Friday, July 30, 2010

blog010 Thank You, Transition Towns!

Here is a communication close to my heart from Diana Leafe Christian who refers to herself as an "Earthaven Airspinner". I don't know what an airspinner is, but Earthaven is one of maybe six stable functioning ecovillages in north America. Diana's column is from Earthaven's Summer 2010 Newsletter.


Thank You, Transition Towns!

The way I see it, Transition Towns (now called Transition Initiatives) are doing exactly what ecovillage activists always wanted folks to do.

Ecovillagers worldwide support local economies and/or create our own economies (sometimes using alternative currencies). We support local farmers and/or grow our own organic food. We generate our own electric power if we can. Similarly, Transition Towns (or islands, peninsulas, counties, or city neighborhoods) create their own local economies (often with alternative currencies), grow their own local food, and generate their own local power. The Transition Movement got started by applying Permaculture principles to social design. Likewise, most ecovillages, Earthaven included, are designed according to Permaculture principles.

Ecovillages and the Transition Movement are both involved with Permaculture. Here (in the photo) members of Source Farm Ecovillage in Jamaica are determining their site design, lead by Earthaven member and permaculture designer Chuck Marsh (on right).

Ecovillagers have been motivated over the last 20 years or so by hoping to make the world a better place. Similar to “putting your money where your mouth is,” we attempt to put our lifestyle where our values are. But our motivation has not been to prepare for Peak Oil and climate change, which most of us didn’t know about until a few years ago. We live this way because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Transition Town activists, on the other hand, are specifically responding to Peak Oil and climate change. Yet . . . their response is totally resonant with the values and lifestyles of ecovillagers. For example, here’s the vision of Transition US: “Every community . . . will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present.” Well of course. That’s exactly what we want for the world too.

Transition Towns are seeking to live more sustainably: ecologically, economically, and socially. And ecovillages provide models — little pinpoints of sustainability in the broader mainstream culture — where Transition activists can come and see what living like this actually looks and feels like. In fact, you could say we are trying to inoculate the culture. Jonathan Dawson, past president of Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and author of the book Ecovillages, writes, “Ecovillages can be likened to yogurt culture . . . small, dense, and rich concentrations of activity whose main aim is to transform the nature of that which surrounds them.”

Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability, Schumacher Briefing No. 12 (Schumacher Briefings)Over 100 Transition Initiatives are up and running in the United States, and as of July, 2010, you’ll find 321 Transition Initiataives on six continents — and the movement only started in 2005! Websites on the Transition Movement exist in Portuguese, Danish, German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese. Ecovillages also can be found on six continents, from Europe (which has the most number per population), to Latin America (especially Argentina and Brazil), Asia, New Zealand and Australia (which has plenty, mate), and a few in Africa. North America has relatively few ecovillages relative to our population: Earthaven is one of only about six well-developed ecovillages on the whole continent.

I’m an ecovillage activist: in my work I advocate ecovillages and present workshops on starting successful new ones. Yet I believe Transition Towns — not ecovillages — are more likely to rapidly spread ecological values and practices worldwide. In fact, the Transition Movement seems to be the fastest-growing social/ecological movement the world has ever seen. I say, “Hallelujah!” As someone who lives off the grid and deals with buckets of compost daily — and wishes everyone everywhere would do the same for the Earth — I certainly hope this is true!

Diana Leafe Christian is author of  Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community, and Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. She teaches workshops on starting new ecovillages, serves as a consultant to existing ecovillages and other kinds of intentional communities, and speaks and conferences internationally. She is publisher of Ecovillages, a free online newsletter about ecovillages worldwide, and her monthly column about ecovillages appears on the homepage of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) website. Diana lives in Earthaven’s Forest Garden neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

blog009 Re-Teach The Teachers

If Einstein was right about the atom bomb he may also have been right when he said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." This means school teachers, as they are presently trained, are unable to provide students with what they need to become the leaders who create a bright future for humanity. The challenge is to re-train teachers to deliver a new paradigm, to deliver the practical skills and theoretical basis for creating an environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling human presence on planet Earth. We cannot create a bright future by duplicating the past. We need a strong and immediate, nation-wide teacher training program to reboot education. Private individuals are rapidly proceeding, already doing this for themselves, leaving the educational system in the dust.

Teachers determine the future of the human race.

Current events indicate that modern education produces adaptive consumers and self-centered, greedy, short-sighted leaders, avoiding responsibility, focused on getting all they can for themselves. It is becoming apparent that the planet will not tolerate this educational orientation much longer. Multiple crises of unimaginable magnitude loom ominously on the near horizon (e.g. peak oil, climate change, corrupted governments, spreading ocean dead zones, plastic contamination, expanding population, vanishing fresh water reserves, methane clathrates, species extinction). New forms of education are immediately required to unleash enough nonlinear human intelligence to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling human presence on Earth. Let it be known that the critical educational challenge facing us today is not how to teach the students but rather how to teach the teachers. Today’s teachers are incapable of delivering what is needed by students now.

One must ask: Who are the people choosing to work as teachers? The answer is simple. People become teachers who themselves did well in school. They liked school. They fit into the system. They felt like school was designed and implemented correctly. People become teachers who are prepared to rigidly defend the educational system as it is because this is the system that worked for them. As a result, the mightiest barrier against educational transformation are the teaching staff. They feel no urgency to change, and in fact feel terrified to have school be any other way than it was for them.

Exchanging current ideas for new ideas is neither comfortable nor easy. Embodying new education would change everything: agriculture, business, city planning, social services…

How long would it take for teachers to change their classrooms into safe havens for learning how to love, how to communicate authentically with feelings, how to liberate nonlinear creative intelligence, how to unfold each individual’s contribution to humanity? The good new is that the entire school system could transform in one day. How do we know this? Because the people of Estonia have already proved it.

On one day, May 3, 2008, more than fifty thousand people (4 percent of the Estonian population) suddenly changed their behavior and removed ten thousand tons of garbage that for decades they themselves had scattered throughout their forest lands. True, operation Let’s Do It! required intelligent fore-planning, but it also awakened local communities to their ability to self-organize – and it worked! It was the most ambitious volunteer action in modern times. The entire territory of Estonia was cleaned up in five hours at almost no extra cost. In the same way, teachers across the country - or across your village - could self-organize a new curriculum in one day and transform the relevancy of school.

What would education then be about? That is a reasonable next question. The answer is also simple: It would include what has been excluded by the patriarchal empire.

But asking about the contents of next education is a trick question, for how can a teacher or administrator understand what is next to be taught while still thinking within the constraints and values of the old paradigm? Einstein was quite confrontive when he stated, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” But remember, Einstein was right about the atom bomb. He may be right about this. Einstein’s observation explains why it would be nearly impossible to describe to a modern day educator what next education is. Still we must begin somewhere, so here are a few distinctions from next education:
  • Irresponsibility is an illusion.
  • Each person’s childhood survival strategy is like a cocoon housing the still-forming adult. Education explains what is going on, in so far as something better than the survival strategy is awaiting them.
  • Education prepares children for their rite of passage to adulthood during the ages of fifteen to eighteen. In the rite of passage a person is guided to distill their destiny and their hidden purpose, connect to their archetypal lineage, and re-commit to deliver what they came here to contribute to humanity.
  • There is a difference between surviving and living. If you work for money, you are merely surviving. You do not need money to live. Thinking that nature has value only when money changes hands is a suicidal paradigm.
  • There are specific practices for building the matrix for holding more understanding. There is no top end to human development.
  • There are tools and procedures for creating possibility for one’s self, for other individuals, and for groups and organizations.
  • Communications persist until they are completed. The central message in every communication is, “I love you.”
  • There is a difference between low drama and high drama. Low drama is not life; it is merely low drama that creates scarcity, competition, and “I win, you lose” games. There are other games to create.
  • Each person has four bodies, physical, intellectual, emotional and energetic. Traditional education focuses almost exclusively on feeding the intellectual body, so it is grossly over-expanded out of proportion to the other three bodies. Almost nothing is fed to a child’s emotional or energetic bodies. These bodies are starving.
  • Each of the four bodies requires its own kind of food, and has its own kinds of pain, ecstasy, and intimacy. There is a difference between heart food of the emotional body and soul food of the energetic body. If this difference is not respected people are less likely to be healthy and capable adults.
  • Resentment is caused by expectations that are not fulfilled. In this way expectations are relationship killers. Even one resentment blocks intimacy. Resentments can be healed and avoided.
  • There is a difference between thoughts and feelings, and between feelings and two kinds of emotions. The difference can be learned experientially through inner navigation skills.
  • Personal and professional relationships can be navigated into ordinary, extraordinary and archetypal spaces. If a relationship space is not navigated consciously to serve bright purposes it will be navigated unconsciously to serve shadow purposes. Serving shadow purposes feeds Gremlin.
  • Each person has a shadow side and a Gremlin who is king or queen of their inner underworld. If you do not consciously own your Gremlin, he owns you.  
  • Each person has an energetic center of being. No one can take your center away. A typical childhood survival strategy includes giving your center away to authority figures so you are no longer a threat to them. As an adult you can take your center back. An adult owns their own center.
  • Where your attention goes your energy flows. Whoever has your attention has your wallet. An adult owns their own attention.
  • There are true leaders (responsible) and Gremlin leaders (irresponsible). Neither is good or bad. An adult can trust themselves to take care of themselves around any kind of leader.
  • Feedback contains design instructions for what to shift to create better results.
  • Adults serve the evolution of the world. The world is not changed through creating a critical mass of people thinking in a certain way. The world is changed through making critical connections that weave community and create systems of influence for the emergence of a more humane and intelligent future.
  • There is no present culture. The concept of “present culture” is a marketing scam that tries to homogenize humanity and convince people to accept a McPizzaKing and WalBucks on every corner. Human culture is as rich and diverse as nature, and can peacefully coexist as soon as adulthood is defined as including cultural relativity, the clarity that all cultures, religions, and worldviews are merely stories, a matter of personal taste and entertainment.
  • Next culture is beyond matriarchy and patriarchy. It is archearchy – the creative collaboration between the archetypal masculine and the archetypal feminine.
  • The appropriate topic of study for modern education is how to create and hold space for a global meshwork of sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling next culture settlements.
There are many distinctions and procedures beyond these, but the above list would provide a starting point for next education.

Can we make this shift? Yes. Without question.

Will "we" make this shift? Ah. That's the point. There is no "we" when it comes to shifting. I and many others have already shifted to next education and will continue shifting, regardless of what the law says, regardless of what anybody else does.

The relevant question is: Will the modern school system simply be left in the dust of history or will it bootstrap itself into what is actually wanted and needed now? Teachers determine the future of the human race. To upgrade the morphogenetic field of the human race we would begin with re-training our teachers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

blog008 Feeling Bad

No matter how deeply the thoughtware from your parents sticks in your brain, if it is naive and trite, it still handicaps you.

In the case of feelings, outdated thoughtware can handicap you severely. You don't even know you are handicapped until you download new thoughtware and the world suddenly works differently for you.

Take for example, fear.

From modern culture we get the belief that everything comes from either fear or love. Obviously, love is good, so fear must be bad.

Or there is the famous declaration: No Fear! (Photo courtesy AW Sign & Design)

Why no fear? Because fear is one of the "bad" feelings, of course! Like sadness or anger, it is to be avoided. Everybody knows that...

But what if "everybody" is wrong?

What if the socalled "bad" feelings are not a mistake of God. (As far as I know, God only made one mistake: the size of the seeds in avocadoes. I mean, you buy this fabulous fruit and slice into it and - kchunk! - you immediately hit the seed. Take out the seed and there's not much left! This a real pity!)

What if fear is only scary until you grow up and change your relationship to fear as part of your rite of passage to adulthood?

(Photo of Marion Callahan walking barefoot on glowing coals, November 2008.)

What if adult fear provides ongoing information and energy in the exact proper intensity to watch out for things in daily life? To stay alert, pay attention, make plans, make agreements, change things, to scan with your free attention and detect what needs taken care of (Do the plants need watering? Should I call home?), to know what needs protecting, to handle delicate situations with finesse? What if fear is the guideline for humor (saying things with the right intonation at exactly the right moment), for improvising (speaking before you know what you are going to say, committing before you know how to do it), for creating delight (what will delightfully surprise her?), for taking precise actions (slicing tomatoes, taking a splinter out), for knowing when you are at the limits of the known?

If you go to the edge of your comfort zone, you will feel fear. If it is not okay to feel fear then you will bounce back into known territory ten times a day and not even know it, missing your chance to explore and create.

If it is okay for you to feel fear and you go to the edge of your comfort zone, you will definitely feel afraid, but because the fear is no longer automatically bad or dangerous (fear is fear) you can still function. Suddenly fear becomes excitement. You can take the next step further out of your comfort zone into the complete unknown. This is where true creating happens, making something out of nothing (or nothing out of something). Do you need to be creative in your work? If you are not feeling afraid, you are not creating.

Directing The Power of Conscious Feelings: Living Your Own TruthRites of passage to adulthood are not provided by mainstream culture. To get to adulthood you need to go beyond modern culture's comprehension limits and arrange a next-culture rite of passage for yourself. For guidance in this and related experiments, you might want to check out the book Directing The Power of Conscious Feelings by Clinton Callahan.

You can learn to have no fear about feeling your fear. This is when things get fun.