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Tom Hurley: Designing for Transformation

See also: Tom Hurley: Transformation in Conversations (blog by Janis)

Oct 26, 2013

Guest: Tom Hurley
Moderator: Janis Daddona
Host: Amit Dungarani

Jan:  Our guest Tom Hurley is one of those people who gets to explore the edges for a living, discerning how to walk the joining places of inner and outer chaos and order, individual and community. He has worked at the Institute of Noetic Sciences Chaordic Initiatives, the Global Cafe, and now in leadership and consulting. And even more spectacular he and his wife Sarah all are now moving more deeply into understanding the soul.  I had the great pleasure of meeting him at our ServiceSpace annual meeting this summer, and I found his words deliberate, his listening deep, and his presence comfortable. I think you'll agree so let's begin.  Welcome Tom!

Tom:  Hi Jan, Hello everyone.

Jan:  Well, Tom, what prompts a young man to find a degree program in futures research and wind up at the Institute for Noetic Sciences?

Tom:  Ah, lack of concern for how to make a living [laughter], and lead a life that anyone else would recognize as leading to anything that we in the mainstream world we would consider security. [laughter]  I'm only partly joking Jan. It struck one point when I was looking back on my life that one of the things that had characterized all of my choices throughout my, certainly my adult life, has been that I've been guided by a different set of values, as someone said earlier during the storytelling.  And have never, have never imagined myself settling into a comfortable career; have never been concerned about building up a big savings account for retirement or any of those more conventional kinds of things, at least they were conventional when I was growing up.

And and instead I've always been interested and inspired by what's possible for us as human beings.  I'm Irish on both sides of my lineage and the Irish in me, the Celtic soul in me, is fascinated by the points where our ordinary life touches the other worlds, the larger worlds, that we're part of and so I've always been inspired to explore them -- whether it was through futures research, which was really all about the transformation of our our outer world -- or work at the Institute of Noetic Sciences which in large part was about transformation of our inner worlds and the study of consciousness and human potential -- or or the many other things I've done where those two have come together.

Jan:  Well that sounds just delicious.  I think for many of us on the call, I think we can really resonate with that.  You spent seventeen years at IONS.  And for some of us, certainly myself included, that's a long time.  What was it that kept you there and what was your moment of transformation when you knew it was time to leave?

Tom:  So for those who aren't familiar with...when you say IONS, Jan, not everyone may know what you mean.  So Jan is referring to 17 years I spent working with a nonprofit organization based in the San Francisco Bay area called the Institute of Noetic Sciences.  And for those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's an organization founded by one of the Apollo astronauts, Ed Mitchell, who was the sixth man to walk on the moon.  It is dedicated to scientific exploration of consciousness and human potential and the exploration of new paradigms in science and society, particularly new worldviews, new values that integrate our experience of the inner world with with our experience of the outer world -- so of science and spirituality and social transformation.

So your question, Jan, was why did I stay there for 17 years?  Well, at one level, I stayed there for 17 years because I never felt like looking for another job.  But the deeper answer is that it was in the 80s and 90s when I was there.  It was an absolutely extraordinary place to be -- it was one of the few organizations in the world seriously inquiring into consciousness and human potential, which included the role of the mind and spirit in healing, psychic abilities, creativity, all kinds of different things -- meditation.  I ran a meditation research program for seven years.  All kinds of different things, and at the same time was not only investigating those kinds of topics in a scientifically and intellectually rigorous way, but was actively working with a global network of people who were interested in how we co-evolve as societies and institutions -- business, health care, education, that are more respectful of our wholeness as human beings, and on the whole more sustainable, just and equitable than the world in which we find ourselves.  And so I was in the middle of an unending stream of extraordinarily creative people with visionary ideas about transformation. And not only able to be involved in and support that work, but had ample opportunities in that context for the deeper kinds of personal experience that many of the folks who shared stories have touched on.  

And at some point, Jan, in terms of the second part of your question about my leaving -- as wonderful a place as that was, there came a time after seventeen years where I had been doing a lot of deep inner work and had been leading a strategic planning process for the Institute at the same time looking at where the Institute needed to go, and there just came a day where I woke up and I realized in a kind of mini-epiphany that the organization was going in one direction where it absolutely needed to go, and my heart and soul were beginning to go in a different direction.  And, you know, in terms of moments of transformation in our lives, and by the way I love the stories -- I could spend the entire ninety minutes just listening to those stories -- but in terms of pivotal moments of transformation in my life, saying "yes" to the knowing that was arising in me about what where my soul was being called to go was incredibly important, and it was terrifying because I -- as you said -- I had been there seventeen years; I had gone there when I was 26, so I had in a sense grown up in the context of the Institute.  Everyone I knew I knew through the Institute.  In many ways my entire identity was built in it and around it and so to say yes to leaving was terrifying -- it felt like stepping into a black hole.  But I also knew that if I didn't and, by the way I'm coming out of a nonprofit organization and thinking you know "I have absolutely no marketable skills," so I have no idea what I'm going to do next. Which was part of the dare but saying yes and being willing to step into the not knowing was crucial and, of course, launched me on to the next stage of my own transformational journey which obviously continues.

Jan:  So part of that journey, I think, led you to your work with Dee Hock and the Chaordic Initiative.  I love that word "chaordic"; you explained it to us at the retreat.  Share with our listeners if you will what that means and tell us about your your work with Chaordic Initiative and what happened there. 

Tom: I would be happy to Jan and before I do that let me just make one comment about being at the Institute of Noetic Sciences which you and I talked about earlier this week...which was -- one of the really heartwarming and inspiring dimensions of being at Noetic Sciences was that we were a membership organization and when I left the institute our membership was around sixty five thousand people I think -- which in the larger scheme of things is not a large number but in the consciousness world at that time was a very large number and...what we continually would hear from people, whether they came to visit our office or came to a conference that we sponsored or just called us on the phone for a conversation was they were so happy to be in the company of like minded and like hearted people.  

I think many again in the 80's and 90's many of us who are interested in spirituality, in consciousness felt that there was very little opportunity around us in the world, in our workplaces, in our communities, etc., to find kindred spirits...that's less so today but some of the people on the call may still experience that and so to feel that there are places where you can can gather and be in conversation with those who you resonate with at a deeper level is incredibly important.  I think that's part of why these calls, these weekly calls are so valuable.  

Now I mention that because that experience continued into my time with the Chaordic Alliance...the word chaordic, as you said, was a word that Dee Hock who had been the founder of Visa, the credit card company, had made up by taking part of the word chaos and part of the word order and putting them together...and it was Dee's way of talking about organizations as living systems, the idea being that living systems generally whether we're talking about human beings or animals or plants or organizations or ecosystems as a whole, all evolve on the edge of chaos and order where there's just enough order for the living system to hang together as a coherent entity for me to continue to be me and yet enough chaos and change that I'm moved and called to continue to change and evolve and innovate and adapt and so forth.

So our work was with people in all sectors, the Corporations, non-profits, government agencies, multi-stakeholder groups that were interested in how we put these ideas about organizations as living systems into practice and in our organizations, in our work places...and a lot of it was the absence of the Chaordic way if you will is to design systems and practices that enable a group of people to remain connected and coordinated through shared purpose and shared principles while allowing for as much freedom and autonomy on the part of all of the people who are involved in that organization or community or all of the parts of that organization or community as possible. 

And that creative tension between freedom and belonging or individuality and the collective is a dynamic that is continuously being worked...and the edges of which are continually evolving... so we took those ideas into computer companies, we took it into a community group for people working on all kinds of issues -- climate change -- we took it into the healthcare field, wide variety of different arenas in which were exploring those kinds of ideas.

Jan: Thanks.  Following up on that, I'm wondering if you might spend a little time talking about...because this also leads into your current work as a consultant for leadership and transformation.  Can you give us a sense of what it is like when you're actually doing this work and I'm looking at it from both edges here, pragmatically when you're working, are you working with everyone in the organization or are you working with just the leadership...what is the precipitating event that perhaps may call you in. And then on the other edge, can you explain your work with these people in more existential or spiritual terms?

Tom: So, the answer to all of that is yes (laughter)...and it's yes in the sense Jan that the work I do is multi-dimensional and sometimes it's with individuals, sometimes it's with leadership teams, sometimes it's with entire organizations and I'll do my best at touching on the existential part...but in a way Jan it starts with me, in the sense that whatever the work is, it starts with me and the exact sense that some of the folks that shared stories at the beginning were talking about which is, it starts with my own clarity of intention, which is always to serve and then coupled with that clarity of intention is for me the practice of obedience.  

Now, I mean obedience in a very particular way.  If you look at the etymology of the word obedience, it comes from the Latin oboedire which means to listen...and so obedience in its deepest sense is actually our listening to God is how I would put it and to guidance from God.  And so I go into all of my work with the intention to be of service and to be guided in that work by God.  I shared with you all at the service space annual gathering the prayer that I discovered on a wonderful little video called The Saint of 9-11 which is about Father Michael Judge who was an Irish priest in New York City, and who had a very colorful life and those who are interested might want to seek that out but he was guided daily by a prayer I'll share with the group, which is -- Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.  

And that's really my prayer every day and every time I go into any interaction.  And so now to the gist of your question, with all of that as my touchstone and my orientation, I sometimes work with individual leaders, as a coach or a trusted advisor...I guess the other thing I should say is, and this will be no surprise given my history and what I've already shared about my interest in orientation on this call, I work with leaders and leadership teams and organizations that are interested in a purpose beyond profit.

And more and more organizations today are recognizing that business as well as nonprofits which have always been mission driven, even business has a responsibility to the world, that it's imperative for leaders in companies to articulate and to organize around.  And so more and more leaders in the kinds of companies I work with, which range from very small local companies here in the Bay Area to some of the very largest global corporations in the world, more and more leaders are actively exploring what their own sense of deeper personal purpose and how does that manifest in and through the work they do, and what's the higher purpose of their company or what might that be in the world, how can they contribute in a positive way to creating a better world, a world that works for all or as I sometimes say a world that nourishes a life.  

And so so again with that as a kind of context and as a guiding orientation for the work I do, sometimes as with individual leaders helping them explore those kinds of questions around purpose and then how that purpose gets played out in their organization, and what is required of them in the way of their own transformation to be able to lead in ways that are purposeful and inspire that deep sense of purpose in others.  Sometimes the work is with leadership teams where where we also explore those questions around around purpose and then what that means for the strategy of the company, the business model of the company, the culture of the company, etc.  When it's with teams, almost all of the work has some part of it which is about how do we as a team need to transform the way we're working together, the way we're relating to one another and the way we're leading.

And the essence of the work I do there or the common thread maybe that cuts across many different kinds of engagements is the recognition that we're in a transition in the world in which many organizations are moving into hybrid models where there's a mix of the more traditional top down command-and-control structure and leadership style with much more highly networked and collaborative structures and styles...and there obviously are some organizations that are on both ends of that spectrum, more one or more of the other, but most organizations these days are struggling with how do we find the balance and the blend between those two styles in order to operate effectively.  

So I work with leadership teams around those kinds of questions and then around the question of how do we need to shift our own way of working together to be more collaborative to create transformative practices within our own team that will keep us on the leading edge, our own learning edge...and then sometimes Jan to get to the other part of your question that work then involves working with companies to engage more of the totality of people within the company.

And this is where some of that work that I've done with the World Cafe, for example comes into play...the World Cafe for those on the call who are not familiar with it, is a conversational methodology which in terms of its mechanics involves people, groups of four or five at tables, being in deep conversation with one another around a question that matters to them...and then in moving from round to round of conversation people move from table to table and so over a period of time as you explore a series of questions together people have the opportunity to be sitting and being in conversation with and be building relationships with a very diverse set of folks and there's a lot of cross-fertilization of ideas and out of that process you're able to harness the collective intelligence or tapped into the collective wisdom of a group in a much more powerful way that can then be done with most traditional meeting or conversational methodologies.  

So I'll use those kinds of approaches on others to facilitate law large scale change in organizations and the link between that and the chaordic work I was talking about is, when I started doing the chaordic work Jan, one of the things I realized after a year or two was that the most elegant organizational concepts or ideas in the world are absolutely useless if people can't put them into practice...and putting them into practice alternately comes down to whether people as individuals are willing to be open and willing to change...and in relationship it comes down to our ability to be in conversation with one another about the questions that truly matter and allow those conversations or through those conversations to co-create our way forward...and if we don't have those personal and collective capacities then the transformation that many of us long for will never happen.  

Jan: So you are touching on, what is for me, sort of the big hairy question that I have long grappled with and I think many of us as well.  And as you talk about the recognition for being willing to make some changes, why is the community that we call the work place then so challenging to our souls if we're all meeting there for a sense of purpose and a sharing of our gifts, why does it become so challenging...and can we as individuals do anything to bring our souls to the fore and become a change agent.  How does the transformation or where does the transformation begin?

Tom: Everywhere...all the the story that was related in the opening so powerfully said, the possibility for transformation is present to us in every moment.  I love that story so I thank you for whoever shared it.  And I'm going to sidestep the question about why our workplaces are the way they are Jan and I think that you know there's a very complex set of answers to that question but there's no doubt that many of us regularly find ourselves in contexts, in relationships where it feels as if there's a disconnect or a mismatch between our own values, our own longing, our own desire for connection, for authenticity, for meaning and what's possible in those environments...and the workplace is maybe especially, because we all spend so much time there, the place where we feel that the most.  Even though I said I'm going to sidestep the why, I think one answer to the why is that, many workplaces are at the heart of the structures and that present in many workplaces are a set of assumptions about who we are as human beings and the best way to organize and the reasons for organizing that actually are counter to our own deepest spiritual knowing about who we are and the best way to relate to one another and why we're here...and so that others that of assumptions which include ideas like human beings are naturally selfish or human beings can't be trusted and therefore the only way to get anything done is to treat people as machine parts and to keep a tight control on them in the service of whatever outcome is desired, generate systems and structures that then produce behaviors in us.

Because we're part of those systems that don't call forth our best and don't support the ongoing kinds of transformation we're talking about on this call. So what do we do in the face of that ? I think there are many things we can do. First and foremost I think having some kind of practice for ourselves is absolutely essential and that can take many many forms. But some way to continuously reconnect with with our own deepest sense of who we are and of how we're called to live is is vital. 

For me that's a daily meditation and prayer practice. But it's also a practice of taking time for walks in nature in which I reconnect with myself and the world or deep conversations with my wife or with friends for reflective reading and journaling etc. So there are many different kinds of practices that are possible. That's essential. The reason that kind of personal practice, whatever form it takes is essential is that, without it  we have no way to stay rooted in the context of these systems that are organized on a different set of values. And so it's almost as if we're in the midst of a hurricane and we're getting caught up in the winds of the hurricane and are a victim to the system rather than being at the eye of the hurricane and having the opportunity to choose. So that's part of the answer. 

Another part of the answer is being conscious and intentional about how we relate to others in the workplace. And that's as simple and as hard as showing up in authentic ways. As Frank I think was saying in the storytelling, at that point it's less about what you do and more about who you are. And are you able to show up as yourself with authenticity to simply be present, fully present to people? Are you able truly to listen, to be interested, to suspend your own judgments and to listen and learn and so forth and so on. Are we able to engage in conversations about the questions that truly matter and do we have the courage to articulate those questions and invite others into them or do we go silent in the midst of conversations that are mostly just chatter? Do we let the elephants in the room go unnamed and unchallenged?

At  another level Jan, it's about how skillful and intelligent can we be in terms of developing change strategies, transformational change strategies and enlisting others in those kinds of processes and at that level you know some of the kinds of principles that ServiceSpace puts into practice with the multitude of its activities around the world are very powerful principles for organizing transformational work in almost any domain. And in that regard I'll share one more thought and then stop and see where you want to go. 
I mentioned the World Cafe a few minutes ago. There are seven design principles for the World Cafe process which are also, as I've learned through years of experience, extremely powerful design principles for evoking collective intelligence and facilitating co-creative change at any level in any system.

The first one is - clarify the context- which in large part has to do with getting clear on your purpose and intention. But also be smart about the context in which you're operating and what's possible within it and where the constraints are.

Secondly, explore questions that matter. And the key idea there is, as my friend David Cooperrider, the founder of appreciative inquiry says- we grow in the direction of the questions we ask. So if we're asking more and more powerful and transformative questions, that's the way in which we're going to grow and we'll be inviting others to grow with us.

The third is- create hospitable space. I think that's actually the second. But the principle of creating hospitable space applies not just to the external world. How can we create hospitable spaces for conversation but also how do we create hospitable space internally and in the space between us that allows for listening, for learning and for transformation. And I won't run through all of these. There are four more which have to do with encouraging everybody's contribution, finding ways to link different ideas so that you have the emergence of genuinely new and innovative perspectives., harvesting collective discoveries and others that I'm blanking on at the moment. But those are very good design principles for transformation and what I love about them is, every single one has an inner dimension to it and an outer dimension to it. And as I said I see even though Servicespace doesn't use those explicitly in its own organizing, I see those played out time after time after time in Servicespace activities. 

Jan: Which is why we love it!

Tom: You warned me Jan, as we were chatting for a couple minutes before we went on line that sometimes the people you're interviewing tend to go off and it's hard for you to reel him back in so, I hope to the extend I've gone off, it's at least been on topic.

Jan:  It has taken me exactly where I was hoping you would go. So I'm ok with it. And Mike had just joined us so that could be a little challenging.

So all of this is so very rich and I sit here and I think to myself- as if this isn't enough you and your wife Sara,are engaged in a new project that I think you said holds a very special place in your hearts and has for a very long time and it pertains to this 'Soul's knowing'. I'd love to hear more about this.

Tom: Thank you for asking Jan. So I think I want to preface this by making a brief comment about the stories we heard at the beginning. I love that opening. So Ahmed, thank you for inviting the stories and thanks to all who shared them. Each one was incredibly illuminating. It started me thinking about transformative experiences in my own life and it made me realize that there's a wide range of different kinds of experiences that I think we all have. Sometimes you know that they are very powerful almost altered state kinds of experiences all mystical types of experiences and I was blessed to have some of those those kinds of experiences in childhood, which profoundly shaped my my path in life. And then there are epiphanies that we have, major epiphanies and I've had a couple of those which have led to major turns in my path. We have already talked a little about the importance of transformational practice and I think in many ways  it's not the moment you know the especially notable moments or experts single experiences are most important, but it's the practices we get engaged in over time and kind of this  slow transformation of our character that is most important. So how the practice of meditation and prayer for example that over years has opened my heart and completely changed the way I relate to others. 

And then there are these moment to moment opportunities that we have always to awaken. And sometimes those can reorient us. Even though it seems like it's the simplest thing in the world, it can reorient us and completely change how we move forward.

I'll just share a quick story on that and then come back to your question Jan.

In terms of of how I show up in my work, which was one of your earlier questions, one of the most powerful experiences I had was when I was with the Institute of Noetic Sciences.I won't go into great detail about it, but I had been talking with a coworker and the coworker had been making certain statements about the man who was leading Noetic Sciences at that time. And I was just nodding my head and not challenging those statements even though I found them pretty dubious. And then the next day or a couple days later I was meeting with this man and somehow he had heard about this conversation and he said, " you know, you were in this conversation and these statements were made.." And I jumped in and I quickly said, "yes and I didn't believe them." And I said that, which was a blatant lie. But I was doing what all of us try to do, which is cover our ass right? And  he looked at me without judgment and stated very simply,  "That's not true. You didn't challenge them." And in that instant Jan, something shifted in me and I realized the absolute importance of telling the truth to myself and others and not colluding in all of the small lies, the little lies you know, on which a lot of our society depends. And I think I mentioned this and I prefaced my answer to your question with these comments about the different kinds of transformative experiences that we might have.
Because this work that you asked me about, the Soul’s knowing, is work that I've been evolving quietly kind of below the radar for ten or twelve years now.  I got into it because there was a period in my life, ten-twelve years ago, where I was reflecting deeply on everything I had done and what the common thread in it was. And when I say everything I had done I meant not just my work but also the way I lived and  the life choices generally I had made. What I realized was that - what I have the most passion about is helping people uncover and live what I call the soul's knowing which is our deepest knowing about who we are, what's true for us, what's right for us, what's  healing for us and how to live that in our lives and relationships and work.

And so as I have been evolving this work under the radar for ten or twelve years, it's filtered into my coaching and consulting and facilitation and many different ways.  But now my wife Sarah and I are beginning to bring it out into the world and doing some writing about it. We're offering workshops for people. There's nothing especially new about this in one sense. It is at  the heart of every spiritual tradition in the world. Yet we have some that others are telling us, are some very good powerful tools that enable people to connect with and work with this in a systematic way. 

Fundamentally what it's about and what I'm most passionate about these days is how do we live a life infused by guidance? How do we live a life in which in every moment throughout the day,  we are listening, we are open and obedient to that still small voice within, however way we conceive that. What does it take for us again to to be obedient? What does it takes for us to to listen and respond when we're called? And how do we have the courage to let go and surrender to what's awakening and moving in and through us personally and collectively. Because I believe that, as someone said earlier, this is not about us as individuals, you know. 

The heart of my own practice these days is actually recognizing that it's not about I or me in the small sense. It's about all of us as the ever evolving expression of divinity in the world and how do we surrender to be part of that divine movement moment to moment, day to day. Again, whether it's through simply how we show up with intention and openness and the spirit of obedience in every moment,whether it's through our transformative practice that cultivate that kind of ability to be open and courageous and authentic, whether it's through how we engage with others in listening together and moving together in response to the prompting of spirit, these are all expressions of this work with the souls knowing and that's more and more what I hope will be the explicit frame for the work that I do.
Amit:  I will go to our  first question and then we will turn it back to Jan.

Pallavi:  I'm deeply moved by everything you shared with us today. I find myself at the intersection of you know the space between surrender, listening to  guidance and grace. And you know I think there is that   space and there is other space of intention where even if you're coming from a state of being you know I feel sometimes ego into play and I'm constantly grappling on this edge. And my experience tells me that  I actually didn't even have intention and so I was curious about you know thoughts on this  existence and what  you could share  with us about that.

Tom: I'm not sure I'm grasping the core question goes so can you restate that for me? I understand about the ego coming into play, is there a question crystallizing around that?

Pallavi: What the question is really you know, on the one hand you can come from a state of being and set an intention every moment of your life. You can live your life that way, but on the  other hand, you know, I use the word grace for it, when you truly surrender,you tap into a different kind of power that all of us human beings have, then serendipity happens, grace happens, things happen that you really feel consciously, these outcomes could not have  been imagined.  I find myself right now at a conflict between do I set an intention? But you know that intention actually is at a much lower level than what is surely possible when I surrender. When surrender happens i can't even say that happened. How do you walk that line?
Tom: Yeah. That's a good question. So my own experience let me just start there my own experience has been that my practice has evolved from one in which earlier on it was more about setting intention and obviously especially in a circle like this you know we all will be setting the intentions that we we feel are the highest intentions we can set, you know given wherever we are in our life journey. But you're right there will usually be some some ideas surrounding those intentions that may or may not limit what is possible if we're attached to those intentions. 

But my own journey has been earlier in the process, you know we work with that process of intention we continue refining our intentions, we start to recognize as we a work in deeper and deeper and more and more subtle ways with  intention and purpose that we begin to recognize the different ways in which we continue to insert ourselves into the process and as we recognize that, as we continue our own personal journey we get better and better at taking ourselves out of the process, and being willing to simply put ourselves into the flow of grace, to use one of your words. 

And to surrender to the Higher Power as you said. And so I guess my counsel if that is appropriate would be: Don't worry about it too much. You just continue to work at your own edge in relation to that and simply the fact that you're recognizing both of those dynamics and naming that question as you continue to live in to that question for yourself your own guidance will reveal the path to you and there’s no doubt that a key move and a key capacity we all need to develop. However you know we enter into this process at those points where we have the choice to surrender to something greater that's moving in and through and among us, do we surrender or do we hold on you know do we do we shut down do we say that's enough for now and and retreat in some way. For whatever reason. And and I think the more and more we cultivate that capacity to surrender in those moments of choice the more powerfully our own practice of intention and surrender will evolve.

Pallavi: Wonderful. Thank you.

Frank: Hi Thank you very much this has been really wonderful and I really appreciate all the work the effort is going into it. Question is is your soul's knowing the same as passion. I think it is personally and just and one other thing I've done a lot of work over the past twenty five years many, many very interesting and sometimes very funny things -- and when you get or when I have gotten the sense of my passion, and who and what I am what this passion is a contribution to and for, it really makes me laugh because it is so simple so much of the work that I have gone through, hard work, reading, meditation and fasting etc. 

When I finally got who I am and what my passion is, what it is that I could not give up in the face of anything, I realized that’s it, that is who and what I am, it really is so simple and I start to laugh. Because it is that simple it's not sitting cross-legged, it's not any of that all those things - they maybe access to it but it's really that simple your comments please (laughter)

Tom: Well how can we not laugh you know as you speak that I can feel the truth of it in you and it touches the same thing in me. One of  my teacher’s these days is a teacher of nonduality named Francis Lucio and he says that consciousness, which for him is another way of talking about God or vice versa, consciousness is happiness, you know consciousness will manifest in us as happiness as joy naturally, when  we're in touch with it and know ourselves as that, and and so to your answer -- the kind of passion that you're talking about Frank is absolutely an expression of what I would call the soul’s knowing and I love what you've shared about how simple it is when we have done all the hard work that carves away everything that keeps us from knowing that simplicity. Because you're absolutely right I think ultimately it's very very simple and if we can rest in that and know that and love that and simply allow ourselves to be in the stream of that then we are blessed.

Frank:  Thank you.

Michelle: Hi this is Michelle again. Am so enjoying the conversation and having access to Tom. I feel your areas of contribution are extremely wide I'm not sure where to go but I said earlier I've been working in the area of transformational global leadership since 2001 taking it up not knowing what it was but feeling a call to explore that. I have a deep interest in how humanity works with itself. How humanity recognizes itself and aligns itself and organizes itself or doesn't organize itself and how that the external manifestation of that corresponds to the internal state that we have. 

And given your work in chaotic organizations and looking at leadership I'm wondering what you see. What called me into that was a seeming awareness that we don't have a model that seems to work for that. I've grown up in many different cultures I've lived in different cultures I speak a number of different languages I've learned you know I've studied in different areas and I've been exposed to many leadership model lots of different ways of doing things lots of different life perspectives and they don't seem to coordinate with each other very well, and the models of leadership or how we should do things don't seem to cross cultural lines, or apply when you get that level of humanity so I got into it looking for what that could be and I haven’t gotten a lot of answers. I’ve gotten a lot of insight.

And certainly learned a huge amount. Including even though I started at the level of externals, learning that there's a huge need to go internal. That has been a part of what I've learned and developed that practice. Really, what I'm looking at is- what is it going to take? What is called for to organize at the level of humanity, to actually get to a space where we can have some kind of shared intention, not necessarily with every human being online, because certainly some people are less on line, but some kind of shared intention at an organism level to deal with what we could deal with or become more aware of what we're doing at that level organisms. And I'm getting the sense that it is unlikely to be a model where there's one person on top. It's much more likely to be a more chaotic kind of thing and more group intelligence but not necessarily to group intelligence at that level of Peter twelve people, but a more a more deep intelligence. And I'm not sure we have it yet. I'm not sure we've found it yet and that's the question.

Tom: I'm pretty sure we have it.

Michelle: That's what my life is given to.

Tom: That's great Michelle, thank you.I think of these are really important questions Michelle. Let's see... I don't have the answer. When I was with the Institute of Noetic sciences, we actually had a number of projects that related to this in different ways. As an example would be, for a number of years in the 1990's, we were helping convene and host a global network of people that were committed to what they called peace building for the twenty first century. And the idea was to bring together leaders from around the world and these were not well known public figures, but leaders who had influential positions in different organizations indifferent countries and different sectors and so forth, to begin co-evolving both a shared vision of what the world might look like if we were actually creating a world that nourishes all life and then what were some of the pathways by which we could move from the world in which we find ourselves to that kind of a world. 

So there were very interesting dialogues and some very interesting projects came out of it and I would say a few things based on experiences like that and others Michelle. One is -there were actually a couple of people involved in the project who had what I would call an esoteric approach to the question you're asking. And in this case what I mean by esoteric was, they had a world view of some of the subtle forces at work in the world and in humanity, that are invisible to most of us most of the time. And so they were working through meditation and through consciousness and the inner world to work with an alignment with those subtle that are shaping what's happening on this planet at every level from the global on down.

I think that kind of work is important so I want to name that here the the other brief comment I would make is I think that- First, I agree with you that a chaotic model, if there ever is going to be any form of let's say global governance and coordination that is more conscious and that we would be comfortable with, we meaning the kinds of people on this call would be comfortable with, it is more likely to be a chaotic  model than a control oriented model. And that means that we are going to have to evolve ways in which we can have conversations at the global level about who we are as a species, how we want to be living on this planet in a way that again nourishes all life not just the life of privileged few. 

And then what the implications are that for all of our institutions and communities, economically, politically, socially you know right on down and what it means for business for education and so forth. That's an incredibly complex process we're talking about and it's going to, in my view, it will take a long time to evolve. Now, the unknown in that is- to what extent a crisis, like crises driven by climate change, I personally happen to think  it is an extremely serious global issue, will bring us to the table in more conscious, collaborative ways to address some of the the challenges that are going to be posed by those kinds of changes taking place in the world by those kinds of trends. So any way, it will be a chaotic model. It is going to take time. We don't know the extent to which crisis will drive us toward more cooperation and collaboration .and higher consciousness or drive us into more fragmented, divisive ways of relating.

So that's another part of the answer. Beyond that, in the leadership work I do, by the way I am part of a global consulting company called Oxford leadership academy, whose purpose is to develop leaders who will transform business for good, with the double play on words of for good there. And one of the things we always say about leadership is that, leadership is about context and choice. And it's the first part of that I want to highlight in response to your question. All of us at whatever level we operate in, whatever sphere we operate in, we have the opportunity to be aware that our lives and our leadership, here I mean leadership in all the ways we lead not just in formal role based positions of leadership, our lives in our leadership are always informed by the context in which we understand our lives and our leadership. And if we understand them in a global context and recognize that whatever we're doing is part of this globally evolving process and again can potentially really contribute to the evolution of more sustainable, just, equitable world, then and that will inform the choices we make. And in that sense, I think we have the opportunity to bring this very lofty concept of transformational global leadership right down to whatever our particular circumstance is and make it real for ourselves. 

Now having said that, it's very easy to have abstract ideas about what's happening in the world and therefore to have a fuzzy concept of the global context for what we're doing. And so there's an imperative on all of us I think,  if we're called to this, to be learning more and more about what's actually taking place in the world, to be meeting and being in conversation with people from other regions, other countries, other cultures, so that we have a more and more grounded understanding of the incredible diversity in the world. And that both enriches our vision of what's possible at the level you're talking about and makes us incredibly humble about our parts in it.
So I don't have the answer but those are just a few thoughts that were sparked by your question and I  Michelle : Thank you so much.
Amit : Thank you Tom. Here is another question.
Noel : Hi Tom, I guess my question will be answered because my question was about responsibility. connected to the last two calls. This simple authenticity that we have and are so out of and just facing what is presented to us by our soul's purpose in going to life and recognizing that small things that we do to maybe make a difference in our lives,  other's lives you know in the worlds and at small way. And what is our responsibility in a larger way, which was perhaps the second question. Is it enough to are not to just go through life and just do the best you can every moment and being present and trying to make a difference in someone's life to make a difference? Is that enough or do we have to have a higher purpose?
Tom: Noel, thanks for the question. I think it's really important one. Two things- one an observation. The observation is that, I think many of us entertain these questions of is it the right thing? Is it enough? I think those questions can have two different sources in us. And one source is that they come out of our cultural conditioning. And so we're conditioned to think that we're not doing enough or that we have a greater responsibility that we're somehow not fulfilling. And I would gently invite us to recognize that conditioning when it when it shows up in us. And in whatever ways we can and to whatever extent we can simply bracket it and set it aside or let go of it. Because, I am not sure that  the culturally conditioned questions that drive that sense of responsibility are particularly useful in the kind of transformational process we're talking about. However, I also think that sometimes that sense of not enough can also be an expression of a deeper inner knowing on our part. That can be coming from our soul and telling us in a certain way that you're not fully aligned here with your deeper soul purpose or with your soul's knowing. And so distinguishing the source of that is it enough question is important. 

And fundamentally you know my answer with with that is an observation. My answer your question is. Continue to cultivate your own contact with your own Guidance. Continue to develop a practice that enables you to differentiate authentic guidance from all the different voices that masquerade as guidance or as inner knowing or as the soul's knowing. To the extent that we can do that, we can trust more and more of the guidance we receive and it will lead us to the life that we were meant to live and that life will be the answer to- is it enough
Amit : Thank you and I think we have one last question.
Pallavi: Tom this is Pallavi again. You know as you were speaking, another question popped up for me. What are your thoughts on identity through transformation I'm really speaking only in a personal context rather than a global collective context. I found that the identity dissolves as we find our purpose. And once we do I'm getting a sense that you have to be careful about not attaching your identity even to this new purpose. So I am curious about your thoughts on identity, however you choose to interpret it.
Tom: I agree with what you just said. I think that the voice in us called "I", naturally attaches itself to experiences and activities and relationships and so forth and around that we build identities. I think it's a natural process and so I think the opportunity we have, through whatever practice  we've embraced in our life, to continue to work opening to the reality that the small "I", which is usually what we mean by identity, is not the true I, the deeper more eternal I. And to really allow the center of gravity of our lives to shift from the small "I" and all the identities it assumes to the deeper eternal "I". And I think that's an ongoing process in our lives. And I think we need to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves when we notice ourselves slipping back into all of those identities that the self likes to assume.
Pallavi: Beautiful! Thank you!
Amit: Thank you very much and oh it looks like we've got one more caller. Tom is it alright if we snuck in one more question?
Tom: Absolutely Amit!
Lisa: I live in Seattle and I've been listening and I found this really really great and wonderful, thank you.
My question is this- I do a lot of writing and soul searching and I have come to a point where I know a lot of my passions. And as I've worked in the world, my opportunity in my work has shrunk because of the way business is going and I've been looking for alternatives and not finding them. I know that there's something out there and I may have to do something like you, like letting go completely to look for a new alternative. That being said, it's hard to find those links and those opportunities and I was wondering when you  hit that emptiness when you left the Noetic Institute,  how  did you find those opportunities? I know that it's probably like a jigsaw  puzzle, but what  gave you the courage or the steps or the possibilities to move forward?  It's a big question sorry.
Tom: No, it's a great question.

All of these questions have been big questions but as you see that hasn't deterred me from wading right in.

I'll share a couple thoughts but I want to preface them by saying that. I think it's a very individual process by which the path is shown to us. Having said that, I would point towards three things. So there are innumerable books on the market and I'm sure you've looked at some of them that have all kinds of very practical suggestions for what you should do in this kind of situation. Build your network. Build your personal brand and yada yada yada. So there's all of that and for some people that really works. I have to say I that has never been my primary path. But I actually think there's some wisdom in some of that, particularly the parts of it that have to do with what we ordinarily called networking.

Which is really about, in a deeper sense activating the web of relationships in which we exist. So you can kind of fine tune the web to signal you when there are interesting and appropriate opportunities available. But you can already kind of see where I'm going with this. I think there's a deeper let's call it a more consciousness oriented approach to some of those practices than is usually the way they're they're presented.I think some of that is really useful and you should be doing the parts of it that you feel aligned with and even some of the parts that stretch you a little bit because I think the stretch is important. Then there's the inner work associated with this. In many ways, both 

When I left Noetic Sciences and when I transitioned out of my work with the chaordic Alliance and moved into working on my own, the anchor for me, the touchstone was very very consistent daily practice of meditation and prayer on the one hand the essence of which was my saying to the universe here I am I'm available show me what's next, couple of with journaling. And again journaling works for me because I like to write. Might be something else for you, but some kind of reflective practice which allows you to continue plumbing your own inner depths and surfacing and testing ideas as they emerge for you day to day, week to week around what the path might be, what the next opportunity might be. Coupled with and this in many ways I think was a really important part of my practice, particularly when I left the chaordic Alliance and was asking what is my true work. 

I developed a practice every single day of no matter what I was doing or where I was, part of me would be asking the question what in this moment in this conversation, in this work is related to my true work and what is not.

And over a period of months, coupled with the journaling, coupled with the meditation and prayer , I think just created the conditions for grace to appear and manifest. And I do think that grace is an ever present part of our lives that we often don't recognize and don't fully appreciate and that in many ways when we talk about practices as I've done throughout this call, we're talking about creating the conditions for grace to manifest. 

And so, those would be some of the reflections based on my personal experience I would share with you.

Lisa: Thank you. Actually it makes a lot of sense to me. I would say your answer allows for something that most don't, which is becoming. And just network and putting yourself out as a brand, you've already shaped something that doesn't allow for what I want. And your answer did. So thank you very much.

Tom: I think that's a really brilliant observation and I think you're exactly right. So thank you for that.

Lisa: I think that's what people are looking for, at least in this conversation.

Amit I think you didn't even suffice to say. All this just a beautiful wisdom that you are good on today's call I wanted to just give you one quick opportunity to put in any kind of closing thought and same thing  to you Jan and then we will close out the call. 

Tom: Thank you Amit. I've really loved the opting to be part of this conversation. Thanks all who asked questions and thanks especially for the stories of the beginning. They were wonderful. And mostly I just feel a tremendous gratitude and have always felt blessed by the opportunity to share this journey, this transformational journey of life and love and service with others. I feel that this morning as if I've been able to bathe in that stream with you all and so thank you.

Jan: And on behalf of everyone and I'll echo Amit,  it's been just gorgeous. If  the conversations were a meal, this would be  typical Italian Thanksgiving dinner.

So here's the question we ask all of our guests. what can we do to support you or your work?

Tom: Thank you for the question or thank you for the intention out of which the spirit of the question comes.

This is not meant as avoidance of the question Jan. What arises for me is truly- that if each of you simply does the work and live the life you're called to live by God, by your own guidance that will be supporting my work. 

Jan: Wonderful! Tom, thank you so much.

Transcription by:
Radha Ivaturi
Jay Reddy
Pavi Mehta
Preeta Bansal