Tag Archive: land

August 28, 2020

Reclaiming Context, Connection and Collectivity for Regenerative Cultures

Over the last couple of months I have really savored my reading of Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. Yunkaporta is an academic, arts critic and researcher who belongs to the Apalech clan in Queensland, Australia. His book met me during found me in these times of disruption when I was searching to further disrupt myself and pry open some widening cracks in my older ways of thinking, feeling and being.

It is important to say that any review of the book or excerpting from it necessarily de- and re-contextualizes the content, which is a key point Yunkaporta makes – many people are caught up in low context cultures that are rather disconnected from the specifics of place and community. With that awareness, I wanted to offer some take-aways that have helped me to bring different, more energizing, engaging and empowering perspectives to multiple contexts in which I move, in the event that they may help others make enlivening shifts.

Towards the end of the book, Yunkaporta sums up what he and a number of other indigenous people with whom he “yarns” see as an indigenous approach to engaging with living systems – respect, connect, reflect, direct. He offers corresponding embodied centers for doing this work as: gut, heart, head, hands. He also makes the point that Western colonizer cultures reverse this progression, leading with action and control (direct), and only perhaps later capitulating (respect, or “looking again”), if at all, when things do not go according to plan. This “indigenous progression” aligns strongly with a community of practice of which I am a part (Respectful Confrontation/Fierce Civility), which is based in Taoist philosophy and practice, and invites devotees to lead in grounded and focused ways that put one in right relationship with their (multiple) selves and so-called “others.” I can say from experience that this is a very powerful way to prepare myself for engagement, especially in these volatile and unpredictable times.

Yunkaporta also lifts up what Aboriginal and indigenous knowledge asks of those who are attempting to bring about change in complex systems (all living systems). What he calls the “complexity agent protocols” includes:

  • Connectedness (create bonds to self, others and wider networks)
  • Diversity (respect and engage across difference)
  • Interaction (continuously transfer knowledge, energy and resources)
  • Adaptation (remain open to change, as that is the constant)

This, of course, is the much older wisdom that more recent so-called “regenerative” (agriculture, development) efforts are calling for and building upon, engaging the dynamics of network structures and energetic flows that constitute life.

The rest of what follows is a selection of twenty quotes that I pulled from the book, and that I can continue to read from time to time, to jolt my own tendencies towards complacency and stasis.

“Increase is different from growth, because you don’t want the size of the system to grow, but you want the relationships within the system, the exchange within the system, that needs to increase. And you can increase that quite infinitely.”

“Many Aboriginal stories tell us how we must travel in free-ranging patterns, warning us against charging ahead in crazy [linear] ways.”

“All Law-breaking comes from that first evil thought; that original sin of placing yourself above the land or above other people.”

“Nothing is created or destroyed; it just moves and changes, and this is the First Law.”

“Every unit requires velocity and exchange in a stable system, or it will stagnate – this applies to economic and social systems as well as natural ones.”

“Sedentary lifestyles and cultures that do not move with the land or mimic land-based networks in their social systems do not transition well through apocalyptic moments.”

“People today will mostly focus on the points of connection, the nodes of interest like stars in the sky. But the real understanding comes in the spaces in-between, in the relational forces that connect and move the points.”

“If you live a life without violence, you are living an illusion: outsourcing your conflict to unseen powers and detonating it in areas beyond your living space. … The damage of violence is minimized when it is distributed throughout the system rather than centralized into the hands of a few powerful people and their minions.”

“It is difficult to relinquish the illusions of power and delusions of exceptionalism that come with privilege. But it is strangely liberating to realize your true status as a single node in a cooperative network.”

“There is more to narrative than simply telling our stories. We have to compare our stories with the stories of others to seek greater understanding about our reality.”

“There’s no valid way to separate the natural from the synthetic, the digital from the ecological.”

“Most of us today are living in a state of compliance with imposed roles and tasks rather than a heightened state of engagement. We are slaves to a work ethic that is unnatural and unnecessary.”

“The assistance people need is not in learning about Aboriginal knowledge but in remembering their own.”

“The only sustainable way to store data long term is within relationships.”

“[From an Aboriginal perspective] an observer does not try to be objective, but is integrated within a sentient system that is observing itself.”

“Understanding biological networks appropriately means finding a way to belong personally to that system.”

“Somewhere between action and reaction is an interaction, and that’s where all the magic and fun lies.”

“Your culture is not what your hands touch or make – it’s what moves your hands.”

“Guilt is like any other energy: you con’t accumulate it or keep it because it makes you sick and disrupts the system you live in – you have to let it go. Face the truth, make amends, and let it go.”

“Stop asking the question: ‘Are we alone?’ Of course we’re not! Everything in the universe is alive and full of knowledge.”

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July 19, 2012

Land, People, and Place

“I believe that we can restore our hope in a world that transcends race by building communities where self-esteem comes not from feeling superior to any group but from one’s relationship to the land, to the people, and to the place.” 

bell hooks

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July 27, 2011

Who Do We Think We Are

identity

|Image by photologic|http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotologic/3107777489|

The physicist Fritjof Capra, founder of the Elmwood Institute, tells the story about a meeting convened years ago by him and his colleagues with a group of Native American elders and thought leaders to explore different perspectives around ecological thinking.  From the outset, the gathering was marked by some suspicion towards the Elmwood group, given the historic dynamics of exploitation.  The meeting opened with a round of introductions, and an Okanagan woman from British Columbia was first to speak.  She began by stating the tribe from which she came and then described the landscape where the tribe lives.  She then talked about her father’s and paternal grandparents’ origins, in similar detail, and continued with a description of where her mother and maternal grandparents’ came from.  In the end, she linked each family member not just to a named geographic location, but also an illustration of the associated rivers, mountains, plants, and animals.  “This is who I am,” she said, wrapping up. “The features of the land determine my conduct, responsibility, and ethics.  Now I want to know to whom I am talking, before I say anything else of substance.   And I don’t want to hear the books you’ve read, the degrees you’ve obtained, or the organizations you are a part of.” Read More

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July 14, 2011

Holding Tension

“Tension and transparency of tension create capacity.”

-Mistinguette Smith

yurt

|Photo by ideowl|http://www.flickr.com/photos/ideowl/3737550476|

Last week I blogged from Knoll Farm in Fayson, VT, where I was  serving as a co-trainer of our Whole Measures workshop, which we offer in partnership with the Center for Whole Communities.  In that post I reflected on the connection that the Knoll Farm site creates between people, and between people and land.  A remarkable aspect of the Farm is its intentional design, in that its human-made elements naturally work with and build upon the contours of the landscape and draw people’s attention to certain dynamics that reflect essential truths.  An example is the large yurt, that sits on an outcropping at the end of an old logging road.  It is a welcome (and welcoming) sight as one rounds the bend having climbed a fairly long steep incline.  Its brown and green colors integrate nicely with the forested landscape, and its very structure invites one into contemplation about the life that surrounds it and with which it is in relationship. Read More

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July 6, 2011

Re-Entering the Land

Writing this post from beautiful Knoll Farm in Vermont’s Mad River Valley where we are offering Whole Measures for the first time with the Center for Whole Communities as host.  Knoll Farm is something to experience, a 400 acre working organic farm and retreat center with stunning views that speaks to the power of place as a foundation for our agency in the world.  Much of what the Center for Whole Communities stands for is the bridging of boundaries, between people and the rest of the natural world, between cultures, between experiences and perspectives.  And this site bespeaks a profound love for the diversity of land and community that sustains us all.  We hope that this is just the first of many offerings at this unique and mundane (very much of the world) spot.

In a little book that is on the table in my yurt entitled Entering the Land: A History of Knoll Farm, co-founder Peter Forbes writes, “We are lucky have such a place as a teacher.  In spite of all the pressures that might have made its history obscure and irretrievable, Knoll Farm remains a testament to the story of the past.  Similarly, it sets a promising stage for the story of the future.  How will this story read?  What role will humans play in it? . . .  The answers to these questions are in the land, for the land is the root of our well being.  It is time to listen, to sink our hearts in the soil and make it familiar again.”

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September 3, 2009

Wholeness and Reciprocal Transformation

knoll-farm

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit with staff of a few unique organizations in central Vermont, including a conversation with Peter Forbes at the Center for Whole Communities in Fayston.  What Peter, his wife Helen Whybrow, and their colleagues have created at Knoll Farm, a working organic farm, is truly inspiring, not just for the beauty of the land it occupies and the amazing views that are afforded of the surrounding mountains of Mad River Valley, but also because of the thoughtful attention that has been given to every detail of the Center and the programs that it offers.

The Center for Whole Communities is focused on reconnecting people to land, to one another, and to community as a way of healing the divisions that exist between those who are working for social justice and environmental conservation.  To this end they have created a setting and experiences that carefully tend to this mission of reconnection, from immersing people in the landscape, to engaging them in dialogue and storytelling, to grounding them in creative expression and contemplative practice. Read More

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