I was asked recently what other bodies of thinking and practice influence Centre Edge work. There doesn’t seem to be much written down so far about the specific approach I’m articulating based on the teachings I’ve received. But there are a number of very interesting approaches that have strong connections and influence the way Centre Edge is gradually developing.
Indo-Tibetan Buddhist thinking:
By far the primary origin of the Centre Edge work comes from teachings I have received in the Buddhist tradition. I’ve written more about that here. The Centre Edge approach in workshops and projects is entirely secular and very much practical and applied to people’s own experience – so we don’t really go into Buddhist stuff at all unless people are specifically interested. But it is true that the Buddhist tradition is very much the core starting point of the Centre Edge work and I always say this in workshops – out of respect for the origins of the approach. In a sense that gives me the basic orientation and guidelines to stick to.
Over time other areas of work and theory naturally come in. That augmentation process is itself an example of Centre Edge principles at work. Other ideas do come in, across the Boundary – as we would say in this work. They enter in relation to a central foundation principle, or Centre, which is the founding essence of the approach and help develop greater richness.
People often say that the underlying principles we learn in a Centre Edge workshop help them connect better to whatever other practices of personal or organisation change and development they are already working with.
One influential body of work is systemic constellations. In a nutshell, constellations work has arisen out of various westerns family systems approaches. It is another attempt to try to articulate the underlying ‘orders’, (in Centre Edge we might say ‘principles’), that make the difference between a healthy and unhealthy system. I have found that very interesting and hope to spend more time considering how constellations work connects with Centre Edge.
Constellations also emphasises very strongly the importance of embodied knowing of a whole system. In other words it seems that people can pick up real information about aspects of a complex system through our physical bodies (for example as physical feelings, emotions or even thoughts and words that seem to pop into our minds). Noticing and exploring how physical space and movement seems to be an integral and natural part of how we all make sense of our lives and our inner development is a very important part of Centre Edge work.
Peter Koenig’s Source and Money work:
Another influential body of work is Peter Koenig’s work around Money and also what he calls the ‘Source’. Peter’s idea of Source relates particularly to entrepreneurship and founding energy in terms of honouring and understanding who or what was the Source, the foundational channel, or the first person to initiate a project, organisation or business.
Peter suggests that a lot of confusion and dis-ease in organisations happens as a result of individuals or teams not recognising or respecting the Source. This could also include the person who is the Source not acknowledging their own role appropriately.
In Centre Edge terms it seems (to me at least) that Source energy is strongly related to the importance of the Centre of a system. If we don’t know who or what is at the Centre – of a project, an activity, even a conversation then we often get in a muddle. Once we start to acknowledge the role of Centre in all situations we can then dive into the mysterious exploration of what is at the Centre of the Centre, and what is at the centre of that, and so on! Eventually Centre becomes both crucially important and simultaneously impossible to identify – which is intriguing and a strangely useful idea!
Shadow work: Inviting in across the Boundary:
Another idea that relates to the principle of Boundary or Edge in this work is the idea of the personal or system Shadow. Originating from the work of Carl Jung the shadow refers to a part of our being and experience that our limited ego identity has repressed and which is either unconscious or semi-conscious. There is much to be said about this – but the essential idea is that early in life we separate or split off certain aspects of our natural whole being and energy – because we have learnt that in some way they are not considered desirable or acceptable.
Jung and others following him suggest that there is immense energy and potential stored in these hidden aspects of self. They also suggest that while we tend to think that these shadowy aspects of ourselves represent a threat or danger to our day to day functioning, actually perhaps the opposite is true – that the real danger or limitation in life is our fixation on a day to day limited version of ‘me’ and that these shadowy energies and aspects just outside our consciousness are full of potential if only we can find a way to relate to them openly.
Jung famously said that he would rather be ‘whole than good’, wholeness being of greater value than a socialised, conceptual view of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In Centre Edge work we play a lot with the idea of Boundary – the edge of what is at a system. We can play with aspects of ourselves, or aspects of a group, situation or organisation that may hover uneasily about the edges, or may be excluded or unacknowledged somehow. There is a great deal to be explored and discovered around the possibility and potential of relating more wholly to whatever has been pushed to the boundaries of our awareness of experience. Centre Edge helps us work with wholes rather than parts on many levels.
And of course … Mindfulness:
Finally the work also relates to Mindfulness. It’s a word that actually I am quite ambivalent toward. But clearly increasing numbers of people are becoming interested in Mindfulness.
We can use the Nine Principles of Centre Edge to begin or develop a personal awareness practice in a number of ways. (I’ve written a longer piece on the relation to Mindfulness here)
First, we can use Centre Edge principles to look at our own emotions, for example how my anger works, or how me and this team keep getting stuck in the same pattern. Anytime you look at a situation from the perspective of Centre Edge principles, it adds to your clarity and awareness, so you are more likely to go about things in a mindful way
Anyone who is starting to explore meditation, and indeed people who have been practising meditation for a long time, often get something out of Centre Edge work that seems to deepen their meditation practice.
One lady on a workshop was a very experienced long time Zen practitioner. We explored a very personal issue for her – it wasn’t about meditation at all but about how she could relate to a very strong, upsetting emotion she was experiencing as overwhelming. But because of the way we did it afterwards she said, ‘I have now understood something about meditation that I have never understood before.’ That was very interesting feedback.
She had been a Zen practitioner for 20 years. In the workshop we do quite a lot of physically embodied work. We use dialogue and conversation as well, and do quite a lot of moving about exploring our relationships to different aspects of groups, situations, the world and our own minds, in physical space. There was something about moving around the room, encountering representations of her own mind in physical space that seemed very meaningful for her.
That is what we do in meditation and mindfulness, we meet aspects of our own mind and experience and gradually learn to relate to all aspects of mind with genuine openness, in a way fundamentally different from what we usually do. It is one thing to try to do this on the cushion, which is very good to do. But it seems people often understand something a bit different when they do the same thing in physical space. Physical movement seems potentially a useful and important way of deepening a mindfulness practice and developing greater openness and clarity in relating to our minds and experience.