Going WITH Life

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

“We can only have honest, effective hope if the frame through which we see is an accurate representation of how the world works.”

– Frances Moore Lappe


|Photo by Jim Bahn|http://www.flickr.com/photos/gcwest/6142854588|

With a warm welcome and opening offering of D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Escape,” Danny Martin and I launched into our session last week at the Bioneers by the Bay Conference entitled, “Belonging and Becoming: Practices for Regenerative Leadership.”  The framing of our 90 minutes was the call to connect more deeply with the ways of complex living systems, to align ourselves more fully with life so that we might thrive as a human community.

During the first half of our session we took the poet’s suggestion to escape the “glass bottles of our egos” and access “unlying life” by engaging in some paired storytelling focused on the values that have guided us in our lives.  This was our effort to cultivate a deeper sense of belonging in the room, and we were amazed to hear how much people took from listening to one another for even 10 minutes.  “This person would have meant nothing to me had we not done this exercise.  It would have been just another workshop.”  “Turns out we live in the same town!”  “He’s less than half my age and lived so much!”  “We connected around mutual unfulfilled potential.”  “It was cool to find out we really want the same things.” It is through belonging that our longing takes on new dimension.

We then shifted into a practice of becoming.  Here we asked people first to articulate what was beginning to emerge as some of the essential truths of life as they opened themselves to one another.  Then we distributed a list of principles of living systems, adapted from systems educator Linda Booth Sweeney and the work of the Center for Ecoliteracy.  Groups of four were asked to select one of the principles below and have a conversation about what it might mean or look like if their lives/work/communities were more aligned with that principle.  These are what we offered:

  • Interdependence: A relationship in which each partner affects and often needs the other.
  • System Integrity: What a system has when all the parts and processes essential to its ability to function are present.
  • Biodiversity: Living systems depend on the variety, complexity, and abundance of species to make them healthy and resilient.
  • Reciprocity and Collaboration: The continual process in which species exchange energy and resources.
  • Rightness of Size: The proportions of living systems–their bigness or smallness and their built-in limitations to growth–that influence a system’s stability and sustainability.
  • Waste = Food: Waste from one system becomes food for another. All materials in nature are valuable, continuously circulating in loops of production, use, and recycling.
  • Flux: The continual movement of energy, matter and information that flows through living systems. Flux enables the living system to remain alive, flexible and ever-changing.
  • “The Commons”: Shared resources – such as air, water, land, highways, fisheries, energy, and minerals – on which we depend and for which we are all responsible.
  • Self-Organization :  Living systems continually regulate, produce and transform themselves.
  • Learning: Living systems are able to perceive and respond/adapt to “disturbances.”

We ended with a harvest of emerging insights.  These included shifting our thoughts about what constitutes waste, engaging greater diversity, opening to more flow of energy and ideas, sharing information more readily, loosening our grip on the tendency to want to control . . . .  How about you?  How would your life, work, organization, or community, look, feel, and function differently if it were in greater alignment with one or more of these principles?

No Comments

  • Curtis,

    The values and ideals we build our social infrastructures on depend so much on how we act as humans.

    I think the point that was bought up about reciprocity and collaboration really resonated with the way I see our desire to be part of a group.

    It’s why I enjoyed reading the book “Influence” by Robert Caldini so much, because it really simplified the complex emotions humans experience.

    The basic principles we follow in life are guided by our desire to be part of the group and achieve something great.

    All in all, an very interesting post Curtis!

  • Curtis says:

    Thanks, Josh, for your comments. I appreciate your point about our desire to be a part of the group, and I supposed the principles of living systems invite us to extend our definition of “the group” to include those we often perceive as being “other”, whether human or other members of the so-called “environment.”

  • Not a problem Curtis. Keep up the great work! 🙂

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