2 trees wandering

A person of the crossroads making notes while tracking patterns in relationships within the Web of Life and its Mystery

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Standing at the Crossroads: Human Responses to Our Planet's Changes

We are standing at the crossroads of multidimensional change. This is not a new situation. Change is a constant in our world and if we observe the natural world through our bodies and our senses we can see that we are designed to respond to change and grow. What overwhelms us at this particular crossroads is the fact that our modern world through media, internet, travel, education makes us aware of many of the changes taking place on the planet among humans, other species and the planet Herself. We inhabit a complex world while trying to understand the nature of complexity and experiencing emotional responses to change that is beyond our current sense of process.

We can stand at this crossroads and try to find ways to get back to “the way things were”

or we can stand still enough to listen to the voices of the other beings sharing that intersection with us and open ourselves to working with them to discover what can be created together rather than for them which highlights our sense of isolation.

I have chosen climate change as a starting point for the conversation highlighted in one of the last sentences of Al Gore’s Live Earth pledge:

All of the actions we take from here on out to solve the climate crisis will be based on a simple premise: our home, Earth, is in danger. We don’t risk destroying the planet, but instead risk making it inhospitable for human beings.

What is being examined is not whether or not this is true but whether the possibility of it creates an emotional response – and so gives a starting point for examination. Related to that possibility, we have internal and external reactions [to global change]. We have emotional and intellectual responses, and responses that prompt us to act, act, act. I believe it is helpful for us to focus our attention on response rather than on action and f begin with orientation. How are we oriented in terms of possibility? What is our orientation to the possibility that the Earth might shake us off?”

In the book “You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination” by Katherine Harmon there is a quote by Stephen S, Hall on mapping and orienteering:

“To orientate is to hop back and forth between landscape and time, geography and emotion, knowledge and behavior. Orientating begins with geography , but it reflects a need of the conscious self-aware organism for a kind of transcendent orientation that asks not just where am I, but where do I fit in this landscape? Where have I been? Where shall I go, and what values will I pack for the trip? What culture of knowledge allows me to know what I know, which is often another way of knowing where I am? And what pattern, what grid of wisdom, can I impose on my accumulated, idiosyncratic geographies? The coordinates marking this territory are unique to each individual and lend themselves to a very private kind of cartography.” (italic inserted by TT)

This highlights three clear points of orientation for this overwhelming complexity. We are conscious, self-aware organisms capable of understanding our own dynamic nature and processes and are continually learning and adapting. That leads us to transcendent orientation where our awareness can help us expand our sense of isolated self. This transcendence reminds us of the infinite Web of Relationship that sustains us. From this orientation we can access a grid of wisdom that helps us consider, reflect upon and contemplate responses to each moment from a powerful grid of Relationship.

One of the possibilities that Al Gore’s pledge places before us is the possibility of human extinction and the overwhelming sense of grief that calls forth whether it is a fact or not.

The possibility that there might no longer be a home for us, that humans would be the endangered species, is a powerful possibility, and it’s terrifying. The sense of loss around that is very powerful. So powerful that it becomes the emotional lens through which we consider action. We engage intellectually in the pursuit of solution based activity.

The trinity of intellectual inquiry: what? how? why? works well when it has a clear “what” in front of it to determine the how and why. When everything comes through an emotional lens filled with uncertainty, grief and loss there’s a fuzzy “what”. We want clarity and a solution for the consuming feelings so we aim straight at “how” and “why” and spend little time reflecting on and clarifying “what”.

What am I angry about/overwhelmed by?

What emotion is storming in me?

Am I clear about what’s on the table for me? (For me, not for all of us.)

Can I ask if we’re going to work on this together: what’s on the table for you, what’s the emotional lens filtering your thoughts now?

Can we spend time clarifying the “what” so that perhaps a new “how?” can be revealed out of that?

In considering our response to the changes on our planet from the perspective of human grief I found an important starting point in the ways that people circumvent the feelings. One of those ways is over-functioning. Get busy on the how and on explaining. Get busy on working, making a list, what am I going to do, and put a lot of work into that. That busyness is actually one of the things that they say can extend the period of grief. Self-medication, over functioning; these are ways of suppressing my emotion. I’m not trying to intimate that there isn’t a lot to do. There is a lot to do and we want to do it in a way that actually creates a new possibility for us – which means orientating ourselves from a new place. To find that new place requires mapping the terrain from grief all the way through those stages to some kind of acceptance in order to be able to step forward.

Our emotional response also reduces our contemplation of the intersections – how the Earth is for us as humans. The conversation starts to contract. If I’m terrified that I’m going to lose my habitat, and my emotional lens is focused on that loss then I’m not going to say, “This is a good time for me to think about consciousness.” Because if I am really upset, and I have the possibility to articulate that I’m upset, not for anyone to fix it, but for that to be spoken and witnessed, there’s something in me that is no longer isolated and contracted. I can observe that I am part of something and by creating that space around emotion by naming it we can center ourselves in the interconnected Web of Life. We might even see ourselves as details of the landscape and look at the Earth not in terms of the way that the Earth services humans, or even in terms of her survival, but see that her changes are part of our emotional landscape. Perhaps we might even stretch to the point where we can see that these changes are important – and what might help us become aware of the Earth’s expanding consciousness.

One of the things that has been a great teaching in my own practice is about seed coats. I have always believed that layers of consciousness behave like seed coats: a lot of agitation is necessary for the seed coat to open up: fire or drowning or digestion. I have made my way through many tension filled transitions and lessons by reminding myself of how a seed coat is broken open to germinate. Tension can be the best indicator of a natural generative force such as germination or learning. We are in a time of tension now and discovering what can be generative in this tension rather than trying to smooth it away too quickly to find harmony or comfort might be how we miss the moments of greatest potential.

One of the questions I’d like to put on the table as a starting point is less, “What to do?” but more, “What to be?” How do we experience ourselves differently from how we have experienced ourselves up to now? Many spiritual practices point to emotions as a gift of the human state. That’s fabulous. Do we want them to drive the vision of the future? Given that we have both this enormous possibility looming before us and our individual and collective emotional reactions to it how can orient ourselves for this multidimensional crossroads? Can we include and clarify emotional responses in our conversations explicitly so we can move into another consciousness to inform our action?

Our spiritual traditions give us the means to deepen our self awareness and our relationship with our planet and universe. The Christian mystics, Buddhist dharma, Hindu and Muslim teachings, indigenous earth wisdom, all of these point in some way to a spiritual orientation that is the bedrock of perception and action in our physical reality. In this age where so many have found a faith base that is spiritually centered around a crossroads of beliefs that allows them to respond to the complex world, it is truly the time to test the strength of our beliefs through our actions so that our internal and external responses are aligned with our larger relationship with the Earth and an expanding consciousness.

How do we begin? Breathe and become aware – become aware of sharing breath with the planet and open ourselves to being breathed by Her. Breathing is an automatic function that is the gateway to the Web of Life. Our breath opens us to the consciousness of all of life so that we can participate in relationship rather than isolated as the center of our own tiny universe.

Breathing is a spiritual practice even when we are not aware that it is. Spiritual practice then is not separated from our everyday lives but is the underlying automatic function of our day. We may give over a portion of our day to expand and deepen our capabilities as self aware organisms in relationship with all of life and the living. Our ability to utilize this awareness in the midst of an emotional reaction to the news or a conversation or catastrophic information is the heart of transcendent orientation and the crossroads of consciousness.

Can we begin to support each other in this attempt to expand consciousness and our ability to act from that expansion in the same way that we support each other around problems and issues?


At 12:00 AM, Anonymous blumoon said...

Very good blog. I enjoyed reading the articles, especially the part about service.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger kaylynn said...

Thanks so much for reading this. Please pass the blog link along to others you think might be interested.

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Michelle Murrain said...

Thanks much for this. It's such good food for thought.

Kaylynn, we met years and years ago (I think more than 10 at this point) at a workshop you did at Hampshire College. I wonder now and again how you are, and what you are doing. I decided to finally google you when I came across a letter you'd written me.

Anyway, thanks for your blog, and your thoughts.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger TheGratitudeGuy said...

A interesting tale into the discussion of consciousness!


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