Patterns for Consciousness

“If your mind carries a heavy burden of past, you will experience more of the same. The past perpetuates itself through lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment



Everyone knows something about human systems dynamics. Anyone who succeeds in business or society knows how to interact with complex human systems.  They are able to see patterns, make sense of them, and choose. They act and make a difference for themselves and others. Whether they focus on family, team, organization, community, or nation, individuals and groups influence each other. Some people are better at it than others, but everyone has some capacity to understand and influence the complex dynamics of their human systems.

So why should anyone study with the Human Systems Dynamics Institute? What is special about this community of scholar-practitioners who call themselves Human Systems Dynamics Professionals?

I kept asking myself that question last weekend, as we gathered in Chicago for our first conference. What is special about this group? What draws them here?  What keeps them engaged?  Every person was unique and precious, but I wondered about the patterns that we created and perpetuated as a collective.  Of course I am not an unbiased judge—being the founder and sometime center of this network—but I do have some reflections I would like to share. 

It is about consciousness. Intuition is great, when it works. If habit and automatic reactions meet immediate demands, there is no need to waste time and energy on consciousness.  The problem comes when intuition is not fit for function, when the environment is changing, when opportunities expand or contract, when the old, familiar world transforms itself into a new one. Then, your intuition and habit can blind you to good decisions and wise action.  Insight in uncertain times requires you to step out of habit and into consciousness of patterns and possibilities as they emerge.  The models and methods of HSD provide a stepping stone to conscious options for action.

At the conference I heard pairs and groups share their reflections and spark others to reflect as well.  Stepping outside of day-to-day patterns and into a space of inquiry and learning made each of us more conscious of who we are, what we do, and what we might become.

When and how do you challenge your intuitive responses to become conscious of new options for action? 

It is about contradictions. Diversity isn’t just about how we are different from each other in a group. It is a source of energy. Sameness dulls the senses and closes down opportunity, but it is an appealing alternative to the stress and strain of everyday life.  Seeking security, we choose friends who are like us, join faith communities and neighborhoods that reflect us and our tastes.  We focus on family and relax with our like-minded friends. The problem is that an active and enriching life demands distinctions, and the HSD community presents a banquet of distinctions.

Thrown together in cohorts and learning groups, HSD Associates bring their varied perspectives, experiences, and values. Though we come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, it doesn’t take long to discover the differences that unite us. Engaging across these differences wakes us up to possibilities beyond our usual patterns.

When and how do you intentionally engage across differences to discover new opportunities for adaptive action?       

It is about conversation.   As professionals we spend most of every day conversing with others. Meetings, emails, texts, phone calls, hallway greetings, and formal reports fill our time with verbal exchanges. Why, then, do we so often feel unheard and unseen? Why do we realize that our colleagues and friends are clueless about our most compelling passions and motivations?

HSD Associates often say to me that their conversations with and about HSD are different in kind than other engagements. I am not sure what they mean, but I can attest to the kinds of conversations I heard in Chicago. Open, careful inquiry. Exploration of risky or unfamiliar questions. Sharing fears and hopes. Laughing and crying with the opportunity to show up in community as their best and most curious selves. 

How do you open opportunities for your own generative dialogue? 

So, why do people choose to engage with human systems dynamics?  I think they realize that being conscious depends on encountering difference; that encountering difference generates conversation; and that conversation sparks consciousness.  They value what this consciousness does for themselves, their families, and their colleagues.  I know it was my experience at the conference and others described it as well.  Regardless of where we came from, we all moved into a pattern of generative engagement with others and greater consciousness of ourselves. You can find such stimulation and engagement in many places, not just in HSD or the HSD Conference. You can join the conversation as a learner in the HSD certification course. You can join the conversation in our monthly Live Virtual Workshops. Whenever and wherever you find it, I hope you enjoy the energy and opportunity it brings. 

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