Chapter 1

Currently, as the owner of a small consulting firm, I have been participating in the development of a business that is intended to support the ethic of sustainability. This means that our mission is first and foremost dedicated to promoting this concept of sustainability. In the process of doing this, many questions arise that go to the method, objectives, time-frames, markets, customer and products we will target and employ. There is no model that can be copied to create a business dedicated to something that is unprecedented. In fact, as we have come to understand, sustainability is not a concept very well understood because it represents a shift away from the way things have always been, to a new relationship among humans and non-humans on the earth, and even perhaps among all aspects of the universe.

The challenge of creating a business in an unprecedented field is a useful model for the kind of cultural evolution needed to address issues of global decline; pollution, overpopulation, food availability, water, species extinction, war, violence and injustice. Our cultural memory does not include to any useful degree knowledge or a vision of co-existing with each other and among all aspects of the living Earth in a peaceful, egalitarian, collaborative manner. The kind of cultural system needed to meet the needs of a sustainable planet is unimaginable. Thus, a creative process is required to move us forward into the unknown. It is exactly because of this unknown that we are hampered; held back by our dominant rationality that seeks to understand and know the outcome before being willing to act. We use the challenge of building a business around a similarly creative idea as a proxy for the broader, urgent, global challenges.

Abundance is a word to describe our entrance and experience in the new relationship with the universe needed to meet these challenges. It represents a focus on solution. In order to creatively manifest a solution to the current lack of sustainability, we do need to peel away layers of conditioning and denial. To do that, there is a certain amount of focusing on the problem that will be required. The energy to create anew is currently locked up inside of protective shells we have created as individuals, communities, nations and a species to protect us from the damage our progress has caused. To become oriented to the task, we have tried to go deep; to the root, the source of life and being in order to have some perspective on sustainability. This process takes us into a spiritual experience and at the same time, reveals quantum physics and the scientific inroads into spiritual questions as a corollary. From our perspective, we see the latter as representative of a continued rational approach to understanding the nature of being. We have learned that instinct and intuition also play a part in wisdom and knowledge, and have come to see the rational approach as only a tool of a greater totality of experience of the body, mind, spirit trinity.

In organizing an approach to the subject, different versions of traditional trinities offer differen organizational structures that can be informative. In addition to exploring them, we will consider some other organizing structures as well. The great human institutions of politics, economics, academia and religion offer another useful structure that will help us understand history and our current paradigm. This approach has been foundational to the work of Thomas Berry and Miriam McGillis.

In his book, The Great Work, Berry also summarizes an organization he attributes to the Gaia Hypothesis consisting of the components: Landsphere, Watersphere, Airsphere, Lifesphere and Mindsphere. This five-part, energetic arrangement supports an analysis across a continuum that we characterize as earth’s energy to heaven’s energy. In our efforts to bound the concept of sustainability, we propose the term of Total Sustainability that ultimately informs the broad focus of our work.

Our experience so far has been one of difficulty in articulating a focus that is accessible to more conventional thinking. I offer just a couple of observations about this now, with additional elaboration in subsequent chapters. As mentioned, the process of creation provides unique challenges, particularly to our current conditioning that relies so heavily on past knowledge for progress. When creating something that never was, we don’t have an experience of it to reference. The words are, obviously, difficult to identify. Creation is ultimately an iterative process, characterized with a letting go of the control and expectation of certain results. Results are certain, but what those results look like is not able to be predicted. With regard to the current expectations of a business, ours has not fit neatly into any existing categories or products. So when someone says, what do you do? The answer is difficult. Not only do we struggle with finding our own words, for in fact, we are finding them as we go and learn. We are developing the words, delving into the concepts and realizing the many ways these thoughts can be articulated and then struggling with finding the best choices of presentation. This is of course, all colored by our own conditioning which, while very much part of the main stream, is decidedly less and less main stream and perhaps it is equally apparent that whatever impetus led to our being here, is evidence of a keen shift from the main stream that must have occurred or been deep within us for sometime.

But just as importantly, even as we find words that work for us, they do not necessarily work for those with whom we entreat them. We see the faces, subtle shifts in expression that occur as we try to explain what it is we do. There first a look of puzzlement, then an effort is made to hide this. The result is a kind of dead pan, an emotionless that is immediately perceived as an energy drain. Momentum waivers, questions arise in our mind as we take in these subtle signals. It is only with a great deal of conscious effort have we been able to make progress against this inertia. Thus, our process informs us along the way. We experience these difficulties and they become real experiential data that can be used to understand the cultural inertia that will need to be overcome for a more sustainable way of life to take hold. This is very personal journey. As we experience the dazed looks on the faces of our friends and family, we are compelled to look at ourselves. Why is this happening? Why do I feel this way, so inadequate, so diffracted, unfocused and unclear? Part of my own make up seeks to explain this experience by finding inadequacies in myself. I’ve come to realize that this experience is partly driven by my earliest conditioning. I was taught that there is a certain way to be, a way to get along and be successful. It is only very recently that I’ve begun to allow myself to accept that somewhere, way deep down, part of me disagrees with what I was taught. In fact, I recognize that this part of me has been disagreeing for a very long time. Maybe forever. The more this process reveals, the more energized I am to continue. Thus there is, finally, a positive feedback loop for the kind of personal introspection needed to understand and describe some of the stuff written here. Moreover, literally as I write this, I am able to relate my own psychological make up with that of our broader culture. The rational knowledge that we have parroted for so long, that so our own psyches go, so goes the collective psyche, is coming home to roost, so to speak, through a deeper experience. The rationality is seeping into the rest of me. And this deeper understanding, I believe, is there to feed insight and ultimately guidance and solutions for a much broader slice of society.

This deep conditioning, whether on a personal level or extrapolated to the world society represents what we would call an inertia of the cultures mindset. Cultural conditioning: if people don’t here about the ideas we espouse on TV or in the newspaper, then the opening for them, the ideas, is quite narrow. We realize this – we experience it daily. Thus, on the one hand, is this book. By structuring our ideas, even our struggle with this, we hope to achieve two objectives: one to clarify in our mind what the range and structure of so-called sustainability is, so that is might be studied and elaborated upon going forward, and two, to bring into the public forum another venue for people to receive these ideas. We don’t fool ourselves into thinking that this will necessarily make a big difference in the world today, although there is no reason why it should not. Paul Hawken, in his book Blessed Unrest, is far more cogent than we could ever be about the history and the present ground swell of interest and activity in sustainability. Our problem, and probably our experience is not unique. But it is valid. Thus it represents additional value that can be brought to the conversation and the process.

Hawken quite aptly summarizes sustainability as just two things: ecology and justice; one can not exist without the other and together they define sustainability. As a beginning, then, we have a simple, additional frame to work with: we will seek to organize our foray into this business of sustainability into one of two overall categories, ecology or justice.

From a rational point of view, there are certain difficulties in proceeding with the creative process. It is hard to think our way into creating. But, we have learned that there are other sources of information to which we have not been very well conditioned to access. These include both instincts – information related to arch-types and ancient knowledge via what some call the collective unconscious – as well as intuition – inspiration gleaned from a more energetic connection with the universe itself. When employed in concert, the rational, instinctive and intuitional, a much greater power for creation becomes available. When these modalities are synchronized such that they represent a coherent effort, for example, our efforts to understand total sustainability as a business, as a book, as a field of study and life purpose, the power is greatly enhanced. If the power to create is greatly enhanced, then we begin realize abundance. As the Italians would say, abbondanza!

In the pages that follow, we will try to more clearly define this realm of sustainability within which it is our contention there exists an accessible abundance that is a result of our creative life force directed in a coherent fashion. Connecting with this abundance is a critical aspect of creating sustainability.

Before going further though, we need to take a moment to contemplate our objective of sustainability. What is the desired outcome? What is the definition of sustainability? It is not hard to agree that the Universe will continue with or without the human race, as we know it. The universe is sustainable already. Conservatives might dispute the geobiological trends of the Earth that more progressive thinkers find so alarming. But still, clearly our focus must come in a bit. While the universe will go regardless, what is the context of universal sustainability that we would be a part given our druthers? This is ultimately a spiritual question and in order to have spirituality become pertinent in this context, we might need to wrest it from the hands of organized religion. The terrain begins to get a bit foreboding.

But we are intrepid souls, literally, so we will forge ahead. The context that we are searching for is informed by cosmology, the history and the characteristics of the universe as we know it. Be studying the history, we can see trends that help answer questions about where all this might be going. We then get a sense of how our planet fits into this much larger scheme.

We also need to get clearer about our place in this universe as beings, human beings. The cultural conditioning discussed above is not limited to the current situation in the United States. Ultimately it is reflected in five thousand years of western civilization, and fundamental ideas of human separateness that inform all of our being; our thinking and our institutions. David Korten captured these ideas neatly in his book The Great Turning, From Empire to Earth Community, providing an epic description of the roots of our current empire paradigm, as well as a evidence of an early, different milieu that was much more influencd by maternal instincts and represented a collaborative approach to community and living in the natural world at a level and intensity that is unimaginable today. This expanded relationship with the non-human aspects of our existence represents the antithesis of the subsequent paternal, imperial period of history that is the exclusive realm of known history. We know very little about being in some manner different from our current state in which we hold ourselves separate and above the rest of the natural world, and see the Earth and all its systems and bounty solely as feedstock for human progress. The results of this approach is the broad geobiological decline in the planet.

If we can make the connection between cosmology and our human place in the universe as an integral expression of the evolution of the universe, the door opens to allowing ourselves to use our consciousness in coherence with this universal evolution. The first step in this is to realize that our current level of consciousness reflects a level of consciousness of the universe. Our ability to reflect upon ourself is an order of magnitude of consciousness beyond instinct and genetic programming. Further, the development, technologically, of an internet, to the extent that it suggests the concept of a noosphere as it was envisioned by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as a transhuman or integrated consciousness, and such that the emergence of this collective human cognition extends the transformative ability of our human cognition on the biosphere of the earth, is another example of the progress of consciousness. Who’s to say that this kind of evolution of consciousness has not happened elsewhere in the universe a thousand times over. Who knows that looks like when perhaps all of this emergent, ever more complex expression of universal energy returns to pure consciousness. But the point is, the connection needs to be made by those of us, the humans, at the leading edge of Earth consciousness, that we represent a new level of evolution for the planet and the universe in which choice is involved. So sustainability, in this context, becomes about our conscious choices leading to circumstances that allow for human consciousness to continue to evolve. To fully get to this point, we will need to spend much time and effort understanding that which keeps us from making forward progress in this regard.

Thus, this book seeks answers in the history of the universe and the world, attempts to unravel psychological barriers to the growth of human consciousness at both personal and collective levels, delves into spiritual and philosophical questions for guidance and context, and allows that technology and pragmatism have a role in view of the urgency inherent in the threats to Gaia.

Chapter 2

In early 2007 I was introduced to Zen sitting. It was a three day retreat at the Providence Zen Center. There I was introduced to a simple Buddhist retreat format that included vegetarian food, sleeping on futons and practicing sitting for most of each day. Having practiced some meditation prior to this retreat, it seemed like a reasonable experience, one that would contribute to my burgeoning meditation capacity, as well as perhaps helping me with my life journey.

The idea for a retreat welled from my desire to participate in some sort of vision quest. Nearly two years into a significant shift in my life experience, it was clear that there was much more discovery to do. I was fortunate to be participating in this ongoing experiment with my life with the attitude that it was indeed a journey of exploration. At the age of forty-five, having woken up in some profound way, I had quit a corporate job based on the conviction that the most satisfying, purposeful life could only be achieved by understanding and acting on a deep knowledge of myself, my heart, passions, interests, capacities and dreams. Contrary to much conventional knowledge, included with this belief was the idea that ultimately my willingness to participate in this process would offer my family, my wife and six-year old, adopted daughter, the best life – by offering them the best husband and father that I could be. This idea did not necessarily go over that well with my nuclear family.

Interestingly, writing about beliefs, it is incumbent on me to acknowledge that from a spiritual perspective, one of the important things for me to do is to let go of my beliefs. At the very least, identify them, critique them, choose them. This is in fact a core component of participating in creative change – in the creation of something that does not yet exist. We must let go of our beliefs because they only represent that which has been, our past. If we try to create while holding on to old beliefs, we will only recreate our past. This then begins to open the door to an understanding of abundance; let go of beliefs that constrain us to our past so that an abundant, unlimited, creative future can manifest.

The retreat was a challenging, physical ordeal. I was about half an hour late on the first evening, a Wednesday during which an orientation was offered. I wandered around the main building for a while, trying to orient myself, but without much success. A young-ish man with a shaved head finally noticed my ambling. I told him why I was there and he directed me to the temple building beyond the main building, up a slight incline. He told me I was late.

The orientation was repeated for my benefit later on; I had a solo audience with Elizabeth to review the format for the upcoming days, meals, meditation and sleeping arrangements. Elizabeth, I later learned, was the Head Dharma Teacher (HDT) who would run the overall retreat. It was she that would officially signal the beginning and end of all the meditation sessions.

We sat zen for fifteen minutes periods. The day started at 5;30 AM, at which time we reported to the Dharma Room for chanting and bowing. Each day started with 108, at strenuous beginning. On the first day, I could not do it, could not keep up. On the second, I pushed through. My thighs ached from the previous day. These were full, prostrate bows, forehead to the mat.

Next we chanted for at least half an hour, perhaps more. I don’t remember. It went on for a long time and was very confusing. There were no words, only strings of syllables that did not mean anything. Everyone also ate together. All the meals were taken in the Dharma Room. There was a very specific technique and protocol for the meals that we learned during the orientation. Everyone received four bowls. They were arranged in a neat pattern. Chopsticks were placed in one of the bowls. Large containers of vegetarian food was passed around; we were to take only what we needed and to eat everything we took. The end of the meal consisted of cleaning the bowls of every crumb of food by rinsing with clear water and drinking the water. There was absolutely no waste.

After a brief break, we would return to sitting for thirty minute periods and then performing walking meditation for fifteen minutes. This process took up the morning, until lunch. Then there was a brief work period, more sitting, a break, dinner, sitting and finally chanting until nine PM. I was exhausted by the end of each day. Sitting Zen can be very painful for the uninitiated. There is no movement allowed, except that you may stand behind your cushion if the pain is too much. My back would ache. I would switch postures, standing first, and then switching to a kneeler, or adjusting the sitting pillow differently. Small adjustments would help the pain shift to a different part of my body, knees, thighs, groin. In the middle of the thirty minute sitting stretch, the HDT gets up and slowly walks around the room with a big, flat stick. You have the option to signal the HDT in silence and, leaning over or moving your head to the side, invite a gentle whack from the stick on the large muscles running down each side of your spine, or on top of your shoulders, to relieve the pain and stiffness. I often partook of this offering, and received very short-lived relief.

During meditation we sometimes had personal interviews. During this time, each student met with the Zen master. He is exactly as you would expect; calm, funny, inscrutable. We were taught about kong ans, Zen riddles to help understand Clear Mind and Don’t Know Mind – freedom from our thoughts and beliefs. I was taught that the Buddha nature of anything is simple to describe. Simply clap your hands together. The sharp report interrupts your thinking for just a moment. That is clear mind. That is the Buddha nature of any thing. My Zen master taught me that we can try to put our words to this feeling too. It is not accurate, but our rational minds always grasp for it, so it is ok. This is where the kong ans come in. Zen master asked me, “What is the Buddha nature of the sky?”

“Whack”, I replied.

“That all?” He asked in return.

“The sky is up”, I said.

“No”, he said. “Come back next time, try again”. That was on my last interview. I now live with this kong-an until my return and next interview with Zen master.

This is the Kwan Um school of Zen. This is how they do it there. It is so that we leave our opinions behind, we practice sitting to achieve clear mind. We chant together. We eat together. We leave all opinions behind. We drop beliefs. This is useful as we begin to see the entrenched attitudes our culture has imparted on us, as we begin to see how we carry this conditioning for the culture. Change begins with each of us, inside. Sustainability for humans will come from a shift, a gigantic metamorphosis of the culture off of rickety foundation stones of anthropocentrism – institutions built on the belief that man is the center of everything. The solutions to the great waste and devastation are in the wisdom that comes from our practicing sitting. When we feel oneness by achieving clear mind, and when we apply our intellect inside of this ethic of us as all-that-is, and all-that-is, us.

Chapter 3

From our investigation into the roots of sustainability, we have dived deep into the very personal arenas of spirituality and philosophy. I’m not sure if this is necessarily a personal arena, or if we’ve only been taught that. The concept of faith has been promoted by organized religions as a necessary ingredient of a spiritual path. It may be so, but the objective of nurturing faith in these instances has often been to further the interests of an institution, rather than enhance a personal experience. It should be said that spiritual experience is important for humans to know their place in the Universe. This, though, is not so much personal, as individual. We each have our own experience that is perhaps as diverse as there are expressions of life on the planet. Maybe, more clearly, as there are expressions of manifested universe, matter and non-matter alike. This seems to be the deepest we can go, what some have called the Zero-Point Field, a quantum level of expression smaller than the constituents of atoms, a seething, pulsing distortion of a great, all encompassing field of energetic potential.

We can use this relationship of the individual to the simplest expression of the Universe at the quantum level to inform our relationship as individuals with something larger – our communities, cultures, species and planet. If we can see the expression of the whole in the parts as well as the parts in the whole, we can begin to comprehend our role as individuals in expanding sustainability. The word organic here is another way to describe this idea of sustainability. Organic has a variety of uses. A simple definition holds that organic means something that contains carbon. Carbon, being the basic building block of life on Earth, represents a common element among all living things. Thus organic reflects this connection. Organic, more generically, means a constituent part of a whole; an element that has a unique place and role inside of a larger whole.

We have agreed that sustainability means, on the one hand, a relationship with the living Earth that allows for the continuation of the diversity of life forms so that human existence can continue. There is an important distinction here that must be drawn out. Our survival as a species depends on the survival of a diverse mix of other life forms. But more importantly, the survival of all other life forms relies on the continued diversity and interdependence of life forms. Thomas Berry, in The Great Work, writes “The universe exists in highly differentiated forms of expression. So too the planet Earth exists as a highly differentiated complex of life systems. The only security of any life expression on Earth is in the diversity of the comprehensive community of life…[T]hese various forms of expression are so intimately related that nothing is itself without everything else.” [Page 147]

We begin our exploration into the journey of abundant sustainability by looking at our role as individuals. This look encompasses psychological aspects, as well as energetic influences. Intuitively, we have recognized the role of, for example, energetic practices as useful in the pursuit of an experience, and thus wisdom, leading to an organic relationship with all-that-is.

Deepening our understanding of our organic role in the universe in crucial. Energetically speaking, we will expand this understanding by participating in activities that offer an experience of an energetic way of being. Two examples that come to mind are eastern Practices of Tai Chi/Chi Gong, and Zen meditation.

Deepening our understanding of our organic role in the universe in crucial. Energetically speaking, we will expand this understanding by participating in activities that offer an experience of an energetic way of being. Two examples that come to mind are eastern Practices of Tai Chi/Chi Gong, and Zen meditation.

Chapter 4

Chi Kung and Tai Chi exercises provide an experience of connection that is different from our predominate mode of accessing information through the rational mind. This expanded experience is useful for enhancing our ability to recognize our connection with each other, other life forms, non-life forms and the universe. It is the essence of this perspective that ultimately needs to emerge as a foundational aspect of our relationship with the Earth, if human sustainability is to be achieved.

The nature of our human consciousness, at its present level of evolution, is one of separation. The reason for this is actually rather simple. Philosophically, and perhaps pragmatically speaking, we can not be aware of something with which we are completely one. Paraphrasing Neale Donald Walsch in his children’s book, The Little Soul and the Sun, we are The Light, but there is nothing but The Light. We can’t know ourselves, therefore, as The Light if we don’t have something to compare it to. Thus we manifest on the earthly, dualistic plane for the very purpose of experiencing ourselves inside of a dream – an illusion representing the absence of light – that provides the needed contrast to recognize the light for what it is. Thus in Walsch’s book, God surrounds the Little Soul with darkness so that he can know himself as the light.

Self-awareness, the higher level of our consciousness, is totally unique to humans on this planet. We are aware of the phenomenon of consciousness, but we can not know it without becoming separate for the sake of observing it. While we become aware of our awareness, our connection with a greater consciousness is hidden behind an illusion of separation. This we call Ego.

Ego is a stepping stone. In its current state, human intellect has achieved great accomplishments, but at great cost to the vast interconnected life system of earth known as Gaia. This breakdown in diversity and efficacy of life on Earth threatens the sustainability of the human race and represents an ironic effort in futility for the human ego. Futile to the extent that it has allowed us to develop a rational and technical cultural milieu that holds such complete sway over all other living systems on the planet that we threaten their existence and thus our own. It is the consciousness of the culture that is the greatest impediment to sustainability. The cultural consciousness is a reflection of the individual, human ego. When we expand our individual experience of connection with Gaia, we contribute to the cultural shift needed for human sustainability.

Self-awareness is, of course, an aspect of our higher rational mind. It is part of that middle band of consciousness between our sub-conscious and our super-conscious, both which represent information to which we are not consciously privy; the former being aspects of our instinct and the universal, collective unconscious that has been passed down from generation to generation for eons, and the latter being an energetic connection with universal energy. As we develop our own conscious piece, we deepen our self-knowledge and self-awareness and have the opportunity to bring to light aspects of our experience related to the sub- and super-consciousness that were previously hidden from view. As we develop other modes of experience, we expand our ability to connect with all that is. This is a crucial element in promulgating sustainability. It might also be called love.

The integrated, supportive interaction of Gaia is the context of being for humans. It is the purpose that flows from being and if we act in such a way as to eliminate this context and cease being, we have achieved a different purpose. A purpose that might be characterized as they came and did, did, did, strived, strived, strived, and left. It is not love. Without a sense of connection, we act from a place of separation and have no way of gauging our actions with regard to the living Earth or to deeper principles of the Universe. Principles that reflect a core purpose of evolution, of an always more complex expression of God. Human sustainability requires the essence of connection, love for all aspects of Gaia, be at the core of our relationship with Earth. Perceiving and knowing this interconnection happens through experience. It is ultimately contingent on our ability to understand more broadly the connection of all things, not just living things. Understanding sustainability is, then, related to our ability to experience the interconnectedness of all things. Sustainability is the expression of this oneness. The combination of this knowledge and experience provides wisdom that can be applied to creating a sustainable world.

Chi Kung and Tai Chi exercises offer a means of experiencing interconnectedness. They offer body-centered experiences that transcend the physiology of our bodies. Our feelings by themselves are nothing more than overgrown sensations. Our thoughts aren’t much more than filtered and pre-patterned energetic response within the physiological constraints of our brains. Our instincts are handed down in our DNA and our intuition is conditional to our spiritual openness. But in combination, all of these aspects of our selves offer a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Energetic martial arts exercises help create coherence among each of these aspects. They encourage our energetic lines to align and our vibrations to entrain and resonate with vibrations all around us. The powerful result of this resonance is a leveraging of essence of the universe down to the quantum level. We amplify the underlying bubbling of the Akashic field. We turn the volume up on our interconnection with the universe so that it can inform us as individuals and ultimately collectively as institutions and cultures, of our inter-relationship with the rest of the universe. Together, this experience with our rationality, can inform and provide the wisdom for creating human sustainability.

Chapter 5 Introspection

An epitome of the cultural shift needed to move toward an organic relationship between humans and the Earth is personal introspection. For it is only through this process that we can as individuals wake up to the relationship between the construct of the external world and the make-up of our internal world. This represents an expansion of our consciousness. There is a psychological basis for the effectiveness of the work, but there is more to it than that. Expanding our personal consciousness is also about getting in touch with the dream of a life integrated with all living systems and with the universe. It is our access to this dream that can feed the fire of our spirit. It is the dream that can lead us to an experience of the deepest joy for being alive. This joy can feed a passion that will help carry us through the difficult work of accepting change and applying our intellect to an ecologically sustainable approach to life.

If we can make sense of the fundamental misalignment in our efforts, institutions and cultural orientation, we can begin to create greater congruencies between human efforts at self-actualization, and a harmonious existence with Gaia. Accessing the dream of integration with the Earth, or an understanding of the power of coherence requires an opening up, a clearing of emotional interferences. In his book, Emotional Clearing, John Ruskan points out the premise of the book “that no real growth into higher consciousness can occur unless working with the emotions becomes a central part of inner work… working with emotion as well as feeling in general can become a most vital and even primary path to self-realization, enabling us to release the inner forces that keep us blocked and from our full potential.” In our context here, this full potential is directly related to the potential of our human-earth culture, and our ability as a species to live in a manner that is congruent and harmonious with the great complexity of life forms on Earth.

Personal dreams represent an extension of our consciousness and, therefore, offer important information for creating new perspectives. This is not a new concept, indigenous cultures in place like South America have used dreams to guide there daily living for thousands of years. As these indigenous cultures are lost and the great homogenizing of cultures around the world continues, we are at risk of losing important creative input to solving the enormous problems we are facing. As I cross over the threshold of mid-life, dreams inform more and more of my life. This increased access to dreams corresponds with important changes in lifestyle including abstinence from alcohol and an unrelenting effort at self reflection. Most recently, a very vivid dream offered such a mix of information, it is useful to describe it here.

The reason dreams provide useful information relates to their validity as a mode of our consciousness. It took me a awhile to understand this. For most of my life, I seldom remembered my dreams. If I did, I did not pay attention to them. Later in life, becoming interested in the influence of the subconscious, I began to pay more attention. This shift toward greater sensitivity facilitated my ability to gradually remember dreams more fully. Along with my interest in the influence of subconscious issues, I also had a desire to resolve those that were compelling me in some fashion. The influence of emotional issues outside of our conscious awareness has been used as a definition for karma. These issues remain in our subconscious as hidden beliefs upon which we build decisions and coping systems. The process of bringing issue to light, into conscious awareness, provides the opportunity to choose whether we will be influenced by the issue. Dreams are a tool for seeing our subconscious issues.

The recent dream was interesting for the symbolism it contained, and the message that I took from it. While highly subjective, and personal, the meanings of dreams, I believe, have the potential to convey information about the collective unconscious; issues that have been conditioned into based on our families, prior generations and potentially, to some degree, everyone that has come before us. In my dream, I was with my family walking our pets: a dog and, amusingly, a baby chicken. Without spoiling the surprise, I’d like to point out that often my dreams include a small object that I’ve come to interpret as representative of the hidden meaning contained in the dream. In this case, upon reflection, I decided that the baby chick was indeed representative of the gift of information contained in the dream that was available to me if I were to choose to avail my self of it.

As a family, we walked together. The dog ran ahead to investigate some other people and another dog. The chick ran after the dog and tried to keep up. My wife, Janice, became increasingly concerned for the safety of the tiny chick. We arrived at a large flat area where other people and animals were playing. Alongside it, a busy roadway ran with speeding cars. Some people were gathered around a woman with a child and we had the impression she had just rescued the child from nearly being hit by a car. Janice became upset about the safety of the animals and scooped them up, along with our daughter, got into a yellow utility truck, and drove away.

The other reason I found this dream to be important was that I had a sense of it being a lucid dream, one in which I had a measure of conscious control. Watching the yellow truck speed away, I had the thought that it would have a minor accident that would represent the irony of my wife’s over reactiveness. Sure enough, the truck, which had been heading into on-coming traffic because of the haste in which it was commandeered, swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle and began to fish tail. Gently, the truck slide sideways into an even bigger, red truck. I approached the scene feeling angry and yelling for them to get out of the truck. They had in the time it took me to arrive, climbed up into the larger, red truck, which contained a handful of utility workers. I yelled for them to get down from this truck that loomed well over my head. Even though I was angry, I had the sense of wanting to send positive energy to the situation. One of the utility workers yelled back at me, “Why don’t you listen?” He said. My anger wanted to say, “Why don’t you listen!”, right back to him. Instead, I found that same positive energy and repeated, “Why don’t I listen?” The positive energy worked and everyone got out of the truck and went across the street to play in the park area. We noticed, once we were back there, that our perception of the danger had changed. The traffic was calm, there was a sense of safety. The woman with the child, as if reading our minds, said, “Oh no, this is my baby. She loves it here.”

When I retold this dream to our spiritual school staff recently, I had he sense that people were looking at me funny. Like, ‘why did he tell that story?’ You, the reader may be thinking the same thing, but I hope the example of symbolism and the deeper meaning to the dream, at least my interpretation and perhaps your own as well, is useful. This dream left me with a powerful feeling about my ability to change my perceptions, and thus my reality, by recognizing the extent to which my inner make up is reflected in perceptions of the outer world. This can be a difficult lesson. Many of us are open to it rationally, but over time, with openness and willingness to access dream information and subconscious feelings and emotions, an experience of the phenomena can occur. It is the experience that can be transformational.

The example is very personal and individual in nature. It is, however, our contention, that this example is highly instructive with regard to the culture and world society. The dream of how we might be in the future, in order to work through the challenges, including psychological barriers of grief, regret, anger and sorrow, of getting to a future, energizes us. It is access to this fire – the fire of spirit and joy ultimately, that we each have a certain responsibility to cultivate in order to move the whole web of life forward into that preferred outcome of sustainability.

Chapter 6 Imaging

On October 11, I was standing in karate class and realized again that it is all about studying war and fighting and that this is not consistent with my deepest beliefs of aligning energetically with spirit and promoting the evolution of consciousness. This includes recognizing that the study of tradition, while noble in one sense, is also a limiting practice because it keeps us from moving forward. Our past conditioning is in control when we honor traditions without sufficient reflection. If we acknowledge the potential to grow and evolve, we have to allow for some of these traditions to change or fall away. When a tradition promotes images of violence, imagining being attacked for the purpose of practicing defense, it is reasonable to consider if the practice is serving a higher purpose. Or, maybe to be more specific, we can consider if the practice is serving the highest purpose we can image for ourselves.

On this particular night, we stood at attention for nearly forty-five minutes while Sensei spoke to us about blocking techniques. It had not been that many days prior in which I stood in a similar posture and listened to descriptions of breaking bones and tearing limbs. This was the second episode where I realized my wish to choose differently with regard to how I spend time and energy. I realized that my beliefs are strong around the ability of people to orient to the ‘good’ side of themselves and others. That studying fighting just, ultimately, promotes fighting, and that is not what I want to do. It is true that we have the capacity to reflect both peace and violence. But it is equally true that we have the capacity to allow ourselves to be influenced by violent images, as well as the fear that accompanies them, without actually being aware of the violent influence. So, standing in class, it was important for me to first recognize that I was at least becoming conscious of what seems to be an insidious influence in my life; holding violent images for the purpose of conditioning myself. This realization opens the door to choosing differently.

There have been other issues surrounding the study of karate, something I have done for nine years, two nights per week. It has been very good for me, providing a valuable measure of discipline, vigorous exercise and community. It has been a very steadying influence. Over the last nine years there have been significant shifts in my life, but throughout, I kept going to practice, earning stripes on belts, earning belts. I am now a third degree brown belt.

Many nights I did not want to go. By the end of the day, I feel tired. Getting the energy to go to practice was often difficult. But the discipline of the group was helpful to me. We are expected to show up. If we are not going to make it to class, we are expected to call. If we do not call, or if we miss many classes, there is a conversation. You are not welcome as a student of Shorin Ryu if you are not willing to commit to its study. These are not unreasonable demands to me. They have been helpful. I am in excellent physical shape. Our one and a half hour practice sessions include forty-five minutes of calisthenics. This work is vigorous and particularly aimed at building strength in the shoulders, abdomen and thighs. Over time, and since aligning other parts of my life to be more consistent with who I am at the deepest level, I have shed an additional five pounds and am now relatively slim. I maintain a virtually ideal weight for my size, currently, without trying, eating plenty of cookies and ice cream whenever I want. The subject of this weight issue is worth exploring further, but let me say that I believe it is largely a result of living more congruently; I need less weight to hide behind.

The significance of the karate session on October 11 became apparent to me this morning as I read reminder notices put up by my MS Outlook program. Recently, I have decided that there may be important information available to me through astrology. I came to this conclusion after realizing that there are arch-type beliefs and behaviors that have been handed down through the ages to us as part of the great, collective unconscious. These beliefs and behaviors have been influenced by the stars and planets and patterns they make. Our rhythms of life are affected by the rhythms of the heavens. Even though this may be subtle beyond perception, the effects can be carried forward, passed along, and even distilled and concentrated over time, by virtue of our conditioning by our parents and their parents. The reminder note from Outlook was from last month. I had read that important information related to the solar eclipse on September 11, if it wasn’t apparent at the time of the eclipse, might become apparent a month later. Apparently it is not uncommon for this to happen exactly one month to the day after an eclipse. So I put a reminder in Outlook: ‘watch for important information related to the September 11 eclipse.’ Eclipses can represent times when changes occur or want to occur in our life. The note popped up on the morning after October 11, exactly one month after the September eclipse. I realized that the insight I had had the previous night might have been related to this eclipse information.

Since that day, the idea that I will not study karate any longer has been taking root in me. This is not an easy decision, but I’ve come to realize it is one that comes from a very deep, important place. I do expect to substitute the study of Tai Chi for karate. I understand Tai Chi to offer an experience of connection with the energetic universe. This is consistent with who I choose to be today; what I choose to study, and how I choose to spend my life. It is just another example of many, of adding congruence to my life, of an increasing coherence among my thoughts, words and deeds. Investigating the phenomenon of significantly increased personal power in relation to this coherence is a crucial aspect of the study of sustainability and our concern with developing an understanding of what it will take to shift the cultural collective toward organic living.

Chapter 7 Premise

Right now, the world is changing rapidly. The Great Turning is a name that has been suggested for this period. It was originally coined by Joanna Macy, PhD. to reflect the shifting of human consciousness that is part of this rapid change. There are three aspects of this turning. The first represents what might be considered a negative aspect. It has to do with the current disintegration of the living earth happening during an extremely compressed period of about 300 years -from the beginning of the industrial age, through the end of the fossil fuel era. In the context of a fourteen billion year history of the universe, enormous changes to the Earth’s geobiological systems are occurring during an incredibly slim sliver of time – literally a faction of a blink of an eye.

Concurrent with this alarming event, there is another, more positive aspect of the great turning, the one that inspired Macy. Her Great Turning represents the shifting of human awareness, a giant leap forward in our collective awareness. Macy calls this a cognitive revolution and spiritual awakening. This shift is occurring on a number of fronts and represents the focus of several different kinds of workshops taking place around the world. I’m developing and offering a workshop that builds upon the concept of a modern mystic as written about by Hank Wesselman in his book Visionseeker. The shift in consciousness that characterizes modern mystic is fundamental to achieving a new perception of reality that will support an alternative way of being in community with the Earth.

This new way of being is the second aspect of the great turning, a positive corollary to the negative turning. The last aspect of the turning relates to a transcendent interpretation. It represents the unique juxtaposition of the negative aspect of these changes, perhaps best summarized by the concept of an extinction event happening on the same scale as the one that occurred 65 million years ago that signaled the end of the dinosaur era, with the corresponding emerging global, human consciousness. The combination of these two aspects, together, at this time, represents a third, transcendent interpretation of the great turning that heralds a leap forward in the global consciousness.

The transcendent interpretation is in some ways conditional. It reflects the new era of human consciousness available during an event that never previously had such a participant. Moreover, by virtue of our conscious awareness of this event, we are in a position to affect it. It is the potential to affect these events from which springs the third aspect of the great turning. The outcome is uncertain – humans may not survive the coming calamities. However, regardless of the outcome for the beings of Earth, the deepest memory of the universe will retain the expression of the ever increasing complexity of life and consciousness that will have manifested. Should we somehow navigate the challenges and continue to exist as a life form without interruption, the result will be a culture that has found a way to exist within the great, creative web of life on Earth while retaining the self-reflective qualities that make us human and have allowed us to develop impressive technologies.

The combined effect of all three of these aspects of the great turning represent the beauty and grandeur of the evolving universe. It represents our literal ability to influence the unfolding of the universe, a reflection of humans, like everything else that is, as an aspect of God. There is no imagining of how these three aspects will interact, combine and manifest. However, it is clear that the result will be, as ever, unprecedented and of an order of magnitude of complexity greater anything we can conceive.




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