Getting the most from our collective potential
We are threatened today by a wide variety of environmental dangers and need the synergistic strength of working together. By offering the best of our understanding and opening our minds to consider the offerings of others in the spirit of consultation, the collective wisdom of a group can emerge.
Think of our minds as the product of millions of years of evolution, our languages as a gift from thousands of years of communication and knowledge as the cumulative product of human experience. In this light, it is not so hard to see that what we accomplish with these tools is a part of something far greater than ourselves. By aligning ourselves with this greater whole, we will have the strength to make the future bright again.
Consultation (Adapted from “Life, Money and Illusion.”)
It Is from the Clash of Differing Opinions
that the Light of Truth Shines
“Consultation” is a recipe for co-intelligent meetings. What follows is a procedure that a group can adopt to tap into its collective potential.
Assembling in a circle gives form to the assertion that everyone is equal. In a circle, each person can hear everyone else directly and be heard clearly in return.
Come together with confidence that there are solutions to whatever issues are going to be discuss.
Identifying the topics to be discussed in advance enables some premeditation that will help prepare participants for the occasion. Before getting down to business, it helps to take a few moments to focus attention on the spirit of the gathering, the whole that is greater than all the individuals present. Sometimes joining hands to connect the circle for a few moments of silence is helpful. The mood of the meeting can be further guided by expressing together the wish, silently or verbally, for guidance and inspiration. While focusing on the synergetic potential of the group, or whatever sense of a higher power participants hold, ask for guidance in making the best possible decisions for the effectiveness of the group, for the well-being of the next seven generations and for all life on Earth. So met, the gathering is ready to proceed. The four techniques below can guide discussion to more productive ends.
1 - When an idea leaves a person’s lips, it no longer belongs to the individual but becomes the possession of the circle.
Individuals let go of the ideas they offer, and comments are directed at the ideas and not at the people who happened to introduce them. Ideas can be too important to carry the baggage of individual personalities. Without this precaution, good ideas are sometimes neglected for reasons that have no relationship to the idea’s content. Every effort should be made to avoid ridiculing anything that is presented. Intimidation of any sort will discourage people from offering divergent views, and the whole group will be poorer for the loss of perspective. The precaution of separating ideas from the people who voice them creates a safe environment that encourages adherence to the second rule.
2 - Express everything that comes to heart or mind on the topic being discussed, even if it goes against what you feel yourself or the mood of the meeting.
This is sometimes called brainstorming. The mind in free association can come up with ideas that have not been considered before. They are worth adding to the process. Even ideas that seem to contradict one’s personal views should be expressed. The same person might express both pros and cons to an argument. If they do not, some perspective on the topic might go unexpressed, depriving the group of the broadest possible perspective from which to consider its plans. If the topic of discussion has been researched elsewhere, an effort should be made to include the research findings for consideration as well.
3 - When conflicting views do arise, they are not to be avoided.
Differing opinions must come into contact so that the sparks of their confrontation can illuminate the truth of the matter. At these times, however, it is most important to remember that it is the ideas that are clashing and not the people. There is no harm in this sort of confrontation if the group has been diligent in detaching the ideas from the people; indeed, valuable insights can be gained from the exchange. Recall the wish at the commencement of the meeting for decisions to emerge that are best for all involved. If this wish is sincere, participants can watch the fireworks from interacting ideas in anticipation that the truth of the matter will emerge when all is said and considered.
4 - After all views have been heard and considered, if total agreement is not reached but a significant majority feel they have identified an appropriate course of action, dissenters are asked to go along with the plan.
The purpose of this is to avoid confusion about the decision when it is being implemented and later assessed. If there is not total cooperation in implementing a decision, and the action fails, it will not be clear whether the failure resulted from a wrong decision or from the lack of cooperation. The distinction is important for guiding future actions. Since all perspectives are to be given fair consideration at the time of the meeting, any shortcoming arising as the plan unfolds will be viewed in the light of the divergent views. If everyone is trying to make the plan work and it doesn’t, it will be clear that something is wrong with the decision, and it can be reconsidered at another meeting.
Attitude can make all the difference. If cultivated, the following attitudes can help the process become increasingly effective.
Courtesy: Listening with interest to all ideas expressed and speaking the content of one’s own mind fully and with clarity.
Aspiration: Allowing and encouraging our better selves to dominate our weaknesses.
Detachment: Allowing equal respect for all views whether they come from our own lips or from someone else’s.
Humility: Removing the obstacle of one’s own importance and thereby enabling serious consideration of what others say.
Patience: Hearing all that is being said before forming judgments.
Service: Accepting the responsibility of looking for the truth by expressing all that comes to mind related to the topic and in turn listening to all opinions put forward.
Consideration: Topics of sustainability require that consideration go beyond the interests of the people present. Success requires including the interests of other people, both those alive today and those who will be living in the future. In addition, the interests of the other living things with whom we share the Earth and the Earth as a whole need to be held respectfully in mind.
When the topic at hand has been fully discussed, the group can then make its decision about what actions to take. Who will do what; what effects are expected from the action; and how will the effects observed be compared to those anticipated? Finally, the information gathered, following an action stage, can provide feedback for subsequent meetings, enabling the group to move forward towards its goals.