I got a very interesting Birthday Party invitation the other day. Erik set out a Pingg invite that started with the following:
You are invited to join a remarkable group of friends, creatives, and critical thinkers for a Sunday afternoon birthday gathering. We will tackle the question: What is a well-lived life? …What does it look like? How is it lived?
Not a bad idea for a birthday party right?
Erik is a friend I know from FLOW meetings. He has recently started a new venture called DoubleHappiness an offshoot of which is GoodMeet. Basically, Erik is a creative consultant who works with customers to create events that stir the pot, add ingredients and hopefully help to create new recipes. This includes ideation, problem solving, focus group facilitation, brainstorming, interactive events etc. Goodmeet is the meeting arm of this company which focuses on creating functional and enjoyable meetings of all kinds.
Erik’s birthday played with the Open Space Technology format to facilitate a group of strangers and friends to come together and, with relatively little instruction, self organe a series of activities focused on a particular topic. In this case, What is a Life Well Lived???
Each of the 14 attendees was asked to come prepared to faciliate a session (or three); speech, workshop, panel, activity, debate, pretty much anything on topic and within the space and technology provided. We each wrote a title for our session(s) on a piece of paper and then stuck this paper somewhere on a time line for the day. We each then signed up for sessions that interested us. From that point we simply self organized, usually into two groups, and tackled a couple of sessions at a time. There was a discussion on Entrepreneurship as Personal Growth, a debate on whether or not we should institute a draft, a meditation on love and happiness, Psychochronometry: the effects of aging on the perception of time, coloring, cake decorating, Creative Consumption, something called Bip Bop Pow and the Theory of Interdependence and a bunch of others that I am forgetting and/or we did not get to. I posed the question ‘Is There Danger?’ and we spent a few minutes discussing what danger is, how it is different for each of us and ways in which some of us may enjoy or feel a need for it.
There was a card game designed to put us in touch with our core values and intentions that involved everyone in the group writing human values on a large piece of paper, then each of us picking 15 of these to put on individual cards. Then, through a few rounds of ranking and elimination we eventually ended up with 5 cards. We then flipped these cards over and wrote a little something on the back. Mine ended up somewhat poetically. And thanks to a kickass and completely FREE image manipulation program I just found called GIMP you can see the front and back below (corrected for legibility).
So, I won’t say that we came up with an answer. But I will say that I think all involved enjoyed the exploration. We came together, many of us as strangers, and left significantly closer due to a well organized and incredibly free flowing 4 hours that were able to be exactly what we all wanted and needed them to. No more, no less. As the guidelines professed:
- Whoever comes are the right people
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
- Whenever it starts is the right time.
- When it is over, it is over.
I look forward to seeing what Erik will be up to in the future. I, unfortunately, missed last nights Live Arts Collaboration Salon organized by Allison, another B-Day attendee, where he and 4 other artists from different disciplines met to each give a 20 minute presentation of their work and process with the hope of creating collaboration, conversation and connection. Check out The Performance Project @ University Settlement for more info. This is something I’d actually love to do in the future (future meaning after The Emergence album has been released).
Last night I went to a fundraiser for the Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) (GEEO.org). GEEO is a great new non-profit that my Integral Geek-up friend Zach is the legal council for and also on the board of. GEEO’s mission is to facilitate travel for educators. The idea is to break down the walls of isolation and ignorance that stand in the way of us (Americans) interacting compassionately with the rest of the world by exposing as many as poosible to the wonders of travel. This mean helping teachers to see the world, but also helping them to bring these experiences back to the classroom. They have presentations and lesson plans that they hand to teachers upon their return to the classroom that makes it as easy as possible for them to share their experiences (and hopefully their new found appreciation for travel) with their class. They really did a great job of making it clear just how many students a teacher can impact in their career and just what the ramifications of instilling a positive outlook on travel in them could mean for the world.
But they will not turn a profit.
They actually had us there to ask for donations (at a fundraiser! go figure). They made it quite clear that they expected the fund raising, grant writng, and other means of outside support to not only continue, but actually grow as the ‘business’ does.
Tonight I was at a FLOW (flowidealism.org) meeting. As I’ve said before. FLOW intends to help people engage in business in an effort to have a positive impact on the world. The idea here is to stop demonizing corporations, to stop making anyone the enemy, and to start creating a space for entrepreneurs to be do gooders; for making a living and making the world to go hand in hand.
Why do we assume that socially conscious endeavors should not turn a profit? Can’t they at least be self sustaining?
Isn’t there an amazing amount of waste, shame, and resentment in this fruitless shuffling of money between those endeavors which ‘support’ us and those which ‘nurture’ us. What’s the difference? Why the artificial separation? It is artificial. There is no reason that I am aware of that the two must be fundamentally separate.
I realize that this is a bit of a foreign idea to many. The dominant economic paradigm does seem to dictate that cut throat behavior is the means to an end if your end is to include a profit. But why is that? Is this not merely a short-sighted and ultimately unsustainable perspective? I think the state of the world today makes it obvious that this is true. You can only reap more than you sow for short periods of time. It is in everyone’s best interest(to be profitable and nurture others) to keep the ground fertile and healthy.
So what is the solution?
We must break down these barriers between sustainability in finances, sustainability of spirit and sustainability in nature(Triple Bottom Line). And not only do I think that this is possible and ultimately even required, people are already doing it. One of the tasks that decided to take on tonight as the NYC chapter of FLOW is to begin the documentation process of some of the stories of the people in our group who are already doing this.
Our group attracts amazing people with remarkable stories of looking at the world through compassionate eyes, recognizing need and moving forward with a profitable solution that does its best to benefit as many as possible at each step of the way in the business. No one has it perfect of course, but amazing strides are being made and it is quite clear that with each new endeavor there is a little less figuring out for everyone else.
I think that these ideas are already making their way through the consciousness of the populace at large. Hopefully we at FLOW will find ways to both speed up the process of making more people aware of these possibilities and also make it easier for those who are already undertaking such tasks.
Definitely more to come….
This past Monday John Mackey came to our NYC FLOW meeting at Susan’s home. A group of 15-20 of us sat down with John to discuss the state of conscious capitalism in the world and our potential to be the change we feel is needed.
For a while now I have been attending FLOW meetings (http://www.flowidealism.org). FLOW is a group that was started by John Mackey (CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods) and innovative educator Michael Strong. FLOW’s goal is ‘liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good’. The idea here, as I understand it, is that we are changing the world with our businesses. Often times business is seen as the enemy. I would call this a short sited and potentially disastrous stance to take. At the very least this view is partial. The FLOW perspectice recognizes the impact that business has on the world as a potential for good, all that is needed is a desire to increase the degree of consciousness in our actions. Small steps are better than no steps, and the number of steps that some have already taken is heartening to say the least.
At this meeting there was a woman who is a ‘joyologist’, her Buddhist monk turned Objectivist husband, Frankie, who is starting surf camps in third world countries, Adam, the ideation guru I spoke of earlier, Amy, a music therapist, Zak, co-founder of Kripali Organics (sold at Whole Foods), educators, Integral geeks, Keith our resident Futurist and a number of other brilliant and caring people. (I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing there too)
If we are going to turn this great ship around it seems apparent to me that those with power must have our best interests at heart and also that those with our best interests at heart should have some power. I see myself as part of the well intentioned who is trying to figure out his influence on this hunk of rock. Part of what I am looking for in FLOW is inspiration through example from the people I have mentioned above, especially John.
John is a surprisingly beautiful human being. He spoke often of the need for each of us to ‘follow our heart song’ and said that he is not special other than perhaps for the fact that he is good at seeing the beauty in others. He struck me as a deeply spiritual man who truly holds the worlds best interest in his heart and mind as often as possible. He spoke briefly about thost who criticize him (and Whole Foods) for not doing enough to save the world. He said that he some times feels as if he is out in the jungle, swinging a machete, creating a road one chop at a time when from behind someone comes driving up in their SUV with the AC blasting saying ‘What? That’s it? That’s as far as the road goes?!” It reminded me of people beating up on Bono for his efforts. Sure, there’s more to do and there are things that they do wrong, but what the hell am I doing? Why aren’t people picking on me more?
John said at the end of the night that he would like to schedule his future trips to NYC around our FLOW meetings. He said quite clearly that he is not a leader of this movement (FLOW), he is a co-creator. He also made it quite clear at a number of times throughout the night that he had no interest in telling us how to create change in the world as FLOW. He seemed to have an unwavering confidence in us to be the change that any given situation calls for. I beginning to feel that way myself.
Ceremony #1 – 60ml
Intention – Right livelihood.
How can I best use my gifts to be of service to others?
Part of Sylvia’s intention for the first ceremony is to figure out the proper dose for each of us. To that end (and because I didn’t take boost ups) this was my easiest experience. They got more interesting, more intense each time.
After drinking the oh so tasty beverage I return to my mat and sit in a meditative posture on the cushion. I keep my eyes open and maintain my presence in the room. I am calm and breathing deeply. I work with channeling my breath down through my chest, into my stomach, through my pelvis and then back up through my spine and out my head. At 40-45 minutes I begin to feel an intense energy moving throughout my system. It is looking for a place settle and its efforts are somewhat uncomfortable. I sit with it for 20-40 minutes and once I feel that it has been somewhat pacified I lie down on my back and relax surrendering to what may come.
In thinking of possible career paths one thing that I am dealing with is the power of corporations in this world. It seems clear to me that much of the movement that is happening, for better or worse, is being driven by companies. I do not in any way wish to support the demonization of commerce that so many seem so eager to scream about. I think that economics is a driving force in the world and I want to help those in power to cultivate a more conscious awareness of their actions so that they will feel compelled to make the most compassionate choices. An underlying faith in human decency is implicit in this desire. I blame ignorance, not evil and I recognize my ability to help others become increasingly conscious as one of my gifts and responsibilities to the world. To this end I have been attending FLOW (plug) NYC meetings recently. This is a group that works towards ‘liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good’.
One of my questions has been whether it makes the most sense to work directly with adults that are already in power, or if I could be more effective working with children who are still developing and will one day have more power. Obviously there is less inertia in children that must be combated, but also less ability to see the bigger pictures. There often seems to be more eagerness for transformation in kids, as this is inherent in growing up, but there is also a longer period of time between when the ideas will be understood, the consciousness awakened, and when they will be having a large scale impact on the world.
I have been trapped in this either or thinking for quite some time, attempting to figure out if I should be studying business or education. If I should be positioning myself in the corporate world or in schools and the questions of what type of infrastructure I should be considering creating has been wrestling with new schools or adult education/coaching centers.
The other powerful peace of my life that I have been consistently sidelining in this process has been music. I am currently working with David on not only developing curriculum for his Integral Judaism class, but also on writing an album that is reaching out to the world in an attempt to make the struggles and the joys that we experience day to day a little bit more of a shared experience. I have always had enormous respect for music’s ability to transcend boundaries of all kinds.
Another constant concern of mine has been creating community. There are many people in this world whom I have grown to love who I want and need to have around me on a consistent basis. Attempting to find ways in which we can both work and play together is difficult, but seems necessary to me. I want loved ones not only near, but involved in some of the ways in which I intend to nurture the world. They have much to give both to me and to those who I hope to be working with.
In this ceremony I had a vision of creating an ideation experience with Adam Henson. Adam works with large corporations to help them create ideas for new products, projects, campaigns, images etc. The vision that I spent much of the night cultivating was one of an experience that we could create for business leaders and their children. The idea would be to use music to connect these (probably mostly) men to their children and to the environment through sound, touch and food. The day might begin with a bit of a concert played by David and I and perhaps our band. This would simply be a chance for shared experience, for adults to be with their kids, to enjoy music together and hopefully to get a little bit excited about the energy that it contains.
Next we would begin to work with some of the mantra’s that we have been writing. This would be when we would get everyone involved. These are very simple and repetitive songs intended to induce a state experience. Each family (I think that the spouse, who likely tends to spend more time at home with the children, would not be with us) would be provided with instruments, hand drums and perhaps guitars or other melodic instruments, to play. They would now be encouraged to play along with the very simple and slow groove that we would be establishing on stage. My friend Amy, who is a music therapist and spends her time working with children helping them to express themselves through sound would be working the room with her staff. They would be encouraging everyone to get involved, to make sound however simple or complex. Those who have some training on an instrument would be welcome to show off, to share their skills with solos or other flourishes, but the main thrust would be parent and child communicating, connecting through music. I want each family to leave this event with a shared experience of the power of music to connect people physically, emotionally and spiritually. An experience and perhaps insight that will follow them home and be with them in the future each and every time that they hear music. We would send them home with CD’s and I expect that at least the children would be excited to play along again at home.
It must not be forgotten that the point of this experience is to free creative juices in powerful corporate executives, energies that will be used when creating new products for the world. We want these creative energies to be cultivated and also to be as aware as possible of their connection to the generations that are to follow.
I also envisioned my friend Antoinette to be on site with her staff. Antoinette is a healer. She works with massage, reiki and in many subtle ways to help people feel healthy and to free the energies that they may be trapping in their bodies. She is also in training to become a midwife. She is a goddess, feminine energy manifest in its most potent and nurturing form. I envisioned her to be in the room in two ways. Explicitly she would be there as a healer. Should be making the rounds as a hands on and off healer, cultivating the exchange of energy within each participant, but also between parent and child. There is certainly much healing and much growth to be done on many levels between parent and child and making this both possible and enjoyable is one of her gifts.
Implicitly (for now) Antoinette works with the process of bringing new life into the world. I would not have her explain to the crowd where babies come from, but as the mother, as a goddess, it is her nature to cultivate the energy of nurturing embrace, of creative birth in each of us. It is this understanding that she would carry with her and share with others as she and her staff move throughout the room working as healers.
I envisioned working with some other friends to connect participants to the earth through eating and learning about raw, organic food and by bringing plants into the room or by going outside for a walk. Too many details to figure out now.
I also realized what the little girl on the plane on the way to Brazil may have been experiencing. She was on a plane with her mother and they were on their way to Uruguay to visit their family. Where was her father? In light of these thoughts and thinking about just how much she seemed to be attracted to me and eager to engage me. I am now thinking that she probably does not have her father in her life as much as she needs; perhaps not at all. I feel as if I was temporarily filling this role, even if only in a superficial and playful way. When it came time for us to watch our separate movies or to eventually go to sleep I probably did not communicate this to her in a useful way. The language barrier was one thing, but I am left wondering if I could have somehow helped her to get to sleep and if in doing so helped her to avoid feeling abandoned by me when I did my best to ignore her so that I could try and sleep. It seemed then as if her lashing out with her feet and screams at me was an attempt to re-engage me. To draw me back into her world and out of my self absorbed sleep.
Often times we awaken too late for one thing, but it allows us to be more present to the next.