Notes from the Field: Embodying Integral Sustainability

Notes from the Field / October 2011

Venwoude, the Netherlands  24th – 28th August 2011

Nynke Feenstra

Nynke Feenstra

At the beautiful retreat Venwoude we came together to explore and embody Integral Sustainability Leadership. Our group was 20 participants with 8 different nationalities from 4 generations. The seminar that was designed and organised by Anouk Brack, Miriam van Groen and Rik Hoevers amongst others, from Experience Integral, invited us into an impressive flow following Otto Scharmer’s U process. Every part in the program had its meaning and place and resulted in a profound integral experience.

A Snapshot of the Program

We all had our own intentions for joining and we were the right people to take part. Together we formed a very diverse group of experienced practitioners, who contributed to make it an amazing program of sharing knowledge and practices. We took part in several sessions to tap into our collective wisdom in World Café, circles and meshworks. These were mind blowing sessions where we really got to the core of sustainability and were imagining a new story for our future. The key themes of the integral tools and practices were: leadership capacities, ignition and embodiment, mindfulness and energy work, art and the big picture of sustainability. Of course, also  related themes were evolution of consciousness, feminine and masculine roles, generations’ differences and strengths, shadow work, uzazu, tango dancing and business models.

It was five days of intense work starting at 7 AM with wake up exercises, or at 6.10 AM for meditation at the neuralgic beautiful pyramid of Venwoude. We had lovely breakfasts at 8 AM, then morning sessions, lunch at 12.00, more practising and parallel sessions, dinner at 6 PM and evening sessions until 9 PM. There was a good balance between practice, embodiment, theory, socializing and entertainment. The only challange was that the offer of the parallel sessions was so interesting that some people wanted to attend several sessions at the same time. Everyone took care of the place and cleaning and we enjoyed exquisite and varied natural food every day.

We kick started the seminar with a very amusing game to get a real integral experience, to connect to the others and to our intentions for the seminar. By completing the tasks in the game we collected pieces of the puzzle that together formed a beautiful holon made of holons. The puzzle has been symbolic for the seminar as together every participant and each individual intention formed a perfect whole. In the days to come there were still pieces of the puzzle to be found for us to symbolically finish off the seminar through completion of the holon.

Barrett Brown and Marilyn Hamilton opened the seminar with a public lecture and dialogue “The Big Picture of Sustainability Leadership”. They introduced us in a masterful manner to global trends and challenges on sustainability and leadership which laid the foundation for the days to come. We learned about the competencies of Integral Leadership based on Barrett Brown’s research, such as grounding sustainability practice in deep meaning, intuitive decision making and harvesting, embracing uncertainty with profound trust, holding space, shadow mentoring, and understanding and embodying integral theory. Find more about Barrett’s work ( Marylin Hamilton then presented cities as living systems which she calls human hives ( As a real queen of the hive she framed her work within the evolutionary approach of the 4 quadrants of the integral model to identify what are the most effective places to intervene, and presented her experiences in the pilot project Abbotsford. The lecture offered complementary stories covering broad areas and was attended by a wide group of interested people. Afterwards we had a drink and got to connect to the people that came to Venwoude for this opening lecture.

We started our days with Irini Roswell’s 5 wisdoms (spaciousness, clarity, richness, passion and activity) as in her book The Five Wisdom Energies: A Buddhist Way of Understanding Personalities, Emotions and Relationships using colours, postures and sounds to rouse a field of power and radiate our wisdom with authentic presence ( The exercises helped us to understand our unique nature by learning about our dominant energy and masks and to work effectively with our energy. Starting the days in Buddha posture, I felt awake, receptive and peaceful. In combination with Anouk Brack’s centring and leadership embodiment exercises, based on Wendy Palmer’s work, we were waking up to who we are, metaphorically and literally. Also, Anouk offered several other practices throughout the seminar, such as intuitive intelligence to bring us in a more confident, connected and clear state in order to respond to any situation with more presence, dignity and wisdom.

Another inspiring lady of the faculty is Willow Dea (, who introduced us to the 7 habits for tapping potency. It was another great session by a sparkly lady who brings integral into educational systems and inspires many private clients with leading edge services. Willow is editor of Igniting Brilliance: Integral Education in the 21st Century. Together with Barrett Brown she also facilitated a profound shadow exercise “Plowing the dark for greater brightness”. They held the space for a deep shadow experience working in couples.

Then another session by Marilyn Hamilton; Glok, Talk, Walk, Rock – a mind blowing session constellating four generations taking leadership for sustainability. We got to a deep (fractal) experience of what is emerging in the whole, which led to an understanding of different world views and patterns, gifts and things to let go in our generations and what leads to action or inaction. It was my first constellation experience, it was so powerful. Just as profound was Marilyn’s meshwork session, a group process used to coalesce authority, power and influence in having a shared purpose. We started a meshworks that brought together our individual intentions and businesses into a shared purpose and project. Throughout the seminar Marilyn showed both academic rigorous work as well as profound emerging practices.

The program was so comprehensive that in this review I highlighted only a couple of the sessions. The seminar has been recorded to share the content, experiences and learnings with everyone who is interested. You can still buy the DVD by going to:

A Profound Experience of Integral

We practiced how to bring the best of ourselves to the world. We strengthened each other and found friends to collaborate and meshwork with. We slowed down and connected to our purpose. The seminar has been a true experience of integral. Our intentions have been like a red thread throughout the seminar. It was incredible to experience that by having clarity about our intentions, that opportunities then emerge and we receive what we hope for or have another experience which may be even more powerful.

I came to the seminar to learn and to find inspiration and mentors. I found something much deeper; it has been like coming home. It is hard to put into words the flow that I have experienced. Together we have been talking about the need to create new stories to inspire for a better world. At the seminar I have experienced that new story, another world, is happening now.

The closing session was beautiful and the perfect ending. Starting in a circle, one by one we stepped out and shared what we take home from the seminar to then form a spiral that spirals in. Deep appreciation, love and unity was what I felt. What I am bringing home; friends for life, more clarity on my purpose, confidence and I learned that I can to tap into an endless stream of energy and wisdom flowing through me. I am ready now to to bring integral more consciously into my life.

I deeply thank everyone for their unique contribution and for together holding the space and creating a space for experimenting and learning. It is exciting to see that the meshworks we started together is followed up online and in practice groups.

Thank you for a life changing journey. It has been the greatest gift that I could receive!

About the Author

Nynke Marije Feenstra has e a master’s degree in Business Administration and is a pioneering social entrepreneur. Her passion is to experiment and explore how to create and hold a space for social change. She is co-manager and community host at the Hub Rotterdam and designs and facilitates inspirational learning sessions for sustainability. Since the seminar I am also a proud facilitator of Experience Integral. Connect with me by sending an email to:

Special thanks to Raquel Torrent for contributing to this review and being one of my new mentors. Raquel is founder of the Integral International Conferences in Spain and the Spanish Integral Association and turns out to be an incredible singer. Thanks for inspiring me.