We are in a crisis beyond imaging. Many have chosen to ignore it. That is one way. Denial and continuing on as if nothing is wrong or even resisting seeing anything wrong in the first place, is one way. This kind of pretense is temporary as it doesn’t stop the collapse from coming, though people will be surprised by it when it becomes impossible to deny. These people will be victims.
Others recognize that collapse is coming, and they are fighting – tooth and nail – to prevent it. These people have picked strategic points, places of leverage where a change could make a difference and they are pushing and fighting to shift that lever. That is the second way. These people are marching, lobbying, writing, and organizing to shift those levers that they see can make a difference. They are warriors.
The truth is that nothing has worked. We are toast. Or at least our way of life is toast, so the next questions is, what are we going to do about the end of the world as we know it?
Real change is not someone else’s job. Real change starts with us – you & me, becoming different. Some of that difference is easy to see, but most of the iceberg is underwater and invisible, and that’s what must change. Change this deep is a non-linear process.
What do I mean by that? Here’s an example: You can stop buying cars, and not buy either gasoline or electric, in an effort to do less damage. That is a linear approach to change. An action is being taken that has a direct impact on the problem and it is clear to see. It is preventing harm, but it is not building a new way. What if instead of wheels we used air, so streets were not needed? Maybe that would begin to bring forth a new world.
Non-linear change is change that opens new doors to places we have never been and that we can’t see or predict. Just as being nice to BIPOC folks is a linear change. Dropping any feelings of superiority is a deeper, non-linear change. That shift from helping them to working with them is exactly the shift we need to make as we deal with collapse. We need to move from living on the Earth to living with the Earth. This is the Third Way. We need to shift from the illusion of power over. Even the illusion of helping is often a power over approach, especially when we are the ones with the answer. To achieve success, we need to leave any intention of creating change, and move to discovering the joy in partnership as we co-create together with the Earth. This is not something we can know before hand; it is something that will come into being through relationship. The move from being for, to one of being with is profound. It is a non-linear change. It shifts our energy from resistance to nurturing. WE change as we make change, this is the Third Way. These people are makers, creating a new world as they live.
None of us act independently, we act together, we need others to be effective. We listen, we take into account the wisdom and needs of others, and we act accordingly. This is slow change at the beginning, as we learn to know one another. It is predicated on a commitment to relationship – to LIFE – not just the human side of the relationship. It is not human centric – even when humans are involved. It is LIFE centric in every act, no matter who is involved. It requires trust in all the participants – not blind faith. We need to trust the Earth as well as each other. We need to learn to trust ourselves, as well. This is the Third Way.
Trust is not easy to come by. It is not only given but created. Trust requires the courage to ask hard questions, hear the answers, and acting accordingly, in ways that nurture the relationship. It is not about winning or losing. Trust is about understanding and knowing, knowledge gain through experience by experiment. Knowledge gained through curiosity and inquiry, learned by asking difficult questions, withholding judgement, and having patience. Nature is the only thing that is truly trustworthy. Every action is designed to support and nurture life. If we want to live, there is no better teacher.
In building a mutually nurturing relationship, all parties must thrive – not all at the same time nor in the same way. Judgement changes to discernment as the question of right or wrong changes to life enhancing – or not. Owning the challenges of being able to see clearly require being willing to ask, and ask again, to gain that clarity. Relationship is all about asking/listening – it is all about dialogue. Right relationship works to ensure that all parties in the relationship thrive.
How do we learn to listen to each other? How do we listen to the Earth? What is being asked of us? What are we being called to do? In any relationship each party has needs, each party has gifts. The Earth has needs, the Earth has gifts. We have needs and we have gifts. What is the Earth asking of us?
Our Earth, what we see all around us, is an expression of LIFE. LIFE loves life! Life is fierce in its commitment to continuing. Earth has been experimenting with how to do that for over 3,900 million years. She’s practiced a lot. Brian Swimm, Thomas Berry, Connie Barlow, Michael Dowd as have so many saints, have been sharing their awe of her wisdom and skill. Fritjof Capra, Andreas Weber, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, among others, have been doing the same. The indigenous voice has only told that story. We are just beginning to listen. We are the youngest species; other life forms have way more experience at it than us. Other life forms keep their agreement with life, the Prime Directive – all actions are to create the conditions that support more life, we do not.
I call this listening, gaining Planetary Consciousness. Planetary Consciousness means that the goal of LIFE to thrive, becomes ours. Planetary Consciousness means that we become partners with LIFE, playing the same game by the same rules, becoming giddy as we see LIFE burst out all around us. We have been seeking the answers to Earth’s problems by asking each other. We have refused to ask her, and we have refused to listen – even when she’s yelled at us – as she’s doing now. She is the expert on LIFE – as are so many other life forms on this planet. Life forms that have been here and practicing at living far longer than we have. We are Johnny come lately’s, yet we only listen to our own voice, and we even do that, poorly.
Earth’s values are designed for resilience (an intent of Earth’s). Ours have been focused on protection (lack of trust), or on winning (success). Ours are focused on human needs and desires, choosing domination because we don’t trust. Choosing success, defined as bigger and better, over right relationship as we take what we want, using future resources now, and denying their use to other life forms on the planet. In Africa the laying down of roads is destroying migratory patterns and killing wildlife. Our needs appear to be greater than theirs, yet with their death – we die.
What is undeniable, is you can’t trust if you are not trustworthy. The indigenous have never understood us – we say one thing and do another, we deny ourselves and blame others, we don’t take responsibility for our own actions. We waste. We know we are fakes, and we cover it up instead of admitting it and changing our ways, so how can we be trusted? We also know this about ourselves, so we don’t trust our own selves. Honesty and self-forgiveness are a big part of the path forward.
Everything on this planet is an expression of LIFE. Everything. We acknowledge that when we say, “We are one,” or when we say “God dwells within us a us.” We mean it when we say, “Each of us is a speck of the Divine.” We know the truth! If everything is sacred, because everything has a spark of the Divine, why don’t we treat everything as scared? How can we pollute? Self-deception is one of our biggest challenges. The collusion we all participate in that we are good people, doing our best, allows us to deceive ourselves and perpetuate that illusion, this is another massive challenge we face, preventing us from making the changes we need to make.
The gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands will not get us out of this. The answers are here, the Earth is waiting with open arms, if we will just come home. Our resistance to Earth has made us long for home. We believe in the illusion that ‘home’ is out there, somewhere. But HOME is here, right under out feet. Be curious, be courageous, and ask stupid questions, mull things over and become skilled in self-reflection. Earth Values offer insights into the patterns of LIFE. Patterns we can begin to discern, patterns we can nurture and replicate. Patterns we can emulate and curate.
What do I mean by Earth Values? They are not wild and crazy, but they are immutable – they cannot be broken. We are where we are because we broke them. Our sense of safety is a thing we call stability. Nature calls stability death. In the real-world everything changes – all of the time. Instead of designing for similarity and stability we need to design for resilience and diversity, two Earth Values. Instead of NO change, we need to embrace dynamic stability where there are ranges to boundaries, instead of barriers, another Earth Value.
Take the Prime Directive (an Earth Value), all actions create the conditions that support life. That provides a path that anyone and everyone can walk. How do YOU create conditions for life? What around you is thriving? Your family? Your garden? Your worms, bees and butterflys? Your soil? All of these are in your control. YOU can make a difference in each one of these. Can you get over being concerned about your image and stop making things ‘look good’ and make them actually thrive instead? Can you shift from feeling powerless and useless to noticing the difference you can make?
As we shift into managing the integrity of the process of right relationship (an Earth Value), new opportunities will open that we have been too blind to see. We will begin to realize our own gifts and honor our needs as we recognize the gifts of others and honor their needs. This is the future. We will live in gratitude by recognizing that abundance is not about having it all, or having more, it is in having enough. The Earth knows, listen.
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.
A friend asked me this question. What is real and true about this country? There was a small group of us. One member of the group suggested it was our land. We have a beautiful country and surely nature is waiting to refresh and regenerate and our land will bloom again. And this is true.
My answer is the graphic above. The spiral is the heart of our country. We were founded to be something special, something different. That is what we were, at the time. No one had seen an experiment in governance like the one we created with the help of the Iroquois Nation. Our constitution was modeled, in part, from the Iroquois Constitution, also known as the Great Law of Peace. The spiral is an important Iroquois symbol. It shines at the heart of our nation too. The butterflies and the new experiments coming into being as the imaginal cells that organize the goo of the old caterpillar begin to re –enchant the contents of the chrysalis and create the vibrant and spectacular butterfly of the future.
We are in a liminal time, neither here nor there. We are seeing a new flag at the current presidents rallies so perhaps it is time for a new symbolic representative of the new world that is being released in to birth as we speak. All systems are sensitive to the initial conditions with which they start. Each experiment is the very best it can be, at the time. Over time the cracks of the original dissonance start to show. Those cracks are the seeds of the new experiment as the evolution that is learning takes note and does it differently this time.
We do not know what will be birthed. Just as the seeds of this systems destruction were sown centuries ago so the seeds of this new birth were sown long ago. We know much more now than we did then. We have learned from our own experience and from the experiments of others. We are much more cognizant of nature and much more willing to learn from her. This is not a time to ‘go back’ but a time to move richly forward integrating new and old wisdom. For the first time in centuries we have discovered our home, the planet Earth, and now we see it for the first time.
Another member of group offered up that we are kind. May it be so.
In times of difficulty sometimes things take on new meaning. In my Spiritual Practices class I was struck by a new understanding of hospitality. When things get difficult and scary, when things don’t seem to be going my way the need for hospitality just increases. In times of strife hospitality can be expressed by giving people, (the ‘other’ side), the benefit of the doubt.
Nothing can be harder when I cannot imagine how ‘they’ can think that. Nothing can be harder when I know ‘they’ have got it all wrong. Nothing can be harder when I have to wonder ‘how dare they.’ But I’m sure that if I bring curiosity into the situation and wonder, instead of declaring, then perhaps I can be more hospitable to those who seem to think differently.
We are all such unique individuals. The process of individuation by which we learn and understand what makes us not only special but valuable to others can get lost in the individualism that sees ‘me’ as the only important being. In truth, the interconnectedness that this time has made so clear, offers up the importance of the uniqueness of each of us that is manifested in the interdependence that makes our lives.
Sometimes that very interdependence, that being needed, can be felt as restrictive, because interconnection requires small ‘sacrifices’ of self in order to work together. When that feeling of being restricted prompts people to distance themselves from others instead of reaching out in curiosity, then the circle of interdependence gets broken.
Now is the time for me to practice genuine hospitality, to give others the benefit of the doubt. I need to trust they have the same goals even if they approach the situation differently. I need to appreciate being needed and not run from the demands that makes on me. I need to make strengthening that interconnectedness my service. I need to open myself and extend that hospitality to others.
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!