I joined with five other people last night to undertake a facilitated journey into the liminal space of personal and collective process called Field Tuning. We were guided through a series of suggestions and activities that took us out of our habitual intellectual process to elicit feeling/knowing responses to specific questions, which were then manipulated in ways that ultimately gave us an experience of our collective process at a deeply intuitive level.
We undertook to access, name and share an active internal process and then to arrive at collective agreement about its shape, content and dynamics. Relational dynamics also played out in the listening to our solitary internal voices and in our responses to the expressions of others. We danced on a shifting algorithm of the individual interacting with the amorphous “collective” whose characteristics are now, a day later, still evocative and mysterious. For me, the process fed back keenly upon and upset existing assumptions about what is the individual and what is the collective.
At the most elemental level, I experienced myself in relation to others at a level of their fundamental aliveness. I sensed the warmth, the sentience, the heat that is our living nature. It was all there in that warmth. There was also more: feeling, a derivative of that warmth; discriminating patient discernment; an emerging and at moments a tentative self-expression even in a space of complete permission.
The warmth is the mystery itself, elegance, coherence, ages of trials and corrections, errors and success. It all goes on in you, in me, in every living thing. And for brief moments in the quiet, it was all on display.
We were each asking ourselves what holds our attention and sharing the answers with the others. We could be saying the same thing…the inexpressible, in a different language, your way of knowing and mine. We communicated through the warmth, around it. It spoke from beneath our awareness. We were successful… and also not. Or always. And which is which? I don’t even know how to decide. Nor do I need to know.
Everything changes within the space-time that was created. The structure of the process opens access to something closer to the ground of change, connecting us to the simplest element of our nature, the warmth, the essential aliveness in which we all swim.
If I focused all of my capacities on the warmth alone, what would I learn? What more is there to know when everything there is… already here?—movement, shifting waves of temperature passing back and forth between us, on my cheek, in my gut, my neck, the back of my knee. Every moment is the story of that fire, finding balance with everything else, the responses we have to color, the foreign or familiar emotional landscapes, people, the natural world, the air, the food we eat, the microbes we house, the body filtering everything, light, the touch of another.
I am touching this warmth again and I have no idea who or what we are. But we entered a different space. We are simply here.
In touching that warmth and launching from its elemental nature, “I” became “we.” We were now together in a different way than before. The continuing act of distinguishing between I and we arises in a different way, with a different consciousness. If I accede to “we,” in the interactive flow, what becomes of “me?” Am I erased? Silenced? Diminished? I feel a small voice asking that question and checking into my emotional state to determine what is true. Each time I feel the tug of ego that wants to protect “me,” (itself), I recall the act of offering mandala, of purifying body, speech and mind by allowing the impulse to preserve “I”-ness to dissolve into its essence. “We” erases nothing. It enhances “me.” Our separate and collective agencies are put into a different context: separate and mutually enhancing, in constant flux.
Which leads to the inevitable question: was there anything to be named “I” in the first place? I still exist. At least the physical vehicle of whatever I regard as me still exists. I must. I have “personal” thought and feeling, though the gravity and import of these events is influenced, some would say blunted, by what I misinterpret as dependence on the whole, my integral nature with the whole. In fact, the whole depends on me just as much as the reverse. In any given moment, I don’t know the whole truth about the whole. I can only get glimpses, snapshots that quickly dissolve.
In the extreme, my pursuit of personal agency requires me to (temporarily) deny mutual dependency. I must create the Other in order to differentiate and verify what is “mine.” The flux is also between remaining active in my own agency versus allowing myself to be subsumed by a vaguely defined collective. If I do that too often, and especially at critical moments, I might become divorced from a sense of how agency truly works. Or, as is so apparent in the world now, I may grasp for increasingly extreme validations of my personal agency at the expense of Others. Many have either relinquished their agency or been conditioned or convinced of their own impotence within the collective. But last night became a subtle and at moments exquisite dance.
The complexity of including everyone in a transitional state of I/we without allowing either the individual to overwhelm the collective or the collective to obliterate the individual rises exponentially with the size of the group. Thus, the very idea of scaling up this exercise in radical relationship to larger groups is daunting.
But isn’t this the drama we see playing out everywhere we look now—the zero-sum game that demands either dominance or subjugation? It is the truth of our perpetual transitional state reified as one or the other, as if we could ever say that water at 32° is either solid or liquid. That is not reality. Yet the sensual and feeling access to that state is a much softer and more internal journey than we are used to taking. The nature of the group in question has much to do with the outcome, but Field Tuning took us into that journey in a way that has transformed our chemistry. We cannot go back.