see’.

With this all in mind, let’s now explore how this relates to future-fit leading in these times.

Recently, I have been working with a number of world-leading specialists pushing the envelope of what this ‘new norm’ of leadership and organisational development is in these times. I have also interviewed and worked alongside a number of senior business leaders in a variety of organisations who are embodying new ways of operating and organising in order to become future-fit.

From these insights and other global studies on leadership, we can draw out three major tipping points that affect how we lead and operate:

  • As leaders and organisations, we are increasingly being exposed to multi-dimensional change-upon-change;

 

  • A shift in perspective is emerging, from perceiving the organisation-as-a-machine to perceiving the organisation-as-a-living-system. To help facilitate the resilience of our living systems, we need to sense-and-respond to ever-changing systemic relations. This requires not just systems-thinking but also ‘living-systems-being’;

 

  • A shifting dynamic from the leader as the controller and dominator, leading from the front in a heroic fashion, to embracing multiple ways of being-and-doing; for instance, holding space for emergence, empowering people to locally-attune while globally-aligning, instilling the courage to be creative, prototype, learn and develop in authentic and wholesome ways.

 

This ‘new norm’ of leadership requires us to cultivate two dimensions: the ‘self’ dimension and the ‘system’ dimension.

The ‘self’ aspect is what is sometimes referred to as ‘vertical’ development (i.e. not technical competency and skills development but personal, emotional and spiritual development enabling the ability to deal with fast-moving complexity, while creating the conditions for teams/organisations to flourish).

The ‘systemic’ aspect is what is sometimes referred to as ‘system’ or ‘eco-system’, the development of ‘eco-system relationality’ for the leader, the organisation and the organisation’s stakeholder ecosystem (including society and the environment).

 

In exploring how to optimally enhance this ‘self’ and ‘system’ development for today’s senior leaders, I have sensed into a threshold of ‘being-and-knowing’, a threshold in consciousness, which needs to be crossed within ourselves and organisations.

The good news is, sociological studies show that a threshold can be crossed in the living-system of the organisation when as little as 10% of the people undergo this shift in consciousness.

To use the butterfly’s metamorphosis metaphor, we can help facilitate the imaginal cells come together as imaginal groupings to create the tipping point in the metamorphosis from one level of consciousness (the caterpillar = an organisation overly inured in yesterday’s machine-logic ego-consciousness of separateness and dominator-control patterns that stifle creativity, vibrancy and agility: Tier One consciousness) to a new tier of consciousness (the butterfly = a purposeful, vibrant, emergent organisation that seeks harmony with life: Tier Two consciousness).

Hence, facilitating and catalysing this shift in consciousness within ourselves and our systems is core to future-fit leading. This is the ‘new norm’. As the leadership specialist Richard Boyatzis and others note:

‘Great leaders are awake, aware and attuned to themselves, to others, and to the world around them…they seek to live in full consciousness of self, others, nature and society.’

Crossing this being-and-knowing threshold is, on the one hand, a major undertaking as we have to let-go of out-dated aspects of ourselves, our habitations, constrictions and perspectives; on the other hand, it is a deeply liberating and quite natural process of becoming more human, become more of who we truly are, aligning to who we were born to be.

This threshold in being-and-know is nothing more nor nothing less than an opening up to life, whereupon we learn to ‘show up’ more authentically and consciously at work. Yet, on the other hand, it is not at all easy to maintain such a shift amid our current acculturations and patterns of behaviour that pervade not just our organisational landscape but also our prevalent societal worldview.

Enter the power of Nature, and deep Nature immersions.  In Nature we do not just gain the physiological and psychological benefits of being in nature, as the scientific research shows us, but we also access the Mind-of-Nature by opening up our consciousness so that we can embody a deeper way of being-and-knowing.  Once we experience this shift inside ourselves – both phenomenological and psycho-spiritual – it is imprinted into our psyche and it becomes easier for us to cross this threshold within ourselves and organisations.

To find out more about The Future Fit Leadership Academy’s deep-dive nature immersions see here.

Giles Hutchins is a speaker, adviser and thought leader on future-fit business, you can contact him on giles@ffla.co

 

 

 

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. ronditi permalink
    November 24, 2017 8:16 am

    Loving this.

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