The ideas that I wish to introduce here have been brought together in a manuscript – a work-in-progress – being stewarded into articulation on behalf of humanity by my sister-in-evolution Ria Baeck. For a good many years, Ria has taken every opportunity to engage in and explore an essentially collective activity that she calls ‘sourcing’. It is a peculiarly feminine wholeness-of-knowing that seems to have its source in the invisible realms that underlie the fabric of manifestation. It is also, in essence, the product of a collective practice, not an individual one. We have been systematically experiencing and exploring this phenomenon in our gatherings of Women Moving the Edge, and the pioneering community around the place Axladitsa-Avatakia in Greece also has an ongoing inquiry into, and practice of, ‘collective sourcing’ .
But it is one thing to experience a subtle phenomenon of consciousness, and quite another to articulate it in words that others can make sense of. So nothing much has been written about it to date, apart from dispersed blog entries by the women most involved in its exploration, particularly Ria and Judy Wallace, and references in the many hundreds of hours of painstakingly documented conference calls that form part of the harvest from Women Moving the Edge and related collective inquiries.
It took Ria quite some time, effort and research to come to terms with the fact that the book that she wanted to read about sourcing hadn’t yet been written – and that it was part of her life’s work to write it. Her explorations brought her to many different words and definitions, describing different aspects or types of knowing – but none of them quite fit… or rather, all of them did, but none of them did our shared experience full justice. Nevertheless, bringing them all together into a kaleidoscope of meaning and sensation, as Ria does in her manuscript, does give a passable impression of the phenomenon – although of course nothing can substitute for the experience itself. What follows is my adaptation of Ria’s notes:
“I have been talking a lot about Source and sourcing, but what do I actually mean when I use this verb? It is important, when we open up a new way of understanding and knowing, that we are clear about what is what.
Here, I shall try to clarify what I understand by the terms intuition, felt sense, inspiration, imagination and presencing – all of which are kinds of knowing that emerge not from the mental sphere of our cognitive thought processes but from somewhere else – and how they seem to relate to sourcing. All of these kinds of knowing can be part of sourcing, depending on various factors, such as our intention.
Intuition is the word commonly used to express that we know something before it happens or without anyone having told us. In a way, it is tapping into the subtle layers of reality. It could be something unmanifest, or it could be something unconscious – there is no strict distinction between the two when we use this word.
Sometimes, intuition might be sourcing. Sometimes it is not. Sourcing is very much an action, a directing of the attention. It is a verb, a process. It is not a capacity that you either have or you don’t. It can be learned, practiced, developed.
Felt sense is a term coined by Eugene Gendlin. He explains “A felt sense is not a mental experience but a physical one. Physical. A bodily awareness of a situation or person or event. An internal aura that encompasses everything you feel and know about the given subject at a given time – encompasses it and communicates it to you all at once rather than detail by detail. Think of it as a taste, if you like, or a great musical chord that makes you feel a powerful impact, a big round unclear feeling. A felt sense doesn’t come to you in the form of thoughts or words or other separate units, but as a single (though often puzzling and very complex) bodily feeling.”
Gendlin developed the process known as Focusing to unravel the felt sense in people and get its clear meaning. Here is a description by David Rome: “When we first notice a felt sense, it does not have a specific ‘aboutness’ yet. It is non-conceptual. But as we use the Focusing process to be with and listen to the felt sense, it may come into clearer focus (hence the name Focusing) and it may ‘open’ in a way that gives us fresh understanding of our situation. At that point – which cannot be rushed – we can begin to try out concepts on it, begin to inquire what it might be ‘about’. But the felt sense itself is always primary, not the conceptualisation, and the practice of Focusing involves repeatedly letting go of conceptual activity and returning to the body sense.”
The difference between Focusing and sourcing is, in my definition, that sourcing is a felt sense about an unmanifest potential. It taps into layers of energy that haven’t come into manifestation yet. Like Focusing, it is a verb and an activity, but sourcing is guiding your attention to the unmanifest layers of reality, it is getting a felt sense of the future. Not about ‘any’ future – because many people have an intuition or premonition about what is going to happen, for example, with one of their relatives, or that someone is going to call them – but about possibilities that haven’t existed before. Sourcing is a process that unfolds in the space between a guiding question and the deepest source.
Sourcing is also different than how channeling works for some people. While sourcing, you are very present to the here and now. If you are unaware of what you said while sourcing, or if you channel information that has no impact on you personally, then I wouldn’t call that sourcing. Sourcing is bringing your attention to bear on the unmanifest that is calling to become real, and so your speaking and acting will be coming from that space. It is building a conscious partnership with this potential and this future. It is not ‘channeling some information’ and then going back to your ‘normal’ life. Sourcing will powerfully affect your life, because you will gradually live closer to your soul and to the collective souls you are part of. In Otto Scharmer’s terms, sourcing is being in a generative conversation with life, it is living from the future that wants to emerge.
Sourcing might be very similar to inspiration, in the way true artists understand it. The artist before the blank canvas and the writer before her blank page both have a felt sense of what it is they want to bring into manifestation, although they don’t know yet what it will look like. They link up with a future form, and need their ideas and concepts to get out of the way to let the artistic process happen. They can then use their trained artistic skills in service of the emerging form. The way we use sourcing here is to guide us to new wisdom, to applications that will help us in the emerging world, that will help us to see the opportunities for the future instead of all the problems and decay. That might be the same or different for this kind of artist’s inspiration.
Sourcing embraces much more than imagination. I see many people taking their vision for real, and not sensing the link with what is ready to come to the surface of manifestation. They might get a sense of future possibilities, but their vision is too far removed from the here and now – and they are too caught up in their vision to be able to sense the first next step to take towards realising it, and then they get frustrated because their vision is not taking any form. They might have an inner alignment between their vision and their values and their sense of their life’s purpose, but the outer alignment between their vision and manifest realm they are embedded in is not present.. Sourcing is connecting with energy fields that are coming into manifestation. It is sensing ‘what is wanting to happen’, not what I or we dream of.
In relation to presencing, sourcing is when we reach the bottom of the U in a more direct sense. We have dealt with the voices of judgment, fear and cynicism and we can reach with our awareness to the deepest point. Part of the contribution of this book is to show how this sourcing can happen simultaneously in many people, how we can go through the eye of the needle as a collective in order to get direct access to a wider field of possibilities. This is different to the whole sequence described in the principles in the book Theory U, it is more like what Scharmer describes here as the last possibility: “The U process can be applied to practical situations in three different ways: as process, as a set of field principles, and by operating from the presence of source.” The latter application he describes as “…connecting to and operating from the presence of your deepest source, that is, from the bottom of the U. At this level, even the scaffolding of the principles falls away. The connection to this source level is articulated in the three root principles: intentional grounding, relational grounding and authentic grounding. I call them root principles because they relate to and support the other 21 remaining principles like the root system of a tree relates to the visible parts of a tree. They establish a foundation to evoke the presence of a social field – an intentional grounding that serves the whole; a relational grounding that connects to the collective body of the social field; and an authentic grounding that connect you to your essential self as a vehicle for the emerging future.” (Theory U, p436)
Our experience of sourcing suggests to us that conscious evolution needs – and breeds – new collective capacities. How this happens is a mystery that can unfold only with our intentional participation. The approach best suited to its blossoming is full-blown action research that leads us into the future with our minds, hearts and wills wide open.
All the photos were taken at the 7th iteration of Women Moving the Edge, in Roehampton (London) in October 2009.