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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.

The times upon us are here to wake us up, if we so choose.  Waking up is not easy, it can be painful and hard.  Waking up requires us to transform the inner self, along with our mind-set and our worldview.  This is what is now demanded of us, amid this trilemma of social, economic and environmental crises.

Pathway 2 requires we shape-shift how we see life and our sense of place and purpose within it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  This is deeply personal, yet profoundly universal. It starts with self and yet informs how we serve others and life itself.

Most certainly there is a lot we can do at the organisational and systemic level to cultivate conditions for transformation. A lot of my work is currently focused on helping organisational systems, cultures and structures adapt and evolve post-COVID. And yet it’s worth noting the truth in the old adage ‘organisations don’t transform… people do’; hence the focus here in this article on personal transformation.

I have previously written about a shift in worldview that is unfolding, from separateness/mechanistic to interconnectedness/participatory.  Here I will explore the practicalities of opening-up into a participatory worldview and the daily/weekly practices that aid this embodiment.

To keep things simple, let’s assume two aspects of our personal reality: the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’.

At the individual human level, the ‘inner’ is what we are going to call the ‘bodymind’ – the flesh and blood, cell and sinew, psyche and soul of our individual self.

I use the term ‘bodymind’ because the mind and body are inextricably linked. The award-winning neurobiologist Candice Pert coined the term ‘bodymind’ when, during her research, she found that mind pervades the entire body (and beyond). Our bodymind is enlivened when we cultivate coherence of the three major neurological centres in our body – head, heart, gut – and this allows for coherence throughout our nervous, lymphatic and hormonal systems. This shifts us biologically and psychologically, enriching our body and mind as one enlivened ‘bodymind’.

To draw on Carl Jung’s psychological research, we have four intelligences residing within us – the intuitive, rational, emotional and somatic – which are present within us all the time. Much of the time we are caught up in our busy heads and so inadvertently ignore or suppress these intelligences. Yet as we cultivate bodymind coherence, we can become more conscious of these different intelligences, tapping into them, and integrating them.

As I have written about in an earlier blog article, when we integrate these intelligences, we Activate our Super-Nature, and access a wisdom that is both within us and also beyond us – the ‘inner’ self and ‘outer’ world permeate more readily, and we tap into the field, or Source. We expand the concept of what we think it means to be human. Or, we might say, we become more truly human, learning to live up to our name of Homo sapiens – wise beings.

‘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

The ‘outer’ is everything that lies beyond our body and psyche – the world around us. Naturally, we are participating in this ‘outer’ world all the time, and the inner and outer are actually entwined, not separate, yet it can be useful to differentiate them in order to see how certain practices that enhance our ‘inner’ coherence enrich our way of relating with the ‘outer’ world.

‘The one who looks outside dreams. The one who looks inside awakens.’ Carl Jung

In enabling this awakening process within us, we can be of better service in the ‘outer’ world.

If we carry on showing-up collectively and individually like we have for the last few decades, we shall struggle with the decades ahead. What we now need – individually, organisationally and collectively – is a reinvention of our humanity, a shape-shifting metamorphosis which is well within our grasp, in fact its innate in our nature. It’s simply a case of realising our true nature, and aligning with a mindset and logic innate within Life. Simple, but not easy.

Before unpacking an awakening process as a daily/weekly practice, I would like to explore two fundamental aspects of our life-experience: 1) Being 2) Becoming – both are entwined, neither are separate, yet once again a differentiation can be helpful in discerning these qualities of life-experience.

Being:  This is our quality of being-in-the-world – our capacity to notice and sense our presence and purposefulness-in-the-moment.  The lifelong learning of cultivating a quality of true being, undistracted, unconstricted, without projection, illusion, bias or artifice; present with clear coherence. We may feel an aliveness in our bodymind, and have the spaciousness to notice our arising desires, tensions, emotions, unconscious bias and subconscious triggers, yet be able to notice and be at-one with the human-drama, not subsumed or over-run by it.  This is not a search for perfection but cultivation of a natural capacity to notice, sense and respond from a deeper quality of being. Distractions and constrictions may be fleeting (e.g. a car siren, distorted train announcement, or social media notification, for instance) or may be habitual (e.g. reaching for the TV remote or the mobile-phone without thinking about it). The world is full of distractions, is fast-paced and often stress-filled. This can affect our being. Yet regardless of ‘outer’ distractions we can learn to cultivate inner being.  This inner ‘being’ – and its stillness – informs and is informed by our ‘becoming’ – the movement of life.  Stillness and movement, being and becoming, are in continuous interplay like yin-yang, ever-present in our experience of life.

‘In all stillness there is movement. In all movement there is stillness.’ – Martial Art proverb

Becoming – Life is an ever-changing unfolding flux. Change is the only constant. As the Pre-Socratic Heraclitus noted, we can’t step into the same river twice. Life is a river of emergent unfolding. Stasis (equilibrium) is largely absent from life. While life quests for equilibrium, everything is forever oscillating either side of equilibrium, like the water flowing down-stream, this way and that, up and down, side to side. No straight-lines, fixed points or perfect repetitions, only dynamism, rhythm and flow. It is not only life outside of us that is ever-changing. It is also life within us, within our own bodymind where thoughts, feelings, sensations and intuitions ever-change.

‘Becoming is not a logical process. It is an emergent process, and a creative one. To create is to experience the pains of becoming. To be in the process of becoming is to experience creative pains. As we evolve, we change. As we change, we leave behind old shells. As we reconstruct within, we suffer a temporary dislocation of our identity. As we suffer the inner dislocation, we are in pain. All this is natural and inevitable…part of individual growth and of evolutionary growth.’ Henryk Skolimowski

Yet within all this becoming, we can find stillness, as we centre ourselves while allowing the ebbs and flows to unfold.

We can be in the eye of the storm – the centre of the wheel – while the world turns. Stillness in movement. Being within becoming.

 ‘Stillness is what creates love,

Movement is what creates life,

To be still,

Yet still moving –

That is everything!  – Do Hyun Choe

As we engage in our adult developmental journey of transforming ourselves into who we truly are, we learn to integrate different aspects, shadow-sides and subconscious assumptions through inner self-awareness.   This journey towards wholeness is an unfolding becoming; a revealing of our deeper truer nature. The language of Self or Soul might be used to convey this truer nature within us that can – with practice – emanate more readily through our persona. To use this language: our ego-persona learns to integrate and resonate with our deeper soul-energy. The upshot being a more integrated Self.

‘If one is connected with the Self inwardly, then one can penetrate all life situations.’ – Marie-Louise von Franz

This inward integration process is like a metamorphosis, where aspects of our old self ego-persona can be let-go of as the deeper Self comes through. An old skin is shed. This sloughing-off of old aspects, habits and personas within us can be a challenging time, and may disturb our inner being, as we open-up to deeper soulful aspects beyond old assumptions and constrictions.   It has been referred to as a ‘dark night of the soul’ – a deepening of our self-awareness that disturbs the status quo. Our inner-being ruptures, until the death/rebirth process unfolds into a new sense of being. The storm reveals blue skies.  A new ‘centre of gravity’ forms in us, a new sense of self, that is more equipped to deal with the challenges of the day. This new sense of self is more open to sensing the regenerative nature of life. We are more able to attune with the Logic of Life.

[For a comprehensive unpacking of the Logic of Life and how it informs our personal and organisational development see the book Regenerative Leadership ]

During this process of developmental growth, we ‘cross a threshold’ and open-up to Source by cultivating bodymind coherence. This opening-up informs our process of becoming.  As the process of becoming unfolds, we bring in more of our soulful truer nature into our everyday way-of-being.

This cycle of death/rebirth is all around and within us all the time, its how life works. Night and day, the cycle of the seasonal year where winter gives way to spring and summer, and summer gives way to autumn and winter.  There is some evidence that indicates a rhythm of change around a 7 year cycle in people’s lives. Also, there are other life-changing shifts like from teenager to adulthood, adult to elderhood, or a mid-life crisis.

The ‘outer’ is related to the ‘inner’, and often shocks to our ‘outer’ world, like job-redundancy, a divorce, life-threatening accident or illness, etc. can trigger a much needed inner shift in our lives.

This is what is happening for humanity today – the systemic challenges we face relate to a need for an inner awakening within our collective and individual psyche. Time to transform.

These shifts may not feel like fun, indeed they are very challenging, yet invite a threshold-crossing whereupon we slough-off comfortable numbness, and break-open, allowing more of our true nature to experience reality.

‘I was born when all I once feared, I could love.’ Rabia Al Basri

As we allow the ego to open-up to more of the soul within us, we upgrade our sense of purpose and presence in the world.  Our being and becoming upstretches into a next-stage of life and we deepen our purposefulness in two ways – 1) the ‘north star’ guiding us becomes truer, more accurate, more aligned to our true nature, 2) we become more coherent and connected, and our in-the-moment-purposefulness is more enlivening. The up-shot is that this purposefulness is more energising for our own sense of self and for those around us as we become less ego-orientated and more soul-orientated.

‘People with a sense of purpose have learned to let life question them and have moved the focus of their attention and concern away from themselves to others. Purpose, then, is not a job or a role or a goal. It is the belief that our lives, our part in the whole of things, truly matters. Having a profound sense of who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going, we choose to believe that mattering matters. It is thus a mindset—a choice. It is first and foremost the choice to choose “life” despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is the choice to bring who we are—our gifts and energies—to whatever we are doing. Purpose is a cradle-to-grave, 24/7, moment-to-moment choice in our daily lives.’ Richard J. Leider

This sense of purpose is both a way of being – a coherence – and a way of becoming – an emergence – informing how we engage with life each and every day. It is both an Intention that infuses our life, and a quality of Attention that permeates our experience of life.  While it provides a coherence to our endeavours it is not a constriction or blinker but rather a resonance or magnetic field that attracts-repels life experiences in ways that enable our soul-purpose to unfold.

Attention + Intention

Presence + Purpose

Being + Becoming

The more attuned we are in our being and becoming, the more this soul-power and super-nature enables us to swim through the river of life with purposefulness and presence.

This can all sound rather nebulous, or soft-and-fluffy, or even hard and difficult. Easier to reach for the mobile-phone, touch-in with twitter, read the news-feed, or watch soap-operas.

There is good news – when we allow this soul-power and super-nature to guide and inform us, we sense the Wisdom of Nature.  This wisdom is always here. Yet, it requires us to cultivate our capacity to sense it.   Then we expand our concept of what it means to be human. We become wise-beings in this deeply wise world.  We adapt and evolve amid these transformational times. Pathway 2 becomes our way of life, and we find harmony with Nature.  We become regenerative, in our way of being and becoming in the world.

The wisdom is this – underlying this stillness and movement of life with its yin-yang eddies and flows, is an inherent grammar, a secret language of the soul.  When we sense it, it feels rather like listening to quality music. It lifts us. It enlivens us. It opens us up. It’s a kind of alchemy that orientates us into the ‘eye of the heart’, an imaginal yet vivid world that is here and now. It feels like a homecoming. I call it a ‘gnosis’ because our way of knowing shifts into a direct perception of the wisdom of Life.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

                                                                                T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, 4 Quartets

 

We notice song-lines, melodies, lyrics and meaningful undercurrents in the otherwise cacophonic crashing waves and whirlpools of life.

Rather than volatility and uncertainty, we start to sense signs for sailing through the storm.

This secret language shows itself to us as synchronicity.

The word ‘synchronicity’ is made up of the word ‘sych’ – to be in-tune, or align in-phase – and ‘chronos’ – time. To be aligned in time.  To be in accord with the space-time dynamic of life.  This is where wisdom resides.

Carl Jung knew the importance of opening-up to synchronicity in our developmental journey. His work on synchronicity has largely fallen on deaf ears since – well has not reached the mainstream at least – in a large part because it requires a shift in worldview from separateness/mechanistic to interconnectedness/participatory to really understand synchronicity as a vital and pervasive aspect of reality.

The times we live in beckon this shift in worldview, inviting us to sense the song-lines of synchronicity, and live up to our name as Homo sapiens. If not now, then when? How many signs do we need to begin to wake up to the path of real transformation?

Why is this personal development stuff of importance right now, when the rate of destruction of life on Earth is so alarming, and the urgency of Climate Change and Social Inequality is so apparent?

Surely we need all-hands-on-deck just to combat Climate Change and get down carbon ppm!?

Yes, we most certainly do.  Yet what we really need is hands-on-deck that know how to sail these stormy seas with wisdom and grace. Not more busyness fraught with mechanistic thinking that merely patches up yesterday’s problems with yesterday’s logic, causing further problems.

As Rudyard Kipling intimated in his timeless poem IF: when all about you are full of busyness and fraught with stress, it takes courage to connect inward and find real wisdom.

The waves of the ocean are daring us to do this; to cross the threshold and truly transform.

This is what real leadership is all about. The root meaning of the word leadership is ‘to cross the threshold, to die and be reborn.’ The ultimate act of leadership is guiding our selves, our teams and social systems through real transformation.

‘In the last few hundred years, and especially in the last decades, human societies have become progressively incoherent both with respect to each other and with their environment. They have become internally divisive and ecologically disruptive… Species are dying out, diversity in the planet’s ecosystem is diminishing, the climate is changing, and the conditions for healthy living are reduced. This crucial epoch is to regain our internal and external coherence: our supercoherence. This is not a utopian aspiration, but it calls for major changes in our thinking and behaving. Striving effectively to regain supercoherence requires more that finding technological solutions to patch up the problems created by our incoherence. It requires reconnecting with a mindset…a mindset based on a sense of oneness with each other and with nature…rediscovering the power of love [as] a profound sense of belonging to each other and to the cosmos. This rediscovery is timely, and it is not mere fantasy: it has roots in our holographically whole, non-locally interconnected universe.’- Ervin Laszlo

Now let’s explore a set of simple and enjoyable practices that help us cohere our bodymind.

Let’s start with the simple realisation that we wake-up and go to sleep each and every day – simply ponder on this. That the act of waking-up and falling asleep is a marvellous, sacred act.  What do I mean by a ‘sacred act’? That there is a psychological and spiritual aspect to waking-up and falling asleep. The bodymind shifts its state, it crosses a threshold every morning and night. Like a mini death/rebirth process each and every day.  Quite naturally, no fuss. Yet much of the time we do not give this a second thought.  So let’s start to bring some Intention and Attention to this natural and simple act of waking-up and falling asleep.

We can set an Intention by affirming that we seek to notice and become more conscious of the liminal moments just before we fall asleep and wake up.

During these moments, we can bring a gentle yet conscious attentiveness to how our bodymind is feeling and how are thought-forms are arising and falling away. We can marvel at this simple yet sacred undertaking of cross the threshold from wake to sleep and sleep to wake, each and every day. Observe it, love it.

So let’s go through a flow of 9 practices – all very easy to do, no qualifications or training courses required here.

Practice 1 – ‘When’ we wake-up and fall asleep:  I invite you to see if you can purposefully go to bed and wake-up atleast 30mins earlier than you usually do.

There is much truth in the old saying – early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Practice 2 – ‘How’ we wake-up and fall asleep: Becoming more attentive to what is going on within you as you wake-up and as you fall asleep.  Form an Intention inside yourself to observe your mind patterns and thought-forms as you fall asleep and when you wake up. Make this couple of minutes just before sleep and just after waking-up a sacred time. Enjoy it. Be with it. Don’t rush it. No expectations, no judgements, no right or wrong, just attentiveness to our inner-scape.

Practice 3 – ‘Preparing’ for the night and the day ahead: Atleast 10mins before actually getting into bed, I invite you to engage in some body movements, stretches and/or breathing exercises.  These ought be gentle and enjoyable, and aligned to whatever you are comfortable doing. For instance, you may have some stretches or movements that you have practiced within a form such as Chi Gung, Tai Chi, Yoga or Pilates. Select your favourite movements, and notice your breathing throughout the movements, and finish off with 5 or 6 rounds of deep breathing from the belly, breathing in to the count of 1,2,3,4 and out to the count of 1,2,3,4.   Then – if you wish – finish off with a Heart Entrainment practice (see Practice 7). Likewise, as you wake up, after you have spent a few minutes noticing your body feelings and thoughts while lying in bed in that liminal space between sleep/wake (Practice 2), either sit up and meditate for atleast 10mins (if you are comfortable with meditating) or get up and engage in some gentle movements and stretches, noticing your breathing, and bringing awareness into your body, as per when you go to sleep (though you may choose different stretches) and finish off with 5 or 6 rounds of deep breathing from the belly, breathing in to the count of 1,2,3,4 and out to the count of 1,2,3,4.

Practice 4 – Cultivating an Attitude of Growing and Giving – After Practice 3 in the morning, once you have finished your belly breathing, use your minds-eye to scan into the day ahead. What might lie ahead in terms of the conversations, meetings, chance occurrences? Set an Intention to ‘grow and give’ today. To see every interaction as an opportunity to ‘grow’ individually, to become your deeper truer self where possible, and also to consciously notice triggers, emotions, unconscious biases, etc., and so become more self-aware. And to see every interaction as an opportunity to ‘give’ to another, whether that be giving them your undivided attention for a few moments and really listening to them, or giving support and assistance in some way if that is appropriate.  Simply hold the Intention to engage in the day ahead with a ‘growing and giving’ attitude.

Practice 5 – Journaling – Having a notebook dedicated to your own personal development is a great gift to self. I find Journaling before bedtime useful, just before the body movements of Practice 3. Reflecting on the day that has gone before us, we can scan through the day, and note down any triggers, emotions, learnings or insights. If there have been any tense interactions during the day, or moments when I have felt uncomfortable, I attempt to see things from all perspectives and cultivate empathy for the situation, acknowledging what it can teach me.  A Journal can also be taken when going on holiday, or a work trip away from normal daily life, or indeed on an immersive experience in nature (which we cover off in Practice 9).

Practice 6 – Life Review – During weekends or days-off, I invite you to dedicate time in atleast 30mins chunks where you are alone and undisturbed. Begin this time with about 5mins of meditation, breathing exercises or body movements like Chi Gung/Yoga/Tai Chi, whatever helps you become more present and coherent.  Then, purposefully scan your life, your memories of when you were young (as early as you can recall), scan through times when at primary/junior school, and what was going on at home, and scan through secondary school/home-life teenage years, into University/college, travelling, relationships, friends, first jobs, etc. all the way up to where you are now.  Allow whatever memories, feelings, sensations and emotions that wish to come up to the surface come up in you, and try not to judge the memories or what happened, or get overly caught up in the situations/memories/emotions, simply sit with what is percolating up in your mind, reflect, then let go and move on to another memory – sense into the good experiences and the not-so-good as all of this contributes to your experience of life today.   Then note some reflections in your Journal about any assumptions, habits, triggers, inflection points or themes you may notice.

Practice 7 – Heart Entrainment – This is a gentle rejuvenating 4 step practice which can be practiced at any point throughout the day. Here are the 4 steps:

  1. Becoming conscious of our breathing. Whether you are sitting or standing, become aware of your breath. As you breathe in and out, feel your lungs move up and down and your stomach in and out. Feel the breath in your nostrils, cool as it comes in, warm as it goes out. Breathe in deeply from the belly area a couple of times. If the situation allows, you can place both hands over our heart area, one hand above the other, so one is covering the lower heart region and the other the upper heart region of our chest area in a gentle way. If the situation does not allow, then simply imagine you are placing your hands over your heart area and bring attention into your heart region as you do so.

2. Breathing through the heart-region. With your imagination, breathe in and out through the heart area (as if breathing through where are our hands are places over our heart). Do a few rounds of this heart breathing, breathing in and out deeply and consciously as you focus on the heart area. This ‘heart breathing’ amplifies your heart-awareness while helping your ‘bodymind’ coherence within you (improving our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system network alignment along with left and right brain coherence, and head/heart/gut coherence). You may notice a subtle shift in how you feel, perceive and attend to what is emerging around you; a simple yet profound shift in conscious from head to heart occurs within you no matter how fleeting.

 

3. Recall and relive a moment of love. When you are breathing deeply and calmly in and out through your heart region, use your imagination to recall a memory and feeling of a memory when felt deep love/joy/aliveness (this might be, for instance, a memory of a pet you once had, a walk in nature, a special memory of a time in your live when you felt really happy and alive – it does not matter what it is, only that it invokes a feeling of love within you. It is this feeling that you are reliving in the present moment. While still doing your heart breathing, conjure up this feeling of love, and re-live this loving feeling with your imagination, feeling it in your heart.

 

4. Magnify this feeling of love throughout your entire body. Then, allow this feeling to start to expand from your heart region throughout your body. While heart-breathing, feel this loving feeling spread into your torso, hips, legs and arms, fingers and spine, neck and head, all over your body; allow yourself to indulge in this feeling, immerse yourself in it, as you continue with heart breathing. Feel every cell in your body being washed and cleansed with this feeling of love.

If things are busy at work, then the first two steps of this practice can be undertaken on their own.

The more you practice this 4-step (or 2-step) relaxation practice, the quicker you will be able to undertake the practice amid everyday busyness and stress. To start with it may feel difficult to do while in the work environment.  It is worth finding a quiet room or toilet where you can practice the first few times. With practice, you will be able to do it while at your desk or even in a meeting with other people round the table from you, without them being aware of you practicing.

Practice 8 – Body Scan or Yoga Nidra –   This activity takes about 10mins and yet it is beneficial to have atleast 5mins after it to just be, rather than go straight into a meeting or on a zoom call. It is also a really good activity to do in the middle of the night if you find yourself awake and unable to go back to sleep. Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed for 10 minutes and can feel safe and comfortable enough to lie on the floor. Make sure you are warm enough during this exercise as when you relax, your body temperature is likely to drop, so it may be worthwhile having a blanket to put over you, or an additional layer of clothing.

To begin, lie down, make yourself comfortable, and relax. Practice 3-4 rounds of deep belly breathing, counting 1,2,3,4 each in-breath and out-breath.

Now, feel the weight of your body on the floor. Continue to remain aware of your breathing – in and out of your lungs.

The next thing you will do is a ‘body scan’ (which is based on the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra). What follows here is a written instruction, for this Yoga Nidra body scan, yet the best way to comprehend this exercise may be to watch a video on-line by googling ‘Yoga Nidra’ – for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H0FKzeuVVs  and you may also wish to explore some CDs, for instance this one is good https://www.amazon.co.uk/Yoga-Nidra-Vol-2/dp/B001J9LWM6.

Feel the body lying on the floor; the weight of the body and the floor beneath us. Feel the sensation our clothes against our skin, and feel our lungs rising up and down as we breathe. Bring awareness to our breathing, notice our lungs filling and emptying. Notice any tensions and sensations, becoming intimately aware of how the body is feeling overall. We can take a couple more deep breaths and then bring our attention into our left foot, with specific focus. Let’s really feel into the left foot with our awareness, feel the sensations in the foot. We imagine what it’s like to be inside our left foot.

We then move through our different body parts with our awareness starting with the big toe on our left foot, then moving to each individual toe, then to the sole of the foot, then the ankle. We move our attention to our shin on our left leg, then to the calf, up to the front of the knee, and the back of the knee, up our thigh to our left hip, and then up the left side of our body to our armpit.  Next, we sense our left shoulder, our biceps, then triceps, our elbow and then our left forearm, wrist, palm, back of the hand, thumb, first finger, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, and fifth finger.

Then, we bring our attention to our right foot and start with the big toe and move along the toes, the sole, ankle, up the leg, thigh, hip, side, armpit, arm, hand and fingers as per the left side, ensuring we touch each part with our conscious awareness catching ourselves when we drift off, always bringing our attention back to the body.

When we have finished the right side, ending with the right fingers, we then bring our awareness into the base of our spine and our buttocks, and then we move our awareness all the way up the spine, sensing all over our back as we move up the spine, up to the neck. Then we focus on the neck, back of the head, top of the head, forehead, left eye-brow, right eye-brow, nose, tip of the nose, left cheek, right cheek, left ear, right ear, lips, tongue, chin, throat, collar bone, left side of the chest, right side of the chest, diaphragm, feel it moving up and down with our breathing. We bring awareness to our heart area, to our stomach, to the organs in our stomach region, then lower abdomen, down to our sex glands and base of the spine.

Then we feel our whole body, we feel its aliveness as we breathe into every part of our body. We do a quick body scan to feel all around the body, notice the subtle energy flowing freely, and feel every part of our body alive with this energy; then we take a few deep breaths and simply relax into this feeling for as long as time allows us.

It is quite normal to drift-off or fall asleep while doing this exercise, and if our schedule allows, that’s fine as it is rejuvenating. The more we practice it, the more proficient we will become at remaining in a conscious yet deeply relaxed, spacious state without falling asleep. This stimulates changes in our brain wave patterns and also our entire bodymind coherence. It also encourages our capacity for lucid dreaming (where you are consciously aware of the fact you are dreaming).

Practice 9 – Nature Connection – I have found that time in nature is powerful for both renewing and regenerating our being/becoming. Time in nature can be helpful to gain perspective on the stresses and strains of the everyday, and also to sense inward into how we might transform ourselves towards our truer nature.  Here I offer two ways of connecting with nature. Feel free to adapt to your own unique needs.  The first is simply opening to nature and learning to be present in nature. The second is where we create an intentional space for letting go of old aspects of ourselves and welcoming in the new, as part of a self-transformation process, which I call a nature immersion, which may include a Vision Quest.

  1. Opening to Nature (you can find this practice in Regenerative Leadership)

This activity involves going outside and sitting on the ground for five minutes or more, so it’s important to dress appropriately.   Here are 4 simple steps:

Find a tree that attracts your attention.  Then, sit down next to its trunk, making ourselves comfortable. It is best if we sit up, with our back and spine reasonably straight yet remaining relaxed and comfortable with our hands gently resting in our lap or at our side. Legs can be crossed or stretched out, which ever we prefer.

Get comfortable and sense inward. Once we are settled comfortably, we can undertake a few rounds of deep belly breathing, on the inhale feeling the fresh air filling our lungs, and on the exhale releasing any nagging thoughts. Then, with our eyes closed or slightly open, sit and feel.  Don’t think, feel. Feeling our body sensations while we sit is easier said than done as our ego-chattering mind will no doubt try and distract us. Notice these thoughts and gently and repeatedly bring ourselves back to simply feeling, taking some deep breaths if we feel we need to relax further into this sitting meditation.

As we allow ourselves to relax and our head-chatter starts to wane (which may take a few minutes), let’s bring our attention ever-more intensely into the sensations of what we are feeling, whether in our gut, heart, legs, arms or the sensations on our skin, or the noises and gusts of air around us.

Sensing into the tree’s roots, truck and branches. Let’s bring our awareness into the tree as a living being behind, beneath and above us. First, get present with the tree as a whole living-system, its entirety. Sense its solidity, and its reach downwards into the soil and upwards into the sky.  Then, we can more specifically focus on roots radiating out into the earth below us, and the branches reaching out in the sky above us. First, let’s focus in on the roots:

Imagine the roots radiating out in the soil under us. With our imagination, let’s sense the roots spreading into the soil beneath us, deeper and deeper they go. We can then use our imagination to go further into the earth beneath us, all the way into the molten core of our planet, if we wish.  Then, we bring our awareness from deep beneath us back up into the roots of the tree and into our buttocks sitting on the ground next to the tree, and then into our body, up our spine, back and into our chest and heart area. As we undertake some deep belly breathing, sense a direct connection from our heart to the centre of the Earth beneath us. We are rooted, connected, at one with our planet.

Imagine the tree’s branches radiating out into the sky above us. With our imagination, lets sense the branches, twigs and leaves radiating and reaching out into the sky above. Sense the clouds and vast expanse above us, taking our awareness up further in to the stars and space that lie beyond our atmosphere. And then bring our awareness back down through these twigs and branches, back into the tree and also into the top of our head, down through our neck and into our chest and heart area. Sense our heart area connected with the sky and universe above us.

Let’s just sit here for a couple of minutes with this relaxed awareness of the feelings within us and the world all around us. We sense the expansiveness of the universe above us, and flowing into us from above; and the rootedness of the earth below, grounding us as we sit and breathe deeply through the belly.

2. Nature Immersion – Allow yourself at least half a day in nature, on your own.

This may be walking through some woodlands where you know you will be safe to roam alone, or walking along a secluded coastline or hillside. Ideally where you will seldom, if at all, come across other people. If you feel able to camp overnight, even better, but not essential.  You may find it more agreeable to sign-up to a nature immersion where nature guides hold-space for you either on your own or as part of a group yet with time spent alone, like a well-held Vision Quest.  I shall explore a Vision Quest in a moment.

First, let’s assume you are on your own in nature for a few hours.  After walking for a while, find a space that you feel drawn to, and feel safe to put your bag down and settle.  Start off with some gentle body movements like Chi Gung or Yoga, or some breathing exercises, whatever feels right in helping deepen presence and coherence.  Find a spot to sit and practice the ‘opening to nature’ activity above.  Then simply sit and notice nature around you for some time, as long as you wish. Try and notice nature all around you, the colours, sensations, noises, etc. Just be. Notice how everything has a stillness and also a movement to it.  Movement in some aspects of nature may seem ultra-slow (almost non-existent) like a stone that has eroded over time, yet is changing slowly with time – over thousands/millions of years. Or a tree with the stretch-marks of growth along its bark. The way its branches have grown towards the sunlight, and the leafs that form new each year and then fall to the ground to break-down into nutritious soil for new life.

Notice your own stillness and movement.  Your thoughts, feelings and sensations arising and falling within you.   Also notice the ego-tendency to think about things to-do. If need be, have a journal or pen and paper to hand, so you can jot down stuff that is on your mind, and let go of it as soon as you write it down. Let go and be present.  Notice your belly breathing, and engage in the Heart Entrainment exercise of Practice 7.  Then after you have undertaken that, engage in the Life Review Practice 6, scanning through your life thus far. Be aware of everything that has brought you here to this moment, and then too let go of all that, the past and the stories and memories, let it all go.

Be here, now, notice the iridescence of life. Allow you eye-gaze to soften, as you drift into reverie. If you feel it, you might write a poem to describe your experience, or simply just be in it. Notice the stillness and the movement.

Then lie down where you feel comfortable and engage in the Body Scan Practice 8.  After this practice, notice the liminal space of wakefulness/sleep, of what lies behind your thought-forms and feelings. Notice the aliveness of energy in your bodymind. Feel into this aliveness.  Notice what you feel grateful for in your life – of being alive, the sunlight, the water, the earth, the food, the rhythms of nature, and anything else that you feel gratitude for, without getting too caught up in the drama of your everyday life. Be present to nature, here and now.

When you feel ready, sit up and meditate, just be. Then engage in some more body movements to enliven yourself and get the energy flowing, before either settling down the for the night or packing up and departing, giving thanks to this space in nature.

If time allows you can embark on a Vision Quest, or seek out people who facilitate Vision Quests in Nature.

What’s a Vision Quest? It is time away from normality. A departure from the normal routines. It’s a form of separation from everyday life by being in nature with simple accoutrements – the basics. Sometimes we might reduce our food intake, even fast for the time during the Quest.  Leaving the normal world, we go on a journey inward, to notice what is within us – the shadows, pains, triggers, assumptions, constrictions and stuff that is holding us back, as well as what is wishing to emerge and be brought forth into our lives with courage beyond fear.  It’s a time to integrate the Self and gain a Vision of the new more integrated Self informed by our soul. It can enable us to receive illumination, to shed light on what is true within us and in our lives, helping us see beyond the stuckness of the ego as it holds-on to status quo safety. It’s an intentional time to sense into what soul-gifts we might bring into the world on our return from the Quest, back into normal life.

It’s not an adventure or an escape, or even a retreat. It’s a process of death/rebirth.

‘In order to find something, one has to leave the old and go in quest.’ – Joseph Campbell

To summarise, in this article we have explored why bodymind coherence is important for our being/becoming in the world. We have also explored why this is important to cultivate amid the everyday challenges and wider systemic challenges we face today.  We have then unpacked 9 enjoyable practices which require no credit card and are accessible to us regardless of privilege, creed, colour, gender, religion or educational background. These Practices are: 1) When we wake up and fall asleep 2) How we wake up and fall asleep 3) Preparing for day and night 4) Attitude of Growing and Giving 5) Journaling 6) Life Review 7) Heart Entrainment 8) Bodyscan 9) Nature Connection.

Before I finish, I’d like to share one more thing – the 10th practice.

Those familiar with numerology may know that 9 is a number, like 0, that relates to the end/beginning. So what comes after it? What do all the 9 practices provide a threshold crossing in to?

If we allow these simple practices to become part of our way of being/becoming, then we prepare ourselves for Practice 10 – Cultivating a Reverential Mind which is worthy of its own article, and I can’t do justice to it here in the final lines of this article. Suffice to say, cultivating a way of being/becoming that attunes with the synchronistic grammar of Life and senses the sacred nature of every moment, provides space for grace and wisdom to flow through us. Amid this quality of being/becoming we have reverence for all Life, and are in service of the evolutionary potential of Nature.  This is the beginning of the path of being truly human.

You are part of the very weave, o silken thread.
Whatever the motif constricting you internally
(if only for a moment in the painful life you lead)
intuit the full meaning of the glowing tapestry.
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Sonnets of Orpheus

In both my latest two books Future Fit and Regenerative Leadership you can find more personal and organisational practices that aid coherence and connection tailored specifically for leadership and organisational development.

You can join this Immersions Linked-In group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

or Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/  to hear about Nature Immersions held in secluded ancient woodland near London.  If interested in coaching in nature or your own 121 immersions, you can contact me through www.leadershipimmersions.com

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.

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. Sunil Malhotra permalink
    August 15, 2020 7:41 pm

    Must be oversight that Upanishads didn’t make this post. https://youtu.be/Os4cs-3H4TA

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