Embracing Emergence

When I co-initiated the Wellbeing Movement, I felt nervous I had more questions than answers. When I look back at everything that has unfolded over the past 21 months, I feel grateful I did not have all the answers.

There is a lot that has contributed to this shift in perspective.

The Beginning

We started by holding one question: What would it take to create a movement for wellbeing for all in India?

We listened to people who worked on wellbeing of others and to initiators of movements serving diverse causes — citizenship, environmental conservation, urban mobility, youth leadership, education, restorative law, and justice — among many others. We also gathered insights from people we wished to serve — young people or people who supported young people.

Each conversation enabled us to clarify our intentions. There were glimpses of the vision that crystallized before us. For instance, we realized we wanted to:

  • Work with individuals who cared about wellbeing and who were more focused on the whys and what-ifs than the hows.
  • Foster people’s curiosity, empathy and initiative towards wellbeing.
  • Tend to the soil, creating containers in which change could happen.
Thousands of starling come together to form mysterious, emergent swirls to escape predators. Like them, our own organizing shifted with each input, each experiment.

While we were beginning to have these realizations, the pandemic unfolded in 2020. It pushed us to act promptly. We started a platform called the Nurturing Zone, which was focused on helping individuals gain insights, develop skills and cultivate practices towards wellbeing. The platform became a way for us to connect practitioners and seekers in learning spaces.

The Now

Since the first space in May 2020, we listened and sensed participants’ needs, prototyped spaces, and eventually evolved seven platforms in the Wellbeing Movement. Each platform connects different people, ranging from seekers, practitioners, volunteers, as well as collective and community builders. Each platform adopts distinctive ways to facilitate learning, connection and support.

Through these platforms, we have made wellbeing spaces accessible to 1500 people in a difficult year thanks to the pandemic. We have created opportunities for 22 practitioners and 8 volunteers to take initiative and organize spaces for 108 hours. We have worked on four 21+ day practice challenges too.

Our intention has become clearer because of doing this work.

We want to weave together a thriving, interdependent ecosystem where individuals find learning, connection and support towards improving the wellbeing of self, others, society and nature.

The work of the Wellbeing Movement is that of tending to the soil in which this ecosystem and each of its participants can flourish.

The Learning

We would have missed out on everything that we learned through active experimentation in the last year had we waited for the perfect strategic plan. We may have not been as nimble and adaptive in an uncertain year had we arrived at such a plan and over-committed ourselves to it. Furthermore, we may have unintentionally turned a blind eye to all the wisdom that our community, supporters and the wider universe shared with us.

I would like to clarify that going without a plan does not mean being haphazard or disorganized. Throughout the year, we were always anchored in our core intention (your big why). Yet, we acknowledged that human systems are complex and messy. Therefore, we were always open to the possibility of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of our approach evolving, sometimes far beyond our initial imagination.

As we uncovered the possibilities, we designed thoughtful prototypes to test ideas and alter our approach. This process deepened our learning, humility, and self-compassion. It helps us build greater awareness of ourselves and our ecosystem.

Designing emergent solutions is similar in many ways to how evolution works in nature. Many experiments, some that click and some that don’t!

My top three learnings from this experience have been:

  • Deep listening is vital to recognize opportunities for growth and learning. There is so much possibility that we close ourselves to if we remain caught in our own beliefs and world views. This listening is not just inter-personal, but it is also rooted in listening to social fields around you and the wisdom of your own body and the planetary body.
  • To do this work in the world, we have to do the inner work. We move from “seeing to feeling to being to embodying” (courtesy: Otto Scharmer). For example, a lot of our work is rooted in leading with love than leading with power. It has required me to lead from behind most of the time to see emergence unfold and initiative grow. It has meant overcoming notions of masculine leadership that my social conditioning deeply ingrained in me.
  • Participate in communities that embody emergence to deepen your practice. Letting go of control and certainty is not easy when you live in a planning-oriented society. I have realized much of my resolve has deepened by being a part of communities of kindred spirits, like Service Space, Weaving Lab, Presencing Institute, etc. These communities have helped me, not only build useful skills and orientations but offered me the space to reflect. They have expanded my horizons thanks to their members' varied world views and diverse approaches to work. They have helped me move away from a simplistic lens of good and bad, right or wrong, but embrace the tension of polarities in service to the cause.

To close, I am going to borrow Margaret Wheatley’s words:

An emergent world invites us to use our most human of all capacites, our consciousness. It asks us to be alert in the moment for what is unfolding. What is happening at this moment? What can we do because of what we just learned?

An emergent world welcomes us in as conscious participants and surprises us with discovery. “To recognize that everything is surprising is the first step toward recognizing that everything is a gift,” says Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Our plans are nothing compared to what the world so willingly gives us.

This experience has shown me the beauty of emergence. Operating from stillness, self and ecosystemic awareness, and openness has taken me farther than I ever expected. Hence, my gratitude for not knowing all the answers!

Notes:

You can engage with the Wellbeing Movement in many ways:

Join the movement to deepen your own wellbeing: If you are a seeker of wellbeing, then you are welcome to join one of our spaces or communities. We have many you can choose from.

Contribute to our work: If you are interested in collaborating with us or contributing with your time, skills, or monetary contribution to our work, do reach out to us.

Learn more about our work: You can learn more about our work on our website. Alternately, you can watch this video embedded below.

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Weaving for Wellbeing and Transformation of Education | Learner | Community Builder and Facilitator

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Kapil Dawda

Kapil Dawda

Weaving for Wellbeing and Transformation of Education | Learner | Community Builder and Facilitator

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