The art of meaningful conversation

Recently I’ve been making connections between a variety of different ideas but haven’t known how to articulate them. There is something about the human need for meaning, belonging and importance that connects to our environmental crisis.

On the one hand I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle and Brene Brown. I’ve found enormous personal insight in their work and it has helped me to push myself toward being a better and happier person. In the face of environmental crisis it might seem like this personal journey is self-indulgent but it’s not.

Consumption is driven by numbing behaviour, when we take the time to say “I am enough, I have enough, I am grateful” and do the work to believe it and feel it. Then we are freed from the need to consume mindlessly. That’s not even the half of it though, we have gifts to offer the world that we squander in our mindlessness. We are not fulfilling our potential as a species because our greatest creative gifts are burried beneath a flood of stuff.

The pursuit of money over meaning is killing us.

A mind map of the environmental crisis

This week I attended three days of training on the Art of Hosting. On one level what we learned was a collection of tools and group processes for engaging people in generating creative solutions to social problems. What the hosts modeled though were ways to keep people present and engage in meaningful conversation. They drew the group to recognise our common humanity, to step out from behind our professional identities, engage with what matters to us and apply it to our work.

Meaningful conversation is fundamental to society’s transition from destruction to sustainability. When we make peace with the present moment we stop trying to impose our will on the world and come to appreciate what is given and what we have to give. As we realise our fundamental worth we stop needing to prove it with bigger, better, faster, more and we naturally make space for others to be present and call forth their better/higher/buddha nature. This creates the grounds for genuine dialogue, it’s the only way that change can happen and the only way we can come up with the kind of creative and innovative solutions we need.

David Suzuki has a go at talking sense downunder

Gratuitous chicken picture

And then we’re spiritual animals. We emerged out of nature and when we die we return to nature. We need to know there are forces impinging on us that we will never understand or control. We need to have sacred places where we go with respect, not just looking for resources or opportunity.

I am deeply ashamed that our government has attracted the attention of the global community for being on the cusp of a massively retrograde step (repealling the carbon tax). I am grateful that David Suzuki is having a go at talking some sense into them and the general populace. The Conversation has published an excerpt of his speech at the University of NSW, he writes very plainly about the paradigm shift that is necessary to address our current environmental crisis.

 

Thank you trees

I’m coming up blank this week. There’s big stuff going on at work and it’s doing my head in. I’ve been reading Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Love letter to the Earth which is helpful. I am taking refuge in the present every chance I get but the maelstrom of ego is pretty brutal right now. I’m particularly grateful for trees. They are so grounded and so effortlessly perfect. They are a mindfulness bell for me, reminding me of my true nature and my place in the cosmos. This too will pass.

Here are seven other reasons why trees deserve our gratitude.

Below is a picture of the great grandmother tree who is starting to become a regular character on this blog. I have grand ideas about writing about how I feel about her and how much of a presence she is in my life but perhaps as I weave mention of her through my posts you will come to see it for yourself.

Great grandmother gum tree

 

 

Here and now

I’ve been engaging with the present lately. I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle (A new Earth) and realised that being present is as hard and as simple as choosing it, right here, right now. There’s nothing really new in the book but somehow it has just clicked for me.

I wasn’t sure about sharing this here because I didn’t feel like I could articulate the connection between being present and connecting with nature. Then I came across this beautiful post about wild time.

In old Europe, the word “time” derives from the word “tide”, while the word “current” means both “tide” and “time”. Time is the tides of the ocean, shifting and changing with the moon. It ebbs and flows. It waxes and wanes. Time is fluid. It has a beat. A rhythm of relationship, the in-breath and out-breath of the web of life.

The post discusses how the Western construct of time is arbitrary and problematic and offers some alternatives. Reading about these different ways of conceiving of time soothes my soul in the same way as Eckhart Tolle’s writing does. Being present and stilling the waters of the mind allows the Earth to speak within. It’s about paying attention, opening oneself up to what is offered, accepting what is instead of imposing our own idea of how things ‘should be.’ Deep listening.

This is one of the wonderful things about hanging out with kids, they have a different sense of time. If you let them they can draw you right into the present moment. Mudpie Mama has a list of tips for walking in nature with your toddler that includes:

Let them lead – Wherever possible let them take the lead and follow their interests.

A leading me along Merri Creek

I couldn’t agree more, to my mind though it’s not just about child centred parenting, it’s that they are probably closer to nature than you so really, they’re a better judge of how to engage. They are more present and they haven’t learned how to march to the beat of the time gods, what a gift! Plus they are little sponges, their eyes and ears are wide open taking in everything the world has to offer.

Environmental crisis

There are a whole series of articles over at The Conversation at the moment about various aspects of environmental crisis. This one is particularly pertinent in the sense that we can’t keep dealing with single issues and ignoring the root of the problem. Mind you it is a little alarmist. I get that there is a crisis and we have to do something but fear mongering seems to have limited effectiveness in changing people’s behaviour.

This video from Doing it Ourselves pretty much sums up the situation and also offers a vision of hope for the future.

I’m very interested in exploring the kind of society we could create together that is inherently sustainable. Ultimately it’s going to take all of us, many paths, one mountain so I’m not going to stop anyone from doing what they think is important. But I want to put my energy towards connecting people, building a resilient, mindful community. I’m not pessimistic, people will either change by choice or they will be forced to change by circumstances. It’s pretty clear that change is on the cards.

UPDATE Workshop: Our Earth, Our Self

NEWSFLASH: We’ve had very low interest in this workshop (probably because of the clash with Buddha Touched the Earth) but we’re not cancelling, oh no, we are going with the flow. My cofacilitator, Linette, is going to bring the flow game and we are going to use the time to ask some big questions and do some deep reflecting, feel free to join us, upstairs at Friends of the Earth in Collingwood.

Reigniting hope and sustaining action in the face of crisis, an experiential workshop.

Pink Heath Continue reading

Nature in the city

Yesterday I made it out into the bush. It was awesome, the smell, the sounds, the largeness of it all.

Creek photo

It caused me to reflect on the limitations of ‘connecting with nature’ in urban environments. When you are in the bush you are overwhelmed by the non-human, you don’t have to look for it, you don’t have to try, it’s just there. Continue reading