Systems change from an ecocidal civilization to a more life-centered civilization

When I see dynamics that hold our current ecocidal system in place, I see expressions of universal systems dynamics.

SYSTEMS SEEK DYNAMIC EQUILIBRIUM

Systems seek dynamic equilibrium, and they have dynamics in place to try to maintain that equilibrium. It will resist anything that’s destabilizing. That’s natural and healthy. That’s how any system exists and that’s how we are here.

SPECIFIC EXPRESSIONS OF THESE UNIVERSAL DYNAMICS

In our ecocidal system, we see many expressions of this. Some ridicule those who question the sanity of our current system. Some want to continue with business as usual because it’s comfortable or it serves their short-term interests. Some deny that we are in an ecological crisis. Some think it’s hopeless. Some misdiagnose the problem and blame corporations or the government. Laws and courts sometimes protect those who destroy ecosystems and punish those who seek to protect them.

These are all expressions of our current ecocidal system, and they are expressions of dynamics seeking to maintain the equilibrium of this system.

It’s not personal. It’s not really about the individual. It’s all expressions of systems dynamics, often expressed through the attitudes and behaviors of groups and individuals.

SYSTEMS CHANGE

So how does this system change? How does it shift into another state, hopefully, one that’s more life-centered?

It shifts the way any system shifts. It shifts due to a build-up of dynamics pushing it out of equilibrium and into another state.

It shifts because too many things induce it to shift, overcoming the dynamics seeking to keep it in equilibrium.

A SHIFT OUT OF OUR ECOCIDAL SYSTEM AND INTO SOMETHING ELSE

In our case, it will shift because the dire situation we are in will become obvious to more and more people, the necessity to shift into a more life-centered civilization becomes obvious to enough people, and enough people are taking action to make those changes.

The other option is a collapse of our current civilization. A small portion of humans may survive and create another culture. Or humans may collapse with the system. Either way, our global ecological system will continue and find another equilibrium that deals with the changes our civilization has caused.

Note: These are the things I was passionate about in my teens and early twenties, in the ’80s and ’90s. I haven’t really kept myself up to date with systems views since then, but I assume the essence of this still applies. For the last 10-15 years, I have been unable to read much or take in much information due to my health.

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What they thought they knew was a lot, what they actually knew was very little

From our perspective, what they actually knew and was factually accurate was very little. But what they thought they knew, or what they believed based on earlier generations of scholarship, there was actually a surprisingly large amount of that. […] They had a good amount of knowledge about Egypt, but the knowledge they had is not knowledge we necessarily would acknowledge as still being valid. 

– William Clark from Grey History, at 32-33 minutes into Bonus: Napoleon in Egypt, The History of Egypt Podcast

I listened to a podcast where one of the hosts said this about what late 1700s/early 1800s European scholars knew about ancient Egypt.

If humanity and our civilization are still around in two hundred years, they will likely say the same about us: What they thought they knew was a lot, what they actually knew was very little.

PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Of course, having this bigger perspective is part of science. My teachers in middle and high school had an academic background and would mention it now and then. I read about it in the books of Fritjof Capra and others in my mid-teens. It was the first I learned at University. (The first semester at the University of Oslo focused on the history, philosophy, and methods of science.)

So it is slightly amusing and baffling when scholars and professionals don’t seem to have this perspective. They seem to assume that the same doesn’t apply to us from the perspective of the future.

This also came up for me when I studied psychology. A lot was presented as “this is how it is” when it was based on flimsy research and could be interpreted in many other ways, and in general was part of a field of study that’s still in its infancy and is only barely and tangentially a “hard science” no matter how hard they try to be a hard science. I assume many did have this perspective, and would talk about it in that context if asked, but put it aside partly for convenience.

WE DO THE SAME IN OUR OWN LIFE

I assume most of us do this in our own life as well.

I sometimes pretend to myself (and others) that I know a lot, while in reality, I know very little.

This not just what I think I know about the world. It includes anything I think I know about life, myself, and others. The most basic assumptions I have about myself and life. (I am a human, an object in the world, a doer, an observer.) Whatever painful stories that I – somewhere – hold as true. (She should understand me. I am not good enough. Life is not kind.) 

HOLDING IT ALL MORE LIGHTLY

For me, this is freeing. It helps me see our civilization in a bigger perspective, and it helps me see my own worldview and ideas about life, others, and myself in a bigger perspective.

I can use ideas and pointers as guides for orienting and functioning in the world, and I can see it all in the bigger picture and hold it more lightly.

There is information and experience that would turn how I see and understand anything upside-down and inside-out. There are whole worldviews that would make as much or more sense to me than the one(s) I have now.

POINTING TO MY NATURE

Thoughts do not provide any solid ground to stand on. So what can I do?

This is something that points to my first-person nature.

I find that my only metaphorical refuge is to notice my more fundamental nature, and to rest in and as that noticing. And really, what’s happening is that my nature notice itself – to the extent that’s possible – and rest in and as that noticing.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE COLLECTIVELY ARE MISSING?

What do we miss in our current Western civilization and worldview?

Of course, I don’t know since I am part of and embedded in this time and civilization.

But I can make some guesses, based on my own biases and filters.

We don’t make much use of an understanding of holarchies, systems theories, and integral models and perspectives. They are out there but not adopted by most scholars, researchers, or people in general. In an imagined future, I see us collectively making use of these and updated versions and understandings in this same family of modes and thoughts.

Awakening and our more fundamental first-person nature are not part of our Western mindset or academic study to any significant extent. There is some research into it and some discussion about it, but it’s all on the margins. To ourselves, we are consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness. That has profound implications which our Western civilization has only barely begun to explore. In an imagined future civilization, this is far more central to psychology, philosophy, and many other fields of study, and far more part of our worldview and daily life.

Western medicine doesn’t understand much of how other approaches to health and healing work. As a whole, it’s not interested and the few who are exist on the margins. There is very little understanding of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic and similar approaches to medicine. There is very little understanding of energy work and energetic approaches to healing. There is very little understanding of shamanic approaches to healing. And so on. This is a huge gap in the current worldview of Western medicine. In an imagined future, there is a much larger integral perspective that includes and holds it all, and explores and tries to understand it all from many different perspectives and worldviews.

As I often write about, we are in a global ecological overshoot. We use the metaphorical savings account of Earth, which looks OK until we reach the bottom of it and our lifestyle and everything else – our planetary ecosystem and our civilization – comes crashing down. Very few take this seriously, including scholars and researchers who should know better. Even the ones talking about climate change are missing this bigger and far more important picture which is global ecological overshoot. In an imagined future civilization, they understand and take this seriously. It’s part of the fundamentals of their worldview and how they organize themselves collectively and individually. Their social systems function within ecological realities, and not on a fantasy as in our current civilization.

Similarly, we live within an ecocidal civilization. We have set up our systems so that what’s easy and attractive to do is also destructive to our health, the health of our ecosystems, and the health and even the existence of future generations. This is largely not understood, and most people only grasp small pieces of it. In an imagined future civilization, what’s easy and attractive to do – individually and collectively – is also what supports life and the health and well-being of ourselves, the ecosystems, and future generations. (Of course, they will get a lot wrong but the intention is there and the willingness to learn and make changes.)

We see ourselves as separate entities. That’s not wrong but we are missing out on a bigger and far more meaningful, nurturing, and guiding perspective. In an imagined future civilization, we know in our bones that we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. (Quotes from Carl Sagan in Cosmos.) Looking back, our current civilization looks poor, lost, and profoundly misguided in its small and fragmented view.

We see ourselves as alone in the universe, largely because we don’t have solid evidence for anything else. That’s OK and understandable. But there is an imagined future where we have made contact and we know we are part of a cosmic society. (There are many ways a contact can be made, from distant astronomical observations to direct contact. And who knows if any actual communication or exchange will be possible, at least at first.)

Note: This is one of the many articles I normally end up not posting. Something about it doesn’t feel quite right. It doesn’t feel as personal or juicy as I would like. It was written when my brain fog was stronger than usual. The content seems a little too obvious, with no surprise twist or layers. I thought I would post it anyway.

Image is by me and Midjourney

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Earth from ISS

A suicidal / ecocidal civilization: Finding a more real, grounded, and kind way to relate to it all

All civilizations rise and fall, and ours is no exception.

An interesting twist is that ours is the first global civilization that rises and falls and we don’t know how that’s going to look.

INDEX

What comes together falls apart | A civilization fatally out of alignment with reality | Sudden change | Familiarity with systems dynamics | We have the solutions but do we have the collective will? | What will collapse mean? | What can we do individually? | Collapse acceptance | Power-over vs power-with | What’s my history with this? | Notes

WHAT COMES TOGETHER FALLS APART

How can we know that our current civilization will fall?

In terms of history, it’s because all past civilizations have risen and fallen. It’s what civilizations do and ours is no exception.

In the bigger picture, it’s because everything does. What comes together falls apart.

We can notice it here and now. Every moment, what was is gone and something new and fresh is here. And it happens at more obvious and larger scales, including at the scale of humanity, culture, Earth, and the universe. It will all be gone.

Everything we know – collectively and individually – has come together and will fall apart.

A CIVILIZATION FATALLY OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH REALITY

We can also look at specifics of how our civilization creates its own fall.

The most obvious may be that our civilization is fatally out of alignment with reality.

We operate on a worldview that’s out of alignment with reality. For instance, we assume and emphasize separation in a world where everything is intimately connected. We assume the superiority and rights of humans over other beings. We prioritize the current generations over Future generations. And, crucially, we assume that the Earth has unlimited resources and unlimited ability to absorb waste. (See more below under “Power-over vs power-with”.)

This is reflected in all aspects of our culture and all our systems. (1)

Let’s look at our economic system.

We have created an economic system that assumes an infinite ability of nature to provide resources and absorb waste, and that our health and well-being is not dependent on the health and well-being of the larger ecological systems.

We made those assumptions because it fits our general worldview, and because we practically could at the time it was developed.

At the time, our population was relatively small and our technology relatively simple so we didn’t receive immediate feedback from nature. For all practical purposes, nature was infinite.

We still use that economic system. The problem is that we now have a much larger population and a far more efficient technology, so Earth cannot keep up.

Globally, our ecological footprint would require two Earths to be sustainable. And for the Western world, our ecological footprint would require around five Earths to be sustainable.

We are also putting more waste into the Earth’s system than it can easily deal with. There are plastic particles and toxins in just about every living being. We are in the middle of an insect apocalypse because we (insanely) grow our good with toxins. Our climate is changing dramatically from all the heat-trapping gasses we release into the atmosphere.

We are in overshoot and we are not doing anything significant to change it.

And that overshoot has serious consequences.

SUDDEN CHANGE

Ecologically, we are doing the equivalent of living on our savings. If we lived on the interests – the surplus produced by the Earth – it would be sustainable. But we are digging into the savings. That looks OK for a while. We have what we need. Then we suddenly realize the harsh reality. We are out of funds.

Our climate is similarly set to undergo sudden change. Any system tries to maintain equilibrium for as long as possible. We put heat-tapping gasses into the atmosphere, the system maintains a kind of stability for a while. And at some point, it shifts into a new state, and that tends to happen quickly. In the case of climate, it shifts into a more chaotic and unpredictable state.

That’s what we can expect with our global ecological system as a whole. In the coming decades, we can expect to see a series of sudden and likely dramatic shifts. These shifts feed into the system to trigger a cascade of other shifts.

What may happen?

Several moderate changes are already happening: More extreme weather. Stronger storms. More drought. Heavier rain and flooding. Crop failures. Species extinction. Mass death of insects impacting the whole ecosystem. Mass human migrations away from areas that become unlivable from drought, flooding, and rising ocean levels (eventually tens of meters). This, in itself, is serious but manageable, at least initially.

We may also see more extreme changes: Changes in ocean currents may significantly impact regional climates. The oceans may die due to rising water temperatures, acidification, and low oxygen levels, and this – loss of oxygen production from plankton, etc. – will seriously impact land life. Forests may collapse in large regions due to drought or they may lose their ability to produce oxygen because of increased temperatures. And so on. These are all things experts in the field say can happen, and will likely happen if the current Earth changes go far enough. If any of this actually happens, it’s not realistically manageable for us. It may not be compatible with human life.

FAMILIARITY WITH SYSTEMS DYNAMICS

If we are not familiar with big-picture thinking or systems theories, we may assume a kind of linear and gradual progression. That means we have time. Things look mostly OK so far, so why change too much too soon?

If we are familiar with overshot and systems views, we tend to see it differently. Then we know that things may look mostly on for a while, then there is a sudden shift, and we are screwed. We don’t have time to wait. Changing things within our current sudden is not enough. We need a deep transformation of our civilization as a whole.

WE HAVE THE SOLUTIONS BUT DO WE HAVE THE COLLECTIVE WILL?

We have the solutions.

We know some (humane) ways to reduce our population. (Educate women, provide economic safety nets for everyone, and so on.)

We have many technological solutions that are part of the puzzle.

We know how to create an economic system that takes ecological realities into account, and where what’s attractive and easy to do – individually and collectively – is also ecologically sound. (We have the big picture and know in what direction to move, and the details will be worked out.)

We have the worldviews necessary for a more sustainable civilization. Some elements may be ecospirituality within each of the major religions, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, deep ecology, systems views, integral views, and so on.

The question is: Do we have the collective will? Will we find it in time?

We are already too late to avoid massive changes to our planet which will impact all of us, so we have minus time in that sense.

Will we be able to create an ecologically sustainable civilization in time to prevent the fall of our civilization? We have to work towards it as much as we can, but it is unlikely.

What we tend to see at the end of civilizations is what we see in the world today: A few who recognize what’s happening, take it seriously and sincerely work towards creating a better and more functional civilization. Many who go into denial, continue much as before, or wait for others to do something. Polarization, infighting, distractions, and the privileged holding onto their privilege even if it’s suicidal. Of course, all of this is common anyway.

There is also a great deal of simplistic misdiagnosis of the situation. Ideas that focus on aspects of what’s happening within the system but not the system itself. Some blame greed, governments, or corporations. Some think there is a technological solution. Some assume it’s mainly about climate change. Some think we still have time because the changes will be gradual and incremental. And so on. All of it is simplistic and myopic. This misdiagnosis reflects and comes out of the worldview that created the situation in the first place. And the misdiagnosis is part of the problem.

WHAT WILL COLLAPSE MEAN?

I don’t know.

What we know is that it will look different from the collapse of past civilizations. They were regional and this one is global. People in those civilizations continued to live their lives, just in a slightly different context. A lot from those civilizations was passed on to other and emerging civilizations. In our case, we don’t have another place to go. We have destroyed our global life-support system to the extent that it may no longer be able to support us, or at least very many of us.

The best scenario may be significant ecological changes, a significant reduction in the size of humanity, and a new emerging civilization – hopefully with some lessons learned. This requires that the more extreme Earth changes – like the death of the oceans – don’t happen.

The worst, from our perspective, is the end of humanity. (Along with many other species and ecosystems.) The Earth’s system changes to the extent that it’s no longer compatible with human life. In this case, the end of humanity happens sooner rather than later. If the changes are as dramatic and rapid as some scientists – and especially those familiar with systems views – think, it may even happen within one or two generations.

In the bigger picture, these are not disasters. This is just what happens. It’s how reality is set up. Things come together and fall apart. Death is the price of life.

WHAT CAN WE DO INDIVIDUALLY?

The question then is: What can we do individually and in small groups?

We can do what we can in our own life.

We can find what we are most drawn to, and do that. Joanna Macy talks about three categories: Stopping actions. Creating and living alternatives. And developing and spreading new worldviews.

In my case, I eat organic and local as much as possible and do a few more things in my personal life. I used to be actively involved in local sustainability organizations. I do healing work for myself and others. I currently have 36 acres in the Andes mountains I am helping regenerate and make into a food forest. (I realize the last one is not everyone can do, and I didn’t expect it in my life.)

We can all find something we are drawn to that’s meaningful and a small part of the solutions. We may not be able to save the world. But we can save our world. We can save ourselves by doing something meaningful.

We can realize that we live within a *system* that’s not ecologically sustainable.

That means that what’s easy and attractive to do is not ecologically sustainable. We all, inevitably, contribute to the destruction of ecosystems, just by going about our own lives. That’s not our fault. It’s inevitable. We don’t need to beat ourselves up for it. (And we don’t need to use it as an excuse either.)

We can find ways to nourish ourselves through our connections with the larger whole.

We can explore the Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, Deep Ecology, ecospirituality, systems views, integral views, and so on. Whatever we resonate with.

We can spend time in nature. We can connect with and nourish our physical body and sense-oriented animal self.

We can get familiar with the bigger picture.

Through the Universe story, the Epic of Evolution, systems views, Big History, and so on, we can become familiar with the bigger picture.

We expect what comes together to fall apart.

During the end of a civilization, we expect an amplification of what we generally see in society: Polarization, infighting, distractions, denial, people holding onto privilege, and so on. It’s what humans do.

We also expect some to do the work to create a better functioning civilization.

And we expect to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a wide range of emotions as a response to what’s happening.

We can find more peace with death and change.

Change happens. What comes together falls apart.

It happens continuously, which we notice if we look closely. And it happens at a more obvious and larger scale, sooner or later.

Change and death are what allow something new to exist. It’s what opens up space for something new and different. It’s what allows experience. It’s what allows evolution. It’s how we are here. It’s what allows anything to exist at all.

Everything and everyone is born to die.

It’s meant to be. It’s perfect. It’s how this universe is set up.

We can find gratitude.

We can find the gifts in death and change. As I have mentioned above, it’s what allows anything to be at all. It’s what allows us as individuals to be. It’s what allowed humanity and our current civilization to exist.

It’s what opens the space for something new. When our civilization is gone, who knows what will come in its place? Perhaps some humans will survive and create something new, and even something more aligned with ecological realities. And when humanity is gone, who knows what will come in our place? Perhaps the descendants of the octopus will create a new and amazing civilization that would not be possible if we were still here.

We can allow and welcome our grief, anger, and other responses.

It’s completely natural to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a range of other emotions in the face of what’s happening with our world. And it helps to make friends with it and even welcome it.

It’s natural. It’s healthy. It’s something we can channel into action.

We are, in a very real way, a local part of the Earth grieving itself. We are the Earth grieving itself.

These are universal emotions. All humans experience it and many or most species likely experience it in one form or another. It’s one of the things that tie us together. Even what triggers these emotions is universal in its essence.

We can find gratitude.

There is a lot to find gratitude for here.

We are an expression of all of existence. We are part of this amazing and beautiful larger whole.

We are alive. We are alive at the peak, in some sense, of our civilization. We have the basics for life and often a lot more. Many of us live beyond what anyone could have imagined in the past, and better than 99.9% of all humans that have lived in terms of healthcare, food availability, convenience and so on.

We are aware of the larger context of impermanence and can allow it to inform us in sobering and beautiful ways.

By viscerally getting impermanence – including of ourselves and all we know – we can find deep and equally visceral gratitude for our life and what’s here now.

We can find kindness towards ourselves.

We can learn to relate to ourselves and our world with more kindness.

That, in itself, makes a big difference.

It makes our life easier, and we are giving ourselves something essential we all wish for. It’s what we often are really looking for when we think we are looking for something else.

It’s something our civilization doesn’t really teach us and something we don’t learn unless we are lucky with our parents and upbringing. So this work is also part of changing our civilization and our individual and collective worldview.

One of the things I do for myself is to aim at being a good parent to myself, especially when thoughts and emotions visit that it’s difficult for me to meet with kindness. And I also use the befriend & awaken approach.

We can find kindness towards others.

We all do our best with the cards we are dealt. When people go into denial, short-sightedness, and so on, it’s their way of dealing with living in this world. A lot of it, or all, comes from fear.

We can be of service.

We can find meaning and joy in being of service, in whatever form that takes for us. Whether it is supporting humans, non-humans, or ecosystems.

We can find fellowship.

We can find others like us. We can find and create communities. We can support each other.

I did this in the past and lost it to some extent (apart from what I carry with me) due to illness and other life circumstances. Now, it may be time to refind and rebuild community.

We can find our nature, if we are drawn to it.

What do I mean by our nature?

It’s true enough that I am this human self in the world.

And if I look more closely, I find that in my own immediate experience, I am more fundamentally what my field of experience happens within and as. I am, more fundamentally, what a thought may call consciousness, and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. This is what mystics across cultures and throughout time have described. (And talking about it this way is compatible with a range of worldviews.)

Just about anything is an invitation for us to notice and explore how it is to live from our nature. And these types of more dramatic and massive change even more so.

Of course, many won’t be drawn to it. But if you are, then there are ways to explore this. The ones I have found that seem most effective are: The Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Kiloby Inquiries. Basic meditation. And supportive practices like training a more stable attention.

What does this do for us? Not much, necessarily. But it does feel like coming home which is a relief. And it does change the context for everything.

COLLAPSE ACCEPTANCE

What does collapse acceptance mean?

It means accepting that what comes together falls apart.

This civilization will come to an end. Human civilization will come to an end. Humanity will come to an end. Each of those deaths will leave space for something else, which could be a new human civilization or new species eventually developing a new civilization.

It also means accepting the possibility of a more imminent collapse than many expect.

It’s a possibility, it’s not inevitable. We don’t know for certain.

To me, it also means using this to fuel our life – our gratitude, zest for life, engagement, connections, and so on. We can use it to deepen our conscious connection with our life, the life of others, and life in general. We can use it to be good stewards of our own life and life in general. It’s immensely precious as long as it’s here.

POWER-OVER VS POWER-WITH

A few more words about worldviews.

The worldview of our civilization (post-agriculture) has a power-over orientation where we seek power over ourselves, others, nature, and so on. We have a transcendent sky-god out there somewhere and not in or manifesting as everything, including ourselves, others, and nature.

That allows us to see nature – and ourselves and others – as primarily a resource and something to use (and abuse). This is internalized in all of us, and we can train ourselves to recognize it and support and emphasize alternatives ourselves and our culture.

The alternative is a power-with orientation where we seek partnership and cooperation with ourselves (different parts of our psyche), others, nature, and the universe. It’s also to see all of existence as sacred, as the divine or an expression of the divine. (This includes ourselves, others, nature, the universe.)

When this is internalized, it leads to a very different life individually and collectively. We’ll still need to use natural resources to support our own life, but we’ll do it from a different place. We’ll do it with more gratitude, reverence, and seek to find ways to do it that supports not only our own life but the larger living system, future generations, and life in general.

Of course, there will still be times when a more narrow view takes over – times of crisis or when we are caught in trauma, and we’ll make mistakes because we don’t know better – but that will still happen within a larger context of a general power-with and immanent Spirit orientation. And there will be systems in place to protect the interest of life – our own and the wider living systems – to prevent the worst anti-life behaviors.

This is not idealism. It’s what’s necessary for our own survival. It’s how we protect our own survival and the survival of our descendants.

WHAT’S MY HISTORY WITH THIS?

I loved nature from a very early age. As a child, I always said I wanted to become a zoologist. (What I really meant was ecologist but I didn’t know that word then.) I loved being in nature. I loved the hiking, skiing, and cabin trips with my family. I loved sleeping under the stars in the mountains of Norway. I loved the nature documentaries with David Attenborough and Sverre M. Fjelstad. I loved Cosmos by Carl Sagan, which had a huge impact on me and – in many ways – changed my life. (“We are the local ears, eyes, thoughts and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.”)

In my mid-teens, I got deeply into Fritjof Capra, systems views, and the people he references. I also got deeply into Deep Ecology (Arne Næss, a fellow Norwegian) and eco-philosophy, and I got deeply into Jung. I read all the books I could get my hands on from these authors.

Climate change became a big topic in my later teens, in the ’80s, and even then, I saw it as just one expression of the problems inherent in our civilization. We need to make the changes anyway, climate change or no climate change. (Discussing the details about it and whether it’s human-caused or not is a distraction and sometimes an intentional distraction.)

In my twenties, in the US, I read everything I could find about ecospirituality (from any and no particular tradition), ecopsychology, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, and so on. I used the Ecological Footprint a lot in my work with sustainability. (I was the initial paid coordinator for Sustain Dane in Madison, Wisconsin.) I organized several projects where we used the ecological footprint as a central theme, and also several events and workshops (and one longer retreat) where we used the Practices to Reconnect and the Council of All Beings.

These days, I work on a regeneration project (15 hectares) in the Andes mountain. It feels deeply rewarding to help this land become more vibrant and healthy again and support the lives of innumerable beings. An integrated food forest will provide food for non-human beings and humans. And it may also eventually be part of local eco-tourism. We’ll see. Anything can happen.

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Deep time overlay in daily life

All of us are informed by a myriad of mental images and words in daily life. Many or most of these operate without being consciously noticed although we can train ourselves to notice more.

DEEP TIME IN MY WORLD

Since I know my own world best, I’ll use myself as an example.

In my daily life, I often notice mental images and words relating to deep time.

My mind is creating an overlay from history, evolutionary psychology, and the universe story, and it’s using it to make sense of the world.

EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY

I often check in with evolutionary psychology if I see a behavior I am curious about.

For instance, when I hear or hear about the stress many experience, it’s natural to check it with an image of how our distant ancestors lived – in smaller groups and a much simpler life focused on gathering and hunting. That life had challenges too, of course, but it is simpler than our life so contrasting the two immediately gives us some understanding of why modern humans experience so much stress, anxiety, and depression.

When I see people who are overweight, or hear about eating disorders, or walk into a grocery store full of sugary things, I am also reminded of the environment we evolved in. We evolved to love sugary things since they were fruits, we didn’t so often come across fruits and they are full of valuable nutrients and energy, so it was good for us to have a strong desire to eat them. These days, that impulse is hijacked by the modern food industry where we are surrounded by sugary temptations and it’s not so easy for many of us to resist.

HISTORY

When the pandemic happened, I was not surprised for long by most of what unfolded.

I knew that pandemics happen roughly one hundred years apart (there are obviously exceptions) so this one came right on time. (A century after the Spanish Flu.)

I have read and studied some epidemiology since my teens, so I knew what works in terms of measures we collectively can take to reduce the impact. So I was not surprised by the measures taken by most governments. They just followed standard pandemic guidelines based on what we know works from history. (There were some variations, of course, with Sweden and China as polar opposites. And that’s very good. That allows us to study and learn from it in hindsight.)

I was also not surprised by the upswing in conspiracy theories and groups of people being upset about some of our collective measures. In pandemics or other collective crises, there is an upswing in conspiracy theories, scapegoating, and fear relating to any change. (I was disappointed that some of my friends fell into it without apparently much awareness of how they were just repeating patterns from history.)

UNIVERSE STORY

Sitting here, and often in daily life, I am also aware of how I am literally stardust.

I and all of Earth are created from matter forged in ancient stars.

I am aware of my distant ancestors going back. to the very first single-celled beings Earth formed itself into.

I am aware of my intimate relationship with all Earth life.

I am aware that the universe has formed itself into all I am and all I am aware of.

MORE FUNDAMENTALLY CONSCIOUSNESS

There is another aspect here that is not really deep time, but maybe more a (kind of) deep psychology.

For a few decades now, I have found myself most fundamentally as consciousness.

To me, the world happens within and as this consciousness. (That includes anything within the content of experience, including this human self, any thoughts and emotions, any sense of a doer, observer, and so on.)

So when I see or imagine other beings, I assume that’s how it is for them too, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. I see an image of them too most fundamentally being consciousness, operating through and as the body-mind they function through and as.

That gives another depth to my world.

GOOD TO NOTICE

All of this is how my mental field gives some depth to my world.

And it’s very good to notice.

It’s good to notice that it is a mental overlay.

Although it gives depth and richness, and my personality mostly likes it, it’s good to hold it all lightly.

TRAINING OURSELVES TO NOTICE

We can train ourselves to notice these mental field overlays.

For instance, as I am sitting here I am aware of my mental images of the world beyond what I can take in with my senses, I am aware of mental images overlaying my visual field, I am aware of words and images roughly outlining the next few paragraphs, and so on.

The most effective way to learn to notice this that I have found is traditional sense field explorations and modern variations like the Kiloby inquiries.

And this helps us hold it all a little more lightly. Or, at least, notice when we don’t!

DEEP TIME RESOURCES

How do we develop a more of a deep time overlay on the world?

What resonates the most with you? What do you have curiosity, fascination, or passion about? What are you drawn to?

If you like history, take a look at Big History.

If it’s nature and the Earth, then deep ecology may be a good place to start.

If it’s spirituality, then just about all religions have an ecospirituality wing. You can also explore pagan or shamanic approaches.

If it’s science in general, systems views and an integral approach may be a good fit.

If it’s evolution, check out the epic of evolution and evolutionary psychology.

If it’s awe and a connection with the universe and existence as a whole, try the Universe Story.

If you are more interested in a direct and experiential approach, try Practices to Reconnect and different forms of inquiry (Kiloby Inquiries, the Big Mind process, perhaps also The Work of Byron Katie and Headless experiments).

Searching on any of these will bring up online groups, videos, podcasts, websites, books, and other good starting points. There is a lot out there on these topics.

Personally, I got into the Universe Story first, through Carl Sagan’s Cosmos when I was about ten. It changed my life and set me on this course. In my mid-teens, I got into deep ecology and systems views through Arne Næss and Fritjof Capra. I read everything I could get my hands on. In my twenties, I got into evolutionary psychology (as part of my psychology studies), Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), the Universe Story, and the Epic of Evolution. I have organized several events where we used the Practices to Reconnect.

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Nature documentaries & systems views

I loved the David Attenborough nature documentaries when I grew up, and I love David Attenborough for what he has done to awaken a love for nature in generations of TV viewers.

At the same time, something has struck me about the regular approach to nature documentaries.

They typically take a serial focus on isolated species, with a few prominent examples of interactions with other species or their environment.

They rarely take a systems view. They tend to not emphasize nature as a system and look at dynamics within that system. (Which, of course, includes humans and human civilization.)

To me, that would be far more interesting.

They could still highlight species and draw in people that way. And they could certainly include far more of a whole system view. I imagine that would be fascinating to many viewers.

And it’s hugely important, especially today. It’s enormously important to help people understand and start thinking at a systems level. It’s the only way we can effectively deal with the ecological crisis we find ourselves in the early phases of. (It started hundreds and really thousands of years ago, and we are quickly heading into its culmination.)

I would love to see a series that takes a systems view of nature in general. And, even more, I would love a series that takes a systems view on human history, human interactions with the rest of nature, and the effects on human civilization and local, regional, and global ecosystems.

I have wanted to see that for decades, since my teens when I got deeply into system views (Fritjof Capra and others) and the “green history” of the world.

Back then, I remember I thought that change would happen within a few years, but as far as I can tell it hasn’t yet. The caveat here and that is that I don’t watch TV so there may be series out there taking a systems view that I don’t know about.

Ecosystem collapse

The steady destruction of wildlife can suddenly tip over into total ecosystem collapse, scientists studying the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history have found.

– The Guardian, Ecosystem collapse ‘inevitable’ unless wildlife losses reversed

If we know sometthing about ecology, the history of Earth, and perhaps systems theories, we know that ecosystems can unravel fast and with disastrous consequences. (Disastrous for the beings dependent on the ecosystem, the living Earth will survive and continue to evolve.)

A system is relatively stable even when many factors are pushing it out its stability. At some point, these factors add up sufficiently for a dramatic shift. And the system eventually finds another equilibrium.

OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

We are in the middle of an ecological collapse and we will see more of the consequences in the coming decades. By then, it will be too late to prevent much of the damage. We will be occupied dealing with the immediate consequences of the collapse. And the process will already have gone too far.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Of course, there are still things we can do.

At an individual level, we can get ready for this collapse in whatever ways make sense to us. Creating good community ties is perhaps the most important.

At a collective level, it all depends on our collective will and that’s not here yet. If the will comes, at some point, we can perhaps reduce the severity of the unraveling but we will still find ourselves in a very difficult situation.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LIKELY CONSEQUENCES?

What are some of the likely consequences of this unraveling?

We’ll likely see human migration on a scale beyond anything before in history, with all the conflicts and struggles that will bring. We are already seeing more extreme weather. We’ll see more drought and flooding. We will have problems with food production. (At the very least, disruptions and changes.) We may have more frequent pandemics. (More exposure to unfamiliar pathogens.) We may also see far more serious shifts, including a collapse in the ocean ecosystems which would be disastrous for most land life.

Even the moderate scenarios are immensely costly in terms of money and human suffering. It would have cost us far less to make changes decades ago when all of this was forecast. (I was very aware of it in the ’80s in my teens, as would anyone moderately informed.)

WHY DID IT HAPPEN?

Why didn’t we take care of it back then? After all, it would have been the optimal time. We had the information, and we had the time and resources to make changes.

There may be several answers.

This has to do with the future, which is abstract to us and seems like something we can deal with later.

Politicians typically operate with a time frame of one or two election cycles. The system is set up so they have few to no incentives to think long-term. For them too, it’s easier to push it into the future.

Some may think that this is about someone else and not ourselves. We think we will be safe, and this will be the problem of someone else. (In other parts of the globe, for future generations, or for other species.) We may think we don’t need to take it seriously since others don’t seem to take it seriously. We may think there is still time. We may have other and more immediate priorities, and use our energy and time to take care of our daily life challenges.

Any system has mechanisms to stay stable. And so also society and our culture. There are many incentives and processes that preserve the status quo and resist deep change. That’s generally good, except in this situation where we face a dramatic collective crisis and don’t take it seriously enough.

Our current economic system was created at a time when the limits of nature were not such a problem. Because of low population numbers and less efficient technology, nature was for all practical purposes unlimited. We had apparently unlimited natural resources, and an apparently unlimited ability to send pollution into nature. Nature had enough capacity, so we didn’t need to include the limits of nature in our economic systems.

SYSTEMS CHANGE

These days, we are very much running into the limits of nature so we need an economic system that takes ecological realities into account. We need a system where what’s easy and attractive to do, at individual and collective levels, is also what is good for ecosystems, society, non-human beings, and future generations. That type of system is very much possible, we just need the collective will to implement it.

This is not just about our economic system. This has to do with all human systems, including transportation, energy production, food production, water use, waste, manufacturing, education, philosophy, and far more.

It’s a change that has to permeate every aspect of our individual and collective lives.

LOOKING BACK AT OUR TIMES

Of course, this living and evolving planet will continue even after this crisis. It has survived many crises in the past. (That’s why we are here.) Humans are also likely to survive. (Unless the more radical scenarios play themselves out.)

But we will go through an evolutionary bottleneck. Our numbers may be dramatically reduced, and our way of life will have to dramatically change and adapt.

Hopefully, those who survive will learn something from it. Hopefully, we will transform our systems – at individual and collective levels – so they are aligned with ecological realities. Otherwise, history will repeat itself and we’ll eventually have another ecological collapse.

How will future generations look at our time?

Since I am the one imagining it, I obviously imagine it similar to how I already see it.

I see a civilization formed at a time (1600-1800) with far fewer people and less advanced technology. I see a civilization with systems that do not take ecological realities into account. I see people confused about this and trying to live life as usual. I see people not taking this seriously enough, perhaps because they assume there is still time and others will deal with it.

I see heroes: I see environmental activists. I see young people and their school strikes. I see people who think deeply about this. I see people who develop alternative economic systems. I see people implementing solutions. These are the heroes of future generations.

I also imagine it will look weird how some people today see sustainability and environmentalism as naive and impractical. In reality, it’s the only way forward. It’s the only way for us to survive and thrive.

As science has shown us for decades, sustainability is the only realistic way forward, and that requires deep systems changes. (Far beyond what’s envisioned even by many in environmentalism and sustainability.)

And if anyone is out of touch with reality, it’s the ones who want to continue as before, or the ones who assume that technology alone is sufficient, or that small adjustments here and there are all that’s needed. That looks like wishful thinking. It looks like denial.

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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