[Author's introduction: This article is a combination of interview notes taken from my discussion with Stephan and Miriam Martineau along with my own reflections about their coming event. Their comments are in italics.]
Stephan/Miriam: We feel it's time to evolve the 'we'. Humanity has spent the past couple hundred years evolving the individual. And now some of us have come to a place where the individual act has limits. There's a place you get to in your own development that the potency of people coming together has so much more potential, where you can feel within yourself that there is a limitation to being an individual.
This summer, Next Step Integral will be hosting their second Integral Community Seminar, the brain-child of husband and wife team Stephan and Miriam Martineau. This appeals to us at Beams as we have, in various ways, been experiencing the potential of increased creativity that comes through sustained work in collective intelligence. Next Step Integral have been pioneers in bringing a sense of community and collective spiritual practice. This year's upcoming Community Seminar promises to be a powerful event. For those interested, check out Trevor's writings from the past Community seminars.
Perhaps you've experienced a moment, that sweet spot between friends or lovers, when heart, humility and will mobilize and the space between you is enveloped in exquisite intimacy. It's the contours of and implicit intelligence within this space that the Integral Community Seminar will explore.
Last year Miriam and Stephan visited my home and we were joined by other Beams' creators and contributors: Gail, Trevor, Chela, Bergen, Chris, Vanessa, Saskia, and others. We met to inquire about collaborative opportunities, practical questions about how the particulars of our lives might be coordinated. Logical conversations to find where our various projects and organizations might get more traction working more closely together.
Reasonable enough but it was soon clear there was more that wanted to happen. And so, after a few people left, the circle a little smaller, with everyone a little more familiar, mere pleasantries over, our attention sharpened. Logistical questions were dropped. Instead, we starting asking the non-logical, totally impractical ones: what wants to happen right now? If we listen deeply enough, what emerges?
Stephan/Miriam: The quality that is most present when a higher being emerges in a group is a quality of deep listening. Being right on that edge where you are leaning in, participating actively from a place of deep listening. You don't know where it's going to go and what's being asked of you. There is a quality of everyone leaning in and not knowing how it will emerge, but when it does you know it. It doesn't matter who says what, it only matters that everyone is as authentic as possible. It actually depends on everyone in the circle. There is a tangible sense of the sacred. We are still just practicing in this way, but we've always had the sense that there is crucial into the way forward: solutions, answers that we don't yet have, that don't yet exist.
Something dropped in and we all recognized it. It's difficult to attribute motives to an invisible felt space but what awoke clearly had an agenda that wanted to animate through each of us, an agenda that didn't included chatter about collaborating organizations.
I've known Miriam and Stephan a decade and yet, lovely, open and sincere as they are, nothing stands out about them in the conventional sense of being teachers or leaders. They've been at this work more than two decades, living in an intentional community for half that time, hosting seminars of various themes the last several years, and yet there are few published teachings or concretized methods, no charismatic figurehead, no clever marketing schemes, no body of students. Little literature has been written, no music recorded, no theatre, no controversy. There is muted emphasis on them, which is why it has always felt strange for me, as it does now, to write anything about them. And still, there remains something important worth saying about this work and this coming seminar.
It is sensical that this couple solely driven to exploring the emergence of consciousness within intimate groups would choose to not stand out. It would be odd if they did. Instead of what is already known, written about, discussed, what seems of much greater interest to them is what is unknown, latent, in potential, accessible, it seems, only when people gather together for a common purpose.
Miriam/Stephan: The potential is a breaking through that also opens up a different context. It is so easy for us to close the context to ourselves, our family, maybe friends or the city and country you're in. But one being walking the planet exists within such a larger context. That expanded context realigns us to the larger journey. The collective opens the doorway for people to fully engage with what is inside you. When you engage, there is a whole universe in front of you. People are part of this larger universal potential. When I'm with people I'm with more than who is in the room. I'm in communion with the stars and moon; i'm in connection with reality, with all of life. The potential itself is a doorway to a whole new life, a whole new perspective, a whole new level of awakening.
The context is important in this work. Where are the stars, the sweep of history, the edge of uncertainty and the potential for creativity as you sit reading right now? Who exactly are you if taken within this larger scope?
I have no silver bullet answer to these perennial questions. We scour literature, quote scripture, and harness ourselves to teachers for the chance to align to some semblance of response.
But appealing again to my direct experience, intimacy in a collective space does seem to open doorways for engaging directly the potential of what lies within each of us. When we really care, are interested only in what we don't already know, and can manage to untether ourselves from obsessive self-concern. It sounds hard.
Miriam/Stephan: Actually it's much easier than it seems. What's very elusive is to stay in that sweet spot. The inquiry is how do we make these states into stages. Being with a sangha that hold each other accountable for what is possible is an element that's important. I think we make it much more difficult than it is. It's a small shift in consciousness. That small shift is something that is wanting and asking to be expressed at all times. The most natural gesture. There is something within ourselves that makes us go back to our normal ways of being in the world. That's understandable, but my sense is that the more we commit and engage in the process the easier it will be. That's why we need to start this inquiry seriously as a human family. It's why we need to write the other 100 books about the collective to sit beside the ones about the individual. If it doesn't happen, it's very concerning about where the human family will go. Our rate of change doesn't seem to match the level of pressure and intensity we are facing.
Perhaps it brings up the question for you: to what end? To feel good? Or is there more to this?
Miriam/Stephan: Feeling elated about a good meditation is a valid experience a few times. Eventually you want to use that energy to send prayers or utilize the vessel in the world. Eventually the space starts to talk with you. There is a really clear service that wants to come through. In my life there is an alignment that happens in allowing that consciousness to guide my actions. There is something beautiful about doing the work and knowing that the work is aligned to your purpose as an individual. That alignment transforms itself in a beautiful way; there is a profound sense of direction when we realize that we are part of a much larger organism; we realize the ways we can serve the organism are numerous. What I find amazing is when your service is in alignment it increases ten-fold. When we generate the momentum through service, it starts to get validated every day when you see your life being put into the practice of service.
And so their work is about service. Not to a specific cause or organization. To humanity? Yes, that, and more. If this fourteen billion year process of evolution has a waking dimension to it, we are serving that, whatever wishes to wake further. Within that service no doubt lies creativity and intelligence previously unimagined and also, no doubt, challenges and barriers also unimaginable. That seems to be the way it is with us. Create a problem, struggle to solve it, evolve in the process of succeeding, and stumble on even greater and more daunting problems.
Perhaps what makes their work and upcoming seminar unique though is its lack of affiliation. No religion, no single teacher directing, no organization to join, not even a laminated process to follow. Instead, as it's always been here at Beams, this is a genuine experiment in collective intelligence, with Miriam and Stephan holding a space and context, a number of quality facilitators supporting, willing participants leaning in, and a confidence that something magical will happen and that all present will know it when they see it.