Wikimedia Commons/Gregory H. Revera

Before I met my intentional community,  Upstart , I went through what you could say were some dark nights of the soul. Several years after going back to school and getting an Environmental degree, I still hadn’t made the difference that I had so desperately wanted to make and this was difficult to take to say the least.

Not able to find a way out of this, I found my myself going through prolonged periods of feeling profoundly depressed and confused, greatly disillusioned about what was happening to the environment and what my purpose and role in all of it was meant to be. During these times, nothing seemed to offer any hope or meaning and I would at times become almost paralyzed as to what I might do or how I might respond.

Although I had a loving group of family and friends (including especially my partner, Richard) who helped me heal so that I largely got ‘better’, these feelings lingered for quite a while, even after the darkest periods had lifted for me.

Making a shift

While it would be an oversimplification to say it was the only reason, my feelings started to shift more significantly for me when I got involved with Upstart. There I found a group of people who would listen to me, and appreciate all that I had to say, no matter what I had been through or where I was at. This acceptance, as I came to understand, was encouraged in the community through our practice of the post-judgement and post-grievance mindset which I talked about earlier.

I also learned through my involvement with the community about collaborative thinking which encourages the adoption of these mindsets, so as to help people work generatively together towards creating a world in which we can not only survive, but also thrive. As I started learning about these ideas, I started to see their potential power to bring about the impacts that, as we say in the community, we deeply want, need, and value.

In coming to understand the power of these ideas, I began to find a sense of meaning that had been missing in my life. That is because slowly started to realize that I wanted to not only practice these ideas in my own life, but also be part of a culture of such practice that also seeks to share these ideas with others.

Internalizing the change

In addition to the amazing sense of acceptance that I experienced with Upstart, another important reason existed as to why I wanted to be part of such a culture. It was because I began to see that protecting the environment was could not be achieved just ‘out there’ by stopping those who I saw as degrading the planet from doing so. Instead, I started to see that changing human behaviour was a complicated process and that being angry at, and judging, those I saw as acting in ways that degraded the environment would not help the situation.

Rather, I came to also understand that my anger against, and judgment of, these so-called degraders was just the ‘same side of the coin’ so to speak. That having these feelings was only perpetuating environmental destruction that so horrified me, because it got in the way of me from forming connecting relationships with those people in my life who I deemed to be less environmentally concerned with me. Without that, how could I even begin to start thinking constructively about how the human population as a whole might work more effectively together to protect the environment?

heartSizedIn seeing my role in it all, I came to see the idea that NO lines of struggle exist, that there really are no ‘good’ and ‘evil’ sides anywhere. Which includes the struggles going on inside the human heart. By thinking otherwise is to be in the coercive, and thinking this way, whatever side one is on, only creates more of the same poor thinking that is destroying our planet to begin with.

Rather, real change starts to happen from the inside out, when there is a shift in our very own *hearts* and we are able to see those who offend us as real human beings, also needing the same love and care that we would give to those we identify as ‘us.’ This was a profound realization in me, one that I will unashamedly share I am still in the process of fully internalizing.

Change possible everywhere

I had an exciting realization with this shift in my thinking. If I was also contributing to the challenges facing the world, then I could also play a role in turning the situation around. Not by forcing other people to do what I thought they *should* do AND by learning how I could achieve this through modifying the ways I interacted with others.

With this, I saw that the work of change making can happen anywhere, with each and every person that I encounter.  It could happen in my home, when out visiting friends and family, at my daughter’s school and dance studio, at the grocery store, at pretty much any place that I went! To put it another way, as I did in my last post, change can happen in and around the kitchen sink!

In becoming aware of this, I saw that I did not have to necessarily perform public, grandiose acts to cause change. For instance, I did not need to go on an environmental march or to protest, or even necessarily attend environmental meetings or visit a voting booth, as important as all of those activities can be. I could simply connect with others wherever I was at, and let change unfold organically and naturally from there!

Back to the micro

microscopeSizedThose that have read my previous post may realize that I am touching again on changes that are possible at the micro level. To reiterate for those that did not read that post, I talked about how making changes at the micro-level can provide the training ground for bringing about changes at the macro-level.

For me though, leaving it there doing so does not even begin to fully shed light on the matter. This is because, as I have come to believe, working at the micro level in one’s more private life is about more than just learning about how to increase one’s effectiveness at change-making in more public arenas. It is about this embracing the amazing, self-expanding idea that you CAN be a change-maker no matter who you are. That you will not, and cannot, be held back!

It doesn’t matter one @#$&! bit that you are only making small changes and are not having the broader impacts that others seem to be making. You can make change and that is all that matters! Bringing this back to myself, I no longer needed to feel, as I have in the past, left out or on the outskirts of environmental activity happening in the world. Rather, the possibility of change, and consequently the hope and meaning that I have so longed for previously in my life, exists everywhere I go, just waiting for me to see it!

While I had believed all this, I had perhaps not believed it so deeply until the falling of my family’s Christmas tree. With that experience, I got to witness firsthand the incredible impact of practicing at the micro. If doing the “work” can have such an impact on my family, I do not care how small and insignificant my contributions to bringing about change seem to be. To the environment or anything else that I care about passionately for that matter.

The igniting of hope

Flame of light

Photo provided courtesy of fotomoments.

As a result of that experience, I have found a sense of great hope re-igniting in me. Perhaps this is also due in part to the time of year, which I feel brings with it a strong sense of expectation and excitement with it. For me, I will say that I almost had a sense that a feeling of hope was hanging palpably in the crisp, cold winter air a few days ago when my family went to see Christmas lights at a park.

Part of it is also an awareness of the long process of learning that my family has been on to get to the point where were able to respond as we did. And, I cannot also help but acknowledge that taking the time to reflect on how what happened connects to my work with Upstart has heightened my sense of hope for the possibilities of what are doing as a community.

Yet, there is more. More that I would like to try and share with you before leaving my reflections on the falling of my family’s Christmas tree. More that I would like to share about what this experience has stirred in me with regard to the current environmental state of this planet, thoughts that I would like to do so in a deep and meaningful way. So, if you will be just a little bit more patient with me, I would like to do so in my next posting, which I an planning to provide soon…

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