Maybe That’s What It Takes

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What You Can Do
As my retirement looms closer, I’ve been giving some more thought about exactly what I’ll be doing with my days when I retire. In my previous post Intention to Practice I summarized the nine steps that I am following (and urging others to follow, in their own way) to make the world a better place, illustrated in the graphic above.

To implement these practically into my new life, once I’ve moved, I have organized my day into three blocks of time: 10am to 1pm for reconnection practices, 2pm to 6pm for learning, facilitating action and model-creating practices, and 8pm to 12pm for reflection and writing practices. Starting with these three blocks of time, I developed the chart below that shows my long-term intentions, the long-term practices that “stretch toward” those intentions, and the short-term, daily intentions (exercises) in alignment with the longer-term ones. The long-term practices tie into the nine steps in my What You Can Do graphic above, and the colour (red, yellow, green) is from my ‘scorecard’ and shows how much work I have to do on each.

Long-Term Intention Long-Term Practices Short-Term Intentions (Exercises & Projects) Hrs/day
A. Reconnecting with All Life on Earth, Instincts & Emotions Appreciation (1) 
Presence/Paying Attention (2)
Heart-Opening/Letting Go (3)
10am to 1pm: personal/group reconnection:
– Forest/ocean walks
– Presencing exercises
– Gratitude exercises
– ‘Breathing through’ meditation
0 3.0
B. Increasing Capacity & Competency
Personal and Collective)
Understanding How the World Works (4)
Capacity-Building (6) 
2pm-6pm: learning/exploring:
– presentation/conversation skills
– demonstration skills
– creative writing exercises
SSUQIOC exercises
– balance and empathy practices
1.0 1.0
C. Undermining and Dismantling Civilization Activism (7)  2pm-6pm: facilitating action:
– Open Space: Stopping the Tar Sands
– Open Space: Ending Factory Farms
0 1.5
D. Creating Models of a Better Way
to Live and Make a Living
Model-Building (8) 

2pm-6pm: creating:
– novel: The Only Life We Know
– film: Earth 2200: A Travelogue
– workbook: Finding Your Sweet Spot
– unschooling: personal practice guide
E. Joy, Understanding Self-Knowing (5)
Being Myself (9)
– reflection/questioning exercises
– blogging
– play: drawing, photography, with animals (original play)
(activities not directly related to
any of my intentions — my Y-stuff)
other hours:
– self-care (sleep, exercise etc.)
– networking; serendipitous reading
– self-management (gardening etc.)
 19.0 13.0

I’m now starting to drill down into what I’m going to do, especially to move from “red” to “green” in steps 1, 2 and 7. Here are some of the exercises I’m intending to do:

Reconnecting Exercises (preferably, but not always, in company with others):

  • Listening and talking with other creatures during forest/ocean walks — paying attention to their songs and sounds, to try to understand, viscerally and intuitively, what they are saying, and ‘talking back’ to them in something like their own voice
  • Spell of the Sensuous exercises — those described in David Abram’s book, connecting time past and future back into the present
  • Sleeping in the wild
  • Acknowledging my grief for Gaia, letting my heart be broken, and showing my broken heart to the word — with others, using some of Joanna Macy’s exercises like the truth mandella (taking turns speaking of these feelings of grief, anger, fear, pain and dread), and confessing sorrows to each other, drawing on Joanna’s Six Principles:
    • This world, in which we are born, and take our being, is alive.
    • Our true nature is more ancient and encompassing than the separate self defined by habit and modern society.
    • Our experience of pain for the world springs from our interconnectedness with all beings, from which springs also our powers to act on their behalf.
    • Unblocking occurs when our pain for the world is not only validated, but experienced (i.e. it is not enough to listen to the bad news in the media).
    • When we reconnect with all-life-on-Earth, by willingly enduring our pain for it, the mind retrieves its natural clarity (or as Derrick Jensen puts it “When you listen, really listen to the land, you will know just what to do.”)
    • The experience of reconnection with all-life-on-Earth arouses desire and intention to act on its behalf. Conversely, as long as we remain disconnected, we will remain unmotivated, helpless, part of the problem.
  • Trust walks with others (taking turns blindfolded, guided by a partner, and sensing without seeing)
  • Meditation in wilderness, especially guided meditations on the theme of affirmation and gratitude
  • Intentional exercises (like this article, except done in groups)
  • Artistic expression exercises — drawing, painting, dance, composing music, sculpture — including collaborative work

Facilitating Action (organizing and enabling groups to design and take actions that will undermine the worst and most destructive facets of industrial civilization, with the goal of ultimately dismantling it):

My belief is that this work must be collaborative, creative, and self-critical. It must achieve measurable results effectively i.e. without hurting others and hence creating martyrs of the supporters of our unsustainable systems, and without getting ourselves arrested. The results it achieves have to be more than public attention, even if that achieves some change in understanding, beliefs and behaviours. My two “starter” projects are to bring an end to factory farming (at least in Canada), and to halt the Alberta Tar Sands.

We have to be more creative than chaining ourselves to tractors and “liberating” farmed animals. These are PR stunts and they don’t achieve the results we seek: less (and eventually no) factory farming, and less (and eventually no) Tar Sands operations. We cannot rely on changing people’s buying behaviour (I’ve learned what battery caged hens hellish life is, but even I still eat food with eggs from unknown sources of supply — it’s just too difficult under the current industrial agriculture system to bring about real change through consumer movements alone). We cannot rely on politicians or lawyers or changes to laws and regulations and enforcement. These are the clowns that have got us into this mess, and they are fully invested in keeping it going. We are not going to be able to embarrass corporations to behave better — ExxonMobil is at once the world’s worst polluter and the most profitable company in the history of civilization. We need to find better, more effective ways to bring these horrific practices to an end.

What we need to do, I think, is bring together a lot of creative minds, with a great breadth of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding of how the Tar Sands and factory farms currently operate. And then we have to be methodical in identifying all the vulnerabilities of these systems and how they can be exploited. To that end, I think a good place to start is with Open Space as a methodology to enable a large group of invitees to self-organize to develop understanding and action plans, coupled with Donella Meadows’ 12 Places to Intervene in a System, which can focus our attention on actions that will achieve maximum results.

So, for example, how could we deprive tar sands and factory farm operators of critical sources of supply? How could we deprive them of funds? How could we disrupt production? How could we prevent them getting their ‘product’ to market? How could we reduce their market? How could we change the purpose of the energy sector from increasing supply of non-renewable energy, to reducing global carbon output to zero through sequestration etc.? How could we change the purpose of the farming industry from producing the maximum amount of food at the lowest price, to producing a healthy diet for everyone with minimal production and zero waste? How can we enable local energy and food coops to spring up and meet the needs of their communities so they have no need at all for the products of the tar sands or factory farms?

I don’t have the answers, but between us, with effort and shared knowledge and creativity, we do. There is a better way to live. We just need to seize the opportunity and power to create it, demonstrate it, and at the same time bring down the corrupt, cruel, wasteful, toxic, unnatural, irresponsible, unsustainable operations that the lawyers and politicians and corporations and educators and media have brainwashed us into believing is the only way to live. My job is to facilitate making that happen, and also to apply what I do uniquely well (imagining possibilities, and writing) to provoke the thinking that will bring these essential changes to fruition.
That’s some of what I intend to do, anyway.

Category: What You Can Do

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4 Responses to Maybe That’s What It Takes

  1. I hope you strike a good balance between trying to “save the world” – and building a good lifestyle for yourself.However, I kind of think that there’s something in the middle that you’re missing? I see a dichotomy here in what you are describing – between solitary pursuits on the one hand, and changing the world on the other. Where is the middle ground? Where is the focus on your own people? It’s wonderful to see that you have this sense of civic responsibility. I admire your passion. I wonder, however, how constructive it is to focus on changing the actions of other people, and society at large. Personally, I think it’s better to find a place to live where we feel at peace with how people approach life – and with the vision they have for their community and their world. I think a person with the kind of insights and intellect you have would be wise to use it to build up a community of people – to nurture and mentor young people, to make a bubble of a better lifestyle for yourself and your peers. Create the change you want to see by living it.What you’re describing in the second half of your post reminds me of a poem by the author “Denise Levertov” called “Red Snow.” I put this on my website here: have seen this tendency in myself in past years as well – to want to “save the world.” The problem that I see, as a person who lives in the States, is the one described by this popular internet meme: are too many people out there who will immediately tear down anything you or I want to build, if we choose to build it on the public beach. I really think it’s better to focus on bettering our own lot in life – working to help others who are like minded, finding synergy with them as we create the kind of future we want for ourselves.And then our example can be an inspiration to others.The TED conference is an example of a group of folks, who I see are doing this with their meetings:http://www.ted.comNow, certainly, there is a place for seeking to right wrongs that we see happening around us. And the technique will differ depending on the general zeitgeist of the country in which we live. I think the way forward here, is to work on building consensuses about the need for a change. I’m not sure how I would do that in Canada. But the first step, I think, would be to try to encourage people to take an interest in public affairs. Canadians seem very insular. In the Usa, I’ve tried a different tack for a few years by trying to infuse new ideas and get people to question old paradigms through raising consensuses on weblink sharing sites. It’s thankless work, because folks in the Usa can be very acerbic. It takes a lot of patience. But I have seen some success in getting folks to reassess certain paradigms about the world that they have held for a long time.

  2. I agree with much of what Christopher says above. Work on yourself; work on the big issues (if you must, knowing how tough that will be); but don’t forget to make a meaningful impact on your immediate surroundings, those closest to you, your chosen circle, town, region, whatever it might be. Ripple outward, don’t explode!Anyway, it’s not like you’re not thinking about this pretty methodically. You probably do know what you’re doing — what look like pitfalls to me might be attractors to you.

  3. Tree Bressen says:

    You criticize chaining ourselves to tractors, liberating farmed animals, and changing buying behaviors as ineffective at best and PR stunts at worst. Yet what they are depends on the context in which they take place, and their results may not be known until long after the action takes place. As part of a strategic campaign to make a difference on a particular issue, any of these can be important and effective. I agree with your sense of urgency, i agree we have not yet succeeded or come anywhere near the world we want to birth. Of course. But my suggestion, dear one, is that you drop criticizing how other activists haven’t done it right until you have (a) done some “appreciative inquiry” to learn a lot more about successful social change efforts of the past, and (b) gotten your hands dirty and your feet in the trenches. And frankly, while it might not be a risk you personally choose to invite (to the extent you have control, which in some circumstances is limited), changing the power structure is likely to include someone–a lot of someones–getting arrested. I agree with you that that should happen thoughtfully, not haphazardly, so that the sacrifice and risk are maximally useful to the cause.

  4. Pingback: Building SOUL » Blog Archive » The Great Turning - Joanna Macy speaks

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