In Part 1 I wrote about the main ideas and themes that underlie the Commons. I ended by saying there was something more there.
This is that “something more,” the buried gold there in the “we-spaces” just waiting our attention.
And it has been buried. It’s “buriedness” is a measure of its potency. Our group gatherings and the conversations within them have a hidden potential that we don’t discuss or acknowledge and in fact are almost entirely unaware of. We notice some of the offshoots and trappings of this purpose, but we don’t see the thing itself. It’s unnoticed because ever present – like water for fishes.
So what’s this hidden thing?
It hides behind the overt purpose of a group or a conversation; that overt purpose is whatever the ostensible point of the gathering or conversation is.
But the hidden purpose is that it establishes the speaker’s right to be connected and a part of. In short to belong. And it establishes not only the right to be connected and belong but his or her precise status as well, updated to the moment.
Groups and gatherings and the conversations in them – all human systems – have a complex, unspoken, and unconscious set of rules for how they’re to be conducted. These rules determine the degree of authenticity, the amount of disclosure tolerated, the vulnerability or lack of vulnerability of that disclosure, the time elapsed before one can be interrupted, amount of silence, language used.
And of course, we don’t choose how these facets are to be managed any more than we consciously choose how to form a sentence. None of us do. We just open our mouths and speak. And in a similar way we just act in order to show that we understand the rules and are not an outsider, that we’re not “them,” that we belong.
There’s an excellent way to see whether this is true or not, one you can test for yourself: change the rule, the agreement by which you come together and see how everything changes. This is of course what we’re doing on our calls here on the Commons.
What happens when you change the rules?
The sense of “I” changes. The sense of “we” or the group changes. And the world we see around us changes.
If we change the group and conversational rules by mutual agreement and create a structure that builds in the new rule (rather than just give it lip service), immediately there’s a shift. Immediately a new conversation ensues.
There are many many kids of agreements and “new rules” but the deepest one, that one that underlies the others is ths:
Everyone equally belongs!
Change everything by making the structure reflect that everyone belongs equally. Everyone has an equal place and an equal right to be at this round table because of who they are.
The quality that arises in the group when this equality is viscerally understood is trust. Trust is knowing you are one among equals. When trust is in the room, immediately you are free to bring up what’s so you, what you really care about.
Because why wouldn’t you? Immediately you relax a little (or a lot) more. Immediately your intuition, heart, soul (call it what you will) starts radiating into the common space, commingling with who and what’s there.
(Interestingly the age-old “spiritual” problem of ego ceases to be such a problem. Ego is the ongoing effort to maintain status when we sense our belonging is conditional and needs to be maintained.)
The sense of self shifts profoundly and sometimes a safety is felt for the first time ever. It’s a beautiful thing to see and feel, to be part of!
When you feel insecure in a group, you don’t imagine it’s because the group rules are creating pressure to conform in a way that doesn’t respect your sovereignty. On the contrary you tend to think it’s because you’re lacking in some way.
Crazily enough, though we don’t talk about it, this insecurity is the norm socially. It’s at the root of “keeping up with the Jones’ who are also keeping up with you. Most everyone feels they’re lacking in some way and is not sure he or she really belongs. But of course we don’t normally recognize that. Instead we’re tempted to think it’s about us, that it’s our fault, something wrong with us.
I submit that this common sense of not being sure one unconditionally belongs, this subtle need to maintain belongingness moment to moment is an ubiquitous and unconscious rule of social groups and gatherings of all kinds.
It’s this that’s under pressure to change. It’s the identification with a common “us” that defines the global “awakening” underway . . . because only an “us” without a “them” can ensure a liveable future.
Our “us” and “them” categories stem from an evolutionary past of scarcity and survivorship in which belongingness and group solidarity depended on believing what the group believes and shunning the others who don’t. Now it’s truer to say they depend on room for all.
So it’s a wondrous and beautiful thing to discover, if we do, that the depths of our being are unshakeably and gloriously ours and not subtly off-limits while we busy ourselves protecting our right to belong. In this discovery, our deep resources, qualities of the whole, are also recognized as part of the common treasure, reflecting the frequent observation noticed in good groups that we’re more than the sum of our parts.
It’s a big relief to know that who we are isn’t really subject to the unconscious whims of the groups we belong to.
Many people, when clearly invited, find their way to the deeper level of trust that’s available when a group’s operating rules make full room for all of us. That deeper level of trust isn’t usual but it’s not so difficult.
Fewer of us have yet dared to think of the repercussions if we were to work with this emerging potential and mutually care for the new agreements we make together.
But those repercussion discussion is for another post! We’ve hardly got here yet!