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. I’m sitting in the same place now, one day after that encounter,looking at the hill that is covered in its new, rich, dark brown soil.
As I watched the group of volunteers work, I began to think about how evolutionary biologists talk about how life forms evolve from initial competition into ever-increasing collaboration. It’s because of this tendency for life forms to mature into cooperation that we have bodies, which are comprised of trillions of collaborating organisms working together. This got me to thinking about how humanity, as a species, has an opportunity to grow into greater cooperation and collaboration for the good of all, rather that being mired in self-interest and fear of lack.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to pay attention to instances of cooperation and collaboration that you run across in the course of your everyday life activities. Also, notice where you discover opportunities for you to engage collaboration and cooperation yourself, paying particular attention to how it feels to offer yourself to these opportunities. You might also notice situations where you see, or feel, the opposite and notice that when we move into a stance of competition, we tend to constrict and become tight, internally.
Be sure to pay attention to your body as you play with this experiment. Cooperation and collaboration tend to be heart-opening activities for humans, so the body tends to soften and open to what’s unfolding. Emotions of ease, gratitude, satisfaction, and care often emerge as we cooperate in a collective endeavor of some kind. Of course, if it’s a collective expression of social action or protest, we are likely to experience heightened emotions of a different kind, but for this experiment I’m thinking of those small moments, those small opportunities, that emerge in the course of everyday life.
As with all these experiments, there’s no right way to do this one. It’s yet another invitation to become more consciously aware of how you move through your world, and how the quality of your internal life is profoundly affected by your ways of being and behaving. Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion, as curiosity tends to open us up to experience, making us available to new discoveries. Be sure to pat on the head any judgments that may arise and allow them to simply move through and move on without any need to counter or engage them.