by Warren Brush, Quail Springs
All over the world, an ancient way of being has combined its elemental forces with the truths gained in the modern age to spark the fires of a new and imperative revolution. It is a subtle revolution of knowing the story of where all that sustains us comes from, and of honoring those things deeply. This revolution’s power draws from an ancient well of knowing that we as humans, with our opposing thumbs, expansive brains, and the capacity for empathy, are destined to draw from as we become stewards and caretakers of the land, and one another. Weaving our story with that of which sustains us not only empowers us to be revolutionaries in an age of rampant capitalism and its resource and culture eating syndromes, but also allows us to take true responsibility for the impacts of our lives. In its sheer humility, this revolution may be the very humus that is formed under the footsteps of the soldiers of capitalism and imperialism. As they pass unaware of us, our way of being becomes the nutrient from which new life will grow in a time beyond our own.
The healing road for the earth, for us, and for our communities, is dependent upon the story of how we as humans live upon the land. The external landscape of the world that surrounds us, and our internal landscapes are inextricably linked in patterns of mutual interdependence. When the realization of the disparate state of the outer landscape begins knocking at the door of our hearts, people will often ask me, “Where do I begin the process of changing my life and lessening my impacts?” I always answer, “Begin where you are and take the next best step…but do it with deep awareness of the patterns around you.” This may sound ridiculously simple to some, yet, when one begins to consider it, how does one take the first step in changing the deeply ingrained patterns of one’s life, and how does one address the social determinates that pressure many of those patterns?
For many years my life’s work has been to facilitate “the best next step” process for youth and adults alike through various workshop and mentoring modalities. In my working with and learning alongside thousands of people during these years, several key patterns have emerged that are instrumental in connecting us with our next best step toward knowing how to be responsible for our lives and for the communities in which we live. These subtle ideas/patterns are truly revolutionary in their capacity to bring healing change, and they are approachable from where you dwell today in your uniqueness of being and life circumstance! Our work is in the weaving of a cultural basket that supports the health, well-being and spirit of individuals and their communities. The wefts of change beneath are the constant pattern understandings innate in all peoples. The weaves come from our own uniqueness and the beautiful diversity that we are capable of offering:
- Incorporate Nature Into Your Worldview: Develop routines that immerse your senses in the influences of the natural world on regular basis. This could be a daily ritual of sitting in one place over and over again, surrounded by nature, for a few minutes each day, whether in the woods or leaning against a tree in your urban neighborhood. This is the beginning of awakening your true nature as you step into a worldview that includes nature rather than ignores its deep connection to you. Another key ingredient to shifting your worldview is to be mindful of where you focus your mind energy. So many people spend countless hours giving their attention to the media’s often fearful and politically motivated interpretation of the world around us. Begin by losing your television, look at the newspaper less, read more books, observe the happenings of the world around you in present time. Replace fear, depression and hopelessness with a positive outlook.
- Link the World Together Into Patterns: The world is made up of multitudes of patterns that make up larger sets of patterns that make up still larger sets of patterns that are inextricably interdependent. We are forever integral to this amazing web that touches everything. The industrial human has been unfortunately acculturated to see the world as individual and separate parts disassociated from the patterns of the whole. It would be like trying to picture a friend, their uniqueness, what they love, and their value in the world by looking at one cell in their pancreas rather than stepping back and seeing the amalgamation of patterns that make up the wholeness of their being. It seems idiotic at best, yet for many of us this metaphor accurately represents our daily relationship with the world that sustains us. Try this linking exercise: Find a tree across your yard or street and then identify another tree at least 100 yards away. Then find a link between them by tracking those nuances that touch both of them through a storyline. Maybe you will find a ground squirrel visits the base of one tree to pick up the dropped food of a crow eating a chestnut high in the branches. The ground squirrel carries the food back to its in-ground nest and stores it for a rainy day. During those rare spring rains, water enters the nest hole and reaches down into the storage of the squirrel and sprouts the chestnut seed, which grows toward the light. That sprout gets eaten by a deer, which leaves its scat, as a natural fertilizer, on the other tree. It does not matter if the trees, or any element of this world, for that matter, are hundreds of miles apart. You can link them together with enough investigation. This understanding, once kinesthetically learned, is the basis of understanding our deep need to be responsible for our impacts on the earth and one another.
- Develop Routines of Gratitude: I believe it is better to live in a state of gratitude than to be in a state of hopefulness. Hope has often served to stagnate action; i.e. “If only the (democrats, green party, republicans, etc.) were in political power; everything would change for the better”; “I could afford to do what my heart wants me to do if I only won the lottery”; “If I find the right partner I would then be a happy person.” In hope, often we relegate ourselves to sitting and waiting when there is so much work to be done now in our lives and our communities to bring about positive change. Gratitude engages a different energetic mechanism than hope. Gratitude opens doors to awareness of the tools needed to be in rightful action. Everyday our family and visitors to our Permaculture farm sit in a circle before dinner where we share our gratitude for the things we are truly thankful for that day. It has become an important feedback loop in our unique ecology of action where our hopes are being lived and reflected upon in positive ways and shared as a part of our developing story.
- Observe Your Life From a Bird’s Eye View: Often we see our lives myopically through the worries of the brain rather than from the wholeness of our hearts. Regularly stepping back – physically, emotionally and spiritually – to see our lives within a broader landscape of space and time, is essential for us to stay synchronized with our destiny. There are infinite ways this can look, yet, we have had many successes with these few actions:
- Physically, look at your home, your neighborhood, and your community from different vantage points. Climb a nearby mountain or tree, stand on the tallest building, and look at where you dwell. To define and know where you are, you must define that which surrounds you.
- Tend a Re-Membrance Fire. Kindle a fire in your back yard, fireplace, or a special place in the wilderness from sunset one day to sunset the next. Place your intentions of wanting to see the bigger picture of your life and your next best steps.
- Gather your family together in a circle and ask each to share their dreams as they understand them at this point in their journey. Before you begin, create a safe space of listening and sharing by picturing your own circle within a circle of all your ancestors who are intently listening and holding each of you in their wisdom, grief, and joy. Then picture a circle inside the family circle where you picture the children who are yet to be born…the next generations. As your dream sharing circle ensues, remember that you are each a vital link that connects the ancestors with the children yet to be born.
- Grow a Garden: History shows us that most of the problems in the world can be solved in the garden. Cultural stability comes from living within regional ecosystems that feed their inhabitants, whether naturally or by human design. These ecosystems have the diversity, resilience, and equitability to support a permanence to human habitation. When we grow a garden, not only do we get local, healthy, fresh food that we know the source of, we get the security of knowing we can feed ourselves without needing to be reliant on a failing industrial complex or imperialistic power. The garden grows us through our tending its needs and it tending ours with truth and integrity. Much of the foods and medicines many westerners have come to rely on are poisoned, depleted and spiritually crippled. The garden reminds us that our bodies, our emotions and our spirits are inextricably intertwined. Our patterns of health, happiness and culture are inspired through the gifts of tending life in the garden. Nurture a garden to life today!
- Convert Your Economic Capital Into Natural Capital: There is immense economic wealth that is squandered daily on products and systems that are destroying the capacity for our future generations – our grandchildren – to live and thrive. We are literally stealing from our children and grandchildren to feed ourselves. The western economic wealth that has been derived from mining the earth needs to be converted into natural capital as we near a catastrophic tipping point where life-necessary natural resources become scarce. Many economists have stated that we are nearing the point of possibility where our money could become completely worthless. There are many ways to regenerate natural resources:
- Convert your monies now into natural capital through planting beneficial food-bearing perennials around your home, neighborhood, and community.
- Engage a Permaculture Designer to lay out a sustainability plan for your home including food, water and energy stability, and security.
- Give substantially to groups that plant trees in sustainable systems.
- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program where the farmers are producing food in regenerative systems that ensure ecological health in your region and keep land out of development.
- Take responsibility for your personal impacts on the earth by purchasing ALL the goods needed to sustain your life from local sources. Know the stories of how the materials and processes involved in the production of these goods impact the land. Better yet, begin to produce more of the products you, your family, and your community need to survive.
It takes many heartfelt steps to change the pattern of one’s direction toward healing and balance, and even more to be an instrument of regenerative change to the larger patterns that make up society. By reading this at this fortuitous moment in your own journey, you have opened the door for beneficial change to weave itself deeply into your life patterns and deeply into the landscape that sustains you. Take courage in knowing that you are not alone in this process. Many of us are shifting our life patterns, not only toward being sustainable, but toward being instrumental in bringing to life a new era of cooperation between humans and this earth that holds and nurtures us. Together, we will be the change we want to see as our beautifully diverse lives weave together in an earth shaping pattern revolution.
Warren Brush is a certified Permaculture designer, educator, storyteller. He is co-founder of Quail Springs Learning Oasis & Permaculture Farm, Wilderness Youth Project, Mentoring for Peace, and Trees for Children. He works extensively in Permaculture education and sustainability design in North America and in Africa. He can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling his office at 805-886-7239.