Awareness Based Systems Change: Deep Resonance

Article originally written by Helio Borges

Iceberg model of Systems Thinking. Image, Presencing Institute

“You can not understand a system unless you change it.” You cannot change a system unless you transform consciousness.” “You cannot transform consciousness unless you can make a system see and sense itself.” Otto Scharmer

Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going

Antoinette Klatzky opened the Deep Resonance Inhale session of the GAIA Journey. “Right now we are at the Inhale session. We drop in together to go beyond our experience to connect in with each other, to learn from the framing that Otto gives us, to cross-pollinate with the conversations that we have in the groups, and today, besides having a Thomas Hübl, we will be hearing from Niphun Mehta at 12.00 EDT and Jon Kabat-Zinn at 8.00 EDT. We will hold also the Spanish and Portuguese language sessions in the afternoon. Five full sessions in total today holding close to six thousand people.”

INHALE. Image Presencing Institute

“Here is the journey. We started on March 27, and in each Inhale session we met together as a global community, and in each Exhale you went back to your local communities on your own contexts and explore the practices that we share with you on the Gaia Journey website. In each of these moments, we invited you to check in on any of the Social Solidarity Circles or join a thematic or geographical Hub. Now we are right at the midpoint of our journey. Otto Scharmer will lead us through a process of systems sensing and moving through an embodying practice to see and sense what is ending and what is emerging for each of us. As we do that in our session and at the small groups, we will also see what is emerging for us as a global community.”

Our Journey. Image, Presencing Institute

“As we move forward, we will be connecting with what is wanting to happen, what is calling us, what actions can we take. For now, we stay in this deep resonance. For those of you who have not been with us, I will show you the “ essentials” that we created, which is really the opportunity for you to be able to go back and see the key highlights, the key moments of our being together. If you go to our Gaia Journey website, you will see clips, videos, where you will be able to see what is sensing where have we been and where we are going.”

“To give you a little sense of what we have been doing, in our first session we showed this feeling that many of us have inside that “ everything that I have been doing in my life, has prepared me for this moment “. We realized that many of the systems that we had are not working anymore. They were not sustainable, to begin with. Now, we have to tap into our own inner sense of agency. Otto says that when systems fail, people rise. Now it is time for us to figure out, “Ok, we will do that. But how?”.

“We have heard from some incredible speakers, Vandana Shiva, speaking about the colonization of the mind. Danya Cunningham spoke about Structural Violence, and how it is built on agreements, and how we move from social structural violence to Structural Love. We heard from Dr. Nannup and the aboriginal Nyungar leaders in Western Australia, who reminded us that what we needed to do now was just to attend to our place in our path and see how that evolves.

It all sounds really great, and we step on that space of possibilities often, and there are some times when we feel stuck, or we feel like we can´t, that it is not possible, and we feel helpless. All of that is ok, all of that is welcome. When we move through this we realize that it is not a linear path. We are in this together and we continue to evolve, paying attention to the micro-shifts inside us in the path that we continue to move forward in, and to evolve in a way that is right for us as individuals and as a community.” Next, Antoinette gave the floor to Otto Scharmer.

Awareness Based Systems Change

“A warm welcome to all of you, Otto here from the Boston area. You asked the question “how?” How are we addressing this situation? The method that we ask you to consider, is grounded in systems thinking. What you see here is probably something that you have seen many times, which is a vision of systems thinking in terms of the iceberg. All systems thinking starts with the distinctions that you see here, Symptoms at the top, and the root issues below the waterline. Here you find Structures and Thought. These types of root issues picture the evolution of systems thinking over the past half-century or so.”

The Iceberg Model

Source is the one you want. It has been emerging on the evolution of systems thinking over the past decade or so. It is the source of our intention, source of our individual and collective creativity. Instead of source, we could have written awareness here. What you learn in profound systems change is that changing structures, yes. That is necessary but not sufficient. Changing the paradigm of thought, yes. That is necessary but not sufficient. In a really profound change we need to address all four levels. A way of summarizing this approach is Awareness Based Systems Change.”

Awareness Based Systems Change. image, Presencing Institute

Awareness Based Systems Change can be described by the following three sentences.

“You can not understand a system unless you change it”. Kurt Lewin, the founder of action research said that.

Here is a sentence that summarizes Theory U, and certainly my past 25 years of experience. “You cannot change a system unless you transform consciousness”. Let me reformulate it. “You cannot change a system unless you address all four levels here. You cannot change a system unless you become aware of these deeper dimensions.” If we assume that this is true as a hypothesis, then what is the third sentence?

The third sentence is “You cannot transform consciousness unless you can make a system see and sense itself.” I want to draw your attention to the second word — Sense. Traditional systems thinking would say … “unless you can make a system see itself”. But then it is only half of it. What we believe is that the sensing part of the sentence here is critical.”

“That is why trough the entire GAIA Journey, we place so much attention and emphasis on practices. For example, in the last Inhale session, we had Arawana, Manish, and Laura, who introduced Social Presencing Theater as a practice. That is why we are so thankful to several of you for sharing with us your Sculpture one and Sculpture two, and we are now going to replay some of them so that we can reconnect with that deeper experience.”

“What State of the Art Systems Thinking does is add systems sensing into the body of systems thinking methodologies. Unless I sense the pain of the collective, the grieving that we can feel, the pain of the other, unless I open my heart and feel it myself, profound change is not going to take place.”

Stuck Exercise of Social Presencing Theater. Image, Presencing Institute

“That is why last time, we moved into the Social Presencing Theater process. That is a first, we had not done it at that level of global scale before. And we were really touched and moved by how naturally you moved into that. Embodying in sculpture one that kind of experience where something is ending, where something is not moving. Then, sinking deeper into that, and we followed that deeper connection where we see that sculpture morphing and transforming into another sculpture, that we call sculpture two. Then, when you did that in your Social Solidarity Circles, summarized your experiences with the three sentences or messages. One for the sculpture one of your current situation, another one for sculpture two of what is emerging, and then a third sentence that focused on what enabled the shift from one to the other.”

Deep Resonance

“We are going to replay that process. You are going to watch it, feeling the resonance, and then articulate it by answering four questions to which you are going to write the answers on a journal, and/or onto the chat. How we pay attention to that experience? Attend to the video clip and to your resonance with your mind and heart wide open. An open mind means not judgment, and an open heart means no separation. Not only to see what´s in there but also to sense and feel it so that the boundary between subject and object begins to collapse, as it does it in any experience of resonance. That is why we do this.”

“The intuition for this kind o deepened perception was, among others, articulated by the German poet and phenomenologist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who said, “Every object well contemplated, opens up a new organ of perception within us”. That is what we are trying to practice.”

“When you see someone else´s sculpture, which is what we are about to do, is a window into another person´s soul. But it is also a window into our own soul and is a window into our collective soul. By which I mean our collective process of transformation that we are in here together, and that is at the core and the essence of the entire GAIA process. That´s the invitation.”

Collage of sculptures 1 and 2 of SPT

The video clip began to roll, and an announcer repeated the three sentences that the people on the clip were saying while they were making the sculptures. (Watch it starting in min 37.30 of the session recording here)

Change. Surrender. Tiredness in the body / I grasp but cannot see. Free feet, grounded fly. Letting go / My hands are tied and I cannot move. It´s ok, let it come. Acceptance that we cannot just stay here / Anxiety, Heavy burden, inability to move. Yes, yes, yes. Hope / I am exhausted. Release. Stop controlling things that cannot be controlled in the physical realm / I feel scared, I cannot see the future. I am ready to move forward. Accepting this moment to notice what the future is asking from me / Tension, unstable. Peace, openness. Acceptance / I know. Reaching out. Let courage in, letting go / Discouraged, no energy. Widely open. Hoping / Suffocation. What is beyond, being reborn. A new seed wanting to emerge / I feel small. I meet you, not below, not above, but at a high level. A movement to the collective / Don´t want to see. Available. Open up to others / I feel heaviness on my shoulders. I feel moving and I feel the energy. Sensing patience / I am confused. I am connected. Self-knowledge.

“Let´s stay for a moment in the resonance of what we saw, sensed, and felt. Now write on your journal or onto the chat:

1) What resonated most with you in terms of the images we just saw, and In terms of the movement we saw from sculpture one to sculpture two?”

Antoinette began reading the chat with a soothing voice. From close to open. Letting go of control. The openness of the movements, the freedom. So much similarity across humanity, from constriction to release. A tremendous sense of grief, sadness on the collective. From fear to trust.

2) “How does what you just saw resonates with your own sculpture one to sculpture two practice that maybe you did on the Social Solidarity Circle, or in the last inhale? On the other hand, if you did not do any of these practices how much does it resonate with your own experience of sensing both, what is ending and what is wanting to begin right now?”

Answers from the chat. We are seemly sharing the same experience. Connecting with my longing, connecting my heart more and more. I also was closed in pain and fear and moved to freedom and emerging courage. We are not sculptures but movements. I keep seeing myself on an open field looking up totally exposed.

3) “How do you and your Social Solidarity Circle resonate with the current global situation now?”

Answers from the chat. We see the pain, don´t see how, going together going forward. Share the pain with amplified hope coming together, possibility. Going back and forward solely, keeping in mind what springs us forward. Awareness that this is a moment to shift, to pay attention to the possible.

4) “If you really go back to the embodiment of your own experience, moving from sculpture one to sculpture two, try to connect to what allowed you to go through this metamorphosis with this journey of transition. What enabled you to make the shift?”

Answers from the chat. Connecting to the grief. Accessing our inner pain, feeling it to find the powerful center beneath. Leaving the social field of pretending for the social field of sharing and enacting. Listening and moving on the trust of what I am sensing. Sensing exhaustion and letting go to allow the tension to seek its resolution. Turning towards the pain. Letting go, acceptance.

“My thanks go out to each and every one of you for the courage and the beauty of all the sculptures. For the courage and the beauty for stepping into this space when we all did that together last time. When many of you did it in the Social Solidarity Circles, and some of you even shared that with us, and now we played them back to you, which allowed us to go into the deepest co-sensing of what is it that is truly going on in this moment.”

“My gratitude goes also to Arawana and the whole social Presencing Theater team for pioneering the event with this methodology, which I believe is very significant for which is ahead of us, for leading into this deeper collective realm that Thomas Huebl would call “walking with our shadows”, walking in the woods of Danya, those agreements that we have with each other, often unconsciously, that produce collective results that no one wants. So, thank you to each one of you for the courage of stepping into that. I could really feel the collective way of seeing that we just experienced, how deep it was for all of us. This allows us to have a window into the collective transformation that is playing in the heart of our community here.”

Originally published at https://medium.com on May 16, 2020.

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