I was in a meeting recently discussing the take down of Harvey Weinstein and others accused of sexual harassment, and the rise of the #metoo campaign. We were freely exchanging opinions about these trends in culture, except for several men who declined to add to the conversation. When I asked them about their thoughts on the matter, and they replied that there wasn’t anything they were willing to add; because, they said, the truth was that they were only allowed to agree with the perspectives already in the room. As much I as prodded to elicit other points of view, they remained firm. They weren’t angry, resentful, or upset about it. They were just unwilling to risk a damn word.Read more
In this short video clip below, Diane Musho Hamilton shares her wisdom about how emotional maturity increases alongside our willingness to feel our own difficult emotions such as fear, confusion or anger. Moreover, the degree to which we can be present with others’ emotions depends on how comfortable we are with our own.Read more
In this 1-minute video clip below, Diane Musho Hamilton shares her insights about the fluid and dynamic quality of emotions. She describes our human tendency to either repress our feelings or wallow in them, and how we can instead learn to receive their energy and wisdom as they flow in and out of our lives and relationships.
This video offers a glimpse into what you can look forward to in our new live online training, Willing to Feel: Essential Skills for Emotional Maturity. This inspiring course will support you to learn to ride your emotional swells in service of more meaningful and empowered relating, leading and collaborating. You can find out more or register here.Read more
Some of us tend to orient towards listening and reflecting others, while some of us are more comfortable with expression. In this video clip, Diane Musho Hamilton talks about how the ability to express ourselves with penetrative clarity hinges on how well we receive and listen to others–and vice versa. Skilled communicators are not confined to wherever their habits or strengths orient them. Instead, they are able to fluidly move between both poles of penetrative expression, and receptive listening, in service to what is needed in the moment.Read more
Why Does Sitting Meditation Help Facilitation?
The question came up in our last public Integral Facilitator call about how the practice of sitting meditation contributes to being able to DO something differently. Certainly, it helps to unwind the nervous system, develop focused attention, and relax the tight grip of self-identification. But while It may support individual well-being, it is hard to see how in the middle of a tense or confusing meeting, the practice will help us act in a fresh way that makes a difference to others.
It is quite an election year. We’ve got a belligerent capitalist, a pervy tea party candidate, an insipid moderate, a self-serving woman, and a raving socialist. The polarities are so extreme that violence is bursting out at the seams at Trump’s rallies, and the Bernie people treat Hillary supporters like traitors to the cause. It’s kinda crazy out there.
And yet, it is the most energized election we have seen since 1968. And it is a prime opportunity to use the Integral practice to capture some of the energy, and open awareness to deeper parts of ourselves. How are we supposed to make sense of all this? It’s one thing to be a television announcer and just pose questions, but it’s another thing to try and find a path through the mess—let alone to actually weave genuine conversation or generate some understanding so that you can vote with integrity.Read more
Many of us live very interconnected lives, working and traveling across cultural and geographic boundaries. With this greater ability to bridge distances, comes increased challenges of difference and diversity. Our differences are exciting, but can be incredibly stressful—and for good reason. In our evolutionary history, humans were far more likely to be killed by another human, usually from a different tribe, than by any other predator. Hanging together ensured our survival—and we are still sensitive to difference as a possible sign of danger.
A significant difference that occurs between us in our work lives, loves lives, and social lives—one that Ken Wilber has repeatedly pointed out as being of great significance—is differences in world views. How we see the world, and the interpretations we make about it can result in enormous divisions. Something like Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl can be seen as creatively courageous or as a step backward historically. Agreement about what’s good and how we ought to live can look more and more impossible.
It is important for anyone in leadership positions today to understand how our world views evolve, and to explore how these differences can be worked with. We use a simple map for exploring world views: The Ego-centric stage with its emphasis on protecting the self, and the danger of narcissism; the Ethno-centric stage with a strong sense of community, safety, and stability which may stagnate in its conformist values; the World-centric stage which brings an immense expansion of identity, but global scale problems, and the Kosmic-centric view which frees us from the boundaries of space and time, but also insists that we re-engage the other levels.
Understanding worldviews affirms the notion that with greater maturity, comes greater perspectives and an increased capacity for care. Our identity can become more fluid, which leads us to empathize and join with others more freely—even when on the surface our differences appear significant. As we develop, our view of the world can outgrow the limitation of black and white thinking, and prejudice and fear decrease. Because our identity isn’t so rigidly fixed on ideas about “us” and “them,” we can meet others with curiosity whether or not they understand us—or agree with us. This brings along an invaluable ability to empathize, connect, relate, and bring people together for coordinated action.
Being willing and able to join with others across differences makes us a more stable, trustable influence, which is ultimately what skillful leadership rests on. For those leaders and change-makers who are wrestling with our most complex challenges, bringing people together is an essential skill that requires empathy, compassion, and the ability to integrate differences without rubbing out the creative tension of diversity.
Diane Musho Hamilton
Co-Founder and Lead Teacher, Integral Facilitator®
Author, Everything is Workable, a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution.
Judges, referees, mediators and facilitators are trained to be neutral. But neutrality is often misunderstood. We think neutrality looks like a distant, overly rational character with horned-rimmed glasses sitting back like a pondering judge, or the oh-so-nice peacekeeper in comfortable shoes smoothing everything over to the point of obsequiousness. The word neutrality can be conflated with the idea of being neutered; that is, lacking life force, energy, or being just plain bland. And the truth is, nobody wants that person in front of the room leading a discussion, particularly if it is about something you care about.
Actually, true neutrality is completely enlivened state of mind. It is not detached, emotionally removed, indifferent or static. Rather, this neutrality involves an acute ability to identify with each perspective in a conversation, to see the truth in each comment, however partial or incomplete it may be. At the same time, it is fluid; true neutrality is equally able to detach from an idea or let go of a position in order to include more truths. In this way, neutrality is a form of flexibility involving the art of picking up the truth, then shifting gears and letting a perspective go momentarily in order to keep the conversation moving.
This is one way in which neutrality when facilitating groups is a practice akin to meditation. The practice of meditation is not absent of experience. Rather it is a full experience of experience—and then the experience of letting go. When we are truly neutral, we can engage viewpoints and pick up perspectives. But we don’t react to them, and we can set them down just as easily when the next moment calls for something different.
True neutrality is dynamic. It requires full, embodied engagement. Nothing is left out. Not our mind, our emotions, not our body. Neutrality requires us to feel. The more we feel, the more we can let go. We learn to bring our feelings online; our sensitivity to energy, engaging from position of involvement rather than observation. In this way we engage our own life force as a facilitator — our own dynamism — which in turn enables greater participation and involvement from everyone around us.
Diane Musho Hamilton
Co-Founder and Lead Teacher, Integral Facilitator®
Author, Everything is Workable, a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution.
Listen to the recording of a Ten Directions’ live call with more on this subject: Neutrality is Not What You Think
The heroic leadership model has been on the decline for years. Increasingly it is being replaced by an interest in collaborative and facilitative leadership practices. What does this shift mean for our understanding of the distribution of power, and for how well we work with power dynamics?
Our archetypes of heroic leadership are shaped by concepts of power. Heroic leaders wield the power of command and control. This model of leadership is most outstanding in its efficiency, and often in effectiveness. Sharing power is slower, unwieldy, requiring more communication and process, and is therefore at odds with hierarchical structure.
In contrast, collaborative leaders are expected to distribute power. Their perceived strength is derived from their ability to “empower others,” to influence the quality of groups and teams such that each person can make a unique contribution, feel valued, and share in the ownership of the mission.
This is why collaborative leadership is also facilitative. Facilitating collaborative engagement requires generosity, people skills, shared values, and an understanding of systems. It also demands true openness to the unknown, and a mindset that values the creativity and the mess that sometimes entails.
There are important skills that come online when we begin to facilitate groups using the Integral framework as a lens through which we view our work. One is that we include the “bodies” in our awareness; that is, the gross, subtle and causal bodies (in the language of the Integral framework). The gross reality may be referred to as the dimension of form, Nirmanakaya in Tibetan Buddhism; the subtle realm (transformation realm) is called Sambhogakaya; and the third body, Dharmakaya, is the very, very subtle domain of our experience.
In the context of facilitation, these three distinctions become important, particularly when we become sensitive to the energy of groups, and gain an interest in actually using and working with energy — much like an acupuncturist works with energy in the body.
As facilitative leaders, we want to enable energy to flow evenly and coherently in our work, because groups become more efficient and enjoyable when we do. When energy in a group is agitated, discombobulated, or incoherent, the facilitator can work to soothe and cohere the energy of the group. Likewise, when energy is sluggish, slow, dense or stagnant, the facilitator can find ways to stimulate it, bringing the flow into balance.Read more
How do we open up a conversation about race in the wake of tragedy like the one that took place in Charleston, South Carolina?
Every painful conversation is unique, and every context may require a different approach from the facilitator. Whether you’re holding a town meeting or community dialogue or an informal conversation around the dinner table, in my experience, the best place to begin any truly challenging discussion is with our immediate, felt experience. In our conversations about race this last week, I would begin with the emotional impact of the news of the shooting in South Carolina.
I would pose a simple question like, “How is everyone feeling right now?” and then allow perspectives to pour forth. The expression that I would first want to support is an emotional one, that of pain and loss in the room—the pain of the murder of innocent people and the loss of the nine beautiful souls who died at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church.
It may seem obvious, but people will often rush over emotions to problem solving or political strategizing or discussing facts—but it isn’t satisfying. Presencing the sorrow and grief is fundamental to our human experience and it is unifying to a group. It binds us in the heart, reminding us of the vulnerability we share and of our capacity to care. Sorrow is softening, humanizing, and humbling. So we need to open space for the pain to pour forward, and for the emotions of grief, of loss, of sadness to actually come into the room.
The gut wrenching pain of the murder of innocent people is conveyed by sorrow, grief and loss. The gut wrenching pain of the murder of innocent BLACK people AGAIN comes in a wave of anger, torment, and outrage.Read more
One of the most important things a facilitator needs to practice is facing the fear of criticism that comes from standing in front of a group.
Every time you step in front of a group, whether you are a beautiful and seriously talented pop star like Beyonce or a quick, clever media personality like Jon Stewart, a politician or an athlete or a car salesman, there is a certain amount of criticism coming back at you, even when people are your fans.
Usually it is not spoken, sometimes it is, but the criticism is alway present in the field on a subtle level, which means we feel it and often unconsciously defend against it. The people in the room are sorting through their experience: do they trust you, do they approve of what you are doing, do they want to go where you are taking them?
A good performance will transmute the criticism in the moment into a beautiful and coherent energetic field, but the next day in the papers and in retrospect, the criticism might come back.Read more
There is an old saying in Zen: Everything the same; everything different. This is a truth that is so obvious that it goes without saying. We live in a universe that is one unified whole. The myriad things come from the same unknown source, are made of the same basic materials, existing within the same dimensions of time and space, and operating under the same set of physical laws and principles. Nothing is left out of the universe, and yet, out of this fundamental sameness pop infinite, extravagant differences.
Difference abounds. Quarks are different from atoms, molecules are different from cells. Single-celled life forms are different from plants, plants from animals, animals from human beings.
I am different from you, we are different from them, they are different from those other guys. (And usually, it is those other ones that are the problem). Life builds up in complexity, and it is said that the most healthy ecosystems are those containing the most diversity.
The paradox of sameness and difference in the context of human interaction is again so obvious that we might not care to note it. Of course, we are the same. Obviously, we are different. We like the sameness, until it becomes dull and heavy, and conformity burdens our conversations and dogma confines our mind and restricts our ability to grow and change.Read more
Lately, I have been listening to the audio biographies of some of the U.S. Civil War generals—Ulysses Grant, Robert. E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, to name a few. People ask why a Zen teacher has even the slightest interest in military history. The short answer is that I am curious about leadership that calls for a flurry of strategic and tactical decisions under pressure, and in the type of person willing to make those urgent calls.
General U.S. Grant is known for unwavering loyalty to the Union cause and for his relentless pursuit of his plan. Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the South, is remembered for his aggression, speed, and use of audacious movements in the face of overwhelming odds. Stonewall Jackson, also a rebel and the most eccentric of these generals, was a genius of stealth, maneuver and surprise. He was capable of moving an entire army as if by magic, without leaving a trace of his whereabouts nor an indication of where he would appear next.
In his genius, Jackson may be the most supreme example of command and control leadership. He could maintain the cover and agility of his army because he never shared his intentions with anyone—I repeat—anyone. He never disclosed his considerations, he never revealed his conclusions, even to his own officers. He refused to elicit their views on the matters of the war, tactical or strategic, but when an order was given by Jackson, they were simply expected to move. If not, his soldiers and officers were severely disciplined.
In spite of this, he wasn’t immune to input. Early in the war, he created a war council comprised of his closest lieutenants, precisely to include their thinking. But when they made what he considered to be an inferior call, he never asked them again what they thought. They resented his autocratic style in the beginning of the war, but after they realized they were in the company of the genius, they became his devotees.Read more
My Zen teacher, Genpo Roshi, once told me a long time ago, “You can’t work with a voice that comes up in the room if you don’t know that same voice in yourself.”
What Roshi meant is that anytime you are facilitating a group of people in a dialogue or group process, and a participant expresses a thought, a feeling, a perspective or “voice,” you as the facilitator need to quickly locate that same experience in your own interior awareness; that is, if you want to remain present, congruent, and trustable in front of the room.
This idea is not an entirely new idea in human development circles. Jung pioneered the idea of shadow work, which is the psychological practice of bringing the unacknowledged, marginalized, or shameful parts of experience into awareness. The same phenomenon occurs in forms of Tibetan Buddhist practice and in many shamanic rituals.
Likewise, philosopher Ken Wilber has repeatedly emphasized in his writing that anyone who wants to fully awaken should not not only meditate, but also find a method for including the difficulties of conditioned existence and acknowledge the disavowed “shadow” elements of his or her mind and life.Read more
I took an interest in the clip that was all over the internet last week of an episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, the comedian-talk-show-host exchanging with Sam Harris, the atheist-turned-mindfulness author, and Ben Affleck, the actor. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to view the clip of their heated discussion.
Bill Maher begins the discussion by asserting that both he and Sam Harris have been trying to make the case that “liberals need to stand up for liberal principles” like freedom of thought and speech, religious freedom, freedom to leave a religion, and equality for women, minorities, and homosexuals, but says you can’t say those things about Muslims.
Sam Harris responds by asserting that, as he said, “Liberals have failed when it comes to theocracy, and have been sold this meme of ‘Islamaphobia’,” which is the problem of conflating criticism of Islamic doctrine and with bigotry towards Muslims as people.Read more
There are all kinds of conversations going on right now about the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, another young African-American male in Ferguson, Missouri last week. Most of us are quite familiar with the story by now, and are outraged by another incident in the U.S. involving the use of lethal force by law enforcement against unarmed teenagers, particularly those who are black. And if we aren’t outraged, I think that we should be.
These conversations are more difficult to navigate when certain important distinctions are not made clearly. We can see this problem in the news media in which the third person reporting of relevant facts to the public immediately becomes conflated with the social and political views of the news station and host.Read more
A question came to me recently from a student in the Integral Facilitator® program who is facilitating a conversation among members of a classical music orchestra who are looking for ways to evolve their work together. He says that as a facilitator, he wants to create an open space for all perspectives to be presenced in an atmosphere of genuine inquiry.
But often, he says, people are not as elegant in their conversations as they are when playing music together. He says that they express themselves emotionally and dogmatically, pounding out their opinions in one repetitive note: the “I am right” tone. In their assertiveness, they turn a deaf ear to the silence, to the space, to the new, unknown possibilities that come from a depth of listening.
It is ironic because musicians are probably some of the best trained listeners in the world. And yet, this quality of conversation is often common among all kinds of people, regardless of their ability to hear, when change is afoot, when values are being discussed, when conflict arises, or when new risks must be taken together. In fact, paradoxically, any time anxiety levels rise in a conversation, so do the black and white tone of certainty and unpleasant sensations of dogma. (more…)Read more