Gathering In Wholeness
How Can We Consciously Construct Our Collective Field In A Time Between Worlds?
This essay was originally published in Integral Leadership Review. Written by Tucker Walsh, Fionn Wright and Jill Thomas.
What is it that we are all longing for?
This is the very question that we attempted to live into together during the Constructing Consciousness Gathering in Sedona, Arizona this past November.
Could we cultivate a collective that is holding our deepest longings?
The experiment, according to participants, was a beautiful success, and there’s now invitations to host additional gatherings on three continents in 2023. This article will do its best to describe what can truly only be experienced — a map that cannot fully illuminate the territory — but perhaps can reveal glimpses of the magic that unfolds when humans with shared capacities for loving awareness are invited into an intentional family.
When asked why a participant came, they shared, “I came so we could find each other.” What did they mean by that? Who was trying to find each other, and why?
“I want to feel belonging with a group of people that could hold me in wholeness and inspire me to stretch beyond my leading edge.” -Gathering participant
Forty-four people, curated for their capacities to recognize awareness of awareness, ranging in age from 21 to over 80 flew into Sedona from across the globe to gather for two and half days for the first ever Constructing Consciousness Gathering. The gathering was strategically timed to immediately follow the WTF Integral Conference, also in Sedona. Although the two events had no formal connection and were drastically different in size, intention and setting, about half of those who gathered had also attended the Integral conference.
The gathering organizers (and the authors of this article) — Tucker Walsh, Fionn Wright and Jill Thomas — found many of the participants through their connection with STAGES International, which was founded on an ego development model created by Terri O’Fallon alongside her brother, Kim Barta, and several collaborators including Tom Murray, Geoff Fitch and others in attendance.
In previous years, STAGES International has hosted “MetAware Gatherings” which were designed to bring together individuals who were assessed in the STAGES MetAware tier, the ego development stages that are post-Integral (5.0–6.5). Although the Constructing Consciousness Gathering had a similar structure, intention and some overlapping attendees as previous MetAware Gatherings, we purposefully chose not to require a STAGES assessment so that we could open up our gathering to a more diverse group of humans who orient to development from a variety of perspectives, traditions and embodied experiences.
Part of what undoubtedly led to this gathering being a deeply healing and transformative “homecoming” for so many was the sense that all who attended held certain capacities across the Wake Up, Grow Up, Clean Up, Show Up spectrum that led to a potent collective field — an energetic felt-sense of love, trust, safety and solidarity. This was magnified due to the fact that many, if not most, of those who gathered were skilled facilitators, coaches, psychotherapists and spaceholders.
“When I have access to this sense of wholeness, I can hold it all!” — Gathering participant
The gathering began with an informal dinner and social mingle, giving participants an opportunity to connect and potentially exhale some of the buzzy pre-gathering energy that often arises when a group of new and old friends come together. The next morning, we started with an opening ceremony as a full group in the main gathering room. Unlike most ceremonies, this one began with the organizers standing up announcing, “Our plan is to have no plan.” We invited the spirit of emergence to come through, trusting the extraordinary capacities of the individuals in this new collective to guide us into deeper group resonance. Immediately, an elder in our collective spoke up and invited us into 10 minutes of timeless silence. After the gong rang its final bell, one of the youngest in the room proposed moving the couches in a new direction so that we could all be in a circle and see one another. One by one, spirit moved through various human vessels as we collectively settled into our new home — with our new family — for the coming two days.
The organizers proposed (but did not dictate) an Open Space format for the first day, which the collective cohered into, providing loose structure to an otherwise unstructured gathering. The Open Space approach allowed us to create seven spaces on the venue property where people could meet for 60–90 minutes per session. We invited people to come up one-by-one and give a timed 30 second “pitch” on what they would like to hold space for at a set time in one of the seven spaces. These ranged from lovingly facilitated Emergent Dialogue practices, to playful conversations about aliens and entities, to intimate embodiment partner practices, to deeply emotional and cathartic rituals communing with nature and the land we were gathering on. There were roughly 30 spaces offered throughout each day.
What became clear, and some of the feedback we’ve received post-gathering, is how much people deeply desired and enjoyed the unstructured social connection time. Many shared that there was a felt sense of belonging, being held in the trust of the collective, allowing a freedom to just be themselves without fear of judgment. Often people’s most profoundly healing and memorable experiences came during spontaneous one-on-one connections, or during the evenings when people stayed late into the night sitting around the campfire, sharing stories, cuddling, having music jam sessions, dance parties and enjoying the jacuzzi. After years of COVID lockdowns, perhaps the desire to simply be physically together as humans holds a particularly potent medicinal quality. With this in mind, when feasible we will make future gatherings three full days and allow even more room in the schedule for unstructured connection time.
While the growing love and connection was palpable in our forming collective, it wasn’t all kumbaya. Tensions and conflicting perspectives arose around a topic that is also generating a lot of conversation in the broader culture. Due to our collective confidentiality agreement, we are unable to go into detail about the nature of the topic, nor is it likely important, for what feels relevant to share is that our collective was, by most accounts, able to acknowledge and integrate what became a quickly unfolding tension that seem to divide the group into three broad camps: those that felt uncomfortable, those that desired to participate in the thing that made some uncomfortable, and those that didn’t seem to mind either way.
“The collective strengthens individual wholeness, while the individual strengthens collective wholeness.” — Gathering participant
While everyone learned a lot about how to avoid situations like this from arising in the first place, which we will hold with a more nuanced intention to “do no harm” for future gatherings, it felt important and humbling for our collective to experience some fraction, allowing the light of the deeper love that’s holding us all to reveal its unbounded and unbreakable wholeness, not as an invitation to bypass the tensions but rather to embrace them, and those impacted, with care, consideration and compassion. Albeit imperfectly, there was a general sense that the collective was able to find a stillpoint between the polarity of naming and addressing the tensions while not allowing them to derail or overtake the gathering. Often this involved some of the respected elders in our collective stepping up to set subtle and concrete boundaries for certain energies and conversations to happen in contexts outside of the main space, so that the elephant in the room could become the elephant in the other room.
The strategy seemed to meet and integrate the collective tensions, for by the closing ceremony of our final day, we ended in a massive and timeless group hug as one of our extraordinary musician attendees started playing a song called “Our Love” that we all collectively sang along to. There were touching tears, endless hugs, joyous laughter, gratitude galore, and plotting plans for future gatherings. It had all the feelings of being at that dream Thanksgiving family gathering, and for many of us, there was that healing feeling of being at home with the soul family we were never able to find with our biological kin.
“When I went home, I could hug and hold my son with the same level of wholeness that I was held in by the collective at the gathering.” — Gathering participant
After departing Sedona, we’ve hosted several well-attended post-gathering Zoom calls where our collective comes together. Within moments, that indescribable felt-sense of love percolates and penetrates our souls, as well as the soul of our ever-evolving collective. We continue to use a Signal chat to stay connected and have agreed to monthly Zoom calls for the foreseeable future.
While 44 people attended Sedona, there are likely hundreds around the world who are already considered extended members of this growing family. We have invitations to host a Constructing Consciousness Gathering in Europe this May alongside the Integral European Conference, in Toronto this September prior to the next Emerge Gathering, and in New Zealand or Australia later in the year with an eager crew excited to bring the tribe Down Under.
Jill, Fionn and Tucker are also launching a Constructing Consciousness podcast and may be offering a number of smaller workshops, intensives and trainings in the coming months. The intention is to reify this newly formed and ever-emerging collective, constructing boundaries as invitations into a community that feels distinctly unique from the broader Integral, Metamodern, GameB and various Liminal Web collectives, yet has potent medicine and wisdom that will and is complementing these existing communities in harmonious and generative ways, much of which is still to be revealed.
“I experienced the wholeness of the Universe holding the wholeness of our collective, which was holding the wholeness of my unique self in all its expressions.” — Gathering participant
If you’re interested in learning more about future Constructing Consciousness gatherings and want to help co-create this growing collective with us, please visit ConstructingConsciousness.com.
We also invite you to watch the conversation below with seven participants from the Sedona gathering to hopefully get a more embodied felt-sense of the spirit and soul of our emerging collective.
With love, gratitude and excitement for our future,
Tucker Walsh, Fionn Wright and Jill Thomas