Collective Intelligence is the New Guru – PART 2: Powerful Questions for Discovering Evolutionary Purpose
By Anna Betz, originally for Enlivening Edge Magazine
Part 1 of this article is here.
Discovering evolutionary purpose
The experience of relatedness and interconnectedness—while being transformed by what was happening inside oneself and in the field—was no doubt the special gift of participating in the NoGuru Forum (Singapore, 12-14 Oct, 2018)
In preparation for the afternoon walking meditation in Singapore, members of the wisdom council shared practices that enable them to find a deeper connection with their own evolutionary purpose, and the instruction derived from that purpose.
One example was this:
“Wherever you are in life, ask yourself: How can I let more life flow through me, in any given context that I am walking in?
“For example, how can we walk in Gardens by the Bay, or walk along the beach or in the zoo, while holding this enquiry: What is the question that matters to me, related to which I might receive some clues even just by walking in the city with eyes really open? What do I notice about myself, the people around me, and their reaction to me? What helps me get in touch with my inner self while at the same time I experience everything around me? ”
Where powerful questions come from
Powerful questions are not final; they evolve over time, depending on our life situation. They appear at different times in different words, depending on our evolving context. Imagine your life depends on finding the most powerful question you can ask yourself right now and in every moment. Here’s one that one of the facilitators suggested we try on:
If my life is marked with the question that I am living into, then what is the question to which my life is the answer?”
“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Asking powerful questions also helps us recognize that thinking of myself as an island is an illusion because in reality I would cease to exist without all of you. How can we experience that, and not just have it as an understanding in our mind?
Finding your powerful question will allow you to experience your connectedness with the whole.
To help participants find their way into discovering their own powerful question, one of the facilitators, George, shared how he had found his powerful question upon arrival in Singapore and how it didn’t stay the same for long:
“Arriving in Singapore, I felt like connecting with people in this very different world. What came up inside me was the question: How can I serve here? What can be my service to life in this context? This first question then quickly morphed into something else, coming from the same inner drive: What are my gifts that I can bring to this place?”
The last question then led him to meet a local academic leader to explore opportunities for collaboration to express their shared love for what AI can do for the good of people.
Powerful questions & their relationship to Evolutionary Purpose
George’s story of his relationship with his evolutionary purpose made it clear how the EP is not something outside of us that we want to achieve, not something we need to decide, but something we need to discover, an unfolding mystery that we don’t know.
The discovery process itself is juicy and starts, naturally, with not knowing. It continues with listening to life, the connection with whatever system is our focus, at any given time.
If our system is as small as our family and if this is the only thing we really care about, then we can ask ourselves, “What is my greatest gift to my family?” If we have a bigger system of reference, like our community or our country, or Life itself, then the question becomes “What is my gift to Life as it manifests through the web of connections I have with the people in my community or country?”
To get in touch with our inner self, it helps to hold this question in our heart:
What is my gift to life, to the world?
What is the contribution that is coming from my essence?
Thinking can give us only thoughts that we already know somewhere. In contemplation we discover things we don’t know yet. When we don’t think about the question but look at it with tenderness and with curiosity from different angles, like a prism, it will spread into different colors.
As we walk around the question we can see the different colors, the different aspects of our gift to life, which comes from our essence. This exercise is something to playfully experiment with and try on for a fit, rather than taking oneself too seriously.
Here’s another one that can also help you discovering and having a sacred relationship with your evolutionary purpose.
To find your place of power in nature, you need to walk with your senses wide open. It is a place you don’t choose; it is choosing you. You will know it when something is attracting you for no reason at all and stops you in your tracks. Spend some time in that place. Make note of the inner journey, where it led you and what it taught you. Capture its essence in words, drawings or whatever you need to stay connected with it even when you’re not there.
It is like your Evolutionary Purpose: you can come back to it anytime and reconnect with it; this is your place of power.
Evolutionary Purpose is continuously evolving: examples from one life journey
A key trait of any Evolutionary Purpose is that it itself is evolving, and doesn’t stay the same forever. Unlike a company mission that is fixed and framed on the wall, the EP keeps changing and co-evolving with us.
That’s because it’s not only a simple expression of our deep inner sense of our gift to Life but also an expression that takes into account all the different kind of resources that we have for giving that gift away. Those resources include the talents we have, the experiences/expertise that we accumulated to this point, the resources in our network of people. In a way, all that is part of me. Then we ask again: Taking all this into account, what is my gift to Life, now?
At the NoGuru Forum in Singapore, wisdom council members shared episodes from their lives to illustrate how his/her EP has been changing and why. Below is an expanded version of what George Pór said.
“The first time I realised that I have such a purpose I didn’t know about the evolutionary part, but looking back it was clearly the first expression of the EP in my life. It was to be in world service, and the first expression of it in the 60’s was: I want to change the world. As revolutionary students, we wanted to change at least the oppressive government system in Hungary. That was my life purpose.
“In prison and in the subsequent exile, I had enough time to seek for a deeper truth. As my life conditions shifted to being a professor of sociology in Paris, the expression of my purpose shifted to this: I want to understand how the world is already changing and how I can I insert my energy, with the most impact, into that change process. That was a big shift in my EP, which changed my outlook on life, but it was not the last one.
“When EP finds a new expression, you don’t negate the previous one, you just transcend and include it. The thirst to understand how the world is changing led me to recognize the pivotal role of organizational transformation between the personal and global scales of transformation. (That was in the 80s, in California, where I became a management consultant.)
“That realization and insights triggered by Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations (1) inspired me to launch Enlivening Edge, an online magazine and connecting hub of next-stage organizations. My EP found its way into the EP of Enlivening Edge, which says:
Boosting the emergent collective intelligence, consciousness, and impact of the ecosystem of next-stage organizations and initiatives, until they become the new mainstream of organizing work.
“Recently, when that brainchild started walking and speaking for itself, I asked myself these questions:
“What is the biggest unmet need in the transformation of hierarchical organizations to the new kinds of organization of the future, redesigned for liberating the creative potential of all? What are my talents that I am good at and I enjoy bringing into play?
“I held those questions in my left and right hands for months, and one day it became very clear where my two hands meet. In my left hand, I found the world not having enough seasoned evolutionary agents, facilitators of profound transformation in self, organizations, and social systems. In my right hand, there were my capabilities as mentor, researcher, community organizer, writer, and evolutionary entrepreneur. (2)
“In the clap of my two hands, I found my new EP: creating and cultivating a new type of higher education for EVOLUTIONARIES. I feel that will be guiding my lifework for the years to come.
“In fact, it has already started informing what I need to do next. Besides designing and convening the EVOLUTIONARIES learning community, in the Spring of 2019, I will start working on research projects related to one of the core elements of the curriculum: the emancipatory role of technologies, namely, AI, in organizations and society.”