Author Archives: Atom Terpening

All Hands on Deck

Recently, Jane Anitrini and Ruth Buckingham invoked the call for ‘all hands on deck’ to the community in this new winter cycle of uncertainty and opportunity. The winter season is often a time to listen to the mystery, take stock and ponder the next new thing arising. That might not immediately seem like ‘all hands on deck,’ but more like all ‘eyes on belly buttons’–however, it does apply.

The command originates from a naval term. In colloquial usage, it often means ‘ready for battle.’ One of my hobbies, as anachronistic as it appears, is reading books about the tall sailing ships of the pre-industrial ages. There are messages about leadership in those books hidden, perhaps deeply, in the tales of brutishness at every level. All hands on deck, was not just a command for grabbing cannonball, sword or musket and risking death; it was also for moments of key navigation—raising anchor, addressing leeway to keep the wind from dashing your ship on shore, even taking advantage of favorable winds. These can be calls to action for the whole crew. All of these are metaphors for considering how we move into the future.

All hands on deck might be the invitation to do what is your task at your ‘ready station,’ but it is also a clarion call to be aware of your interaction with your crew mates. You can’t have one missing sailor on the rat lines, or you don’t succeed in dropping the right sail. The sailors must know their jobs and respect the complementary positions around them.  The best sailors were acutely tuned to the present moment.

Sunrise Ranch recently hosted a group from the Conscious Business Interprise (sic), a consulting area of Humanity’s Team (HT). Their mission is to raise the consciousness of the planet by changing the mindset and heart-set (my word) of corporations and businesses. They visited Sunrise Ranch, our spiritual community of 105 residents and 80 employees, to road test some assessment tools in what they called a Pre-Beta version. In software parlance, a Beta release is one that is similar to what will be delivered as a service, but needs to be fine-tuned; so, a Pre-Beta version, in the words of the HT team, is a version in which they admit they are still discovering.

I was not able to attend every focus group or breakout session, nor has the HT team yet delivered any conclusions (that is due in January 2018), but I can tell by the buzz here at the Ranch that the process has already made an impact. We were offered the opportunity to consider that our work pattern, as unique as it may be, effects:

  • People–community/staff
  • Planet–area, the 4 elements, life
  • Presence–what we might call individual vibration and group radiation
  • Profit–in our case, trying not to lose money.

One of the key aha! moments came in an exercise for the Leadership team at the Ranch. In this exercise, we all ‘voted with our feet,’ to indicate what we thought about our strongest and weakest characteristics as a business. We did this by standing in the appropriate area on a floor mat that was printed with various attributes and principles.  It was not so much the content of our votes, or that every department had a different but reasonable approach; it was the effort of looking 360 degrees to consider all factors that were impressive. Terms (and mat areas) such as Visionary Leadership or Centered Leadership help us to consider what they mean to the people and purpose of our Sunrise Ranch mission—“The Spiritual Regeneration of humanity under the inspiration of the spirit of God.”

Conscious Business requires that leaders consider their own self-awareness and emotional fluidity capabilities. They need to listen, inspire, and express themselves in an awakened manner. To us at the Ranch, in our cosmology, there is a practice of listening not just to the words of our teams or circles of community, but also to the wisdom and truth of the words spoken and how we listen to them, which is deeper than interpersonal and group related. This wisdom and truth reflects our experience of a greater Universal Being of which we are an inseparable and unique manifestation. You are not likely to see that option in a business school classification of leadership—that’s the pity.

Leadership, when I think of it in this way, is not at all concerned with competition or self-promotion. It is focused on an appreciative curiosity and care for the miracle of the gifts of individuals and the creative impulses which contribute to innovation, all without leaving a trail of tears or waste products.

Leadership is built on a foundation of both information and inspiration. When people take responsibility to relate to their own primal spirituality, and to take stock of how emotions are affecting their thinking and beliefs about others, you have truth in information. When people feel the self-esteem of doing a good job within an interdependent group; that is a grand start towards inspiration. True inspiration goes further to a shared sense of mission and the agreements that together, all people move themselves toward it. That is wisdom in leadership.

Back on our ship metaphor, the sailor who complains that the Navigator doesn’t climb up the main mast with them to drop sail in the gale, is missing both elements of leadership. He has lost the truth of his own self- mastery and place in the community, and he is also forgetting the necessary interdependence of roles. Without the skills of the Navigator, the ship will likely flounder and never reach its destination. Why would you risk the navigator up three stories high doing something he is not suited to do? That doesn’t make the ship’s master a better man or entitle him to an inflated ego–not if he has wisdom. The Navigator will see how every sailor did what was best TOGETHER at that moment, within their skill set, to meet the challenge and opportunity at hand.

You can bet the Navigator was racing down into the hold with every sailor to pump it out when the ship was taking water from a breach in the hull. Separation of skill set notwithstanding, they are all on the same ship together in that sea of uncertainty.

Leadership is an option for everyone, not just those who have been anointed by the established powers; an organization chart doesn’t define a leader. Better to be anointed by the ‘powers that BE’, wake up and engage at all levels of being. Being in its essence of wisdom and truth, being with one’s own emotional and mental quirks so that you can see and listen to others, being with others working toward common purposes and allowing that being to carry inspiration through you like a river that overflows outwardly.

These are challenging times to BE on these levels. To me, this mission is far more heroic than any sailing ship crossing unknown seas.

Atom Terpening has over 30 years of experience as a software and database developer and project manager in the healthcare and non-profit, association-management industries. Most recently he worked as the Corporate Information Officer of a company, CMI, that manages membership and events for non-profit health care associations. Atom is a proud father of two grown children and a new granddaughter named Ziggy, and he has spent most of his adult life developing a practice of awakened consciousness through mindfulness, heartfulness and appreciation for the miracle of life.

Greetings from Somerset England!

I’m blogging from a Sunrise Ranch Program here in England, Discovering the Magic of the King Arthur Legend—a 10-day trip visiting sacred sites related to the King Arthur legend. I am aware of how rare this opportunity is, in this crazy world, this chance to contemplate the archetypes of the Arthurian legends and also to experience places where deep spiritual vibrations have been accumulating for centuries.

A transcendental biologist, Rupert Sheldrake wrote a book titled The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God, in which he proposed that all living beings and even places, exist in morphogenic fields of energy. He went so far as to suggest that holy or sacred places are endowed with a kind of invisible bubble of life energy from the prayers, meditations, intentions, and even strong emotions of people, animals, natural wonders (waterfalls, etc.) localized in a place. The more “famous” the spot, the more likely a larger buildup of energy.

I think many sensitive types who listen to the non-intellectual qualities of people and places have an intuition of these morphogenic fields. I’m reminded of the autobiography of Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, My Stroke of Insight. Jill is a Neurobiologist and an expert on the physiology of the human brain. She was conscious during a massive stroke that wiped out her left brain function in a huge blood clot. Her account of her experience of life living with only her right brain functioning is fascinating. During the stroke, she fell into what Zen practitioners might call satori, the sense of being part of everything with no sense of boundaries. When she was recovering she retrained her left brain to develop speech and writing skills to complete her autobiography. Why am I reminded of Dr. Bolte-Taylor? She recognized how sensitive she had become to peoples “energy” and in fact had to request that certain people not be allowed to visit her room during her recovery as she could not keep focus when they were in the room. She had similar experiences in busy public places where intense activity was taking place, where nobody made eye contact, and described how it created a kind of immediate PTSD in her psyche. She sought out gardens where she could heal her brain.

But I’m blogging about sacred sites in old England and not about the madness on the floor of the stock exchange. We recently stopped very early in the day at Stonehenge, a 4000-year old Neolithic stone ring built in Somerset England (in case you have been sleeping in a cave for 100 years and have never heard of Stonehenge). The site is now protected so that you cannot visit the actual stones. You can walk to within perhaps 15 or 20 feet of on the main set. For me, the actual PLACE was hauntingly special but this is not about my sense of the special nature of it but rather the response to the mystery of its existence which is the subject of a very well developed exhibition hall/museum on the site. The historical society (Heritage Society) in the U.K. spared no expense to create a wonderful collection of artifacts and “scientific” facts about the earthwork monuments and surrounding earthen mounds, humps and ditches. They have cataloged the food, their feasting, housing, clothing, tools and have done an excellent job of trying to explain how the prehistoric peoples might have lived. In the lobby you enter after leaving the exhibition and hearing all those facts, there is a floor to ceiling banner that admits that with all the knowledge gained by studying the remains of the site, it is still unclear what might have been its “MEANING”.

I put MEANING in upper case to reflect how it was put onto the banner. It was the most important word on the banner and it represented to me a few considerations.

First, the archeologists have many theories but honestly wish they knew why these enormous rocks were moved to this place over a period of 1000 years by perhaps thousands of people and then became a cultural magnet to peoples as far away as central Europe. Science wants to establish a fact that is illusive and frustrating, hence the upper case. Secondly, I sensed that the author of the banner had a longing to crack the true meaning of Stonehenge. In a purely secular society based upon material gain, the work expended to pile 30-ton rocks seems a fool-hardy and mad venture. It is the mystery which opens the door to other possibilities than merely our utilitarian view of profit and loss.

I thought about a recent bumper sticker, probably a quote from a wise person, but I know not who. It read: To find your unique gift is the meaning of life and learning how to give it is the purpose of life. Beautiful statement. When I was standing in that modern museum looking out the massive picture windows on a replica of the stick and daub huts that might have housed the builders, I had an epiphany.

What if the meaning of Stonehenge is exactly like the bumper sticker? Thousands of beings discovering how to represent their vision and gifts inside a greater mission.

I live in community, so thought about a possible perspective of Stonehenge.

Would it be so bad to live in a community with people with whom you share a common goal? Working and feasting, celebrating the changes of seasons, finding your inner gifts related to building a monument to those terrestrial and celestial patterns. Spending the time away from the “normal” cycles of culture, finding out how your contribution fits in the creation of the tools, the food, the healing, working with the earth. You have the privilege of spending your life in the dedication to a monument that will stand longer than the Pyramids! You are contributing your efforts toward a place that will inspire and confuse and blow-the-minds of people in countless generations. To me, that sounds like a life of meaning and purpose. This doesn’t sound like the work of enslaved primitive peoples creating some kind of fearful propitiation to the Gods.

So the blood sweat and tears of the builders, their healing prayers, the remnants of their devotions live on in the morphogenic field of Stonehenge. The crowd around the circle of stones on the day we visited was a united nation of ethnic origins, A multicolored rainbow of humanity, all in awe of something so much larger than their current lives. They felt it.

When the archeologist opens his or her mind and questions what it is to have a “meaning” or considers the magic of the movements of the spheres on this tiny planet with a paper thin atmosphere that has birthed a species that is capable of its own mass extinction, maybe for a second or so the field grows with a “knowing” that is not about “explaining” the world.

Atom Terpening has over 30 years of experience as a software and database developer and project manager in the healthcare and non-profit, association-management industries. Most recently he worked as the Corporate Information Officer of a company, CMI, that manages membership and events for non-profit health care associations. Atom is a proud father of two grown children and a new granddaughter named Ziggy, and he has spent most of his adult life developing a practice of awakened consciousness through mindfulness, heartfulness and appreciation for the miracle of life.

The Courage to be Yourself


Here’s a little truism—you are completely unique, and only you can express what you’ve learned in life!

Simple, right? I think even the cynics among us might agree with that statement. How about, You are much more than your memories, thoughts, and feelings? Now, do I hear a little murmur of dissent out there?  Well, how about in here, when I contemplate this point myself?

I was trained to revere the scientific method, to be intellectually rigorous, accept no assumptions that were not proven. I was schooled to see personality as the result of a combination of organic and learned processes; you need chemical and electrical balances in your precious brain to properly record the learned patterns of your psychological history. Nature and Nurture. My studies repeatedly stated that our consciousness was conditional and conditioned; a formula of sorts where the left side of the equation—inputs—resulted in the right side of the equation—outputs.

I was taught that the basis of our existence as human beings was definable by measurable variables, from the amount of serotonin and dopamine in the brain to the results on psychological tests. The wisdom of the day held that we each had a measurable, though not predictable, personality which either fit into a socially defined norm or fell into psychopathology; in other words, you are sane or crazy.

There are visionaries in the field of psychology who hint that there is something better than norms that we might attain. Two terms for this concept of development are self-actualization and individuation. Both of those terms certainly harken to a sense that each person might navigate their thoughts, feelings, memories, traumas, interpersonal expressions, and behavioral patterns to a point where they are expressing themselves without being edited by defense mechanisms or projecting their internal demons to external reality. A person could be him or herself, a balance of ego and superego, flexible and nimble.

What if beyond self-actualization and individuation there was another type of BEING? Something that was not measurable by personality tests, that might even transcend time and space and break the laws of Newtonian physics if need be? The scientist in me just lifts his arms in the air and shrugs—this is the realm of religion, isn’t it? If you can’t run a study to prove something with a degree of validity, within the parameters of probability theory, well then, it just isn’t an accurate assertion. It is merely subjective, wishful thinking.

Probability theory is a topic of interest here. The Placebo effect is compared to measure the physical effectiveness of drugs—a drug must be more effective than our suggestible mind (wow there is a blog for you). In the same way, scientists compare an outcome to probability tables to validate that experimental results are significant. Probability tables are more accurate with larger sample sizes, if you have a study with a population of several thousand and 99.99% have a characteristic, that’s obviously a trend. Scientifically there is something “significant” happening in that situation and the study author might claim experimental proof. This is good science and worth intellectual consideration. However, let us keep in mind that what is proven is a hypothesis not a “fact.” We are not creating facts with experimental tests—rather, science is in the process of polishing, to a sheen, its educated guesses. Good information, if you truly understand the study limitations, but not worthy of religious faith. Yet we limit our world to the scientific facts every day. Talk about the realms of religion!

Let’s go back to my first assertion—you are completely unique, and only you can express what you’ve learned in life.

Wow, you are a sample size of ONE! Nothing statistically significant there.

Yet, we all know that nobody else has lived our life path, nor can anybody else express what we have learned on that path—nobody but ourselves.

Why do we believe that subjective evidence is less true than statistical bogies? Do we buy into the numbers game played by science against chance? What if the sense of BEING has characteristics that are not captured in studies because we have no instrument to measure it? It then figuratively falls off the radar, it becomes anecdotal and fanciful. We might be tempted to disregard its validity or relinquish our intellectual rigor and get all touchy-feely.

I think we need to understand the personal validity of our own experience.

Where I live, at Sunrise Ranch, we have been discussing the courage to break out of our personal notion of a limited life—to be one’s SELF. Sometimes our limitations are drilled into us by the shame and doubt that inform our sense of self. These are the result of personal subconscious “experiments” with our world that did not go so well. Shame and doubt are short hand for “self-editing.”

In our living laboratory, in the present moment, we get to experience the unique responses we have to every sense object, thought moment, and feeling tone that we encounter in our world. This includes seeing our self-imposed limitations. We CAN learn to wake up and view our existence with appreciative inquiry, wanting to know more of who we really might “be.” AND the spark of brilliance in any observer is merely the tip of the iceberg of the BEING we have within us. There is such immeasurable information available to the creative mind!

We need the courage to look at the funny creature we have become—the sinner and the saint, the genius and the dolt—in the relativity of our life path. We need to listen to that deep truth within us that spawns enlightened thinking. We need the courage to see the uniqueness we are and not be dulled into the trance of accepting the theories of who we are as the realities of who we are.

Let’s keep testing our theories of consciousness, culture, quantum reality and the origin of the universe, with all the instruments that science can invent. But how about spending some time walking into our own undiscovered country within, looking at the unbounded creativity of that BEING which is a mere hint of our self-awareness? Let’s allow all the feelings that cannot be put into categories flood us and take us further into the mystery of the deeper sense of consciousness.

I want to continue to have the curiosity to explore myself, own myself with my own absurd and wondrous limitations, and my haunting possibility for limitlessness! The experiences of an awakened mind and heart are not theories.


-Atom Terpening


Atom Terpening has over 30 years of experience as a software and database developer and project manager in the healthcare and non-profit, association-management industries. Most recently he worked as the Corporate Information Offi cer of a company, CMI, that manages membership and events for non-profit health care associations. Atom is a proud father of two grown children and a new granddaughter named Ziggy, and he has spent most of his adult life developing a practice of awakened consciousness through mindfulness, heartfulness and appreciation for the miracle of life.




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