Inner Transition Coordinator, Claire Milne, shares about the Cultural Emergence Leadership Training she recently participated in and the promise it holds for those of us longing to support our groups, communities, family or organisations to unleash their genius and gifts.
As I sat there alone in the woods I found myself overflowing with elated fascination. My body was thronging with the very familiar sensation of social anxiety that can make being in groups and community feel very challenging. Yet here I was grinning like a cheshire cat; brimming with joy and bursting with love. I felt like a new born baby discovering the world outside the womb for the very first time.
Having been journeying up close and personal with inherited/ historical trauma for some time now, I am used to tracking my inner experiences. This helps me become more present with strong sensations of fear and anxiety, rather than freezing up and trapping this potent energy of these emotions within my body – an ingrained reaction to fear and anxiety which caused me many years of burnout and chronic illness.
As I paid more attention to what was going on inside of me, I noticed an unfamiliar absence of stories. Usually my social anxiety latches on to myriad stories about people judging me or disliking me in some way – a product of inheriting the trauma of my mother who grew up being heavily persecuted in Communist Czechoslovakia because her family refused to join the Communist Party.
But here I was, awash with the usual cacophony of powerful bodily sensations triggered by being in a group, but instead of the fear being exacerbated by stories that back up the need to be frightened and anxious, the only stories available to me were that of the beautiful, kind, caring, compassionate Cultural Emergence participants I was surrounded by, most of whom I had only met a few days ago.
So what was so different this time? It was not new for me to be present to these strong sensations of fear and anxiety; I’ve been working on this for some years now – along with the unhelpful and exhausting coping strategies I had developed in groups to avoid feeling these strong emtotions – which I talked about in my blog ‘My name is Claire and I am in recovery from addiction to activism’.
What’s more, it was not new to be in a group like this of kind and caring people. So why on earth was I feeling so unfathomably elated and joyful and why such an absence of stories that fuel my anxiety?
I knew that Jon Young, one of the course leader’s was intentionally working with historical trauma and that his teachings were founded on nature based indigenous wisdom he had received over a period of five decades. I therefore felt more than a little hungry to understand the magic ingredients of this potent yet incredibly gentle process that seemed to be supporting each of us participants to engage in the group in the most healthy and truly collaborative way I have ever experienced.
Our course leaders, Jon Young and Looby MacNamara talked a lot about the process of Cultural Emergence unleashing our inherent gifts and genius, which these days risks sounding a little cliche – and yet this was exactly what I was experiencing at the group level. I felt incredibly excited about the potential this process held for supporting Transition groups around the world to take their work to another level.
Making sense of this transformatory group process
In my limited time of working with these teachings the sense I have made of why the Cultural Emergence process is so transformatory is based on these four aspects of the programme:
ACORN LEADERSHIP – a nature-based map, made up of ‘8 Shields’ representing archetypal dimensions of our personalities, that cultivates personal and group wholeness and collaboration. This model supported everyone in our group to experience what it is like to show up as our healthiest selves, shining our gifts, rather than slipping into the more unhealthy patterns, tendencies and behaviours we are perhaps used to in groups (and which tend to result from childhood wounding). This means I was surrounded by participants who were also showing up in their healthiest aspects and that we were all therefore much less likely to be triggered by each other’s unhealthy behaviours. This Acorn Leadership model is the most powerful tool for supporting and unleashing collaborative non-hierarchical working I have ever experienced.
NATURE IMMERSION – being immersed in nature allowed my nervous system to calm down and enter a state that supports regeneration and a sense of wellbeing and relaxation. This calm state both supports and is a pre-requisite for connection with ourselves and others and is very challenging to reach within urban environments where our nervous systems are being bombarded with stimuli that triggers our fight or flight system to kick in, or worse still, for many of us, the mal-adaptive freeze response which traps our energy and leads to both physical and mental ill health and in more extreme cases PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress ‘Disorder’).
GRIEF TENDING – this term has come to be used as a catch-all for the vital process of encouraging, welcoming and supporting us to unleash and fully embody the strong emotions we are holding. My sense was that the inclusion of a held space for unleashing strong emotions like grief prevented what is called ‘spiritual bypassing’ – which is when we try and restrict our behaviours to those we believe to be the more positive and likeable aspects of ourselves and nature without doing the work of integrating the ‘shadow’ aspects. This tends to result from repressing emotions like grief, anger, sadness and fear as well other aspects of ourselves we judge to not be welcome in the world and which we have come to believe will lead to us being rejected. Spiritual bypassing tends to result in there being a lot of ‘unsaid’ and unexpressed feelings and emotions in a group, which end up leaking, spilling or exploding out as projections onto other people and which can then get turned into stories and trigger unhealthy behaviour in others.
These three aspects, along with the core routines and principles of Cultural Emergence, created the cultural container needed to support our group to remember how to be in connection with ourselves, others and nature and in turn to unleash our individual and collective gifts and genius. Could this be the urgently needed antedote to the dis-connected, addicted and destructive culture we are currently transitioning away from?
The potential of this work to support Transition groups around the world felt more than a little exciting and I hope that in sharing my story I might inspire you to find out if a workshop is happening near you – and if not, to get in touch to explore hosting one in your local area.
So what is Cultural Emergence?
Humanity is at a time of mass cultural emergency. We see our current personal, social, political and environmental problems as stemming from a lack of cultural understanding and cohesion.
Inner Transition seeks to develop and share insights and tools for our personal and inter-personal processes which can help turn this around into mass cultural emergence; where abundance, gratitude, care, and connection are part of our everyday culture.
Emergence is a term used in systems thinking where two or more things come together with unexpected results. By bringing people together with these tools and methods we have the opportunity to ask good questions and to co-create answers and solutions and emerge the culture we want.
In July 2016 Inner Transition met Cultural Emergence: a bringing together of the nature-based indigenous teachings gathered by Jon Young’s 8 Shields Institute and design insights and techniques from Social Permaculture, shared by Looby MacNamara. This allowed for an exploration of what would emerge when these three potent strands of social and ecological justice and renewal work met in a collaborative and emergent inquiry. This ongoing collaborative process started with an incredible week long residential on some beautiful land in Herefordshire, England.
The some 25 Cultural Emergence Leaders who were trained by Jon Young and Looby MacNamara are now offering Foundation weekends across Europe and the UK. The first wave of 11 trainings are taking place between July and December 2017 and will be followed by a second wave from February to April 2017.
Hosting Cultural Emergence in your area
If you are interested in finding out more and/or hosting a Cultural Emergence Foundation training in your community/region/country then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Does this notion of Cultural Emergence resonate for you? We’d love to hear what thoughts, feelings and ideas it evokes for people around the world …
Watch this space for Claire Milne’s interview with 8 Shield’s Co-founder, Jon Young when she will find out more about the magic ingredients within his transformatory group processes.