Spiritual Civilization: Personal Stories: Ivan Tse

In May I started a conversation by talking a little bit about my own spiritual journey and how it coincided with the involvement of my work with the foundation. Around that time I shared that I had taken up yoga and something about the practice unlocked this memory within me.

So around this time when I took up yoga and I was supported by some great teachers, I was telling Caroline yesterday, that I had this Indian yoga teacher who told me that yoga is the science of awakening. And, along with that, is curiosity and also a greater understanding of my own cultural heritage, working in China, eastern thinking. I started to begin to trust my spiritual side more and more. And so what do I mean by that? Well, this is the way I explain it: we have a physical body, which excels in excellence through, let’s say, speed and strength. We have a mental body, which has tools like our logic, our reasoning, our memory. Then the spiritual body, which operates primarily through intuition, and insight, and inspiration. To get to that space requires establishing a different kind of relationship with our ego. I think it is reassuring for all us to know that the ego never goes away, right. I mean it is always there and you need a healthy ego to navigate life. But it is more about not letting your ego dominate, domineer, stand in the way, so it moves into a difficult position in life, from the driver to a back seat passenger. He is always there, the ego, so I can always check in with it to see what it would say, what it thinks. But I am also free to consider it at a distance so, you know, it may decide not to follow what I think. And these days I can honestly say I think 90% of the time I follow my intuition. And that has been a process, my intuition picks up a lot of things that my rational mind cannot process. And so if my ego and my rational mind is in the backseat well, how do I make decisions? Well, that is where inspiration comes in. You get lots of feedback and then you sort of wait, you are patient, you look at things, and when things feel right and you feel inspired to move usually that is a good sign.

This process took about five to six years when I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s and I remember it being a kind of tug of war because it is really hard to trust your intuition. And, but fortunately your intuition usually has a pretty good track record and so, you know, there are times when you figure, “Well, how do I know this information, and should I trust it?” or, “How can I justify acting on it because I don’t feel comfortable given the way I normally like to make decisions?” But then of course if you have a few successes then slowly that is more towards trusting at the moment. But it has also now given me a kind of wisdom that if I think that I feel I’m in a situation that is particularly hard or seems stuck, I have greater patience in my ability to wait it out. I think that there must be another way. If it feels this though it is probably not right. And I am open to another solution or another path opening up. How has this influenced my work? Well, I think, obviously you see, I see more clearly. I see a lot more. And, of course, given the perspective that we all have I think really conscious of the fact that the world that we live in, in some ways, no longer works the way it should. You know, we are starting to question the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings of the last three, 400 years and sort of this modern industrial society that we created.

And I think those of us with a good heart and good minds are doing what we can. In a lot of ways we are doubling down on our efforts. Even if on some level we know that is not enough, but we are using the same thinking mindset that brought us to this situation in the first place. And so this mind that we have, of course, is a bit like a laser. It is very precise, it can point in many directions, but has difficulty grasping the whole. And the heart, amazingly, is a little bit similar in this sense. “I love this.” “I feel this way.” It’s still sort of a dualistic diametric. So I believe that in the quest for holistic ̈approach, you hear that trend a lot, only the soul can unify and find meaning and connect all the dots that are there to be connected, and to move, you know, as collectively from here to also here. It was at one of these gatherings where someone asked me whether I thought a spiritual civilization was an eco-civilization. Are they one in the same? And I think I might have said that a real eco-civilization would be a spiritual civilization, but now perhaps thinking about it a little bit more I think they are the same thing. And so there is a way in which my thinking continues to change and develop as well.


Ivan Tse is the founder and Managing Director of Global Friends, a bellwether social enterprise working to ensure that individuals, communities, and governance organizations have the tools and the resilience to navigate our rapidly changing modern world. Global Friends is working to build a healthy, vibrant global space defined by new norms including personal freedom, individual responsibility, cultural literacy, and a low carbon economy. Ivan also serves as President of Hong Kong’s TSE Foundation, a charitable organization started by his late grandfather, Joseph Tse. The Foundation has funded a broad range of initiatives including those pertaining to education, the environment, the elderly, and the modernization of China. Under Ivan’s leadership the TSE Foundation recently undertook a process of strategic change, deepening its commitment to China and to extending human horizons.

Now based in Hong Kong, Ivan has also called New York City, London, and Amsterdam home in recent years. He holds a B.A. from Boston College and M.A. from London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture. An entrepreneur, he is the founder of We Are Beauty, which offers spiritual development programs and guided journeys towards greater self-awareness and life mastery.