Evolving Collective Intelligence by Tom Atlee

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

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What Does MHRA Stand For??

Bono and Bush Party without Koch: AIDS Industry Makes a Mockery of Medical Science

Profit as Usual and to Hell with the Risks: Media Urge that Young Girls Receive Mandatory Cervical Cancer Vaccine


Health Supreme

Multiple sclerosis is Lyme disease: Anatomy of a cover-up

Chromotherapy in Cancer

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Share The Wealth

Artificial Water Fluoridation: Off To A Poor Start / Fluoride Injures The Newborn

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Why Remove Fluoride From Phosphate Rock To Make Fertilizer



Islanda, quando il popolo sconfigge l'economia globale.

Il Giorno Fuori dal Tempo, Il significato energetico del 25 luglio

Rinaldo Lampis: L'uso Cosciente delle Energie

Attivazione nei Colli Euganei (PD) della Piramide di Luce

Contatti con gli Abitanti Invisibili della Natura


Diary of a Knowledge Broker

Giving It Away, Making Money

Greenhouses That Change the World

Cycles of Communication and Collaboration

What Is an "Integrated Solution"?

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September 05, 2004

Power of Silence

One of the most powerful, simple and unused methods for deepening conversation is silence. Silence is so unusual in modern conversations that we often don't know what to do with it when it happens. It feels awkward; we desperately want it to be filled with words, any words.

I recently gave a speech at the Spiritual City Forum in Portland, OR, to an audience of seventy people seated at tables of seven or eight. They asked me to start my speech with a moment of silence. I did. It was quite powerful. Then, in what would normally be a Question-and-Answer period afterwards, I joined one of the tables and all seventy people simply sat in silence. Every minute or two someone would stand and say, "My question is ......" and give their question. Then they sat down. No one -- least of all me -- answered the question, nor was expected to. Each question was left floating in our minds, in the deepening pool of inquiry that grew among us. Shortly after the questions stopped, a moderator suggested we might start talking with our tablemates, listening for deeper meanings as we went. Later, someone from each table shared highlights with the whole group, and I said a few closing comments. That was it. It was a remarkable process.

Having spent several of my teen years in a Quaker meeting where the worship service was silent -- except for a few comments from people who felt called to rise from their chairs to briefly speak their truth -- I am familiar with the power of silence. I have also experienced it in meditation retreats and other collective spiritual activities. Silence can somehow deepen spiritual reality into a palpable Presence. That Presence emerged in a large political demonstration I was once in, where several of us passed out stacks of little sheets ("pass it on") inviting people to be silent. Silence spread through the crowd until 1200 people were moving down the street in total silence. It was extremely powerful.

There is a short page on the Co-Intelligence Institute's website on group silence. http://co-intelligence.org/P-silence.html. Out of curiosity, I checked Google for "the power of silence" -- and found over seven thousand pages referring to it. I learned there are dozens of books, articles and sermons on that topic. There is an interesting exploration of different types of group silence (both comfortable and uncomfortable kinds) at http://www.mgestaltc.force9.co.uk/on_the_use_and_power_of_silenc.htm. The power of silence is apparently a widely recognized phenomenon. There are even silent parties http://www.quietparty.com.

A friend of mine, Michael Bridge, writes in a passionate, quirky, insightful, often prophetic way about silence and conversation, war and peace. After receiving one of his recent pieces I decided to share some excerpts from his writings on these topics, compiled into two short articles. You may find them difficult or strange to read quickly. They grow in meaning through reflection, like good poetry does. He and a mutual friend, Rosa Zubizarreta, developed the silent "Gestures of Conversational Presence" http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-gestures.html that Michael uses in his "rituals of sacred encounter." You might enjoy trying them in a group of adventurous, cohearted souls.

I hope you find Micheal's words intriguing, knowing they arise out of the mind of someone who loves silence and the words that share that love.


_ _ _ __ _

Thoughts on War and Peace

by Michael Bridge

Wars are not fought against enemies, but against a sickness, an emptiness,
and a loneliness bred into us by an inadequacy in our cultural premises.
There is no enemy, but only an ideological paucity or dysfunction in the
concept of our interplay. There is only a lack, something amiss inside of
us, a hole in the boat, and as we grapple with each other, the boat sinks.

Jesus wasn't making a casual suggestion when he said to love our enemies.
He was delivering God's law. He was stating the imperative of peace in a
way which shall be explored, but never contested. He was giving attention
to the hole in the boat and was offering the only plug. He was pointing to
the inward trek, urging us onto its path and giving illumination along the
way. He was prodding us to take the only leap that can clear the only
hurdle in the corridor leading to the ultimate sanctuary and natural
residence of the spirit, the habitat of angels, the smithy where swords
into ploughshares are beaten, the treasure room in the heart where the
jewel of peace is kept.

Peace, like love, cannot be negotiated or coerced into being.
Interludes between wars can be negotiated and coerced, but not
peace. Peace can only be created with imagination rooted in sound
spiritual principle. The human spirit feeds on opposition. Creation feeds
on opposition. Without opposition, there cannot be drama---and without
drama, there cannot be life. Our choice is simply between good theater and

Bad theater tries to eliminate opposition. Good theater embraces
opposition as an exponent of natural process. When we fail to cultivate
opposition creatively, we end up satisfying the need by conjuring enemies,
by degrading and provoking each other. It's nobody's fault. It's just the
way we are. Create a provocative and interesting peace or inherit war by
default. That's the law. To the ends of the Earth we will be visited by
war drama after war drama after war drama until we enact a global peace
drama that can hold our attention long enough to instill a real change in
the stories of our hearts.

In everyone we see ourselves. In every terrorist act we see reflections of
our own hidden desperation. In every act of kindness we see the movement
of our own deep and true hearts. With every refusal to pass judgment on
that which tempts us with easy condemnation or easy praise, we give heart
and sway to the cause of peace.

Sometimes the wounds we incur, blind us to the wounds we inflict, so it is
very important not to go to war. The most difficult thing for us humans is
to see ourselves. We must not blame each other for this weakness we all
share...for this blaming will end up killing the world.

Cowardice is refusing to see in ourselves what we condemn most in others.
Courage is an honest relationship with our weaknesses and fears.
True courage becomes our strength and the peace of the world.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thoughts on Conversation, Words and Silence

by Michael Bridge

Nature is the ongoing conversation between everything and everything else.
Ritually joining our conversation of words with the bigger conversation of
the Earth and sky, Nature's healing properties more easily locate us, move
on us, and have their way with us. We can move to a place where words
generate no narrow discourse but help to weave the living thread of every
thought and feeling into the living fabric of an unworded talk: Nature's
conversation -- the conversation bigger than the sky.

In conversation, all things are conceived; from conversation, the world
comes forth. In silent words, the seed converses with the soil and rain,
the tide with the moon and shore. The breeze converses with the wing of
the moth and the bee, and with the grass. The trees call to the mist and
the mist turns into clouds so it can answer back.

The hunger converses with the feasting, the thirsting with the quenching,
the longing with the seeking it inspires. The grief converses with the
loss, the healing with the wounding, mercy with the debt it forgives. The
stars send messages to each other and to us, the children of their light.
Vision converses with destiny and so the world is born.

* * *

This age is defined by its addictive relationship with words and by the
illusions of control generated by the addiction. This age is defined by
the unlawful removal of words from their natural habitat, from the language
of Nature. This age is defined by the subjugation of words to the tyranny
of the conceptual mind.

Using words inside of a conceptual space (inside of a space defined and
choreographed by other words), disjoins them from Nature---and the
loneliness of words for Nature, becomes the sickness of our hearts.

We can move to a place where words themselves are unspeakably holy,
where our word is our soul itself metamorphosing into one of the shapes
of meaning.

Silence holds all the souls of all the words in trust. Honoring Silence
before we speak, our words retain their souls. Pressing my hands together,
making the sign of the joined palms, I honor Silence.

Making the sign of the joined palms, I am also saying that I have attention
to offer to our encounter. As you answer my sign with the same sign, we
make a contract without words. Our contract brings our encounter into a
ritual space.

Ritually joining our words with Nature (bringing words into a space that is
not defined and choreographed by other words), meaning is deepened,
expanded, and enriched. Our perceptual-experiential base is deepened,
expanded, and enriched.

* * *

When we use words to dominate the natural life of the moment, the quality
of our silence becomes disconnective instead of connective. When words are
used to generate the context of their own speaking, they completely fill up
the space they occupy. They even crowd themselves out of the picture. The
idea of silence they invent is empty---is an absence, not a presence. The
quality of our silence becomes disconnective. Disconnective silence is
deadly. Connective silence is the breath of angels, the place where
God lives.

Holding silence, stands forward the soul. In the hush that falls as snow
before the symphony's first note, all of music hides. In the pause that
wisdom sows before the sound, the soul of every word resides. To speak
without the silence breaking is to join the conversation never ending.

Shift the emphasis of attention away from words themselves, to focus
more and more on the spaces in between the words. The space between
two words holds the souls of words, holds our souls, holds the soul of
everything that has a soul.

* * *

Our community is our collective conversation. Sustainable community is
sustainable conversation---and sustainable conversation needs words and
silence to keep each other enchanted.

When words are taken for granted, the enchantment of language is broken.
The real power of the utterance is lost. Remembering the enchantment of
our own first word, power is restored. Then by each word we are uplifted.
By each word we are healed.

* * *

There are so many questions to ask and we cannot ask them by ourselves. As
long as we keep asking them, the river of answers will never run dry---and
giving voice to the real questions of our hearts, we are always counted as
the allies, not the enemies of our souls.

Michael Bridge
822 Jewell Avenue
Sebastopol, California 95472
(707) 823-7795

Connective Silence and The Ritual of Sacred Encounter
Tuesday gatherings, 7:15 PM, my house, no cost, no donation…
Sitting with prearranged groups...
Private meetings...
see: http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-gestures.html


posted by Tom Atlee on Sunday September 5 2004
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:




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