An Idea That May Save us

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We are a living, breathing manifestation of this beautiful and generous planet. Knowing this, we can begin to transform our relationship to the Earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

Aware of the turn my writing is taken, a friend sent me some thoughts by the Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh shortly before he died on Sunday, January 22. My new writing goal is to share perspectives that will promote unity among Earthlings rather than multiply and deepen all the ways in which we have fractured as a species. My friend’s referral was very timely in that regard.

My previous post concluded with the idea that it is time (1) to rethink our way of being here and (2) to begin cultivating an earth consciousness that could result in an evolutionary leap. The gifted material by Thich Nhat Hanh makes a number of relevant points.

For example, he says that “We see ourselves as the center of the universe and are concerned primarily with our own personal survival.” However, he points out that “Everything outside us and everything inside us comes from the Earth. We are a living, breathing manifestation of this beautiful and generous planet.”

Realizing this, he says, will cause us to fall in love with her. And further, this is the relationship each of us must have with the Earth if the Earth is to survive, and if we are to survive as well.”

That is the kind of idea that comes to one during meditation in something like a cave sanctuary. Here in America, we are instead fused with screens and preoccupied with personal concerns that seem so much more important in the moment. But is it time to try to begin thinking way, way, beyond current issues and classic spiritual counsel to explore a fanciful vision that might prove a little helpful?

A MEETING OF DIFFERENT RESPONSIBILITIES

Imagine a thoughtful presence sitting on a stone throne at the top of a huge mountain. Mother Earth is contemplating a severe descent below softened by an unprecedented depth of snow. She had created a blizzard as yet another warning that has not registered. Tired of being ignored, she is considering launching an epic, thundering avalanche to add to all her preceding alerts. A faint smile ripples, inspired by the irony of a radiant white messenger of death.

Suddenly her face smooths as she detects the vibration of a presence a little bit higher and to her right. It is the Heavenly Father, and he has come to intervene. She turns to inquire:

ME:    So prayers have been pouring in?

HF:    Yes. Avalanche scientists have warned that the catastrophe you’re contemplating will be the worst in recorded history. There is no way to temper the damage by setting off smaller events on down the mountain.

ME:   It may not be me who sets it off, you know. Just guys having some fun.

HF:    I know how you feel, though. Just getting fed up, aren’t you?

ME:   You know how beautiful Earth was in the beginning. Look at it now. Getting worse every day. No way to slow the decline. Are the spirits below asking you for help?

HF:    Yep, but not about how to take care of the wonders you bestowed on them. The prayers are endless, all beginning with “Please.” “Please help me get a promotion. Don’t let my kitty die. Stop my husband from screwing around. Help my team win. Don’t let my stock in the fossil fuel industry go worthless.

The presence sighs. “No one ever says thank you. They all want money, power, to win at something or other. To be safe from all the problems they’ve created.

ME:    I know how it is. They just take and take and take and never give back. What would suffer if they disappeared?

HF:    All the domesticated creatures. They don’t know how to take care of themselves. Wouldn’t that make you sad?

ME:   Yes, very. I really love them. All the wildlife, too.

HF:    Were you very sad about the dinosaurs?

ME:    Well, they were a beginner species, kind of homely, you know. And what could I do?  There was no way to stop that asteroid. And things did clean up after a few million years. Things will again. Do you think there could be an awakening before Earth is totally trashed?

HF:     So you’re considering backing off?

ME:    Have they been asking you to to calm me down? Are they going to create trouble between you and me now?

HF:    Well, what I really want to happen is for your daughters down there to turn their role of nurturing and comforting more toward nature. You know. Begin to create an Earth consciousness. Begin to baby Earth. Make the men earn their babies, so to speak. Sort of like, “You no fixie things? No more babies.”

ME:   What about the money problem?

HF:    Well, that’s an idea the men made up. And you know wildlife don’t eat money. You can’t bury it in the soil to make things grow. And it doesn’t grow on trees, as they say. It’s used primarily to create waste, to foment war, to create power that is then abused. Humanity needs to discover a new mission.

ME:   Sounds boring, I’m afraid. Men need violence.

HF:    Well, your little virus buddies are being very successful in keeping them cooped up. Time to think, you know.

ME:    Yep.

HF:     And the ones who don’t cooperate can come be with me sooner rather than later.

ME:    Thank you. That’s very kind of you.

HF:     So you are going to back off?

ME:    I’ll think about that–especially in places where people are waking up to how much I have given them and are beginning to try to restore it.

HF:    How about taking a break? Sort of like a mother below deciding to have a cup of tea then take a nap?

ME:   Well, my earlier interventions–you know, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, droughts, and so forth–may have been more like a disciplinary whack of a ruler on the head than a real confrontation. And maybe the danger of the situation is registering. I’m watching for signs.

HF:    Like what?

ME:   Like if you tell me you’re getting many prayers asking for guidance on how to restore the planet, that would be a bit reassuring. I may continue to send warnings, just not launch a worldwide cataclysm. If you can tell that Earthlings are getting ready to talk turkey, as they say, and meaning the men too, and if you tell me where this is happening, I’ll back off there. That will make you look good, and the word will spread. I’ll send you some fresh air as a thank you.

HF:  Great. It’s  a deal.

CONCLUSION

Tinted Gaia

So there we are.  A vision of Mother Earth very different from that of Thich Nhat Hanh. Our imagination is going to be extremely important in healing the Earth, and a vision of a loving Mother Earth would be very helpful. The voice in the script above seems to be that of a mother who has aged bitterly due to the damage we have done to our beautiful home.

I rambled around online to find an image of Mother Earth to include here. I didn’t see anything that approached inspiring the love Thich Nhat Hanh imagined but decided to include the one at left. You may want to explore the wide range of art work here.

Maybe we’re too out of touch with the body of Mother Earth to express love for it through art. More on that later.

 

 

 

The Hour Glass Waits

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Is this the moment when just a few grains of sand remain?

 

 

 

 

NOT TO MAKE YOU NERVOUS . . . .

In my last post, I pointed out several ways in which the human presence on Earth is causing problems. In short, there may eventually be too many of us to be sustainable in an environment we have also damaged. The moment may have come to take the long view in order to course correct. And although the very large human brain and the achievements therefrom have played a major role in bringing us to this perilous moment, that same resource can enable us to address it. First, however, there must be an awakening.

So the symbol above represents this moment in time. Those last remaining grains in the upper half of the glass signify the items of news rolling in daily that confirm the seriousness of the moment. When the last grain falls, we could reach for the glass and turn it over to begin a new era. It would signify a universal leap in human consciousness. As we go forward, it might be helpful to remember this symbol, not as an hour glass but an “era” glass.

And as urgency ramps up with the drop of each grain of alarming news, an idea may also be of comfort. What if each one of us who is fully conscious of this dangerous moment in history chose, in a soul state, to be here? Perhaps we have business with it, we have something to learn from it, we have a gift or knowledge that will be helpful in dealing with it, or we simply chose to be present for some reason yet to be determined.

That idea may be especially timely for elders because we have the long view mentioned above of the developments that brought us to this critical juncture. This idea can also ensure higher regard for younger generations because we can imagine enormous courage in their presence–more than we needed coming into life–and aptitudes yet to be discovered that will enable them to meet the challenges of the century. With that idea in mind, we may create new ways to support them when many others are cultivating fear in community to increase their own stature and power.

 HEROISM IN THE WINGS

Joseph Campbell

What we need in the moment is to develop a potential for a quality of heroism that will lift us all. That brings to mind all the books by the great mythologist Joseph Campbell that I read in the 80s. The foremost was The Power of Myth, which derived from a six-hour PBS series of interviews with Bill Moyers.

The interviews touched on countless stories Campbell had studied about the archetypal hero appearing in teachings all over the world. The most vivid and enduring image is of a brave male who embarks on a perilous journey into the deep dark woods to discover his destiny. He is transfigured by his experience and returns to teach the lessons he has learned from a life renewed.

A NEW MYTH NEEDED

In spite of the wonder of all the mythologies in Campbell’s books and the tremendous fame and public gratitude they inspired, Campbell’s perspective had begun to change by the time he was 83. In an exchange with Bill Moyers, he said that “when you come to the end of one time and the beginning of a new one, it’s a period of tremendous pain and turmoil. . . the notion of Armageddon coming.” This was in about 1986, but the reference seems to align with the current moment.

Campbell also detected the ebbing influence of the spiritual sources of the earliest myths. He spoke of the need for something new, a myth unconfined by geography or communities, a myth without boundaries. “The only mythology that is valid today,” he said, “is the mythology of the planet–and we don’t have such a mythology.”

As Campbell approached his death in 1987, he seemed to be exploring the idea that the mythology of the planet would relate to nature, and the feminine would gain new standing in that regard. “Since her magic is that of giving birth and nourishment as the earth does,” he said, “her magic supports the magic of the earth.”

Greek Goddess Artemis

There seems to be a reference to a goddess of old in that statement; and these spirits, as in the Greek goddess Artemis, were often closely connected with the natural world. One of our problems is our distancing from it. However, greater earth consciousness may be emerging from our awareness of how we have depleted natural resources and are suffering from extreme weather events emanating from climate change.

At the same time that there is growing concern about population growth, the feminine’s role in this regard is changing. Stature and independence are increasing, and that is affecting breeding patterns. Women have been encouraged to bear children not only to create families but also to provide followers for power-seeking entities, laborers for construction and agriculture, and troops for the military, etc.

In summary, women are enjoying greater independence and authority than ever before. Many will continue to want to create families, but others will be driven to cultivate intelligence resident in a brain no smaller than that of the male but that hasn’t been comparably accessed and developed. With the feminine’s innate aptitude “for giving birth and nourishment as the earth does” a rise in standing supported by increased opportunity could be key to our species’ survival.

CONCLUSION

When one thinks about how tragically the beauty and abundance of this pristine continent have been compromised since the arrival of our ancestors just 400 years ago, two conclusions begin to surface. It is very clearly time (1) to rethink our way of being here and (2) to begin cultivating an earth consciousness that could result in an evolutionary leap.

And my last point is that new, incontrovertible evidence of planetary danger may be pending. When it drops into our awareness like the last grains of sand into the bottom of the hour glass above, for the first time in human history, the feminine hand may partner in turning it over to begin a new era. If so, this will not manifest as a rebuke to the masculine. It will simply confirm the way new life and new eras naturally emerge cyclically on Planet Earth, and now the time has come for . . . .

____________________________

And what a coincidence! Just as I prepare to post, a friend has sent a link to a post by the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. It shares quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Victoria Loorz, co-founder of the Wild Church Network, on the importance of restoring relationships with humans and nature. I think readers will greatly appreciate their views.

The Moment Has Come

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Galapagos Hawk
Sean Crane

 

 

Nothing is wrong. I’ve just been watching and waiting.

 

 

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

As subscribers may have noted, I haven’t posted on my blog since last July. At a time when our country and the entire world seem fractured by division, I wanted to find a new trajectory in my writing that might serve the ideal of unity.

Waiting for inspiration is a very uncomfortable state of being, however. We have to be productive to justify our existence, right? However, day after day passed, and writer’s block only deepened. I kept thinking I should explain to readers, but I put that off too.

In the past, I had discovered that a new interest would sometimes invoke a helpful synchronicity. My attention was just rambling, however. My psychic self seemed to be waiting for some kind of intervention.

As it turned out, the desired coincidence had been pending for months. It began with the publication of a book in April. In August, I received a review of it titled “Avocados, ants, aardvarks and us” by Maggie Doherty. I added it to the “to-read” pile on my desk where it nested until December.

And the name of the book? Four Fifths a Grizzly by Douglas Chadwick. It has inspired an awakening in me, and I hope this experience will be common among other readers as well. The subtitle is promising:  “A New Perspective on Nature that Just Might Save Us All.”

DOWN TO BUSINESS

Chadwick seems to have assembled the chapters of his book from almost 40 years of writing about the natural world, including 14 books. After acquiring a B.S in Zoology and an M.S. in Wildlife Biology, he spent seven years studying mountain goats and grizzly bears in northwestern Montana. Adventures with other species all over the world have followed.

Chadwick writes with a voice that is congenial and often humorous, untainted by criticism or ideology. He seems simply to be telling readers the truth of things, which he has learned not only through research and exploration but also conservation projects.

OUR PLACE ON EARTH

The cover of the book suggests that the content may up-end what we thought we knew about nature, which is unfortunately very little in most of us. For example, Chadwick discovered that, as a human, he has four-fifths of the same genes as a grizzly bear. That means you and I do too. We are “greater than human,” as he puts it.

We were already imagining ourselves at the apex of the pyramid of all life on Earth, but this statement lifts us even higher. Due to the further content of Chadwick’s book, it will be reassuring to keep the idea of “greater” in mind.

Bausch & Lomb
Antique Microscope

Fortunately, beginning at age ten, Chadwick was able to begin studying life at the bottom of the pyramid. His father, a geologist, gave him an antique Bausch & Lomb microscope, and he began to examine things like mold, pollen, and “squirmers” from pond water. It wasn’t long before he had absorbed “a core fact about life on Earth: most of it is invisible.”

As his studies of the invisible continued to advance, he homed in on the fact that millions of microscopic beings had enabled the first fertilized cells of our ancestors to divide, endure, and multiply. After 350,000 years, they are still essential to our survival, and they are everywhere–in the air; inside our bodies and on our skin; in everything we see, touch, and eat; in everything in Earth as well as on it. We are connected with them all, and that’s where the idea “greater than human” comes from.

This phrase may further elevate the sense of importance of our species, but it is also cautionary. There is a hovering, cinematic idea that if things get too messy here, we could always move to another planet. “Damned unlikely,” one can imagine Chadwick saying. “We may be greater than just human, but we are of the earth. We belong here.”

OUR UNIQUE  IMPRINT

With that realization and with our standing as the species supreme comes a sense of responsibility. It’s time to get moving–past time probably. That alert comes from stunning statistics appearing in one chapter after another of Chadwick’s “grizzly book.”

  • Humans are now multiplying at the rate of a million every four or five days.
  • Currently at about 8 billion, our population worldwide could rise to 10 billion by 2050.
  • Over the last 300 years, we have stripped off 40 percent of Earth’s woodland cover.
  • We are on track to extinguish as many as 50 percent of Earth’s species by the end of the century.

The statistics above are alarming. However, I emerged profoundly comforted overall by the content of the grizzly book. Subscribers will remember that I had long ago tuned into the natural world over many years walking in forest preserves with my beloved dog. But I was just a charmed observer; I wasn’t a student. I now realize that Chadwick’s book may help inspire the earth consciousness that will save us.

CONCLUSION

To summarize, Four Fifths a Grizzly awakens the reader to the way the human species has spread all over the Earth kind of like the bacteria that often infect us. However, Chadwick does not blame us for the universal danger emerging from our presence.

“People are merely continuing to strive for more space and resources,” he writes. “It’s what species do.” On the other hand, he says “it would be good for a species that named itself sapiens–Latin for “wise”–to start choosing smarter paths forward.”

Time to think, right? And I hope future posts will help with that.

 

 

 

 

 

A Blue Ribbon Moment in History

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A “soap opera” of a life creates a winner.

“Expect the unexpected. That’s life, and sometimes you may need a life preserver, a life jacket, a net or a raft. You can’t hold your breath forever. Breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy this wild ride.”

Charla Hester

 

THE SOURCE OF WISDOM

That sounds like great advice, particularly at this time in history when the ride is often rocky. Charla’s photograph clearly reveals a lady in the wisdom zone of life, but why have I chosen to write about her? What’s that blue ribbon about?

It’s about a poem actually, a poem that immediately sent me into a moment of pause. Before I share it, however, I will add some information about Charla’s history that may affect its impact on you as well.

A TIME LONG AGO

Charla and I were high school classmates back in El Paso. I did not know her well, and our paths parted at graduation. After our 50th reunion, leadership within our ranks caused a cohort to coagulate online over the issues raised by the 2016 election and then the pandemic. With regard to Charla, she has recently begun to share creative writing that has served as a new binding agent.

This material emerged from a stressful time in her life when she sought help from a therapist. He taught her that we don’t have control over our lives, just over our actions and reactions. He wanted her to begin keeping a journal, but she began writing creatively instead, and that resulted in the poem that inspired this post. It won a blue ribbon this June, one of three in addition to a Best in Division award at the Burnet County Fair north of Marble Falls, Texas, where Charla now lives.

The theme of the fair was “Blue Jeans and Country Dreams!” As you will see, the color blue became important in Charla’s life for a number of reasons.

THE BEGINNING

Charla was born in 1945, the year World War II would come to an end–not, however, before Charla’s much older brother had perished in it. Her mother’s pregnancy, well into her 40s, was envisioned as creating a replacement for the lost son. The birth of a baby girl was a bitter and enduring disappointment. Charla’s mother had planned to name the replacement son Charles and insisted that the baby be called “Charlie.” She also always dressed her little girl in blue and told her this was her favorite color–which was never to be true–and over time, the name Charlie evolved into Charla.

She had two older sisters, one 21 and the other 18 when she was born, but she was isolated by the age difference and was essentially raised as an only child. Her early years were spent in an Arizona country home where her mother was “real good at wringing chicken necks and letting them flap around on the ground until good and dead.”

An essay amplified her mother’s troubling image:  “Her skin was yellow and hung from her bones. Her hair was gray and smelled of nicotine. She chain smoked, choked, cackled and cursed. She had false teeth, wore blood red fingernail polish and ‘Evening in Paris’ perfume. She drank every day,” Charla went on, “hated herself and everybody else . . . . So I learned to become invisible. I hid in the shadows, and under the table, never directly asked for anything and stuttered when I dared to speak.”

A FANTASY EMERGING IN BLUE DENIM

Fortunately, Charla’s father, a railroad man and engineer for Southern Pacific, was kind and attentive as opposed to her scary mother. And as a child in Arizona, she was introduced to the appealing, tough but polite cowboy type, as in her babysitter Sugar Bill. It would endure in Charla’s psyche for a lifetime and inspire her award-winning poem.

Now to summarize the years after her family moved to El Paso. After graduation from high school, Charla went to college at UTEP (the University of Texas at El Paso) to prepare for a 25-year career as an elementary school teacher. She soon married and bore two sons. (Learning this made me smile because I saw it as double-compensating for emerging from her mother’s womb as a female.)

Charla had multiple marriages and was employed as a bank teller and bartender (briefly) as well as a teacher. Her last marriage came to an end in 1989, and after she retired in 1998, she began to work on turning a lifelong interest in buying “junque,” as she put it, into becoming a dealer with sales in multiple venues. In 2000, she moved to Marble Falls.

Her last divorce set Charla free to cultivate her spirited 5’1″ true self and her longtime attraction to the classic cowboy type. Her ensuing writing conveys the bold, humorous, and fun-loving personality that the cowboys enjoyed in return.

POEM MATERIAL

During Charla’s early years in Wilcox, Arizona, the cowboys would come off the range every year for a rodeo. She wrote that “They sat up on the wooden fences surrounding the cattle yard chewing tobacco, talking with grunts and nodding their heads and shoulders while whittling with their pocket knives. I always felt safe and protected by them boys.” After her last divorce, she was free to pursue this interest, as illustrated in the composition “Wanted: One Cowboy Type.” It begins with a conversation among friends:

“I want a cowboy,” I told them.

“Why? What are you going to do with a cowboy?” they asked.

“Isn’t that going to be between me and the cowboy?” I answered.

A discussion ensues about the difference between wanting and needing a cowboy and also the difference between being alone and being lonely, which don’t always go together. During the conversation, Charla concludes that “needing” a cowboy doesn’t sound good. So she decides to post an ad:

Wanted: One Cowboy Type

Big, strong, solid, and caring,

Willing to spend time with a strong-minded,

Self-sufficient, independent woman,

To call her “Darlin'” and take her dancin’.

Before leaving El Paso to move to Marble Falls, Charla had actually begun reading ads searching for “dates” in the newspaper and decided that what all the men wanted was “a mother, maid, nurse, and cook.” So she did finally post a search for a man who must be an orphan, widowed, childless, with no responsibilities to anyone, willing to spend time and money on an “independent, self-sufficient, strong-minded woman.”

She got some replies, and when they responded laughing, she knew the men had gotten the message.

Charla did ultimately fulfill her desire for time with the classic cowboy, a number of them, in fact. Her life had long been on hold, she felt, and now she began to live the kind of experiences central to the romance novels she had loved. She had read them, she wrote, anticipating turning her own life into a paperback novel, “and I did,” she added.

CONCLUSION

Sewing Blue Ribbon

 

In June, Charla turned some of those life experiences into the awards at the Burnet County Fair. Three of the honors were for her writing. One blue ribbon was for a table runner with embroidery on a blue denim background, the blue theme up again.

The “runner” term reminds me of Charla’s life path–that of a “survivor” as she puts it–but also of the universal feminine currently on the move toward unprecedented freedom.

Charla’s flowered runner, which would lie lengthwise on a table, invokes the image of a tall man at rest, the last of Charla’s cowboys, for whom she still grieves. When he died, he was found lying in his boots among the cattle on his huge ranch.

Charla’s relationships with these cowboys in the second half of her life seem to have been tempered by latitude that comes with maturity. And one hears in her poem an emerging quality of parity between male and female that may prove promising for our long-term future. Just a thought. I hope some readers will share their own impressions of Charla’s award-winning poem below.

I LIKE YOU

Say those words.

Say them aloud.

Listen to what they mean.

They are powerful words.

Much more powerful than “I love you.”

I like you.

Who you are; what you stand for.

I like the essence of the personal you.

I like you here and now.

Right now—the way you are with me.

I like you.

I like me with you.

You provide a comfort level

For me to be me.

I like you.

I miss you.

I think I’m missing me!

 

The 80-Mile Route to the Truth

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“Bare ground is public enemy #1.”

Ann Adams

 

A LONG DRIVE

For about 16 years now, I’ve been regularly making the 80-mile drive south from Santa Fe to visit sister Kate in her country place. Only recently did I begin to register a warning in the vast and rugged landscape. And Ann Adams, a long-time friend and neighbor of Kate’s, confirmed the warning with the quote above.

Ann is the Education Director for Holistic Management International where she has worked for 25 years. Inspired by Zimbabwean ecologist Allan Savory, the organization is dedicated to promoting regenerative agriculture worldwide. What a great way to help restore land defaced by our human footprint.

THE CHALLENGE

And that footprint was in part what I was seeing on my long drive through largely deserted open land. Like all of the Southwest, New Mexico is in deep drought, no relief in sight. The gradual onset several years ago is now moving into the severe mode. There are very few cattle on the range, and plants are steadily vanishing. Here and there are large expanses that have been grazed down to the dirt.

But there are breaks in the brown, so to speak, in acreage of hay and corn that is a vivid green from irrigating. That seemed unnatural to me, untenable long-range like the few cattle surviving on provided hay and water. So I asked to meet with Ann. “What’s going on?” was the fundamental question. But the one she deals with daily is broader than that: “How do we get an eco-literate culture?”

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

We met in the morning in a shaded seated area outside the off-the-grid home she had built. And she taught me in part by pointing moment after moment at the ground with its weeds, flowers, and bare spots but also at the hidden world beneath. It is a very dynamic world, of roots going down to twelve feet and of microbes fed by the carbon pulled from the sky by the plants.

Ann explained that the carbon serves as a sponge that will absorb and store any rain that falls. In fact, she said that if there are living plants or plant litter to cool the soil, the carbon in it can store 20,000 gallons of water in an acre of land blessed by 1″ of rain. And then there are the leaves of the plants that serve like solar panels so that they can cycle energy in the ground as well as minerals.

Of course, if cattle overgraze, the bare ground interferes with this dynamic. Cattle do help by giving the earth a “deep massage” as Ann put it. They till the soil in a beneficial way, as long as they travel. Ann pointed to the way the great buffalo herds created a rich landscape, but this was due in part to predatory animals and Native Americans who kept them moving.

THE BIG PICTURE

Ann made it very clear how soil, plants, and animals need each other, and so do we. However, I had no idea how important the soil is relative to carbon capture, nor did I realize the degree to which carbon dioxide has increased on the planet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that levels are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years. This clearly relates to climate change, and the fact that 2/3 of the world is covered by grasslands makes their maintenance especially important.

The farmers and ranchers following the guidelines provided by Holistic Management International have discovered multiple benefits. For example, they have achieved an increase of:

  • 100% in soil carbon
  • 900% in root depth
  • 300% in plant species
  • 500% in riparian life
  • 300% in profitability

Further, on the Holistic Management International site, the 15-minute slide show (Ann’s voice) provides some before-and-after images like the one below that vividly illustrate the value of their regenerative approach to agriculture.

Beaver Creek in Lander, Wyoming

However, there is the status quo to deal with. Large landholding corporations and individuals are known to do a minimal amount of agriculture to qualify for a property tax that is only 1/10th of the usual. And then there are subsidies to promote the raising of corn to feed beef rather than let them graze on open land, and the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides applied damage the soil. At the same time, thousands of acres of open land are being lost every year to development.

CONCLUSION

I’m not involved in regenerative agriculture, but I hope the approach will travel ever more widely. And as I drove home after interviewing Ann for this post, I was sure we would be dealing with “not soon enough.” As the desolate landscape flew by, I realized how inadequate some nice rain would be to bring the huge acreage back to health. A very old ruin of a frame home on the way seemed to confirm that bleak outlook.

Long ago, I was told that the house was a Craftsman model, something you could buy from Sears and ship by train. I’ve long wondered why the owners don’t just tear it down, clean up the property, and maybe build something new.

Every time I make that trip, I expect to see the old barn next to the house flattened. For a time there was a young elm tree that helped hold it up, but then it snapped. I’ve had a fantasy about getting a big sledge hammer and going there some night and knocking down the one visible beam sustaining the roof. To get things moving, you know.

Ann has said that our troubled agricultural sector can endure for only 30 more harvests without radical change. It’s time to level the barn of old thinking and start over. One wonders how far down the road it will be before we all see that truth.

So what do we do In the meantime? Ann says we can help by eating organic, grass-fed/pasture meats and dairy products and buying local agricultural products grown with a focus on healthy soil. I’m on it.

 

Does Another Leap Loom?

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“The universe wants us to wake up and will happily guide us toward wakefulness.”

Steve Taylor, PhD

 

This statement seems to invoke guidance in the form of synchronicity, the topic of my last post. So who is Steve Taylor? And where is this post going?

NEW BEARINGS

First of all, I discovered Steve Taylor’s writing while doing research on the subject of consciousness. He is British, which endows him with a certain perspective. However, it has been broadened first by his PhD in psychology and then further by his special interest in transpersonal psychology, “which investigates higher states of consciousness and ‘awakening’ experiences.” (Wikipedia) He has written 11 books in this area, including The Leap, published in 2017, which is the focus of this post. He continues as a professor in psychology and has for years been known in Great Britain as one of the 100 most spiritually influential living people. I haven’t been indoctrinated in his views but certainly find them thought-provoking and worth sharing.

The subtitle of The Leap is “The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening.” And as he discusses the nature of awakening here, it becomes clear that Taylor sees it as the prelude to another evolutionary leap, which may be inevitable. After all, he says “[We] tend to forget that the human race as it presently is can’t be the end point of the evolutionary process.”

Great. I was kind of thinking maybe we are near the end, our species at risk for extinction like so many others. However, perhaps all the emerging ways in which our world seems to be in peril will be catalytic. As Eckhart Tolle, a German-born spiritual teacher and best-selling author, says in the foreword to Taylor’s book “Challenges are the lifeblood of all evolution.” Of course rising above them is key. It will be good to remember that individually and collectively going forward.

However, Taylor sees humanity’s first evolutionary leap a little differently.

THE FALL

Taylor’s perspective spins to the past. He believes that early humans and indigenous people were naturally awake. He relates this to their sense of connection with the earth itself and all the life on it, plus an awareness of “the sentience and sacredness of natural phenomena.” Their communities were small and much less diversified than ours are today, and perhaps they enjoyed a sense of oneness without knowing what that meant or being able to see themselves as individuals.

After a while, however, there must have been among them those who did have a sense of self nurtured by ego. And as brains developed, some had latent potential that demanded development. Their numbers multiplied, and humanity advanced mightily, all the while distancing from the wakefulness of our earth-conscious ancestors and today’s indigenous people. Taylor compares that distancing to falling asleep, terming it “The Fall,” also the title of a book he wrote on the subject.

During The Fall, the world became inanimate to us. Taylor writes that “We no longer sensed the aliveness of rivers, rocks, and the earth itself.  We no longer sensed the sentience of trees and other plants, nor the consciousness of insects and other animals.” We felt free to use or abuse all the world’s resources, but our mobilized intellects created advances that are an ongoing, great source of pride. The Fall, a term we associate with decline, ironically resulted in an evolutionary leap. However, that leap began to be compromised by the rise of group identity.

THE THREAT OF GROUP IDENTITY

As humanity advanced, so did a sense of separation from the whole resulting in a degree of loneliness. According to Taylor, we developed a need for identity and belonging through membership in groups. These include nationality, religion, ethnicity, and political parties, but countless other groups also formed all the way from labor unions to college sororities. A sense of group identity seems to become increasingly important in America’s media-fractured culture where many may feel isolated and dis empowered in some way.

Steve Taylor

In an article in Psychology Today, Taylor says that being a member of a group “assuages the sense of separation.” He goes on to make the unsettling point that the sense of group identity “is strengthening by perceiving ourselves in opposition to other groups. To have rivals and enemies helps us to define ourselves more clearly and strongly.” This is a disturbing perspective, perhaps because we see in the moment that our nation is much more fragmented by group identity than united. If this is happening in many other countries, it certainly seems to defy the possibility of ever creating the sense of “oneness” idealized in my previous post.

THE LEAP

And so we seem to have arrived at a moment in history when humanity is so fragmented that nothing can unite us. However Taylor would disagree. He believes, to the contrary, that we stand on the threshold of an evolutionary leap in wakefulness, and he has seen evidence of this not only in his research but as a consultant in psychology.

He says that it manifests first of all, in people in whom wakefulness has already expressed. These are individuals who find superficial or meaningless the distinctions imposed by group identity. They see themselves and others simply as human beings and treat all people equally. Next are individuals who have temporary awakening experiences while in a very inactive or relaxed state. In the next group are people who “seem to sense intuitively that something is wrong with their normal state of being, that it is limited and delusory.” They seek to transcend their normal state by following spiritual practices. In the last case, an individual may experience an awakening that occurs spontaneously as the result of psychological turmoil. Taylor says this last example has always been more common than we realized and is becoming still more so.

One cannot help but conclude that there is a fifth category of people who are ready to awaken out of curiosity and goodwill and will pursue ways of doing so. After all, Taylor says “it’s important that our own individual psyche is connected to–and influences–our species as a whole.”

CONCLUSION

Now let’s go back to the quote at the beginning about the universe being eager to see us awaken. The leap from earth consciousness to universe consciousness is huge. However, near the end of the book, Steve Taylor says that some contemporary philosophers have suggested that “the purpose of the brain may not be to generate consciousness but to act as a receiver and a channel for it.”

This brings to mind that Psychology Today article I mentioned earlier. In it Taylor quoted astronaut Rusty Schweikhart floating 160 miles above the earth in 1969. It was a transformational moment–an awakening–as he watched earth circling below. Schweikhart said “You look down there and you can’t imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don’t even see them. . . [F]rom where you see it, the thing is a whole, the earth is a whole, and it’s so beautiful. You wish you could take a person in each hand, one from each side in the various conflicts, and say, ‘Look. Look at it from this perspective. Look at that. What’s important?'”

Perhaps the astronaut had suddenly become a channel for the consciousness of the universe. Perhaps that moment was a glimpse of the next evolutionary leap–into a state of oneness with the universe.

 

Synchronicity Leads

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“Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.”

Carl Jung

 

It was the great analytical psychologist Carl Jung who introduced the term synchronicity. It is basically a meaningful coincidence, and my history with it does suggest a link with a subconscious ready to experience something new, to learn from it, and to grow. This post was inspired by a recent synchronicity related to my two previous posts. But first, some background.

THE BLESSING OF STRESS

Back in 1997 in Nashville, I had kind of lost my way. I was home-bound in a new life in which I would serve primarily as the hearth where my husband and I could spend as much time as possible with three wonderful but distant stepchildren. Challenged by adaptation and a fall that had created chronic pain, I welcomed a friend’s recommendation that I make an appointment with a “wonderful” massage therapist.

Kathryn was indeed skillful, and we quickly bonded. Intrigued by all the Native American art and relics from the Southwest in her office, I soon learned that she was also a shamanic practitioner. She gave me articles about shamanism and recommended the book, The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner, anthropologist and founder of the Foundation of Shamanic studies. I pored over all of it.

I was suffering from kind of a depleted state at the time, and I learned that this could indicate soul loss and the departure of one’s “power animal,” a guardian spirit. I was told that all could be reclaimed, and the conscious cultivation of a relationship with my power animal could greatly enhance my own personal power in the world of ordinary reality. Through a session in “non-ordinary reality,” Kathryn found out why three soul parts had distanced and how I might restore them. She also identified my power animal, Lizard.

THE TIME WITH LIZARD

I can imagine the protest. “Lizard? You said ‘animal.’ A lizard is a reptile! A little bitty reptile! Why not a cheetah or an elk power animal? Why not a power bird, like an eagle or a falcon?”

Kathryn was afraid I would respond in the same way, but I was delighted. It brought up the pleasant memory of lizard sightings in El Paso, Texas, where I had grown up. Startled, they would freeze and stare–at who knows what–ready to sacrifice that long tail to run free. I was immediately ready to roll with Lizard and quickly learned how to journey with him into non-ordinary reality to find guidance.

Lizard remained a resource for over 20 years, an amazing development when I think about it. However, this experience with shamanism launched an intellectual as well as spiritual adventure. I read many books on shamanism, indigenous wisdom, and the language of nature. All that I learned contributed mightily to the earth consciousness that developed on my long walks in the woods with my Samoyed, Cassie.

My guardian spirit Lizard was quite a character, and the paces he put me through were priceless. I even published a memoir about it, Lizard Diary. I learned along the way that mystic and naturalist Ted Andrews saw in the lizard a quality of heightened sensitivity, the ability to hear and see things others don’t. The indigenous people associate it with dreaming, including dreaming/creating a future.

About 10 years after my introduction to shamanism, I moved to Santa Fe to start a new life. I didn’t know at the time that The Power Path School of Shamanism, founded by José Luis Stevens and his wife Lena was here, another synchronicity. And just as I was about to launch this series of posts on our imperiled planet, I learned about the impending publication of José’s book on shamanic prayer. As we go forward, the ability to pray may become an ever more important resource. And since we got into our current mess while praying in ways established by organized religion, perhaps it is time to consider a more ancient way–the shaman’s way.

THE JOURNEY TO THE ANCIENT

If you detected the vibration of humor in that last sentence, you are very discerning. I realize what a leap this topic would be for many people. I have just long been in a seeking mode, exploring many avenues of inquiry about how this world works. And although I eventually moved beyond Lizard’s guidance, the synchronicity of publication of How to Pray the Shaman’s Way suggested that I turn back and take another look. If more detail piques your interest, perhaps the timing of publication will prove a synchronicity for you also.

Let me begin with an introduction to José Luis Stevens, Ph.D., and shaman. His doctoral degree is in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. He completed a 10-year apprenticeship in shamanism with a high-degree Huichol shaman living in the Sierras of Mexico. He also has specific training with Shipibo shamans in the Amazon and the Andes regions of Peru. In addition, he has connected with shamans in Central Australia, Nepal, Finland, and the American Southwest.

José Luis Stevens, Ph.D., Shaman

José describes shamanism as “the world’s most ancient nature-based and cross-cultural spiritual path.” He lists 26 individuals all over the world and through history with different spiritual grounding who have taught him something about prayer. Examples include Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, Teresa of Avila, Rumi, Dalai Lama, and Paul Selig who currently channels The Guides.

José says that the term shaman originated with the Evenki tribe in Siberia and means “he or she who sees in the dark or sees what is hidden.” This must pertain to a shamanic perspective emanating through altered states but in José’s case, also to the knowledge acquired through his doctorate in psychology and the wisdom generated from decades of counseling clients.

I have read the book only once so far, and the thing that really caught my eye was the focus on moving toward oneness through prayer. As news and information flow in moment by moment about how we humans have “desecrated” the planet, as one critic put it, the challenge of course-correcting is overwhelming. Clearly we need to unite as a species to address this matter, but we are fragmented in countless ways, including by organized religion.

The opportunity provided from shamanic perspective is to align with the idea that we humans are all of the same Source (God, Spirit, Creator, the Divine) as is everything on this planet. And we are encouraged to believe that through the techniques of prayer provided, we may begin truly to see that. If we then act on it in alliance with Source, we will be empowered to change the world for the better.

CONCLUSION

No small thing. A very timely idea, and I think How to Pray the Shaman’s Way could prove a real gift for some in the moment. I’m very aware of how different we all are from each other and in the spiritual resources we can access. This is just one approach among countless opportunities. However, the need to lift individual consciousness seems to be increasing, so perhaps this will speak to some readers who are of the seeking order.

José has included many prayers in his book that work toward aligning the reader with Divine mind, and he is all right with abbreviating or revising them as needed. Here are the last lines of one that especially spoke to me in the moment. Titled “Prayer for Partnership,” it addresses Great Spirit as follows:

“Let us work together

To increase kindness and compassion,

To increase generosity and gratitude,

To fill the world with beauty, hope, and light,

And let us together join others in partnership in your name,

Until we have all remembered that we are one.”

 

A huge challenge, and perhaps especially for Americans. History will tell, I guess.