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View life from Outside of your Cave

The Seven stages of the Dialogue and critical thinking for a total group transformation

The practice of skilfully facilitated conversation and deep Dialogue in any group offers the opportunity to increase our awareness of our own assumptions and perspectives and participate more consciously and carefully in the way we interact with the world. We are no longer help captive by one “privileged” worldview.  Our practice of Dialogue disrupts our worldviews and aids our ability to hold multiple perspectives at once; this true is wisdom.  Peter Senge coined the term creative tension to indicate how a group feels when it experiences the gap between where it is and where it wants to go.  When in deep Dialogue, we are constantly experiencing this creative tension which underpins all change work. Without the gap “there would be no need for any action to move toward a vision. Indeed, the gap is the source of creative energy.

The Art of Dialogue program teaches and supports groups to move through seven distinct stages of transformation that are universally experienced when engaged in the deep Dialogic processes.  These are not a random back and forth, but there is actually an awakening that occurs through a specific and disciplined process. The participatory leadership skills of hosting conversation and dialogue is the combination of art and science. The Art of Dialogue workshops teach leaders the disciplines and ground rules but it is the practice of hosting conversation that ultimately supports the artistic element of great participatory leadership.

Stage one- A radical encountering of difference in world-views

 This first encounter comes with a certain shock, with a realization of an Other, a different way of life, a different worldview, an alien Other that resists, interrupts, disrupts my settled patterns of interpreta­tion. With this encounter, there is a new realization that my habits of mind cannot make sense of this Other.

 Stage two- crossing over, letting go and entering the world of the other

 I face a person who has a worldview alien from mine.” We are now encountering a subject who has a view of us, which we hadn’t really thought of before. We always thought we had a view of every-thing else and we incorporated everything else into our worldview.

After the initial shock and realization that I now face alien worldviews very different from my own, I feel challenged to inquire, investigate, engage and enter this new world, to engage in critical-thinking. As I open my Self to this Other I realize that I must learn new habits and ways of interpretation to make sense of this different world.

Stage three-  Inhabiting and experiencing the world of the Other

 I begin to feel a new and deep empathy for my new habitat; I want to let myself go, experiment, learn and grow in this new way of being, to embrace critical-thinking. I hold on to my prior views as much as I can, but also experience the worldview of the Other. I have a new profound realization of an alternative reality. But in the end, I realize this is not my home.  I experience a deep shift in perspective and feel the start of a transformation.  We feel our thinking has been expanded and enriched by taking aboard other worldview. Something profound starts to happen.

Stage four –  Crossing back with expanded vision and knowledge

I cross back, return to my own world with expanded knowledge of how to think and act critically and may adopt the new worldviews into my own world as a result of this encounter. I now realize that there are other ways of understanding reality. I am therefore open to rethinking how I see myself, others and the world. There is no return to my former self of seeing the world from the confines of my own small worldview

 Stage five – the dialogic/ critical awakening: a radical mind-shift

self inwardly transformed

 As a result of this new encounter with other worldviews, I cross back and begin to experience a profound shift in all aspects of my world; in my inner experience, in my encounter with others, in my relating to the world. I begin to realize that my encounter with the Other has shaken the foundation of my former worldview, my former identity. I can no longer return to my former and now begin to realize that there are many other worlds, other forms of life, other perspectives that surround me.  This stage is almost like a spiritual awakening or a classic transformation and the blossoming of wisdom.

 Stage six- the group awakening- the paradigm shift matures

In my transformed Dialogical/Critical Awakening I discover a deeper common ground between the multiple worldviews and perspectives that surround me. I have a new sense that myself and others are inseparably connected in an inter-relational web. I realize that multiplicity and diversity enriches my Self and my World.

As my new inner dialogue and critical-thinking evolves I find myself in a new and transformed relation with others. This new phase of relations with my peers can be disorienting and disconcerting, for as I now dramatically grow in my new identity I find myself in an estranged distance from many of my old relationship. I am learning how to live from a new world view which requires a new language.  As in all transformations this period can often be challenging and confronting.

Stage seven – personal transformation maturing

As this paradigm-shift in my life matures I realize that there is a deep change in all aspects of my life, a new moral consciousness and a new practice. As my new dialogical/critical consciousness becomes a habit of life I find that my behaviour and my disposition to others has blossomed. I feel a new sense of communion. I have a deeper sense of belonging to my world, to my community, and with this a boundless sense of responsibility in all of my conduct. I now realize that I am transformed in the deepest habits of mind and behaviour. I find a deeper sense of Self-realization and fulfilment and meaning in my life and my relations with others and the world around me.

 

 

Story and Deep Dialogue have always connected us to something greater

Deep Dialogue and the practice of sharing Story is possibly the most misunderstood, and taken-for-granted, form of communication. The sharing of stories has always been at the root of all human transformations. Historically all indigenous cultures practiced the powers of story and deep group conversation when major decisions had to be decided upon. They understood that the deep sharing of story enabled them to tap into a wisdom and intelligence that was beyond any individual thinking  connecting them to something greater.

Prof  Ashok Gangadean, founder director of the Global Dialogue Institute writes that deep Dialogue is actually a pathway to expanding our perspectives on the world and actually expanding our own consciousness. When practiced skilfully within organisations we become self empowered to direct our own futures with a creative wisdom. We learn to tell and share the stories that motivate us and with a clear direction. Gangadean writes that Deep Dialogue is also the awakening of the Self in its most mature rational, moral and spiritual form.  Deep Dialogue is therefore both the process that brings us into a common ground world view or encounter and the realization of our highest awakening as human beings: it is at once the means and the end of the creative process of individual and corporate awakening and human flourishing.

When we step back from our own small traditions and perspectives and enter the global space of dialogue between worlds, and actually enter and experience other worlds from within we naturally go through a profound self-transformation – we are able to enter into a global perspective and hold very diverse worlds together in one expanded consciousness.  And when we enter this integral and globalized space of thought and experience we begin to see startling patterns across worldviews that have been emerging and recurring over millennia.

Dialogue and Spirituality

Dialogue and Spirituality in the work place

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play: his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly know which is which. He simply pursues his own vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both” 

Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand

Most of us are aware that the institutions that direct and express our lives – politics, health, law, education, and religion- are no longer adequate to the challenges we face and feel in modern society. They are no longer able to sufficiently help or nourish our lives and are often in need of radical redesign to fulfil their stated purpose in this unsettling period of changing consciousness.

Transformative leaders understand that they cannot address their organisation’ exterior issues without addressing its inner problems. Over many generations Scientists, mystics and philosophers described the wholeness of the universe where nothing exists in isolation or that no thing exists or acts independently of the whole. However today an illusion of separateness between mind and spirit and action is the primary operating image or self-understanding for many people and organisations. Nobel Laureate neuroscientist Roger Sperry states that the overemphasis on technology and the kind of scientific thinking that excludes the human soul has contributed to a neglect of our ultimate values, beliefs, motivations and meanings. We cannot civilise the outer world without civilising the inner world. Many organisations such as outdoor gear company Patagonia in the USA have successfully embraced the spiritual in the workplace and have been reaping the results for a couple of decades. They are a highly successful, resilient and creative company with strong environmental ethics.  It is no surprise that Patagonia has hundreds of applications for any job that becomes available.

There is increasing recognition amongst organisational leaders, highlighted by the numerous courses now offered in Conscious and Mindful leadership, that we are  becoming very aware of the importance of the spiritual dimension at work. What is emerging is the quest to discover, remember, or create significant purpose, and meaning in our work. Those reeling from stress and burn out from an over engagement are now searching inward for courage, strength, wisdom, motivation and energy.

Renowned systems thinker and organisational expert Margaret Wheatley suggested that in many cases it is not the structure of the organisations that need to change but the conversations we have within them. Dialogue is not only a powerful technology for redesign or organisational change but also offers a transformed way of relating and experiencing the world. Well facilitated Dialogue naturally builds an empathetic environment for participants to fully experience the inner dimension of Spirit and help connect the group with their inner spiritual nature that directs, empowers and provides new energy and meaning activity. Spirituality has to do with making sense of our world, and knowing how creatively live within it. Group dialogue creates the space and the foundations for spirituality through its attitude to openness, skills of listening ability to connect with life through others and mostly importantly enabling the unknown to find form.

An aware participatory leader who is skilled in the Art of Dialogue creates an environment for the forming or reforming of the deeper part of the Self. The concept of formation is one of change or flux that is constant with any organism. This change is not a random meaningless event but is connected to the ongoing formation of the world around it. Dialogue provides a container for creative formative thinking that enables people to transcend the limits of their bodily senses and cognitive processes of rational thought and memory.

 

The Art of Dialogue

The Art of Dialogue is a response to a world that is becoming increasingly complex and fragmented, where true solutions and innovation lie not in one leader or one viewpoint, but in the bigger picture of our collective intelligence.

One of the essential skills for growing as a leader and dialogue host is being aware of what is happening around you and not losing yourself in the emotions of any given moment. Throughout the day we need to constantly ask ourselves how do we know what we know? This question is at the core of our worldview and needs to be examined deeply.

Our world views influences our communication, decision-making and workplace cultures – most of this happening unconsciously. They are the lens through which we experience and see the world through. All the decisions and actions you make are directly a result of our world views, which have been informed by your culture, education, parents. Media, spirituality, and environment you live in and friends. You can spend a lifetime examining how each of our world views have been informed.

Each one of us views the world through a different lens, which informs the actions we take and the thinking we bring to situations. Our thinking for the most part remains unvalidated throughout our lives. For this reason an extraordinary leader understands that they will only ever have partial answers for any problem and as such need the subtle skills in hosting dialogues to embrace all views which help make up the whole.

The most important conversation any leader must be aware of when hosting conversations that matter is the conversation one has with ourselves. When we are aware that our views of the world are seen through a coloured or filtered lens formed around our experiences  we are naturally more likely to be empathetic leaders who know the importance of hearing all voices to co-create creative solutions.

In the next blog we will examine six philosophical domains that shape our world views.

The Art of Dialogue – Awakening Awareness

Over the next few blogs I will be discussing skills and practices one needs to develop as an effective Dialogue facilitator or host. Hosting dialogue is an art form and not a method that can simply be learnt and followed. It takes a well-developed evolved leader to skilfully host great Dialogues. And as with any art forms one requires a solid framework of skills to work with but most importantly, requires practice and well-honed self-awareness skills to manage and skilfully harvest the subtleties and energies that emerge from good group Dialogue. These skills are the foundations for any extraordinary transformative leader who want to get the very best out of people and generate a creative harmonious, innovative learning culture.

To be an extraordinary leader in the world of constant change requires an understanding that your community or organisation and knowledge, are living things that constantly shifts moment by moment in line with the ever constant unfolding of the Universe. This unfolding and our ever shifting ways of knowing takes place through the coming together of (different) things in a communion that does not deny the voice or inner character of any individual. This is how life in all its forms is born.

It takes great courage and awareness for any individual leader to comprehend that we are part of something greater. Skilfully hosted Dialogue encourages groups and individuals to effectively participate in the unfolding of meaning – a creative interaction that allows new insights and unexpected ideas to emerge from the encounter. When we put our own ego aside we are more likely to experience the world in a state of flow and ride the magic of synchronicity that emerges with this state.

Dialogue can be described as a practice that awakens the desire for, and provides the means to, expand consciousness of each other and access untapped wisdom beyond our own worldview or paradigms. The mere presence of the other in Dialogue helps us to break up our own bias and narrowness and offers deep self-understanding.

Mindfulness in action

To support your skills in hosting dialogues there is a very simple but incredibly powerful exercise I recommend that helps develop your awareness skills; essential for any extraordinary leader and Dialogue host. I find this practice rewilds and reawakens my awareness to the world as  living and constantly changing, enabling me see things as they are, not limited by my conditioned lens of perspectives.

Our natural state is to move into a mechanistic deadened patterned way of thinking when walking in the same areas more that a few times. We almost walk with all our senses closed down assuming that things remain the same. To shifting our patterned perspective and participate in the living world around us take yourself out for a walk at lunch. in town, or in park or around your neighbourhood and just be aware of all the things that happen moment by moment that you never planned for.

This practice asks you to become aware of everything that happens that you did not expect or intend. As you become more experienced you will start noticing the minute experience such as a line of ants crossing your path that you would not have noticed before. Just be aware of them. Notice a bird flying across your path or hear the sound of a bird that you could not have planned for. Be aware of each noise or person bumping past you. A siren screeching by, a gust of wind, a person chatting, or anything at all that crosses your path that you could never have planned or expected to see or smell or feel. Your world starts to come truly alive and awakened again as you begin to experience things from a very different perspective. Your ego takes a back seat as you are practicing being in the world without trying to dictate or predict future events.

When you become a little more experienced with this practice you can then play with it throughout the whole day. This is mindfulness in action. Start asking yourself “What did I just experience that I wasn’t expecting?” When I bring awareness to this we realize how much of what we experienced was actually not expected. To really appreciate those few moments when something new and unexpected appears, and then to vividly re-picture those experiences helps cultivate sensitivity to the unexpected. This in turn helps develop the sensitivities to be a good host of conversations and group Dialogues. When I practice creating this field of openness. I can begin to experience another person, a landscape, or a social problem as a living thing with openness and fresh eyes.

 

 

 

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