I encountered Otto Scharmer’s work in my first semester of graduate school. Nervous— budding with unrealized potential and a fear of my own power— I stepped into Zachary Green’s class having registered only an hour before.
“You’re starting with Zachary?!” members of the cohort before me exclaimed. “And you didn’t do the reading?” Their tones were anything but comforting. Neither was his commanding presence; though, at the same time, it was.
It was in that class and with that man that I discovered the beauty of dialogue. That mindfulness became not just a new-age fad nor trend in academia, but a lived practice. That I came to glimpse my power, and with it the potential of groups of people coming together to co-create a better world.
Over time, I came to understand that the presence Zachary brought— once intimidating, now inviting— was a direct result of his belief in this potential. And through that unyielding standard, an expectation of who I and We can be, I|We came to be more fully realized in our lives and work together.
It was a year later when this ongoing pursuit gave me the opportunity to meet Scharmer himself. We sat in a circle of practitioners and I spoke to a dream of integrating Presencing with a study abroad program for students exploring themselves as change-makers. Not even a year after that, this is precisely what I found myself doing.
Now as an international educator, I feared myself sometimes forgetting the heart of this work. With a desire to remember and to more fully embody this in my practice, I registered for Scharmer’s U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self.
I just got off the Live Session to commence our global classroom. Along with some 15,000 people from 192 countries, we concluded our time with a guided meditation by Scharmer. I still have the chills thinking about it.
There I sat, on the bottom floor of the volunteer house in which I’m living in Jaipur, India; computer opened, hands resting on my legs. Eyes closed yet also wide open. Nestled in my home— my heart space— while simultaneously stretched out across a global network. A movement. A gathering of people who believe that change is possible.
And who know, or are learning, that it starts from within.
Who are seeking to understand and experience the assumption that to move from ego-system to eco-system, we must see the self-in-other. That what must end is false divisions of earth v. humans, us v. other, socialized self v. True Self (divisions of ecology, society, and spirituality as Scharmer outlined).
People who know that what longs to be born, then, is a vision of Earth|Us, I|We. That our understanding of Self is righted when viewed in the context of the ecological and social systems in which we are rooted.
And perhaps most empowering, when we then discover that we are co-creating that reality. Because just as much as we are responsible for the destruction of today’s world, we are responsible (and capable) of transforming these patterns.
My favorite quote that I caught in a tweet from tonight is from Scharmer’s description of the role of dialogue and mindfulness in this pursuit; he|I shared:
Walking away tonight, I ask myself: what do you observe of yourself?
In considering the answer, I am struck by my sensed need to begin this post with my own “beginning”, my time at SOLES. What I observe there is an experiential belief, a power I have already tasted.
What is the relevance of this? Closing my eyes to also open them, I see that it is that TheoryU is already Known. To live it is the intention and already my path. Perhaps the purpose in this course is for me to also write it.
Belief is not a missing ingredient. Practice too is evidenced in my daily life. It is speaking to the need for such a shift that is my current work.
And maybe that too is a microcosm of the work of the world….We know change is needed. We even know some of the key leverages. It is a matter of connecting those voices. Of 15,000 individuals also becoming a collective. And of that collective believing enough in the power of what they already Know to diligently speak to it. To be a commanding presence that holds ourselves to unwavering standards.
For it is in these unyielding expectations that we will find ourselves capable, and alive. It is in attending to this vision that we will transform the world.