What New Year Do You Want To Bring Into Being?
What New Year Do You Want to bring into being?
by Ginny Whitelaw. Originally published on Forbes.com
I had just finished writing an e-card from my husband and me to our friend, Howard. No sooner did I hit “send” than my husband’s phone started ringing. It was Howard. No, he hadn’t gotten our message yet, he was just thinking of us. A couple decides to buy an electric car and, suddenly, they start to see electric cars everywhere on the road. A graduate student halfway through writing her dissertation happens upon a journal article that describes exactly the study and outcomes she was hoping to publish; she’s been scooped. An engineering challenge circulates in the Zeitgeist for years—e.g., how to communicate at a distance, how to convey electricity—and suddenly two people come up with solutions at the same time. From the commonplace to the world changing, such examples of synchronicity are often dismissed as coincidence. Yet when we probe them for what they may be telling us about attunement and resonance, a world of leadership possibility opens up.
This is a world Joseph Jaworski pointed to years ago in his book, Synchronicity. He called it an inner path of leadership, as it could be a model for how leaders pick up anything from the vibe in a room to signals in the Zeitgeist and make stuff happen. Synchronicity is based in resonance, which, from the point of view of a receiver, is to vibrate with a present energy. Resonance is a universal underpinning to change, but is also highly specific, requiring attunement between signal and receiver (e.g., television rabbit ear antennae vibrate with VHF waves, but not gamma rays). Entering a New Year is often a time of reflection, resolution and goal-setting. What resonance and synchronicity point us toward is not what kind of year do we want it to be, but what kind of year do we want to bring into being? When we ask the question this way, we tap into our power to tune ourself as the type of antenna that can sense and conduct a future we want into the present.
Synchronicity has been easy to dismiss as coincidence as we’ve been slow to understand the science behind it, in part because science has been slow to acknowledge the role of consciousness—i.e., the observer—in what is observed. Quantum physics has known for a hundred years that observation is an energetic event; not inert, but participatory. It is the very stimulus that brings out the particle nature of what otherwise also behaves like a wave. It is the precipitating event that “collapses” a wave function of possibilities into a particular object. But this participatory role of consciousness has yet to collapse our collective belief in an objective reality.
Furthering this illusion, science has largely flattened the subjective experience of mind to the objective functioning of the brain. “Mind equals brain equals machine,” was the way one of my graduate school professors put it. While this view might have been more extreme than some, it guided neuroscience for years, including through the 1990’s as “the decade of the brain.” Even though there’s a lot more to mind than can be accounted for by brain, from the enteric nervous system to consciousness in every cell, to the energetic fields surrounding the body, the brain bias of science reinforced the subjective experience of “I” as a “little voice in the head”. If you ask someone where their mind is, that’s likely where they’ll point.
As it happened, this was the very question put to Ananda by Gautama Buddha, as recounted in the Surangama Sutra, part of the highly refined understanding of consciousness that emerged from Buddhism. Ananda senses this is a trick question, but does what most of us would do and points to his head. “That’s not your mind!” Buddha retorts, and to paraphrase further, “That’s a thief who’s stolen your identity!” Buddha goes on to show Ananda—and us—that while mind is stimulated by components within our physical body, such as eyes, ears and other sense organs, it cannot be fully localized. Indeed, there’s no essential substance there; it’s allrelationships. It’s all resonance. In this view, far from being a coincidence, synchronicity is the very sign of co-vibrating consciousness.
What, then, are we to make of this “little voice in our head” or what Buddha would call the thief who steals our identity. In the Buddhist schema, it is the 7thconsciousness, the ego, “I,” that draws identity by vibrating with consciousness in two directions. One direction is to look to the 5 senses—sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell (1st through 5th consciousness)—plus thought consciousness (6th), for which the brain is the organ. The other direction is to tap into the 8thconsciousness, called seed or storehouse consciousness, which in modern parlance would be the information associated with all the energies around us, the Zeitgeist, the quantum field. It is a storehouse in the sense of containing vast amounts of information that can be decoded by a perceptive person (i.e., a resonant antenna), for example, sensing the vibe of a relationship or an idea ready to happen. It contains information that is particular to individuals. For example, I might especially resonate with the smell of spring because my body experienced and remembers great joy from earlier springs in my life. The storehouse also contains collective information. For example, joining a new company or entering a new country, we might sense its culture, picking up on energetic signals that tell us “the way things are done around here,” which may be different from the way we’ve done them.
This 8th consciousness is also rightly called a “seed consciousness” in that it has great potential but doesn’t sprout without the right conditions. And the right conditions for sprouting are none other than a perceiving consciousness—a co-creating observer, a resonant receiver/transmitter who can turn a vibrating field into an object.
That’s where we come in. On the one hand, our sense of “I” becomes stable, even rigid, by tapping into these two directions of consciousness in habitual and deeply embodied ways. Our nervous system strengthens connections and creates filters depending on what our experience tells us is or isn’t important. On the other hand, since our moment-by-moment tapping into these fields is what’s bringing about our subjective experience and capacities in life, when we tap differently, we get a different life. This points to a much more generative mind, in line with psychiatrist, Dan Siegel’s definition, not merely as a brain, but as “an embodied, relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.”
How might we engage this mind-process in ways that regulate the flow of energy from a desired future into the present? As we think of the year ahead and the sort of year we want to bring into being, what kind of receiver/transmitter do we have to be to foster this synchronicity? Here are the two core practices that open up this limitless field of possibility.
Tune Your Whole Antenna
Your entire mind-body system is the antenna or instrument you get to work with, and the more deeply you work with breath and body, the less you’ll be confined and defined by “the little voice in your head.” Deep hara breathing is central to this tuning, as is releasing unconsciously held tension so that breath and energy can flow through the entire body. This attunement, which is the work of meditation, yoga, and other deep somatic practices, puts us more in touch with what the ”little voice” will interpret as purpose, passion and intuition. It also changes our vibration into and with the field around us. As an output, others will pick up on this stronger, smoother vibratory signal as greater centeredness, presence or calm in whatever we do. On the input side, it makes us the essential equipment for second core practice.
Sense the Field; Act on What’s Yours
Listen. Listen. Listen. The more energy we put into listening, the more we open up all channels of consciousness from the basic five senses to anything from the fields around us. A physical trick for opening up this quality of listening is to expand your gaze to 180 degrees, as if you were seeing through your ears. Recognize thought as a potentially useful sense and sense-making faculty, but not the only thing to listen to, and certainly not your whole beingness. Listen for the quality of relationships and how to strengthen or heal them. Listen for the quality of ideas and which ones resonate in you so deeply that they stir action. For our whole leadership instrument to function properly, the energy of ideas, perhaps first sensed in the head, has to resonate through the whole body, including hara, which empowers whole-body movement. When a signal stirs deep resonance in us, we could say it matches us or it’s ours. If it doesn’t get dampened out by doubt, fear or other sources of tension in our body, it rings clear through us and clear action results. Like ringing a bell and the sound springs forth, when we pick up a signal that’s ours, given a well-tuned instrument, the right action springs forth.
Being what we want to see spring forth in the New Year, or in any context, is always the dual work of this inner tuning and outward sensitivity. Once we get an inkling that Mind is everywhere and we’re also a particular antenna who experiences great joy from bringing some aspects of it into being, we’ll be encouraged in this inner and outer work and increasingly find synchronicities springing up everywhere.
Ginny Whitelaw is the Founder and CEO of the Institute for Zen Leadership.
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