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The Four Stages of Personal Evolution- Becoming Worldview Aware

Wisdom could be considered as the ability to think beyond our own personal worldviews with an ability to consciously hold multiple perspectives or worldviews at once. This may sound quite logical but in reality, requires an evolved way of thinking and continued practice of self-awareness. The ability to see beyond the limitations of our own lens can only be exercised and practiced in relationship with Others (including Nature.). I am suggesting that there are four significant stages of a personal evolutionary or transformational process. These stages can be developed within the practice of deep Dialogue and time in Nature.

Our Worldview impacts how we see and interact with the world, events, situations and other people.  They influence our communication, decision-making and workplace cultures.  Most of this happens unconsciously.  When we become aware of the lens through which we experience the world we can consciously begin to explore individual and collective assumptions, beliefs and value systems with curiosity and non-judgment.  This opens the potential for more comprehensive approaches and solutions to emerge on a range of issues and opportunities, including those that might be mildly oppositional to completely divisive to seemingly unsolvable.

Self-understanding is the first stage of the evolutionary cycle, providing the foundations to then journey out and explore and incorporate the universe of other perspectives. Our relationship with Nature provides the most conducive place to begin this practice. When we begin to explore our own thinking and deeply observe our own mono-centric lens on the world we naturally go through a profound self-transformation. We are able to enter into a global perspective and hold very diverse worlds together and act with courage, empathy and wisdom. A “worldview intelligent” workplace is a creative inspiring and innovative place to be.

There are four phases I believe we move through on the way to becoming a worldview aware. These do not always occur in a linear order since we may sometimes enter a feeling of oneness or wholeness discussed in states three and four following a retreat or time alone in nature then return to our old selves shortly after.

I have deliberately excluded the word “change” out of the summary here as it suggests a forced energy that needs to be practiced in order to evolve from on experience to the next. The transformation I am suggesting emerges when we drop the want for change and simply learn to observe.

Stage 1- Radical encountering of difference of the Other (The Other refers to people or Nature)

In this first phase, we unlearn misinformation about each other and begin to know each other as we truly are. In this phase, we start to learn to listen deeply with Others and hear their perspective.  In this phase I often find it difficult to move beyond a tolerance of the Other but we practice listening when deeply whilst remaining aware of our own worldview. I listen but then return “home” to my own safe haven and perspective. I may find that this first encounter comes with a certain shock, with a realization of the 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 always make sense of the Others perspectives.

 Stage 2- Crossing over, letting go and entering the world of the Other

In phase two I begin to discern values in the Other’s story and worldview and may wish to adapt them into 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 need to stand back and distance myself from my former habits and patterns of minding the world. I begin to realize that this other world organizes and processes the world very differently from my way. I realize that I must learn new habits and ways of interpretation to make sense of this different world. I must learn a “new language.” Indeed, I must translate myself into a different form of life that sees the world differently. This involves a bracketing of my prejudices. I feel a new horizon opening.

Stage three- Inhabiting and experiencing the world of the Other

 If we are serious, persistent, and sensitive enough in dialogue, we may at times enter into phase three. Here we together begin to explore new areas of reality and new ways of acting, new insights into meaning—all of which neither of us had previously even been aware. We are brought face to face with new previously unknown dimensions of reality and possibility of action.

I begin to feel a new and deep empathy for my new habitat; I am keen to free myself to enter, experiment, learn and grow in this new way of being. I embrace critical-thinking and hold on to my prior views as much as I can, but I experience an excitement in discovering, in inhabiting a new and different worldview. I have a new profound realization of the Other, an alternative reality and form of life.

I realize this is not my place of home but start to question what is my home?  I experience a deep shift in my perspective.  Who am I?  What is my true identity?  Is this Other part of me?  Is my world transforming now?

Stage 4- Crossing back with expanded vision- Self returns home with new knowledge

 I now cross back, return, to my own world, bringing back new knowledge of how to think and act (critical-thinking), and may even wish to adopt/adapt some of it for myself. As a result of this encounter with the world of the Other, 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. I encounter my Self with a newly opened mind which now begins to challenge my former Identity. There is no return to my former unilateral way of thinking.

I now start to perceive deeply the oneness of all people and our unity with nature. I now begin to realize that there are many other worlds, other forms of life, other perspectives that surround me. I now open to a plurality of other worlds and perspectives and this irrevocably changes my sense of Self. I feel transformed to a deeper sense of relation and connection with my ecology. I feel more deeply rooted in this experience of relationality and community. I now see that my true identity is essentially connected with this expansive network of relations with Others.

This last stage can be the door to spiritual awakenings and the blossoming of wisdom.  We have developed both the mindful Dialogue programs and Wild Mind days in nature to support you through your own evolutionary journey.

Cultivating new ways of being

Cultivating new ways of being through “living thinking”.

New Renowned Indian philosopher and educator Krishnamurti argued that our ways of thinking and learning currently places barriers between ourselves and the object we are dealing with. He wrote that “by being aware, one discovers how one is conditioned- “don’t sit on the bank and speculate about the river; jump in and follow the current of this awareness, and you will find out for yourself how extraordinarily limited our thoughts, our feelings, and our ideas are. Accordingly, he argued that for ‘true transformation’,

“There must be a constant awareness…an awareness in which there is no choice, no condemnation or comparison, that is, there must be the capacity to see things as they are without distorting or translating them. The moment we judge or translate what is seen, we distort it according to our background. It is this very discovery of ourselves as we are, without any sense of condemnation or justification, that brings about a fundamental transformation in what we are -and that is the beginning of wisdom”.

When we become increasingly aware of our own assumptions and perspectives, we notice that they only illuminate certain aspects of other phenomena in the world around us. Scientist, researcher and author Craig Holdrege of the Nature Institute believes that by increasing our awareness of our own assumptions and perspectives we participate more consciously and carefully in the way we interact with the world. Importantly Holdrege states that the physical world of our lived experience informs our knowing more and more as we transform ourselves.

Author, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau believed that we need to learn with new eyes and ground our knowledge in the world of the lived experience of things rather than in ideas, concepts and theories (abstract thinking). Thoreau wrote, “it is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know…If you would make acquaintance with the ferns you must forget your botany…. Your greatest success will be simply to perceive things as they are… I must walk more with free senses – I must let my senses wander as my thoughts – my eyes see without looking…. Be not preoccupied with looking. Go not to the object let it come to you…. What I need is not to look at all – but a true sauntering of the eye.”

In order to experience the flow of life and its specific qualities in all living and non-living things, we need fluid dynamic (process orientated) thinking. I have come to realize how nature can teach us about a living, dynamic way of thinking. If I am willing to pay attention I can learn from nature how to think in a living way without casting my own filters onto the world. My trips into the wild offer a chance to practice deep observation using the growth and development of plants as an especially vivid and rich model to learn the idea of living thinking.

Holdrege reminds us that a growing plant sends roots spreading intimately through the soil, taking in and exchanging with the earth. These are qualities we, too, possess when, as sensory beings, we explore and meet the world with fresh eyes. Always growing, always probing, meeting things anew, we become rooted in the experiential world.

As a flowering plant grows, it unfolds leaf after leaf. When the plant grows up toward flowering, the lower leaves die away. So a plant lives by unfolding something very important at that moment, then moves on to make new structures while past forms fall away. This is a great metaphor on how we can work with our own concepts: instead of falling in love with a particular idea and holding on to it at all costs (object-thinking) – we could learn to form a concept, use it, and then let it die away as our experience evolves. Our deeply felt sense of our own boundaries and ignorance allows us to keep knowledge alive, open, and growing. The wilderness provides great lessons in what it means to be undogmatic, dynamic and adaptable.

If we were to think plantlike, our concepts would stay closely connected to the context they arose from, and if that context changed, we would metamorphose our ideas to stay within the fast flowing river of life. By practicing this we can experience ourselves as active receptive participants in an ongoing, evolving conversation with everything around us. We are no longer distant onlookers gazing coolly at a world of objectified things. While gaining this re-connection and rootedness in the world is exhilarating but not always going to be easy.

The moment we become aware of the participatory, interactive nature of knowing, everything changes. We become directly aware of the implications on all our actions and thoughts. A living thinking is a thinking that knows itself as firmly embedded in the world. It is also a thinking that knows it does not have all the answers,

Holdrege writes that the seeds of this transformation are created every time we catch ourselves considering a problem in our lives through some pre-formed conceptual lens and then drop that lens and turn back, in openness, to the things themselves. With heightened awareness we can begin forming concepts out of interaction with the world rather than imposing them upon the world. This is living thinking.

Often I find myself at the beginning of a multi day walk, full of purpose and high expectation. It’s hard to escape the craving for results from everything we do. It usually takes two full days of wilderness immersion before I drop my expectations and fall into nature’s rhythms. This strong sense of purpose can prevent us from seeing the unexpected. So, by going out purposefully with a broad focus of open expectation, I can overcome limitations and invite the world in.

An exercise to practice openness in our daily living is to pause during the evening and think back over the day. “What did I experience today that I wasn’t expecting?” When I bring awareness to this we realize how much of what I experienced was actually expected. To really appreciate those few moments when something new and unexpected appears, and then to vividly re-picture those experiences to myself can help cultivate sensitivity to the unexpected. 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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