What does it mean to practice an integral approach? Well, that’s a long story. But, one aspect you will hear again and again is the need to stay sensitive to the moment and to others around you, keeping your mind fresh and your responses attuned to that which is arising. This involves wakefulness and agility, as well as a radical faith. But, how does one develop such skillful means? Two of our colleagues at IWB, Danielle Huffaker and Andrew Becker, traveled to Bogotá, Colombia to the First Latin American Integral Conference (https://hispanoamericaintegral.com/), with that very question in hand, along with a creative workshop on the topic. Read below their field notes on using improvisation and perspective-taking to develop skillful means for meeting the moment.
Radical Faith for Social Transformation
By Danielle Huffaker
Our workshop, Fé Radical en la Evolución para la Transformación Social (Radical Faith in Evolution for Social Transformation), sought to help participants bring awareness to the nature of change as it imbues every moment while acting through embodied and relational improv activities. We have been practicing improvisational theater for nearly a year since moving to Oslo, Norway, and have often reflected with one another on the many integral life lessons and practice provided by the structure of improv games. In particular, we have found that improv allows us to connect to embodied ways of expressing ourselves, to relax in not-knowing, and to trust what wants to emerge from a group. The first rule of improv is “yes, and”—that is, we fully accept what the moment offers us and we also offer something to build upon (the scene, activity, or story). While improv is a container for practice, we see the relevance of “yes, and” to our lives and to the social change work we are involved in. For us, it has become a practice of radical faith in what wants to emerge through the felt sense of evolution in the present moment, met with an equally radical commitment to action. While we receive whatever life offers, we also practice showing up fully as agents, and giving all that we have in the service of a greater good.
After framing the workshop and inviting each person to introduce their name and intention, we facilitated an activity in which participants explored taking multiple perspectives on change, while walking about the room. We began with our awareness fully on our own individual experience (1st person perspective). Everyone was then invited to slowly begin to make contact—first with eyes, and then hand-to-hand—and to notice the felt experience of the “we.” (2nd person perspective). Then, the participants—first one half, then the other—were invited to the outskirts of the room to take the role of observers. (3rd person perspective) Finally, everyone returned to milling about the room, this time with an intention of integrating the three perspectives in their perception of change. Afterwards, we invited reflections on the activity. We noticed that our education favors training us in 3rd person ways of knowing, and many of us find it easier to observe change processes as an outsider without realizing our own role as an active participant—and we linked this tendency to some of the stuckness and apathy many feel around global issues. Each of the three perspectives is valid and needed, and great coherence and potential lies in our ability to integrate the three.
In our next activities, we divided participants into groups. First, we played “I am a tree,” in which the small groups painted a scene—each person embodying a character or element, like a tree, dog, or person. The energy built in the room as the elements of the scenes got wackier and wackier. Next, the small groups created stories, in which each person contributed a line to the story. People were invited to notice their urges to plan their lines and any discomfort that arises from not-knowing or incoherence. During reflection, participants commented on the liberation they felt when they let go of their personal agendas and trusted fully in the group’s capacity to co-create.
We were delighted that many of those who came to our workshop were the younger attendees of the conference, and that all—including the translator and volunteers—were keen to participate. It seemed to us as if our Latin American friends were less inhibited and more comfortable with the embodied, expressive, and relational nature of the activities than we imagined participants from Northern hemisphere cultures might be. Not only did everyone have fun, but people seemed to see the relevance of the practices to their work and lives. The energy in the room was high and congenial, and we received several comments by participants who walked away with new ideas about how they might integrate these concepts and practices into their daily lives both at home and in their work.
We were also invited by Daniel Bossio, who attended the gathering, to give a workshop to his team a few days following the gathering. His organization, Salto (“Leap”), works to support organizations in leadership development and cultural transformation. We repeated the activities from the first workshop, and since we had more time with Salto, we added an activity described in Reinventing Organizations (Frederick Laloux, 2014). An armchair was placed opposite the group. One at a time, each team member sat in the chair. As they did, each person put their personal agendas aside and embodied Salto. The rest of the team asked Salto whatever they wanted to—about its long-term vision, greatest fears, and deepest desires. The team clearly heard Salto articulate its core values and unequivocal desire for its team to be more fearless about taking risks and innovating. This insight around innovation and risk-taking ran as a “red thread” throughout all of the activities. It was exciting for us to observe how despite a very similar plan and structure, something completely different emerged from each of the two workshops.
Both workshops ended with the “sound of emergence.” Everyone came together in the center of the room, and made noises, creating an orchestra of voices with layers of clicks and melodies intuitively harmonizing, mounting and, after a few minutes, slowly receding as the group collectively sensed that it was time to close.
For more like this, in Spanish, please see our Online Certification Program: Integral Project Design for Social Transformation (DPI)