For years I’ve made a practice every December of choosing a word or phrase that will serve as my touchstone, a North Star to navigate my life by in the coming year. I’m excited to declare my touchstone word for 2022: CONSENSING. “Consensing well with others” is my central learning goal in the coming year.
The verb “consensing” holds overlapping meaning with “consent,” “consensus” and “consensual.” (All these words derive from the Latin “consentire”: con-‘together’ + sentire ‘feel.’) I choose this verb form as my touchstone because “consensing” evokes a spirit of action. Consensing is the flowing practice of feeling, perceiving, discerning and choosing in consort with others. Consensing is “making sense” together. Consensing flourishes to the extent that we are capable of mutual honesty, curiosity and deep listening. Attunement, compassion, courage, mindfulness, integrity… these are all facets of consensing. We can practice consensing on the dance floor, in a board meeting, in a song circle (consensinging?), in a counseling session.
The higher potential of consensing is illuminated by a metaphor I love: Humanity can function as “Gaia’s frontal lobes.” We can steward and restore the health of our world with our resilient and finely tuned consensing abilities. In this spirit Joanna Macy writes:
We are each like a neuron within the neural net of an organ that in turn is a subsystem within a larger body… The power of a neuron lies in its capacity to open to the charge, open to the messaging traveling through the larger body. From that capacity arise ever more intricate and appropriate responses. That is how we learn and how society learns; that is how intelligence flowers.
In an interview Macy elaborated:
It could well be that our work now is to grow a new planetary consciousness. Carl Jung said there’s no birth of consciousness without pain. We are discovering that we are the sensory organs of our living planet, and that discovery involves pain. All of a sudden we realize that we care, that our hearts are breaking over people who aren’t even born yet. This is truly a noble thing. Over twenty years of doing this work I have found that people would rather hurt and feel connected than be anesthetized and feel isolated.
“What could save us is if we start thinking and intending together – as an interconnected whole. And fortunately, this is beginning to happen. It’s as if we’re neurons in a big brain, which is itself starting to think. It’s like we’re being ‘thought through.’ I think that people are having that experience where they finish each other’s sentences or come up with the same ideas.”
That’s the big picture of what consensing can lead to! But it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves, not to bite off more than we can consense. My approach is to start close in, while staying alert to opportunities for consensing more deeply and widely… I hope and intend in the coming days to find such opportunities with each of you.
Do you feel the pull of a touchstone word for 2022? If so, I’d love to hear about it!