Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature?

I recently watched the last season of His Dark Materials, and find I have as much and often more empathy with the dæmons as I do with their human counterpart. (The dæmons are animals representing an aspect of the people, their inner self, anima/animus, or something similar.)

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature? Why is it sometimes easier to find love for a non-human being than for some fellow humans?

There are many answers and they all (literally) come out of one.

Here are some that come to mind:

MISTREATED

Non-human beings are often mistreated by humans. I tend to side with the underdogs, and in this relationship, non-human beings are almost always the underdogs. I have a natural empathy with non-human beings for that reason. (I know this particular dynamic is rooted in my own history and experiences.)

INNOCENCE & DIFFERENT HISTORY

The natural world has everything from cooperation and care to fights and mercilessness.

At the same time, we see an innocence there. For all their savvy and specific skills, knowledge, and experience, many of them generally function cognitively at the level of human children or babies.

Most non-human species must have mental representations and use them as we do, to orient and function in the world. And yet, it seems they are much less likely to elaborate on and believe these imaginations. They use them in a more simple and direct way.

For many of us, it’s easier to find love for animals. They are simpler. In some ways, they are innocent like children. For that reason, we don’t experience the same friction with them as we do with humans. We don’t experience the clashes of hangups and worldviews we experience with humans. And most of us have been more hurt by humans than non-human beings, we have a different history with them.

For all of these reasons, it’s often easier to find love for non-human beings. And especially the ones we know personally and live with.

MIRROR

Animals mirror me in several different ways. I see myself in them.

They mirror my animal nature. They mirror how I am with a simpler mental field. They mirror how I am minus my more complicated – and complicating – human mental field with elaborate ideas, beliefs, identifications, etc.

And the different animals mirror different parts of me as well. Whatever story I have about any type of animal, I can turn it to myself and find specific and genuine examples of how, where, and when it’s true.

And since I wish to have – and have – some love and care for these parts of me, I have the same towards the beings mirroring these sides of me.

WE ARE CLOSELY RELATED

All Earth life is closely related. We are all, literally, part of the same family. We share ancestors. We are cousins. We are far more similar than we are different. We share far more than what’s unique and different.

We are “we” far more than we are “us” and “them”. And we all know this in our cells and bones and our mind when we subtract our complicated human mental field. Any ideas of separation come from our ideas, not from reality.

PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM

We are all part of the same living and evolving system we call Earth or Gaia.

We are subsystems in larger living systems.

We are subsystems in the larger systems we call the Earth and the universe and all of existence.

We are all expressions of the same larger living wholes.

We are part of the same metaphorical body we call life, Earth, the universe, and existence.

And that’s not just metaphorical or poetry or wishful thinking. It’s what current science tells us.

As Carl Sagan said, we are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are existence bringing itself into consciousness.

We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

EXPRESSIONS OF THE DIVINE

We can call existence and reality God, Spirit, or the divine.

Here, we can say that we are all expressions of God, Spirit, or the divine.

We are all the divine expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

We are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the divine.

We are the divine bringing itself into consciousness through and as us.

PART OF THE ONENESS I AM

There is also another oneness here, and one that’s far more immediate.

In one sense, I am this human being in the world.

Ehen I look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

To me, everything – including any being – is part of the oneness I am.

And to the extent I allow this to sink and infuse and transform my human self, this gives birth to a natural love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

WORDS AND LANGUAGE

I use the word “animal” here since that’s the terminology most people use these days.

In reality, we are all animals. We are all living beings.

There is no reason to create a hard and imagined boundary between us and the rest of Earth life.

We are all closely related. We are all in the same boat. We are all embedded in the same larger living systems. We are all expressions of the evolution of the universe. We are all expressions of existence. We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself through and as us.

When I hear the word “animal” I am reminded of the old Greeks who used a similar mind-created division. They called any non-Greeks barbarians. I assume future generations may see our current human-animal distinction as equally quaint and old-fashioned.

Today, there is a growing awareness of all the many ways racism and sexism is expressed in society and our language. In the future, I assume there will be a similar awareness of how our anthropocentrism is expressed in our language and society, and a movement to change it.

CULTURE & OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

How we see humans versus the rest of life is obviously dependent on our culture.

In some traditional cultures, all life is seen as related and part of the same whole.

The irony is that in our culture, that’s the view of science. Science tells us all life is closely related and part of the same living evolving systems. And yet, most people operate on an outdated and misguided idea of the basic separation of humans from all other life. We operate on misconceptions while we know better.

Why? I assume it’s not just because of tradition and habit. It’s also convenient. It allows us to keep using and abusing non-human beings and nature in general.

And that brings us to saw over the branch we are sitting on. It’s out of alignment with reality, and operating on ideas out of alignment with reality has consequences. In this case, the consequence is the destruction of the living systems we are fully embedded in and dependent on.

NOISE

I’ll add one topic that’s been on my mind since my early teens.

I have personally never liked noise or loud music. I love silence and natural sounds, and less human-created sounds (apart from some music).

And, as far as I can tell from research and personal observations, it seems I share that with most non-human beings.

So why do some humans apparently love noise and loud sounds and music?

I don’t know but I assume it has to do with our noisy and complex mental field and what happens when we take certain (painful) ideas as reality. (Taking any idea as reality is painful in itself, no matter what the idea tells us.) Perhaps the outer noise masks the inner noise, at least for a while? Perhaps it’s a strategy to distract ourselves from our own discomfort and pain?

Perhaps it’s a sign we haven’t found peace with our own experience, as it is? A sign of war with our experience?

In our culture, we act as if we are at war with nature, and we act as if we are at war with our own experience. The two are closely related. They depend on each other. And they may break down together.

FINDING PEACE WITH OURSELVES & PEACE WITH NATURE

In most cases, if we find peace with our experience, we tend to find a deeper love for nature. And finding a deeper love for nature tends to be reflected in finding more peace with our experience.

Of course, both take work. And even if we find this peace, and wish to live in a more peaceful relationship with life in general, we are still living within a social and economic system that is inherently destructive. It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take the limits of nature into account. And now – with increasing human numbers and more efficient technology – it’s obviously destructive to life.

We can personally experience peace with life, but our life is not peaceful to life as long our collective human system is as it is.

It takes personal intention, skill, and work to find peace with our experience.

It will take a similar collective intention, skill, and work to find real peace in our relationship with nature – and transform our collective life so it takes ecological realities into account.

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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.)

Rewilding: Nature protecting itself

On the land in the Andes we are stewards of, there are many different ecological systems, all of them impacted by centuries of grazing and food production. (Although on a relatively small scale.)

Having visited this land for a while, and now living here, several things that come up for me daily.

RESILIENCE AND VULNERABILITY

One is how amazingly resilient nature is when undisturbed by civilization. Ecosystems have evolved to adapt to just about anything that happens in nature with some regularity.

And, on the other hand, how amazingly vulnerable nature is. Ecosystems can be wiped out in a day with the help of machines.

Ecosystems are amazingly resilient when it comes to what occurs naturally, and amazingly vulnerable to civilization and machines.

ECOSYSTEMS PROTECTING THEMSELVES

Another is a feature of the natural regeneration process. On this land, many of the pioneer species have thorns and form dense thickets it’s difficult or impossible to enter.

It’s as if the ecosystem is protecting itself.

It’s as if it’s saying: You damaged me before. Now, as I am recovering, I don’t want any interference. Stay out.

And, of course, machines and technology (including people with machetes and saws) are no match for this natural defense.

CULTURE AND EDUCATION

I keep reminding myself of how important it is to educate the ones we are working with.

The traditional view here is that the pioneer species are “weeds” and should be gotten rid of. Clear everything so you can see the land and decide what to do with it. Clear it all and lay it barren because it’s not a loss.

And, in reality, if you wish to support a healthy ecosystem, it’s a great loss to remove these pioneer species.

IT’S ALL NATURE

Of course, all of this is nature. All of this is the doings of this living and evolving planet.

Civilization is as much a part of this evolving planet as anything yet.

In that sense, it’s all nature. It’s all really the same. It’s all part of the same seamless system.

This view helps us recognize our interdependence with all life. It helps us ground in something more real than the mind-created distinctions between ourselves and the rest of Earth, life, and existence.

And, in another sense, there is a big difference between nature and civilization. Our technology and machines, combined with our numbers, can easily destroy local, regional, and global ecosystems, and that’s what’s already happening.

We are in the middle of an ecological crisis of massive proportions, and one that will impact all of us and humanity as a whole. And, for whatever reason, it seems that only a few take this seriously.

This distinction is important as well. Ecosystems have evolved to deal with what happens naturally. They cannot defend themselves against machines and technology. (Apart from unraveling, taking us with it, and then – slowly – bouncing back.)

We have to defend them, and in that process, we are defending ourselves.

WE ARE NATURE PROTECTING ITSELF

I started out by talking about how this local ecosystem is protecting itself while recovering from damage. Pioneer species often have thorns and form impenetrable thickets.

And I ended with another way nature is protecting itself. We are nature protecting itself. We are part of the living seamless system of this evolving planet, and when we do anything to protect life, we are nature protecting itself.

When I defend this land and take steps to help it recover, I am nature protecting itself.

What does “oneness” mean? Some examples of different forms of oneness

What comes to mind when you hear the word “oneness”? That it always refer to the same? That what it refers to is something mysterious? Something that belongs to certain religions or New Age thought? Something not grounded in reality? Something real you cannot check out for yourself?

The word oneness can refer to several different things and it’s helpful to differentiate.

THE ONENESS WE ARE TO OURSELVES

We may take ourselves to be this human being in the world, and that’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. 

And yet, if we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find something else. We may find that we more fundamentally are capacity for the world – for any content of experience – as it appears to us. And we may find that the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. 

Said another way, we may find that we inevitably are consciousness and that the world, to us, happens within and as this consciousness. 

We can also say that we are oneness, and the world happens within and as this oneness. 

This is the oneness we are and we can explore in our own experience, especially if we are guided by a structured inquiry and someone familiar with the terrain. 

ONE IN A MORE CONVENTIONAL SENSE  

In mainstream culture, we sometimes say we are one – whether that comes from poetry, politics, science, religion, or something else.

We are one in an ethnic or political sense.

We are one in terms of our shared history, either as a group or as humanity.

We are one in terms of our evolution and shared ancestry, either as humanity or all Earth beings.

We are one in that the essence of what we want is the same and shared by all beings. We all wish for comfort and happiness and to avoid suffering.

In some cases, it can be a dangerous rhetoric if it sets “us” up against “them”. And it can be beautiful and healing to the extent it is inclusive.

ONE IN A SYSTEMS SENSE 

We can take this one step further and find oneness in a systems sense.

We are all parts of a seamless system. All of humanity, all of this living planet, all of this evolving universe, all of existence. All of existence is part of a seamless system. 

As Carl Sagan said: We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. 

ONE IN A SPIRITUAL SENSE 

It’s also possible that all of existence is God or the divine or Spirit. Spirit takes the form of all there is and all we know, including everything connected with this human self. 

It’s all the play of the divine. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, as all there is. 

All of existence is divine and one. 

SEVERAL DIFFERENT ONENESSES 

We can find several different onenesses. 

To ourselves, we are the oneness the world happens within and as. 

We are one in several different social, historical, biological, and evolutionary ways. 

We are parts of a seamless system. 

And all can be seen as expressions and explorations of Spirit. 

THE VALIDITY OF EACH 

Each of these ways of talking about oneness has validity, and the validity is slightly different in each case.

I can check the first one for myself. I can find myself as that oneness.

The two next ones make sense within the realm of stories, and I include science here since science produces stories that help us function and navigate in the world.

And the last one is what mystics from all traditions describe. We can say that they found the first kind of oneness and then over-generalized and assumed that their nature is the nature of all of existence. And there are also hints beyond that suggesting that the “all as Spirit” view is valid in itself. (See articles on the small and big interpretations of awakening for more on this.) 

Image: Enso / Zen circle by Sengai

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Wolfwalkers & our relationship with the wild in nature and ourselves

I loved this movie in many different ways. And as any good story that deals with primal archetypes and archetypal dynamics, it can be interpreted at many different levels.

It can be seen as a metaphor for how humans treat each other, including how the English have treated the Irish. It can be seen as a more literal story about how humans treat nature and the wild. And it can be seen as a mirror for dynamics in ourselves, and how we civilize ourselves at the expense of the primal aliveness in ourselves.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WILD

It’s easy to imagine a history of the human relationship with the wild, and it will – by necessity – be somewhat speculative when it comes to the early history.

Before agriculture and civilization as we think of it, people lived in nature, with nature, and from nature. They may have had more of a partnership relationship with nature and the wild, and they likely respected nature out of necessity. They had a more nature-oriented spirituality. They didn’t have much property so they didn’t have much hierarchy. They may have had a more matriarchal culture. The inevitable damage to nature was limited since their numbers were small and their technology simple, and they also moved if they needed to which limited their impact on the areas they were in.

With agriculture, this all changed. We could accumulate wealth. We had more division of labor, tasks, and skills. We developed a hierarchy. The ones higher up in the hierarchy developed a wish to control others and the general population. We got culture as we know it. We got more removed sky-God religions. We got a more patriarchal culture.

We lived in tamed landscapes or towns and cities. With agriculture, we depended more on tamed nature. We lived more distanced from the wild. We depend much less on the wild. The wild became “other” to us. For those higher up in the hierarchy, it became in their interest to also tame the population.

We learned to tame nature and ourselves, and find this comforting and the wild scary and unsettling and perhaps even evil.

Our human relationship with the wild shifted. We went from living in and from the wild to becoming distanced from it and viewing it often as something scary and suspicious. We learned that taming ourselves and nature was safer.

WHAT DOES TAMING OURSELVES MEAN?

We know what it means to tame nature. It means to make the wild into agricultural land, towns, and cities. Replace wild forests with planted forests. To kill any animals – typically large predators – we see as competitors or any danger to ourselves. And so on.

But what does it mean that we tame ourselves?

In one sense, it just means that we learn to live with others and in civilization. We learn to express our feelings with words instead of through actions that may harm others. We learn to cooperate. We learn to take others into consideration when we make our choices and live our life. This is natural for us since we are a social species and it doesn’t necessarily come at much or any cost. 

In another sense, it can mean that we tame ourselves at the cost of our aliveness, sense of connection and meaning, and authenticity. This happens when we take taming ourselves in a slightly misguided way. We may deny our emotions or needs, wishes, and desires instead of acknowledging or expressing these and finding ways to get our needs met. We may disconnect ourselves from our body and nature and feel disconnected, ungrounded, and aimless. All of this tends to come as a consequence of believing painful beliefs and identities and perceiving and living as if they are true. And these painful beliefs and identities tend to come from our culture or subculture. They are passed on and shared by many if not most humans in our culture, and some may be common across cultures – especially in our modern world.

HOW DO WE REWILD OURSELVES?

Rewilding nature is a popular topic these days, and very much needed for the health of nature and ourselves and our culture.

But how do we rewild ourselves?

There are several approaches, and what works best is probably a combination of the ones that resonate the most with us – and that may change over time.

We can connect with nature through spending time in nature, gardening, spending time with non-human species, learning about nature, spending time in the wilderness, learning to survive in the wilderness, spending time at a bonfire, looking at the stars, and so on.

We can connect with our body by walking barefoot, receiving bodywork, doing different forms of yoga, learning to recognize and take seriously the signals from our body, and so on.

We can engage in nature-centered spirituality and rituals, including the Practices to Reconnect from Joanna Macy.

We can shift our worldview from one of separation to connection and oneness, for instance through deep ecology, the epic of evolution, the universe story, ecospirituality, system views, integral models (AQAL), and so on.

We can engage in actions on behalf of other species, the Earth, and future generations. These may be small and “invisible” everyday actions or more visible in the world. These may be actions to stop damage, change our culture, or envision and implement life-centered alternatives.

We can learn to notice and acknowledge our emotions and wishes, needs, and desires. We can find ways to express this and meet our needs in a kind way. We can find a more authentic way to live that’s kind to ourselves and others.

We can identify fears we have of rewilding ourselves.  What’s the worst that could happen?  What does my culture tell me could happen? What do I find when I examine these stories? What’s more true for me? How is it to meet and be with the fear and allow it as it is? How is it to find love for it? 

We can find healing for any emotional issues that create a sense of separation and lack of connection, aliveness, groundedness, and meaning.

We can identify and investigate the views and beliefs that create a sense of separation – with ourselves, others, nature, and the universe as a whole. We can identify beliefs passed on through our culture. We can find them in ourselves and inquire into them and find more freedom from them and what’s more true and honest for us.

We can connect with and taste the wholeness we are at a human level, through a combination of meditation, body-centered practices, emotional healing, and more.

We can explore what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience. At one level, we are a human being in the world. And what do I find when I explore what I am in my own first-person experience? I may find I more fundamentally are capacity for the world as it appears to me. And what the world – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as. I may find myself as the oneness this human self and the wider world happen within and as.

This is not only for the benefit of ourselves. It benefits our culture. It may help our species survive. And it will likely benefit other species, this living planet, and future generations.

Note: This article itself is an example of rewilding ourselves. I saw the movie three or four weeks ago, made a few notes, and allowed it to rest. Today, I was moved to write the article and it came out easily and naturally, without much if any effort.

When I saw the movie, I noticed I wasn’t ready to write the final article. I knew that pushing it would be uncomfortable and likely wouldn’t give a good result. So I allowed it to rest and digest on its own, and I waited for it to come to fruition in me and move me to write it.

I planted the seed, waited, and it sprouted in its own time in the form of this article.

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Cells and oneness

Someone I talked with brought up the idea that we are like cells in an organism. Just like a cell is a part of a larger organism, we – as human beings – are part of a larger organism. We are holons in larger holarchies, just as we are a holarchy for smaller holons. We are part of the seamless system of this planet and the universe and all of existence.

This is all accurate at a story level, in terms of science, and so on.

At the same time, we are something else. To ourselves, in our own first-person experience, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us. We are what the world – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as. We are oneness and love.

These two are complementary. In the world and as human beings and at a story level, we are like cells in a larger organism. To ourselves, when we look, we find we are capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what the world happens within and as. We are oneness and love, and we are the oneness and love that – to us – the world happens within and as.

Why do we find nature beautiful?

Why do most of us find nature beautiful? Especially if it’s mostly natural and untouched by humans, or mimics a more natural state?

There are many answers to this question.

CO-EVOLUTION

We have co-evolved with the rest of nature. We evolved as part of Earth’s living systems. So naturally, we’ll tend to experience an affiliation with the rest of nature.

EVOLUTION

We have evolved to find certain types of nature attractive. We tend to be attracted to landscapes that serve our survival needs. Landscapes with trees, sun, wind, water, lush vegetation, shelter, abundant life, and so on.

CULTURE

There is obviously a cultural component to this. We learn what’s beautiful in nature and what’s not, and this is often rooted in something that makes sense in a survival context. Sometimes, it made sense several generations back (for instance, wanting to get rid of competition in the form of large predators) and not so much anymore.

SEAMLESS LIVING SYSTEM

We are, in a very real sense, Earth taking the form of us. The living systems of Earth take all the forms we see around us. We are Earth locally seeing, feeling, and experiencing itself. When we experience a tree or a landscape, we are Earth experiencing these parts of itself through and as us. And conversely, when the rest of nature encounters us, it’s Earth experiencing that part of itself – us – through all these other parts of itself.

SEAMLESS EVOLVING UNIVERSE

More fundamentally, we are existence experiencing itself. In the words of Carl Sagan, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. No wonder we find a lot of the universe and existence beautiful.

OUR NATURE / WHAT WE ARE

There is yet another fundamental answer to the question.

And that is that, to us, all our experiences happen within and as what we are. Our nature is to be capacity for all our experiences, and any and all experiences happen within and as what we are. We are oneness, and we are the love that comes from this oneness recognizing itself. We may not notice, but that doesn’t change our nature.

We naturally have preferences, including from evolution, culture, and our own biology and experiences. And because of this and sometimes our beliefs, hangups, issues, and so on, we find certain things distasteful or even ugly.

And yet, we tend to find much of nature very beautiful.

Why? One answer is because it is already and inevitably happening within and as what we are.

WHY DON’T WE FIND EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL?

Looking at all of this, another version of the question comes up:

Why don’t we find everything – all of nature and all of existence – beautiful?

I have already hinted at this earlier.

The answer is partly in our evolution, culture, biology, and personal experiences. We have natural preferences and biases because of all of these influences.

And the answer is partly in our beliefs, identifications, hangups, issues, and so on. These cause us to find certain things repulsive and unattractive, or even just boring and neutral.

The two often overlap, and the second tends to build on the first.

So the more we heal our beliefs and issues, the more we heal our relationship with all of life, and the more we notice and live from our nature, the more we tend to find everything beautiful.

We’ll still have our preferences. We’ll still be a good steward of our life and choose some things and not others. And we’ll tend to find more and more – and perhaps even everything – inherently beautiful.

CHANGING DEFINITION OF NATURE

Through this, we see a changing definition of nature.

I started out by defining nature in a more conventional sense, as relatively untouched ecosystems.

We went through defining nature as us too. Everything we are, do, and experience is – in a very real sense – nature. All of what we are and experience is part of the living seamless systems of Earth and the universe.

And we end up defining nature as all of existence.

Each of these is accurate in its own way.

Image: Scott Kelly, ISS

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Tiny in a huge universe

Modern science has shown us that we are close to insignificant in size compared to the vastness of the universe. How do we take this?

IF FUNDAMENTALLY SEPARATE IN OUR OWN EXPERIENCE

If we see ourselves as fundamentally separate from the larger whole, then this can be scary or depressing or confirm the meaninglessness of it all. It can easily tie into some of the emotional issues or hangups we have.

CONNECTED WITH THE LARGER WHOLE

And if we perceive ourselves as part of this larger whole, then it can become a source of awe, fascination, joy, and a sense of deep connection. I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. I am the universe bringing itself into consciousness. Everything I am and experience is something this amazing universe forms itself into here locally as this human self and this life and these experiences.

ONENESS IN TWO FORMS

As suggested, this goes beyond being a part of a larger whole and connections.

There is a very real oneness here in two ways.

We have the oneness of the physical universe. The universe is one seamless system. We and our life and experiences are local expressions of this larger system. We are a holon in a holarchy.

And we have the oneness we already are in our own first-person experience. It’s easy to perceive ourselves as something within the content of our experience, and specifically this human self, an I, a me, a doer, a man or woman, and whatever other identities our minds create for us. After all, that’s what most of us learn we are and what’s correct in most cultures.

And yet, when we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find we are more fundamentally something else. We may notice that our more fundamental nature is as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and that we are what the world – and all our experiences – happen within and as.

And here, we find another oneness. We find that to us, as it appears to us, the universe and all of existence already is one.

DEEPEN INTO A PERCEPTION OF CONNECTIONS AND ONENESS

How can we deepen into this perception of connections and oneness?

We can learn about the universe a seamless system, and this planet as a living evolving system. (Systems theories, Gaia theory, and so on.)

We can do the practices to reconnect and similar rituals to get it into our bones.

We can explore what we are in our own first-person experience, for instance using structured inquiries like the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. Or even exploring the sense fields or using basic meditation, heart-centered practices, and so on.

How do we rewild ourselves?

Rewilding activities are conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas.

Rewilding in Wikipedia

Rewilding is a hot topic these days and is sorely needed. It’s needed for nature in general, and it’s needed for our human civilization to continue and thrive.

I have had a deep love for nature since childhood, and have had a passion for sustainability, deep ecology, ecospirituality, and ecopsychology since my mid-teens.

REWILDING OURSELVES

If we talk about rewilding nature, doesn’t that also mean rewilding ourselves?

What about rewilding the part of nature we call ourselves?

What do we mean by rewilding ourselves?

And what are some of the ways we can rewild ourselves?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REWILD OURSELVES?

In a very real sense, we are a wilderness area that has been impacted and domesticated by civilization.

There is nothing wrong with this. It’s a natural process. Civilization is also nature.

All we know from society, culture, industry, technology, science, and so on is nature taking these forms.

All of it is Earth exploring itself through and as us and through and as all of what we think of as civilization.

And yet, internalized culture can put a damper on our aliveness, passion, and curiosity. It can impact our sense of wholeness. It can lead to a sense of fracture in our connection with the rest of nature and existence. And that often leads to a life that feels a bit disconnected and artificial.

So what does it mean to rewild ourselves?

For me, it means nourishing our natural sense of belonging to our wider natural systems and all of existence. It means restoring our natural aliveness, passion, and curiosity. And it means to invite in and nourish a sense of wholeness.

REDEFINE NATURE

A good place to start is our definition of nature.

Do we have a sense of nature as opposed to what’s human? As only “out there” in the form of conventional ecosystems like forests, lakes, and so on?

Or do we recognize that nature is all of what this living planet has formed itself into, including us humans, our thoughts and feelings and imagination, and human civilization, culture, and technology?

As Carl Sagan said: We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

For me, a more inclusive sense of nature is an important first step in rewilding ourselves. It breaks down the imagined wall between nature and humans, which was a product of our particular form of civilization.

A GOOD STARTING POINT IN REWILDING OURSELVES

There are some relatively simple ways we can explore rewilding ourselves.

We can spend time in nature. Especially long periods in nature, over weeks and months, tend to deepen our sense of being part of nature.

We can learn about nature, including the patterns of weather and animals.

We can learn how to survive in nature and how our ancestors lived. We can learn what plants are edible, how to fish, how to cook food on a campfire, how to make and fire pots from local clay, and so on.

We can do gardening and grow food.

We can rewild our yard, or join a local rewilding project.

We can develop inter-species friendships. We can get to know someone from a different species and seek to understand their communication. We can make a practice of seeking to understand what they wish for and give it to them if possible and imagine how they perceive us and the world.

We can follow the natural cycles of nature. Go to bed and get up with the sun, within reason and what’s possible. Rest more and seek nourishing environments and activities during the dark season, and naturally be more active during the warmer and lighter season.

We can have days where we minimize our use of electricity and anything electric or motorized.

We can sit by a campfire in nature.

We can spend time in nature in the dark. (It’s amazing how much we can see on moonlit nights, and many other nights if we allow our eyes and senses to adapt.)

We can spend time under the night sky.

We can walk barefoot in nature.

We can walk in the rain without protection now and then.

We can go to the shore and watch the waves during a storm.

We can swim in lakes and the ocean at any time of year.

UNIVERSE STORY AND PRACTICES TO RECONNECT

As mentioned, how we see ourselves in relation to Earth and the universe is an important part of rewilding ourselves.

We can explore views that help us find a more fundamental reality beyond our ideas and images of separation. This includes systems theories (Fritjof Capra), deep ecology, deep time, Big History, the Universe Story, and the Epic of Evolution.

We can participate in, and perhaps learn to facilitate, the Practices to Reconnect.

We can seek out and explore local or global ecospirituality groups. If we belong to a religion, we can explore the ecospirituality movements without our religion. (There is always one.)

We can participate in any form of nature-oriented rituals.

EXPLORING OURSELVES

We are already part of nature.

Any sense of disconnect comes from our own imaginations that we – somewhere in us – hold as true.

For both of those reasons, it makes sense that rewilding ourselves includes exploring ourselves.

AUTHENTICITY

When I explore rewilding myself, I find that authenticity is a vital component.

We often allow internalized culture to hijack us and lead us away from following what’s more authentic and alive for us. This is an important part of how we domesticate ourselves.

So finding what’s authentic for me at the moment helps me rewild myself.

This doesn’t mean acting irresponsibly or in an unkind way. That worry is the voice of our western culture.

For me, I find that authenticity means living in a more responsible and kind way. It means to find what’s alive and juicy for me, in a way that’s kind to myself and those around me.

How do I know what’s authentic to me? If we are used to following culture and shoulds rather than our own inner guidance, it can be a process to uncover our authenticity. For me, it’s what brings up a spontaneous YES in me.

Acting from a “should” feels a bit disappointing and discouraging and it tends to lead to resentment. Finding what’s more authentic comes with a whole being YES.

GET IN TOUCH WITH OUR PHYSICAL SELVES

This is another obvious approach to finding the wild in and as ourselves.

Go barefoot. Swim naked in lakes, rivers, and the ocean.

Dance. Move with the rhythm. Make music.

Do yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema.

Run. Swim. Play.

Learn inner yoga and energy work. Get in touch with you as an energetic being and the world as energies.

See how it is to bring playfulness and authenticity into this.

UNDO ASSUMPTIONS AND BELIEFS

For me, an important part of rewilding myself is to examine my assumptions and beliefs.

I find that just about all of my stressful assumptions and beliefs come from somewhere else. They come from culture. Many of them are common or universal within my culture. And some may be relatively universal across cultures.

Identify a stressful belief. This is often a version of a universal assumption and belief from my culture.

What happens if I hold it as true and live from it?

How would it be if this assumption didn’t exist?

What’s more authentic for me than this assumption and belief?

FIND WHAT WE ARE IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE

For me, another aspect of rewilding myself is to find what am in my own first-person experience.

At one level, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. (Although it does come with some inherent and inevitable stress.)

And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience?

When I look, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience, for anything that appears in my sense fields.

I find I am fundamentally what the world, to me, happens within and as. I find I am what whatever appears in my sense fields happens within and as.

To myself, I am the oneness the world – to me – happens within and as.

Here, I am already inherently free of any particular identities. I am free to allow and use any one identity. And I am inherently free from it.

This is what already allows the rewilding process, as it allows anything else.

And noticing this and resting in (and as) that noticing supports the rewilding process.

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The Ship of Theseus: who & what we are

What defines us? What makes me me and you you?

If you over time replace all parts of a ship, is it still the same ship?

This is literally an ancient question, and there are many answers.

OUR HUMAN SELF

First, we can look at our human self.

Just like the ship, the parts of our physical body are replaced over time. The molecules making up this body right now come from innumerable sources and each one has a fascinating story we can only guess at.

The patterns of our body is more stable but also changes over time. We can still recognize a liver as a liver and a heart as a heart, but it’s a bit different now than it was before.

The patterns of our psychology is similar with some stability over time along with change.

Some of our most basic and original labels and identities may stay the same throughout our life, like our birth name, birthplace, birth time, and national id number. And some may or may not change, for instance, our name, nationality, sexual and political orientation, food preferences, and so on.

We have memories that create some sense of constancy. We remember our childhood and generally what we did and where we lived through our life.

Perhaps most importantly, we collectively agree that you are you and I am me even if we change over time.

In short, it’s all changing, the one constant is some of our most basic labels, we agree that we are basically the same even if we change over time, without memory there wouldn’t be any knowing of who we were or are and sense of constancy, and it’s conceivable to have a society where they agree on a different way to look at all of this.

WHAT WE ARE

There is something timeless here, and that’s what all of this happens within and as.

When we look, we may find that in our own first person view, we are capacity for all of this, we are what our field of experience happens within and as.

We are what any mental representations of time and space happens within, and any memories and ideas of change happens within and as.

All of this change, our labels and memories, and our collective agreements happen within and as what we are.

CHANGE HELPS US NOTICE WHAT WE ARE

Why is this important? Is this anything more than a thought experiment?

It can certainly be just a thought experiment, but we can also take it further.

All of the insights above under “who we are” helps us notice what we are.

We may recognize that all of our human self is changing and subject to change, and that our labels and memories and collective agreements are what tenuously hold it all together. It can seem scary to really take that in, especially if that’s all there is.

We can take this a few steps further.

We may notice that our experience is always changing. What’s here and now is fresh and different from the past.

We may notice that any sense of change comes from our mental representations of a timeline with past, future, and present, and certain things placed in each of those categories. We wouldn’t have any ideas about change unless we had images of the past (memories) that we use to compare with our images about what’s here (present).

What’s here in our sense fields is all there is, and any sense of past or future can only be found in our mental images and ideas. Even an idea about the present comes from mental representations about the present, including what’s here in the other sense fields. (One step behind what’s here.)

From here, we may notice that we are what all of this happens within and as. We are what our sense fields, including our mental field with ideas about past, future, and present, happens within and as.

When we notice what we are, all this change is OK. It’s even a gift since it helps us notice what we are.

Of course, recognizing change doesn’t inherently bring us to this noticing. Most of the time, we just live with change and often pretend things change less than they do. But if we are open to this noticing, and perhaps have the guidance and tools for noticing, recognizing change and impermanence can be very helpful.

APPRECIATE WHAT’S HERE

In a conventional sense, recognizing change can help us appreciate what’s here more. This moment will never come back. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In reality, it’s a once-in-all-of-existence experience. It will never happen in any other place, and it will never happen any other time.

And in our own immediate noticing, we may find that what’s here is really and literally all we have. All we have is what’s in our sense fields – sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental representations. The past and future and any ideas about the present can only be found in our mental representations here and now.

HOW WE CAN FIND THIS FOR OURSELVES

Understanding and exploring this within thought can be interesting but it’s not transformative. If we are looking for transformation, we need to notice directly and allow this noticing to transform us.

We can do this through traditional sense field explorations, or modern varieties like the Living Inquiries. And we can notice more directly what we are through guided inquiry like the Big Mind process or Headless Experiments.

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Rumi: Things are such

Things are such, that someone lifting a cup,
Or watching the rain, petting a dog,
Or singing, just singing — could be doing as
Much for this universe as anyone.

– Rumi in The Purity of Desire: 100 Poems of Rumi, reinterpreted by Daniel Ladinsky

This question sometimes comes up for me as a kind of life-koan. For health reasons, I am doing far less in the world than I used to and imagined I would, so this comes up for me. Does my life have meaning and value even if I am not doing the things I imagined I would do in the world?

What do I find when I look into this?

The essence – taking it literally

We can take the poem literally and look at what our activities do for the universe.

If we are engagest in the simplest of activities, and perhaps appear to be doing very little, how can that be doing as much for the universe as anything? Does our existence, in itself, do as much for the universe as anything?

What first comes to mind is that I cannot know. I cannot know if not laughing, or petting a dog, or singing isn’t doing as much for the universe as anything. Perhaps just existing and experiencing what I am currently experiencing does as much for existence as anything.

We can also look at this from a systems view. We can see the universe as a seamless evolving system, and we and all beings are parts of this system. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. In this sense, any activity or experience may do as much for the universe as anything.

And if we see the universe as the divine itself, then our experiences and activities are the experiences and activities of the divine. Here too, the simplest of activities and simply existing may do as much for existence as anything.

We can also bring it home. Here, I find that my current experience does as much for me as anything. In other words, it does as much for my universe as anything, and it does as much for this local part of the universe I call “me” as anything. Right here, I find how it’s true.

The essence – bringing it home

Often, these apparently metaphysical questions are about something more immediate and simple.

Does my life have meaning and value? Even if I don’t do what I had imagined? Or as much as I imagined?

This is where it makes sense to talk about meaning and value. My life as it is, even in the simplest of moments, is of immense value to me and to those who love me.

For our personal lives, this is perhaps the most important and the essence of the question.

Our sense of meaning and value is often colored by less-than-helpful assumptions we have adopted from our culture, perhaps telling us that our value is tied up with what we do, so it’s helpful to notice these, examine one at a time, and find what’s genuinely more true for us.

Some painful beliefs worth examining may be: My life doesn’t have value. If I don’t do X, my life doesn’t have value. I need to do X to be loved. And so on. What this really is about is often something universal, vulnerable, simple, innocent, childlike, and essential for us as human beings.

IN A BROADER CONTEXT

I’ll go into a few related topics and angles since it has direct consequences for how we live our lives, and the choices and priorities we make individually and collectively.

There are a few related but distinct questions here: What does an activity or our existence do for the universe? What does the activity or existence of anything do for the universe? What’s the value we assign to these things and how does that influence our perception, choices, and life?

Protestant work ethic and value through productivity

Coming from northern Europe, I am familiar with the protestant and capitalist work ethic suggesting that we have our value from what we do in the world. Productivity equals value.

Is that really true? What about a baby? A baby isn’t productive and still considered valuable. Is it just because we expect it to become productive later? Is someone with a handicap not valuable? Someone in a coma? Does nature only have value for what it produces for itself and us?

It all depends on how we look at it. People with a disability are loved by someone, and that makes them valuable to that person – and others who value love. And the same for a baby, and even someone in a coma.

Cannot find value outside of what the mind assigns to it

Of course, the idea of value is an idea created by the mind. It’s not inherent in reality.

We – collectively and individually – decide what’s valuable, and it’s good to remember that this is, quite literally, imagination and fantasy. At a collective level, it does help with coordination and cohesion, and it’s also something we can question. We can recognize it as imagination.

This also means that we can, as individuals and even collectively, assign value to what we find useful to us. For me, it seems useful to assume that all living beings, all ecosystems, and all life has value just from existing. Beyond that, I would assign value to all parts of Earth since the non-living parts of Earth – water, air, rocks – are as integral and essential to this living planet as anything else. All life, including ourselves, depends on it for our life.

Assigning value to all life and Earth as a whole allows us to live in a way that honors the living systems we are part of, and even ourselves independent of productivity or anything else. It’s practically useful since it opens up for some reverence for all life and makes us consider if we can meet our needs in a different way. Perhaps one that minimizes harm to life, and may benefit life overall.

A systems view

If we see the universe as a seamless system, then we see all things as part of this evolving system. All parts of the system have value as parts of this larger dynamic system.

We can also see all beings as the universe locally bringing itself into consciousness. In the words of Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. All life is, in its own way.

If we see it this way, it’s natural to also see all life as having value and all things having value in themselves.

Divine creation or the divine itself

We can see all of existence as divine creation, and as such, it has meaning and value in itself.

We can also see all of existence as the divine. We may see the physical body as the divine taking physical form. And this opens up for even a deeper sense of reverence for all of life and all of existence.

Capacity for the world

When I find myself as capacity for the world, and that which anything I think, feel, see, hear, and so on happens within and as, this all looks a bit different. Here, everything has value. Everything is what I am. Everything happens within and as the one. We can also say that everything is the divine.

Here, the reverence for life and all of existence comes from direct perception.

Values and a pragmatic approach

We can choose to assign value to all life, and that doesn’t mean we won’t prioritize and make difficult choices. For instance, we can choose ecosystems over individual life, and we may choose our own life over that of plants we eat to survive. We always make these kinds of choices, and it’s good to be conscious of it.

Life is a mix of destruction and giving life. We eat life to stay alive. We ourselves are eventually consumed by other life. That’s how things work here.

As mentioned earlier, by assigning value to all life, we may live with more reverence for life and find different strategies that minimizes harm to life and perhaps even benefits life overall.

And as Albert Schweitzer said, by living we put ourselves in debt to life, and we can do our best to repay that debt through how we live our life.

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An elegant order in the way everything fits and unfolds

There is something about the universe — an elegant order in the way everything fits and unfolds

– Tom Atlee in his recent newsletter

I agree. Seen from the view of parts, this is how it appears.

There is also the view from the whole, and we can look at it in two different ways.

One is that existence is one. The universe is one seamless system. Everything happens within and as this one system. If we want, we can say that it’s all lila. It’s all the play of the universe, life, or the divine.

Another is that the world as it appears to us happens within and as what we are. If we want to put a label on it, we can say that it all happens within and as this consciousness that we are. To us, it all fits in an elegant way because it all happens within us and this oneness. And also because it’s all interpreted by our own mental field.

So it’s all oneness and dynamics and movements within the whole. The parts fit because they are part of a whole. An animal or plant or geological element fits into an ecosystem precisely because it’s a system, it’s a seamless whole. An eddy in a stream fits into the stream because the stream is a seamless whole. Any part of Earth fits because it’s a part of the living system of Earth.

And it all fits because, to us, it’s all happening within and as what we are. We are the oneness it’s all happening within and as. And we provide the mental overlay that makes sense of it all. This mental overlay makes the parts fit because of the stories we have about it.

What is wholeness?

What is wholeness?

There are several forms of wholeness, all part of the main form of wholeness.

There is the wholeness of what we are. We are that which the content of our experience happens within and as, whether we call this awakeness, consciousness, or something else. This makes our experience into a seamless whole, whether we notice or not.

As soon as the mind believes its thoughts and latches onto the viewpoints of some of these thoughts, there is an experience of fragmentation and it’s more difficult to notice what we are.

The process of what we are noticing itself is called awakening. And the process of living from this in more situations in our life is called embodiment.

There is also a wholeness of who we are, as this human self. Again, the wholeness is already here. And yet, there is also a sense of fragmentation since we tend to identify with some of who we are and disown or ignore other parts of who we are. The process of finding our wholeness as who we are is what Jung called individuation.

There is also the wholeness of the world and the universe. The Earth is one seamless living and evolving system. The universe is also one seamless evolving system. And we – as human individuals and species with our culture – are an intrinsic part of those systems.

Finally, there is the wholeness of all of existence. Whether we use a small (psychological) or big (spiritual) interpretation of awakening, we can say that all of existence is one. We can also say that everything is existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

How do we explore these forms of wholeness? I have written many articles on each of them but I’ll say a few words here.

To explore the wholeness of what we are, we can use inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind Process, Living Inquiries, etc.), often combined with meditation (basic meditation, quiet prayer, training stable attention), and perhaps mindful movement (yoga, taichi, Breema, etc.).

To explore the wholeness of who we are, we can use psychology (parts work, shadow work, projection work), bodywork, relationship work, and more.

When we explore the wholeness of Earth and the universe, we can use systems views and integral (aqal) maps.

And what about the wholeness of all of existence? It includes all of the above, although we can most directly explore it as we explore what we are.

Note: The examples of approaches above are just the ones I have found useful. What works for you may be different, and what I use in the future will probably also change as I discover other approaches.

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What is oneness?

What is oneness?

The most basic oneness is what’s here now. In immediate experience, for all of us, all our experience happens within and as what we are. The content of our experience happens within and as what we are.

We can call this consciousness or love, or awakeness, or the void all happens within and as, but those are labels. The labels tempt the mind into thinking it has got it while it’s not anything that can be gotten conceptually. It’s what we are.

Awakening means that what we are wakes up to itself. Glimpses itself. Notices itself. Notices itself more and more clearly as what any experience happens within and as, including as that which this personality and this conditioning like the very least.

Why is this not always noticed? Because mind likes to identify as parts of the content of its experience. Mind likes to take itself as a me (this human self) and an I (the observer, doer, etc.). It’s not wrong but it’s incomplete. It creates an experience of duality, of I here and the wider world out there, and that’s all there is to it.

That duality is valid in a functional or pragmatic sense. It’s helpful to take this human self as what I am, in a pragmatic sense. But it’s not the whole picture.

In immediate experience, “I” am what my whole field of experience happens within and as. That is, in a sense, a more fundamental identity. Although it’s not an “identity”, it’s just what we are.

We can see this in a couple of different ways. One is that the fundamental reality of the world is of me as a human self in the physical world, and it’s only in my experience all appears as consciousness. All appears as consciousness because that’s how it has to be in my experience since I am consciousness. This is the small or psychological interpretation and it’s a possible and valid interpretation.

The other is that reality is more directly as it appears. All is actually consciousness, all of reality is and happens within and as consciousness. We can say all is the divine or whatever name(s) we have for the divine (Spirit, the One, Brahman, Allah, Big Mind etc.). This is the big or spiritual interpretation and is also valid.

There is another form of oneness, or another oneness within the first oneness: the oneness of this universe. It’s one seamless whole, one seamless system. This system is what has formed itself into stars and planets, this living planet, and everything that’s part of this living planet (including us humans and all our experience). As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, feelings, and thoughts of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into awareness.

I should mention that within the small interpretation of awakening, the physical world – including our own physical body – appears as consciousness because it happens within and as consciousness. (Which is what we are.) In the big interpretation of awakening, the physical world actually is as it appears to us, it is consciousness.

In either case, we can investigate, with guidance, how our mind creates its own experience of the physical world, and perhaps of this physical world as real in itself, as solid, as dense and material. As we investigate this – and as we find ourselves as that which all our experience happens within and as – what we call the physical world will appear less and less solid to us and more as consciousness. In that sense, it will appear more and more as a dream (happening within and as consciousness).

How can we notice oneness and live more from it? This is, in a way, the main question of spiritual practice so it’s too big to address here. I’ll just mention that the easiest way to have a glimpse of oneness may be through inquiry (Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, Headless experiments, etc.). And Practices to Reconnect is an excellent way to deepen into the second form of oneness.

Key interventions: Chin in to support posture

Sometimes, we find key interventions that reorganizes the whole system towards health.

I have explored different adjustments for my posture. For instance adjusting the angle of my hip rotation (bottom forward), shoulders back, leading with the belly or chest, imagining a string pulling on the top of the head etc. They all help to some extent but each one felt a bit contrived. (My posture is OK but – as anything – it can always improve, and especially through a wide range of daily life situations and circumstances.)

There is a simple pointer that really works for me: bring the chin in. When I bring the chin in, my whole posture adjusts and falls into place. It feels natural, organic, and comfortable. It creates a natural and easy whole systems change. The curve in my neck becomes a bit more shallow. My shoulders go back. My chest out. My belly in. My hips rotate forward at the bottom, allowing my lower back curve to reduce a bit. My stance and walk feel more comfortable. My mind becomes a bit more alert.

And I can use it in any situation, whether I walk, sit, stand, ski, or whatever I may be doing.

This is what seems to work for me right now. Perhaps not in the future. Certainly not for everyone. But for me, right now. And that’s what counts.

It made me reflect on key interventions. Sometimes, it seems we need to work on a range of issues and approach something from many different angles. And other times, we find a key intervention that allows for a relatively easy whole systems change.

And sometimes, the first may lead to the second. We may approach something from many angles and perspectives, and that ripens the system for a key intervention. Or in the process of exploring a range of approaches, we happen to find (what turns out to be) a key intervention.

In this case, the intervention is very simple and just a little nudge. And yet, it leads to relatively large and comprehensive changes through the system.

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Oneness understood in different ways

There are different forms or versions of oneness.

All as a system. The universe is a seamless system. Everything is evolving from, within, and as the universe. In the same way, the Earth is a seamless living system, and all parts of the Earth is evolving from, within, and as the Earth. (And, yes, that includes humans and our culture, technology, and society.) Everything has infinite causes. Our health and well being is intimately connected with the health and well being of the larger social and ecological wholes. This is a systems view of oneness.

All as consciousness. In our immediate experience, any experience happens within and as consciousness. Any experience is consciousness and cannot be anything else ever. It’s form empty of substance. Any appearance of substance of solidity comes from mental images or words combining with sensations, and that too happens within and as consciousness. (Images or words lend meaning to sensations, and sensations lend a sense of solidity to images and words.) This is something we can – if we explore it skillfully – agree on whether we come from a psychological view or a spiritual view.

All as Spirit. To us, any experience is inevitably consciousness. But is reality in itself – the whole universe – consciousness? (Or Spirit, Brahman, Buddha Mind, Allah, God.) It certainly appears that way to us, but that doesn’t mean it – in itself – is. As with anything else, we cannot know for certain. We can say that there are hints that everything, in itself, is consciousness, including synchronicities, various forms of ESP and knowing, and perhaps distance healing. But, in fairness, these can be interpreted other ways as well.

Is it so obvious? I have assumed that it’s obvious that all our experience happens within and as consciousness. I know that to many, the world appears to be made up of solid and substantial “things” that exist “out there” in the world. And yet, within one session of Living Inquiries, guided by a skilled facilitator, we can all have a taste of how the mind creates its own world. And that all of it happens within and as consciousness. A brief exploration will typically reveal it, even if most will revert to the “solid objects in a real world” experience afterward.

My view? To me, each of these three forms of oneness seems valid and useful. The systems view helps us organize ourselves so we are more aligned with reality, and it can also open for awe, gratitude, and humility, and a deep sense of belonging. The second helps relieve stress from recognizing how the mind creates its own experience. And although the third is perhaps a less needed addition, it does help us function in a more sane and mature way in the world.

Play of the divine. These three forms of oneness have an additional component for me. And that’s lila – the play of life, the mind, or the divine. From a systems view, the universe is the play of life. From the second view, our experience is the play of the mind. And from the third view, all of existence is the play of the divine. It’s life, the mind, or the divine, expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in a great multitude of ways. There is perhaps no ultimate “goal” to it all apart from the play itself, and that’s perhaps enough. Of course, within this play, there are apparent sub-“goals” or stepping stones, but it’s all happening within and as the play.

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Conspiracy theories vs more major issues most of us agree on

Note: This post is a bit one-sided as I wrote it from some reactivity and didn’t rewrite it – as I often do – before posting it. See the comments section for more details…!

I understand the fascination with conspiracy theories. They can give us a feeling that we belong to an exclusive group who knows while others don’t. It can be exciting and give can give us a sense of discovery. They can give us quick and simple answers to some of the problems in the world.

At the same time, it seems a waste of time to be too focused on obscure and often insignificant conspiracy theories. Mainly because what we agree is going on, what’s already out in the open, is as bad and often far worse than most conspiracy theories.

Here are some major things we know are going on:

Multinational corporations control international and national policies to increase their profit at the cost of people, ecosystems, and future generations. They also own most of mainstream media, and buy the votes and policies of politicians through financial contributions. Their interests often dictate the public discourse, bringing attention away from the really serious and overarching issues, and frame the more serious issues in a way that focuses on their more peripheral aspects. (No secret group or organization is needed for this to happen.)

Our economic system is based on assumptions that goes counter to ecological realities. What’s profitable in the short and medium term is often detrimental to the ecosystems we depend on for everything precious to us. And that’s not inevitable. It’s built into our particular economic system. It can be changed. (It’s not about individual greed as much as a system where short term profit is disconnected from enhancing the health and well-being of ecosystems, society, and individuals.)

Most or all our systems – economy, transportation, business, science, education, health and more – are based on outdated worldviews and frameworks. They are based on models and assumptions from one or two centuries ago when the world looked very different from how it is today. Today, with our much larger population and much more powerful technology, these assumptions are far more destructive to nature and people.

A note: Climate change is often a big topic in the media today as it should be. Although climate change is just a symptom of a much deeper and more systemic problem, and that is rarely addressed in mainstream media – at least so far. I suspect it will be.

None of these systems have to look the way they do. They are created and upheld by us and can be changed by us. And they will as more people become aware of the downsides of the current models and that we have practical and attractive alternatives.

Bernie Sanders in an excellent example of someone who sees and speaks about many of these issues, and a different and more sane way of organizing ourselves. He is a realist so he speaks about the first steps even if he likely is aware of the longer perspectives. We will eventually – and quite soon –  need deeper changes.

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Nonduality, systems view, ecophilosophy

I went to a talk with Stephan Harding and David Abram at Schumacher College earlier tonight, and was reminded of the connection between nonduality and ecophilosophy. (Mainly because the way they talked about it bordered on the nondual, but didn’t quite embrace or come from it.)

To me, nonduality, systems views, and various forms of ecophilosophy are natural allies. They complement each other beautifully.

Nonduality simplifies and unifies, and offers pointers to see through stories.

And the other ones are powerful stories which can transform our lives at individual and collective levels in a very much needed way at this point in our history.

What these all have in common is a recognition of stories as stories, with a power to guide and transform our lives. And of the oneness of all life, of everything that is.

Mars

There are two Mars related stories in the news these days: The quite exciting landing of Curiosity on Mars a few days ago, and Elon Musk’s plan to bring people to Mars within 10-15 years.

I have been interested in astronomy and space exploration since I was a little boy, and this interest was fueled even more when I saw Cosmos by Carl Sagan at age ten or eleven. It brought me directly into a profound sense of awe of the universe and life itself, of us all – quite literally – made of star dust, the product of 13.4 billions years of evolution, and that these eyes, these ears, these thoughts, these feelings are the eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. In the words of Carl Sagan:

And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins — star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.

In my teens, I became interested in systems views and the Gaia theory, and it was quite clear that the Earth as a whole can be seen as a seamless living organism, where we as humans have specific roles and functions, as any other species and ecosystem does. What is our role? We are, clearly, an awareness organ for the Earth and the universe. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to bring itself into awareness. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to experience itself. Through us, the Earth and the universe develops technologies which allows for it to explore itself even further, in even smaller details (microscopes), even further out in space (telescopes, space travel). Through us, Earth is able to see itself from the outside, as one seamless whole, and that feeds back into and even transforms our human society and culture.

Perhaps most importantly in the long run – we may be a way for the Earth to reproduce. The Earth has already taken the first steps in this direction, through our space travel and ideas of Mars colonization and terraforming. It’s an universal impulse for life to wish to (a) survive and (b) reproduce, so why wouldn’t this also be the case for Earth as a whole? There are several mechanisms which may make this happen. It’s a natural consequence of our combination of (a) curiosity and passion for exploration, and (b) our current and future levels of technology. It makes sense. Having two – or more – planets with human colonies and Earth life (plants, animals, ecosystems) makes humanity and Earth life far more resilient. A large space object may crash into the Earth, wiping out civilization and large portions of life, or we may do it ourselves. So if we have a “backup” civilization and Earth life somewhere else, life can continue there and perhaps even support or re-seed life on Earth. In a longer perspective, we know that the sun will eventually engulf the Earth.

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