John Seed: I am part of the rainforest protecting myself

I am part of the rainforest protecting itself

– John Seed

It may seem altruistic to protect nature. For me, it’s self-preservation.

ASSUMPTION OF A DIVIDE

If I see a strong divide between me and nature, then nature can easily be seen primarily as a source of resources, a place to put waste, and a place to occasionally enjoy. If I do something to protect nature, it’s altruistic and often a bit peripheral. It’s a nice thing to do but not terribly important.

INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF ALL LIFE

If I realize the interconnectedness of all life, then I recognize – in a more visceral way – that my own well-being and my own life is utterly and intrinsically dependent on the health and existence of the larger ecosystems and this living planet I am part of. Here, protecting nature becomes self-preservation. I am dependent on the health and vibrancy of nature locally, regionally, and globally.

I AM NATURE PROTECTING ITSELF

I can also go one step further and recognize that I am nature protecting itself. I am a part of this living evolving system protecting itself. I am a separate self, and more fundamentally I am a temporary and local expression of this larger living and evolving system. I am a temporary and local expression of the living and evolving Earth. I am a temporary and local expression of the evolving universe and all of existence.

GETTING IT MORE VISCERALLY

Getting this more viscerally is a big and important shift. It brings us more in alignment with reality. It gives grounding. It’s nourishing. It makes us less dependent on the more temporary surface experiences and situations.

SYSTEM CHANGE

And, of course, it doesn’t mean I am or need to be “perfect” in terms of my own life. I am also a child of my culture. I am also embedded in our social and cultural systems.

As all of us, I live in an economic and social system that rests on the assumption that humans are somehow separate from nature, that the resources of nature are limitless, and that the ability of nature to absorb waste is equally limitless. We live in a human-created social system where what’s easy and attractive to do is also, in most cases, destructive to nature.

And we have another option. We can create an economic and social system that take our ecological realities into account, and where what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and businesses – supports life and our ecosystems. It’s possible. We can do it. We even know quite a bit about how to do it.

And yet, it does require a profound transformation of our whole civilization – our worldview, philosophy, economics, energy sources, production, transportation, education, and everything else. And that requires a deep collective motivation. Will we find it? Perhaps. But likely not until we are much further into our current ecological crisis. (Which is a socal crisis since all of our human systems are embedded within our ecological systems.)

Priorities & our ecological crisis

We all have priorities, whether we are aware of them or not.

And our life and actions show us our priorities, whether they match what we think they are or not.

OUR COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR IN THE FACE OF OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

At a collective level, it’s clear that our priority is business as usual. We collectively behave as if nothing unusual is happening. We collectively behave as if we are not in the middle of a human-created ecological crisis of enormous consequences. We collectively behave as if the messages from scientists have little to no weight or importance.

Why is that? It may be for many reasons. Most people prioritize day-to-day activities and tasks. Most have a political identity and are reluctant to switch their vote to politicians that take ecological crisis more seriously. We see that others don’t prioritize it, so we assume the situation is not very serious and follow their example. Politicians typically operate within a timeframe of just a few years, not decades and centuries. Many people don’t take things very seriously unless they feel it in their own lives. Some may think we still have enough time, that we are adaptable and will manage. Some also go into denial, dismiss the collective warnings from scientists, and rationalize their dismissal.

WHAT MOTIVATES US TO CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES?

At both individual and collective levels, we continually clarify our priorities, reprioritize, and reorganize our life to align with these new priorities. It happens all the time and mostly in small and almost unnoticeable ways.

Major reprioritizing usually happens first when we viscerally get it as absolutely necessary. It may happen when faced with a serious crisis. When life shows us our situation has dramatically changed, or that we need to face a reality we previously ignored or downplayed.

It happens when life shakes us out of our habitual patterns and priorities.

A MORE REALISTIC SET OF COLLECTIVE PRIORITIES

If we would take our ecological situation seriously, how would that change our priorities? What would a more realistic set of collective priorities look like?

Here is just one example, as it comes to me:

Take a long view on our situation and in politics. Plan for decades and centuries ahead. Make policies where we take into account the interests of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children.

Include the interests of all beings when we make decisions. Our fate is intimately connected, so this is in our own interest. Implement policies that take the interest of all life into account.

Future generations and non-human life are voiceless, so we need to speak for them. Not only for their sake, but for our own. Their fate is intertwined with our own.

If these giving voice to the voiceless was our real priority, it would in itself change a lot and put us on our path to a more sustainable civilization. Taking the big picture in terms of time and ecosystems does a lot. It would ripple into all areas of society, including the economy, philosophy, education, production, transportation, and everything else.

For instance, it would likely lead to assigning advocates for those without a voice – future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems. To give them real power in political and business decisions. To make the rights of future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems law.

It would transform our economic system to take ecological realities into account. Our current economic thinking is a fantasyland where nature is seen as only a resource for humans and a place to put waste, and it assumes an unlimited capacity for both. That fantasy is reflected in our current economic system. These new priorities, if taken seriously, would transform our thinking about the economy and our economic systems to be more grounded in reality, which is something we all would benefit from.

WHAT I AM DOING IN MY LIFE

What I am doing in my own life about this?

I look at my life to see my actual priorities. How do I spend my time? What does that say about my priorities? I take a sober look at this and try to be kind with myself. Being realistic about my real priorities, as reflected in my life and how I spend my time, is the first step and can in itself lead to changes and reprioritization.

I am also in a fortunate situation. I was able to buy a sizeable piece of land in the Andes mountains, and. we are now exploring how to use a small part of it for buildings and food production, and support the rest to rewild and return to a more vibrant and diverse state benefitting innumerable beings.

We are also exploring ways to be a little more self-reliant with the essentials. We are looking into solar energy. We are taking steps to collect and store rainwater and use this for our own use and food production. We may gradually expand food production over time. (In a social crisis, which will likely come as a consequence of the ecological crisis, being more self-reliant will alleviate the burden on the local government and it may also be that they won’t be able to reliably provide basic services to everyone.)

Our local community is our greatest resource, so we are also connecting and creating ties with neighbors. And especially those who are like-minded and those who grow food and know how to make and fix things. Self-reliance and resilience mainly happen at a local and regional community level.

We are preparing for a future where our ecological crisis, and all the social consequences of it, is far more acute and severe. And we are learning and plan on sharing what we learn with anyone interested.

We are also considering creating a small eco-community on the land. We’ll see. We need to get to know the land better first.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to take these kinds of steps, so we are also keeping in mind supporting those less fortunate, in whatever small ways we can.

And this is not because we are very noble. We are very flawed human beings.

This is because we are aware that this is in our own self-interest. It’s in our self-interest to live in a more sustainable way and create ties with our neighbors. It’s in our own interest to support those less fortunate, in the small ways we can, since we all live in the same society.

And in terms of ecology, we all – all beings – share the same collective fate. We are all impacted by the thriving or deterioration of our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

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Mother’s day

It’s mother’s day in some countries today.

We can look at mother in many ways, including literally, as a projection, and metaphorically.

And although much of it may be pretty obvious, it can also help us shift our perspective. We may be able to shift out of habitual views and into views that are more new and fresh to us, and hold them all more lightly.

And that, in itself, is often valuable. 

LITERAL MOTHERS

The most obvious is our own human mothers – whether it’s our biological one or the one(s) who raised us.

Can I find love for my human mother even if she wasn’t perfect?

The more we resolve any issues with our mother and those in our early life, the more we tend to resolve many of the more central issues we have. If you wonder what to find healing for, a good place to start – and end – is your mother and father and anyone important in your early life.

The more we find healing for our relationship with our mother, the more we can find genuine gratitude for her, as she was and is.

Another side to this is that, to us, our mother is as much or more in here as out there. Finding healing for our relationship with our mother (and father) helps us heal parts of ourselves.

MOTHERS ALL THE WAY BACK

There is also the lineage of mothers.

This lineage goes through all our human mothers through the centuries and in many geographical locations, going back to the early human migration(s) from Africa.

It goes back through our non-human humanoid ancestors. The ones that may be somewhat similar to primates today.

It goes back to our non-human and non-primate mammal ancestors. The small ones that lived during the dinosaur era and even further back.

It goes back beyond this, to our non-mammal ancestors. The ones who left the ocean for land, and the ones who lived in the ocean.

It goes back to the very simple organisms that were the pioneer lifeforms in the oceans.

And it goes back to the very first single-celled organism that’s the ancestor of all life today.

All of these are our mothers. They tie us to all Earth life.

Without them, we wouldn’t exist and the amazing living planet we are part of wouldn’t exist.

MOTHER AS A MIRROR

We also have the mother in all of us.

These are the mother qualities of nurturing, understanding, fierce protection, and so on, and also the distorted version of these.

When I see mother qualities in others, whether nurturing or protective or more distorted, can I find it in myself? What stories do I have about my own mother and other mothers? WHat do I find when I turn this story to myself? Can I find specific and genuine examples of how each one is true?

OUR CHILDREN AS OUR MOTHERS

We think of mothers as mothers of children. Is the reverse also true?

Yes, in a sense, our children are our mothers. They are part of making us who we are.

Can I find appreciation and gratitude for this as well? 

MY EXPERIENCES ARE MY MOTHER

At first glance, it may look as if the situations I am in are my mother.

The universe, planet, ecosystem, culture, subcultures, and family I grow up and live in form and shape who I am.

All my experiences – whether I call them small or big – are my mother.

THE WAY I RELATE TO MY EXPERIENCES IS MY MOTHER

When I look more closely, I find something else is more true for me.

It’s the way I relate to my experiences that forms and shapes me and who I am in the world.

The way I relate to my experiences – the way I relate to myself, others, situations, and so on – is my mother.

MOTHER NATURE

Nature is our mother in a very real sense.

Without this living planet, we wouldn’t exist. Every molecule in our bodies comes from the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. All of it comes from the wider ecosystems we are part of.

We are an intrinsic part of this living system and a local expression of this living system.

Our own health and well-being, individually and collectively, is dependent on the health and well-being of our mother, of this living system we call planet Earth. 

MOTHER UNIVERSE

Similarly, the universe is our mother.

All of existence, going back to the beginning of time (if there is any) and stretching out to the widest extent (if there is any boundary), is our mother.

We depend on all of it for our own existence.

Without the whole, just as it is, we wouldn’t be.

WE ARE THE MOTHERS OF EXISTENCE

The reverse is also true here. We are the mothers of the universe.

We bring existence into form and life – locally and through and as our experiences and life.

We are the local expressions of existence as a whole. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

As Meister Eckart said, we are the mothers of God.

CAPACITY AS THE MOTHER OF ALL

There is also the mother of existence, which is what allows it all – as it appears to me – to happen.

When I look at what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience, I find my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me.

I am capacity for any and all experience – whether it’s of this human self, the wider world, or anything else.

This capacity is the mother of the world as it appears to me. 

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13.8 billion years old

It’s my birthday.

How old am I?

Am I the age my passport tells me? In a conventional sense, that’s my age.

Am I the age of this universe, if it really has a beginning? Am I 13.8 billion years old? That’s equally or more valid. Everything I am as a human being is the product of 13.8 billion years of evolution. I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. I am a local expression of what the universe has spent 13.8 billion years to form itself into.

Am I timeless? I can find that too. When I look, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, and what forms itself into my experience of the world – including time and space.

As an individual, I am few decades old. Everything I am – all the dynamics, patterns, and processes I am – are the result of 13.8 billion years of evolution. And I find myself as timeless and capacity for time and all of these stories.

Photo: Crab Nebula (Messier 1), NASA / ESA.

The universal person

As human beings, we have a certain unique flavor.

And it’s also all universal, in several different ways.

Everything in us comes from somewhere else. The innumerable causes of everything we are and experience go back to the beginning of this universe (if there is any) and stretch out to the widest extent of existence.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the local expression of the universe and how it locally brings itself into consciousness.

The world is our mirror. We can take any story we have about anyone or anything, turn it around to ourselves, and find several specific examples of how it’s true for us in the moment and at times in the past.

To us, the world happens within our sense fields. It happens within and as what we are.

There is even a universality to our unique flavor. Every being has a unique flavor. Every being is a slightly different way for the universe to express, explore, and experience itself.

Stewart Brand: This present moment used to be the unimaginable future

We cannot accurately imagine the future for two reasons.

One is that our imagination is made up of mental images and words. These are different in nature from what they refer to. And they are, by necessity, very simplistic while what they refer to is immensely rich and complex. They are as different from what they refer to as a map is different from the terrain.

Our individual and collective lives, and the world and this universe, is so rich and complex we cannot predict the future with any certainty. And much of what happens is something we didn’t and couldn’t have imagined.

This present literally used to be our unimaginable future.

Feeling our connection with all life

When we hear about our connection with all life, or see a video illustrating the evolution of our distant ancestors, do we see it as something interesting and not much more? Or do we feel it?

Do we feel that these are are ancestors? Do we feel that all life is related?

In a practical – and social and political – sense, that makes all the difference.

If our connection with all life remains intellectual for us, it doesn’t do much for us or life.

But if we feel it, if we feel it in our body and bones, that makes a huge difference for us and possibly for all life. That’s when it gets translated into action.

How do we feel the connection with all life?

So how can we shift from knowing to feeling?

One is intention. If our intention is to take it in and feel it, we have a much better chance of doing so.

Another is through combining our knowledge with feeling. When we watch the video above, how is it to take in that these are our actual ancestors? How is it to let it work on us? How is it to feel it?

We can also seek out whatever evokes this feeling, for instance through being in nature with the intention of noticing and feeling our connection with all life. We can also do this through poetry, documentaries, movies, and fiction writing. And we can seek out talks, books, and workshops about deep ecology, deep time, the universe story, and the epic of evolution.

The Practices to Reconnect from Joanna Macy is also a powerful way to bring this alive for us and feeling it more deeply and directly.

For me, watching the Carl Sagan’s Cosmos when I was ten had a profound impact on me in this direction.

Additional ways to open up for feeling our connection with all life

There are also approaches that may seem indirect but deeply support these shifts.

The more comfortable we are in feeling our own sensations and our own body, whatever it is that’s going on there, the more we’ll feel our connection with all life.

The more our heart is open, the more it’s open towards all life. We can open our heart in many ways, including through finding comfort with whatever we are feeling, and heart-centered practices.

We can do inquiry on any of our beliefs that separates us from the rest of life. For instance, that we are a separate being, that humans are inherently different from the rest of life, that’s it’s scary to feel a connection with all of life, that compassion for all life will be overwhelming, and so on.

We can find ourselves as what our experiences – of ourselves and the wider world – happens within and as. Here, we find that the world happens within and as what we are. In our direct experience, the world is one and it always was, we just didn’t notice.

Each of these and many more approaches helps us open to feeling a connection with all life, deepening that feeling, and act on it and bring it into our daily life.

Why is this important?

Knowing about our connection with all life is a start but it’s not enough for real changes in our perception and how we live our life.

The more deeply we feel our connection with all life, the more we act from it. The more we make choices that bring us and society and our civilization one step further in a more ecologically sustainable direction.

Wait a minute, isn’t this mostly about stories?

Yes, some of it is. It’s about stories from science.

When we watch the video above and use it to feel our connection with our ancestors and all life, we use a story to evoke a feeling. We use stories from science to evoke and deepen our feeling of connection with all life. That’s what the universe story and the epic of evolution is all about.

That’s not a problem, it’s just good to be aware that this is what we are doing.

The one thing here that’s not dependent on a story is finding ourselves as what all our experiences – of ourselves and the world – happen within and as. Here, there is an immediate recognition of oneness, and to the extent we take this in, it leads to a transformation of our perception and life in the world.

Feeling and acting our age

I thought I would add a quote from the QI social media feed earlier today.

We aren’t entirely ‘made of stardust’. About 9.5% of the mass of the average human body is made up of hydrogen atoms that are older than the stars, formed in the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

Do I take this as an interesting fact and not much more? How would it be to take it in? To feel it?

How is it to feel that a part of this body and who I am, is made up of matter unchanged since the beginning of this universe? How is it to take in and feel that the rest is matter from the beginning of this universe, transformed in stars?

How would it be to act my age?

The right side of history & the need for deep systemic changes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EIFDSb7tWc&list=WL&index=8

This is perhaps obvious, but worth mentioning.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

The early suffragettes were ignored, ridiculed, attacked, and then won. At least, they won women the right to vote, even if the overall process of equality between the sexes is still ongoing.

WHAT ARE WE IGNORING, RIDICULING, OR ATTACKING TODAY?

So what are people ignoring, ridiculing, or attacking today?

The most obvious is people like Greta Thunberg. She is admired by many, but she also belittled, ridiculed, and attacked by people who don’t see or care about the big picture, and don’t want our civilization to shift and become more ecologically sustainable.

She is smart, her message is sober and grounded in reality (listen to the scientists), and she is getting attention, so of course she will be ridiculed and attacked.

We also see that the very real need for thorough systemic changes is ignored by the media, politicians, many scientists, and most people in general. In order to survive, we need our systems – economic, production, energy, transportation, and so on – to be aligned with ecological realities. It seems obvious, but it requires deep and profound changes in almost all areas of our lives, so most people seem to prefer to ignore it. They pretend this need is not here. They engage in the fantasy that small changes here and there will be sufficient.

It’s likely that as this need for profound systemic changes gains more traction, as it will, then this too will be ridiculed and attacked, until it’s eventually implemented.

What else is ignored, ridiculed, or attacked by the mainstream?

The rights of ecosystems and non-human species are largely ignored, with a few exceptions. There are some laws in place, although many of these are anthropocentric in nature and we use anthropocentric arguments to gain support.

As the idea of the rights of nature gains traction and we see more real-life examples, this too will be ridiculed and attacked. To the extent ecosystems and non-human species get legal rights and real political and legal representation, it will be seen as threatening to some, and they will use this familiar strategy to try to sideline it.

These are some of the large issues that involve Earth as a whole and all life.

There are also some smaller issues. For instance, ESP, reincarnation, and UFOs have been ignored and ridiculed for a while now by mainstream media, science, and much of the general public. As there is more solid research into these phenomena, and to the extent we find that there is something to these phenomena, it’s likely that this too will become more accepted and move into the mainstream.

WHY DO WE IGNORE, RIDICULE, AND ATTACK?

Why do we ignore, ridicule, and attack these ideas and social movements?

It’s easy to ignore. We may not know what’s happening. We may see it as insignificant. We may not think it will amount to anything.

We may ridicule for a few different reasons. It may be an intentional strategy to belittle, shame, and sideline an idea or movement. If we ridicule it, we don’t have to address the substance of the issue, and we may hope that others will hesitate in agreeing and joining.

It can also be a more unconscious reaction. We see something that’s unfamiliar and fringe, so ridiculing it makes us feel more normal and mainstream. The ideas may threaten our own familiar views and habits, and ridiculing allows us to not take a closer look.

The reason we may attack these movements is similar. Some feel that their interests or identities are threatened by the movement, and they see that they are gaining traction, so they attack it.

It’s good to be aware of these dynamics. If we are part of a social change movement, it helps us predict these responses, deal with them, and not be discouraged by it. If we are prone to react in these ways – ignoring, ridiculing, and attacking – it may give us pause and find another way to deal with it.

SOME CAVEATS

When we talk about these topics, it’s good to take a look at some underlying assumptions that may color how we see and approach them.

For a while, we had an idea of inevitable social progress in our culture, and it’s clearly not that simple.

Our ideas about what constitutes “progress” differ between people, eras, and cultures. And no long-term historical trend continues indefinitely.

Also, some social movements are ignored, ridiculed, attacked, and then accepted, and they are not exactly what we want to see if we value human rights, democracy, social justice, sustainability, and so on. The Nazi movement in the 1920s and ’30s Germany one example.

When we talk about the right side of history, we usually mean according to how we see it today. Suffragettes and abolitionists were on the right side of history since we today have voting rights for both sexes, we have abolished slavery, and both conform to our current values. So although I sometimes use the phrase myself, I am also aware it’s a slippery concept.

What will future generations see as outdated?

We collectively have assumptions we take for granted and later generations, with more information and shifting worldviews, see it differently and look at the old views as outdated, misinformed, and slightly primitive.

So which ones may be seen as outdated by future generations? And what will replace it?

We cannot know, of course.

The really interesting ones may be something none or very few are aware of today.

Also, there is a kind of inevitable-progress assumption inherent in the question and how many would answer it, including myself. Who is to say that there will be “progress” as we see it? Especially as we are faced with a major ecological crisis and what it may do to humanity and our civilization.

That aside, what is my guess? What are we collectively “blind” to today? What may future generations see as outdated and perhaps a bit misinformed and primitive?

Some of my guesses:

How we treat animals and nature. Not giving animals, ecosystems, and Earth as a whole a voice in the important decision-making processes and in the legal system. Of course, some humans will have to be appointed to represent them and do so to the best of their ability.

How we treat future generations. Not giving them a voice in decisions that impact them, and not giving them the opportunity to take legal action. Here too, someone will have to be appointed to represent them.

The ecological crisis we are currently in the middle of. Most people are complacent about how it can and will impact humanity, and the deep changes needed to change course.

Our current economic and related systems don’t take ecological realities into account. These systems (energy, production, transportation, etc.) were created at a time when we didn’t need to take ecological realities into account. Now, with a far higher population and more powerful technology, we need to redesign these systems so they function within the limits of nature. They need to be redesigned so what’s easy and attractive to do, for individuals and corporations, is also what benefits Earth, humans, and future generations. It’s fully possible to do so, we “just” need to find the collective motivation to make the change, and Earth is doing its best to give it to us.

Not taking the inevitability of major disruptions more seriously. These include pandemics (very current these days), large meteor impacts, supervolcanos, weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, chemical), and so on.

A science and general worldview that doesn’t acknowledge parapsychological phenomena. This would bring science out of an assumption of strict materialism.

The idea of separation. Seeing ourselves as separate has created a lot of our current problems, so adopting a worldview of interdependence is vital – also for our own survival and well-being.

The reality of and value in awakening. Awakening can be understood in a relatively simple and pragmatic way. (To ourselves, we are consciousness, the world to us happens within and as this consciousness, and awakening is consciousness noticing itself and our “center of gravity” shifting into this.) Awakening can also be studied through research, as is already happening to some extent. I assume this is a topic that will become more mainstream, also in academia.

Not using an integral model more widely for whatever topic we talk about or study. This, obviously, doesn’t have to be the one from Ken Wilber. His is just a start, and already some are developing it further and modifying it so it makes more sense.

How we relate to the commons. All nature and natural resources are the commons – needed for the survival of all beings and parts of Earth including humans. These days, we allow and even admire (!) people who amass resources from the commons far beyond what any person could ever need. I assume this will change. It’s also possible that the idea of ownership will change, especially when it comes to nature and natural resources needed for all life to thrive.

The theme here is a general lack of deep time and big picture thinking, and not going outside of the assumptions of strict materialism. And, of course, this list reflect my own biases.

Note about the Twitter post above: It’s a myth that many or most thought Earth was flat, and if I remember correctly, it comes from an old biography about Columbus.

Carl Sagan: Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light?years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.

– Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

There are many interesting connections between science and spirituality. And it all obviously depends on what we mean by spirituality.

Science inspiring spirituality

Science often inspires spirituality – as we see in deep ecology, the Universe Story, Epic of Evolution, ecopsychology, and different forms of ecospirituality whether outside or inside of existing religions.

The story of the universe, as told by modern science, is our story. It’s the story of how existence formed itself into this evolving universe, this evolving and living Earth, and us. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. And this can be a profoundly meaningful and inspiring story.

It’s not the story of a universe “out there”. It’s the story of our own past and evolution, and how existence as a whole formed itself into who we are as individuals and collectively, our culture and civilization, and our experiences here and now.

In a similar way, science shows us this planet as a seamless living system, how all of us – all beings – share ancestors, and how closely our fates are profoundly intertwined.

Methods of science

The methods of science is common sense set into system.

It’s a set of pointers for how to test out things and make sense of how things work. And it’s a set of pointers for how to think about it in an honest and clear way.

We have an idea of how something works. We try it out and see what happens. We compare notes with others. WE may engage in a more open exploration and see what we find. We get new ideas and pointers and try those out. We record and share our findings. And so on.

We know we cannot know anything for certain. We know that the content of science and what we think we know always change. We know that also goes for our worldviews and most basic assumptions about the world and ourselves. We know that our thoughts, models, and maps are questions about the world.

And that’s something we can apply to whatever we do, including spirituality.

What we are

Science and spirituality are, in essence, about exploring reality.

When we explore what we are to ourselves, we find we are capacity for the world. The world as it appears to us happens within and as what we are.

So whether we take a science approach or a spiritual approach, or use logic or direct perception, we find the same.

Although it does require taking logic to its full conclusion, and following our direct noticing here and now, and setting aside what we have been told we are from society and culture.

Suddenly the impossible is here, and then normal

Most of us probably know this from our own life and history.

Suddenly, the impossible is here, and then it is normal.

When I notice the thought that something is impossible or unlikely, I remind myself I cannot know for certain, and that the seemingly impossible has happened many times in my own life, in society during my lifetime, and throughout human history.

When I grew up, I never thought I would ever live in the US. Before I got a more severe version of CFS, it seemed impossible that I would have an illness I wouldn’t be able to heal from and function well with.

In the ’30s and ’40s, going to the moon belonged to science fiction and fantasy. For many in Germany in the ’20s, Hitler and a fascist regime supported by a large portion of the German population seemed very unlikely or impossible. Even just a few years ago, a president like Trump was unthinkable. For many in 2019, the pandemic of 2020 would have seemed like it belonged to a TV series more than reality. In the 1800s, most of the technology of the 1900s wasn’t even dreamt of. For many today, the likely massive near-future effects of ecological unravelling seems unreal and like a fantasy.

A lot of things seems impossible, or difficult to imagine as real, until it’s here. And then it becomes the new normal.

Our life today, as individuals and society, is made up of what once seemed impossible and now is normal.

Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero

Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero.

– proverb from somewhere in Africa

This is an interesting proverb in several ways.

It reminds us to listen to the story of the ones who haven’t yet told their story. If that’s not possible, for whatever reason, we can at least acknowledge there are other – perhaps equally valid – stories to be told about any situation. And sometimes, we can do our best to imagine what those stories may be.

The proverb also reminds us of our anthropocentrism. We see the world through human eyes, and sometimes ignore the viewpoint of non-human species. We – explicitly or implicitly – assume and live as if the world was created for us, and chose to ignore the myriad of other beings who want the same as us. They want to live. They, in their own way, want to be respected. If they could speak, they would tell us to take their needs into consideration as well.

In a similar way, we tend to prioritize our own needs and wishes over the needs of future generations. We are unable to listen to the voices of future generations since they are not here yet. But we can give them a voice. We can include someone who speaks for them in the decisions we collectively make. We can imagine their needs and wishes. And we can probably imagine these needs and wishes pretty well since they are the universally human ones.

The lion also represents the lion in each of us. The primal power. In our western culture, we have ignored this voice as we have ignored the metaphorical voice and viewpoints of flesh and blood lions and animals in general.

Listening to the voice and viewpoint of lions and animals, future generations, and our inner lions and voices, all go hand in hand.

How would an imagined dialog with the lion go?

Hello.

Hi.

What’s your view on humans?

They are not someone we would normally care much about. But they keep taking our land, and they hunt us for no reason that we can understand. We hunt because we have to eat to survive. They don’t seem to hunt for food. What else than eating can justify killing us?

It seems they brag about killing us. We don’t understand. We hunt because we have to. It’s nothing to brag about.

And they have a way to kill us at a distance. We don’t have a chance. We need to get close to kill, and they won’t allow us to get close. If we got close, and they hadn’t their way of killing us, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

And what about a dialog with the inner lion?

How does P. relate to you?

He likes the rawness and power I have and makes use of it sometimes, but otherwise tends to ignore me. He is cautious about me and has learned, from culture and family, to be cautious and often ignore me.

How do you help him?

I help him feel stronger and more in charge of how he deals with situations. I help him feel more whole. I help him get things done. He feels more whole, embodied, and alive when he taps into me.

What advice do you have for him?

You don’t need to be so cautious with me. Tap into me and bring me into your daily life more often. I can be with you more constantly, and you’ll feel stronger, grounded, and alive, and it will help you be more real with yourself, others, and life.

Footnote: It seems that giving children and students the task of writing stories from the normally voiceless – animals, plants, future generations, ecosystems, Gaia and so on – would be very interesting. It helps us imagine the world from another perspective than our own, including as human beings. I am sure some teachers and schools do this, and I would certainly have loved it.

Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos

Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.

– a quote from this dialog

This is one in a series of imagined dialogs with people who have lived for eons. This dialog is with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos and – through a glitch? – happens to remember it all.

THE DIALOG

First, I am curious about the several lives. Does it mean you remember the life between lives?

Yes, although it doesn’t matter so much here. If you don’t remember it yourself, what I say will just become ideas. And if you do, I don’t need to say much about it.

Okay. How is it to have lived many lives in many different places of the cosmos?

I am very grateful for having that experience. It’s enormously enriching to live lives through the filters of different beings – and their senses, bodies, perceptions, culture and more – and their world.

What have you learned that many with one life haven’t?

Mostly, to know that we all live from our own conditioning. Everything about us makes sense in the light of our conditioning – from our bodies, environment, culture, and individual experiences.

Because of all the lives I have had, I am less inclined to judge. The tendency to judge has worn off in me over time. I know how it is to live in so many different circumstances, and I know how so much in us flows from our conditioning.

I have a deep empathy with different beings. I know we all just want to live and be free from suffering – and love and be loved. There is something very beautiful in this. It’s also heartbreaking because I know how universal suffering is and how common it is for beings to not feel fully loved and to not fully love themselves.

These sounds like insights from spirituality?

Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.

You mentioned empathy with others. What about awakening?

Well, that’s a big word. For me, it’s more simple and down-to-earth.

Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.

If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.

What do most people not get?

Hm, from my perspective, many things.

They don’t get how precious and amazing life is. Even a troubled life, even a mundane life, is amazing and precious beyond words.

They don’t get that the way they treat others is the way they treat themselves. Love your neighbor for your own sake. It’s good for everyone.

They don’t get the importance of a long and big perspective. Of course, most people get by with a more narrow and shorter perspective. But a long and big perspective enriches life enormously. And for you folks today, it’s essential for your survival. It’s the only way humans can and will survive. And life is showing you just that.

They don’t get that all experiences enrich life. They are not your enemies. Trying to run away from your experiences only creates an added layer of suffering. In reality, it’s the only real suffering.

Of course, most don’t get that what we are is capacity for all and any of our experiences. We are the experiences which come and go. And we are capacity for all of it.

How can we mimic your process and discover this for ourselves?

Well, that’s not my speciality. But it does seem that some things helps people to find this for themselves. It’s definitely possible to people to find this for themselves, and many do – to some extent.

The main thing is curiosity and sincerity. Explore and see what you find. Don’t take your own or others assumptions for granted. Be willing to leave your most basic assumptions about yourself and life. Get close to your experience.

I feel like this is a trick question since a lot of what you write about on this website does exactly that! Is that what you want me to say? I see through you. And of course, yes, the tools you write about here can be very helpful for people, especially if used with curiosity and sincerity.

Yes, I guess that’s why I asked the question. Although I write about these things exactly because these tools can help us find what someone like you have discovered. It helps us discover what someone who has lived for eons tends to naturally discover through lived experience.

Yes, I agree. For me, it comes through lived experience and mostly free form ideology or pointers or shoulds or trying to live up to anything. And for many humans, it’s often more of a mix of genuine lived experience and insights – and some ideologies and shoulds.

What can we do to make it more from lived experience?

You are asking difficult questions. As I said, this is not my speciality.

Get close to your own experience. Be curious about it. Take it seriously. Make use of pointers and use them to discover for yourself. Set aside shoulds and how people say something is. Live your life and pay attention to what’s happening.

Do you have any advice for P. (this interviewer)?

Yes. You already know all this. You even trust it. But there is some hesitation in you. You can trust it even more. You can sink into it. Lean into it. Rest into and as it. It’s what you are. Live it. It can help you to remember me and lean into what I am.

Thank you! I appreciate this interview and especially your advice at the end.

Thank you. I enjoyed this conversation. I don’t think about these things so often so it was fun. And I wish you all the best in your life. As I said, you already know and are all of this. Lean into it a bit more and it will help you a lot. (And if you don’t, that’s completely fine too.)

Ancient pain

A lot of the emotional pain we experience – in daily life or in a deep healing and awakening process – is ancient pain.

It’s ancient patterns of thoughts and beliefs that create emotional pain.

In what ways is it ancient?

It’s ancient in that it’s universally human. It’s what people from many times and cultures have experienced. (I imagine many other species experience this type of pain as well.)

It’s ancient in that much of it has an epigenetic component. It’s biologically passed on from our ancestors.

It’s ancient in that it’s passed on through the generations through belief and behavior patterns, from parents to children.

It’s ancient in that much of it is passed on through culture, through beliefs, norms, expectations, and so on.

It’s ancient in that much of it comes from very early on in our lives, sometimes even before we had language.

If reincarnation is correct, it’s ancient in that a good deal of it may go back many lifetimes.

Why is it helpful to notice this?

It can help us notice the different ways painful patterns of beliefs and behavior is passed on over time – into our life and beyond.

It can help us be aware of how we pass on these patterns, to our children and others in our life and perhaps even society, and counteract some of it.

It helps us see that we are not alone in this. It’s pretty much universal.

It helps us see that it’s not as personal as it may seem. It’s not just about me.

Why do we love nature?

Why do most people love nature? Why do we experience it as healing?

One answer is that it’s because we are nature. We are an expression of this living planet as everything else is.

Another is that nearly all of our ancestors lived in nature. They were adapted to it. It was their home. It is our home. We are – literally – made to be in nature.

There is also a simplicity in being in nature. It helps us focus on the basics and we don’t need to pay attention to all the complexities of modern life. Food. Shelter. Getting from A to B. That’s the few simple things we need to focus on.

It also helps us prioritize and see our life in perspective. When I am in civilization, I am immensely grateful for electricity, running water, hot showers, and being able to go to the grocery store for food. These are not anything we can take for granted at all. Also, I get to see that I can be content with little as long as my basic needs are covered. My quality of life does not come from all the extra things that modern life offers. It comes from the simple things in everyday life, and especially in how I relate to my life and the world in general.

The simplicity of being in nature is also a kind of retreat. It helps us meet ourselves. And instead of going to distractions, we are invited to find another – and more kind and content – way of being with ourselves.

Is this love for nature only for ourselves? No. It can certainly enrich our lives immensely and also clarify our lives. But it also makes us into advocates for nature, and few things are as important – for us as humans and for all Earth life – than that today.

I am very aware that what I write here is a reflection of privilege. I can go into nature when I want. I have a home in civilization. I have my basic needs covered. I don’t need to collect or catch my own food.

I am also aware that since I am from Norway, and a deep love for nature is an important part of Norwegian culture, these views are somewhat influenced by my culture. In the US, I didn’t find the same universal love for nature, or at least not the love that makes us want to be in and experience nature first hand.

Only lovers left alive: a dialog with someone who has lived for centuries

Well, yes. It’s just that I have seen versions of it so many times, in so many periods and cultures. People are in pain. And they seek and latch onto a belief – a religion or philosophy or political system – that promises to give them relief. And the real relief is in healing the pain, not getting obsessed about a system or philosophy.

– a quote from this dialog

I haven’t seen Only Lovers Left Alive yet, but read enough about it to know that the two main characters have lived for centuries and have amassed a huge amount of experience and perhaps some wisdom in the process.

So I thought it would be fun to try a dialog with someone who has lived for centuries.

When we use Voice Dialog / the Big Mind process, we typically dialog with parts of us that are obviously here like the voice of appreciation, the victim, or Big Mind / Heart.

There is no part of me that had lived for centuries. Or is there? I can easily enough imagine how it would be to have lived for generations, and access that voice or part of me.

And in a quite real sense, I have in me something that had lived for that long. Something that has, through culture, accumulated experience and wisdom over generations.

In another quite real sense, as part of this living Earth, and as part of this universe, I am billions of years old. Everything in me is the product of billions of years evolution of the universe and this living planet, millions of years of evolution of pre-human ancestors, and hundreds of thousands of years thousands of my human ancestors.

So, yes, I can probably dialog with a voice in me that has the experience and wisdom from having lived for generations.

Dialog with one who has lived for generations.

Can I speak with the voice that has lived for generations?

Yes.

How do you see the world?

Not so different from you. Just from more experience. I am much less caught up in the daily fluctuations compared with you and others who have only lived for a short time. I have seen it all. It all comes and goes. Disappointment. Elation. Health. Illness. Birth. Death. It’s all part of life, and I have seen all of it enough to not get caught up in it.

Does it mean you are detached?

For a while, I tried detachment and distance, but that’s deadly boring in the long run. It’s much more juicy to feel and be engaged and play the game, but I am not caught in it. I know it all, including my responses, comes and goes.

It sounds a bit like the wisdom of the Buddha?

Yes, I knew him. Good fella. (That’s a joke, by the way. I was somewhere else back then.)

But yes, it’s pretty similar. I think that anyone who lives for generations will develop that kind of wisdom or view on life. It’s almost inevitable.

Do you have any advice for P.? (This interviewer.)

Well, let’s see. I think he knows it already but hasn’t taken it in fully. He doesn’t completely trust it or allow himself to live from it. So if I can help, here it is.

He allows himself to worry about things that are regular parts of life, it’s the universal ups and downs. And he sometimes takes it more personally than he needs, and get more caught up in it than he would if he had longer experience. Life is not about him. Life just happens, as it does for everyone. Stay engaged, play the game, and know it’s not personal and most of the details are not even that important in the long run. Just do your best.

How do you see the world today?

Most if not all of the problems come from people being short-sighted. They think locally and act short-term, and although that worked in the past when humanity was smaller and had less powerful technology, it doesn’t work anyone. There are too many people, with too powerful tools, for that to work.

Humans need to imagine bigger, or at least enough need to, so they can create new systems that take deep time and global situations (like ecosystems) into consideration.

Human nature won’t change, but humans adapt their behavior to the system they are in.

(I should add: Human nature does change, but not very quickly. Not on the scale of centuries or decades.)

Is there a question you would like to be asked?

Hm. I like that question. Ask me what I enjoy the most.

What do you enjoy the most?

The changing seasons. The seasons of nature, of human life, of generations and human history.

The very small things, the ordinary. A cup of tea. Saying hello to a stranger. Waking a dog. Reading a book. Weathering an illness.

The new. A new dish. A new sunrise. A new here and now.

Is there anything you are tired of?

Not really. Perhaps the predictable, or at least thinking something is predictable. I have seen enough to know it’s not. I guess that’s something I am still learning.

Is there anything else you are currently learning?

I am not sure. I think it’s mainly noticing how everything is fresh.

The mind sometimes tells me that this is something I have experienced more times than I can count, and although that’s true in a way, it’s not the whole picture. This experience is fresh.

I guess that’s another parallel to what Mr. Buddha and others have talked about. And it is the only way to stay fresh and keep enjoying – and not only enjoying but deeply enjoying — life when you live and live and live as I do.

What music, art, and books do you like?

Anything. Anything from any culture and period. What’s familiar and what’s new. High culture and trash. It’s all juicy.

Is it possible to make a mistake?

Well, it depends on what you mean. Of course, we sometimes make mistakes in a small perspective. We bungle things. Make poor decisions. Or make good decisions that turn out badly.

In a bigger perspective, those are not really mistakes. We do what we can based on who and how we are and the situation we are in. And we get feedback from life and have an opportunity to learn. So in that sense, nothing is really a mistake.

What do you think about conditioning?

That’s something I have a lot of experience with. Conditioning is the operating system of humans or at least a large part of it.

Patterns are passed on through the generations, with some variations. Patterns of what’s seen as good and bad, right and wrong; and patterns of likes and dislikes, cultural and family hangups and traumas; ideas about heaven and hell, gods and demons, how the world works, and just about anything else that’s part of how humans function.

When you take a generational view, you see how it’s not personal. It’s all passed on. And then we make it personal, and we have a chance to not take it as personal if we realize what’s going on.

Even how we function as a body is conditioning, passed on with some variations through all our ancestors back to that first single-celled organism.

And how this universe works is conditioning.

Some talk about conditioning as if it’s bad or something we need to get rid of, but that’s a superficial view. We are made up of conditioning. Our bodies wouldn’t function without it. Our society wouldn’t function without it. We would have no chance to function, or survive, or exist, without it. It’s the fabric of what we are.

The only conditioning we need to be concerned about is the one of wounds and hangups, and even here how we relate to it is more vital than getting rid of it. Of course, we can do some of both.

And a part of this conditioning is the beliefs and ideas passed on through the generations that creates pain for us, and an unnecessarily limited life when we hold them as true.

How do you see non-dual spirituality?

I hoped you wouldn’t ask. Yes, it’s pretty close to reality. And in the modern western version, it’s often taken as a belief, something to hold onto to feel secure and try to stay safe. For many who are into it, it’s a security blanket. They just exchanged traditional religion for neo-Advaita. That’s fine but if they are not honest about it, they are deluding themselves.

If I am honest, and I know I sound like an old curmudgeon, many would do better to heal their emotional issues. They would find more ease and real contentment that way.

That sounds a bit harsh?

Well, yes. It’s just that I have seen versions of it so many times, in so many periods and cultures. People are in pain. And they seek and latch onto a belief – a religion or philosophy or political system – that promises to give them relief. And the real relief is in healing the pain, not getting obsessed about a system or philosophy.

To be continued…

A note: When I wrote this, I imagined dialoguing with a relatively average person who has lived for centuries. My partner dialogued with the version of herself that has lived for eons. And it can be fun to explore even more versions: the mystic, the poet, the wise man/woman, the scientist, the warrior, the one who loves earth, the one who loves humans, the one who loves life, the one who has lived innumerable lives in places around the whole Cosmos.

Is spirituality timeless?

The answer is yes, and no, and it depends, and we don’t really know.

Yes, the simple essence is perhaps more or less timeless and universal. It’s all the divine. And the divine, locally as us, can discover that – and live now from it – through sincerity and basic practices and pointers.

No, a lot in spirituality (and especially religion) is not timeless. Religions come and go. Spiritual taurine come and go. Specific practices come and go. The specific context all of it is understood within comes and goes.

It depends on what we are taking about. As said before, some of the basics – in terms of understanding, practices, and pointer – seem more universal and timeless. And a lot is more specific to a time, culture, and tradition.

And more honestly, we don’t know any of this for certain. Even what seems more timeless and universal can and will change. It changes with the time we are in, our culture, and our general worldviews and understanding of really.

Is it likely that spirituality, and even more so religions, will be quite different in a distant future? Yes. Is it likely that if there is life other places in the universe, and interested in these things, they will have a different take on this? Yes. And is it still likely that the essence may be somewhat similar? I would say yes to that too.

What do I see as relatively timeless and universal?

The main is that all is the divine. Existence – including us and all our experience – is the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

Spirituality, at least the typical human version, is about helping the divine – locally as us – rediscover this and live more from this in daily life. This too is part of Lila, the play of the divine.

And what about spiritual practices? These are a little more tied to a time, place, and tradition, but there are perhaps some universals here too.

These include:

Guidelines for our life. (For social and community reasons, but also to minimize distractions and help us mimicking view we naturally live when we are more clear and healed).

Devotional practices like song and chants, mantras, prayer, and some forms of meditation. (This includes all forms of mediation and other practices when done with devotion.)

Contemplation, inquiry and pointers.

Basic forms of mediation. For instance, notice and allow whatever is happening within content of experience. (And, with time, what it all happens within and as.)

Training a more stable attention, which helps us in spiritual practice and all areas of life.

Gratitude and forgiveness practices, and working with projections, like some forms of prayer (“thank you”), all-inclusive gratitude practice, Tonglen, and ho’oponopono.

Body-inclusive practices like dance, yoga, tai chi and chigong.

Subtle-energy practices through any form of inner yoga, and as found in traditional Indian yoga, tai chi, and chigong. (I would include Vortex Healing as an example.)

And (emotional) healing practices to remove blocks to noticing what we are and living from it.

Of course, I say these are more universal and timeless, but I am very aware that different traditions emphasize these differently, have different ways of doing each of them, and that this list reflects my own preferences, interests, and what I have found useful and helpful.

What is evil?

What is evil? What does it refer to?

As usual, there are many answers – each with some value.

Personally, I don’t find the word very useful and rarely if ever use it, apart from when I explore it in inquiry or as I do here.

So with that caveat, here are some answers to the question: what is evil?

The easy answer is that nothing is inherently evil, and nothing is what we call it. Evil is in the label. The idea of evil is created from a mental overlay.

We could also say that it’s intentionally causing harm to others, whether as a byproduct of getting to another goal or for its own sake. This is tricky since we all cause harm to other living beings in our daily life – especially to non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations.

And that’s a reminder that what’s evil depends on who we are. If we are a human, then evil can be seen as what other humans do to us when they act in ways that systematically harm us. If we are a non-human or an ecosystem, we can say that the current behavior of humans is evil since it systematically harms non-human life. Animals are imprisoned and killed just so they can provide food or other products to humans, and they often suffer immensely in the process. Ecosystems are systematically damaged and destroyed so what’s extracted from them can temporarily support human activity. And if we are any being in the future – any future human or non-human being or ecosystem – then the current human behavior is evil. It’s destructive for all future generations. This means that, in a sense, we are all evil. Each of us is evil to someone. And our current human society, the way it’s organized, functions in an evil way. If we chose to use the word evil, and if we want to be honest with ourselves, we have to include this view.

And, related to “it’s all in the label”, evil – as anything else we see in ourselves or the wider world – is a projection. It’s an idea we put on something in the world. And the idea, as any other idea, is made up by our own mind by a combination of mental images, words, and sensations. We may feel that something is evil, because it’s connected to sensations in our body that makes the idea seem solid, real, and perhaps even true. And that, in turn, is happening because we have learned it from our parents, friends, subcultures, and our culture in general. (That’s probably why I don’t find the word very useful or compelling: I didn’t grow up in a culture where it was used much or was seen as meaningful.)

In a more pragmatic sense, what we conventionally label evil in humans is often their reaction to their own trauma and pain. Hurt people hurt people. When we see someone acting in a way we can call evil, it’s often because they themselves have deep wounds they don’t know how to deal with in a constructive way, so they react to their deep pain by inflicting pain on others. Or, at the very least, by not caring very much if they inflict pain on others. (This gives us some understanding and empathy for people acting in this way but doesn’t in any way condone their actions. It’s still our duty to do what we can to stop harmful actions.)

This lack of caring can also happen if we are very removed from the consequences of our actions. If most humans today can be seen as evil from the perspective of non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations, it’s not because we wish to inflict pain and suffering on these. It’s because the consequences of our actions are often far removed from us. We don’t see the consequences and don’t get immediate feedback. And it’s also because we live and operate within a social system that’s created in a world (in the 1800s) where the resources and garbage-absorption capacity of the natural world seemed infinite and is still – for the most part – considered infinite in our economic system. It’s not, in itself, evil, but the consequences can certainly be experienced and seen as evil.

How can I work with this in my own life?

I can explore my ideas of evil in this way, and through inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process etc.). I can find in myself the qualities and characteristics I see as evil, and see “out there” in the world and other people. (Even if what I find are perhaps much smaller or even just seeds and potentials.) I can put myself in the place of others – including non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations – and ask myself how they would see my behaviors, and perhaps use that as a correction. I can inform myself about the far-reaching and distant consequences of my actions and use this as a correction and guide for my own life. I can invite in healing for my own traumas and wounds so I am less likely to create and operate from ideologies aimed at protecting me from my own pain (racism, sexism, uncaring anthropocentrism, general dehumanization etc.), or lash out when my pain is triggered and harm myself and others.

Personally, I find my actions are evil from the perspective of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. It’s not intended to be evil, but I know it can easily be seen that way. After all, I operate within a system that doesn’t take the long term and distant effects of our actions much into consideration. It’s not incorporated, because it didn’t need to be when our system was developed. I also know I my actions have caused suffering for others, especially when I have not been able to be completely honest or in my own integrity because of my own pain and fears. That is something I am working on, both in terms of finding healing for my issues creating this behavior and preventing it by being honest, taking care of my own needs (some of it has happened because I didn’t), and be more in integrity.

Healing on behalf of life

When I invite in healing for myself, it’s on behalf of life.

When I heal a part of me, it obviously benefits myself, my future self, and those around me. It may also benefit future generations and all life. And I am doing it on behalf of my ancestors.

So when I do healing for myself and it feels challenging, I can remind myself of this. I am doing it on behalf of life. And, in a sense, I have the support of all of life in my healing process. 

How is this true, more specifically? 

When I find emotional healing for myself, it benefits me and my future self. It’s an act of solidarity with my future self. I’ll be better able to make good decisions and fully enjoy and live life. It may also benefit those around me since I’ll be more free of emotional issues and reactivity, less annoying, and perhaps more understanding. 

In the same way, it may benefit future generations. If I have children, they will benefit from my healing and pass it on, and at the very least not pass on the unhealthy patterns that ended with me. 

And I am doing it on behalf of my ancestors. Many unhealthy emotional patterns are passed on through generations and through our culture.  And even if my ancestors and previous generation were not able to find healing for the patterns passed on to me, I may be able to find healing for what they couldn’t (due to different times, awareness, support, skills). 

My healing can also help the wider living whole. Healing means contentment and less reactivity, and contentment allows for less (harmful) consumption, and reduced reactivity allows for kinder and more informed decisions and way of life. A way of life that takes into account the well-being of all of life. 

In these ways, all of life is an ally in my healing. When I imagine all beings as kind and clear, I know they support my healing. And I can remind myself of this and this implicit support, when my own healing seems challenging.

Beyond just reminding myself, I can call in and ask for support from ancestors, future, generations, and all of life for my own healing process. 

Note: I say “heal myself” which is partly true, but it’s more true that life heals itself. “I” am not doing it and cannot do it. Life does it. Life invites in healing for parts of itself and heals itself.