Episode 7 – James Kite “Social ecology”

A friend from Awakin Circle (no relation), James is a remarkable character, engaged in the social dimensions of awakening and community.

Audio Version

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James’ Projects

Conduit Club has sadly closed!

Bill’s work
  • Endlesss – collaborative music app
  • Hopin – virtual events platform


(First 40 minutes only – that’s all we could get for free from Otter app 🤷‍♂️)

Jasmine 0:09
Today on the show is the lovely James. And initially how we first came to know him myself and Bill was both, again through the awake in circles. And you do something special, I think, James, for your work, I think you’re probably on the side of – it’s more unusual, I guess.

And even the theme that you proposed today was very interesting. And so maybe you can explain to others like what you do, and maybe where you are right now.

James Kite 0:56
Cool. Hello, both of you. Thanks for having me. So, being able to explain what I do is probably taken me more than 10 years, and I don’t know if I’m ever gonna get there. But the last out a six to seven years or so I’ve been in the fields of like social arts producing. And for me, that involves kind of jumping from different domains. It involves, like community development, it involves cognition, being understand being able to understand myself and the way I relate to other people. And I guess the framing of how I ended up in this space was, I was really introduced to polymathic thinkers very early on. And I saw the benefit of being in multiple disciplines. And I see the benefit for myself individually. But then the next step is being able to communicate to people that I’m just not in one domain, but I enjoy being in multiple domains. So in summary, I used the word social odds producing, but it’s probably a lot broader than that. And yeah, so that has, that kind of led me to running events with various themes, some mindfulness, some social, economic, some interpersonal, and I’ve been using event as like playgrounds to explore the multiple domains I’ve been running into. So I would say that’s a summary of it. I guess we could probably delve a bit deeper as, as the conversation proceeds.

Bill 2:43
It sounds fascinating. I still don’t quite understand, but I’ve got a slightly better idea now. What What would you say? What would you say? Your what, what what are your aims? And what what are you what? Like, obviously, real life events are kind of off the menu at the moment. But yeah, what have you been looking to achieve with with your work, I guess?

James Kite 3:12
I’ve been looking to kind of develop, like a fuller sense of myself, and feel a sense of the community around me. I think that, at the deepest core of what I’m trying to do is find the most conducive way for us to as a humanity and, and myself to, to kind of coexist and thrive. And, yes, so that’s led me into the like the field of creativity. I kind of come from a bit of music background, but I felt like the skills in music, or the things that you’re practising is actually applicable to so many different fields, the skills of like centering yourself, incenting, what you want to communicate to the world. And I’ve thought of that as just community building. So that’s the that’s the simple kind of answer community building that’s able to not just withstand the world we’re in but kind of build a new world based on the way we interact with each other based on the spaces we create, and how that creates new ways of engaging. Hmm, yeah, it’s kind of like, it’s like I pulled in a thread, and the thread just kept going. I can give you an example. It’s like so I would want people to be able to engage with each other a bit better in a space in a community space, right and get to the depth of what they’re feeling. But in order to do that, that you need to think of, what is the space? What’s like the condition of the space? What’s the kind of interpersonal psychological things going on? And then what’s the music thing in the background, etc, etc. So, um, and because I wasn’t doing it for, like a mark, so I’m not doing it in an academic setting, or I’m not doing it to have immediate financial benefit, I have the freedom to just keep pulling the thread. So I don’t I don’t have to contain it in a box. So I could go in many domain I wish and and yeah, I guess the something is always helpful to anchor people is if I drop a name in here, and the name would be Zack Stein, a guy I’m reading a lot. And he he’s also a multi disciplinary kind of thinker. And, and he talks about the the development of, of a human being in, in like these three domains of instalment development, and transcendence. So the kind of one the walk of awaken, and meditation is the transcendence, but they all interplay with each other. They all interrelate. So, you can’t just be focused on one domain, or else.

It’s kind of at a disadvantage of the other domains.

So it’s kind of like, I think, yeah, go on Jasmine.

Jasmine 6:36
So when you actually are talking about like, the two other domains, can you delve into deeper to what, what kind of practices might someone be looking into to develop these areas? And then also, also what what they are? Yeah.

Bill 6:54
Yeah. Sorry.

James Kite 6:57
So right.

Okay, so, so I kind of figured I’ve been doing this intuitively, for the last few years. But I recently discovered Zack Stein, and it’s a bit more formalised, and it has a lot of research behind it. So the domains that I intuitively went into was creativity, and then analytical thinking,

and then

kind of humour and play. Mm hmm. But in the, in the Zack Stein kind of model, which he’s gathered from loads of different people, his instalment, which is therapy, yourself, trauma, it’s quite unique to yourself. It’s about your soul, I guess. And it’s kind of what you mentioned in the previous episode with Liam, that a lot of meditators can transcend, but they may not be able to work in there, like the practical, what does it mean to them? Right. So that’s the instalment. As much as I understand it, I could begin this wrong disclaimer to anyone listening. And then development is cognition, your ability to acquire skills in might be being a beautiful writer, it’s like the skill domain. And its language, and you can zoom into that a bit more. And the transcendence is kind of like, being able to observe yourself, like from the third person, like the state that people get, after they’ve meditated for a long time, or, or not even in, in Buddhist traditions, you could even think of it in, in just the narratives of religion, the kind of place the human in a longer arc of history rather than just you specifically. And yeah, so you want to be able to, and there’s, there’s techniques in each of these domains, you can so in the transcendent, we may know, meditation, you may know, I guess, metacognition is probably another term I could throw in there. And then in the development category, I would in my head is probably along the lines of more discipline and skill, acquisition focus, and just doing things repeatedly to kind of develop that aspect. And then the instalment might be a little bit of self reflection. Where did you dream How can you interpretate that?

How do you

for me, it also involves kind of making music or art for yourself in the in some category, to kind of figure out yourself on a very unique basis, not as thing that you necessarily have to go and like, preach out to everyone, but everyone will have their own unique aspect, you know? So. And yeah, so that’s a that’s a slight summary. I think people can delve deeper into it. But intuitively you want to feel like you’re delving deep within yourself. And then you’re taking what you’ve delve deep within yourself and interacting with the world. And you want to have this kind of reciprocal cycle.

Bill 10:32
Hmm. Nice. It’s it sounds It reminds me of another kind of way of framing that I guess I had come into the speaker it might have been. Yeah, I’ll get back to that. But the, the idea was you’ve got these three, three kind of ways of, of developing, waking up, which would be the the Enlightenment thing. And meditation and growing up is actually sort of ethically becoming a bad person. And cleaning cleaning up which is dealing with your shadow side, and all the stuff that you Yeah, you’d rather not look at.

James Kite 11:15
I think that might be Ken Wilber perhaps like integral theory? kind of

Bill 11:19
think it could be? Yeah.

James Kite 11:21
And yet the guy’s Eckstein. I mentioned he’s, he’s like, heavily influenced by Ken Wilber. And they work together. So it probably overlap there. Yeah.

Bill 11:32
Nice. Yeah, well, so much to unpack here. How do you how do you approach these do? I mean? So you talked about building community? And then these three kind of aspects of human development? How did they? How do they relate?

James Kite 11:52

So kind of, I do a lot of personal research. So online, like the academic stuff that I’m talking about?

Jasmine 12:03
You do?

James Kite 12:06
Yeah, a lot of

Jasmine 12:07
he’s always

James Kite 12:09
right, going down the rabbit hole.

So yeah, I guess my ambition is kind of like, I can have a conversation with anyone and suggest them a book or a video or link. And just being able to conversate with anyone I run into in whichever domain. And so the way which so I did a lot of this research, and then I tried to think of Okay, so I read Daniel Pink, who’s a real author. And he talks about drive and what motivates people and I’m like, Okay, so how can I place this in, in a project with friends and people who are interested? And how can I use these theoretical kind of toolkits to, to kind of projects that actually have an impact in the way people and people don’t need to say, like, I used to go around a lot like saying, you should read this, you should do that. And then I started realising if I can embody it in some way, rather than if I can create the environment where people can learn without me having to tell them to read something. That’s the goal. Right? So some, yeah, I could go into the projects, but that’s, that’s the mindset behind behind the, the approach.

Bill 13:31
Yeah, yeah, dude, do tell us about the projects.

Jasmine 13:34
Okay, so maybe you can, like, take one of the things that you wanted to like unpack, like one of the disciplines or one of the theories and then say, like, how you may be formulated something like that? That’d be really cool.

James Kite 13:50
Sure. Okay. So

I was really, like, so over the last year, I was running something called inperson, which is kind of like a community film night. And what I really wanted to do is communicate interesting concepts and theories of transformation. Kind of like the butterfly effect, loads of kind of concepts that are think very prescient at all times. It’s very relevant. And the way in which I kind of approach that was kind of everything I’ve learned throughout the years. I structured the event, it would like as a regular every two weeks, it would happen. And that went on for a year. So that every two weeks aspect was you want to create regularity, because that’s how kind of people cultivate community community doesn’t happen in a flash pan. So they need to have, they need to just be able to turn up and not have to think Or even check online. So that’s one element. And then the second element was, I kind of realised that there’s a lot of noise in the way in which we communicate. So there was like, very purposeful design of silence for the first for the first 10 minutes or so of arriving at the event. And there was food, which is just breaks down the ambitions and stuff and like self consciousness. So the event went like a moment of silence and introduction, we would watch kind of very creative, short films, very abstract, it could be interpreted in loads of different ways, sprinkled in with some more factual videos. And then, after the videos, instead of telling people what they should have got from the videos, and they were broken up into groups, and people discussed the themes that came up with them. And then after that, we kind of all got together and shared what we got from the videos. And so there is multiple layers going on here, which is the theme that’s been explored on the night. And then there is the just the act of watching something interpretating it for yourself and communicating it to people. So it doesn’t really matter what theme we’re doing. That is actually the the unspoken kind of lesson or the unspoken thing we’re digesting in the space. And we’ve I think we’ve been awakened. Right? So it’s Yeah, it’s like taking stuff that I’ve kind of learned and loved about or weakens our calls about other creative events I’ve been to and kind of synthesising that. I also have, I could go on because there’s quite a lot of projects, but there’s to do, there is there’s a project that I’m currently working on, which is with an organisation called enrol yourself. And enrol yourself is a peer learning kind of journey American, which I feel is is is where education will be going in the future. And it’s, it’s not hierarchically driven. It’s kind of giving people the toolkits to learn for themselves. So people who want to keep learning, but not necessarily in an institutional format, or by themselves, what you what will unfold is, I think, over the next year, I’m going to be hosting a learning marathon with enrol yourself. And the concept is, anyone can come along, and they may have a burning question or something they want to explore in their own personal lives. And they will have the space held for them with their fellow peers. And over six months, they will kind of refine what the question means to them. They will run workshops, and they will learn from each other. And an hour will have a container and I have a loose theme in mind and I’ll recruit the people that I feel could work well together. And so with that, what my question going into it and hosting is how can people have analytical mind, like analytically?


natured people, people may be like coders

and people who are more analytical driven, how can they work with creative people? And have a mutual exchange? Like how can the creatives learn to be perhaps a bit more analytical and discipline? And how can analytically driven people learn how to be more kind of novel driven and like, generative in a creative way? So So yeah, that’s enrol yourself and that I’m going to Yeah, I’m going to be starting over the next few months. And yeah, mostly looking for people who want to be involved in that. And yeah, I think I’ll pause that.

Jasmine 19:26
And, and how do you step into the space of like, because it’s quite easy to say that someone might be more like an escort than the other or like the display their creativity via their like, unless for me, and, yeah, and just kind of that space, like how are you planning on navigating? The nuances?

James Kite 19:53
Yeah, great, great question. So

I i intuitively feel way beyond Have analytical ways of thinking and creative ways of thinking, it’s just at a certain age, in the educational form, we’re kind of encouraged to pursue one avenue. So it’s just a muscle that we’ve trained more than the other muscle. So I think everyone has the capacity. So I would kind of invite people to, to tap into aspects of themselves, that is dormant within them. But with the assurance that they don’t have to do that by themselves, because they can be in a group with other people who may have the skills that they want to kind of develop a bit more. So kind of encouraging them to, to enquire the situation not as, like fixing yourself, but just like awakening a part of yourself that’s been dormant, that will complement each other, right? Because I think, like, exercising is a very good kind of analogy for me, because you kind of need the mindset to get up in the morning and work on your physical traits, right. But in you getting up and working on your physical trades, it allows your cognition to be able to perform better throughout the day. And that cycle kind of reinforces itself. Right? So, hmm. So yeah, that’s the kind of the way the model in which I’m looking at these kind of facets of development.

Bill 21:30
Nice, I

Jasmine 21:32
find that interesting. And I like how each of the different kind of events or ideas that you have are just, as you said, initially, just, you know, very eclectic, and wouldn’t necessarily be from the same person. Not necessarily anyway. So it’s, it’s very inspired. And I love the process that you take, for example, the breaking down, how am I going to create, you know, an event such as this, but thinking very creatively about it, too. So I feel like you embody that well, within the process in which you

have intuitively found. And, yeah,

Bill 22:21
nice. Where are you? Where are you doing that? I mean, obviously, we’re, we’re now kind of a bit limited in physical space. But where are you? Where have you been running these these events.

James Kite 22:38
So historically, that in passing events have been in like, is LinkedIn, London. So that’s been in a physical space. But I’ve been able to kind of alter some aspects of it and do it remotely. So when kind of like the pandemic hit and the lockdown happened, instead of trying to kind of rush and just do it on zoom, I thought of what is the essence of what people got from the event. And I translated that into, just like calling each guest that comes and having a like a one hour two hour conversation, and finding out about what their experience has been in the lockdown of getting very quite personal. And talking, talking about everything from kind of just zooming into the quality of engagement, and then compiling a booklet of everyone’s stories, so people can read each other’s stories. So it’s a way of them were not feeling alienated. In they’re not feeling alienated in their kind of experience. And this was actually, the idea of a partner of mine with the whole finding, like project is what I call that. He, he thought of the idea, and together, we kind of fleshed it out and called people. Yeah, I kind of paused for a while, because I’m thinking of like, I think it’s worth to zoom in a little bit with that project emerged from the idea of the partner of mine were heed, and he came to the event as a guest. So I think there’s something really interesting if you can create spaces where you like, there isn’t a clear line between a guest and someone who can be an active agent in creating something. So after a while, I’m getting as much from the participants and guests because they can come with ideas and that can grow into something else. And so I kind of that links in with the theme of the ecology of care that I kind of wanted to talk about, which is I think, I think it’s it’s kind of it’s just not an effective strategy to slowly develop yourself without having the ecology of like, friends, peers, families and people around you. Like, it’s kind of like a reciprocal act, if you if you want to grow a flower, you don’t just focus on the flower, you focus on the soil, the kind of the rain, the sun, there’s multiple factors around, right. So the ecology of care, for me is about caring for the components around you, in order for you to, to then flourish as well. And how, how that act kind of

amplifies anything you could individually do.

So, so yeah, I think that’s quite an important concept that I want to play with and like, invite people to, to think of themselves as part of an ecology of other people. And by helping the people around you helping your ecology to flourish.

I mean, yeah, I

Jasmine 26:05
guess like, I, this is the same as what would be often, like inspiration golf, in the meditation context of everything is interconnected. And basically, the a lot of Zen teachings go around, and allowing ourselves to understand that we could not be who we are without the help of others, or just even environment and so on. And then I’m wondering, where you plan to, like, take that? And like, how do you think that it’s scalable? Because of course, you’re doing this on? You’ve been like heading these, but how do you think that like really unfolds? What do you think community often stays local and, and smaller and such as well.

James Kite 26:57

I think the thing I really like to communicate, and the reason why I find it hard to sometimes communicate the ideas is because at times, I want to give the whole process of what I’m thinking when I’m doing something in order for people to replicate it. So instead of saying I did a, I want to say, this is how this is how I fished instead of talking about the fish, I want to talk about the process. And for me, it’s about self, I think, mindfulness meditation, and that whole world is good at being self reflective. And so that skill has allowed me to take into various domains of being always self reflective of what’s going on. So I kind of invite anyone who’s listening to, to delve into like, meta cognition, and if you enjoy anything, like a film, or kind of understand what are the parts, like you’ve got a director, you’ve got to produce a, you’ve got actors. So for me, I think things will, we’ll have, like a chance of reproducing itself, if I can share the tools of how I made something, and then others can go and make, like an event similar to this or, and, and that helps me because if other people are experimenting somewhere else with the tools, they can always feedback and, and like, let me know, ways it could be better. So, so yeah, that’s my, my idea is not to have everything nested under my projects, but to facilitate other people’s projects. So they could grow. And, like that feeds back, it goes back to the ecology of care, but on project levels. Um, so yeah, so that’s kind of the Yeah, the approach.

Bill 28:49
I love the way you frame that, it’s something that I think I’ve I’ve seen a lot of in the meditation world is a real focus on the self, perhaps too much focus on the self, because it is driven by a need to do that stages, you go on a retreat, and you have to work on yourself in that context. And, you know, Buddha said, no one can work out your problems for you, it’s all on you. And you know, you’ve kind of got to put the work in and, and, and, you know, blast through and transcend and that there’s so much of that dialogue in in Buddhism and, and the meditation and new age and yoga world, you know, that that, that the community gets lost, and it all becomes all about the individual and you know, attaining that perfect yoga pose or whatever stage of enlightenment you think you’ve reached.

James Kite 29:53
Yeah, I think I think it’s at least it’s kind of have been easy for me to be a bit forgiving in these contexts. Because once you understand the socio economic factors that are playing, like, economically, it’s better to be a guru than to give the tools out. Because economically, I can exploit people and they can pay me if I have all the answers. Or if I yeah, or even before that, right, in order to sell something to an organisation or corporate organisation, you have to speak in the terms of that’s going to yield return on investment. Right. So So all of that kind of work, where we’re in a context. So that context kind of shapes the ways in which we interpretate whatever tool we come across. So yeah. So it’s kind of, it’s kind of humorous to laugh at it, but it’s almost inevitable to see how, like, that’s going to be interpreted, you know? Yeah. And it’s Yeah, it’s a really fascinating game of how do we play within this context, but not succumb to the context? It’s that it? For me, it’s gonna go on? Oh,

Bill 31:10
yeah. Yeah, yeah. And even when there’s no money involved, I mean, I’m a kind of product of the going tradition in lots of ways in terms of my meditation background, and that there is basically no money in that they keep it clean. You know, it’s donation only you can only donate if you’ve done a course. And so they’ve really managed, they’ve been really successful. And that, that aspect of it. Yeah. That beds, still it kind of, to my mind really suffers from that. atomization of people into kind of meditation

James Kite 31:48
units. Yeah, I’d be interested to find out. How do you Why do you think why do you think it perpetuates itself? Even without like the explicit, like monetary exchange?

Bill 32:01
Why do I think the going for institution has been successful? Do you mean?

James Kite 32:06
Or like, the shortcomings as well?

of like, yeah, how do we reproduce the same kind of traits of a monetary system, even when we’re not using money at times? that that kind of fascinates me? Huh?

Bill 32:24
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s been successful because it works. On a basic level, that kind of meditation done in a high dose in a short space of time, like that. has generally incredibly powerful positive effects. Yeah. And people come out of it, and they’re just like, wow, that was the most life changing thing I’ve ever experienced. Take my money. Yeah. on that level, you know, it works. It it still. Yeah, I mean, the downsides are, it’s it’s a huge institution with that gets very set in its ways. And that’s kind of the nature of big institutions.

Jasmine 33:02
I think what’s also like, as you said, though, like, if they didn’t give value, they know would come back, you know. And when someone has gifted you with a gift, it’s almost like, you just want to give them something back to like, just our search to show appreciation. So I think it just comes from that basic human fundamental of when we feel like we’ve been treated really well. We want to reciprocate in some way.

Bill 33:35
Yeah, and that was the basis for all human exchange until just a couple of thousand years ago, there was no money. Exactly. It was all based on gifts. And I owe us for millennia.

Jasmine 33:47
Yeah. And actually, more recently, I’ve been skill sharing with people. So I know that a lot of people have had changes in like circumstances, or their work situations that they might have a bit more time. And so I’ve been mentoring quite a few people in exchange for their maybe their skills in a particular area, which I can’t otherwise get. And that has been so wonderful how it’s happened organically. I think there’s been like, at least 10 different exchanges. And there’s also some of my friends, I have

two friends who

I know from good stead.com and it’s basically a volunteering platform where people can put up challenges. They’ve extended it now to just anyone. It used to be specifically for social enterprises to put up challenges. asking people for their help from like brainstorming to physical work or advisory related but They have been so successful actually during lockdown, because there are a lot of people who want to volunteer. And I’ve done a few myself, for example, one was writing a lesson to an elderly person, so they wouldn’t be lonely. And that really facilitates I think, community building as well. And I’ve got a few challenges for a new project that I’ve been working on. Which is like a self self love journey, in the process of love letters. And so many people have actually volunteered to help in specific realms that I’ve needed from video editing, to illustration to branding. It’s been incredible.

James Kite 35:51
Wow. Yeah, please share that. That organisation, I’ll, I’ll dig up the show notes as well. Yeah, cuz I think a big a big part of kind of like, the challenge that I’m finding is also developing kind of

authentic, collaborative relations.

Like they’re not too contrived, like being able to have people on similar wavelength who want to collaborate, and really delve into, like the projects, rather than, like someone being a guest, or me communicating something to someone like, I kind of love the idea of kind of getting allies, right. Like people who we can work together, develop things and then go out into the world and, like, yeah, kickstart projects. Yeah, I think, I know, it’s that like a podcast format. But I’d love to hear the projects that you and Jasmine, are exploring. And yeah, I mean, what are the

Jasmine 36:56
limited to it’s not limited this kind of like how we’ve structured the weekend. podcast, okay. We’ve just, it’s not so formal as it is just more conversational. But because he were, it was so interesting, some of the things you were saying. It became, I guess, more q&a.

Do you want to go back?

Bill 37:20
Yeah, I mean, my I’m mostly awake in podcasts is the is the one kind of key project for me, I guess. Otherwise, I’m doing some collaborative music stuff online with last year, I worked on this amazing music app called Endlesss, which is kind of a collaborative platform. And I’m making music with with friends around the world on that. I’m putting an album together. I am learning. The moment I’ve got this ambition. I don’t know how far I’m going to realise it, but to learn like 3d stuff for the web, okay. I also pick up my keyboard skills. So you know, bits and bobs like that nice. Otherwise, my day job takes all my cognitive load. And by the end of the day sounds like a good healthy day job is an interesting once it’s kind of another collaborative platform. Okay, people used to put on virtual events. So I’m, I’m a designer working on that. And it’s great fun, there’s loads loads to do, but it’s a really, really cool platform to be working on.

James Kite 38:34
That sounds like a nice very,

Jasmine 38:37
actually, Bill, can you share a bit more about endler? I think actually, James would be interested in

Bill 38:43
Endlesss. Endlesss is amazing. It’s the brainchild of a guy called Tim Shaw – stage name Tim Exile, who had a kind of maybe a decade or so in the music industry as

James Kite 39:00
blue in exile is one of the album’s I think he’s done now. Is he like a music person?

Bill 39:06
Yeah, it could be he was a drum and bass guy back in okay. He was on leaving shadow records.

Anyhow, he got into he got into live improv and he toured the world as a as a Yeah. Electronic improvising musician, with this incredible rig that he built. And the Endlesss platform is kind of his his him and friends and myself for a while work to kind of get this interface into

iPhone screen and make it a kind of multiplayer collaborative thing. So Wow, is now available now in the App Store. Coming soon to desktop, they just had an amazing Kickstarter that smashed all their expectations. So yeah, That’s a really fun thing I recommend having a play. Well, we’ll stick a link in the show notes, folks.