“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”
~ Thomas Merton, Love and Living
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Almost all our current predicaments, ailments, addictions and suffering have a similar root: disconnection.
We are disconnected from our essence: Nature and we have build entire stories, systems, institutions, processes and relationships based on the erroneous idea that we are different from nature and may somewhat continue our lives without it.
We are also disconnected from our communities: we migrate from one language and culture to another (either forced by circumstances such as war, famine, financial, political or social disintegration or because we are lured by a propaganda that tells us that the way we are or live are wrong and that there’s more “quality” in that other culture of consumerism that so resembles Hollywood movies); when we stay in our countries, we move or are forced to move by “development” and “progress” or by crime and the disintegration of the original community as all the local production and economic exchange disappear, giving room to corporations and big all: big bookstores, big supermarkets, big farms, big malls…
We disconnect from our families and loved ones by a culture where independence is seen as a sign of success and personal growth and inter-dependence is ignored or devalued. This same culture says we are the center of the universe and deserve it all, so we run away (or push people away from our lives) at the minimal sign of “drama” or “toxicity”, ignoring their very real needs to be understood and supported. This translates into divorces but also into daycares for seniors and the disabled, pills for kids that are unable to express their anxiety and pain except by jumping and screaming (the so called ADHD) and discriminate against anyone who is not following the usual script (go to school, graduate, find a job, marry, have children, bury your dreams, buy everything including what you can’t afford, repeat, retire, feel useless, fight your illnesses forever so you can avoid dying, then die…)
Finally, we disconnect from ourselves: that what we are inside, that person who once had joy and compassion for all and everything; who had dreams and fire, curiosity and energy and knew her gifts and the things she came here to learn and share. We disconnect from our internal “family” of archetypes and shadows, in a culture that only celebrates “light” and frowns upon any expression of doubt, fear, pain or “negativity”, burying all those voices that came here to teach us about the world as a whole (a world where the shadows are necessary to offer a respire, to go deep and learn, to understand the shadow better). We are also disconnected from our bodies and have forgotten its innate ability to find balance and heal; to know what’s good and what makes you sick; to enjoy the pleasures of the senses and its ability to receive and provide joy to others. In a culture where we separate body from spirit and where certain functions and outputs are seen as gross or “not-us”, where only certain bodies and ages are “socially acceptable” and there is a constant competition to look, dress and behave in certain ways, it should be a mystery why this disconnection from our own bodies and its senses have brought more chronic illnesses and pain and created so many addictions.
The people at 8Shields have started an inspiring project: what if we extend as a mycelium system, starting with ourselves and sharing with family, friends and community, a network of re-connection based on those four elements: reconnecting with ourselves, family and loved ones, community and nature? What if we focus on our gifts and design a life that creates joy and connection instead one of disconnection and suffering?
As a life/career coach and permaculturist myself, I find this idea fascinating: I have seen many attempts (all coming from either the permaculture or the eco-psychology scenes) of working on life design; if we get to pairing these strategies with what’s already known from life and career coaching and the social justice movements, what’s possible?
I come from a very diverse background (career-wise) which includes survivalism, disaster management, food sovereignty advocacy, permaculture, psychology and pedagogy. All these systems of thought/strategies/approaches have something valuable, but none seems to encompass it all: survivalism tends to see the external skills necessary to survive a collapse: shelter, waste management, self-reliance around food, energy, water, transportation, security/protection, safety and physical health, but forgets that we are social animals and that we have a soul: survivalism tends to ignore or minimize the importance of “preparing” at an emotional/soul/spiritual level, which is probably the best “preparation” we can have towards any “disaster” (human-made or natural). It also ignores the fact that if we forget the “others” and things such as conflict management, NVC and relationship building, we won’t survive that long either.
Permaculture tends to focus on transforming/designing the land, but until now, few are the efforts to design a personal life and a community that is ethical and enjoyable for all. Those who have done so, tend to go away from mainstream and work on him/her selves. Those who stay and teach or work on permaculture projects, tend to ignore the “People Care” piece and I have seen lots of groups and projects disintegrate because of this: people hurt, discriminated, and their needs and barriers ignored, who end up blaming permaculture for what happen to them…
The Transition movement (from which Village Surrey is an example in our local community), tries to address these things, but the efforts are shadowed by matters of scale, leadership and organization, and the fact that people volunteer: when paying bills and dealing with more “urgent”, family or personal issues, any projects become secondary. There is a need for people of all walks of life feel not only welcomed and heard, but understood, supported, worth and that what they do with their time and energy is impactful enough. This is not new or unique to VS, it’s happening all over the world with the other transition initiatives: the “system” is seen as too strong and the individuals involved see no way out of their own disconnection.
Psychology and mainstream life/career coaching tend to see the individuals as separated entities who are experiencing mental illnesses or living through rough circumstances, or are unable to make decisions or solve issues on their own. The “intervention” is based on the idea of “fixing” and “integrating” this person into society again to make them a “productive” or “successful” individual again.
The later approaches ignore the fact that many of those “mental illnesses”, dysfunctions and suffering are not the problems but the symptoms of bigger issues that are rarely in these individuals’ hands. They also ignore the fact that people are not islands, they are never separated entities, not even when they live alone: the belong to a network from which they learn, breathe, eat, absorb flows of all types and give back in many ways to.
In my Life Coaching blog “Ethical Pathways” I have created a series of exercises and thoughts, usually posted in a weekly basis, to help this acknowledgement and re-connection happen: like the people in the eco-psychology, eco-therapy and nature-connection groups believe, I am convinced that only when we heal ourselves and start reconnecting with what we are, with nature and culture through other human beings, is when we can start healing everything else. It is in these re-connection processes that we’ll find our gifts and where they will indicate the path to follow: no amount of soil, land and ecosystem healing will do it if we don’t work on ourselves at the same time…
The best teachers and practitioners from Disaster/Emergency Preparedness and Survival know this: when a disaster strikes, it’s not the plan, the map or all the tools and kits you have what will help you through, it’s your emotional state and skills, your “inner bunker” and your ability to lead and or engage others in constructive tasks.
I have many dreams for 2017: I want to walk away from a 9-5 model that creates more barriers than opportunities for a sustainable, ethical and resilient world. I want to create social businesses that allow me to help others to navigate away from oppressive and disempowering jobs and lifestyles and towards a creative/engaging work for themselves and their communities; I want to start a support group for those hit by the realities of climate change, resource depletion and ecosystems collapse; I want to write a book on how to extend this process to others and I want to create a platform (online and in person) that would allow people to learn and co-create these realities together with other like-minded people around the world.
But none of this will happen if I work alone: I need people willing to walk this path with me, people who support these projects, income that allows me to walk away from enslaving structures and walk into what’s important and so needed.
If this is important to you, consider taking time away from everything else, and starting your own re-connection process. There are many ways you can do this, if you have ideas, want support or are just curious, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to learn more about the re-connection exercises, browse my other blog: Ethical Pathways, and consider contacting me for a free session (phone, online or in person).
“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
~ Susan Sontag
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
~ John Lennon