I attended a workshop with Otto Scharmer and Arawana Hayashi of the Presencing Institute at the Omega Institute. I had studied there with Otto in 2006 when he was with his colleagues and co-authors of Presencing (Peter Senge, Sue Flowers and Joseph Jaworski). His recent reports from the World Economic Forum intrigued me and I looked forward to learning about ways in which real world practice was advancing his theory.
At both the 2006 and 2014 workshops, Otto presented Theory U, a map or framework for becoming aware and sensing what is in order to cultivate innovation. With the addition of Arawana’s meditation and movement practices to the 2014 workshop it became more than theory; silently sourcing collective wisdom from our bodies and the space between us became a shared visceral experience.
Otto also offered his newest insight that the essence of the process is moving from ego- (I know this and that) to eco-consciousness (the whole wants this or that). As a meta frame for this insight he offered a broad view of economic evolution and what drives our collective perpetuation of contemporary human suffering: (1) Ecological Divide (self does not = nature); (2) Social Divide (self does not = other); and, (3) Spiritual Divide (self does not = self). He suggests that we can heal these divides by journeying through the U together.
These new insights and framing help give a broader context to Theory U as a personal-societal transformation process. At the same time, some of us found a shared discomfort with this leap from a socio-political framing of late capitalism to the personal-collective journey of the U.
After significant reflection, I believe that our small circle of doubters (notably including the only young person of color as well as queer, youth and activist women at the workshop) found each other because of a shared sensibility. We stand on a bridge from the meta to the personal-societal that is not explicit in Otto’s representation of the Theory U journey. Most simply, what we offer to healing these great divides is our visceral experience of (or even fleeting glimpses of) self = nature (home/land), self = community/other (than master), self = elders/ancestors.
I continue to wonder what more would be possible if we could be present to and explore these dualisms (self/community, connected/not connected) together. Otherwise, the journey across the Three Divides feels a bit more treacherous, especially in the context of increasing socio-economic disparity in our America.
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