Vertical Development

Being Skilled in Empathy

The reason you must be skilled in empathy is because the integrating stage of development requires you to cooperate with other people, so you can make a bigger difference in the world than you could on your own. Building connections is paramount to the integrating stage of development.

There are two components to empathy. First, the ability to imagine oneself in another’s place: experience and understand their feelings and desires, and be able to communicate your understanding of their situation back to them. Second, the ability to see into the soul of the other person: understand what is important to them and what makes them tick. When you are able to do this, the other person automatically responds, because they have the feeling of being seen and understood.

Richard Barrett, Evolutionary Coaching

This isn’t just essential for collaborating with others at this level of consciousness in making a difference in the world but in communicating your work as a whole because it requires your ability to communicate the current reality (as the framing part of the four stages of speech) in such a way that it resonates with others and makes them feel seen, heard, and recognized.

Even more so, it makes other realize that this seemingly unnatural experience that they’re feeling is actually quite natural in nature, as others are experiencing it as well and it is a part of a larger natural process of growth and development.

If you are a man and you are operating in empathy mode, you have to fight your tendency to want to solve the problems of the other person. All you have to do is listen and communicate your understanding of the difficulties the other person is facing. Do not attempt to solve their problems, unless invited.

Richard Barrett, Evolutionary Coaching

I’ve read this quote before but it’s meaning really didn’t sink in until now. Do you realize how liberating this statement is!? That’s because a conventional ego mindset is trying to be an “expert” and trying to have all of the solutions to all of the problems. Yet in doing so, it puts an impossibility upon yourself to have all of the answers to all of the questions. This was my greatest fear. “I don’t know everything, so how can I be an ‘expert’ in helping people with this?”

But the reality is that the only person who can truly know you is you. Thus it’s not about “leading” people, getting them to “follow” you, and them doing what they’re told (like the conventional narrative preaches). Rather it’s about helping people to follow themselves and see where that leads themselves. And when you make this mindset shift, you’re hilariously letting go of expectations and outcomes again, the very things that are standing in your way and making you feel stuck.

Actually this mirrors something Margaret Wheatley said in her book Turning To One Another in which she shared an experience of a black South African woman sharing her story and how she didn’t need people to “fix her” and solve her problems but just to listen to her, as listening brings it own healing to those who are heard.

When her turn came, she began to quietly tell a story from her horror–of how she had found her grandparents slaughtered in their village. Many of the women were Westerners, and in the presence of such pain they instinctively wanted to do something. They want to fix, to make it better, anything to remove the pain of this tragedy from such a young life. The young woman felt their compassion, but also felt them closing in. She put up her hands, as if to push back their desire to help. She said: “I don’t need you to fix me. I just need you to listen to me.”

Margaret Wheatley, Turning To One Another

And in hearing this again, it has made me realize how I’ve approached others, including family members, in the past with regards to wanting to help them “fix their problems” as well with my knowledge of vertical development. But it’s not about doing that. It’s about them sharing their experiences and stories of what they’re going through and me listening to them, their experience, and reflecting back a recognition of it back to them, so that they feel heard and understood. In effect, it’s not about “saving others.” It’s about helping them to save (heal / integrate) themselves, as again, only they truly know themselves.

Vertical Development

Trusting Your Soul

Trusting your soul requires immense courage when you are still in the ego stages of your development. That is because the ego takes its job seriously. It was given the task of keeping your body safe from harm, and it was never told that it was performing this service as the agent of your soul. It thought it was operating on behalf of itself and your body. It wasn’t expecting the soul to show up and ask it to hand over the reins.

What you are attempting to learn by trusting your soul is that the best possible outcomes will always arise when you follow the inspiration of your soul. Even though the voice of inspiration can come through at any stage of your psychological development, you will not begin to recognise it as such until you reach the self-actualising stage, and you will not get fully tuned in until you reach the integrating stage.

In order to make progress at the integrating stage of development you must give yourself wholeheartedly to your soul’s purpose and maintain your focus on leading a values-driven life. Your values will enable you to navigate your way through the three-dimensional physical world, so you can more easily facilitate the realisation of your soul’s purpose.

Handing the control of your life over to your soul is not easy to do. If you still have any fears left after passing through the previous stages of your development, they will now emerge.

Richard Barrett, Evolutionary Coaching
Vertical Development

Life Isn’t a Problem to Solve But a Reality to Experience

Ever since I described what emergence means to me almost a week ago, I’ve been intuitively feeling something different, something that I couldn’t articulate into words at first because I had to follow it to see where it lead me so as to understand it.

In doing so, it reminded me and reconnected me to how play is only possible in the face of uncertainty, thus allowing us the opportunity to be real creative. What this means is that uncertainty and opportunity are linked. So we have to embrace and befriend uncertainty, holding a space for it, thus allowing time and space for our creativity to playfully emerge. That’s because play thrives in ambiguity, allowing for new realities to emerge.

So holding all of these thoughts and feelings within myself today, I just let them coalesce, to see what would emerge. Here’s what did.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve been stuck and something’s holding me back for the longest time. What I’m realizing is that it is I, my “self,” that is holding myself back. What I mean by that is that my actually perception of my “self,” my identity, is holding me back. How? It’s because I’m stuck in my old familiar identity that I’ve been role playing for so long, that I’m fearful of letting go of it and fearful of stepping into playing an uncertain new role that has no “plan” for it, as it is completely unique to me.

So what I realized I’m experiencing is something I’ve touched upon before as a possible explanation which now seems more plausible. I’m effectively at the border of my mindset and shifting from Robert Kegan’s Self-Authoring Mind to a Self-Transforming Mind. What this means is that all of the methods and ways of being that got me here will not get me where I want to go. So I’m stepping into a way of being that seems completely foreign to me (yet “adventurously” familiar somehow) because there is no way to truly understand it via knowledge, rather you have to just embrace it and live it to truly understand it, like stepping off of a cliff without a parachute.

What this all comes down to is trust in yourself. You’re effectively letting go of the old map that has helped you navigate to this point in your life and switching to an inner compass to help wayfind and navigate your way forward, thus creating and mapping your own unique map for life, as you explore it and experience it.

Netflix Shadow & Bone

And I don’t care what anyone says in terms of thinking they understand how this feels. They don’t, unless they’ve actually experienced it themselves. It’s like stepping forward into an impenetrable wall of nothingness, like The Fold in the Netflix series Shadow & Bone, and in the process of doing so, a layer of your “self” is shredded and shed, revealing not something less but something more underneath it.

In doing so, you’re now in a new world where the way of operating and being within it is paradoxically different than what you previously knew. So you no longer can plan your way, set goals, and expect outcomes because seeking these external certainties will only make things worse. Instead you have to listen to what’s within you, follow it, and let it lead and guide you forward, even if all you “know” is but the single step right in front of you.

I’ve reread similar words to this many times in the past but this is the first time these words are actually making sense to me. It’s a complete letting go of everything I’ve learnt and trusting in my deeper Self to implicitly and tacitly understand where I need to go and letting it lead me there by following it.

To operate in this way you have to get rid of any ego attachment you may have to things having to be the way your ego wants them. When your ego thinks it knows exactly what to do, beware! The ego is usually focused on satisfying one of its unmet needs. The mere thought of not being able to achieve your ego’s needs generates anxiety and fear.

Whenever you allow fear to enter your mind, you are sending a message to your soul that you do not trust it to produce the outcome that is most beneficial to you.

Non-attachment to outcomes sends a different message to your soul. It says: “Soul, I trust you to organise the outcome so that it most perfectly fits with your needs. Even though I may find the situation painful, help me to recognise it as a learning experience.”

Richard Barrett, Evolutionary Coaching

The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve but a reality to experience. A process that cannot be understood by stopping it. We must move with the flow of the process. We must join it. We must flow with it.

Jamis, Dune (2021)

Play Thrives in Ambiguity

VUCA | Emergence | Next-stage Organization | Reinventing Organizations
In our VUCA world, organizations that don’t reinvent themselves in these five ways won’t survive or thrive.

IMHO, one cannot plan but stay prepared to flow with ambiguityplay with ambiguityimmerse themselves in it. As I pondered this rather obvious point, another question raised its hydra-like head. Life in general is fairly ambiguous.

Yet, we flow with it. Children thrive in ambiguity. They are the quintessential explorers of the unknown, Columbuses of their own little worlds. They instinctively know the mantra to thrive in ambiguity; it’s called PLAY.

And from play comes learning; and from learning emerges their new realities. We go to design schools to learn about design sprints and the art of prototyping. Children build and break sand castles at will, destroying their own creations to come back and build again. Unfazed, unafraid! They are the quintessential prototype masters. It seems so effortless when we are children.

Ambiguity cannot be resolved through telling; it needs to be heard to be comprehended, for the hidden patterns to emerge, and for the unspoken to become felt needs. Ambiguity cannot be dealt with in parts. It has to be explored from divergent perspectives, through different lenses and heuristics, and felt in its entirety.

Only when the unspoken and tacit patterns are seen, sense making happens, and emergence takes place. And emergence leads to those seemingly small but powerful innovations and practices that disrupt the established order of things.

Sahana Chattopadhyay, Ambiguity & Emergence
Vertical Development

Creating Our Own Pause & Holding Our Own Space

“Befriending Uncertainty” in a Post-Covid World | by Sahana Chattopadhyay | Age of Emergence | Medium
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we have reached such a state of impasse, of gridlock where our old stories, metaphors, norms, patterns, structures, and ways of being no longer serve us. Is…

Human beings are psychologically addicted to predictability. We prefer to be cushioned by the mundane ordinariness of life rather than dwell in the discomfort of the unknown. We will grab at any distraction to escape the awful, hollow, and helpless void of the unknown.

We have been offered a pause to reimagine and reinvent a new way of being on this planet — of co-creating a regenerative future for all sentient beings. And to do this, we must befriend uncertainty! We must dwell in this pause — accepting all its pain, doubts, fears, confusions, questions — with an open mind, open heart, and open will.

Sahana Chattopadhyay, “Befriending Uncertainty” in a Post-Covid World

We are being called to “lead from a future that is already here”.

Sahana Chattopadhyay
“Befriending Uncertainty” in a Post-Covid World

What narratives can we energize and envision to act as compasses in an unknown territory? What old stories, patterns, and structures must we hospice to move toward a regenerative future? What are the new stories, patterns, and structures we must midwife to step into a regenerative future?

None of us have the answers. But if we live into the questions, I trust that the answers will emerge from our collective intentions and actions. We need to acknowledge uncertainty, dwell in the unknown, and hold space for ourselves and others as rapid and irrevocable change tears down every known bulwark and buttress.

I’m witnessing this pause as a crucible where the new world order is churning itself into being. To fully step into this pause, to become stewards of a new way of being on this planet, we must befriend and welcome the uncertain, the unknown, the ambiguous, the unfamiliar, the unthought of. Only by learning to dwell in this liminal space with gentle curiosity can we actualize the future that wants to emerge through us.

Sahana Chattopadhyay, “Befriending Uncertainty” in a Post-Covid World

Embracing Stillness

Slowing down is not about physically coming to a stop. It’s not a passive act but one wherein we are wholly present and aware in the manner of a witness, an observer. It’s about fully inhabiting ourselves, grounding ourselves in our bodies, and coming into awareness and alignment with what is most alive within us. It is about coming out of our auto-pilot mode and acknowledging our overwhelm, our fear, our exhaustion, and being a witness to all that rises within. It’s about tuning in to what is truly wanting to emerge through us, and then taking awareness-based, thoughtful action.

Sahana Chattopadhyay, “Befriending Uncertainty” in a Post-Covid World

Staying With Questions

Holding the questions with gentle curiosity is more likely to yield answers when everything around us is changing every moment. “Live the questions now,” urged Rilke. When we make space for the questions that matter, nurture them with gentle curiosity, seek not easy answers but true insights, and humbly yield to the learning, the answers reveal themselves in various ways. It takes patience and a trust in universal coherence to abide in the questions.

Sahana Chattopadhyay, “Befriending Uncertainty” in a Post-Covid World

The path to the new world is found within the in-between spaces of the old world.

Nollind Whachell
Vertical Development

Uncertainty & Opportunity Are Linked

Learning to live with ambiguity and uncertainty is a necessary precondition for more opportunity.

Taylor Pearson

Boyd’s work looked at how any individual or organization could thrive in an uncertain world.

He saw that one way people react to uncertainty is to try to eliminate it. They try to close themselves off from uncertainty.

This always makes things worse in the long run.

Individuals, organizations, cities, and nation-states thrive as parts of open systems. If they close themselves off, they suffocate.

In our individual lives, we often do the same thing. The person who takes a seemingly secure, stable job because they are trying to avoid change can put themselves at a disadvantage. All their eggs are in one basket. If that job disappears twenty years from now, they’ve not built a network and skillset that would let them survive the setback.

The freelancer that pursues a seemingly more risky path with more uncertainty also creates opportunity.

Openness creates uncertainty and opportunity. You can not get one without the other. The people I know who have the most opportunities in their lives are the ones who are best at living with large amounts of uncertainty.

How do you open yourself up?

In essence, you interact by staying open to people and source of information coming from diverse points of view and by living in a way that is in alignment with our stated values.

This sounds great, but is uncommon. There is a strong tendency for people to close themselves off from different points of view and isolate themselves.

How many significant beliefs have you changed your mind about in the last year?

Reality is constantly changing. If you aren’t changing your beliefs about it, then you’re falling out of sync.

Taylor Pearson, The Ultimate Guide To The OODA Loop

Playing With Uncertainty to Gain the Opportunity to Be Real Creative

And this is actually kind of terrifying this idea that we human beings, orderly creatures that we are, might crave chaos. And this is why play is important because play bridges that gap. The things that are so scary to us about chaos in our real lives are the things that are so appealing and lovely about games. Which is that we don’t know what will happen next. We don’t know where our choices will lead us. If we did, it wouldn’t be play so much as fulfilling a prophecy. Play is only possible in the face of uncertainty

And yet when we find ourselves in uncertain situations in our lives, we almost never respond to those moments with “Yay, time to play!” Instead we double down on order, even if we know this order isn’t suiting us anymore. Even if we know the time has come to pass that order aside because it’s safe over there and familiar. And if we have to live in that uncertainty instead, what does that mean for us?

And by choosing order and not letting ourselves sit in uncertainty, we deny ourselves the space and the opportunity to be creative and to be brilliant, and to let our own innate sense of self really come through into the world. 

Jessica Creane, Gamifying Chaos: Embracing Uncertainty Through Play

Emergence: From Meaningless to Meaningful

Emergence is trusting that something will happen that will transform what’s in front of you into something much more meaningful than it appears. But it’s trusting the process, especially when what’s in front of you at the moment seems completely meaningless and worthless, at least by our initial interpretations of it.

Personal Knowledge Management

Syncing Obsidian on an iPad & iCloud Is Very Easy

While I’m finding using Obsidian on my Mac desktop is fairly easy, I quickly realized I was missing the immediacy of note-taking that I usually do on my iPad when reading news articles or academic papers on it, so I decided to install it and sync it to my iPad as well.

Wow. The setup couldn’t have been easier. Basically I created a new Obsidian Vault during the iPad setup (which again is completely free on the App Store) and chose “Store in iCloud”. That’s it. I then just copied my local existing Obsidian vault filings from my Mac’s local drive into this iCloud location, closed the old local vault on my Mac and opened the new iCloud one. Super easy.

Again I’m finding this essential because I need the ability to write out my thoughts immediately as they’re happening in the moment, thus allowing me to catch and store them immediately. This is also important because, as I noted previously, when I see a connection and relationship from something new I’ve found to previous thoughts I’ve had, I not only have to create a new note for the new thing I’ve found but I also have to create new notes for my older thoughts that I’d had before but never really captured and stored in this (atomic notes) way.

Personal Knowledge Management

Started Playing With Obsidian

Watching all of the amazing videos by Vicky Zhao, I decided I wanted to start playing with a note-taking system that I can link and interconnect into a sort of ecosystem. Thinking I could just easily use WordPress to do this, I setup a new website but quickly realized that WordPress is way too slow, tedious, and not optimized for taking quick notes at the speed of thought (especially with the slow page loading off of a server across the country).

Deciding to checkout Obsidian, I was dumbstruck to find out that it is completely free to use, so I set it up and started adding some notes to it. While I found it much faster and easier to use to take notes, the key difficulty I’m experiencing is really just unlearning my current blogging mindset (i.e. long sequential posts) and switching to a note-taking mindset (i.e. short, highly linked posts). It’s harder than it sounds but I think that if I do end up writing longer notes at first, I’ll just break them down into smaller notes later, if need be.

Oh, one other interesting thing that I noticed after getting Obsidian was that when reading or watching a video and noticing something that I wanted to record a note on it, the secondary issue was that I couldn’t link that new note to something already existing within my note-taking system. This immediately reminded me of my feeling before of not having a solid foundation for my work to stand upon. In effect, for me to link new things within my note-taking system, I really have to go back and lay all of the foundation of what I already know. Only then will it feel like I’m actually standing on solid ground.