Sweat your Prayers

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I had been in a stage of darkness for some days. Morphine in my veins to make my blood thinner, made my character sensitive and reactive. Fighting an infection from the inside out made me feel every imperfection of the world as if I had a magnified glass in my pores. I lost hope. I stopped believing by default.  I became sarcastic, critical and felt that nothing made sense anymore. I entered a space of non-engagement. Blank. Closed. Lost.

I had to touch the deepest darkness of my soul to remember the edge of what being alive feels. Even while navigating the unbearable ambiguity of inhabiting a stranger’s perspective, there was clarity in the polarity. After obscure emptiness there is calm and truth.

 And so I returned to what I knew was true to me. The body, the breath, the rhythm as a path of service and learning. I offered my blessings to my ancestors. I build a ritual to honor their lineage and their presence. I offered them flowers, stones, incense, seeds and a dry skin of a snake, to remember that we are all made of the same matter, yet something keeps the heart beating and the flesh changing.

 And then I danced “because I believe in the power of motion, the wisdom of gravity, the emptiness of true love, the fact that there is no way out but through the body, no way up unless we all go together, no way down unless we follow the beat, no way in unless we embrace the dark. And in the darkest shadow of the brightest light is the dance that moves us all” said Gabrielle Roth, founder of 5ryhthms, who passed away one week ago.  The morning I honored my father and my grandparents with an altar, I attended The Moving Center for the first time, on the day of Gabrielle’s memorial. So we danced not to cry, but to make her cry. To embody our fullest selves, to allow life to be manifested through us. And then I remembered it all again. Now everything indicates.

 These are the 5 essential rhythms:

 – FLOWING is the pipeline to our inner truth, the impulse to follow the flow, to be true to oneself, receptive to our inner worlds.

– STACCATO is the gateway to the heart. It shows us how to step into the world connected to our feet and our feelings. It is the rules of our linear world, the warrior, the part that shows up as truth and clarity.

– CHAOS breaks us free of our illusions and throws us headfirst into the beat. It frees us from all ideas of who we are and gives us a real experience of being total, free, intuitive and creative. Chaos is the gateway to big mind.

– LYRICAL is surrendering into the depths of fluid, creative repetitions of our soulful self, to the integrity and dignity that we often forget is within us. It is expansive and connects us with our humanity, patterns and cycles.

– STILLNESS moves, both within and all around us. The dance is our vehicle, our destination is the rhythm of stillness, our challenge is to be a vessel that keeps moving and changing. Being still in motion transforms the accumulation of life experiences into wisdom.

 “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.”  Buddha

 

 

 

 

Aside

“This is the gift of time and futurity—the reality and importance of possibility, the potential for new beauty and greater good. We should not limit ourselves to the best of the past. Better futures await us if we take the trouble to design them and make them so.”

According to Ogilvy, scenario planning is the way in which reality lends itself to narrative representations of the conflict between desire and the law. Or in DMBA terms, between what is and what could be.
“It is a science that not only covers the force of necessity but it also accommodates the power of desire—not only what must be, but also what we want to be; not only a degree of determinism, but also some room for freedom.”

Every each of the questions posed by Ogilvy on the why and how of scenario planning resonated deeply with my quest for virtue in life, specially when he highlighted what I’ve actually have the most trouble reconciling: the fact that beauty, good and truth are not universal values, and that each cultural system has it’s own definitions of it, therefore manifestations of them. Specially in the context of social innovation, where many of the solutions proposed are just another avenue to continue to perpetuate the western worldview into other parts of a less “developed” world.

And since I was working on the space of non-profits I asked myself the same questions, what values are we enhancing? What values do we stand for? “Whose values? Must values be universal in order to be values at all? Or are values merely subjective preferences?”

But even he recognizes that finding the path is no easy thing. There is tension between an inherently relativistic and nihilistic postmodern society and a very complicated master theory, where the problem is that we have too many values, too many completing perspectives, too many rival contexts.

Therefore I am keen to learn more about how to embed systems to come to terms with the role of values on how we understand the world, relate to it and therefore, design for it.

And art seems to be the space where the standards that “transcend individual whim, can lack universal objectivity or eternal fixity. Our sense of beauty is neither utterly subjective nor totally objective; neither fleeting nor eternal… the cultural relativity, context dependency, and historicity of our sense of beauty provide a guide or a likeness for the way ethics work.”

Then scenario planning becomes the arena in which global ethics can be legitimately practiced, with a rational basis for binding obligation even in the multiple contexts of irreducible cultural pluralism. A set of scenarios can provide a very broad tent under which different traditions and cultures can gain a hearing.

Narratives, or images of the future, therefore become the stories that contain the perpetual conflict between the creative art that articulates the wants and needs, and understands the sciences of the what is and what must be. “These stories about the future pit our desire for the good and the beautiful against our obedience to what is and must be.”

Images of the Future

Images of the Future

Slaughter and Goonatilake’s essays have given so much clarity about my own unfolding process of understanding the world and learning about myself. Since I moved to SF a year ago, my worldview has shifted completely various times. I immersed myself in three topics that specially incited a scaffolding disruption:
– Evolutionary psychology and the intersection of philosophical neuroscience 
– The Singularity
– Buddhism practice 

And in gratitude and awe, I need to accept that thanks to this readings it is that now I’ve been able to integrate all this concepts, my transformational worldviews and my role as a social inventor. (whether it is a new myth or not, I have agency to believe I can be). 

So in deep gratitude for the reflective process, I made this presentation of my journey through change. 
Inspired by Betty Flowers and the concept of Myths and storytelling, I decided to collect the images of the future I had since I was little and make a timeline of how I shifted beliefs and my concept of agency, as a I periodically became aware of new image of the future. 

Find the file here.

  

Operationalize Critical Research + Integral thinking in companies

During the summer I read a great book that helped me lay the foundations to understand why futures studies is an imperative skill to actually evolve as a society: “Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution”, by Steven McIntosh. Similar to Ogilvy, he delineates how society’s development of consciousness has evolved in a spiral of different memes with particular worldview and values: from Warrior, to Tribal, to Traditional, to Modern, to Post-modern, to Integral, to Post-integral. 

Ogilvy’s “Facing the Fold” convenes the failure of modernism reductionist system and the threats of post-modernity and its pessimistic doubts about progress, and how the absence of living utopias make our society hopeless. “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. And so he suggests we need to move beyond a post-modern time, one that is achieved by both emotional and intellectual maturity and by holding a scenaric frame of mind. 
– Outside in dimension: With relentless curiosity, willingness to learn and eagerness to experience new frames of reference. 
– Inside out dimension: A capacity for commitment, resoluteness toward action. 
– Integration: Capacity to balance the in-coming and out-going flows. (Intersubjective experience) 

In this case, I bring up Integral Philosophy as it is of particular relevance to understand, empathize and connect with people at the different stages of development. “The integral worldview represents a transcendence of postmodernism because it does what postmodernism cannot: it fully recognizes the legitimacy and evolutionary necessity of all previous stages of development. Integral consciousness thus grows up by reaching down. It produces evolution more effectively because it understands evolution more thoroughly. And as we come to better appreciate the subtle habits and methods of evolution—its gentle persuasion, and the way that it grows from within itself, always building on what came before—we can begin to see how the degree of our transcendence is determined by the scope of our inclusion.” 

If we agree that we need to move beyond postmodern paradigm, the Causal Layer Analysis from Inayatullah seems to me as one of the best tools for action learning, and to facilitate alignment, integration or discovery of new plausible, probable or preferred scenarios of the future, specially, when you have individuals with different cultures or approaches (which will continue to be the case in this globalized world). 
CLA’s goal is to disturb present power relations, and indeed, I see the challenge to sells and scale these services to companies or governments that want to continue perpetuating their current power structure. 

As I’m transitioning from having worked 5 years in the social change space, into the strategic innovation industry, I can see how relevant this tool can be in both industries. The Strategic Planning process, how foundations allocate funds and grants, Consultancies that do White space mapping, ideation processes… should all have the CLA as a foundation and entry point when building teams and allocating resources. [This makes me think of rethinking Operations in companies – Vision and Mission statements, Human Resources departments, Marketing Plans,etc… should include CLA as a first step of the “value chain”].

Aside

I had an allergic reaction to The Art of Conjecture, but not because it’s an original 1967 Harvard University of Social Relations book full of dust and other historical particles, but because I didn’t feel it appealed to my present worldview. Perhaps I err on the side of pragmatism nowadays, but I need to accept that de Jouvenel ceased my creativity and didn’t trigger me to understand my role and my capabilities to take action in the future. Still, I decided to dive deep and absorb as much theory as this brain could.

It was interesting to read about the philosophical debate around why we humans think about the future. Why do we have the notion of past and future?

The never-ending tension between the supposition, the envisioning force of the futurists and the prudence and certainty of the fact collectors. The man in action (innovators) estimates Futura and the fact collector (historians or scientists) do so as guarantee of the future.

But why do humans act like they do? Perhaps the selfish gene is after all the motor for evolution. We have a strong devotion for our offspring and that’s what makes us design better living structures, to improve the world for our next generations. This is future thinking as simplistic as it can get. But de Jouvenel also analyses the anthropological phenomenon of cultural (or religious) traditions, and states that routine saves us from the effort of doing foresight.[1] Perhaps that is why some societies that are deeply rooted in traditions and memories of what was once a better moment that now, have a tendency to not want to change, and are less open to accept and participate in the creation of new versions of reality.

The time future is the domain able to receive as “possibles” the false “nows”. So why is it that only some people are actively thinking of how they can influence the curse of the future? is it a sociological phenomenon where culture conditions people to be complacent and comfortable with the status quo? or does genetic programming and neurological compositions have an influence in curiosity and critical capacity? Jouvenel also mentions that in part, what is important is the quality of the intention of imagining a better future. Although subjective, it can appeal to a moral direction and it can also be seen as succession of stages of energy exchange, that in the long run, gives meaning to the sense of self.

This question reminded me of a book I read during the summer, Imagine by Jonah Lehrer[2]. Even though he was found guilty of plagiarism, some of his findings in neuroscience have really helped me understand the process of creativity and the differences between humans that have the capacity to fluctuate between divergent and convergent thinking, activities directly correlated with the capacity to think about alternative possibilities for the present situation.

But nowadays, the line between divergent and convergent thinking, the creative and scientific realms, is blurring. Neuroscientists are studying Bonobos in Congo [3] to explain deep behavioral traits of humanity and are hoping to change paradigms around medical devices and healthcare practices by looking towards the past behavior and projecting new scenarios into the future. It seems like what we need is to have a deep systemic understanding of the present while we also allow our minds to wander and imagine guided by a humanistic and spiritual approach. But with a clear quality of intention. Do we want to change the world? Do we even know what we are up for? Can we apply our intentions for innovative systemic problem solving?

And so I started reading Slaughter as some of his work has already resonated: “The late 20th century infrastructure, Slaughter contends, is a scientific and engineering miracle. The dark side of this miracle has included the dominance of reductionist over systemic perspectives, exploitation of natural systems, the abuse of scientific and technological research for irrational ends that become self perpetuating, and the dominance of ‘having’ (consumerist-material) over ‘being’ (humanistic-spiritual) modes of existence. Slaughter then examines and critiques the limited thinking that dominates political governance and educational methods, and the false realities created by commerce and the media”[4].

[1] The Art of Conjecture, De Jouvenel
[2] http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/07/30/author-jonah-lehrer-admits-making-up-bob-dylan-quotes/
[3] http://www.ted.com/talks/isabel_behncke_evolution_s_gift_of_play_from_bonobo_apes_to_humans.html
[4] The Foresight Principle, Richard Slaughter

Chasing butterflies

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The journey is illuminated.
A fierceful courage inspires discovery.
Embodied scientists that experience life in the flesh.
Subtitles that confirm pieces of art, as existence unravels its design.
Subtle caresses of ethers’ nature. Le troisieme space.
Exuding angel’s share after each breath.
Total surrender. Trust. Awe. Determination.
Of receiving for the sake of sharing.
Of loving now and the unknown. 

“It is not about complexity, it is about intimacy” – Timothy Morton

Timothy Morton’s speach at UC DAVIS for the nonviolence conference on meditation. The line of thinking is based on his argument that OOO objects (everything) are fundamentally inconsistent, because of a rift between essence and appearance. This has political implications:

[H]ow does meditation look on the ground, in practice, “where the rubber meets the road” to use the awful bureaucratic phrase? One is allowing one’s thoughts to exist, without trying to delete them. Thus one is allowing oneself to be inconsistent: the mind is making some effort towards mindfulness, yet there are also thoughts occurring that distract the mind. In higher forms of meditation, the practice has less effort. One is simply allowing whatever happens to happen, no matter what the thought is. Some kind of commitment is required, a commitment not to adjust what is happening. This non-adjusting allows beings to resound in all their contradictory plenitude. Since all phenomena radiate from the nature of mind or from Atman (and so forth, depending on which school of thought one is following), all is purified in advance within the larger space of freedom. Purified here means left in its natural state, which is open and vivid. There thus arises what in Mahamudra and Dzogchen is called non-meditation. This non-meditation is different from not meditating, and also different from meditating. It is simply coexisting with what is. Meditation simply is nonviolence, which means allowing the rift between essence and appearance to persist.

In meditation then, one is both p and not-p at the same time. One is a living contradiction, the contradiction that defines living as such. One coexists in the simplest possible way, namely with oneself. Narcissism thus means self-relating, which means other-relating. Since being myself means never directly being myself, my existence is coexistence, even when hypothetically I am totally on my own. Meditation is thus nonviolent, not simply because it means you are trying to make yourself be gentle, but because you are allowing yourself to exist in your inconsistency. In a group of meditators, this nonviolent coexistence becomes vivid. The person on your left might be plotting to take over the Universe. But what on Earth is he going to do about it in that moment? He is meditating!

Meditation means allowing at least one thing to be inconsistent. Allowing the rift between essence and appearance to persist without causing it to close and thus for essence to evaporate. Nonviolence. Humans must get used to the depth of nonviolence in their being. The Greek term for this getting-used-to is mathēsis, which is fully thought not simply as calculation, but as acclimatization, as growing accustomed to the truth of things. The Tibetan for this getting-used-to is gom, which is the term for meditation. In Buddhism there are three stages of learning: hearing, contemplating, and meditating. Hearing is thorough attunement to the dharma. Contemplating is more deeply digesting it into one’s being. Meditating is enacting it, living it, embodying it. This embodiment just is nonviolence, a nonviolence that attunes the layers of a human being—cultural forms, attitudes, psychological states, biological equilibriums, physical being, mind, heart, flesh, bone—to the fundamental inconsistency of reality.

Find more in: Ecology without Nature 

About his lecture at CCA: Enter the Non-Human