Multi-Dimensional Process Oriented Leadership

Multi-Dimensional Process Oriented Leadership is a large group facilitation and change management model that integrates concepts from quantum physics, psychology, and anthropology. The basic methodology involves the use of dual awareness and an attitude of inclusiveness to co-create group cohesion. The first awareness focuses on the group and its self organizing tendencies and a second focuses on the facilitator’s experience, which is organized by the same forces that organize the group and is a meaningful mirror of the group’s process. The theoretical presentation and contextual explanation that follows shows how personal experience, group awareness, and facilitation come together. Multi-Dimensional leadership is on process oriented psychology Arny’s his WorldWork methodology. This has been further developed into the multi-dimensional process oriented leadership model presented here by Max and Ellen Schupbach, co-founders of the Deep Democracy Institute and partners in MAXFXX, an organizational consulting group.

Mindell (2000), originally a physicist and Jungian analyst, has researched and written extensively on how awareness creates reality, how we perceive it on different levels, and how this creates different frameworks of reality. This idea follows discoveries in quantum physics, chaos theory, and the symbolic thinking of Jungian psychology and also stems from ancient spiritual traditions such as Taoism and indigenous philosophies.

In the late eighties Mindell began formulating his ideas as a political principle that he called Deep Democracy :

Unlike “classical” democracy, which focuses on majority rule, Deep Democracy suggests that all voices, states of awareness, and frameworks of reality are important. Deep Democracy also suggests that the information carried within these voices, awarenesses, and frameworks are all needed to understand the complete process of the system. Deep Democracy is an attitude that focuses on the awareness of voices that are both central and marginal. (Wikipedia, 2006)

The focus on “voices that are both central and marginal” refers to the voices of various states of consciousness, subjective somatic (bodily) experiences, synchronicities, and experiences associated with rank dynamics. Developing our ability to notice, understand, and use the information contained in these voices can help us improve our ability to facilitate complex interactions. It isn’t easy to see how our limited awareness is creating a problem when we are in the midst of working with a difficult group. The difficulty seems painfully real and we may even think it obvious that a particular person or group is the cause of the problem. Unfortunately this narrow assessment rarely helps to relieve the tension. It isn’t working.

The greatest difficulty is often our inability to understand and appreciate events in terms of their underlying processes. One way that our limited awareness may serve to cloud our understanding is through an unconscious attachment to our own agenda, which is often expressed through an implicit expectation that a group be easier to work with, which really means that “they should follow me.” Groups may be seen as difficult when conflicting leadership efforts are not supported through facilitation, resulting instead in chaotic and painful authority fights.

Facilitators can capitalize on group disturbances and improve their ability to understand a difficult group’s dynamics, to facilitate more effectively, and to transform disturbances by understanding the patterns that structure group dynamics and individual behavior. These patterns appear as signals that are critical for understanding difficulties, recognizing and supporting emergent leadership, and helping groups find more creative and sustainable solutions. Deep Democracy and a multi-dimensional process-oriented view of leadership provide a framework for understanding these patterns. Mindell defines process as a constant flow of information—which we experience through signals, body symptoms, relationship experiences, and other channels of information flow (1989).

Process Theory:

Process work theory says that the psychology of the facilitator and the group are organized by the same forces. These forces create a field, similar to an invisible electro-magnetic field, that pulls people in various directions. These varied directions appear as roles, which are the view points or functions within a field that are occupied by various people or subgroups at different times; for example, the leader, the worker, the helper, or the trouble maker.

While any given role may at times seem to be located with a given individual, roles are actually dynamic timespirits. Timespirits are roles that change with time, sometimes quite rapidly, and often move from one individual or group to another. For example, while speaking angrily against tyranny I may inadvertently tyrannize others, at least momentarily. Timespirits are part of the field’s self-organizing pattern.
Groups are most difficult when the structural elements of the field’s pattern are not seen and addressed. These elements include the tensions and feelings that exist between various roles and ghost roles. Ghosts are roles that are somehow felt to be present but can’t quite be located. For example, sexism is a common ghost in organizations. People may feel its presence but no one speaks in favor of sexism directly and yet it persists. References to people or groups who aren’t present are also ghosts.

Group difficulties tend to escalate when key signals are not addressed because the underlying roles remain invisible—like ghosts that are felt and effect the group but aren’t directly expressed or spoken to. Also, groups tend to become frozen when one polarity (two central but opposed roles) is given too much attention and when groups lack the fluidity (an ability to consciously shift between different roles and to avoid being grabbed by a role) that comes from understanding roles as dynamic timespirits rather than static positions. Understanding roles as timespirits means that any one person or subgroup is not the role but also changes and needs awareness of and access to other positions as well. Groups tend to be more cohesive when disturbing subgroups and individuals are seen as emergent roles and welcomed to interact with the group’s dominant views and individuals.

Some common problems in achieving this are that people are often opposed to certain roles, at times enjoy winning by defeating and silencing others, and positional leaders and designated facilitators often feel threatened by the emergent, momentary leadership of others and are sometimes difficult in the sense that they often don’t support the group’s direction as opposed to their own agenda.

The following sections describe methods for tracking the process structure—the patterns that organize the information in terms of the rank, roles, and polarities and tensions that exist between them—and, along with concepts from quantum physics and mathematics, lays the foundation for the section on multi-dimensional leadership.


If process is a constant flow of information then signals are a constant flow of symbolic indicators, which indirectly inform us about various competing processes. These underlying processes are evident in signals and their structure—the patterns in verbal and nonverbal communications, movement, roles, emotional queues, and somatic experiences. But we often marginalize the signals because we don’t understand their meaning. Signals often seem so chaotic and confusing signals are often ignored. For example, in moments when you might expect someone to attentively listen, signals that don’t go along with attentive listening (gazing out the window, fidgeting with a cell phone) will usually be ignored until their strength (either through an increase in intensity or repetition) exceeds a certain threshold. Below that threshold their informational value is lost and our ability to learn from complex situations is limited.

The root of the word to learn is leornian, arising from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning “to follow or find the track” (Harper, 2001). Tracking is the root of learning. Tracking means to notice the signals and discover how they fit together revealing a path that leads forward. The first step is to notice signals that don’t seem to go along with the normal flow of communications and to track these signals.

Groups become difficult because these signals and fledgling processes are often ignored and they are often ignored because they conflict with other processes and so the cycle continues. It takes a change of attitude to understand that those signals that we might prefer to ignore can be used to discover an emerging tendency that is crucially deserving of support rather than a troublesome obstacle to be overcome.

Tracking isn’t meant to be a reductionist exercise in conducting an increasingly detailed analysis of signals and their patterns but is meant to uncover the meaning behind the signals. By tracking signals and unfolding the meaning hidden within their patterns, facilitators can begin to understand the underlying processes that organize the group dynamics and individual behaviors. Process structure is the symmetry between the signals, their informational patterns, the underlying processes, and the way they manifest in terms of individual behavior and group dynamics. Understanding structure is the key to understanding difficulties, recognizing and supporting emergent leadership, and helping groups find more sustainable and creative solutions.

Process Structure:

Central to understanding the structure of a group’s processes is an ability to understand the roles that are present. Roles perform specific functions within groups, not all of which are popular. Some less popular roles include the disrupter, slacker, sexist, critic, or oppressor.

People tend to avoid certain especially unpopular roles in order to prevent being scapegoated or identified, for example, as the trouble maker in a group. These roles are often unoccupied, meaning that no one wants to be seen or to see themselves in this way, but are somehow noticeable in a group. They are like ghosts that appear as tensions in the atmosphere, or you may hear people speaking about them by listening to the group’s gossip in the breaks. Understanding these ghost roles and their impact on a group is an important part of helping a group deal with its problems and develop its creativity and power.

A group can be viewed as a field or a collection of roles (formal, consensual, ghost, and otherwise) that pull in different directions, polarizing individuals and groups into conflicting view points. Roles grab us to play their parts. A given role could grab anyone but if I have a particular affinity for that role then I may be easier to grab than someone else. You might find yourself in a boring meeting and suddenly act like a rebel or be in a chaotic meeting and suddenly stand for rules and structure. The field pulls you into the roles where your own personal development lies. The more emotional affect you have the less understanding of the role you have and the less access you have to fluidity. For example, developing greater understanding of my own exuberant rebelliousness can help me notice my tendency to react against a boring or otherwise unproductive meeting in a more positive way. I’m no less rebellious, I’m just better at using it constructively.

One common ghost role is the learner (one who doesn’t know but is open to learning). It is difficult to be a learner candidly within an organization that values knowing. The assumption is that if you are open to learning then you must not know. It is often more career enhancing, and thus more common, for people to be in a role that says, “I know.” Behind this knowing there is a lot of creativity and power but also there is frequently a lack of relationship awareness in the way that the knowing is expressed (it is often a putdown of others) and in the way that it marginalizes learning personally, in others, and within the organization:

Example 1:
We should do X.
No! X won’t work. We should do Y.

This is very different than,

Example 2:
I know you’ve given it a lot of thought. I’m thinking that maybe we should do X, but what do you think?
Wow… yes, X. X definitely looks promising. We tried something similar, we may not have had it right, but when we tried it this is what happened. How could we have done it better or ensure that this same problem won’t happen again here? Can we explore that together? And also, we were wondering about Y. What do you think?

The relationship metaskills (feeling skills and an ability to consciously choose when to be sensitive or tough, for example (Amy Mindell, 1995)) of the second example communicate some of the same information as the first example but also communicate concern for the other, a willingness to be fluid, and exhibit a style of relationship and organizational teamwork that is important. What you say is informed by your awareness of which role you are in, your feeling connection with others, and an ability to demonstrate fluidity while caring for others. Arnold Mindell calls this quality eldership (1992). Speaking as yet another force countering the other’s leadership may not be as effective as eldership: caring for others and for the whole system by speaking first as an enthusiastic supporter before introducing other ideas. Everyone knows this but we forget, especially in difficult situations, and this adds to the difficulty of the situation. The examples above could be viewed as Leader vs Leader in the first interaction, or (Follower + Leader = Elder) vs (Follower + Leader = Elder) in the second.

Another problem with a Leader vs Leader interaction, even when it works, is that your inner critic knows it is only half working. I got the slam dunk but I downed a team member, created an enemy, and disrupted the group’s ability to work together. My inner critic says this wasn’t so good but my everyday personality says, “I won’t be downed by this criticism and anyhow the team needed my strong leadership.” Then the elder in me thinks, “OK. Get through this. Relax. Just notice the roles and the tensions… critics, power, leadership. Hmmm. Power messes everybody up.” The Learner is waking up, learning how to do it better next time. “OK. Maybe I can help turn this around.”

The next section introduces concepts from physics that have been shown to mirror dynamics in psychology, organizational dynamics, and process structure (Mindell, 2000).


One of the remarkable discoveries in quantum physics is spin. Spin is a property of particles, sometimes loosely described as the rotational inertia of the particle’s magnetic field. Spin has two possibilities, nominally described as either up or down. Pairs of particles are coupled, meaning that if one particle’s spin is up then the other’s is down. The remarkable thing is that if the spin of one particle is changed then the spin of the other particle changes simultaneously regardless of the distance between them. The particles are entangled and the change is instantaneous. This phenomenon mirrors relationship patterns that we all experience (Mindell, 2008). The first relationship pattern is the tendency to polarize:

We should do X.
No! Y is better.
Oh no… not you again.

This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t polarize. By themselves, polarities have an enormous creative potential. If we can polarize consciously and maintain a relationship connection with others and use a deeper set of skills to facilitate the polarities and tensions between the roles it can help a more creative and sustainable process emerge. Tyranny might seem easier since it takes time, skill, and effort to foster Deep Democracy; but it’s easy to constantly polarize a group into an exhausted state of chronic ineffectiveness or submission and difficult to follow a deeper path towards developing a meaningful, creative, and sustainable organization. Overall, following the self-organizing process structure is the path of least effort.

Another relationship pattern that entanglement mirrors is related to the connection that changes the other particle’s spin. Have you ever left a meeting after a relationship conflict, eventually found some resolution or ability to understand the other person, and then gone back only to find that he or she had also changed? Because of entanglement, relationship is a complex dance of roles and states of consciousness. We work on ourselves and the other person changes and a fluid dance-like rotational symmetry emerges that moves us in and out of various roles. The dance stops and the other side will not change if you are not fluid or not facilitating the roles effectively. And if you think the other side will never change you are finished as a facilitator.

Difficult groups are difficult because there is no facilitator function present helping to bring awareness to the roles, polarities, tension, and visions of the team members. Facilitation doesn’t have to come from a formally designated facilitator. The facilitator function is ontologically built-in to all groups. It just isn’t being used. It is unoccupied but anyone can help bring it out. The facilitator is a role and you don’t have to be the designated leader, extroverted, or abnormally charismatic to help bring awareness to a group. You only have to trust in your own experience and want to find a way to help the group that is supportive of others.

The most fundamental forum is your own heart. Both as a facilitator and as a human being, you must learn to hear yourself there. Arnold Mindell

Unfortunately noticing and trusting in our own experience is not always so easy. There is only one problem a person can have in a group, not knowing the deepest part of himself or herself and not bringing it out and making it more transparent. The group needs this from its members for its own self-organizing development. Groups also need to learn and develop their own ability to notice, track, and process things and understand how entanglement and rotational symmetry are part of the process structure of the group’s role dynamics.


Discussions of rank are challenging because rank is so precious and so complex and so threatening. When rank is mentioned, some may hear a Marxist ghost in the winds reminding us of those who want to use their own power to down others in a vain attempt to eliminate rank differences. Deep Democracy supports rank as well as power and leadership. We can support rank by acknowledging it and understanding it so that we can use it better. Among the many factors that can make a group difficult, rank problems lay towards the top of the list. People generally don’t know how to use power well, so they use it to get at each other rather than for the benefit of the organization.

Organizational theories generally view rank in terms of formal hierarchical and informal organizational rank. Social theorists tend to view rank in terms of class, gender, and race. There are many dimensions of rank, some earned (like educational rank) and others not (like appearance based rank or rank that stems from health differences) (Arnold Mindell, 1995).

Three additional dimensions of rank are:

Psychological Rank
This is a sense of ease that someone has, even in difficult situations, that comes from knowing that she will be able to engage in a tense scene while also protecting herself. This includes an ability to track and believe in her own experience and remain fluid when under attack.
Spiritual Rank
Some people have an ability to ground themselves in something that comes from beyond space and time, giving them access to an inner sense of meaning.
Street Power
This is an ability to be comfortable in a group that gives you intense negative feedback.

Group difficulties often emerge as reactions against inappropriate use of rank.

Helping the group members become aware of their rank and its effect on others helps them develop an ability to use rank better but also helps the group develop an ability to not rely on rank so heavily. Psychological, spiritual, and street power ranks are less central in most organizations than more normally acknowledged hierarchical ranks. Rank has a lot to do with centrality (an ability to gain access to resources or status). Tensions that derive from rank differences effect cognition and our sense of IQ changes. For example, I’m heading a meeting and feel like things are going great. My boss walks in and my IQ drops twenty points. Suddenly I get attacked and it drops to single digits.

Rank is a contextual and relativistic concept because rank doesn’t exist in and of itself. For example, people don’t inherently have more rank based on gender or race, only within a sexist or racist context do these create rank differences and these particular differences are only meaningful as models of gender or race based oppression.

Rank effects our abilities to think, to speak, to stand for change, and it impacts our health (Morin). If there is a rank problem between two people it is because neither of them understand their own rank well enough. If they did, they would be able to understand the tensions, facilitate the conflict, and defuse the conflict. Rank problems can ultimately foster greater understanding and learning for the individuals and the group. For example, if you have a rank problem with someone with less rank than you, you will notice it through her or his feedback. You say something the person doesn’t understand or doesn’t know much about and he may look down or signal discomfort in some other way. Or if the person you have a rank problem with is above you, you may experience a constant grinding in the background.

If the organization has a culture where these problems can be addressed directly, great! This is the best. If not, you can work on yourself to understand what it is about the way that the person uses her rank that is disturbing. Generally, the most disturbing thing about rank is that people don’t know they have it. If they knew they had it, they would use it in a more conscious way. Your challenge is to find a way to help her see that she has it. To do that, you have to love her rank. You have to think, “this person does this and this and this and she can’t see it and can’t love it yet. That’s why it is so irritating.” If you can love it in the other person, great. Then you can praise it and congratulate her for it and encourage her to use it more consciously. You have to momentarily be her therapist even though she has more rank. Eldership is learning to love every signal (E. Schupbach, 2004), which also means learning to love it that you hate certain things.

Does it work? There’s something shamanic in the role switching involved in noticing my experience as a subordinate, understanding the scene with my superior, shape-shifting momentarily into being the coach or the therapist, making an intervention, and then returning to being the subordinate all the while checking feedback carefully to make sure I’m on track. Is awareness enough to change the world? Is it enough to notice that my boss could use his rank better? Or does the world need a little push from time to time?

What does it mean to use your rank consciously? Let’s say you have enough rank that one word from you can stop anything. When do you use that word? Before you use your rank battery think, is there another way to go? For example, imagine that a subordinate makes an insensitive remark. A classical approach to dealing with the situation would be to immediately reprimand the subordinate. An alternative approach is to directly support the power and developing leadership behind the remark and suggest that the individual consider the advantages of transforming his or her power into something creative, useful, supportive of the leadership of others, and respectful of rank. It isn’t possible that the remark is only negative. There is also something emerging that the relationship and the organization can benefit from.

Multi-Dimensional Process Oriented Leadership:

The main leadership paradigms all agree on certain basic principles: The leader has to have a vision and hold onto it while working to improve communications and push power down by developing other leaders. From a process-oriented view, business, like everything, is driven by psychological and emotional profit margins. Because financial success is a byproduct of these profit margins, the community aspects of the organization are as important as leadership and team development. Difficult groups are groups where the psychological and emotional profit margins are in the red and the community is failing to develop the team and its leadership (M. Schupbach & E. Schupbach, 2008). Multi-dimensional process oriented thinking can help leaders, designated or not, turn this around.

Three distinct leadership models are an authoritarian model (an individual person leads), a systems model (people lead by consensus), and a chaos driven, self-organizing model (where leadership is non-local (can’t be definitively located in any one person or group but is distributed throughout the field)). These three models each focus on very different levels. Similarly, there are three levels of human experience that need to be seen to help facilitate a group’s development:

Consensus Reality (CR):
Consensus reality includes experiences that we tend to agree upon and includes focus on rules, structure, and objectively measurable outcomes and an assumption that we can control events.
Emergent Level (EL):
Emergent experiences are subjective, not measurable, and not in our control. They include team work and relationship issues, experiences of rank differences, somatic experiences, roles, and our assumptions about each other.
The Pre-Emerging level is something that is sometimes barely noticeable, like an atmosphere or the most deeply held values that we can’t quite articulate. It is an indescribable yet sentient essence like a feeling, a tension, or something joyful.

For example, I’m working with an organization and notice that, over time, the routine CR details seem to be going well but initiatives for new programs are blocked for reasons that only partly make sense. There is a mood, an atmosphere, that I can at times barely notice. It is a flickering signal mirroring a Pre-Emergent essence. As I observe my experience of the mood over the course of a few interactions, I notice two roles emerging: one is something like a creative revolutionary in the field who wants change and the other is something like a traditionalist that wants structure and supports things as they are.
These levels are based on what Arnold Mindell calls consensus reality, dreamland, and the level of sentient essence in clinical work . Schupbach and Schupbach (2007) use Mindell’s levels in a change management context and in this context call them CR, EL, and PE.

Awareness of each of these levels is an important aspect of the facilitation of groups. The solution to a problem in one of these levels lies in the other levels. Mirroring western culture’s hypnosis to CR details, organizational interventions often focus on the CR level and ignore the importance of working with EL and PE experiences. When Einstein said that we need a substantially new manner of thinking if we are to survive he was referring to this shift in awareness away from a hypnosis to objectivity and verifiable phenomena (Einstein, 2004).

Some problems need to be worked out in CR, others can’t be. The good news is that you don’t have to solve these problems at all—at least not in the ordinary engineering sense of the word. You only have to support the self-organizing tendencies that are already present by facilitating the experiences in each of these levels to help complete the processes in the background. Notice what is already happening and help it to complete. For example, I couldn’t solve the relationship and political conflicts with the peace project but by following the tendencies that were already emerging I was able to help a more constructive dialogue happen.

The tendencies that drive everything first appear as briefly flickering Pre-Emerging experiences and later appear as Emergent experiences with more defined signals, roles, and process structures. PE and EL control CR but we can only follow PE and EL. We can help to facilitate processes to complete (meaning to emerge more easily) but we can’t control them. However, we do often try to control CR. When this works we feel like heroes rather than admitting that we were just in the right place at the right time but really don’t know why it worked, and when it doesn’t work we feel like losers. Trusting in PE and EL experiences means believing that they will help guide us towards sustainable solutions to CR problems.

When these Pre-Emerging experiences first appear as brief, flickering signals we tend to overlook them, to ignore them, or to actively discount them. We aren’t sure what to do. They are tiny microsignals that seem to flirt with us. We might suddenly notice a colleague and wonder if something signaled opposition to our proposal. What was it? Did her head move away almost imperceptibly? Did his eyes really narrow when I looked at him? Did I really see that? Does it mean what I’m thinking?

Chances are that these flickering signals will grow stronger down the road until the opposition has congruently developed into a full scale road block. Noticing the signals early on gives us the chance to help complete the process in the background. But there’s a problem. We don’t always know what the signals of others mean, even if we think we do. Sometimes we are right. Often we are wrong. Western culture doesn’t yet support us to work together on this level. It’s too intimate. But we must. Our collective misunderstandings of these signals and their meanings and our collective inability to facilitate deeper dialogues ultimately leads to war. What to do?

It is a very intimate thing to say something like, “I noticed that while I was making this presentation that you were looking out the window and I wondered if might have some hesitations about the project. If so, I’d love to hear what they are so I can address them directly.” Helping the hesitations emerge earlier is important so that they can be related to directly.
It’s more common to feel relieved that the hesitations didn’t emerge, hoping they will go away. Groups become difficult when the hesitations remain hidden, experienced as brief signals that don’t coalesce as clear roles that can be interacted with. It can help to introduce this as a role play: “Imagine someone who would be against this proposal. What would that person say?” This allows people to speak more freely without fear of getting stuck in a role or being seen as negative. This freedom is the basis for empowerment, which conversely plays a big part in helping a difficult group develop its ability to track its own experience.
There is a simple way to empower people. Anything that you see has meaning for the organization; although, frequently, the meaning isn’t clear. Empowerment happens through understanding the meaning of the person, event, or signal and reframing it in terms of its meaning to the group and to the organization as a whole.

Imagine you are in a meeting and someone interrupts another person. Behind the interrupting may be a roles that says, I know better than you. Reframing this: “Two things are happening at once. Great. I hope that both will get to be completed.”

Or, imagine you are in a meeting and one person doesn’t speak. Someone says, “There is Bill. How come he never says anything?” The roles are: Verbosity is better. Those who speak know more. Also, he who says nothing doesn’t know and knowing is better than learning. It’s basically a put down that comes from misunderstanding Bill, misunderstanding the function and dynamics of the group, misunderstanding creativity, and over valuing centrality. Reframing this: “I like what Bill does here. So many good things are being done here we barely have time to listen. When I look at him it reminds me to listen too. I think we’re missing something because we don’t take more time to listen and learn more.”

Discovering Deep Democracy:

Introducing these concepts into an organization is a project, and every beginning project is plagued by conflict that seems to have a purpose. In theory the purpose is to push away those people that aren’t dedicated to helping the organization develop. Those people who really want to do it will hang in, not out of a sense of commitment but because they enjoy learning together and helping the organization grow. These conflicts are important because they parallel a lot of organizational and social issues and conflicts, which means that they point towards the issues that the group will need to deal with. Introducing these concepts is also difficult because deep democracy is not a set of rules about how to run groups. It is a set of tools and principles that can help the group to discover its own path towards noticing and embracing deep democracy and an atmosphere of inclusiveness.

You only have a limited amount of time to make a meaningful difference in a group. Too often facilitators only focus on getting things expressed, which is good, but also tends to recycle old stories and doesn’t complete any of the key polarities. Groups that focus on completing experiences, one at a time, tend to work better than groups that attempt to address everything all at ones. Suggest that the group focus on one particular polarity. The facilitator’s task is to help the group finish one thing. Encourage people to tell you why the two parts can’t complete. Create the ghost role that speaks for the marginalized parts. Instead of trying to get the parts together, ask the group why they are conflicted? “How was it in the beginning of the group? Was it already a problem way back?” Ask, “how come you guys can’t get along with that ghost role? It is fine that you don’t, but explain why.” Ask the ghost to say more. Model a new relationship to the ghost role. Sometimes it isn’t enough to simply have all sides heard. Discovering the story that lies between them reveals the tensions that kept them apart.

It is also important to focus on and complete any hot spots as they arise before moving on. Hot spots are moments in a group process where there is a strong reaction or a sudden, tense silence. The suddenness and the heat with which these arise indicates that there is a strong ghost that has been unspeakable or hasn’t been heard. Caring for and completing hot spots helps to create a sense of safety and faith in the facilitator and in the group’s ability to be fluid and inclusive of diverse experiences.

Overall, following signals is the easiest way and the shortest path to helping a group move forward. When you are on, it’s like surfing a wave. It’s easier than clawing your way to shore through rough seas. With mastery it is almost effortless, although gaining mastery requires practice and courage and trusting that there is a wealth of information that can benefit the group and help the facilitator to develop her awareness, leadership, and eldership.

It may be that tensions can’t be resolved because the roles and emerging tendencies need to interact with other parts of the organization as well. Some problems can’t be solved within a given group. The forces that organize the group are also fractals, meaning that the process structure that exists at one level in an organization often exists at other levels, structuring the entire organization.
Each level will only notice certain patterns as they appear within other levels, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist within each level or that they can’t be addressed within any given level. Those roles that lay outside of the group are ghosts. Introduce them as roles so the group can interact with them and complete the story.

This doesn’t mean that everything can be completed within a given group or organization. Organizations aren’t human and aren’t meant to have human responses. It’s a force field. If you deviate too much the organization has to cut you out to protect its own integrity. Go for it anyway and check feedback carefully.

First and Second Training:

The facilitator’s first task is to notice and explore the signals but the real task is to follow them into something unknown and intimate and mysterious. This isn’t a trivial distinction. Self-organizing forces can’t be controlled.

Mindell refers to developing mastery in these two tasks as the first training and the second training, emphasizing the complexity and enormity of each of them. The first training is developing mastery in noticing and tracking signals, forming structural hypotheses from the patterns, creating interventions from these, and carefully noting the feedback from the group; which will either confirm the hypothesis or suggest another direction. The second training is developing mastery in following something mysterious and intimate, even when it can’t be described by signals and structural patterns. It is ineffable but leads to the core of a group’s self organizing tendency and it is always something intimate.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. [She or] he to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. (Einstein, 2004)

Key terms:

Consensus Reality
This is the level of our normal daily experience. Consensus reality includes experiences that we tend to agree upon and includes focus on rules, structure, and objectively measurable outcomes and profit. We assume that we can control events.
Deep Democracy
Deep Democracy is an attitude that focuses on the awareness of voices that are both central and marginal.
A role and a metaskill: An ability to care for others and the whole system simultaneously that includes an awareness of which role you are in, a feeling connection with others, and an ability to demonstrate fluidity.
Emergent Leadership
Emergent Leadership is an initial attempt to develop or express leadership, which is experienced in momentary signals of power, which—because they are not yet understood and may not be initially well directed—are often seen as difficulties, confusion, or a lack of respect for authority.
Emergent Level
Emergent experiences are subjective and not measurable and not in our control. They include team work and relationship issues, experiences of rank differences, somatic experiences, and our assumptions about each other.
The symmetrical relationship between polar roles that led people towards a fluid dance of rotational symmetry.
Facilitator Function
A role that is ontologically built-in to all groups that provides a natural tendency towards, observation, facilitation, and emergence of awareness within the group.
A group of signals, tensions, roles, and tendencies. An emotional atmosphere or a felt sense of a particular shared acausal consciousness.
First Training
Developing mastery in noticing and tracking signals, forming structural hypotheses from the patterns, creating interventions from these, and carefully noting the feedback from the group; which will either confirm the hypothesis or suggest another direction.
An ability to consciously shift between different roles and to avoid being grabbed by a role.
Ghost Role
A strong unoccupied role in a field that effects the group’s dynamics but can’t yet be directly interacted with.
Hot Spot
A hot spot is a moment in a group process where there is a strong reaction.
Two opposing roles.
The Pre-Emerging level is something that is sometimes barely noticeable, like an atmosphere or the most deeply held values that we can’t quite articulate. It is an indescribable somehow sentient essence like a feeling, a tension, a joy.
Process is defined as the constant flow of information, which we experience through signals, body symptoms, relationship experiences, and other channels of information flow.
Process Structure
The patterns in verbal and nonverbal communications, movement, roles, emotional queues, and somatic experiences and the symmetry between the signals, their informational patterns, the underlying processes, and the way they manifest in terms of individual behavior and group dynamics.
Psychological Rank
This is a sense of ease that someone has even in difficult situations that comes from knowing that she or he will be able to engage in a tense scene while also protecting herself. This includes an ability to track and believe in your own experience, stay awake, and remain fluid when under attack.
>Rotational Symmetry
The complex dance of various roles and states of consciousness in a fluid system.
Second Training
Developing mastery in following something mysterious and intimate, even when it can’t be described by signals and structural patterns. It is ineffable but leads to the core of a group’s self organizing tendency.
Spiritual Rank
Some people have an ability to ground themselves in something that comes from beyond space and time, giving them access to an inner sense of meaning.
Street Power
This is an ability to be comfortable in a group that gives you intense negative feedback.
Roles that change with time, sometimes quite rapidly, and often move from one individual or group to another.



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