#168 The Nordic Secret and Sense Making in an Uncertain and Complex World – Tomas Bjorkman

This week I had the absolute privilege of speaking to Thomas Bjorkman, entrepreneur, businessman, author and also the founder of the Oak Island retreat in Sweden.

Tomas explains how Oak Island is modelled on the original retreats that were state funded across the Nordic Countries at the turn of the last century – also captured in his book ‘The Nordic Secret’. It was these retreats that helped instil the human capabilities within the population to face adversity and uncertainty at that time, and which saw those Nordic countries turn around and flourish socially and economically.

Tomas then introduces the 5 clusters of human capabilities that are key to facing the unknown, complex and volatile world we’re faced with – Openness, Perceptive Taking, Sense Making, Inner Compass and Compassion.

In this conversation, we go on to explore the depths of the shifts that we’re experiencing right now to our collective imaginary in an interconnected world and how this can only be facilitated, it cannot be managed

The focus of this conversation will be challenging to your own sense making and aspects of how you construct reality for yourself. Yet despite this Tomas points to a way forward that is beautifully grounded and human.

Read Full Transcript

Bryn 

This week I had the absolute privilege of speaking to Thomas Bjorkman, who is quite the entrepreneur and businessman, but also the founder of the Oak Island retreat in Sweden, which is modelled on the original retreats that were state funded across Scandinavia at the turn of the last century. It was these retreats that helped instil the human capabilities across the people who lived in Scandinavia, to face adversity and uncertainty at that time, so that they could turn around and flourish. See where I’m going. In this podcast, amongst many things, we talked about the true depths of the shifts that we’re seeing right now in an interconnected world. We’re taught Thomas port forward, how this can only be facilitated, it cannot be managed. Certainly, we have to get over the hubris of man of what we can manage and what we can only facilitate. And then we also looked at what are the real human capabilities and capacity they’re required to face the unknown. The volatile, unknown complex situation that we are faced with. The focus of this conversation is challenging, and it can be scary. And you will see me myself during it actually processing it emotionally. As again, I listened to a fantastic speaker who’s got an amazing perspective on the world. But also it’s beautifully human. This conversation so grounded Lee human a few weeks ago in a podcast, I asked the question Where have all the grown ups gone? Well, having spoken to Thomas a) I have found one and b) I know where the rest are starting to come from. I found this as I said, a beautifully beautifully human conversation. And still today, the day after I’ve recorded it, I’m still processing it. I’ll be honest, I cried after I spoke to Thomas with just Joy, that there is someone there who is champion championing and taking being human. So very seriously, I think there’s so much to be learned from this. So enjoy, Thomas.

 

Bryn 

Hello and welcome back to WA Real. I’m your host, Bryn Edwards. Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming, Tomas Bjorkman to the show. Tomas. Welcome.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Thank you, Bryn. Thank you for having me on your podcast.

 

Bryn 

You’re very welcome. So for just for listeners, you’re over in Stockholm in Sweden currently.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yes, absolutely. So I hope we still will have a have a good connection. It looks like we have a clear connection. So I’m Swedish. I’m Swedish, born in Sweden, but I’ve been living in Switzerland and most likely the last 15 years in, in in London. But I’ve been I happen to have spent the last six months during COVID in in stock comm where I have a lot of my my projects currently.

 

Bryn 

Excellent. So for those who are uninitiated you’re financier, social entrepreneur. You also founded the Oak Island foundation and and also co-authored a book called The Nordic secret. And that’s the first summary is that

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah, absolutely. I left banking I am. I’m more of a business entrepreneur. I was more a business entrepreneur than a financier. I’ve started businesses in in it and property and in banking and I built a banking business and I sold that 10 years ago and then had the opportunity to think about what to do with the second half of my life and I decided to start this foundation. The Oak Island foundation accredit foundation in in Sweden is Swedish in Sweden, looking at the relationship between inner personal growth and societal change, we’re doing that both from a practical perspective we have youth camps in the summer and adult retreats the rest the rest of the year, but also has dimensioned I’ve written a few books I’ve written a book called the market myth after coming out from the the banking world, then, together with my friend and colleague, Lynn Anderson, the Nordic secret, and most lately, the world we create. Hmm.

 

Bryn 

So just as a lead into this, could you give me a rough an overview of, of the the contents of the Nordic secret so it’s very much around what the Scandinavian countries did, to turn things around at the start of the previous century and develop loping some key sort of life skills?

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I, I should perhaps talk a little bit just in, in my latest book the world we create because they’re really I draw a picture of the human development through Stone Age up until today and how we have been creating our world, our socially constructed world and how we are living in this socially constructed world and mostly taken for granted. But sometimes, humanity shift the socially constructed worlds our collective imaginaries as some sociologists call them, and these changes can be of different depth. And when you are going through a deep change in our society, when which involves even perhaps a change in our worldview, then that becomes varied. demanding on us as individuals to be able to not just cope with and manage in such transition times, but actually to be able to be conscious contributors and co creators on the new world that that wants to be born. And and again, in my writing, and in my foundation, we’ve been looking at very much how can we, from a practical point, build those inner capabilities, those inner transformational skills that can help us not only to to manage and survive in turbulent times, but actually thrive and contribute. So, so my foundation has been doing that for 10 years, but then for about seven, five years, again, my friend and colleague, philosopher and author Lynn Anderson from Denmark, and I, we we noticed that something that is hidden in the history of the Scandinavian countries and even forgotten a lot in the Scandinavian countries about how we managed This, again, a very turbulent transition from in the end of the 1800s being the poorest, non democratic agrarian societies in in Europe. I mean in in Sweden at the end of the 1800s. Some estimates are that up to 30% of the working population emigrated, mainly to the US, because they were just suffering and starving. And then, just a few generations later, even before the Second World War, all the Nordic countries were amongst the top of the list of the richest, the happiest, the most stable industry. Israel democracies. Yeah, and of course, this transition this this way of managing this transition is perhaps arguably the most successful ways that it was done anywhere in the world. And Leon and I are, we are the first one to two point out that now we are losing this a bit in the Scandinavian countries, right back then, in the beginning of the 1900s, we did something that I think I could claim was better than any other country has done in managing the transition from the pre modern to the modern society. And again, many reasons, but one very important and forgotten reason, and that is the Nordic secret, and that is that we had politicians and intellectuals in all the Nordic countries, who really understood the importance of personal in their growth and specifically, they knew that in times of Rapid societal change. And of course, they saw both industrialization and urbanisation coming, and they knew that this would be very disruptive to their societies. And also, they were firmly committed to move out of an author, authoritarian, non democratic regime. We were very strict monarchies back then into democracy. In those times. It’s just so easy for us humans to want to have an external authority to hold on to. Yeah, either a dogmatic religion or an authoritarian leader.

 

Bryn 

makes life easy. Yeah, yeah, exactly.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Exactly. And of course, of course, it’s comforting in in in transitions to do that, but the brilliant insights from these both philosophers and politicians but that if everyone is just Depending on what everybody else thinks, and perhaps ultimately to an authoritarian leader, then that leader must know everything and decide everything but these transitions, especially if they are deep, they are emergent, meaning that you do not know exactly what what what is coming out because, yeah, technological development and social innovation and institutional innovations, and all of that. So these deeper transitions in society, you can’t plan them, and you can’t manage them. But you can facilitate them, you can sort of increase the chances that this if I can use a science language, this self organising system that any culture is that that system will actually be able to reorganise on a more complex but also more elegant level. Yes, rather than facing a breakdown. Yes, so you so the society will come to one of these. Bye furcation point where it’s really either break through or break down, just continuing that, that that possibility does laughter.

 

Bryn 

And I really like I really like that the difference between facilitation and management. Because Yeah, I get when you say management, I almost have the picture of King Canute sitting in his chair saying no to the tide as it’s coming in, whereas facilitation is in effect, surfing the wave instead. Yeah.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Facilitating or supporting or, or in just increasing the odds more for a breakthrough rather than than a breakdown, I think MBA.

 

Bryn 

Sorry, sorry, but I think to actually work with and facilitate rather than manage it also involves a downscaling of the arrogance and hubris of man to think that he can control everything.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah. And it might be that I really like to quote my, my, my friend and colleague, the African philosopher by Akuma laughter here, he sometimes says, My ancestors Tell me, we are in an emergency. We have to slow down. And of course, to our Western mind, you know, we are in an emergency climate crisis, democracy crisis, psychological health crisis, all of that and you want to act

 

 

act.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yes, but, but it might be the right thing to do. just slow down. Yes.

 

Bryn 

Yeah. The The, the one to act is very similar to the natural stress response of flight, which is a need to do something and I need to respond to this dress or and and Then anxiety will occur. And then I need to do I need to act as opposed to calm down from the initial stress response. So maybe we’re doing that collectively at this point in time.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah, I think we are collectively stressing out at this point, and not without research.

 

Bryn 

Yeah, that’s the paradox. I mean, I know, I know,

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

climate crisis, and democracy falling, falling apart and all that we have all reason to panic.

 

Bryn 

Indeed, indeed. And we’ll come back to that in a minute. We’ll come back to the panic in a sec. But back to the the Nordic Nordic secret,

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

yeah. So, so, let me continue that So then, back 100 years ago, or or a bit more, these insight for politicians and intellectuals, they they realised that we cannot just follow an external authority here. We needed actually to to help a substantial part of the population to be able to be grounded enough in themselves connected their own inner compass, not dependent on outside authority to know what is right and wrong. And in in contemporary developmental psychological language in the language of Professor Keegan For example, we would say that a sufficient amount of us all in the population need to leave the, the meaning making state of a socialised mind. Yes are dependent on your peer group and authority for not only your compass, not only a value, but also your own worth. Just seek confirmation from from the outside of your own work to the next level of of our Adult maturation journey, which in the same language is called that you’re operating from a meaning making state of self authoring. Yes, but you have connected with your own inner inner compass. Your friends might think one thing your culture might think one thing your precedent might say one thing, but you still know that you have your values and this is what important for me and this is what I’m acting from. And and then in order to help a substantial part of the population to actually reach this inner level of, of maturity that some argue is is a necessity to have a functioning democracy because democracy sort of presupposes the theory presupposes that we are all in this sort of self authoring mind with Yeah.

 

Bryn 

Reminder.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah, which which we are not. So do you know what they did? And of course, you listen to my TED talk and other thing so you know that the Nordic secret is really that they started what perhaps today could best be described as retreat centres? Yes. And they started a lot of these retreat centres all over Scandinavia, Scandinavia. So by the turn of the last century, year 1900 there were 100 centres like this in just in Denmark, where 75 in Norway, and 150 in Sweden, were later on with full state subsidy. Young adults in the 20s could spend up to six months in retreat, in order to learn about new technology, learn about self organising how you organise communities and and take action, but perhaps most importantly, with the explicit aim of starting the maturation journey towards self self authoring. And they actually had as we described in the book, they had very advanced psychological theories about these development important developmental stages in, in life. And just finally, that when this was at its height, almost exactly 100 years ago, then 10% of each young generation in Sweden and Norway and Denmark had the opportunity to participate in one of these six months, programmes. And of course, that created a critical mass in society. And today we might be talking about a tipping point, especially since these 10% did not come just from some sort of an elite group somewhere, financially to cultural elite, intellectual elite or something. No, they came from all walks in life and the majority were actually from farming or working. Cross background.

 

Bryn 

That’s just phenomenal that such an such a widespread forward thinking almost social engineering project can be undertaken, and particularly by it particularly by at a state level as well. Because

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

the beautiful thing Sorry for interrupting, just reacting a little bit on the social engineering part, because the beauty I find in this is that it’s a social intervention. This is not it, but it is not what I would call engineering because then know the outcome and you know the outcome or you want to, you want to push a specific set of values or action, people. Yes, and that was not the case. The beauty of beauty was that you really let people just connect with their inner compass and the developmental journey. These projects were supported from the whole political spectrum, from the conservatives, to the liberals, to the Social Democrats, because all of them saw that even if we have different political programmes, we will all benefit from having a higher consciousness level in the population, because then they can really understand our arguments from the conservative side from the liberal side or from the social democratic side. So yeah, we can disagree on politics. But let’s agree that a mature population is better than an immature population. Yeah, they did. And,

 

Bryn 

indeed, because because we’re

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

only once sorry for you again, because the only the only political politician who benefits from an immature population is the authoritarian politician. Yes, yeah. He thrives on An in mature population that is driven by fear and the need for outside authority.

 

 

Yeah.

 

Bryn 

And just to Yeah, I’m just soaking that up. Because, yeah, you just connected a few dots for me there. And this often happens on my podcast. And

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

but I’m glad.

 

Bryn 

Yeah, yeah. And I’m quite transparent about it when the pennies dropped for me. And I think the thing that blows me away as well is, is that it was done at a cross cross party state level because one of the challenges I have with the whole area of personal growth and self development and things like that is that it’s driven by private interests. And so, it I think it’s fair to say that was there’s a lot of well meaning people there’s it’s also A it’s a whole industry and so sometimes the the generation of income surpasses the focus on the actual output of what you’re trying to do. And so the fact that that’s been taken care of, you know, if I think anybody who particularly watch his Wi Fi real at some point would have weighed up, or I’d love to do this course, but it costs so much money and, and things like that and or they’ve been on a course we spent some money on and they found the sales and the marketing wasn’t quite followed through into the execution. And so to take that out of it, so we can get back to the purist version of developing people and developing consciousness and death for a society is just staggering, rarely, just even, but it’s thinking,

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

I’m gonna take the opportunity to plug another on my initiatives here as soon as you mentioned this question. But accessibility, of course, we are doing this on on our, on our retreat Island, the pirate Island just like people are doing everywhere in the world. I mean, I think the most famous Centre for personal development and growth might be the SLN Institute in Big Sur in in California very, very many of these techniques for personal growth were pioneered in the 60s and the 70s. But, and I still believe strongly, of course, that in the human personal connection, often out in nature and these retreat centres were out in nature and in Meriden SLN are out in nature and we are trying to use nature as a catalyst in these processes. Yes, he said that they are as you say, expensive. It’s expensive to travel and you need you need lodging and you need everything. And so what my foundation in Stockholm is experimenting with is together with an A with another foundation. It’s called the North Korean Foundation, the Northern Lights Foundation, which is a technology for for the common good foundation, we are developing a platform just platform for personal development. And that is a nonprofit, open source, co created initiatives where practitioners and researchers can upload their interventions. And then our users can freely freely download our app 29 k at 29 k.com and then freely use this because I think that again, now we need really to scale this personal development is not just some something for an economic elite or a business elite who can sort of write this off as a business expense. For for this to have impact in the world again, and especially in these turbulent times. We need to give this to millions of people and I think that scaling this technology could be one way. Hmm.

 

Bryn 

So within possibly the app, and within these retreats, what what was some of the areas that people were actually focusing on in order to development develop this level of maturity?

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Huh? Yeah. And, of course, this field of, of adult developmental psychology and you might call it this is of course, that we can mature throughout life as humans, even given the right circumstances that is, of course something that humanity has known since Stone Age. Yes. And and of course, it has been an original part even if in many religions this has been forgotten in practice, but I think all major religions and spiritual traditions, has had an understanding of this lifelong developmental journey at its core, and wanting to facilitate that, that journey from a more secular perspective, the the German romantic philosophers and idealist philosophers, but wrote in the beginning of the 1800s, they had a very clear view on this human developmental journey from a secular perspective. writers like Schiller get Helder from Humboldt hago they all reacted against the Enlightenment view of our mind as a rational machine. Yes, really this enlightenment view as a rational machine, that we still so dominant today that we believe that once our brain once our brain rain has stopped growing when we are perhaps 20. But then our mind has also stopped growing, but no, of course not. So a mind might might be a physical Oregon or Oregon with a number of neurons, but our mind is this sort of self organising capacity of all those neurons, and that’s self organising capacity like any self organising system, again, it comes to these bifurcation points, you can actually step up in meaning making and understanding and you can expand your view of, of yourself and and of an of the world. And these developmental journeys. These philosophers again, get to Schiller von Humboldt, they wrote extensively about those and back. Back then in Scandinavia, German was the first academic language was the first foreign language so of course these intellectuals read these philosophers in original and picked up on the ideas. But then unfortunately, after the Second World War, we stopped reading these German philosophers and we turned towards the Anglo Saxon world to Oxford, Cambridge and the US and, and there it was still sort of the Enlightenment view of our mind more as a machine that should just be running and you have this idea of the homeware economic costs in economic theory that we are these rational, transparent to decision machines always makes the right decision for ourselves, our children and future generations, which of course, we are not, of course, of course, we are not going to come to that

 

 

in a minute.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

But the theories that we are relying on still you know, in, in political theory and economic theory are guided by luck, by luck, blank slate and this guards view of our mind as a machine. I mean, these people But writing in the 1600s we, we have learned we have learned a bit about human development and human psychology since the 16. Since the 1600s. So yeah. I think I lost your original question.

 

Bryn 

No, no, I actually, I was asking what what were some of the actual sort of skills and capability. Okay. Yeah, yeah.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah. So. So yeah, so what what I was leading up to that was that so of course today, we have a deep scientific understanding from contemporary adult developmental psychology of what a healthy human developmental journey can look like. Yes, and that those models that contemporary scientists are now developing, they are just very, very similar to watch philosophers and writers have been using it long since since many hundred years, they are just confirming Schiller and good Yeah, so, that that is interesting. And of course, these models are quite complex. And I usually say that all models are wrong, but some are useful. So, we need to remember that as well. And of course, you could apply these models on how to facilitate these inner the inner maturation and consciousness development. But another way, which is a little bit simpler to do is to instead of using these very abstract models, break them down into their components because all of these models are talking about in the development in in different along different lines. Yes, and sometimes we talk about the need to develop are in transformational skills,

 

Bryn 

right in

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

that that are skills that are very useful for us to be able to manage on our own in transitional time. So there are skills for transformation. And, again, sorry, psychologists are looking into this and you could possibly count up to even more than 50 different skills or psychological constructs that you can measure and you can facilitate, but to simplify that as well. We sometimes or I, sometimes we sometimes collect these skills in five clusters, just for to remember that and if I should just go through those clusters very, very quickly, I would say it’s, first of all about openness to learn how to stay open. Yes, and specifically and especially we all know that in times ahbs stress and fear, usually closed down. So that so too, so to learn how to stay open, even in times of an security to stay present, yes. Okay. The next step could be to seek perspectives. Okay, so once you are open, then you need to seek perspectives because your perspective on the world is only one. Yes. And it’s not that we should get get trapped in the postmodern trap of all perspectives are equally valid. Nope. Yeah, I don’t I don’t think so. No. perspectives. add something. Your whole perspective have a piece of the truth. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. But yeah, not an equal amount of gold depending on the situation and here comes another Have a lot of maturation to really be able to discern what perspectives you should give a higher white wait in what, in what situation depending on what the task of investigation is. But let’s leave that to the side at the moment. But But the next level is really practising and developing your ability, not just to take different perspectives, but actively seek different perspectives on on a question, okay, there’s not because you only have you always have your own blind blind spots and prejudice and, and all of that. So how do I actively seek more perspectives?

 

Bryn 

And does that include, because this was something I was sort of touching on in a recent podcast with a young analyst where we talked about the ability to hold the tension of opposite views is that many, many people don’t like that tension. And so therefore, flaps things

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

yeah, that’s the next. So once you have these opposite views, Then we’ll come to the skill of sense making. Yes. And you can make sense making on many different levels. And and the young child makes sense in one way, a young adult in a different way. But a mature and wise adult should be able to make sense in more complex ways. So for example, a young adult might want to make sense in terms of right and wrong. Us and Them, black and white. And that’s a very simple way of making sense. Yes, but again, it’s a better way of making sense than being in in the sense making of a three year old who hasn’t been differentiated these things yet. Yes, I mean, it is a developmental stage just to be able to separate right from wrong. But then next step, we in sensemaking, would be exactly what you say not to fall into the trap of these false dichotomies, but actually be able to hold The tension to see the world in more nuance and depth and hold the tension of of conflicting paradox, the conflicting perspectives and even paradox and to see that you do not necessarily need to resolve the paradox but the paradox in itself adds to the understanding rather than confuses the understand

 

Bryn 

and if you want a more mature and adult population, you can then be more present democratic citizens which we were talking about earlier on. Yeah, you need the skills in place.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah. Because if you’re just seeing the world in black and white and us and them that is not going to help us in this complex, modern, multicultural, rapidly moving world you need to be able to, to see the world in UN says and hold more perspectives. I mean,

 

Bryn 

because is the truth of Life. Jeez, it is it is grey, it’s complex, it contradicts itself. It’s

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

not again, our ability to, to as young adults to or adolescence to start to discern in the world. Truth, not truth, right? Wrong that that had a survival value for us and that is an important developmental step that we shouldn’t look down upon. And we should acknowledge that as an important step, but also know that it’s just a step. And as more mature adults we, we can and we should and we should be expected to and we are not expected to in today’s society, we should be expected to transcend that thinking up NTLM into a more, more mature way of meaning. Okay, so we had stay open openness, perspective seeking sense making, okay. And once you have made sense that then you have a little bit of a map. Yes. So then you need a compass. And that’s all your moral values. So the next, the next set of skills is really to develop your connection with your inner compass, taking the step of becoming self authoring and realising that you have your own compass. Yeah, and this is a little bit it’s a little bit more complicated than one might think, because perhaps not very young, young children or psychopaths, they might not have no compass at all, but even an adolescent and the young adult has its own compass. Yes, and that could be a very strong compass so that we were not saying that that A young adult or an adolescent does not have an inner compass. But it’s not your own compass. Again, that is a compass that you have been socialised into. it’s acceptable to tell your peer group, by society or by an authoritarian leader or by a dogmatic religion has sort of installed an outside compass in us. And again that had survival value, and that has value for a teenager and everything else. But if you if you have an outside compass inside you, and you believe that the world is either right or wrong, then it could be very easy to say that everyone who does not exactly have the same internal compass as I have, are are just my enemy. Yes, they are the others, and so on. There’s code Your Honour now and another bad thing with the world. With with externally installed compass is that it is it’s it’s not very robust. It’s very fragile. Yes. Because if you end up in a new peer group and all you have another Rotarian leader, then that compass immediately disintegrates and you get a new compass. And that is what we’ve seen, for example in I would say in the us right now with, with Trump that a lot of people who you thought had sort of a sound internal compass, yeah, they had a compass, but it was installed by some sort of culture, which they didn’t really really on a deeper level. agree with. Yeah, and when the outside authority said it’s okay to drop that compass, here is a new one. Yeah. Then you shift like this. Yes. Whereas if you have found through maturation Have a connection to your own true inner values, then you will hold those values much, much more firmly. Then your your peer group or your culture, or your leader could say something else, but you still remain with your values. And that is why we have Rosa Parks on the cover of our book, The Nordic secret, the black woman who in Alabama refused to give our proceeds to to this white person even though the law of the land said that that was what she should do. She sort of had a strong internal compensating that know that. This is what I believe in and I will even go to I will even be arrested if that is if that is necessary. And beautiful thing that is that she has said in many interviews and that’s why we have her on the cover that what gave her that inner compass was the fact that she had attended One of these retreats at one of those Scandinavian centres. Wow. But in the US, because this concept and you can read more about it than the book actually travelled to the US, and the few centres were of this model were established in in the US and the most famous, most famous one is the Highlander folk school in Tennessee, where Rosa Parks and many other of the Civil Rights Movements leaders participated and found their in their compassion, strength, be catalysts for social change. And again, so Okay, so that was a parent. So now we have openness, we have perspective seeking, we have sense making, developing your own inner compass and connecting to that. And then the final set of cluster of skills. They are all about compassion. And again, we have many levels of compassion and many different ways of understanding and and talking about compassion, you have compassion. In your self compassion, you have empathy. But just for simple reason we have this, this heading of compassion, because I would say that none of these skills so far has very much value if you haven’t got a developed compassion, and again, luckily, science tells us that all these skills that I mentioned, including compassion, and we are able to develop, we are not born with it with a certain amount of compassion, we can develop it we can both deepen our compassion, capacity for compassion, and we can widen the circles that for our care and compassion. So that is the good news. science tells us that skills are we are possible to develop now. The bad news is that we can’t just teach these skills. Yeah, in sort of a traditional school setting or course if you have an employee in your organisation that If you think would really benefit from from deepening that compassion, you cannot just send that person on a three day compassion training. They come back with a certificate of training, I’m not compassionate, no, all of these skills can be facilitated, but not taught in a traditional sense that they all require something that is called and this is a quite established concept of transformational learning. It transformation of skills needs transformational learning. And that is of course, a learning process that takes a long time. We Yes, months years and it involves these deeper psychological processes that we are mainly unaware of. That is of course what we are trying to do. What they were trying to do back them in these retreat centres that are called 4k schools. That’s what we are trying to do today at the Oak Island and that other retreat centres What we are trying to achieve also with a digital support 29 K, it’s all about this transformational experiential learning to develop skills like this. Just not just not just for the individual. Yes, certainly for the individual because we believe that in this rapidly moving world, we don’t know what we should, what we should teach our children are our children or what even what skills we should develop ourselves because in 10 years, the world will be completely different. But we can be sure that these skills will always be in demand. Yes, so you have a strong incentive individually, to develop these skills. But I think again, tying this back to where we started and the societal change that we are going through today. These are also exactly the skills we need to have at a large scale in society, to be able to facilitate this transition. And to help people to become active co creators in this transformation, and not not just victims of the transformation. That’s phenomenal. That’s,

 

Bryn 

you know, the level of thinking there is just words that come to mind that beautiful human.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Thank you. Thank you.

 

 

Yeah. And

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

it all makes sense. And I mean, it’s fairly simple. It’s, it’s fairly simple. And it’s it’s not surprising that these politicians and intellectuals 150 years ago, so there’s so clearly and implementing these programmes, but what makes it difficult today is that our worldview is our worldview and that in our worldview, we still look on our mind as, as this machine and we can’t see that it’s a it’s an organic developing

 

Bryn 

force that we have inside ourselves, and that we can facilitate that there. mental capacities, because that was that was going to be my next sort of question for you was, you talked earlier on about the different levels of change that we’re going through and I think you grouped them into five levels. And and I think he possibly alluded to one of the levels of depth that we’re going through in earlier on in the fact that you had these philosophers and politicians who could see or reacting against the the the rationalist enlightenment, and left hand brain thinking approach to life, which is shutting off part of the humanity, emotions in the was that the Freudian aid part of life? And do you think that amongst many of the things that are happening at the moment, we are, we have run our course with that way of thinking that ideology, and that we are coming back to that almost back to a zero point at the moment whether we move into another bit, but coming back to zero point, does that make sense? Yeah.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Absolutely. I think what we should do first is of course, acknowledge the huge value of that left brain hemisphere perspective. I mean, then the enlightenment and the Enlightenment thinking and the Enlightenment emphasis on our individuality and on our rationality, that is what has given us modern medicine, human rights, democracy. So I I mean, we should we should celebrate the enlightenment and the Enlightenment thinking, but at the same time, I think you’re absolutely right that humanity has not come to a point were such a total emphasis on just that sort of thinking is is not any longer valuable, rather the opposite. I think that many of these components of this meta crisis that we are in right now, not the least the environmental problems, but also psychological ill health and not about the problems or results of this exclusive of exclusive exclusively looking at the world through that particular lens. So, so I think that it’s not we are at state now where we should not throw threw away that lens or that perspective. But we certainly need to complement that with other perspectives and other ways of understanding our world and understanding our ourselves and realising That the scientific rationalistic perspective is extremely valuable and powerful when it comes to understanding the natural world. But when it comes to understanding our inner world, our subjective experience, it doesn’t help us very much. Yes. And also, it’s very difficult to apply this it’s not completely useless, but it’s difficult to apply when it comes to our socially constructed world, this world that I before called, called our collective imaginary, yeah, socially constructed world. And we should remember that today in the human world that we are living in. I mean, 95% of our human world is socially constructed. Hmm. So so things like money nation states, precedent marriages, all of that, you know, that we sort of take for granted are just human constructs, and they are usually very useful human constructs, especially, they will usually be very useful in the historical setting where they were sort of invented and, and implemented. But, you know, many of these things are, are very, very recent and were implemented for a particular reason. I mean, the nation state is the concept of the nation state is just a couple of hundred years old. The concept of money might be a couple of thousand years old, but the concept of a market especially a global market, I mean that that’s a very recent phenomenon. And and when we are investigating these sides of our human world, both The inner world and the socially constructed world, we need to find other ways to try to approach this. Yeah, sorry, I might just go on, go on and take one example to make this a little bit more understandable and tangible. So I sometimes talk about and say that in our modern world, in our contemporary world, for me as an individual, I am totally dependent on having air oxygen to breathe and money to buy things to live. So for me as an individual, I need oxygen and I need money. Okay. Yes. But these are two things that have got fundamentally different are fundamentally different kinds to use a philosophical word, they have different ontology. Yes, because even if the whole of Humanity came together and said that we do not want to be dependent on oxygen any longer. And we couldn’t do anything about that. Yeah. Whereas if the whole of humanity came together, or even a nation state come together and say, we don’t want to believe in money any longer, we want to allocate the goods of our society in in a different way than money would be gone tomorrow. Yes. So, but having that insight doesn’t help me as an individual. Because when I’m checking out at my local supermarket, yeah, if I tell the cashier that money is just a social construct, it’s just an idea and an invention. I don’t believe in that she would call the police on me, because everybody else does believes in this construct. And so, so so do our institutions. So for me as an individual, it’s the meeting Opposite my need for oxygen and my need for money and he meets me as objective reality truths. Whereas for us as a collective, they have completely different characteristics and we have a collective freedom. Yes shape, our collective imaginary are socially constructed world that we quite often forget about. And just to finish this analogy between sort of the natural things that we cannot do anything about and the socially constructed things that are under our collective control, sometimes it even seems that we are mixing this up. And and we believe somehow that the planetary boundaries are up for negotiation. Whereas the market forces we just have to obey. Of course, it’s the opposite. Yeah. So yeah, so this sense making and seeing a little bit deeper into ourselves and seeing a little A bit deeper into reality is super important now now that these things are becoming a little bit more liquid and and we are in this turbulent change and then the more people that that can look deeper into society and use concepts like this from deep sociology, like the collective imaginary, can see deeper into ourselves and use deep psychology, Union insights about our unconscious, our archetypes, and all of that, but also deep history to see back and to see these shifts that we in humanity have gone through many times before. So this is not the first time we are in one of these deep shifts in humanity and for looking from history and that Yuval Harare Sapiens is it’s a wonderful book to read to see this pattern on how that has taught me a lot about this socially constructed A world and how that is, is shifting. So if you have an understanding of history, then you also know that they that these societies and civilizations are very fragile things. And in most cases through history, civilizations have not been able to go through this transformation or metamorphoses. Most often civilizations have broken down one once they reached their own limits and constraints. And another civilization has taken over. Even when the Roman Empire fell. There were other parts of the world that could take over. But what’s making the situation today? Much more scary? is of course, today we are living in a global civilization. Yes, I mean, we have a global breakdown and a planetary breakdown. There is no plan B there is no civilization B there is no planet B that could that could take over. So yeah, that makes it much more More important for us right now to actually be self conscious of this process and and how we without again believing that we can manage this and still can be able to facilitate and support this transaction. And I

 

 

think you

 

Bryn 

you’ve so beautifully taken taken us and particularly made to the point where there is something so existentially scary about what is happening right now. If you have developed the faculties within yourself to stay present safe present in your emotions, not check out not dissociate. Not go in and play with Facebook or Google yet stay open. But if you can stay open and actually feel it It is so very, very scary at the moment. Because we are so very interconnected at the moment. It I mean, here in Western Australia, it’s one thing for our politicians to say, are we going to keep the borders tight and keep everybody out. But now we’re faced with the prospect of, of food growing in fields with nobody to pick it. Yeah. And and be all because the migrant workforce that come in and out and travel around Australia and now not and that’s just one example in amongst many, that’s hitting the and we’re talking about food supply. So, so you know, and that’s just one example and, and so, you know, in terms of the the depth of your, your, what you were talking about in terms of the shifts that we’re going through at the moment. I think if you can stay open and stay within your emotions, you can feel just how very, very Very, very deep this could be Would you agree?

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

No, no, absolutely. And I think that this COVID crisis that we are going through right now, but that has also opened our eyes to just the fact that you are pointing out here that we are so interconnected and enter dependent. And that is also of course, scary, but that is also an awakening. And then we awaken to pamps to the fact that my health is actually not not just an individually my individual problem and responsibility to maximise my own health I yes, my own health insurance and access to health care. I’m actually dependent on other people also having access to health care and being able to stay at home if they are sick. If my pizza delivery person comes to me sick because he or she cannot afford to take a day off or To see a doctor or to get tested, that will impact me. If I’m actually the My Health is actually dependent on everyone in my society, having a basic access to, to, to health care and, and be able to afford to stay at home. It’s if you if you are sick, and I hope that this is now sort of opening up at least some people to the fact that we are all not just in a nation but also globally really interdependent. And of course we have known this from the environmental crisis, but for many people they haven’t met manic depression is still very abstract. When it hits me and my family as as when we become sick, or we are afraid of becoming sick, it becomes much, much more immediate, and we can relate to it more easily. So for all the bad, bad things and all the suffering that occurs big crisis has brought upon us. Perhaps it has also helped us to open our awareness a little bit. And humanity.

 

Bryn 

I, I had a previous podcast guest Professor Sam Backman, who has an observation put forward that narcissism has become a guiding principle of our society narcissism in in in relation to, you know, we we maintain focus on our reflection at the cost of our own good. And, and as this has continued and continued and continued the gap. I mean, I think this is one of the things that I as an individual feel at times is that the way we carry on is so very different to the truth of how we really are as a human human being, and that it would have to take a systemic, global interconnected, interdependent failure first truly bring us back to what what is real and what is not is interesting you talked about the money in the oxygen a minute ago because not so long ago i was i was i like to do thought experiments in my journal and so I decided to make a list of the Top 20 reference points that I use to make a reference that you know that I exist. Yeah and and I made a list and you know, awake sleep friends relationship money job, things like that. And and then I put down which ones which ones are actually real and which ones are just native in my head and I boil it down to Am I awake or asleep? Okay, am I in nature? And because I live in Western Australia and I’m close to the beach is am I in the ocean or not? So that was lander was iron water and was awake. I was asleep. Everything else was just made up. Yeah. And, and I hear what you say about Yeah. Okay so on a practical level I can’t get away with not paying for my my groceries. But at the same level we, you do have to realise that we are playing a game. And so as we head into recession, when we see people who are potentially thrown out of homes and starving, we have to recognise reconcile the fact that that is happening because we’re all agreeing to play a game.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Exactly. Exactly. That’s a beautiful input. That is beautiful. And when we wake up to that, that then then we can start thinking what what to do about it. The problem with them immediately had into is that in this world, just for me to try to make sense of this world is so difficult. So the our individual sensemaking It’s such a difficult process. Yes. Then we have our collective sense making. And in order for us to be able to change this game that we are playing, or the collective imaginary that we are living in whatever language we want, do, we actually need collective decisions, and therefore, we need collective sense making, and we suck at individual sense making this but collecting sense make and we shouldn’t even talk about it, I mean, our capacity of collective sense making today seems to be just zero, that we have this huge freedom that we can only realise collectively, but we seem to have zero capacity of making any sense. And therefore, we are not able to realise these freedoms, we are leaving a lot of freedom here on the table. But yeah. So essentially that that is that that is a huge challenge now. So they are related. So what What sort of what sort of inner capacities? What sort of maturation Do I need to have, in order for me to be able to, in a good way, participate in a collective sense making, that’s my individual part. But then also, from a collective perspective, we also need societal structures and buildings to sort of harness that potential of collective sense making. And again, 200 years ago, perhaps the best thing we we could come up with then when it comes to collective sense making and decision making was that that you were there in Western Australia, you, you elected one or two representatives, and then you put them on horseback, and then rode Canberra and participated in a parliament once a year and you may collect data, but that’s, that’s 200 years ago. So today if that is not enough, we need to find new ways of collective sense making and collecting decision making, of course, so whilst

 

Bryn 

whilst, on one level, what we’ve talked about is very dark and scary. on another level. It’s it is back to basics. It’s back to square one, which is also exciting thing.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely as threatening as the technological, devout, rapid technological development we are going through, right right now I also think that there will be lots of good possibilities coming out of this technology and that’s some of the answers for our predicament, we will have to find within ourselves and we might even go back to ancient traditions, Aboriginal traditions, spiritual traditions, to find those parts. But then there is there is also new opportunities at the same time that is opening up through through technology. We just need to match the technology Have the human wisdom. That is the key.

 

Bryn 

Human. Yeah. Human humility and wisdom as opposed to?

 

 

Yeah, compassion. Hmm.

 

Bryn 

You’ve just been, you spin away in nature for two weeks. If I could ask you a couple of questions about Thomas, and you, I read on your post in LinkedIn, you’ve been away for two weeks away from technology away from reception. What were some of the biggest things, allowing yourself given the work you do, given your view on the world, but also as as a man and a human in it? What were some of the biggest things that came up for you during that period of time that you took away from being connected?

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Yeah. First of all, I should say that, that I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to just be out in nature in these COVID time That is absolutely we’re very happy to to take for for granted when we have this lock locked down and travel restriction so luckily in Sweden, we have just like you in Australia we have these vast amounts of untouched still untouched land that that we have access to and in Sweden we have this even the public right of access. So you are you have the right to access these land if you are if you take responsibility, and some of the parts in the north of Sweden or even bi above the Arctic Circle and I was together with my girlfriend trekking in in the National Reserve of sarek. And that’s absolutely wilderness there are no paths, no signs, there is no mobile coverage or anything and you hardly see me and the other persons have That that is that takes a little while to get used to at first. But But I must also say that, yeah, that in my life It has really been out in nature, either up in the mountains or out in the archipelago where I have been able to access deeper layers in, in myself. And that is of course one reason why my foundation has this retreat centre out in the archipelago, and that we are actively using nature as a catalyst but for an individual and group processes. Yes. So So for me, it’s really an opportunity to try to leave civilization behind the bit to leave all these social constructs behind, try to get get rid of my my worry and the ongoing ongoing narrative and And to really, really connect not only to nature, but also connect to to my my inner self. And to reflect and I should say that was one of the reflections I did during those days was around my journey in in life. And now we are going through this lifelong journey and I’m in my early 60s, still a few years to the to the to the common retirement age and I will not retire or have already retired and whatever you either you say I will I will still pursue my my, my passion and purpose. Hopefully I’m until I’m too old to do that. But I also realised that I might be at the at the stage in life where I’m also in a personal transition from perhaps being more active in managing and starting and very much hands on management in, in in projects. And I took the time to search a little bit. So what will my role be? If not in a year, so in 10 years time, but where would I want to, to be personally, family wise? And also with my passion and my purpose in life, what would be my best contribution to the world in in 10 years? And of course, I didn’t come up with any answer. I didn’t expect to do that. But, you know, a few days out in nature reflecting that, that starts these projects, processes that are constantly going on in our mind on the level Lower consciousness and yeah, yeah, when when that process is done, something will emerge up into my my consciousness and we will see what that will be, you

 

Bryn 

know, you know, you don’t have to figure it out just initiated the process with like,

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

the data. You can’t figure it out. You can’t figure it out because because this is, again one of these emergent processes don’t like we can’t figure out what, what what society will look like in 20 years. Yeah, I can’t figure out where I will be myself internally in in 10 years. But we need to think about it. And again, to make that analogy, just like I was arguing that that we all need to be conscious participators in this societal transformation. I also think it’s good for us to be conscious participators in our own transformation, and relax and reflect on that a bit, but not not to try to project manage it.

 

Bryn 

Yes. Yes. Which is a wonderful lead into the last question that I asked all my guests. So it’s a hypothetical question. But it’s essentially this, if you put upload one question into the collective consciousness, so that everybody sat down for seven 810 minutes and considered it, would that be? Hmm.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

I would give a little bit of a self serving answer. I have an initiative which is a media platform call called emerge. And and the question that we are asking on that platform is what is emerging and the URL is what is emerging.com? So I would I would ask that question to to to everyone and To ask everyone to try to be again present and open and feel into the future. It’s Otto Sharma is leading from the emerging future. So anything that we can actually lean into the future, and we can sense into the future. And we can feel what is emerging. And what do I want to contribute in this emergence and how can I contribute to a positive emergence? So what is emerging

 

 

speech?

 

Bryn 

It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. Thomas.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Thank you very much.

 

Bryn 

People want to connect with your work there is that we mentioned a couple of platforms today. Yeah.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

And we mentioned 29 k 29 k.org for you if you want to Yeah, try PR Development for for yourself. That’s the more practical side. If you’re a little bit more fit on the thinking side, I want to, to read about these things and participate in a more intellectual discussion around that. And what is emerging.org?

 

Bryn 

Yeah, super. Thomas, thank you so much for your time today. In a world where I’m going to, quote, an observation I made with previous guests, some sometimes I sit around wondering, where are the grownups and When are they going to turn up? And it’s, this conversation is sort of instilled my trust in humanity, that there are people seriously thinking and seriously doing around this and and taking consideration into the truth of the human journey and, and the desire of consciousness to, you know, transform and transcend and evolve and, and so It’s easy to have a theory or conversations but to actually meet somebody who’s actually doing stuff and and bringing it about is is a next level encouraging for me. So thank you so much for your time.

 

Tomas Bjorkman 

Thank you for those words. It was a pleasure talking.

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