Who Are You Really?

“People sense that there’s something wrong, but they’re still struggling to go back and find out what the real roots of the problem are, and I think what we need to come to is a realization that it’s not just fixing an economic or political system, but is a basic worldview, a basic understanding of who we are that’s at stake.”–David Loy 

I came across this quote by David Loy in Isaac Yuen’s review of the short movie Overview on Isaac’s website, Ekostories.com. I couldn’t agree more. Industrialization has caused us to forget who we are as a species and, if we don’t remember soon, things could get really ugly for us and for all the other life forms with whom we currently share this beautiful, complex, and fragile planet.

I’m not going to write a doom and gloom Earth Day post to remind you how many species we are losing every day or show images of retreating arctic ice or even photos of cute animals. I’m not going to exhort you to plant a tree or check the air in your tires to reduce your gasoline consumption or buy local, organic produce or take your own bags to the grocery store.

All I’m going to do is ask you to take a few moments to remember who you truly are.

You are a spirit that uses a physical body as a tool to experience and interact with this world. This is pretty friggin’ fantastic because it is that body, and all the sense organs that it provides, that enables you to enjoy the fragrance of a blooming lilac tree or the taste of a fresh strawberry dipped in velvety chocolate; the sound of your son’s laugh or the sight of your daughter’s smiling eyes; the feel of cool grass or hot sand under bare feet.

You belong to the human species, which, along with every other species that has existed on this planet, has a set of fairly narrowly defined parameters within which it can thrive. Your body is made up of a mixture of the same chemical and mineral components as all other life on this planet. It regularly exchanges electrons with the environment so your body contains particles that were once a part of your couch, your mother’s favorite lambswool sweater, or your dad’s Ford. You drink the same water the dinosaurs drank and breathe oxygen that was exhaled by a baobab tree in Madagascar or a Siberian Larch or the Tree of Life in the desert of Bahrain.

This body of yours belongs to this planet.

This spirit of yours is a unique expression of the divine, endowed with gifts and a purpose that are yours alone. The other living beings on this planet need you to remember who you are, to recognize your place in the web, and to bring your inherent beauty – your love – forth in the world. The greatest challenge you might face in life is to learn to allow yourself to be fully present in every moment, to participate in the wonder that surrounds you even when your circumstances seem bleak and the world feels like a scary place. You are endowed with a powerful imagination and you can use that imagination to see the world at its enchanted best, to shape your experience, and therefore your reality.

So, on this Earth Day, celebrate by remembering that you are a miracle in the grander miracle of Life. Breathe this knowledge deep into your being so you won’t forget. We are counting on you.

And if you need a little more help visualizing your connection to the Earth, take a moment to watch this gorgeous short film, Overview.

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

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Perma-wha???

When I decided to write a novel about a character who disappears down the permaculture rabbit hole, I had only a vague sense what permaculture was. When I arrived in Los Altos, California last month for my permaculture design certification course, I still had only a vague sense of what that word might mean. In fact, several days into the course I had no concrete definition, only a strong feeling that it somehow encompassed much of what interests me.

So, now that I have a bonafide permaculture certification do I know what permaculture is? I would say, yes. Mostly.

For me, permaculture is a lens through which a person might view the world and her place in it. My own definition is that permaculture applies principles observed in nature to the design of the human world with the goal of creating a regenerative environment and healthy, sustainable culture. In short, permaculture is a way for humans to work with the rest of nature to support a good quality of life for all Life on this planet.

Bradford Pear Blossoms, Easter 2013

That’s a pretty tall order, but I think as more people adopt this lens of viewing their own lives in relation to the lives of other living beings and systems, we will more closely approximate the harmony permaculture aims to deliver.

One of the biggest take-away lessons I got from my permaculture training is that “sustainable” is no longer a good enough goal. We must instead adopt the goal of regeneration. We have to repair the damage that has already been done and look for ways that our new structures and systems can enrich the environment in which they exist, rather than continue to deplete it. Think about it: what if the buildings we live and work in cleaned the air and the water (just as plants do) and produced more energy than they consumed? How amazing would that world be?

If all the world’s people consumed resources at the same rate as we currently do in America, we would need 5 Earths to provide that standard of living. The rest of the world is not likely to stop trying to catch up to us, so those of us in highly “developed” countries must lead the way in reducing consumption and pioneering ways to live happily within the Earth’s means. The Earth is, after all, a single ecosystem, a single living organism. We have to consider the health of every system within it if we hope to maintain that ecosystem and continue the evolution of Life on this planet.

I understand how truly monumental that task is. How can we ask an amorphous group of individuals and corporations called “society” to willfully change its habits and learn to live within its means when it is difficult to do these things on even the personal and family level?

So that’s where I’m starting from with this blog. In the coming year I will look at the twelve permaculture principles that permaculture co-originator David Holmgren defines in his book Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability and I will try to implement these principles in my own life–in my interior, mental life; in my personal habits; and in my home. I will also share ways people around the world are implementing these principles on the community level. This really will be an exploration for me, as I don’t yet have a well-defined set of goals for what my life might look like at the end of this first year of implementation. I do know that I need to learn to live within a financial budget, an energetic budget (think learning to say “no” when necessary and giving up my perfectionist tendencies), and a caloric budget. And I know that there are certain foundational behaviors I need to develop to make me more resilient, more prone to happiness than depression, and more able to focus on the positive rather than the negative. So I will start there.

What about you? Have you been toying with the idea of respecting a new, self-imposed boundary or two? Or maybe you already lead a well-disciplined life and could offer advice on how to motivate oneself to live within one’s means and resist temptations? Wherever you find yourself, I hope you’ll check back in and share your experiences and comments! Next week, we’ll start with the first principle, Observe and Interact. See you then!

And if you can’t wait and want to know what’s coming, check out this fun song by David Griswold.
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