The difference PRESENCE makes

Why do I strongly believe that each “U-process dive” needs to start with extended practice of presence?

At the very beginning, I want to point out that this writing comes purely from my experience and practices in the real world.
In my work as catalyst, I liberate creativity, innovation and productivity in people and organizations by choreographing (word for designing) transformative journeys, using the methodologies such as “U-theory”, the Diamond Approach and the generative dialogues models described by David Bohm, Bill Isaacs and Nick Udal.
For simplicity, in the rest of the text, I will use the term “U-proces dive” every time I refer to these processes.

Back in the day, with my colleague – our first experiment and choreographed “U – process dive” was a 120 minutes long journey that we made “open to all”. We invested 60+ hours of our time over period of 6 months to prepare for it. In this period we were holding and inquiring ourselves into some very important questions such as: What is the essence of what are we doing? Why are we doing this? Who do we want to work with? and going through the initial choreography several times.

That first journey was centered around the question:
How to create the next generation of Organizations & Leadership?
The choreography we put on paper had these 7 steps:


1) Welcoming and grounding the participants with body exercise                              5min
2) Introduction of our work, the models and the practices we use                            15min
3) 15 min presence practice                                                                                   15min
4) Participants Inquire into the key question, journaling time and       
reflection time                                                                                                                       30min
5) second short presence practice at the bottom of the U                                             3min
6) Generative dialogue                                                                                                        25min
7) Prototyping and action                                                                                                   25min

Holding space 

As we started to explore and test the choreography ourselves, we were sensing the energy in the “container” we were building. By container in this context I mean the “space – vehicle” that needs to hold the creative tension (often part of such explorations), and take us as catalysts, and the participants on this co-creative transformative journey.  

Very soon in the testing we realised that the step 3 from the choreography – 15 min presence practice, naturally belongs at the very beginning of the journey. Why?
First of all it brought us – the catalysts to a place of authenticity, groundedness, centeredness and clarity. From these place, holding the space, the tension and whatever was in the container, felt relaxed, flowy and much more easy when difficult feeling were emerging in the process. The container as a whole felt much more safe, and this was also reported by the participants. They reported unusual levels of trust, safety and space for intimate dialogues in the container. Even with such a short choreography, we experienced emergence of flow and collective thinking in the phase of generative dialogue.    

In this period we also had several opportunities to witness “U-process dives” catalyzed by others. What was interesting for us to observe, was how the container reacts when the process starts without an extended practice of presence. Almost in all cases when practice of presence was not the first preparatory step in the choreography, I felt uncomfortable, unsafe, tensed, withdrawn and found it hard to share my truth, up to the first moment the group would practice presence together. It seemed to me that most of the participants, like me, were operating from their everyday mode.  
In one case when the container was not prepared with presence practice, the experience was almost traumatic. I witnessed the group of 15 people I was part of, not able to hold the space and literally collapsing at the first point of tension occurring!!!                

Why was this important?  

We also noticed a pattern that was appearing and repeating in many exchanges and conversations with our colleagues throughout the last years MIT Ulab. This was the caution, with which many change agents were talking about, introducing the subject, and the practice of presence, when they were working with their business clients. The practice of presence was somehow feared, or change agents were afraid of being rejected or ridiculed for bringing the subject.
What was the fear I wondered? Isn’t it strange to somehow hide the practice of presence?

For me and my colleague, moving the presence practice at the beginning in our choreographies, feels absolutely right because it ground the whole circle from the very first moment and it brings everyone closer to their true self.
I personally feel that every hub out there, every leadership or learning intervention, every circle or group that is using the “U process dives” would benefit immensely if they start the U dive from the place of presence. 

The themes I am writing about in this blog are expanded in my latest book Diamond Leadership available on Kindle.


Categories: Diamonding

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Thank you Viktor. I fully agree. We have experienced exactly the same. If the group members don´t know each other well from the beginning, they really need to know in their inner self that this group is safe and they can open up and be there for each other. When the group members know each other from a long time, they maybe don´t need the practising so much, but they want to dive as deep as possible, so they need a lot of time for just being as well…

  2. Hi Jutta,
    I feel that this is important conversation and I am pasting here the answer I gave to your FB question:

    – What do you think about, if the need of practising is less important when partisipants know each other from a long time?


    The practice of presence has several very important reasons of its own that can’t be accomplished because people in the group know each other. Do not think that if I am your best friend and we do the work together our presence will increase because of our friendship.

    I’ll mention few benefits of the “presence practice” for which I believe are important in context of U dive; for example:

    – getting in touch with your body and starting to recognize, sensations, and emotions that are in-bedded in it.
    – Bringing inner activity to stillness. From these place It is much more easy to recognize and therefore discriminate the voices of (super ego) – fear, judgement and criticism that are limiting our emerging future to unfold. We are accustomed to this old voices (programmings, concepts, believes, self images, object relations….etc)
    – Perhaps the most important aspect of the practice is that by doing it we get closer to our true nature. The “Emerging future” in my opinion is nothing else but our “true nature” freely, and effortlessly unfolding in the now, in the world. We as humans need to dismantle the shells of our ego structure, in order to see this natural process happening any way in the nature.


  1. The container for the “U-process dive” is essential – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP
  2. notes from the “U” field – tips, pros & cons for Ulabers and change agents – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP
  3. On integrating the “U” model and practices – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP
  4. Integrating the “U” model – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP
  5. Diamond Leadership book – Catalysing alignment and innovation in your system – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP
  6. The power of the unbearable creative tension – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP
  7. The impediments of learning, creativity and innovation – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP
  8. FEAR – how to metabolize the first enemy of man – DIAMOND LEADERSHIP

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