For a seed to achieve its greatest expression,
it must come completely undone.
The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.
To someone who doesn’t understand growth,
it would look like complete destruction.
—Cynthia Occelli, author and blogger
Life does not accommodate you; it shatters you.
Every seed destroys its container
or else there would be no fruition.
—Florida Scott-Maxwell, poet, playwright, and author
We’re living in a world where it seems that every major system and structure is coming completely undone. The shells are cracking, the insides are coming out, and everything is changing. It looks and feels as though much of the world as we have known it is breaking down, falling apart, or being destroyed.
Yet I see this as a time of the Great Breaking Open. Challenging, difficult, and even painful as it might be, this is how growth and evolution work. Part of what makes it challenging and difficult is our resistance to the growth and evolution process. Looking at what is happening through the lens of the Great Breaking Open invites new perspectives and possibilities.
Change is happening at unprecedented rates. Everything is in transition. Yet when things are in transition, energy is moving and there are opportunities for transformation. Transformation is much easier when things are shifting anyway. Disruption is already happening, people are stirred up, and they’re more willing to try a different approach. Transformation is much harder when things are rigid and fixed.
The breaking open that is happening right before our eyes and under our feet is actually creating conditions, situations, and circumstances that are ripe for transformation. It’s up to us to be clear and intentional about how we respond to what is happening.
Cutting Through To The Core
The Great Breaking Open is cutting through to the core of our societal structures and to the core of our being as individuals. For as long as many of us can remember, our societies, governments, businesses, and education systems have increasingly focused on short-term, bottom-line results. As problems have arisen, we have increasingly tended to address only the surface issues, looked for quick fixes, and opted for the most attractive immediate result. As a result, we have increasingly neglected to pay attention to the pressures that have been building under the surface because important core issues have not been addressed. Unfortunately, this has been at the expense of our future and our societal wellbeing.
The Great Breaking Open is now forcing us to look at these core issues. And these core issues need more than just “fixes.” Instead, they require new forms, new structures, new approaches, and new policies. And that will require us to create new ways of living and working together.
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A VUCA World? Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, And Ambiguous
After the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Army War College described the world as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The acronym VUCA, created from those four descriptive words, first appeared in the late 1990s.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the term was adopted by the business world to describe the turbulence, chaos, and rapid change that has since become the “new normal”—political, economic, and social unrest; terrorist attacks; government structures coming undone. None of these things exist in isolation. They are all somehow connected and part of a much larger story—the ongoing story of human and social development and evolution.
On the surface, it’s a VUCA world. Yet there’s a seismic shift going on underneath the breaking open of systems, structures, and societies—it’s the breaking open of the human spirit. I believe that, if we pay attention, it is this deeper breaking open of the human spirit that holds the power for our future.
I am confident that if we focus beyond the struggle and upheaval, we will find a bigger vision of our world that has been waiting for us for some time. The Great Breaking Open seems to be telling us that the human spirit has grown impatient and a bigger vision is now required. The time for movement and action is now.
Breaking Open Is Not A Comfortable Place To Be
The breaking open of the human spirit is not a comfortable place to be. And what makes it particularly uncomfortable is that we are not just witnessing it; we are experiencing it. All of us. Granted, some are on the front lines more than others. However, everyone is touched in some way. The breaking open is just manifesting in different ways for different people.
Many people are experiencing the breaking open of their fundamental survival spirit, driven by their basic human need to be shown dignity and respect. Think of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled their home countries and risked their lives and their children’s lives for the chance for something better. Think of all the people who have endured repression or prejudice due to the color of their skin, their gender identification, or their ethnic or economic background, and who long to be accepted as equal members of society.
Others are experiencing the breaking open of suppressed rage, pain, resentment, and fear that can no longer be contained. As their rage and pain explodes, the result can manifest as violence or fanaticism. They have not felt seen, respected, or valued. They believe that they are being cheated by systems designed to “keep them in their place.” And there is evidence that, in many cases, they’re right.
Yet others are feeling their hearts breaking open to the awareness that everyone and everything is interconnected. They can no longer separate themselves from the pain and suffering of others. Increasingly, their compassion is moving them into service. Whole communities have responded to the refugees with enormous outpourings of support. People have opened their homes to strangers from far-away lands and sponsored refugee families. People from all over the world have traveled at their own expense to provide aid in war-torn regions or places that have experienced catastrophes. Others have been deeply involved in peaceful social action movements or have regularly volunteered their help in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other service agencies.
It’s not the first time that this has happened, and it won’t be the last. Yet it’s critical that we pay attention to this breaking open now, both within our own circles and beyond. The human spirit is stronger, more powerful, and more resilient than many of us have ever imagined. It’s much bigger than any national spirit or the spirit of any political party, religion, or economic class. The human spirit has no economic, political, or religious affiliation. It has a human affiliation. And it has a strong sense of its place within a more-than-human world.
It’s Time For A Bigger Dream
The human spirit is breaking open to show us in no uncertain terms that we have been dreaming too small a dream, holding too small a vision. As our view of the future has gotten increasingly shorter over the last decades, our collective dreams of what could be possible have gotten smaller.
It’s been more than fifty years since the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King inspired the world with his “I have a dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington—more than fifty years since President John F. Kennedy challenged the United States of America to go to the moon. The next iteration of our world is waiting to be born. It’s time for a bigger dream.
At the same time, there is a great backlash and outcry from those who are attached to a particular belief system, a way of life that is no longer in sync with a rapidly evolving society and consciousness, and those who are feeling left behind, whether socially, economically, or spiritually. This is all a part of the Great Breaking Open of the human spirit.
When the dam holding back feelings and emotions in the human consciousness breaks open, the full spectrum of response comes flooding out. The full spectrum of human experiences and emotions is so much wider than many of us can wrap our heads around. Intellectually, it’s difficult to comprehend the depth and breadth of what some of our fellow human beings are experiencing. Nor can we intellectually understand the actions that some of our fellow human beings take, or the massive system breakdowns that are happening everywhere. In our efforts to put what is happening into a simpler context that we can understand, we just put a label on it, such as calling it a “VUCA world.”
Yet while our intellectual minds are easily overwhelmed by all that is happening, our hearts actually have the capacity to take it all in. And herein lies the fundamental shift that is trying to happen through the Great Breaking Open. If we are willing to step beyond the intellect’s fears, anger, doubts, and discomfort, even for just a few moments, and focus our attention on the awareness, understanding, and wisdom of the heart, something changes in our perception of where we are and what is happening.
The Widening Split Between Head and Heart
The human heart has an uncanny ability to embrace the full spectrum of what is happening without judgment, and, somehow, to begin making sense of it. Somewhere from within our greater knowing, a new level of understanding begins to emerge.
As a society, we’re not very practiced at acknowledging the deep feelings of the heart and letting the heart show us the way forward. We’re not very practiced at being with uncomfortable emotions and experiences. Instead, we tend to become quickly overwhelmed by our feelings and run to the head (where it feels safer!) to “figure out” how to deal with these feelings and what we should do next.
As a result, two things happen.
First, we don’t give the heart a chance to do what it’s really good at—to intuit the bigger picture and bring us clarity and understanding.
Second, we create a split within ourselves, both individually and collectively, further separating head from heart. That separation creates an increasingly wider gap between intellect and intuition, between ego and soul. We keep breaking apart the partnerships within us that are essential to the full functioning of the human energy technology.
As that split grows wider, we increase the odds that, at some point, we will crack open in search of our own wholeness and greater potential, just as the seed must crack open in order to grow. Our innate potential, individually as well as collectively as societies and organizational systems, is a powerful force that wants to be fully expressed and come into form.
If we don’t acknowledge that potential and create the best possible conditions for it to come into form, it will eventually burst open out of its desire to be fully expressed. To return to the seed analogy from the quotes that opened this chapter, the increasing pressure within the seed for life and forward evolution can ultimately become too great, and the seed can explode.
The Floodgates Are Breaking Open
This is what we see happening today. The floodgates holding back human potential, experience, and emotion are breaking open. The wider the split gets between head and heart in our society, the more we will witness circumstances and events such as we have now. Instead of creating stability and safety, we will continue creating a VUCA world.
The heart is well attuned to recognize and acknowledge the human spirit. It is also fully attuned to the emerging greater potentials, both within us as individuals as well as within our relationships, systems, organizations, projects, and visions.
At the same time, the heart has an enormous innate capacity for embracing the full spectrum of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as well as the big picture of circumstances and situations. It has the capacity to accept everything simply as information, without judging it as good or bad, right or wrong. The heart integrates that information into our awareness and communicates its new understanding to the intellect. The intellect can then organize that information and store it in its extraordinary filing system so that we can access it on demand.
At first, we may experience this communication only as an “inner knowing or sensing.” The intellect may not be able to describe the experience in words right away. However, if we will just be patient, stay connected to the heart, and give ourselves a little time, the intellect will begin to find words to express our new perspective and understanding.
Challenges: The Potential For Creating Something New
Our VUCA world presents us with unprecedented challenges. Yet if we drop underneath those challenges, we also find enormous opportunities. One of the ancient wisdom teachings that can help us better understand how the world works is the Principle of Polarity. This principle tells us that nothing can exist without the possibility of its opposite also being present. Therefore, a challenge cannot exist unless there is also potential for creating something new. This is why I refer to what is happening today as the Great Breaking Open instead of the “great breaking down.”
It’s time for a shift in our fundamental approach to life. At the mass consciousness level, we’re conditioned to engage with life first from the head and only occasionally engage the heart to soften the edges. It’s time to turn that around. It’s time to engage first from the heart to gather information and see the big picture, and then bring in the intellect to do what it does best—to organize, strategize, and move into effective action based on the big-picture view of the heart.
©2017 by Alan Seale. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author and
The Center for Transformational Presence.
Transformational Presence: How To Make a Difference In a Rapidly Changing World
by Alan Seale.
Transformational Presence is an essential guide for: Visionaries who want to move beyond their vision into action; Leaders who are navigating the unknown and pioneering new territory; Individuals and Organizations committed to living into their greatest potential; Coaches, Mentors, and Educators supporting the greatest potential in others; Public servants committed to making a difference; and Anyone who wants to help create a world that works. New World, New Rules, New Approaches.
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About the Author
Alan Seale is an award-winning author, inspirational speaker, transformation catalyst, and founder and director of the Center for Transformational Presence. He is the creator of the Transformational Presence Leadership and Coach Training program which now has graduates from more than 35 countries. His books include Intuitive Living, Soul Mission * Life Vision, The Manifestation Wheel, The Power of Your Presence, Create a World That Works, and most recently, his two-book set, Transformational Presence: How To Make a Difference In a Rapidly Changing World. His books are currently published in English, Dutch, French, Russian, Norwegian, Romanian, and soon in Polish. Alan currently serves clients from six continents and maintains a full teaching and lecture schedule throughout the Americas and Europe. Visit his website at http://www.transformationalpresence.org/