Belonging, as Being Seen by the Other

Does it matter whether you experience being seen and appreciated by others?  Recent studies, described in the Harvard Business Reviewshow the value to you and to the group of experiencing that your presence matters, that you are seen, and that you connect with others in the group.

In the EY Belonging Barometer Study, with survey data from 1,000 employed adults in the USA, when people experience belonging at work, they are 3.5 times more likely to contribute much more in their work.   This belonging is stronger when colleagues check in with them regularly, acknowledging them both personally and professionally.

In a survey with 1,789 full-time employees in the USA, and in experiments with 2,000 participants, BetterUp scientists found that high belonging correlates with 56% higher job performance, 50% less turnover risk, 75% fewer sick days.  They calculate that for a 10,000-person company, this equals $52million a year in savings.

Both of these descriptions of belonging correspond with the experience of the relationship to the other between the inner and middle circle (see figure below). You and I see each other for our capacities (inner circle), and we begin to accompany each other in our own learning experiences.  This means that these huge savings come from simply seeing the other, for their basic capacities, by acknowledging and accepting them.

What would be the value of a much deeper experience of belonging, of supporting each other in one’s learning process, through continuous check-ins around one’s own learning (middle circle of the other)?  And, if you and I were to support each other in exploring our deeper potential, to be able to make our own deeper contribution to the group, learning more about myself, because you accompany me, in trust?  If the relationship to the other at the level between the inner and middle circle is as valuable as these studies show, being much more likely to contribute and to be much more present, what is the value of being fully present, as seen in the outer circle?  What do you think?



Maslow’s Hierarchy Through the 5 Primary Relationships

Abraham Maslow is famous for his view of human developmental needs, progressing in a hierarchy of needs from physiological needs to transcendence.  I just found, in his later writing, how he saw this development in terms of what we refer to as the five primary relationships–the experience you have in the vibrancy of your relationship to your own self, to the other, to the group, to the creative process of nature, and to the creative source of spirit, five ways you relate to one experience.

“Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos,” (A.H. Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, 1976, Penguin: New York, p 269).

Is Your Awful Day Better Than My Okay Day? — The Hills and Valleys of Human Agreements — Seemingly Similar Terrain, Different Map

Sometimes we have great days, sometimes okay days, and sometimes downright awful days.  Most of us seem to experience all three.  Some experience more great days, others more okay days, and others more awful days.  When we experience great, okay, or awful days, we experience similar realities, right?  Our emerging picture of the social topography of human agreements suggests that maybe we are not all having the same experience at each of these levels: maybe these are very different experiences.

We have started to map the terrain of human agreements, along with the experience, impact, and resilience achievable at each level of this terrain, from valleys to hills.  We can simplify this terrain with 4 levels: the top of the hill, the middle of the hill, the bottom of the hill or on the plain, and the valley.  These four levels correlate with the four levels of vibrancy.

  1. At the top of the hill, people describe a very engaging, energizing experience of high vibrancy in all five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit), usually achieving very resilient and high impact.
  2. In the middle of the hill, people describe an engaging, often energizing experience of vibrancy in most of the primary relationships, usually achieving quite resilient and effective impact.
  3. At the bottom of the hill or on the plain, people describe experiencing oscillating between somewhat engaging and somewhat disengaging, with some vibrancy in a couple of the primary relationships, achieving some impact for their effort.
  4. In the valley, people describe a very disengaging experience of quite low vibrancy in all five primary relationships, usually achieving some impact only with extra effort.

Same experience?  Four levels, all experienced in the same way?  From most of what we read these days and the from the descriptions of most people we meet, it would seem that the description of these four levels of engagement, experience, resilience, and impact is the same; different degrees of overcoming scarcity and being able to engage people, towards greater impact and resilience.  We have found, however, two completely different descriptions of what is happening at these four levels.  It seems to depend on your starting point: scarcity or abundance.  It turns out that the world looks very different at each of these four levels depending on the map you are using–a map based in scarcity or a map based in abundance.  Let’s see what the two different maps show us about these four levels of the topography of human agreements.

Starting from scarcity, we tend to find three levels described.

  1. The first is the “normal” state of affairs, disengaged, highly ineffective people who lack motivation and need to be managed so that they can be more efficient in their contribution to the group effort.  This would correspond with the valley experience.  From this perceptive, there is not much there.  No motivation, no special capacities, and the need for a high degree of management of interchangeable people.
  2. An improvement on this typical level comes when one moves up out of the valley onto the plain or the bottom of the hill.  Here people tend to bring some basic capacities, are able to work side by side amicably, sometimes being more engaged and achieving higher efficiencies.  From this perspective, people bring more capacities to the game and are able to make better contributions.  Some motivation, strong capacities, and the need for coordination among efforts.
  3. The top of this game comes when one moves up to the middle of the hill, where people tend to cooperate much more, working together to achieve more together than they can apart.  Here people tend to bring great skills and experience with a thirst for learning and cooperation, energized and engaged, working hard to achieve much greater impact and often quite a bit more resilient to the changes life throws at the group.  From this rather-rare perspective, there is a lot there, ready to contribute dynamically to the task at hand.

Starting from abundance, we also find three levels described.

  1. The first is the “normal” state of affairs, highly committed people coming together in service of a deeper shared purpose, bringing their best, unique contributions every day.  This is their normal day, just showing up as they are, creative, committed human beings wanting to make their contribution to something beautiful that they care about deeply.  From this level, which corresponds with the top of the hill, leadership focuses on co-hosting, supporting everyone in bringing their best every day together.  The abundant potential available through each person and through their interactions is evident to all.
  2. And sometimes life throws a curveball and people forget to be at their best, and they forget or fall asleep to their own unique gifts and those of others.  In the middle of the hill, these people describe how they are usually aware of the group’s deeper purpose and of each other’s gifts, and they often tend to focus more on what is happening in the moment than on the possibilities each other is seeing in the moment.  Less on how to collaboratively realize a common potential and more on the process for achieving what was seen.  Still lots of possibility, with more focus on how to manifest it.
  3. Then there are the times when everything seems to fall apart.  It is hard to say connected to the potential and to the shared inquiry.  This bottom-of-the-hill experience might focus more on just getting the job done, on just moving forward.  It is often difficult, because while still aware of the others, their needs, and the group’s deeper shared purpose, the experience oscillates between somewhat vibrant and somewhat not vibrant.  Here it is hard to see the potential and unique contributions the people know are there.  Still lots of potential available, it is just harder to see and harder to connect to.

Two different maps, each with three different “typical” levels.  And completely different realities. Whether the human-agreements map you carry is scarcity or abundance-based seems to completely change the reality you experience.

  • For the scarcity map, normal starts in the valley and great effort is expended to get up the hill.  When energy to push up the hill fails, the resting position is back in the valley.  It also seems that push as hard as you want, when starting from scarcity in the valley, you can only get up to the middle of the hill.
  • For the abundance map, normal starts at the top of the hill.  As life happens and people “fall asleep, they can slip down to the middle or bottom of the hill, but life from this perspective, when someone wakes back up, will pull them back to the resting point at the top of the hill.  From this perspective, it seems that the lowest position normally experienced is the bottom of the hill, not the valley.

So, it seems that we all can have great days, okay days, and awful days.  And, it seems, we can mean completely different things by them, because we are experiencing completely different geographies of what is “normal” and of what is available at each level of the topography.

Who Is First? Me, You, Us, Nature, Spirit?

“Most people think self-oriented and other-oriented motivations are opposite ends of a continuum… Yet, I’ve consistently found that they’re completely independent.  You can have neither, and you can have both,” with UPenn Prof. Duckworth quoting Wharton Prof. Adam Grant (Duckworth, 2016, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, New York: Scribner, p.159).  Angela Duckworth’s research shows that people who most persevere–her paragons of grit–have found and work deeply with both (1) their own passion, their relationship to their own self potential and its manifestation, and (2) the purpose for their engagement, their unique contribution to the group (which she refers to as the other).

Grant’s and Duckworth’s research, and that of others I have shared in earlier blogposts, supports what we are finding, that where you experience a vibrant relationship with your own potential and its development, you also experience a vibrant relationship with the other and with the group, where your unique contribution is invited and acknowledged, and with the source and process of creativity.  The research suggests a correlation–these primary relationships tend to be at a similar level of vibrancy–where one is, the others tend to be.  This is correlational, not causal.  We don’t really know which comes first, which would be the causal explanation, only that they tend to be at similar levels of vibrancy experienced.

The perennial question is, “Which comes first?”  The self, the other, the group, nature, spirit?  This seems to be a question that elicits lots of opinion and dogma, and has for thousands of years.  Maybe a more fruitful question explores where we get the most leverage in shifting our experience to a more vibrant one, where the vibrancy experienced in all five primary relationships is higher?  Some of our research suggests that the highest leverage is to start with yourself, because it is the easiest and most direct intervention we each have on a continuous basis.  While it is definitely hard work to change your own perceptions and behaviors, you have permanent and continuous access to them, and you get to choose.  It is much harder, if not impossible, to do this for others.  So, maybe a more interesting question focuses on where the leverage is.  The self?

As the Adam Grant quote I started with suggests, maybe the power of being able to choose an experience of higher vibrancy comes from not having to choose a point on a continuum between serving your self or another, because the five primary relationships are not tradeoffs, rather something achieved together, because they are fundamentally different, because they are independent.

Agreements Based in Deficits

What happens when you lop off or collapse human beingness?  How does that influence the experience that person has?  The experience others have with that person?

Much of what we know about how people work comes from studying deficits, from studying the behavior of people who are missing something.  What happens when people, either by birth or through an accident, are missing specific parts of their brain?  How do they behave different than “normal” people, people who still have that part of the brain?  Researchers discovered that those people with the deficit could not feel certain things, or smell, or count.  Dr. Oliver Sacks has written some very approachable books on research in this area.  In essence, this huge body of research shows that people lacking something that most people have behave different than most people.

This deficit-based approach leads me to ask, what would happen to a human being that was closed off from their relationship to others?  To their own self?  To the group?  To nature? To spirit?  To the vibrant essence of being human?  Then I add on to this thought the experience of the agreements embedded in human interactions.  In many human interactions, we accept that it is okay to be closed off from these primary relationships.  In essence, we agree to having our human beingness lopped off, collapsed.  We agree to operate from a human beingness deficit.  Why?  Why would we ever want people we engage with daily to operate from a beingness deficit?  To operate from a state of being much less than they normally are?

Lots of recent research shows that this is quite normal in the workplace.  While some disagree with the high degree suggested in these findings, none disagree that it exists.  I suggest that this is a choice, a choice that most of us are unaware of, but a choice nonetheless.  Ecosynomics shows how to see the choice and choose a different agreement.

I would love to hear what you think.  Why do we lop off human beingness in our interactions?  What can do to engage the full human beingness sitting right in front of us?  Please share what you think here.

An Integral View of Ecosynomic Agreements

Luz Maria Puente responded to my post “What questions do you have?“, suggesting “I think a good question would be to talk about the differences between integral model (Ken Wilber) and Ecosynomics, what do you think?”

An integral view of Ecosynomic agreements
Many of the followers of this blog might be familiar with the “integral” perspective of the American philosopher Ken Wilber. For those readers, there might be some confusion between the five primary relationships in the Ecosynomics framework and the four perspectives in Wilber’s Integral framework. This brief overview attempts to clarify differences in the two approaches and how the “integral” approach provides an additional tool with which to understand the experience of the five primary relationships.

To start with, I consider myself a student of Wilber’s brilliant work, and use it to deepen my understanding of what we are learning in Ecosynomics. In essence, Wilber has developed a perspective on the human experience, which shows that what may seem like divergent, conflicting perspectives of an experience are actually convergent, complementing perspectives. He does this through an “integral” framework that interweaves different perspectives and developmental levels in one framework, which has now provided deep insights in many fields of study.[1]

Relationships and perspectives
You experience vibrancy in your relationship to your own self, to others, to the group, to nature, and to spirit. To understand more deeply the experience we have of these relationships, we need a very brief, slightly technical detour. We approach our experience of the five primary relationships we have to our self, the other, the group, nature, and spirit, from two very different angles.

These two angles, known as relationship and perspective, seem very similar, yet they are not. For simplicity, we will distinguish between what we feel in the experience of our heart, body, and awareness and how we think about that experience. We experience with relationship and we think with perspectives. While this is an oversimplification of the rich ways we make sense of our world, it is useful to distinguish relationships from perspectives. Relationships allow us to see that we experience, directly, our self, the other, the group, nature, and spirit. We are born with this capacity of direct experience; everyone has it, and everyone can tell us what he or she is experiencing in each of these relationships.

There are also multiple perspectives one can take on how to understand our experiences in each of these relationships. For example, we can start with the experience of the relationship you have to your own self. Let us look at the four overall perspectives on that relationship. First, we can look at your own inner, subjective experience—what you inwardly see that nobody else can see. This is the realm of your beliefs about your own potential and your ability to step into your own gifts. Next, we can also look at your behaviors: what is outwardly, objectively observable about you and your relationship to your self. This is the realm of seeing how you actually treat your self. These first two perspectives are those you have of your self, as an individual.

These perspectives are also interwoven with the group’s perspectives. There is a cultural perspective, which is the inner, subjective perspective of how the group supports your relationship to your self. In this realm, the culture might be supportive of your continuous exploration of your own potential. Or perhaps, the culture might suggest that paying attention to your own self is a waste of time, and you should focus on others. And finally, there is an outwardly oriented, objective perspective of the structures and processes in the group that support or influence your relationship to your own self. In some groups, there exists a culture of developing your own potential that is supported by observable structures and processes, such as mentoring programs and training. However, in other groups, the structures and processes give incentives only to “get to work” and stop wasting time on frivolous navel-gazing. These are four perspectives, or four ways of making sense of your experience of the relationship you have to your self. We will now take an integral look at the agreements in all of the five primary relationships. We will start from an all-quadrants perspective, and then take a developmental, all-levels lens.

An “all-quadrants” view
There are multiple ways we tend to relate to our experiences of harmonic vibrancy, in general, and through the five relationships described above. Integral theory shows us that what may seem to be completely different experiences of each of the five relationships are indeed four different perspectives of the same experience. Here we use the word “perspective” to mean a way of seeing something. Ken Wilber suggests that we can look at human experience from: (1) either the individual’s or group’s perspective; and (2) either the inner, subjective or outer, objective perspective. By putting these two dimensions on two axes, he created the four quadrant model of perspectives.

Integral 012615 Fig 1

Each of these four perspectives (ways of seeing or understanding an experience) has a long and well-developed field of inquiry supporting its practice; and thus we can learn from these perspectives, by showing what each brings individually and collectively to more richly describe the experience of each of the five relationships, as shown in the table below.

In the first row, the inner-individual perspective sees the five relationships as different manifestations of the self: self-in-self, self-in-other, self-in-group, self-in-nature, and self-in-spirit. The outer-individual perspective, in the second row, is how an individual inwardly experiences the outer “it” of the five relationships: from one’s own body/head-mind for the self; to the heart-mind for the other; the gut and group-will for the group; life-force-awareness, the sense of balance and movement for nature; and finally to the subtle to causal energies for spirit. The inner-group perspective, often referred to as culture, expresses the support for: liberty for the self; equality and pluralism for the other; solidarity for the group; eco-balance for nature; and transcendence for spirit. The outer-group perspective, where the social systems and processes in place are a reflection of the group’s inner awareness, expresses itself as: free markets of creativity for the self; justice and rule of law for the other; cooperatives and central control for the group; ecosystems for nature; and religion-as-narrative for spirit.[2]

Table 1 012615 Table 1

This integral perspective of the five relationships shows us that there are different perspectives or ways of studying each relationship. Each of these perspectives comes from a very different discipline and brings very different insights. What is interesting for us, right now, is to start to see how they show us different perspectives on the same experience. For example, when different expert perspectives describe the relationship to one self, they highlight different aspects. Psychologists and spiritual teachers might focus on the self-in-self, while doctors and physical therapists might focus more on one’s own body, the mind as head, and specific behaviors. Sociologists might describe the same relationship from the culture of freedom that supports it, while economists might focus on the social structures and processes of free markets. These are all simply different ways of seeing, describing, and supporting the same phenomenon.

An “all-levels” view
The five relationships find very different expressions at different stages of ego-consciousness (see Table 2).[3] It remains an open question whether or not there is a direct correlation between a person’s predominant stage of ego consciousness and the level of harmonic vibrancy they experience in a group. Observation suggests there are many people with access to later stages who reside stably in scarcity-based worldviews, and that there are many people who act from earlier stages who reside in stable forms of abundance. What seems to be clear is that actively and stably accessing later stages allows for the choice and subtlety of what can be observed. Nonetheless, this remains an open question for research. I thank Susanne Cook-Greuter for a multi-year, continuing dialog that has helped me explore this question of whether access to later stages of ego consciousness ensures the ability to express higher levels of harmonic vibrancy for oneself and in one’s group, or whether it merely nurtures the possibility.


Level of Agreement Unitive BasedIronist(6th P) ConstructBasedAlchemist(5th P) ContextBasedStrategist(4th P) EconomicBasedAchiever(3rd P) RulesBasedDiplomat(2nd P)
Relationship to Self •Icontribute by seeing the beauty of all opposing and interdependent poles and accepting things as they are• I create original maps of time/space• I embrace paradox • Icontribute by making fluidheretofore inflexible boundaries/ definitions• I create integrated maps for action • Icontribute from my creative self, my highest gifts to all sentience as deeply as I can see them now• I create integrated maps for action• I contribute by seeing the beauty of poles and accepting things as they are • I do my best by working efficiently and effectively• I learn from practice/study• Icontribute from what I know and can do• I plan and receive feedback • I give from what I have• I will be given what I need to do my work• I work hard
Relationship to the Other • I see how you are me, I am you, and how we create each other, despite the uniqueness of our individual selves. We flow together in relationship• I am aware instantaneously of the ground for community that arises between us • I see the paradoxes and projections in our relationship and I learn about who I am by seeing you in me and me in you• I am aware of how together, we construct community • I accept and support your authentic expression in the world and expect you to grow and develop• I am aware of how I, you, and we benefit when we are healthy as a community• You and I grow through each other • You also need to work effectively and efficiently according to the plan, bringing the skills and capacities you have developed• I support you in your growth, and to contributing what you know and can do • You need to give of your best, according to what you have been given• You need to meet your obligations• I support you in working hard
Relationship to the Group • I see the perfection of the whole as it is, even in those parts that some might call imperfect,• The success of the whole and consciousness will occur in its own way as each being finds their own way home in the company of others • I see the limitations of the whole as a rigid entity and work towards a whole of one interconnected, though complex community on this earth• The success of the whole depends on the integration of disparate parts of the human family. • I believe the group is healthiest when you and Icontribute from our best expression• Our sustainable relationships generate sustainable value for our community • Our group success depends on everyone contributing their part effectively and efficiently• Our successis a function of how well weperform• We can create the world • We each do our part• If we each take on a part,thentherecan be enough for all of us• I trustthatthe whole will take care of all of us• We will work hard together 
Relationship to Nature Nature is the expression of consciousness and comes in many forms; the natural beauty of a forest, cities, the ocean, tsunamis, and every part of the Kosmos Nature is an expression of the paradoxical, complex and unpredictable; we can use it as a model for the whole, a great teacher Humans are an integral part of nature, treating it with love and respect, protecting and restoring it for future generations Nature is our servant, and as a resource, serves humanity’s needs to improve our future Nature is here to use up for our purposes and use is defined by my group
Relationship to Spirit I witness internal and external all- time/space and become the simple fluidity of life and the Kosmos as a free functioning human being I witness the fluidity and complexity of self and Kosmos in the moment, as it relates to immanence I witness my internal voices which lead me to my authentic deeper self • I reflect on my internal self, and become aware of my patterns• I choose the codes I live by I follow the moral code of action of my identified community


[1] The development and application of Ken Wilber’s framework can be found in his many books (I recommend that you start with Wilber, 2000) and the Integral Institute that he founded (

[2] Through the four quadrant framework of perspectives, Wilber shows how the nature-nurture debate simply points at the nature (neurological, outer-individual) and the nurture (cultural, inner-collective) perspectives of the same experience (Wilber, 1998).

[3] These descriptions have emerged in work with Alain Gauthier, Terri O’Fallon, and Beena Sharma, to all of whom I am very grateful.

Re-cognizing Relational Strengths Before They Atrophy or Before We Kill Them

I observe that, from big initiatives to small, people seem to focus on strengthening one particular relationship.  The relationship to the self or to the other or to the group or to nature or to spirit.  We need to support individuals finding their own developmental path (for the self)!  We need greater fairness in pay (to the other)!  If we would just appreciate each other’s unique contributions, it would all work better (for the group)!  Can’t you see that we have to manifest a new possibility (for nature)?  It is all a matter of appreciating the creative source in all of us!  If we just do this one thing, focus on this one relationship, then it will all work!

And sometimes it does seem to work.  So, we want to copy what they say they did.  They say they just focused on the one relationship (self, other, group, nature, or spirit), and they seemed to be successful.  They got the results we want, and they had the experience we want.  Our research suggests this might not be what happened.

Through the Ecosynomics framing of the five primary relationships and over 1,700 responses to the HV survey, we see that the groups around the world reporting the experience of higher levels of harmonic vibrancy and stronger, sustainable outcomes, all have great strengths in ALL FIVE primary relationships—self and other and group and nature and spirit.  They are strong in all of them.

This suggests another version to the previous story, and the lesson we can learn from them.  The reason they focused on the one relationship, such as freedom for the self, might be because they were already stronger in the other four relationships, and the self was the weakest one.  The self needed to be strengthened, to catch up with the other relationships.  And, as they strengthened the focus on the freedom of the self, they also continued to strength the fairness with the other, appreciation of the unique contributions of each, as they manifested possibilities, by welcoming the creativity they saw everywhere.  In other words, it was because they were already strong in four relationships, that the seemingly strong focus on one relationship worked so well.

The lesson learned?  By being aware of the existing relational strengths, it is possible to develop mechanisms that focus on a weaker relationship to bring it inline with the others.  Playing with words, this is bringing into cognition, into awareness, existing strengths, again: re-cognizing.  When we recognize our relational strengths, we can choose to focus on one, for awhile, without losing attention to or atrophying the others.

This is completely different than starting from a collapsed state, where all five relationships are weak, as in the figure below, and focusing solely on one relationship with the hopes that it alone will get you to experience better outcomes and higher levels of harmonic vibrancy.  There’s no evidence that it works.  Just a lack of recognition of the strengths that were already there.  The other existing conditions they did not see to mention.


Guest post — Similar Fundamental Assumptions Found in 17 European Groups Living the Ecosynomic Paradigm (#4 in a 4-part series)

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

In earlier posts, I shared observations from 17 European groups living the Ecosynomic paradigm about how they were similar in outcomes and experiences, and in processes and structures.  In this last post, I will share some of the similarities I have found in their fundamental assumptions, trying to highlight similarities that distinguish them from their peers.

One of the patterns I saw underlines one of the major research findings of Ecosynomics. It is closely connected to the story I shared in my first blog; groups with high levels of harmonic vibrancy (HV) often collapse when working with lower HV groups. One expression I hear, over and over again, “After listening to your research findings, I finally understand why our project costs always explode when working with certain groups. With other groups it just works fine. I now see the obvious. We are working on the basis of different agreements.” This insight is also underlined in their practices of recruiting. “I now also see why our very strict recruiting process is vital for our future success. We would rather invite an interested person into an ongoing dialog and lasting relationship than just looking at her current abilities, skills and past achievements.”

To understand this expression I had to first understand one of the unique practices, structures and processes: in these high HV groups it is not possible to apply for a job. They do not “sell positions,” as they describe it, rather “the right people with the right competences grow into a specific organizational need.” Their recruiting and matching process is more one of growing together over a period of time by creating relations. This period can last from several months to a year. When I asked one of the group’s leadership why they do not solely focus on job interviews and or assessment center techniques, they nearly laughed at me and said, “How will you ever really grasp a person in her full potential, her drive to do things, and her actual capabilities to work, if you create a competitive, resource limited and transactional setting?” I asked “So what do you do?” They replied, “We start to build relationship with as many people as we can… the best of them stay. It is as easy as that.”

Other patterns I see include:

In all of the high vibrancy and some of the high to medium vibrancy groups, I found a collective willingness to work on agreements. One of the most striking examples is the case of a 25-year old NGO based in Germany. Their survey results reflect a group suffering the costs of sub-group competition as well as medium effectiveness in using and developing existing capacities to enact higher level outcomes in their projects.  The data in this case is based on the responses of more than 90% of the group members. All of them validated and agreed with the diagnostic results in a two-day strategy workshop.

Despite my experience in other medium vibrancy groups, the members of this group described many experiences of high levels of Harmonic Vibrancy in temporal and spatial pockets, leading me to an understanding of what this might look like. This created a very fertile ground for a fast-paced process. Our common analysis brought us to the understanding that the group suffered a collapse in vibrancy due to collapsing the agreements that enabled them to realize a balanced interplay of the five different allocation-mechanism relationships.  They noticed that, some years ago, they started to focus on the OTHER as the dominant mechanism for allocating the resources they need to generate the outcomes they want. Thus, they unintentionally collapsed the primary relationships to SELF, GROUP, NATURE and SPIRIT. To make the next steps and to move to higher levels of vibrancy, we started to walk through the first steps of the O-Process.

    1. We started by making visible the current state of their shared reality, in their underlying agreements and costs of scarcity.  All of the group members agreed that they would want to let go of the scarcity-enacting agreements, in order to be able to enact new, more abundance-based agreements.
    2. By applying collaborative inquiry techniques, the group created an alignment about the deeper shared purpose of their NGO. They made explicit that they could not reach this purpose with the old agreements. “We agree that we have to change our agreements, and we collectively decide to change the agreements that will lead to the reality that we experience.”
    3. The very self-reflective leader of the group started the next step by sharing her deeper values, needs and possible contributions. It was amazing to observe that, despite the presence of very strong personalities, no aggressive egos mutilated this invitation. By making this first move, she opened the space for individual reflection and inner stillness to happen. Every single member of the group started to share his and her deeper values and possible contributions to the deeper purpose of the organization. Since all of them aligned in step one and two on the deeper purpose of the group, it was a straight forward move to bring their intentions and possible contributions into alignment as well.
    4. Due to the alignment on the deeper purpose of the group and of the individual values, needs, and possible contributions, they all started to create a first understanding of the possibilities they have to make that move. This happened during the second day of the workshop and was a very intense process. People started to let go of the old. Afterwards they said, “It felt like a healing or cleaning process… amazing.”

Their journey is not yet over: it just begun. And, what makes all the difference, they now share a space of possibilities they all see and relate to together. They have to find ways to transfer the existing commitment into shared actions. This workshop happened nearly one year ago. Just three days ago, I received a message stating, “Thanks again for the process we started. We made big moves and the doors you started to expose to us are still wide open. We are on a good path.” I was very touched by this e-mail since it reflects why I am doing this work: “Support groups to move into abundance-based agreements.”

Finally, another very simple but obviously powerful assumption can be framed as, “As long as we can laugh about our self and our ego, we are fine.” In all of these vibrant groups, I found a very strong sense of self-humor.  In German we would call it “Selbsthumor.” To me it is amazing to see that this kind of basic principle serves as a cleaning mechanism for the group. It helps them stay focused on the issue and the common purpose and not get lost in energy-depleting structures that emerge when single egos are way too dominant. Self-humor nearly always helped to equalize the energies in the room and to bring all into one movement, a movement towards the shared purpose.

Guest post — Introducing the Experience of Harmonic Vibrancy in Mexico

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo, ISC Fellow 

When I was designing an Introductory Experience of Harmonic Vibrancy, some questions came to my mind: can I find a real experience for the group? An experience that talks not just to their mind, but makes them feel it in their body and will?  I did not want to start with their mind in the very beginning, and that was a bit difficult for me, since I am so accustomed to work with my mind. Then an inspiring moment gave me some ideas of how to do this.

Feeling each relationship in the body. I believe there is a way to get people to feel Harmonic Vibrancy. I did this body experience in about an hour and a half. The I, Other, and Group relationships were easier to experience in the physical. I still need a good form of body experience for the relationships to Nature and Spirit. For each one of the relationships, I ask the participants to put themselves in one of the postures for a minute, and then write down on a post-it what they feel and think. I do not have pictures of people doing the postures; however, the I and Other are pretty straightforward. In the case of the relationship to the Group, the lower level was very interesting. The image below can help to make sense of the posture I asked them to do as a group. People said things like they could not see more than the person in front of them. They felt static. Some of them said they did not have feelings, and were uninterested, with their minds going to a different place.  Some wanted to touch the person in front, and turn to see the person behind; so, it was a very nice way to make them feel the lower level of the relationship to the Group.

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In the case of the relationship to Nature, I gave them an object (the carton at the end of a roll of toilet paper works very nicely).  I told them what it was, and then asked the group what was the purpose of the object. At first everyone answer what I told them, that is the Things level of perceived reality.  Then, in the case of toilet paper roll, they told me they have garbage in their hands. When I asked them about what could they do with the object, a lot of ideas came in, that is the development-verb level. Finally, some ideas that were beyond the object helped explain what we can imagine when we are in the light level. I linked this same exercise to the relationship to Spirit, to discover how to experience this through the body.

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The first experience of Naming. Language is so important for the process of experiencing harmonic vibrancy, and sometimes we find it difficult to listen to ourselves and to others in the collectives we are part of. So, what I did is to give the group famous phrases from philosophers, singers, popular sayings from Mexico. Some of these are in the Ecosynomics book, and some are not.  Some are long; some are short. Some examples of the short ones include: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” from Leonard Cohen; “Tree that is born crooked, his trunk never straightens,” a popular saying; “We only see what we animate, and we animate what we see” from Emerson. I asked the group to identify the primary relationship(s) and the level of each phrase. I emphasized that they could sense the level of perceived reality just by listening to the language they used.

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The first 4-5 hours of the 12-hour workshop were dedicated to these two activities. After that we worked more and more with the mind, learning what agreements are, understanding the three paths through the three levels of perceived reality, analyzing their responses to the harmonic vibrancy survey, and analyzing Agreements Maps for different groups. I believe that the success of these other exercises rested on the two exercises of the first 4 hours.

At the end I did a small exercise of “mindfully eating chocolate,” to close the workshop reminding them that the more mindful we are, the more we can really help collectives to name agreements and realize what to do next.

I look forward to learning what you and others have found useful in engaging people with their mind, heart and will from the very beginning of the harmonic vibrancy experience.  I know that we will continue to improve and innovate from this point forward to make this introduction a real experience of what Harmonic Vibrancy is.

Annabel Membrillo Jimenez, ISC Fellow, is the Vibrancy Ins. representative for Harmonic Vibrancy and Ecosynomics in Mexico.  Through her consulting, coaching, and teaching, Annabel has brought harmonic vibrancy, and strategic clarity to individuals, organizations, and communities in Mexico since 1995.  A graduate with honors of the ITAM, she has co-authored articles you can find at ISC.

Recession = Healthy Relationships with Collapsed Resources or Collapsed Relationships with Healthy Resources?

Economists as varied as Mises, Mills, and Keynes agree that even in times of economic growth and abundance there is still a need for the group to protect the freedom of the individual, provide some form of justice in relations among individuals, and limit government regulation.[1]  They differ greatly on what to do in times of economic decline and scarcity, when people are in a depressed-collapsed state, which they call a recession or depression.  Some like Keynes suggest government intervention to increase demand, while others like Mises suggest individual freedom to increase supply.  One focuses on a group response and the other on the self response.

Ecosynomics shows this depressed state as the experience of the inner circle of HV, where all five relationships are collapsed – the inability to see potential in the self, other, group, nature, and spirit.  From this perspective, then the debate is about what to do to get out of the completely collapsed state.

Common sense suggests that to move back to healthy levels of relationship, one needs to strengthen all five relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit), not just one.  To achieve a moderate level of health in all five relationships requires knowing the existing health of each of them.  Any intervention that proceeds before knowing the existing health of each relationship is at best inefficient and more likely to damage the healthy relationships already there.

For example, if I find that in our group, the relationships to the other, group, nature, and spirit are healthy and only the relationship to the self is weak, then a clear focus on the self, the freedom of the individual is important, while maintaining the health of the other four relationships.  Likewise, if I find that the relationship to the group is weak, while the other four are healthy, then strengthening the group relationship makes sense, while maintaining the others.

I suggest this as a lens for what these leading economists saw.  In a culture where the relationship to the individual, other, nature, and spirit remain healthy in a recession, but the relationship to the group is weakened in the economic downturn, then a focus on group interventions might make sense.  To be clear, this might make sense, in this specific setting, but would not be generalizable to other settings.  Following this logic, if an economically recessed group found healthy relationships in the other, group, nature, and spirit, with a weaker relationship to the self, then focusing on individual freedom might make more sense.  Again, contextual.

Rather than debate the generalizability to all situations of self-focused or group-focused interventions in times of economic recession, it might be more fruitful to explore what interventions can strengthen all five relationships and the economic agreements supporting them, depending on the existing health of each of the five relationships.  As I have documented in previous posts, there are many examples around the globe of groups doing just that.  Maybe what they are learning could inform this debate.  After all, all of these economists agree that we want both healthy relationships and healthy resources.

[1] See chapter 24 of Keynes, John Maynard. (2009). The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. New York: Classic Books America.  See p. 141 of Mill, John Stuart. (1984). On Liberty. New York: Penguin Books.  See p. 88 of von Mises, Ludwig. (2006). The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.