I have been meaning to start a Substack for a while, and now is as good a time as any. So here we go.
As I decompress at home after the Emerge Gathering in Austin, I’m contemplating my experience and insights. I will likely end up writing several articles on the subject.
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In this first piece, I’ll talk about emergence - as I experience it.
Finding the Third Attractor
Early in the Emerge conference, we were supposed to choose several groups to participate in. I went up to the board that outlined my choices, and ended up choosing the group titled “the third attractor“.
The framing was this: there are three kinds of attractors that we could be pulled into in the near future:
Something else - a Regenerative Civilization, Game B, a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, etc. This is “the third attractor”.
So the question was, what is this third attractor and what are its attributes?
The group discussing this subject was very large, over 50 people sitting in a circle. There were many big names present. It was clearly the most popular circle that morning. And yet, the energy felt flat. Many of the people speaking seemed burned out and disillusioned. There was no aliveness, no connection. I had a very strong sense that I was not meant to be there. So I quietly got up and left.
As I walked the large conference room and looked around, I saw another smaller group. Around 15 people, mostly women and a handful of men were sitting in a circle - some of them on the floor. As I walked closer, I felt a distinct sense of aliveness. I asked if I could join, and the answer was yes.
As I sat down on the floor between two other women, I instantly felt welcome. No one was competing for attention. We were all just sharing heartfelt stories from our lives and holding space for each other. Stories of birth, family, love, transformation, death, and grief. There was a lot of expression of emotion - tears, hugging, laughter, and even joyful chanting.
At times it felt like we were all part of the same being, telling parts of the same story - the story of being human. We were there for each other - there with each other like a tribe, like family.
It was so enlivening and enriching. I felt like I made several connections that I know will become my collaborators and longtime friends.
At the end, Sheri Herndon half-jokingly exclaimed “We are the third attractor!”
She was onto something. We weren’t just talking about the thing, we were doing the thing. We were being it together.
Creating Conditions for Emergence
One of the big questions at the conference was “What’s emerging?” or “'What’s next?”
In philosophy, science, and art, emergence is when an entity has properties which only show up when its parts interact as a bigger whole. In other words, emergence is when a complex system behaves in a way that is more than the sum of its parts.
It’s a cumbersome definition, so I’ll give one obvious example of emergence: you.
You, with all the richness and depth of your life experience. All the things you wish you could have said to your grandmother before she died. The time you thought that all was lost and there was no hope, just to be saved by a miracle. That moment when you looked into the eyes of your newborn child for the first time.
Emergence is everything about you that cannot be explained by the sum of your atoms and organs.
Janine Benyus, the author of Biomimicry, says “life creates conditions conducive to life”. Life has this incredible capacity to evolve itself in an infinite dance with its environment. And it has an incredible capacity to restore itself to wholeness.
Emergence is life recreating itself.
One particularly beautiful part of this process is that the wholeness that life restores itself to is different each time. And so we get a myriad of lifeforms, all dancing and singing together in the grand symphony that is the Cosmic Evolutionary Process.
To find emergence, we need to look for this evolutionary dance in everything.
Reverence for Life Itself
I spent this last year, often in isolation, on the land that we bought to build a regenerative village in Western Canada.
In scorching summer heat and in -30C winter weather with two feet of snow on the ground, I walked the land every day with my toddler son.
I had many encounters with wild animals - moose, deer, bears just meters away from us, huge flocks of geese, and giant cranes that looked and sounded like something out of Jurassic Park.
I observed and listened to the current of nature in everything: the moose and the geese, the river and the trees, my ancestors and descendants all the way from primordial chaos and until the end of time, being right there with me in one extended kairos moment.
I developed an intense and tender reverence for life itself, an unwavering Faith in life’s capacity to evolve and restore itself.
I realized that I had become religious in the experiential sense.
Sovereignty in Surrender
Several months ago, I started practicing surrendering to the higher power - the current of life itself. I did this because the last couple of years have been particularly challenging for me, and I increasingly felt that my conscious mind was not fully capable of handling the stress and uncertainty of my life, not to mention the chaos of the world.
To some, surrendering to a higher power may sound like giving up your sovereignty, but this was actually not the case for me.
The human organism is complex and is comprised of many interconnected systems, each with its own intelligence and wisdom.
Your prefrontal cortex is the brain region that you use for planning, decision making, short-term memory, personality expression, social behavior, and certain aspects of speech and language. It works incredibly well for those specific functions. Yet in evolutionary terms, it’s actually a very recent brain structure.
Like a kid who is obsessed with a shiny new toy, humans are very fond of the prefrontal cortex and all that it can do. Many personal development books have been written on how to develop its functions.
And yet, there is more to being human than the prefrontal cortex. We aren’t just our personalities and our thoughts and plans. Our brains and bodies are equipped with all sorts of capacities for sensing our environment, understanding it, and deciding what to do about it. We’re complex amalgamations of billions of years of evolution.
Our genetic make-up and the resulting biological structures carry the evolutionary memory that goes all the way back to the beginning of life on Earth 4 Billion years ago. We are literally our own ancestors. The genes, structures, and functions they had, still live in us.
More than that, we are the carriers of the original evolutionary impulse that goes back to the Big Bang 13.8 Billion years ago (at least according to modern scientific consensus). And that’s not to mention all the things we don’t yet know about our own nature and origins.
Just think of the emergence that comes from all these interconnected parts dancing together to form a new coherent whole in each moment, and dancing with all the other living beings and the environment, to form increasingly complex and interconnected wholes in each moment, ad infinitum. It’s truely mind-boggling.
The Divine Mystery of life is much more vast than our conscious minds can grasp.
So in that context, surrendering what you think you are and can do to a higher power is a way to tap into the latent potential of everything you actually are and can do, which is far, far greater.
Surrendering to the force of life allows for the deeply embodied and interconnected sapience of your entire being to take over.
I call this sovereignty in surrender.
It’s like surfing the giant cosmic wave of life and trying to do it to the best of your ability, even though you can’t fully comprehend it.
Tapping into Emergence as a Practice
I had been doing collective intelligence practices for years in my online groups at Future Thinkers. The groups were usually small, 5-30 people.
Tapping into emergence in person at a conference with 500 galaxy brains in varying stages of burnout was a different kind of beast.
And yet it seemed to be the thing I was there for. So I allowed the spark of life to guide me and show me what I was to do. It looked something like this:
Surrender to the current of life that wants to express itself through me.
Sense into the environment for aliveness.
When I find it, I ask to be invited to participate.
If invited, I show up with full-body cognition. This includes vulnerability and emotional expression.
I pay attention to how I am met - is there space for aliveness? Can I co-create the context to support more aliveness?
When is it time to navigate to a different context?
This is of course an over-simplification, but it’s good enough to illustrate the basic approach. It’s about trial and error and learning as you go.
This process worked really well. Over and over, I found myself dropping into group coherence with the people I was with.
This was not just collective intelligence, it was collective sapience - being deeply human together.
I found that as a rule of thumb, smaller groups (around 15 people or less) that were aligned on their values and intention were the best conditions for coherence. The number of people in the group is actually really important. The kind of coherence you get with 5 people is distinctly different than the kind you get with 15 or 35. I think of this as “human geometry“ - but more on that in a separate article.
This kind of practice requires vulnerability. If you are overly guarded, it won’t work. Part of the process is discerning whether the context you are entering into is capable of supporting emergence. The container needs to be appropriate for the task. Discerning who the people are is really important too, although it was significantly easier to do with the pre-selected group at this particular event.
The other significant point is that this process is necessarily mutual - it’s a dance. It must be based in consent, and cannot be forced. Energetically, it feels like allowing the current of life to flow between the people involved, morphing and expanding as it circulates around the group.
This is related to something that John Vervaeke calls “reciprocal opening“, a process that continually creates space for awakening, genuine expression, insight, and connection. An upward spiral.
Being a Live Player
Peter Limberg described coming to a similar process as becoming a live player. This means walking your own “aliveness path“ instead of following a path that someone else has made, or acting out of habit, conditioning, or externally prescribed values.
This way of being in the world has also been described as True Will in the mystical system of Thelema.
True Will is defined either as a person's grand destiny in life or as a moment-to-moment path of action that operates in perfect harmony with nature. True Will does not spring from conscious intent, but from the interplay between the deepest self and the entire universe.
And by the way, in my experience, being in harmony with nature does not imply constant bliss or positivity.
The fullness of life includes everything - embarassment, disappointment, pain, loss, grief, and death. And also joy, tenderness, care, love, and awe. After a period of expansion, there must be a period of contraction. Death is necessary for rebirth. Life is constantly reinventing itself.
The trick is not to get rid of the ups and downs, but to welcome them lovingly as part of the totality of our human experience. Instead of trying to live the perfect life, we can aim to live with grace - no matter now messy life gets.
Like a sea turtle surfing the ocean current, we can surrender ourselves to the flow of life and forgive ourselves when we fall out of alignment.
At the closing of the Emerge gathering, we were invited to share our sense of “what’s next“. The propmt I offered to the crowd was this:
Can we forgive ourselves and each other for being human?
And if yes, then can we all be human together?
Thanks for reading Earth Mother! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Euvie, start to finish, this is beautiful and inspiring. In moments, breathtaking. The feminine circle was also a pivotal moment of the conference for me. Loved sharing that with you.
I just listened to your podcast with Bonnie Roy where you referenced the emerge gathering and the powerful feminine circle... I really enjoyed reading this article afterwards. I love your articulations of emergence as US, the fullness of being human, all that we can and cannot understand. Your words are percolating in me, Thank you!