I’d like you suspend belief for a few minutes and go with here. I want to offer a thought experiment and get your response. Most people in this country, and everyone with a Christian background of any sort, knows the story about the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve and the apple. This story has been told and retold for centuries. For me that suggests that it is important, it carries a message that has had meaning and relevance for hundreds of thousands of people. That said, there have been hundreds of books written about what it means. I would dare to say that our Western culture has been created in response to how some people understand this story.
Most of the time this is seen as a gender story, the innocent Adam seduced by his tempted ‘wife’ Eve. Much has been made about the ‘fate’ of humanity, based on the actions of one woman. I’ve been more concerned about the ‘tree.’ The tree of knowledge? The tree of????? The apple is said to have given the knowledge of good and evil, hummmm. I’ve pondered that for years. Good and evil have been philosophical hot beds of controversy for centuries. What is good and what is bad? I get the jist, but the words were far from clear, and that ambiguity gives folks lots of room for propaganda.
There’s another story that comes from this one, the gift of ‘free will.’ Humans, they say, have the ability to ‘freely’ decide what they do. We have choice. We call this free will. Some brain science suggests otherwise, but most people feel that they are free to decide. So, what did ‘Adam’ decide? What was the choice made by these ‘first people’ that has had such a devastating effect on our world, ever since? Remember, this story was written thousands of years ago.
So, imagine with me for a moment that the choice was to ‘just take care of ourselves’ that we are separate and independent, so we can look after ourselves and we don’t need to think about others, or other living things, we have the ‘right?” the ability, to handle it ourselves. When I look at the root cause of all our troubles, they seem to stem from our illusion that we are separate, and therefore condemned to care for ourselves AND not obligated to care for others AND others are not obligated to for us. The ‘apple’ Adam ate was the apple of separation. Perhaps it was under the frame of ‘freedom’ or ‘independence,’ but no matter the rationalization, the effect was the same. We shifted our focus from LIFE to HUMANS, and we have sacrificed other living being to our needs and desires ever since. Taking care of ourselves is a scary proposition, and fear seems to be almost foundational. Separation runs deep!
Part of this thinking comes from my understanding of how our planet has been for thousands and thousands of years. Indigenous folks have always tended the plant life around them and worked with nature, and in so doing created a garden that flourished and thrived. I do not believe that much of our planet has been untended. Just because WE don’t tend it, doesn’t mean it has always been that way. Take our continent, the USA. When Columbus came, what did they see? Huge trees, rich soil, incredible natural riches, riches that had been stewarded by the indigenous folks who lived here that we called Indians. He was so blind that he could not imagine these ‘savages’ had the knowledge and skills to create such wealth, but they did.
Now science is telling us just how connected we are. Dr. Zack Morton Bush, an endocrinologist focusing on the microbiome, says that we have over 30,000 individual species living in us, doing their own thing, but in doing so they give us life. We cannot live without them. The mitochondria, which we once thought were a part of our cells, we now know are separate entities. They have the gift of being able to convert sunlight into energy. That is where our energy comes from. They are in every living cell in our bodies. They came from the soil, and they need the soil to thrive.
Putting your hands in the soil is a great mood enhancer, this is even backed by science. The Earth needs us, and we need it! There is no such thing as separation, that is an illusion! That need is what is called reciprocity. Back to the garden again. What would your life look like if you lived in reciprocity with your family? How about with your neighbors? Then, think a bit more deeply and think about being in reciprocity with the non-humans in your environment. Noticing the gifts, you are being given, and giving back in appreciation…what a wonderful way to live. How rich those relationships become, and how wonderful to know you are never alone. Welcome back to the garden.
So sorry folks, but the ‘people’ are any wiser or emotionally healthy than the ‘elites’ and maybe quite at bit less educated, so no I don’t trust the ‘people’ to make any better decisions than anyone else. Given the choice of a ‘strong’ man for president, one who had only his own interest at heart, one who made it ‘OK’ to be misogynistic and colonialistic, I don’t see enough wisdom and compassion there to be trustworthy.
I get it! It’s frustrating to feel left behind, to feel voiceless (hey, I’m a woman after all) but the utter lack of compassion and empathy will simply not work, in the long run, no matter who is professing such behavior. From a systems perspective bottoms can look up and see what’s not working and how things might be structured differently – something tops can rarely see on their own but seeing something as not working and doing something about it are two different things.
Discernment is something that seems to come with age. Some people are old from the beginning and I believe discernment can be taught, but it’s a rare commodity. Religion, philosophy, and education of all kinds have tried to teach it without much success. Instead of taking agency we seem to choose obedience even though it’s been proven time and time again that obedience doesn’t work. The army has a term for that ‘malicious compliance.’ That’s what you do to get back at officialdom when they discipline you for ‘breaking’ the rules that aren’t working in the first place.
We often can see what’s not working but knowing how to fix it is another story altogether. The Greeks chose philosophy as the method for discernment, and while useful, that hasn’t gotten us very far either. Understanding the ‘other’ is always a barrier to both respect and caring. Intuiting the experience of someone else is an unusual skill indeed and one few have and few even see as needed. We expect everyone to ‘be like us.’
A big part of living a long life, I believe, is learning about people and being able to see things from another’s perspective. Still the wide variety in human understanding and creativity has led me to believe that you just never really know what someone else is going to think or how they will understand the same experience we both just had. The key, I think, is openness.
Systems thinking suggests that all living systems determine who they are by the boundaries they create. As babies we are constantly trying to decipher who we are and who our parents think we are or want us to be. As we get older society and our friends become the sources of new perspectives about who we might be. One of the insights from this kind of thinking is that there is actually a relationship between an entity and its environment. There is an openness that allows for ‘fit.’ For some, and for others as they age, keeping that relationship fluid is more difficult. For me, a Scorpio – a fixed sign, I’ve learned to keep my boundaries open through curiosity and a strong desire to learn. I’ve also learned to NOT make decisions. Once I’ve decided, I’m quite unmovable, or said another way, moving is painful. I simply take the action that seems best under the circumstances and so far, that’s worked well.
Ah discernment, what works well? How do you know? I’ve spent over 70 years trying to understand how I know that, and it was only in looking at the Earth and nature that I got it. The yardstick I use to measure is life. What brings, allows, engenders the most life into any situation is a good measure of its long-term success. It also is a step into the kind of world I want to live in – one where life is joyous, vibrant and robust!
Things are bad, no work, businesses closing, unemployment insurance is not long enough to meet the need, nothing’s working right, and on it goes, and all of this is true. Lack and scarcity stimulates fear, self-protection, defensiveness, and withholding, these things are not true and not even necessary. We are so used to thinking this way we seldom question not only the veracity, but the usefulness.
Things DO ebb and flow, things come and go, things die and are reborn, this understanding of cycles is a good prospective to hold as we watch things change. Holding on to what we have known and experienced as ‘the way it is’ just makes the natural changes we are experiencing more painful. It is the resistance to the power of flow that often causes pain.
This is a lesson I learned in childbirth. My third birth was natural. As I paid attention to my body it was clear to me that me resistance to the contractions only made it hurt more. My body understood what it was doing and it was moving fiercely. When I was able to detach enough to be in awe and wonder, then I was able to partner with my body in helping it do what it needed to do, and pain disappeared. I became so focused in syncing to the rhythm that my mind/attention had no room for pain.
In order to partner with the contractions of a dying/regenerating society we need to understand the birthing contractions for what they are. As the contractions increase and the only home known begins to disintegrate can you imagine the thoughts of the fetus at that time? Hope and joy or fear and dread? We are all fetuses at this time. We watch in…fear and dread or hope and curiosity? to see what will the future bring.
Focusing on the horribleness of our current reality and resisting what we see is characteristic of a society in collapse. But the other truth – the hidden truth is that when we only see what is happening we lose sight of the future. This myopic vision cannot prevent the cycle from happening, but it does prevent us from seeing and partnering with the new vision, the new possibilities reaching out – asking to be born. Without conscious partnership that new future can be still born, as it has been in the past. Our chance now is to change that.
What if, what if, lack is really a change in flow? If we hold that view, then the task becomes one of managing the flow. Taking a page from permaculture what happens if we look at the land, the culture, the community, the market to see how it lies, what are the hills and valleys through which flows happens, or doesn’t? What can we do to partner with that geography to allow flow to happen instead of impeding it?
Let those old structures, habits, ways of being fall knowing they are not working and instead seek to understand what needs to happen to manage the flow that does exist to materialize more fully. If the flow of one thing is drying up then what is the flow that can replace it? How can we partner with the new to support its vibrant existence? Nature is continually moving and gently shifting things until resistance is met and then that gentleness shifts to one of mighty powerful contractions until the flow is reborn into a new configuration.
We are in the ‘end times’ when nature seeks to destroy the old un-useful structures and shift the flow to address the new dynamics that are arising. Our job is to let her do what she needs to do OR help her manage those dynamics by paying attention. We can do this! WE can do this! Never before have we know enough to be able to know what to pay attention to – now we do. Partner with each other and mimic nature, simple really, but there’s no place for fear. If we can shift lack, scarcity, fear, self-protection, defensiveness, and withholding into flow, change curiosity, self-care and partnership we will make it through to a new and yes, very different future. It may not be the future we are holding in our heads, but if we see, instead of resist it may, just may be better!
I’m motivated to do whatever I can to get us through this planetary shift in the best possible way! That’s why I’m doing training on what it means to be ‘regenerative’ and what can we do to help others get on board. I’m quite excited about the new training and there will be a couple of webinars in January to go over that in more detail – so keep tuned.
Knowing about the earth and how to keep her healthy is one thing, but being or becoming adaptable – open to change, is quite another. That is why I chose to get certified in AQai, an assessment that shines alight on what it means to be adaptable and how you can actually improve your ability to move easily through crisis and change.
One key aspect is Grit. Grit is the purpose you cling to when the going gets rough. What really motivates you. I think being clear on that is vital, especially when our culture trains us to think that either money or family is really the purpose of life. Where do you stand on these two? How big are they for you?
We all know about greed, but scarcity can also be a driver for money over life. So much of the scarcity we experience is artificial. The underlying belief that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps plays into a justification for policies in both governance and finance that ensure scarcity. What is ugly about scarcity is that it engenders fear. Fear mobilizes our Amygdala and stimulates cortisol, diminishing our ability to either think deeply or learn.
If we are to get through this with anything even approaching style fear won’t do it. So what is Grit to you? What is YOUR motivating force? Fear works against being regenerative as it triggers survival angst and works against serving or helping others.
How about family? More importantly how about YOUR family? Are they nurturing or dismissive? Are they supportive or disparaging? Are they… you get the picture. Love them? Sure, but being very tightly tied to something that evaporates any desire to live of any feelings of self-confidence might no be the best strategy if you want to thrive and if you what to help the planet thrive.
What is underneath everything for you? What gives you joy at being alive? What makes LIFE meaningful, robust and vital? Answer that and you are on your way to being strong enough, flexible enough to find your path through this mess.
If you are interested in taking the AQai Assessment or in learning more about the Resilience Coaching and Regenerative Coach Training please get in touch.
Kathryn Alexander, MA
Regenerative approaches require a deep integration with nature. Collaboration requires different structures and ways of working together. If we want different results we have to do things differently! Living regeneratively - living with nature brings forth our spiritual capacities as we act so all life thrives.