Nature’s mindset can save us: Have you tuned in to her wisdom?
The problem with being rational, is that what you think is reasonable depends on what you believe. You know science is reasonable and you think you’ve got it licked — but then you bump into quantum physics and find out there’s a liquid that can run uphill, or some other crazy thing like the faster you travel, the slimmer you get. Totally nuts, but true*.
These discoveries were not made by those who ignored or rejected the evidence because they couldn’t explain it. They were made by people who suspended their disbelief and opened their minds enough to see the possibility of something new.
I think the chaotic times we’re living in aren’t here by chance — they’re here because so many of our most popular and firmly held beliefs aren’t as reasonable as they seem. One of the main culprits is the big disconnect from nature. There’s a gulf between the views held behind the closed doors of board rooms with their corridors of power, and the reality of the world outside.
Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects is rooted in studies stretching back to the 1970’s, and this is my story of re-connection. It may not seem reasonable, but it is completely true, and it freed my mind to think in new dimensions. Here’s what happened…
In the year 2000, I was on a two year masters degree in ‘Responsible Business Practice’ which aimed to address “the challenges currently facing society as we seek to integrate successful business practice with a concern for social, environmental and ethical issues”.
Led by exceptional academics, this particular masters was cited in Harvard Business Review for its pioneering approach to taking an attitude of inquiry. We were serious about exploring the most challenging issues in business, and we were prepared to suspend disbelief to discover something new.
We did most of our studies at work or the university, but for one week we went and stayed at the Schumacher College in Devon. One of the things that lay in store for us was a ‘Council of All Beings’.
We were sent out into the countryside alone to pay attention to our surroundings until we were ‘chosen’ by something, and instructed to listen to what we thought it may have to say to us humans.
This was clearly going to test the freedom of our thought.
I wandered for a while before finding myself mesmerised by the view across a field to a forest. The trees, fixed in their place, were being buffeted this way and that by the wind. I started thinking about the wind — how it carries messages (smells) and delivers things (seeds, spores and spiders) — how it can be forceful but also very gentle, and the way it seems to be everywhere affecting everything, but from no single place.
My work at the time involved weaving partnerships together between different networks and it just felt completely familiar. It felt I’d made a connection — not just a feeling of attraction, but a feeling of identity — a real sense of bond. It felt like the wind had chosen me.
When we’d all returned, we gathered in a circle and with some ceremony, were each invited to sit in the centre and speak. What followed was a business meeting like no other. I can’t remember the detail of what was said, but that’s not what this story is about — the key point is that we were able to voice things about the outside world that we either couldn’t or wouldn’t in the boardroom. ‘Ancient knowings’ is the way Joanna Macy puts it, and certainly it felt like we’d tuned in to nature in a new way.
My thinking had been expanded a little, but it didn’t take me to a new dimension. It was the next episode that truly changed my mind.