It was a few years ago that i first heard about TheoryU. It was mentioned in quite a mysterious way. The person knew that it was something I would value and love, yet didn’t quite know how to explain it. It still feels a little like that.
I started to look into this TheoryU and found ULab and Presencing Institute. I followed the ULab 1.0 course and found this place where social change and research came together with a kind of mystery and an inner shift that I appreciated so much. There was a kind of homemade-ness to it. There was a developing sense of an experiment, trying things, being able to mess up, even though this was a course from MIT, with so many following it.
I remember in the middle of this session online, Otto pausing to host a meditation – I remember thinking, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’. I almost couldn’t believe that it could be true, that something academic and research based that was trying to change systems could allow for these deep places of self connection, and connection with something deeper and beyond our rational minds, including our hearts and bodies knowing.
Since the global pandemic started, i’ve followed #GAIAJourney, connecting with a truly global movement. Projects from all over the world (not just from Europe and Americas, which is often what is the reality when something’s called ‘Global’). I was in breakout rooms with people from Colombia and Uganda and Brazil and Japan and everywhere in between, groups working on so many different things from systems to individual change to local communities from health to farming to economics to alternative finance to democracy to growing food to education. I followed with wonder at this evolving movement that had been put together so quickly in response to a time of great uncertainty.
GM Transformation Lab
Finally, after these journey of years following ULab, we are hosting our own journey with the Greater Manchester Transformation Lab. The call went out by word of mouth, meaning those who have come are a self selected group – people who are curious and open, wondering what a space like this might bring.
We held some initial sessions to tune our senses, build trust and connections, to give a taste of what ULab might be about, see what questions came up. Our intention was to build our capacity to come from a place of presence, with open minds, open heart and open will. The first session focused on ‘listening and responding’, the second on ‘Curiosity, Compassion and Courage’. And now we’ve started on a mini journey through the U.
The initial phase, which in TheoryU is called co sensing, we named ‘Observe – listen, sense, feel’. We explored what it was to really hear a different perspective. What happens in us? How do we sense this other being who has a different view from us? What’s challenging about it and what’s beautiful?
The next session continues that co-sensing, and also about the important part of the bottom of the year they call co-presencing, ‘Pause – reflect, hold, connect’. I remember hearing someone talk about Mandela, that he would pause and take in what happened and stay in this moment of unknown a little longer than was comfortable for everyone, and that what he then said or did would come from this deeper place, from a deeper wisdom. As one of my heros, that has helped me to really trust in this pause and experience the gifts it brings. Many times, how waiting a little longer before acting means I can sense into what really wants to come, what’s emerging. Often some of those first ideas I have are based on some kind of urgency to find an action, and in the waiting something else comes that’s more responsive and feels right.
So we’ll explore hearing different perspectives and how that can help us sense and see the whole system. We are often looking at issues from our own perspective. Part of ULab is learning to ‘bend the beam back on ourselves’ to also see our part in it, how we are in relation to it, and how we are in relation to these other perspectives from the edges.
Otto talks about a conversation in which, in which he heard this insight ‘ The success of the intervention depends on the interior conditions of the intervener’. How will we come to these great challenges of our time? How are we with uncertainty? How can we meet others? How can we sense into a deeper source? That’s all part of the success of the changes we make in the world.
The third part of the U is about acting in response to all of that, ‘Act – play, learn, test, loop’ – to make little prototypes and experiments and see what feedback comes back, then adapting based on this learning.
Like many people, i have wondered what to do, looking at so much in our systems that seems broken, so much suffering and unknown. I wonder where to put my energy, what is mine to do. I trust this process, amongst others, as a way to move in that uncertainty, that together, hearing different perspectives, sensing and seeing the whole system, pausing, responding, testing… that these deeper souces of knowing will guide us to transform inside and out.
If you’re interested to find out more about the GM Transformation Lab, ULab or anything mentioned here, there’s a list of links below that might be of interest, or feel free to get in touch.