Reading Professor Alfonso Montuori’s article on the latest innovative degree from California Institute of Integral Studies – Transformative Leadership M.A. – I can’t help but get excited. Someone is talking about the need for self-awareness and an end to either-or thinking as a means of being an effective change-maker. Woohoo!

Admittedly, there is still a socio-political action being proposed and yet the author concedes that ‘it could be argued that the ultimate goal here is to develop wisdom-in-action.’

Wisdom in action people! That’s not so far from Living Wisdom. In fact, the whole article reeks of a Oneness approach – self-reflection, subjectivity, experiential value, equal and essential appreciation of others, processual identity, and re-organising systems to acknowledge plural approaches.

1. Self-Reflection: A reflection on the state of the world, your community and your own possibilities and potential contribution includes a self-awareness of one’s biases, implicit assumptions, values and goals. When such things remain invisible the pursuit(s) of transformational leaders ‘may then end up seeming like nothing but “happy talk” with little relation to the “real world”. Addressing our own ideals, beliefs and assumptions also asks about ‘the nature of human nature, about how human beings relate, what motivates us, about what is and is not possible, and the human ability to create and re-create self and world.’

2. Subjectivity: The subjectivity of experience – yes, even science and law – acknowledges there is no univocal (universal, unambiguous) interpretation of the world since we all process sensory data, social data, and cognitive data, according to our own unique standpoint which includes but is not limited to factors such as ‘education, background, interest, gender, age, and so on’. In other words, there is no shared truth we can all point to that makes one persons interpretation right or wrong. We are subject to our cultural, perceptual and cognitive biases in all things, an inescapable system of filters highlighting some explanations and ignoring others.

3. Experiential Value: The inherent value of what Alfonso calls ‘self-creation’ or re-creation as the case may be, is ultimately an exercise in understanding ourself in terms of the contribution we wish to make as a unique individual with a set of existing motivations and capacities. An experience of ‘not just learning but unlearning’ our implicit assumptions involves an understanding of the creative process, itself an awareness of our “doing” as “being” – an inescapable experience of now versus the commitment to outcomes.

4. Equal and Essential Appreciation of Others: The value of knowing who brings what rather than hierarchically dismissing what does not fit the model – as in the jazz example where a group operates as a creative collective capable of improvisation from a unique expression reigned in by a leader who establishes the rules of engagement as ways of ‘being with’ or sharing space rather than how to fit the band as an established ideal. Networked, flexible and heterarchical (unranked, not in a ladder of importance) systems do not require people to “show up” in particular ways to prove their worth and belonging. Instead, these systems ask only that each of us acknowledge our own desire to make noise and take up space in a reality interconnected rather than as separate performances trying to get along and make the world a better place. Yay!

5. Processual Identity: Identity itself as an unfixed ongoing relational creative exercise, processual in nature, constantly redefined by the inherent interconnection of life itself rather than separate beings or fields of energy that operate on cause-and-effect in a highly charged war zone – seems incomprehensible. The subjective nature of identity is often hard enough for people to grasp. The fact that there are people walking around on this planet believing they are not individual but live as a shared self does little to highlight individuality as a cultural bias for those convinced their bias is reality, and yet at the foundation of this new transformational leadership paradigm is the notion that identity is something that occurs on the fly. It’s something we construct from assumptions and cultural meanings and then continue to defend despite all the available alternative understandings (simply because our natural biases are set up to fight for the story we perceive to be true). The possibility of a ‘self’ that is remade in every moment, that is not tied to cultural divisions of gender or power, feels unrealistic – a fantasy of philosophical double-talk. A lived experience of the self as ever-changing, ever-interconnected and bias is a rare and beautiful thing. Hence all the interest in making the world a better place without imposing our culturally biased ideals on anyone else.

6. Plural Approaches: The meta-paradigmatic supplementation versus replacement and/or amalgamation of ideas involves inclusion and re-assignment. In other words, when we come across another way of understanding something instead of rejecting the old way and adopting the new, we find where both can live happily ever after. For example, Chinese and Western interventions are not based on the same epistemology of medicine, and yet the parties responsible for determining effectiveness of treatment are not required to reconcile differing foundational theories but only to assess patient results. If they in fact comply with this brief (and do not allow cultural biases to filter their assessment) then Chinese and Western interventions can co-exist as equal and essential without any need to make one dominant and the other alternative.

All of this and more tells me there is something to the examination of how we think we know what we know including where and how meaning informs our experience as well as what we can do about both our own distress(es) as well as those of the world. And I’m excited!

I’m excited that academics are using language that is self-aware as well as interconnected. I’m excited that there are possibilities of identify the Perfect Present 8 Week Experience with a Transformational Leadership Masters from the California Institute of Integral Studies. And mostly I’m excited because all the people who want to make a difference are finally going to have a way of “doing” by “being”.

No longer are change-makers satisfied with pushing their way into the world. A new hub of leaders is looking for a way to be simultaneously present and productive. Never before has their been a way to know this moment as whole and commit oneself to a cause. You were either meditating or protesting. The two have always been mutually exclusive, until now!

At the very heart of our desire to make the world a better place lives the search for peace, a way to be effective with an open heart, a way to be in the world but not of the world. This is what Heart Alchemy offers. A way to be with, no matter what.