New Story Summit @ Findhorn Foundation, Scotland

From September 27 – October 4, Findhorn was home to an emergent event called the New Story Summit. Bringing together over 350 thought leaders and change makers, from over 50 countries, in the growing domain of cutting edge living and culture shifting. The name of the event invited participants to recognize and engage in exploring one of the most powerful tools we have as humans, the ability to use story to derive meaning and guide our actions.

The summit was an experiment for the organizers as well as the participants. It was going to be a leap into the unknown with space for flexibility rather than rigidity in the structure. Walking into the event there was a buzz among the crowd that could be felt, lots of questions, lots of excitement, lots of anticipation for what would be created. This whirlwind of energy created in the build up was exactly what was needed to set the stage for what Charles Eisenstein calls a “temperature reading” on the current climate of our social and cultural evolution.

Without getting too deep into elaborating on the event and the results of the “barometer” reading we received, I refer you to Charles’ synopsis here. I feel that he summarizes very well my personal reflections on the collective field generated by this event. Instead, I will focus on the deeper exploration of a theme I have been asked my a number of people to speak to, namely the tension that arose between “elders” and “youngers.” This more specific tension seems to mirror the larger issues experienced throughout the event: of power and control, assumed roles and structures, as well as a deep longing to be seen. As such, I am happy to put my reflections into this more specific context, but is that just me conforming to the structure again? (This question will make more sense as you read on or read Charles’ piece on this.)

nick presenting at new story

As the only young person invited to speak at this event, I found myself feeling the pressure of playing a rather unique role in the ecosystem. Despite having been honored in this way by the organizers, I understood and resonated with the frustrations of the younger folks. There was a feeling of not being fully seen, a sense of being both celebrated and respected on one level and belittled and disrespected on another. As I sought to better understand how I fit into the structure of the summit, why I had been invited to speak, what they hoped I would speak to,  I felt increasingly like I was being placed into a role to fulfill some structural sense of adequate demographical representation.

As Charles states, I was one of those unwilling to fully dive into the chaos: by questioning the structure that created this role, by taking action to change it; like refusing to speak for example, but instead I just went along with it, excusing my compliance by holding the self-indulgent sentiment of, “at least I don’t agree with this,” as Charles appropriately critiques, “as if that would change anything.” My motives for not standing up were complex: not wanting to offend those who had invited me, feeling a responsibility to fill whatever role I could for the unwitnessed other young people, and partly selfish, because I wanted to speak. I felt caught in a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable saying yes, but also didn’t want to stand up and say no. The feeling of being a demographic was further enforced when I was encouraged to state my age before delivering my message and, in this moment, I made my small act of defiance, saying “I guess my age is relevant here,” before again complying and telling the audience my age.

As I received compliments after my sharing, they felt routine to me: more like a pat on the head for a job well done rather than a heartfelt appreciation of something presenced for the collective through my words. Whether it was my inner turmoil and discomfort surrounding the role I felt I had accepted within the summit, or the frequent lack of specificity in the feedback received, I felt numb. My intention in saying this is not to vilify those who complimented me, but rather, to presence a larger issue I see, namely that we (probably meaning “I,” as a product of Western culture) never really learn how to offer constructive feedback. I believe this plays into the larger architecture of the collective deep longing to be and feel seen and heard, and that through learning how to offer constructive feedback part of this collective pain might be healed.

For the sake of thoroughness, I want to mention that there was a forum held in the Universal Hall one evening, between the elders and the youngers, but I did not attend. Not as any sort of protest, simply because it’s not what happened. Within this environment of incredible wisdom, connection, and rich experience, exploring the wounds between youngers and elders was not my primary focus. I heard a mixed range of feedback, including that one young person had made a rather bold statement regarding the pattern of elders to speak even when they don’t have anything relevant to say, simply because they feel they are supposed to, because they are fulfilling some role. This fits quite well into the story of the struggles we are facing in creating the “new story,” the patterns created by structures based on expectations and conforming to the status quo.

new story conferenceWhat I did attend was a gathering of the youngers on one of the final evenings, in the beautiful Earth Sanctuary room. It was a mixed environment, with one man coming in to represent the larger assembly, questioning the motive of the youngers to separate themselves from the elders on one of our final evenings: “One of the last chances for reconciliation.” The very foundation of this gathering was questioned before it even began, “Why are we isolating ourselves here, together, and not in THERE with everyone?,” but ultimately, it did begin and I, for one, am glad it did.

For me, this was the beginning of taking our power back, of no longer submitting to the structure or the expectations of us as participants, a refusal of the expectation to play nice and find reconciliation based on the timeline of the summit. What I experienced was a collective dive into the not knowing, of deep questioning, and of really daring into what needed to be said. From talking about power and control, to a lack of recognition and a longing for “real elders,” of mentors who had graduated into adulthood and were no longer asserting to prove themselves, a question arose in me and I shared it with those assembled, “What if we initiate our elders?”

This statement was met with mixed responses, anywhere from “Who do we think we are?” to “Where is the respect?” to someone mirroring back the writings of a sociologist, whose name escapes me at the moment, that states it is always the youngers who initiate the elders: that elders initiating other elders is a false concept. In a societal structure that regularly demands for those in power to have all the answers, it is not surprising we become increasingly uncomfortable with the unknown, more fixated on proving our own merits and worthiness the older and more accomplished we get.

nick at findhornFrom my perspective, it is our duty, as youngers, to witness and honor our elders with such sincerity that they no longer feel they have to prove anything. It seems that from this place we, as youngers, would again be able to receive the support we are craving from our elders. It would create a place where our elders truly witness us and can offer their insights and wisdom to us but, even more importantly, it would create a place where it is OK for them to sit with us in the not knowing: for our elders to make contact with the chaos again, through us, and open the door to true emergence happening.

I feel deep appreciation for all that went into this event, and excited about what came out of it. As my journey continues, I feel even more open to the not knowing, empowered by the recognition that this state of chaos is just a landmark on the journey of emerging clarity. I feel inspired to explore how my relationships to power and structure might limit me, where I continue to conform to expectations, where my defiance is empty, and how these recognitions will even further liberate and empower me. With deep gratitude and respect to all those who come before me, and all those who will come after me, I, for one, am diving into the unknown. Will I be seeing you there?

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