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The thing about feedback is that it happens whether we like it or not. Either way, consciously acknowledged or otherwise, feedback is swooping around us, within us, between us and beyond us.
The thing about feedback is that all life is designed around it and dependent upon it. Our human bodies, the ecosystems we belong to, the development of a new born child adapting to the world. Feedback is the driving force of the great organic machine called Life, and we’re all loops in it’s grand circuits.
The thing about feedback is that we can pay attention to it, receive it, feel it, allow it, contribute to it, and find ourselves dynamically propelling through authentic interactions – or not. We have the choice to utilise feedback as our co-creative wand, acknowledging life for what it truly is – for what we truly are - and live present and real with ourselves and the world around us.
In permaculture, we talk about ‘observe & interact', ‘integrate rather than segregate’ and 'apply self-regulation & accept feedback'. These are but some of the mechanisms highlighting the feedback function in the ways of life. In fact, many of the permaculture principles speak to feedback loops – but let’s stick to these to start with, through a social permaculture lens.
OBSERVE & INTERACT – This asks us to pay attention, to stop… and watch… and listen… and feel. Practices like stream-of-conscious writing – the process of writing without thinking or stopping for at least three pages to reveal what’s truly rolling around down there in our subconscious self – is a means to observe what we’re not otherwise seeing. The end result is often far more revealing than we could have anticipated.
Also, sitting in sharing circles: hearing/observing fellow circle-sitters as they speak from their heart, allows us opportunity to bear witness to the experiences and emotions of others that we may rarely have opportunity to be privy to. Sharing circle also provides the space to offer our own sharing – to interact - moved (or not) by those who have come before us, speaking to the spirit of the circle in a way that meets what is real and alive for the collective in that here-and-now.
INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE – I’ll share an analogy many have heard in my workshops; it relates to the sophisticated feedback communication of our human body. Our eyes, for example, have an important role in visually sensing the outside world and reporting back the stimuli to the rest of the body. If we happen to be walking across a road when our eyes see/sense a large truck coming fast toward us, we have two choices. Integrate that feedback by engaging other critical body parts (adrenaline shooting through our blood stream and the heart pumping faster) to move us across the road at a quicker pace. Or we can segregate that feedback, effectively ignoring what our eyes have seen and not engaging our body to move from the danger zone of the large truck coming toward us. This somewhat graphic metaphor demonstrates quite clearly the need for feedback to be transmitted, AND for it to be received, utilised and integrated.
APPLY SELF-REGULATION & ACCEPT FEEDBACK - Say that truck driver (who just avoided hitting us) of pulled over, jumped out and can’t help but to shout uncontrollably, claiming we are to blame because we were looking at our phone at the time of the incident. Because adrenaline is still strong in our system, it could be very easy to slip into fight or flight mode – that’s how the adrenaline saved us – angrily defending ourselves or blatantly denying his claims. Alternatively, we can be still within ourselves, hearing the truth in what’s being said (accepting the feedback), allowing ourselves to response-ably acknowledge the felt experience without automatically and mindlessly reacting (applying self-regulation).
By sharing this glimpse of how feedback loops factor into our lives (remember to keep your eyes up when crossing the road!) we can start to deepen into our understanding of how to skillfully receive and navigate feedback loops.
The application of these principles extend quite naturally to the collective space, with important application to groups, organisations and communities. Future blog posts will go deeper into dynamic and creative means to utilise appropriate feedback to ensure useful information is received, allowing course-correction where needed, and to more acutely travel the course we truly desire to be on.
To me the understanding and literacy of feedback is essential – it is but information for us to utilise and be empowered by. By acknowledging & accepting feedback, we can co-create with a true coherence to the dynamic flux of the various systems we're intwined within.
Until next time, may we act In honest presence with the Now ~ Erin
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