Why I organised the Integral African Conference with Paddy Pampallis


I confess I never thought much about Africa. It feels far away – despite it is not from the middle of Italy, where I live. Refugees are coming from there, we hear about tribes killing each other, somewhere “down there”, about women who have to fetch water from far: the stereotype is: a primitive country, or better a primitive continent where even the wild animals are in danger to not survive the human greed.

There would be much to say about these assumptions held by the somewhat arrogant and superior western minds. But this is not the moment for it. I am aware that, me too, had these assumptions somewhere in the back of my head, when I found the invitation to the “First Integral African Conference” in my inbox. People who are open to integral thought in Africa? Wow! I became very curious and decided to attend, especially as it was connected with a tour through South Africa. This tour wouldn’t have been the typical tourist route but would show us the reality of the country, guided by local integralists.

I travelled to South Africa with an open mind and an open heart, and I met amazing people and situations. I absorbed the atmosphere, the colors, the beauty of the people in movement, the differences in almost everything, from housing to shops to surrounding. Not everything was “nice” from a western tourist’s point of view, but always astonishing and it allowed me to revisit my hidden assumptions which I had carried around with me for many decades.

The conference took place in the “Cradle of Humankind”, an unusual building, covered with green grass from the front side. It was like entering into a cave. Inside a huge round open space  with water fountains in the bottom. It was not just a decorative spring which you would expect in a congress center, but a huge area, 15 m or more di diameter, I guess, and also very deep down, from where huge water jets came up and disappeared, over and over again. A truly archaic atmosphere in a modern building. Underneath is a museum where you enter a boat-like vehicle and swim around and underneath the waters, a fear-and fun journey for groups of children visiting the place where human kind is said to have started.

The conference itself was organised perfectly, the venue, the food and, last not least, the speakers and other contributors. My first deep insight took place right with the first keynote by Dr. Nceba Ndwayiba who gave the title for the conference “Doing Human Better”. Never had I thought before that the main thing we Europeans exported to other countries and continents was our way of thinking, our way to reason and our claim that our way is the only possible way. I never really had given any thought before to the possibility that there could exist other ways, not only in how we SEE the world (this we know from Integral Theory), but also how we THINK. A thinking which is not necessarily bound to our rational logic, to our way to construct theories and  plans. I suddenly realised that also “Integral Theory”, which is so helpful to understand the world better, is a product of this specific way of thinking, as much as we try to integrate “eveything”. The very basis of our philosophies are taken for granted. We are not aware of the axioms of our being in the world, and even less that there could be other axioms to construct philosophies upon. And when we notice other ways of thinking which are unfamiliar to us, we dismiss them as primitive. Voilà!

Back to the conference: Three days filled with talks, workshops and casual conversations with your neighbors in the room, at lunch, wherever. Doing human better, by creating connection. This was beautifully achieved. As for myself, I got to know so many beautiful people who I want to know better and learn about what they are doing in the world. The Wisdom Factory gives me the unique opportunity to invite them into conversations which then I can share with the world on my website, Youtube, and other social media.

To kick off the the series of AFRICA -conversations I talk with Paddy Pampallis, the “motor” behind the conference, who has done an amazing job in putting everything together. With her friends and colleagues, she was  leading us through these remarkable days with an incredible amount of resilience, calmness and friendliness which created an open and welcoming space for all of us participants.

I am grateful for this conversation with her on Zoom. I enjoy her truly feminine way in being a highly competent person. She is a role model for feminine leadership, in my opinion.

Edition  September 25th, 2019

0:00 Intro Heidi. 

1:05 Paddy from Capetown. A country of big challenges.

1:50 Paddy’s story as an activist for making things better and understanding how. Going through a whole spectrum of development. Activism against apartheid. Working cross-culturally.. INtegration as focus. Read “spectrum of Consciousness” in early 90ies, a revelation in understanding. Internal and external work bridged. Difficult work in the townships.   Doctorate in executive coaching, organisational development center, coaching center.

7:40 Integral Leadership work in the 90ies in Denver. – Since then always working with the integral framework, transmitting it to others. Many things she has taken on.

8:10 workes with Susanne Cook-Greuter, application of her work in SA – led to think about the conference: a dream to bring people of different fields together to have a dialogue.

10:50 Freeing of the colonised mind.

11:30 Doing Human Better. Heidi’s impression of the conference.

14:15 what was the energy? 

16:20 The pieces of the puzzle. The cradle of Humankind. Ubuntu – how to find our deepest humanity, seeking the essential of human spirit and goodness. Why did we lose that connection?  Need of healing.

19:20 The West can learn from the South. “I see you” as greeting. Can we re-connect with the Earth. Mother Africa instead of only Father Europe. Neither is better.

21:10 Heidi: we Northerners come from above: the exportation of the way of thinking, mind colonialisation.

23:00 who defined “up and down”? The masculine principle previledges the rational mind and carthesian thinking. Power of mind over the heart and belly. Changing the axioms of thinking, looking for the primary assumptions

25:42 The heart as the meeting space. The knowledge systems are different, but how can we assume that this one is not good? A lack of understanding by the rational which the heart could have understood. 

27:03 what did we westeners cut out of the heart and womb? Deep wisdom has been corrupted and lost. Like singing and dnacing as expression of being. 

58:50 The whole range exists in SA. Student protests, bad educational system. An example of Ubuntu: students shared their grants. Collective humanism can work, but easily can turn, as deprevation is really acute.

31:15 Sequence of governments: Mandela: capability to forgive, then a corrupt president, understandable from psychological domain, but…. The shadow was seductive to underpriviledged people, getting corrupted by justifications. Applying integral priciple with Ubuntu and African philosophies. Mbeki: “I am an African”

34:05 Now a good president, but it takes a lot.

35:00 Heidi on the present situation in Europe. How resolve the people from Africa arrive in Europe where they are always 2nd class.

37;00 Paddy: powers and resources and where the money is and who the leaders are. A common problem could bring us together. Maybe climate change? In SA there are still basic human right problems. Healing has to be done: others are not part of us – cultivate a unitive principle. Bias, prejudice, particular worldview. 

39:45 Resources taken out of Africa have not been replaced by education and health service, corruption of African leaders. Need of evolved leaders who can hold all that without getting corrupted. Integral theory frame can help. 

40:40 Paddy invites the Northeners to come and sit around the fire with the Africans and meet humanity and simple sharing. The experience of a bike rider through Africa. Poverty is not equal violence. See the fals assumptions about the conditions in Africa. Creating islands of humanity = idea of the conference.

43:40 role of the media

44:30 Need to re-ignite democracy: politicians as servants, in Euope as in Africa: a developmental phenomenon. We need to wake up!

45:50  women in leadership in a feminine way. We need to show up and overcome our need to be agreeable

46:45 A story about a women triggered by violence, conflicted about how she would be seen in a male dominated environment. Need to honor the creative caring part. Bringing the healthy feminine back, apply our minds and bring the heart into it. 

49:20 This is the journey, normalising it. This is the work. Women standig up together against male predominance, in a good way. The work on ourselves.

50:50 Dichotomy, example of Paddy’s adult children. COnditions for the next generation. The work which needs to be done.

52:50 Is integral theory applicable everywhere in the same way? If it doesn’
T become another form of colonising, but true integration. Not the theory is not adaptable, but the validation of ALL perspectives. We need to see that we are not less, but different conditions.  

55:30 Taking the best parts to learn how to live together better.

56:00 Starting wrapping up. 

Integral coaching center, integral institute. www.coachingcenter.

A note of hope and inspiration!

About Paddy Pampillis

Paddy Pampallis is the Founder Director of The Integral Africa Institute and The (Integral Africa) Coaching Centre (TCC) and Ubuntu Coaching Foundation that serves to bring Integral thinking and solutions to individual, organizational and community life.  Her mission is to find ways to ‘being fully human’ more skillfully.

From https://integralafricanconference.com/

See also: https://www.thecoachingcentre.co.za/