Sleepwaking the U

Even though Theory U talks about presence and awareness, it is actually much harder to fully live and embody it - but I know a method that might help.

Something is bothering me for a while now. A gap between theory and practice. We talk about the blindspot, but we’re still in it.

From my perspective, we are still immensely unaware of how much we are unaware. I almost think I’m the crazy one, pointing out the emperor has no clothes. When I look at my experience with Theory U, I am profoundly amazed how much opportunities are left unnoticed. 90% of the time, we’re stuck at factual listening, not connecting with our heart, our presence and the source.

This is when

  • I’m watching a video lecture (which shares information)
  • I’m watching the live session
  • I’m joining my local hub
  • I’m reading the book
  • I’m on Facebook

In all this sleepwalking, in all this intellectual learning, I can find sometimes a little golden nugget of presence.

This is when:

  • During a coaching circle, we become present and aware of the social field
  • During an exercise, such as the empathy walk.
  • During a live session, there is a brief moment of mindfulness.
  • When Julie talked about “beingness” during the last live session
  • When Kelvy talks about what she noticed while she was drawing, she speaks from a place that’s connected to presence.

It seems as if we are only applying Theory U for social and organizational change, unaware of the blindspot. As the Presencing institute writes:

This “blind spot” exists not only in our collective leadership but also in our everyday social interactions. We are blind to the source dimension from which effective leadership and social action come into being.

Think about this. Really think about this. We’re unaware of how our presence and quality of attention is determining how we show up and the results of our actions.

Think about how we are learning this: There is a pre-determined curriculum with things to learn and exercises to do. We have created a fixed structure, in which we have some small spaces in which we invite presence in.

What if we would flip this around?

What if we would lead from presence, if we would lead from what’s emerging now, and only introduce structure if this fits the group and deepens the presence?

As a matter of fact, I’ve been practicing exactly this. I’ve been practicing Surrendered Leadership. This involves becoming present, stepping into the source, tuning into the emerging future, and leading from there. In the most radical way possible. In every moment. In every social interaction.

It means when you’re writing a post. When doing a video lecture. When meeting with the local hub. When grabbing a coffee. Every where, every interaction, every moment.

Surrendered Leadership developed by Circling Europe and born out of Circling. Circling is an intersubjective meditation practice. Which means, you’re meditating, but the object of attention isn’t your thoughts or compassion, it’s the social field you’re currently in. And you’re not silently observing, but actively speaking, listening, moving, doing, etc.

Surrendered Leadership is quite radical and not without its pitfalls.

  • It’s easy to get stuck at the bottom of the U.
  • It almost completely relies on teaching by transmissions and experiential immersion. Although this is an immensely powerful way to escape our habitual ways of thinking and downloading, it might be confusing if you don’t have an accompanying intellectual map to give meaning to the experience.

We can learn with our body and our being. We can learn not through words, but through the way we show up. That words cannot illuminate the blind spot, only presence and embodiment.