‘There is a soul force in the Universe, which if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results.’ Mahatma Ghandi, activist
‘The seat of the soul is there where the inner and the outer worlds meet’ Novalis, poet
‘The true ground of all being is the infinite, intangible, spirit that infuses all living beings’ David Bohm, physicist
‘This divine ground is within and all around us. We need to create a sanctuary within ourselves to listen to its guidance’ Anne Baring, psychologist
‘Beyond our day-to-day world, beyond our usual human experience, lies a vast and fathomless world. Sometimes we call this the Tao, sometimes Source, sometimes Consciousness. But, whatever we call it, we find it wise, powerful, deeply intelligent, compassionate, and loving. The spiritual journey is about gaining access to this vast world, harking to it and finding it, and about what it entails in our everyday life.’ Professor Brian Arthur, Stanford scientist and Santa Fe Institute Founder
The Great Spirit, Tao, or That Which Cannot Be Named, flows within and all about us. We each have souls, intelligent apertures that open up our psyche to this Spirit pervading reality.
Within our psyche lies the ego, which orientates and polarises much of our daily awareness.
Sigmund Freud defined the ego as a ‘reality function’ in that it brings our awareness into the sharper space-time dimension from the more intangible, fluid depths of the largely unconscious imaginal realms, where our soul, as the source of our essence, resides.
Carl Jung refers to this soul as the Self, the unconscious depths that the ego brings to light in our everyday consciousness as it seeks to comprehend our deeper perturbations, intuitions, imaginal dream states, reveries, mythopoetic images, emotional sensations, heart and gut knowing’s and other somatic and soulful sensations. And yet the ego often seeks to grasp, control, manipulate, repress or split-off from these unconscious depths within us due to a combination of fearing historic wounds and insecurities, desiring certainty and security, planning for what hasn’t happened yet, and seeking conformity to cultural norms and daily routines. We may notice how much of our daily interactions are pervaded by projections, judgements and perspectives that filter what is deemed useful or what ought to be resisted. This filtering is an important part of what makes us human, and a well-developed ego is a useful part of good leadership, and yet we need to ensure the ego is readily open to and informed by the insights and wisdom of the deeper soulful Self.
A central aspect of advanced spiritual leadership development is the cultivation of a healthy ego-soul relationship, where we learn to sense into our soulful depths and bring this insight into our everyday experience. This allows us to manifest our dharma – our right path – and become authentic leaders while realising our destiny.
We can think of the ego as a receiver and transmitter of the deeper soulfulness within us. We can learn to ‘tune-in’ the radio set to receive and transmit a better signal and also to pick-up more broadcasting channels.
This ‘tuning-in’ of our body-mind allows us to be more receptive and responsive to our soul-wisdom. We learn to become more in harmony with Nature/Tao/Source.
The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that each of us has an ego-soul dynamic within us, a set of forces which on the one hand – the ego – likes clinging to safety and defensiveness out of fear and the need to control, afraid to jeopardize the status quo sense of self; on the other hand – the soul – impels us to grow, to develop toward a deeper uniqueness, toward greater confidence in the face of the world, to accept more of the unconscious depths within and around us. In Maslow’s words, ‘This basic dilemma or conflict between the defensive forces and the growth trends I conceive to be existential, imbedded in the deepest nature of the human being, now and forever into the future.’ It is this conflict between the clinging nature of our ego-defences and the expansive deepening nature of our soul-wisdom that we refer to here as the ‘ego-soul dynamic’.
Leadership specialist Richard Barrett explores this ego-soul dynamic through his seven stages of psychological development: surviving, relating, differentiating, transformation, internal cohesion, making a difference, and service. As we develop through these stages we deepen in our understanding, awareness and choice of growth over security, evolution over stasis. We learn to develop an ego-soul dynamic within our daily consciousness that allows for more of ‘who we truly are’ to inform how we perceive and relate during our working day (and personal life in general). We become more soulful in learning to open up our perspective beyond the narrowing frames of our ego-masks, and in-so-doing, we enrich our decisions, actions and relations for the benefit of our team, organization and stakeholders.
Carl Jung said that this dynamic of our psyche and soul is the naturaliter religiosa – the natural religion beyond dogma. At the forefront of Western psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis, we are witnessing the merging of psychology with spirituality.
‘You are a child of God…your playing small doesn’t serve the world…we are born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just us, it is everyone and as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do so.’ Nelson Mandela, leader
What does it feel like when we open up to more of our soulful awareness?
Our soul is always here, and it’s soulful awareness is accessible to us at any given moment if we allow our ego-awareness to soften its grasping grip, so that it permeates more readily, allowing for a more balanced ego-soul dynamic: through a reduction in our head-chatter, mindful practices, being in nature, mantras, energetic bodywork, attending to something we love doing in a undivided fully attentive way, listening deeply and attentively to another person, etc. we can encourage a more soulful awareness.
Scientific studies now prove that the entire human body acts as a systemic ‘mind’ nested within a wider local and non-local matrix of consciousness within and all about us. There are three major brains within our body – the head, heart and gut – each having complex neural networks that are all interconnected with secondary sensorial, nervous and neural networks, which also inter-relate with wave resonances both local and non-local to the internal and external environment of the body. Hence neurobiologist Candice Pert coined the term ‘bodymind’.
We can now show through our increasingly sensitive scientific experiments that our bodymind transforms its bio-rhythmic hormonal, chemical, electromagnetic and non-local connectivity as our ego-soul dynamic shifts. For instance, our brain wave frequencies change, inter-hemispheric communication increases, coherence of the head-heart-gut brain centres increases, the ability for the body to heal itself improves, hormones change, senses liven, and our ability to empathise with others and become more ‘responsive’ rather than ‘reactive’ to change in our environment greatly enhances.
As we allow our bodymind to ‘tune-in’ to its natural coherence, we enhance our ego-soul dynamic, and we allow ourselves to become wiser, more compassionate, and more regenerative – we seek harmony with life. In turn, our relationships with others are more regenerative.
Central to cultivating this coherence of our bodymind is cultivating ‘heart awareness’.
What is often overlooked in our biological understanding of the heart is that as well as pumping blood round the body, it is an organ of perception. Recent studies point to it being the body’s most powerful electromagnetic transmitter and receiver, continually decoding the vast array of electromagnetic and quantum signals radiating in our lived-in environment. It seems that the heart governs our bodymind’s sensory, neural, nervous and instinctual systems; 65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells which are wired into the nervous system, gut and brain.
‘Unlike the egoic operating system, the heart does not perceive through differentiation. It doesn’t divide the field into inside and outside, subject and object. Rather, it perceives by means of harmony…When heart-awareness becomes fully formed within a person, he or she will be operating out of nondual consciousness…where they will discover the resources they need to live in fearlessness, coherence, and compassion – or in other words, as true human beings.’ Cynthia Bourgeault, contemplative and priest.
Studies prove that becoming more conscious of our heart-awareness has healing effects on our bodymind: invoking feelings of love through our hearts can shift us from a state of dis-ease toward wellbeing, with hormonal changes and beneficial alterations in our brain-wave frequencies, along with increased rates of tissue repair and stem-cell and neuron production. As we become more practiced at developing heart-awareness, we can develop what is called ‘heart entrainment’, where our brain-wave patterns form a coherence across our left and right brain hemispheres and also start to entrain with the deeper wave-vibrations of our heart and gut regions. With this come the immediate benefits of heightened mental clarity, improved decision making, increased responsiveness and resiliency to change, efficiency of energy use, increased creativity and innovation, along with improved emotions of general happiness, empathy, compassion and conviviality – all important contributors in shifting our organisations toward regenerative, purposeful firms of the future!
Here are three techniques for cultivating heart-awareness, each practice builds upon the other, and we can call upon aspects of each of these as we go about our business. They require no credit card only our quality of intention and attention; they are: 1) heart breathing 2) heart entrainment 3) head-heart-gut coherence (I explore this in detail in the book Future Fit). These simple activities can be undertaken as part of a daily or weekly routine with great effect.
Cultivating heart awareness allows our natural soulful attentiveness to more readily pervade our working relationships, whereupon we sense ourselves engaging through a more loving, heartfelt, embracement of life. We subtly perceive the awe-inspiring beauty of the world around us, and sense the Great Mystery within which we are participating. With this soul-awareness, we enter into the flow of our highest potential, and seek the truth and authenticity unfolding within and all around us. We feel less fearful of change yet also more vulnerable as we are open to life beyond the defensiveness of our ego-barriers, while also feeling more abundant and free to accept what comes our way.
The challenge then becomes: how to embed this soulful way into our business cultures which are all-too-often lop-sided towards accentuating the ego aspect of our inherent ego-soul dynamic.
The leadership Parker J Palmer says that the soul is like a wild creature in the woods, and that so often while we are searching for more purposeful, soulful, life-affirming business cultures, we go crashing into the woods, rummaging around in the under-growth searching for this wild creature with spot-lights strapped to our foreheads. Of course, the wild creature just flees. Instead we need to be creating the right space within our relationships, meeting conventions, decision-making protocols and performance processes for this soulfulness to feel safe enough to make an appearance. Then, we begin to allow our working environments to become more human, in that they invite in more of our humanity, with an increased likelihood of our deeper authenticity, soul-wisdom, co-creative sociality, and heartfelt compassion to flow in to our relationships. This is the nourishing soil from which a business seeking harmony with Nature takes root.
‘The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world. The soul is wise, it suffers without shutting down. The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts. The soul is creative: it finds a path between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.’ Parker J Palmer, leadership specialist
There are myriad liberating structures we can bed into our culture through light-touch facilitation approaches. Such liberating structures need to sit within an overall organisational culture which celebrates soulful regenerative business.
The most amazing thing about life is that each day, each relationship, each conversation, each meeting, offers us the chance to learn how best to attune our ego-soul dynamic while contributing to a more life-affirming future for ourselves, our loved ones, our organisations, and our civilisation.
‘The most amazing place you will ever be in your life is where you are right now.’ Gary Schneider and Joss Elffers
Giles Hutchins is Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy, and author of Future Fit, which is available on Amazon.