Awakening of the Inner Earth
Many people are waking up to the reality that we are living in a time of global societal collapse. Existing political, economic and even moral infrastructures are crumbling under the weight of enormous uncertainty and chaos.
This collapse, heart-wrenching and grief-inducing as it is, was foretold by those who had the insight to see it decades ago. Anthropologist and philosopher Gregory Bateson prophesied today’s predicament in 1974:
“If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. As you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against … other social units, other races and the brutes and vegetables. If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell.”
Bateson illuminated the mindset that objectifies Earth solely as a set of material resources to extract to meet the needs of human civilization. This mindset overturned and invalidated the age-old, indigenous cosmology that related to Earth as a living, conscious being and treated her with respect, care and reciprocity.
As we objectify Earth, we also see ourselves as separate from the Earth’s body. Therefore, much of the effort to extricate ourselves from the ecological crisis focuses outwardly on sustainable management of natural resources. However, we often forget that humans, our bodies, minds and souls, are some of the most precious resources that urgently need to be “sustained”.
Seen through the objective lens of modern science, Earth is an orbiting planet with a molten core and a rock surface, covered with oceans and soil. But what if this Earth outside is a mirror image of an Earth inside of ourselves – the Inner Earth? What if the destruction and extinction we see outside is Mother Earth reflecting back to us what we are doing to our Inner Earth? What if to reestablish an intimate relationship with the Outer Earth, we must first revitalize the Inner Earth within each of us?
A Radical Shift in The Coaching Paradigm – Replenish the Unconscious and Enrich the Subjective Experience
All ancient wisdom traditions teach that life continues as cycles of creation, destruction and re-creation. The collapse of the current social structure is creating the conditions for a new life order to emerge. To align with this new life order, we need to awaken our Inner Earth so we can see, hear and feel Mother Earth’s body and collaborate with her timeless intelligence again.
As coaches and organization consultants, we have a unique role to play in this shift. In a recent interview with Coaches Rising, Margaret Wheatley called for coaches to step up our leadership and embody the highest quality of humanity. However, to meet this challenge, I see the need for a radical shift in the existing coaching paradigm.
The excessive extraction of resources from nature is associated with a worldview of continuous linear progression championed by modern western civilization. In the same interview, Margaret Wheatley stated, “Western culture is the only culture in the world that disavowed the cyclic nature of history and said that there is always progress.”
This paradigm of linear progress imprints some of the deeply held guiding principles of coaching practice. Parallel to the extracting of raw materials from Earth, coaching practices have focused on extracting raw experience from the Inner Earth, the subjective and somatic raw, unfiltered experience, embedded in the “soil” of the unconscious. The extracted experience is then objectified primarily through language-based processes and turned into conscious awareness and sense-making capacities.
No doubt the development of the human mind correlates with a heightened capacity for sense-making. However, these extractive practices have not been reciprocated with an equal amount of attention given to replenishing the “soil” in the unconscious realm and enriching the subjective experience. To maintain a holistic balance, the development of sense-making needs to coordinate with its complement, the capacity to “compost” or deconstruct existing sense-making mechanisms, by returning the attention to the unconscious and subjective.
Developing this composting capacity requires us to experience life on the sensory, somatic or energetic level, allowing our biological and non-verbal intelligence to process the complexities. This means our mind needs to be comfortable with holding the unknown and uncertain either for a significant amount of time or at a very high dose. For those of us who have developed refined intellectual skills, this is often extremely hard to do, especially when we experience something uncomfortable and painful. The pressures to interpret our experience through existing knowledge and sense-making machinery are enormous – we just know too much! We have to commit our attention to not-knowing in order to enable the processing of biological and non-verbal intelligence. In doing so, we can break down our existing knowledge, pattern, expectation or judgment, retuning them as nutrients for the Inner Earth.
The replenishment of our Inner Earth is crucial in maintaining an intimate relationship with the Outer Earth. However, since the Outer Earth has been reduced to an object in the Industrialized Growth Society, we perceive no inherent value in replenishing the Inner Earth. The indigenous knowledge associated with the Inner Earth is often deemed as crude or primitive. Or even worse, in the case of Yoga and to some extent acupuncture, they are appropriated by the Industrialized Growth Society and reduced down to their outer forms without the inner potency to revitalize the Inner Earth. Losing connections to these ancient wisdom, no wonder our system puts people who have the least amount of capability in connecting with their Inner and Outer Earth into the most influential positions in our economic and political infra-structures. This needs to change and it will!
Navigating Complexity and Uncertainty
In today’s world, we realize the increasing importance of navigating complexity and uncertainty through intuition, imagination and a non-linear mode of knowing. Meeting the unknown through this raw, unfiltered experience becomes a seed for new knowledge that can germinate, sprout and flourish without being bogged down by the limitations of a patterned, linear projection from past experience.
The cultural codes of modern civilization leave little room for raw, unfiltered somatic and subjective experience. We pathologize psychological or somatic experiences that do not fit the modern methods of meaning-making. Today nearly 1 in 5 (18%) of American adults have a diagnosis of some kind of “mental disorder”. More and more children are labeled with ADHD. Are we getting “crazier”? Or, is it possible that our culturally-programmed meaning-making mechanism is too shallow for the depth and vastness of our experience?
My questioning arises from my native Chinese background and Taoism practice. As a nature-based self-cultural tradition, its ancient roots are more than five thousand years old. Taoism, a philosophy reflected in the Tao Te Ching, has a two-thousand-year-old tradition. In Taoism, the pathway of self-cultivation is vibrational and cyclical. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu wrote, “Toward the end of my life, can I return to the state of infancy?” This “state of infancy” refers to the capacity to hold space for raw, unfiltered experience in the unconscious and subjective realm, while suspending the habitual and patterned pathways of sense-making and judgement.
As babies, we naturally hold raw, unfiltered experience without sophisticated meaning-making capacities. Yet, most of us successfully navigated the immensely challenging task of learning language. This means that we are naturally wired to process complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity through our somatic and pre-verbal intelligence. As we enter adulthood, we shift our attention to learning how to make sense through mental, intellectual and linguistic constructs to integrate with our familial and cultural environment. The current adult development models serve well to guide this phase of development.
At the same time, without directing attention back to our Inner Earth, the soil of the unconscious gets depleted. Without a vibrant Inner Earth, we are no longer in touch with our somatic and pre-verbal intelligence to process complexity and uncertainty.
The capacity to direct attention to raw, unfiltered experience, to replenish the unconscious and enrich the subjective realm, is an uncharted territory in adult development. In this phase, one consciously surrenders one’s knowledge and returns it to the “soil” of unconscious. With enriched soil, our intuition, imagination and non-linear modes of understanding can flourish. As coaches and consultants, enabling this territory of adult development is how we can serve as a generative force in this time of ecological crisis and societal collapse.
Resonance Paradigm: Development as a Vibrational Pattern Toward Wholeness
At Resonance Path Institute, we are proposing a paradigm of adult development that embraces wholeness. We describe development as vibrational patterns between two poles. At one pole is the capacity for sense-making, while the other pole is the capacity to hold the raw, unfiltered experience of Inner Earth. While we support people to develop and refine their sense-making capacity, it is equally important to create conditions to replenish the unconscious soil and enrich the subjective experience.
The Resonance Code paradigm has a profound implication on the perceptual model through which we interact with adult development. Instead of stages, Resonance Code identifies 12 energy archetypes, each representing a vibrational pattern. Each archetype has its gifts as well as its shadows. For a more detailed presentation of this model, please refer to the original article on a holistic paradigm of adult development.
With this paradigm, the process of development no longer focuses on driving toward higher stages. Adult development becomes a continuous integration circulating among the 12 energy archetypes. It is through the deeper inter-penetration and mutual influences of the earlier and later developmental stages that one evolves toward wholeness.
This paradigm also profoundly impacts how we practice. Instead of using the model as a standard to measure and type a person’s stage, these archetypes are used like a compass to navigate the energetic field formed by the web of relations around us. Through that web of relations, we evolve toward wholeness by vibrating between the poles of sense-making and the Inner Earth in our personal development. We become an instrument to promote wholeness in the relational web we inhabit. For details about this practice, please refer to the book Resonance Code: Empower Leaders to Evolve Toward Wholeness.
Current adult developmental models are primarily formed by people from developed countries. These scholars and practitioners often do not have sufficient first-hand experience with cultures centered around what their models refer to as early developmental stages. As a result, in the existing developmental models, the “early stages” are only measured in terms of how they contribute to the sense-making capacities of a “later” stage. Their gifts and values primarily associated with vitalizing the Inner Earth were not considered in these models.
For example, Group-centric is a stage of development concentrated in the native cultural environment where I was brought up. My experience is that in the western developed world, there is a tendency to think of people at this stage as crude, primitive, and unrefined in their intellectual and individualistic expressions. This bias reflects the influence of individualism and over-extraction of the Inner Earth. The nuanced and sophisticated perceptual abilities and intelligence associated with a vital Inner Earth at this stage of development are not appreciated and valued in current Adult Development models.
If we look at the worldwide population, most of the people at these stages of development inhabit the developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Global South. They have suffered economic and social injustice for a long period of time. The people from these regions tend not to be seen or heard by the mainstream media of a developed country except through this biased view. To evolve into a global community expressing wholeness, we need to embrace the values and gifts of these nature-based peoples held within their own unique cultural, linguistic and historical worldview.
As I work with this new framework of adult development, one view that I often encounter is the following, “The world’s problems all come from the early stage consciousness, tribalism, extreme rightist, and ethno-centrism. How can you assign value to a level of consciousness that is so destructive?” Another view I encounter often is that the early stage consciousness has no somatic awareness. I see both of these views are biased due to the perceptual lens of the Industrialized Growth Society. I will responds to these views in my next blog post.