The first note that I made to myself just before this intensive started said “Sacred leadership creates the energetic, relational and material containers for spirit to do its work”. One of the last notes I made as Dr Will Taegel summarised the week was his suggestion that sacred leadership could be about letting the eco-field come through us, what I noted as “leading from the field”. My sense is that where the latter interpretation focuses on a surrender to the field and letting it work through us, the former suggests a co-creative role of the leader with the field. I believe that we are being called on as co-creators, and that our ability to contribute appropriately is dependent on our capacity for listening to the field. It is a yin-yang dance between surrender and creation. In fact, this very dynamic tension plays out in writing a paper like this, and a PhD dissertation, in which I as the author look to ground my position in existing published knowledge, whilst at the same time adding my own creative impulse and new ideas. In this paper I will explore the different qualities of sacred leadership that could enable this sensitivity and co-creativity to be present in a leader today.
Given the importance of the “field” to our understanding of sacred leadership, it is worth spending some time defining what is meant by that. In Wild Heart, Dr Will Taegel (2010) describes what he calls an eco-field:
I define an eco-field as that region of influence which underlies a given ecology, a specific locale. The various eco-fields emerge out of a more profound field, itself emergent from the Primordial Mind. Within the specific environment energy, exchanges occur in such a manner as to encourage the resilience and evolution of the intertwined parts making up the greater whole. (p. 10)
Rupert Sheldrake (1981) describes what he calls morphogenetic fields as energetic fields which hold memories from the past creating patterns which influence probability in the present and future, relating to collectives (eg species of plants and animals, or groupings of people). These fields “are responsible for the characteristic form and organization of systems at all levels of complexity” and “affect subsequent similar systems by a cumulative influence that acts across both space and time” (p. 3).
The difference between Sheldrake and Taegel’s fields is that eco-fields relate to specific physical locations whereas morphogenetic fields relate to collectives of organisms. They both hold memory of the past and literally in-form the present and future.
Alongside this sense of a field as something that holds memory and patterns that inform where we are and where we are going, there exists a pull from the future, the creative impulse of eros, the meaningful movement of telos towards oneness. An energetic field is a dynamic combination of existing patterns and movement towards uniqueness in wholeness (The Kybalion, 60-61). When we tune in to a field we can access both: existing knowledge and inspiration for taking the next steps into new territory.
Presencing Qualities of Sacred Leadership
I start with a description of the qualities that enable us to be present with the field and be guided by it. Later on I will look at qualities for co-creation.
“Can you coax your mind from its wandering / and keep to the original oneness?” the Tao te Ching asks (Lao Tzu, 1999). This points to the place of inner stillness from which we can access field intelligence. The field is a field of potential energy, as described in quantum physics. The moment that we try to observe this “quantum” field with our cognitive mind, we bring it out of the potential wave form into coherent wave form, meaning that we can never actually access the quantum potential state with our cognition (Talbot 1991). This is why we need to still our analytical mind and light up our more intuitive senses to be able to access this field (Andeweg 2009). The Tao te Ching is essentially a guide to that state of being.
This concept has been popularised in the world of organisational development in recent years by the work of Joseph Jaworski, Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer and Betty Sue Flowers, as what they call “presencing” (Senge et al, 2004). It is what Scharmer calls the “blind spot of leadership”, that ability to find inner stillness and deep knowing that guides us to take wise and better informed decisions.
In Ervin Laszlo’s understanding of what he calls the Akashic Field (Laszlo 2004), there is a field that holds all the information that has ever existed and will ever exist. We can access any knowledge we want by attuning ourselves to this field and asking clearly what we want to know. To do this however requires that we activate our intuitive dimension and quiet our rational mind.
The rational mind does have a role in working with information gathered from an energetic field. Information from a field can come to us in many different forms. Sometimes in words, but also in images, feelings or other sensations. Each individual needs to work out what their energetic language is, and what different sensations actually tell us. This is where the rational mind comes in. Energy has many different qualities and functions, and to be able to interpret, communicate about and work with energy, we need to be able to discern those diverse qualities. Working with a shared conceptual framework of energetic terms, such as that developed by Hans Andeweg in his ECOtherapy practice (Andeweg 2009), enables us to work together in the energetic domain, exchanging our experiences and drawing conclusions.
The important thing is that we first access the sensation through our intuitive abilities and only after that engage our analytical mind to discern, translate and communicate what we have experienced. This was one of the main lessons learned by Dr Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne in their 28 years of Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (Jahn & Dunne 2005). They emphasised how important it was to apply their analytical filters only after all the subjective intuitive data had been completely relayed.
Co-Creative Qualities of Sacred Leadership
One of the risks, as we rebound from a strongly yang-oriented culture, is that we take refuge in the yin-based receptive mode of purely being followers of the field. We surrender our agency in a reassuring belief that all is one and that I actually don’t need to do anything as I will be moved by the life process itself. While this is true at one level, it has embedded within in a separation – that of myself and that unifying life force. In this belief, we abdicate our calling and responsibilities as co-creative beings who are ourselves the life force, who are made “in the image of God” to live and co-create as powerful expressions of life and spirit that is all but static. It is in fact, ex-static.
This is the world that came alive in the Sacred Leadership intensive when we stepped out of the theory and models into the life experience itself. It showed up in the stories of the four female priests as they grappled with their leadership in the faith communities. It showed up in the four female leaders of consciousness-based communities, who shared their journeys of negotiating collective co-creation processes within a container that could hold and channel spirit. It showed up in our experiences at Enchanted Rock, where we were literally moved by the energy of that place and its eco-field, moved in the way that we were ready for at that time in each of our journeys. It showed up in the Integrative Decision Making process that I facilitated with the emerging student voice. These examples were all about life and life experiences. In them is the erotic energy of co-creation, of telos as we seek our way towards greater unity.
As I write this I become aware of how much more writing this section feeds me, how resonant I am with the creative, impulsive energy. And yet there was something reassuring about writing the previous section with its continual references to existing sources. I notice that it is going to take discipline from me to embrace that side of this PhD journey, rather than just allow a free flow of creative thought to emerge as I have done in my previous two books (Merry 2009 and 2012).
During the intensive we were also exposed by Dr Calen Rayne to the Phurbas, artefacts and entities with resonance to an ancient field. They can help us to both access information from the field and also contribute to its development, by for example cleaning out blocked energies or connecting up different fields with each other.
Working with attention and intention is one of the main ways we can co-create with life. The formative force of life, the force that shapes our material reality, comes out of a process of giving something attention from our heart and bringing in creative intention from our higher mind (Andeweg 2009). Sacred Leadership also involves working with the field in this way. As a leader, if we are sensing well from the field, then we also have an intuition about which general direction our community is destined to go in its journey to contribute the piece of the puzzle that it holds. With that general direction in mind, we can co-create with life to bring it into form, through the conscious use of intention.
In his most recent work, Scheppend Leven (Andeweg 2011, 272-280), Hans Andeweg names ten principles for leading an organisation or looking after a piece of land in resonance with the energetic architecture of that system (my translation and interpretation):
- Alignment – being sure that you are the one who is holding the leadership of the system that you want to work with
- Inner peace – finding the quiet space inside to connect to the field with our intuitive senses
- Consciousness of the whole – having your awareness on all the different parts of the system that you are leading
- Feeling for what is going on – a heart-felt connection to the experiences of the people and other life forms in your system
- Holding in the light and Tonglen – a practice of holding your system in the light of love in your heart, including any pain that may be present
- Affirming goals and visualiation – paying regular attention to your goals, and visualising their realisation
- Subject matter expertise – knowing about the content of what is being worked on in your system
- Working with the energetic rhythms of time – understanding and working with energetic time (such as that described in sacred calendars like that of the Maya, or other fractal systems such as the Elliott timewave)
- Transforming past blockages – being aware of what traumas from the past may be holding the system back from manifesting its purpose and releasing the energy that is held there
- Being present with the joy of life – don’t take yourself too seriously…
A final area to explore in the co-creative qualities is that of working with tensions and seeming polarities. As we saw during the practice of Integrative Decision Making during the intensive, the field shows itself to us through creative tensions. As the intention that we hold as leaders for our system meets the current reality, tensions emerge that invite us towards greater wholeness and coherence. Those tensions can be in the field of relationships between the people in our systems, or around material issues. I like to think of these three architectures in our living systems:
As we start to align ourselves with the energetic field, our relational and material architectures are called to come into resonance with that field. That is likely to create tensions in our organisational systems which we need to learn to work creatively with. The practice of Integrative Decision Making is one example of how we can treat tensions as information from the field, and work with that information in such a way that it can be of greatest service to the organisational entity that we are leading.
This is an ongoing process of letting go and letting come, or hospicing and midwiving, as so beautifully illustrated by Teresa Collins during her talk at the intensive. This dynamic manifests from every second as moment passes to moment through to great eras as one era emerges, stabilises then fades, to be replaced by another. Given the nature of the planetary transition that we are in at the moment, the ability for a leader to be able to work creatively with this process is critical. The rate of change is speeding up exponentially and the issues are converging in a way that we have never experienced before (Merry 2012). Leadership at this time is essentially about negotiating this inner and outer transition.
A leader today is being challenged to release everything we thought we knew in our cognitive minds and open up to what is wanting to emerge, day to day and moment to moment. We are being shown the limits to our rational knowing as it is too fixed and linear for the kind of non-linear change dynamic we are in. It is actually an evolutionary imperative for our species (and that of many others who we impact) that leaders today develop the qualities and competencies that enable us to tune into the energetic fields of our systems and places, and from that place to release the co-creative life force that surges through our veins in a co-creative dance with the life of this earth and universe that we are. That, I believe, is Sacred Leadership.
Andeweg, H (2009). In Resonance with Nature. Edinburgh, Floris Books
Andeweg, H (2011). Scheppend Leven. Cothen, Juwelenschip
Jahn, B & Dunne B (2005). A Conversation with Jahn and Dunne. On The Pear Proposition [DVD/CD]. Oakland: StripMindMedia
Lao Tzu (1999). Tao Te Ching. (Mitchell, S, Trans.). London, Frances Lincoln Limited
Laszlo, E (2004). Science and the Akashic Field. Vermont, Inner Traditions
Merry, P (2009). Evolutionary Leadership. Pacific Grove, Integral Publishers
Merry, P (2012). The Pain and the Promise. Pacific Grove, Integral Publishers
Senge et al (2004). Presence. Cambridge USA, Society for Organizational Learning
Sheldrake, R (1981). Morphic Resonance (4th Ed.). Vermont, Park Street Press
Taegel, W (2010). The Sacred Council of Your Wild Heart. Wimberley, 2nd Tier Publishing
Talbot, M (1991). The Holographic Universe. London, HarperCollins Publishers
The Three Initiates (2006). The Kybalion. UK, Filiquarian Publishing, LLC