728th Week: Language of Separateness; Language of Interbeing
Early this morning, I turned on the radio and listened to a brief political report on WNYC, the local public radio station here in NYC. What I heard was a recording of a recent political rally where what I call “the language of separateness” characterized what was said by the speaker. In addition to the sadness I felt at hearing language that had a violent and aggressive tone, language that demonized the “other”, I also began to think about the difference between “the language of separateness” and “the language of interbeing’. Interbeing is a verb created by the Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, and is now used beautifully and often by Charles Eisenstein, a speaker who focuses on social, economic, and ecological issues.
Later, I listened to an interview with Krista Tippett in her On Being broadcast where she talked with a woman who described how she engages people on the opposite side of the spectrum from where she lives politically and socially as a way to discover what was of key importance to both her and to the other person. Read More “728th Week: Language of Separateness; Language of Interbeing”
Week 636: Supporting Cooperation and Collaboration
Sitting in Central Park the other day, a whole crew of volunteers worked on the hill in front of me. They worked with wheelbarrows, rakes, and shovels, spreading a new layer of soil on the hill. As I watched them work together, my deepest response was one of gratitude that so many people showed up early on a weekday morning to offer their services to the park. Read More “Week 636: Supporting Cooperation and Collaboration”
822nd Week: Honoring Our Earth-Kin
As I begin to put together the year-long offerings of audio meditations on my website, I’ve been thinking about the focus for the coming year. Lately, I’ve had a deepening awareness of the importance of experiencing all the other life on this beautiful planet as “earth-kin”. We are all related, all children of the same mother planet, and many of us humans have been taught that we are somehow superior or “more evolved” than our other earth-kin.
I recently read a book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”, by Frans de Waal, that addresses this humancentric bias. De Waal offers many examples of how our research on other earth-kin has tended to orient to human assumptions and human ways of doing things. One of my favorite examples had to do with making a mark on an elephant’s face or head and then having this earth-kin look in a mirror to see if he or she recognized themselves. They didn’t and someone realized that the problem wasn’t that elephants can’t recognize themselves but rather that the mirrors weren’t elephant sized. Once large enough mirrors were provided, the elephants immediately recognized that something was on their face and responded appropriately.
Another example had to do with research on gibbons, where researchers decided that they weren’t as intelligent as other primates because they couldn’t do a particular task that required them to use their hands in a certain way. A young researcher noticed that the task was oriented to human hands and not to the way that gibbons use theirs. When the experiment was retooled to reflect gibbon digits and manipulation, not surprisingly they performed as well as any other primate.
It can be both surprising and startling to know that slime mold does very well solving the challenge of a maze, better and faster than some other kinds of earth-kin. It can also be surprising to know that some species chose to evolve toward more complexity while others chose to evolve into less complexity, each and all having their own style of measurable intelligence. Here’s a link to a quick video about slime mold moving through a maze and also creating a complex network of connections that match the design of the Tokyo rail system. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyzT5b0tNtkRead More “822nd Week: Honoring Our Earth-Kin”
765th Week: Blessing Water
As I’ve written about before, I’ve been noticing the tangible impact of practicing offering blessings as I move through the world. One of the most important is the ongoing practice of blessing water. Water carries memory, as demonstrated in the work of Masaru Emoto, where he looked at the crystalline structure of frozen water molecules before and after they were blessed, as well as when they were sent love, gratitude, hate, or “you’re a loser”. It’s quite compelling research and, in case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to a YouTube video about water and memory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOp-bxNug5A. There are many other related videos, as well, if you are interested.
Many people don’t believe that water carries memory, or that it matters if water is blessed before taken into the body. Many of us forget that our bodies are up to 65% water and, when we take into account the images that come from Emoto’s work, we can better appreciate why blessing water is an important practice for our overall sense of well-being.
I am also a proponent of expressing a great deal of ongoing love and gratitude for my body, as it’s the means by which I’m here in the world. I include my awareness that the water in my body will carry my love and gratitude within it as it circulates. Whether it directly affects my body, I don’t really know but, even with the inevitable changes that come with aging, I know I feel better when I actively engage this practice.Read More “765th Week: Blessing Water”
750th Week: Generating Flexibility
Walking to work one morning, I was in an area of Central Park where dogs gather for their morning playtime. As often as possible, I walk off the pathways, so I was in the middle of the doggie play area when a dog went by whom I hadn’t seen before. Both hind legs had been amputated and he had one artificial leg in the back to accompany his two front legs. What struck me was how agile he was and how he enjoyed sniffing the ground, moving around with relative ease. His situation looked so different from the many three-legged dogs I see in the park, and I enjoyed watching him move around, nose to the ground, doing regular “dog things”.
As I watched him, I thought about the power inherent in being adaptive and flexible in the presence of life’s challenges, changing circumstances, and unexpected developments. For many of us, the immediate response to change or an unexpected challenge is to pull in and constrict. When we do this, our brain’s natural ability to generate and notice options often goes off-line, leaving us with little to no flexibility.Read More “750th Week: Generating Flexibility”
893rd Week: A Meditation on Our Earth Family
One of the themes that has accompanied me throughout most of my adult life is how to support a shift away from our everyday humancentered thinking and behaving and to move toward the recognition that we are part of an Earth family. This kind of shift offers us a perspective that invites us to honor and respect the vast array of our other-than-human earth-kin, all the life and beings with whom we share this planet.
So much of Western philosophical and religious thinking has divorced our physical lives from our “spiritual lives”, holding an attitude that part of our journey here is to transcend this physical world. Thankfully, I think that this is no longer a dominant attitude to the degree it used to be, but it has been a source of great harm to our planet and our other earth-kin.
Thankfully, people such as Daniel Siegel, a psychiatrist who has become a dominant figure in the trauma resolution community along with others have developed approaches that challenge our tendency to put the individual before our collective. Here’s a link to a brief talk by Dan about his approach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo8Yo4UE6g0
It orients us to our larger collective and is an important perspective to have in place when beginning to shift away from a humancentric and individualistic orientation. It invites us to collective well-being and it’s not a huge leap to include our other-than-human earth-kin as well as our human kin.
When I was in graduate school many years ago now, I wrote about what I called Psychoecology, focusing on the place of humans within the larger ecological context. I never developed it beyond that but there are many other people who offer perspectives that move away from humancentric thinking and behavior and I recommend exploring these more deeply if you are interested. Look up Animism, Pantheism and more on google.com. Here’s a piece from the BBC about humans and the natural world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gWGP34-4tY
And, many indigenous cultures have always experienced humans as part of Nature, as part of an earth family with whom humans must cooperate if we are to survive. Here’s a clip of the voices of young indigenous people who are involved in climate change efforts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm8Ctb2w81Y
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I offer the following guided meditation that offers an opportunity to explore shifting away from humancentric thinking:Read More “893rd Week: A Meditation on Our Earth Family”