Summit co-focaliser, Richard Olivier reflects on the inspiration and learnings emerging from the New Story Summit: Inspiring Pathways for our Planetary Future, held at the Findhorn Foundation and Community 27 September – 3 October 2014.
Dear fellow Summiteers,
Firstly I want to thank each and every one of you who showed up, who heard the call, accepted the invitation and gave of yourselves so fully to make the New Story Summit (NSS) the extraordinary week that it was, as well as those of you who joined us from afar by webstream and in Summit Hubs.
As the Summit continues to wash through my days, I am reminded of the old warning in fairy tales not to ‘show the gold’ too soon. This usually happens after a trip to a magical ‘upper/under/other world’ where the Quester survives their trials, works hard and is gifted with ‘gold’ but then comes back to the ‘normal’ world and tries to use it too soon (without incorporation?) only to find it has turned into sawdust. So I offer this in the spirit of a work in progress reflection – with the real learnings perhaps as yet unknown.
Over the 18 month journey towards the ‘peak’ the Core and Extended teams consulted with about 50 people around process and intentions, most of whom showed up as our extended team, invited Storytellers, workshop holders, facilitators and/or Summiteers. As ‘External / Flow Focaliser’ (Artistic Director in my day job language) it was my privilege and challenge to help shape these multi-faceted, sometimes conflicting and always fascinating inputs into a workable enough week long event.
On initial reflection what we all created (to the best of our present ability) seems to have been a meaningful and potentially transformational ‘gathering of the New Story Tribes’. An experiment in co-creating a diverse sudden learning community and an experience I will never forget. I only wish I had had the time to meet more of you but many of the team were in continual meeting mode over breaks. I hope the NSS community will continue in many myriad ways, stimulating further gatherings, projects and connections – and that I get to know at least some of you better in other places and at other times…
So, for all of that, thank you and “well done all of us!”
However, it is also true that the initial outcomes of the Summit to date have not come anywhere close to meeting the original impulse of the 40 Findhorn Fellows who dreamed this event two years ago. Then we spoke about how the necessary next steps for humanity have been known for years but the many disparate movements have not, as yet, created a coherent enough ‘New Story’ for our planetary future. Specifically we/they have failed to come up with a compelling enough narrative to meet and overcome the Mainstream resistance to contemplating a future that is not shareholder driven ‘business as usual’ continual economic growth or ‘dominator/competitor / power over’ based (among other things). And, from the initial rounds of debriefing I have been party to so far, the general sense is that whatever else was achieved during NSS, we made little progress with this.
Since I am personally convinced that without some kind of generally accepted compelling narrative of a better, fairer future, we will not be able to effectively live into it (especially in the likely time frame we have), this is no small stumbling block – which I intend to treat as an open invitation to keep looking and learning. Perhaps those of us who feel called to work on and contribute to the follow up book project can begin to create a clearer narrative out of the current ‘not knowing’?
The organising team also intended the Summit as a memorable marker in the long journey from the first people who long ago saw the dangers ahead towards the generation that lives to say; ‘we survived and now we can thrive’ – whenever that may be. A further hope was that we could co-create a ‘work-in-progress rite of passage’ towards what I would now call (thanks to Puma) ‘the story that serves’. Since in any meaningful rite of passage there are no ‘accidents’, only signs to read, symbols to dream into and learnings to find, I also deeply trust that what happened at the Summit needed to happen – however challenging and/or frustrating it was at times – and that all of us who choose, can be initiated by our experience into even more effective future, evolved, separate and collective endeavours as we pursue the crucial work of our time.
I also get that some (and maybe many) felt there was too much structure/facilitation up front. In my experience of work that attempts ‘initiation’, creating a safe space from which the journey into the unknown can depart from is key. I have been in 2 large groups that prioritised risk and chaos over safety and order as a starting point – and in both instances one of the more sensitive souls present had a psychotic breakdown, so with a large group of strangers meeting (some of whom have survived deeply traumatic past events) my inner ritual guide urged me to err on the side of too much safety than too much risk early on. AND I would absolutely shape the first 48 hours differently now. We were holding the first phase as ‘Sowing the Seeds’ with a subsidiary aim of ‘Creating the Container’- and in future I would change the priority to focus on Creating the Container and then find the right way to feel into what Seeds need to be Sown to stimulate a fertile Emergence – hoping that those who showed up at NSS as invited storytellers, would be willing in future to just show up and see what is needed.
Despite the apparent lack of progress with an overarching narrative, the other initiating intentions of Interconnection, Coherence and Acceleration seem to have found their own mysterious way to manifest by the end. The people who came made the event and I believe that the many varied connections made across NS tribes, ages and cultures will make a difference to a majority of Summiteers in the future. It happened more on bi-partisan or small group level than in the whole – but there was tangible relational glue evidenced throughout the week and especially on the last day. If an Old Story motto reads; “It’s all about the economy, stupid!” my work in progress NS motto is more like; “It’s all about the people and the planet, genius!”
The Coherence took longer than I imagined (on Thursday lunch I was ready to give it up as a lost cause, until Gigi Coyle reminded me to keep faith with what we had called in – thank you for that!). Although there was much going on that we did not see that enabled the coherence we did achieve, I would highlight the subtle magic called in through the rainbow of ritual energies invoked; The 4 directions, the Pipe ‘of all possibility’, the Sanctuary meditators and the Peace bowl, the Grief ritual healing (between colonised and coloniser tribes) and the Healing ritual of reconciliation between men and women. I have been in some powerful ritual energy fields in my life, many in the Park and in the Hall but nothing like the rich emerging ritual field co-created by so many from so many different traditions over our Summit. (In many ways I am still sifting through the ongoing resonance of all these offerings…)
The Acceleration remains to be seen in practice but I felt it arrive in intention over the last 2 days – some of the Follow up meetings, online reports from Summit Hubs and the emerging networks within the Summit all reinforced the felt pressure to ‘do something’ as a result of the cauldron we had all been cooking in. There was also positive encouragement from some Fellows and others who read the subtle realms that the invisible energies were gaining momentum too.
Another felt reward for all our collective preparatory work was the amazing diversity gathered – representing 50 nations and a huge variety of ‘new Story Tribes’; from academics to community builders , artists to economists, lawyers to ancient wisdom holders, activists to meditators, process holders to ecologists, educators to elders and ‘yelders’ – and many more besides. We did kind of get that the chance of finding any week long process that could serve all of these equally well was slim (!) and held that it was not ‘if’ there would be a revolution but ‘when’…
(If others are interested I can post a piece later that opens up the detail of the design, the process we dreamed into and the decision making behind it – in the hope that those who take the NSS impulse forward can learn from our ‘rehearsal’ and improve upon it in future.)
I have also been reflecting on some of the other varied and sometimes competing wants and needs in the room; the voices that needed to be heard maybe for the first time ever in a large group, those with important expertise carrying a big NS seed worthy of witness, as well as those who desired to enter a space for collective wisdom. Maybe all 3 are crucial stages in our conscious evolution – and potentially sequential: “Finding your Voice”, then “Expressing your Gift” and finally “Sourcing the Future”.
Stage 1 – Finding Your Voice
Every single person on the planet who seeks to become an effective member of the ‘secret world government’ will need their voice as a tool, to practice how to stand and be counted and to become confident speaking their truth. Far too many potential allies are still in thrall to an old storied hierarchy that gives a voice only to the few and not to the many; as Carl Jung said; “most of us walk around as if we are wearing shoes that are too small for us.” For many of us this is an Initiation all of itself – and it took me many years of personal development before I felt I had a voice I could call my own.
Stage 2 – Expressing Your Gift
My friend, archetypal astrologer, Laurence Hillman holds that the shift into the Aquarian age is a shift away from opposites (fishes facing different ways, science vs religion etc) and into ‘a society of sovereigns’ where the inner royalty of nature in each and every being is recognised and honoured, where we each give of what we have and trust that we will receive what we need. For most of us (geniuses excepted!) it takes a while to live into our gift and sometimes even longer to find the appropriate delivery system through which others can benefit from it. We all need to shine – and finding the time and the space to share those gifts with each other also seems crucial.
Stage 3 – Sourcing the Future
The even tougher initation! Because here we need to be prepared to give up our individual voice and our hard earned gift to really feel into what the future wants from the collective we are with. Here contributions would be radically present, speaking things never thought or felt before in service to the whole group and to the future we seek. At this stage almost everything we know before we enter the room is an enemy to the potential present in the ‘not knowing’ – and anything we want to impose from our past expertise is an inhibitor rather than a liberator.
So my take is that the Summit enabled the first 2 but only ever flirted with crossing the threshold into the third. It may be that it is impossible to get to the third while many are exploring and expressing the first two. And it may be that creating events that are more distinct for each area of felt need may be a helpful evolution of the process. My personal frustration was when those with expertise in one area decided that their area of expertise was THE solution for everyone – not trusting that an Emergent space, entered with personal responsibility, is exactly where people can find their own way. So examples might be meditators wanting everyone to meditate more, thinkers wanting more thought, process folks wanting more emotive process, storytellers wanting more stories, singers wanted everyone to sing more – and even our recently revealed ‘We Don’t Know’ disruptors apparent need to disrupt everyone!
So at one and the same time, it was all fine and what it needed to be – AND we need to create gatherings in future that live the story better.
One of our hopes is that each of the many diverse ‘Tribes’ represented at NS get inspired to follow up with a gathering of their own – maybe a ‘deep dive’ into their tribal gift – hopefully inviting some reps from other tribes to learn with them. These tribes could gather around process preference, themes, location or a mix of all – or none of these. And then, if the impulse gathers momentum, I hope some ‘big picture’ enthusiasts connect the tribal gatherings with a ‘global secret government summit’ every 2-5 years where an evolved process enables a more coherent gathering and listening than we were able to achieve during our ‘first rehearsal’.
My personal follow up interests are; helping to shape a book that seeks some evolving coherence of the story that serves, questing 21st century leadership, investigating the emerging Archetypes of our age, and creating a rite of passage initiatory process (that takes people who begin to doubt the old story into an embodied and storied experience of the new in an accelerated time frame) – and of course these all overlap!
On a more personal level it was a wonderful challenge to share this adventure with my wife Shelley – more so that I have with any other big project in my life to date – and I hope that we can all continue learning how to work in and on partnership, even when one or both partners are so immersed in ‘world work’ that relational intimacy takes a back seat for a while.
I also recognise how much I resist being ‘killed’ as a leader. When Ana Rhodes first worked with my team at work she quoted Arnie Mindel; ‘the job of a leader is to learn how to die well’. Ana modelled dying well for me during the large group process; I ducked the challenge. I need to learn how to die better!
A parting Rumi-nation:
A week full of talking that hurts,
Our biggest seeds,
Our best hopes, worst fears,
Our long held back secrets.
Everything has to do with loving and not loving.
The Summit has passed,
Now we have work to do…