By Spring Cheng for Enlivening Edge Magazine
When I encounter the question “Does Evolutionary Purpose exist?” I am not as much interested in a yes/no answer as I am curious about the perspective through which the questioner defines “existence,” a concept so fundamental to our sense of reality and how we engage with reality.
Frederic Laloux, in his response to an article questioning the existence of Evolutionary Purpose, points to a “soft” kind of existence, beyond the realm of the conventional reality. He wrote, “Almost all artists, writers, inventors, and company founders say at some point that they feel that their inspiration wasn’t theirs, but came to them. As if the inspiration chose them.” He went on and described that “so many founders talk about their company as their baby or their child.”
Following this analogy, if we contemplate the pregnancy stage of a child, whether this child exists or not would very much depend whether we choose to answer the question from the perspective of the mother or the father, each offering a distinct and yet complementary way of relating with the child.
My cousin and his wife, who share the same household with me, are expecting their first baby in several months. The mom’s belly is getting bigger every day. The expecting mom developed a habitual gesture of gently rubbing her belly especially when she senses the fetus is moving inside. She is intimately connected with this invisible creature attached and inseparable to her womb. The dad often casts an affectionate and yet somewhat envious look at his wife’s belly. His growing love toward his son is palpable, yet he cannot physically sense the baby like his wife does.
While for the mom, the baby is as real as her own flesh, for the dad, the baby is much more a concept than a physical reality. Without the knowledge and technology of medicine, the dad does not have any means to verify a fetus’ existence with his own faculties of perception. During pregnancy, the usual difference between the masculine and feminine experience of life really becomes magnified. Both sides are challenged to face the furthest, unreachable unknown in the other side of the chasm.
Our planet is pregnant with a new frequency of human consciousness. We are among the few fortunate generations who will witness and participate in this planetary pregnancy and birthing. Our life is bracketed within a unique window of time when the old versions of feminine and masculine perspectives of reality are embroiled in their last struggles, out of which new archetypes of feminine and masculine, and their relationship, are emerging.
We are asked to create new templates of Mothering and Fathering, through conceiving, birthing, and bringing up our “creative child”: the kind of social enterprises needed to meet the challenge of this evolution. Regardless of our gender, each of us is being stretched beyond our limitation to embody both the roles of mother and father for our creative process.
We are asked to become adaptive to switching between two different modes of relating and engaging our creative process. Laloux talked about the switch from the paradigm of “predict and control” to “sense and respond.” While “predict and control” exercises our rational mind, “sense and respond” activates our sensing-feeling-self. Our rational mind and our sensing-feeling-self represent our inherent masculine and feminine capacities. However, I feel few people appreciate to the fullest extent how profound that switch is to our essence of being and ways we engage with our work.
The first and biggest obstacle we often encounter is a firmly-rooted denial of how atrophied or impaired our ability to sense and feel is, in respect to its full, glorious potential. We are programmed to deny that impairment because the shock of facing the scope of the loss of our sensing-feeling ability, to ourselves and to humanity, is almost too painful to bear.
In his article The First Step to Teal is Grief, Chris Clark, a Teal mentor, wrote,
“Some interior part of me – the part capable of sensing my purpose –lay dormant. Maybe it was dead. Or maybe the desire for meaning and purpose in my life was simply a vestigial trait of the human psyche, useless in today’s world, necessarily amputated by modern life and now merely aching, like a phantom limb.”
Chris was describing his experience of getting in touch with his sensing-feeling-Self, when he was being guided by Joe Shirley, my partner and co-founder of Resonance Path Institute, through a process called Feelingwork.
Like Chris, mediated by Feelingwork, I also have ventured to the edge of that phantom limb of human psyche and peeked into the edge of the gaping wound of the planet. I was engulfed by grief of tsunami size that dwarfed my ego, grief not just for myself but for our collective humanity, grief that completely shattered the castle of my rational mind, well-built and fortified through a career of scientific training and conditioning.
The rise of modern science started with beating our senses to the ground. When science proved, contrary to what our senses reported, that the sun does not go around the earth and that the earth is not flat, humanity left the era when we relied on our senses as the matriarch of human agency.
Rational mind, the new commander-in-chief, started to build its empire as the story of modern civilization unfolded. For most of us, the full potential of our senses and feelings has largely fallen into a thick slumber in its confinement in the basement of our awareness, rarely given the space to exercise its full agency, or the authority to make critical decisions.
Long gone is the day when whether we could survive a close encounter with a tiger in the jungle hinged on our precise ability to sense the tiger’s intention and feel the subtle change in its movement, when whether we could safely return home from an open sea expedition hinged on our exquisite capacity to sense the currents and feel the change of weather. In modern civilization, only a mere shadow of that sensing-feeling-Self still exists and operates in the modern mansion of our consciousness, and only as a servant to meet our most basic needs, or a maiden to entertain and please the master, the rational mind.
The truth is without a healthy sensing-feeling-self, our masculine rational mind is impaired just as much as our sensing-feeling-self.
In suppressing our sensing-feeling-self, the rational mind is also suppressing its own full potentials. The primary manifestation of the impairment of our rational mind is that it has turned into a neurotic tyrant, fearing and denigrating the feminine counterpart. Just imagine the amount of negative connotation associated with the quality of “irrational,” compared to the relatively neutral tone associated with qualities such as “unfeeling” or “un-sensing.” This is one indication of how biased our culture is in its attitude towards rational mind and sensing-feeling-capacity.
It is certainly a positive sign of maturation when our rational mind learns to be a benevolent master, calling out our sensing-feeling-self to ask for advice. However, what would we expect in that situation? If a limb has atrophied without being properly used, do we expect it to suddenly function when we put weight on it? Can we expect an abused woman or a person from an oppressed social class to suddenly step into their power just because we allow them to speak?
A person conditioned in a systemically subjugated role mostly like will either subconsciously imitate, please, or reactively rebel against the master, or hide her true perspective if her perspective is against the master’s will. Just because we can turn on our sensing and feeling faculty, that does not automatically undo the generational imprint from the systematic imbalance between our rational self and sensing-feeling-self.
If we truly are committed to bringing alive the Teal organizational operating mode of sense and respond, our rational mind needs to give up its privileged seat of authority. We need to give ourselves ample space to restore the full capacity of our sensing-feeling-Self, to make mistakes while the restored capacity experiments with new levels of responsibility and authority, and thus to re-integrate itself with our rational mind. At certain points, we also need to de-throne the authority position of the rational mind, and re-train it to be a co-creative partner. It is no small task!
Carl Jung once said, “What we reject from Self appears in the world as an event.” If we ever wonder why our organization’s stated Evolutionary Purpose, so well-constructed, beautifully fitting to our theories, with potentials to bring wonderful gifts to the humanity, just does not take off from the ground; if we ever wonder why our efforts are always thwarted by unexpected “interruptions,” such as uncooperative collaborators, annoying health problems, the chaos and frustration of self-management, I propose that we do not quickly conclude that the Evolutionary Purpose does not exist, or is unworthy of our trust.
Instead, we can take an honest and hard look at our connection to Evolutionary Purpose, through our sensing and feeling faculty, the umbilical cord through which our Inner Mother can pump the nutrients of our passion and hard work into the growing fetus of our vision. We can ask what is needed to heal and restore it to its fuller capacity.
I am proposing this perspective not because I can prove its theoretical validity. I am proposing this as a choice of perspective that we can experiment with. And yes, I am calling out the Inner Mother in you too, my male friends and colleagues.
Back to the expecting couple. The dad, riding on his excitement after seeing the first ultrasound image of his son, went ahead and set up a Facebook page, and registered a Gmail account for the baby. I figure that is his way of staying connected with the baby. Now this child already has a virtual presence in cyberspace before his physical presence graces the world! And yet, will this baby inhabit the virtual identity his dad constructs for him? Maybe he will and maybe he won’t. Maybe he will not like Facebook. Maybe by the time he starts to interact with friends, Gmail will be an outdated communication platform.
I often see Evolutionary Purpose posted as a black-and-white statement on a website. I think it is a great practice to articulate Evolutionary Purpose in the verbal space. But words alone do not anchor our sensing and feeling sufficiently. The statement by which we put words to Evolutionary Purpose serves as a virtual copy of the “child.” While the statement engages our rational mind, our focus of attention should be given back to ourselves as the mom, her sensing-feeling-Self, and her connection with the child.
In practice, this means to develop methods and processes to build emotional, sensory or kinesthetic connection with our organization’s Evolutionary Purpose, independent of our intellectual interpretation. Through these practices, we may loosen our ideas of what the mind wants the Evolutionary Purpose to be, and observe and tend to how it wants to unfold through its own trajectory.
Its liveliness is watered by the flow of real life events. Its growth is incremental, only perceptible when we look back in time. Its learning and adaptation are catalyzed by the tensions of daily grind in the life of an organization. Its potential is contained in the subtle inter-personal conflicts and difficult political dynamics.
At this point, one question is demanding an answer: “What about the Fathering of Evolutionary Purpose?” With an unhealthy masculine rational mind, most likely we will be fathering the organization’s Evolutionary Purpose from an atrophied rational mindset too. What will fathering of Evolutionary Purpose look like in a healthy paradigm? In my encounter with feminist-oriented literature and social movement, I feel that there has been a great deal of emphasis on the damaging effect of patriarchy on the feminine, but not enough recognition of the damaging effect on the masculine. For further exploration of this topic, please stay tuned for the sequel of this article, The Fathering of Evolutionary Purpose, or contact the author for a conversation!
Spring Cheng is the co-founder of Resonance Path Institute, a non-profit organization based in Seattle that pioneers research and practice to restore the sensing-feeling-Self to serve the emergence of collective consciousness and wholesome social organizations. She and her collaborators are experimenting with practices guided by the vision that the “energetic body” of Evolutionary Purpose is embedded within a womb: the relational space of the organization. For further conversation, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.