On the day we were to leave the jungle, we awoke once again to a downpour. Our flight out was supposed to be at 8 a.m. The plan was that we would hike there for a hour. so we would need to leave by 7 a.m. Before we were to leave though, we got word that the planes would need to wait for the airstrip to dry before they would take off from Shell.
8 a.m. came and went, then 9 a.m., then 10 a.m…. and we had still not left camp. We packed and repacked getting ready for a quick departure at a moments notice… hoping that the planes would fly out that day. By 11 am we still were sitting on our packed bags. And it was still lightly raining.
At noon we got word: the planes are on their way! Instructions were that we would all board the same planes we arrived in. So we set out through the soggy jungle, where now there were new bogs and logs. One doesn’t rush a jungle hike.
Once at the mud airstrip–we arrive in time to see the small plane that I came in on leave with random people. There goes my plane, I thought. Now what?
I knew I was not on the next plane… but proximity seemed to matter in this rapid exit from the rainforest. We were all mindful that another rainstorm could mean some of us could be left behind for another night in the rainforest and I decided that I would like that to be with my bag… so I kept it in sight.
A small plane, which I surmised would be our plane, landed Our pilot and others physically haul this plane by its wings and tail–backing it up to make room for still another plane to land. This most recently landed plane left first.
Eventually, it was our turn. Our pilot was concerned at the state of the short runway and decided he can only take two of us, so Loretta and I loaded our bags and boarded the plane. It splashed through puddles on the dirt runway before lifting off, clearing the tallest trees at the end of the field. Shell here we come!
A few minutes later, to our surprise, we landed at a small dirt airstrip in another jungle community.
The pilot asked us to get out of the plane–assuring us that he will return for us in a half hour or so. I hoped so–he had our bags. We were the only members of our group there. I said to Loretta “I think we have been kicked off the island…”
Left to our own devices, we wandered over to a small covered patio, There we were approached by a man. We learned he is Sapura and is the teacher at a nearby school. He spoke a couple of words of english and then called over his students, a half dozen other men–none of whom speak english at all.
They all had wide smiles, though, and were attempting to communicate. Fortunately, I had 20% charge left on my phone and a trusty downloaded Google Spanish language app.
What happened next involved a LOT of laughter.
We learned that the teacher is Manari’s brother. he wanted to practice his English. We traded email addresses. We discovered that he is on Facebook!
Within a half hour, our four-seater plane returned with another member of our group in the back. We boarded once again and the plane easily takes off from this longer airstrip. We are on our way home.
I knew before the trip that the Achuar interpret their dreams at four a.m. and we would be invited to join them. What I did not know was that we would face this same treacherous jungle trail –only this time, it would be in the dark and in a downpour .
We retired early the night before in anticipation of a three a.m. wake-up and hike to the home of one of the Achuar families. We were instructed to bring our dream and they would interpret them.
It rained all night long.. and I kept waking up, growing increasingly anxious about that hike through the jungle in the dark. I told myself i was worried about Loretta (I was). But i was just as worried about ME.
I decided that if I did not receive a dream, I would stay at our camp with her should she decide to stay. At three a.m., one of our campmates reported to Loretta that the guides were considering cancelling the trip because it was too treacherous. As a result, Loretta decided to stay at camp.
I did not have a dream that night. So I stayed behind , my ego taking another hit. At first, I felt disappointed… coming all this way and not joining the morning dream circle. But I got 3 more hours sleep and I told myself that I would get another chance when we visited with the Sapura people.
Those who decide to venture out that night came back with the report that it was not at all what they expected. The dream interpretation was basic: It is going to rain today. Hunting will be good tomorrow. Was this it? I guess I expected something more mystical and profound. Turns out, I did have expectations! It was time to let them go.
By the time we were with the Sapura people a few days later, I had let go of all “mystical dream interpretation” expectations. So when I presented my dream to the group, I was ready to receive what Manari, the shaman, had to say. He said: “You see light because you are light.” That night I heard Pachamama:”you are here to appreciate beauty and to create beauty. Be open to what comes. You will know what to do”
The second gift: Be open to what comes. We are light. We are here to appreciate beauty and create beauty.
Once in Ecuador, after a couple days acclimating and exploring the city of Quito, we headed out by bus to the edge rainforest, arriving at the airport city of Shell where we were issued tall mud boots for our jungle adventure. Thanks to our guides and a talented bush pilot, we were deposited on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. There, we gathered under a thatched roof and our faces were painted by one of the Aschuar women. Once our entire group arrived, we set off into the jungle on foot led by our Aschuar hosts. As we slogged through on the muddy trail, the Aschuar women nimbly jogged by us with our luggage on their backs and were quickly out of sight.
In the very first hour on the very first trail in the jungle, we came to a bog where we needed to make our way across via a series of narrow and slippery logs. I felt confident, surefooted and agile in my new mud yellow boots, but I worried about Loretta who was less physically able than I. So, I glanced back to see how she was doing. I could see that she was well cared for by Kuha, a young, strong Aschuar man, but that glance cost me. I mis-planted my walking stick, shifted my weight a little too soon…
And PLOP! I slipped right off that log into thigh-deep muddy water. I was rescued rather unceremoniously by Kuha. I scrambled up the far bank with now water-filled boots.
This was the first gift of the jungle: Pay Attention. Be present. Take one step at a time. My pickled feet sloshing in squishy boots were a constant reminder that day to watch my footing. From that point forward, for the duration of the journey, I was focused on where I was, where my walking stick was placed, where my feel were, and what was around me. I was the first (but not the last) in our group to tumble in the mud and learn the lesson of paying attention.
Twenty five years ago, the Aschuar, an ancient indigenous dream culture deep within the Amazon rainforest in South America, began receiving warnings in their dreams. Their ancestral lands were at risk, not only potentially destroying their way of life, but all life, which depends on the rainforest, he lungs on Planet Earth. Receptive people in the North began receiving dreams of people with painted faces. When they eventually met these people, they knew them.
The Pachamama Alliance was born.
At the invitation of both the Aschuar and Sapura people, we set out on a journey in search of wisdom, a journey that would take us into the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest to encounter the wisdom of Pachamama and our own dreams. I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, the unconscious speaking to us and offering insights and so was drawn to this journey.
Pachamama means “Mother Earth” or more precisely “life force of mother earth.”
The mission of Pachamama Alliance is to empower indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their lands and culture and, using insights gained from that work, to educate and inspire individuals everywhere to change the dream of the North–to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world.
Inventory of Fears
The journey into the Amazon at the invitation of these people really began the minute Loretta and I decided to go. In retrospect the time of preparation was just as significant as the journey itself.
We were encouraged to keep a journal. Before the trip I wrote this:
“This journey is meant to be about LOVE not FEAR. But if I am honest with myself, I am pushing aside real fears.
I’m afraid of not knowing how to communicate when I do not know the language.
I’m afraid of being bitten by mosquitos and contracting malaria
I’m afraid of Anacondas, Caymen and Piranha in the river
I’m afraid of feeling foolish and self-conscious… having to slog through mud
I’m afraid of coming face to face with the fact that I love the ideal of Mother Earth more than the actual muddy bug-infested connection with Earth
To give myself a little credit, I am trying to release all expectation”
Just in case, I install Google Translate Spanish Version on my iPhone.
Before we left California, I lost my keys, our hotel reservation was mixed up, I got us lost in the hotel parking lot on the way to the airport it was as if dream time was reaching out to me and I hadn’t even boarded the airplane yet.
A jungian once told me: “when the true self emerges… ego takes a hit” So the trip was starting on the right foot.
Human commerce is fundamentally destroying the biosphere (as we have known it) on our small blue planet….. So, The Sacred Universe story can remind us that each of our stories, is a paragraph in this larger story. In other words, it’s our story too… it’s one story (uni-verse) that continues.
We Have Been Here Before.
We can take solace in what has happened to us thus far. Many times in this epic story, on this very planet, the whole experiment of life could have ended.
For example, nearly 2.5 billion years ago on planet Earth, a noxious gas, generated by some of the earliest life forms, poisoned the atmosphere and threatened all life. It even etched the rocks! Life on Earth hung by a thread. Would the story end right then and there, leaving this planet as a dead rock floating in oblivion?
The gas was oxygen. It was literally burning cells up from the inside. So, life got creative. Mitochondria were born—first as stand-alone creatures, then as a subset of other creatures. Mitochondria turned oxygen into fuel to further the adventure of life. Creativity saved the day.
That wasn’t the first or the last time all life on Earth would be threatened.
There was the time 65 million years ago, when an asteroid hit Earth, filling the skies with smoke and debris so thick it blocked out all sunlight… fully destroying the dominant form of life on earth (dinosaurs) and threatening all life. At that time, the creativity of small mammals allowed the story of life on Earth to continue…. Once again, Creativity triumphed. Life survived.
Then there was that time in the early 21st century… how does that part go? In this chapter, humans create a crisis for life on Earth by changing the chemistry of planet earth’s atmosphere. Human forms of commerce and the species proliferation is so destructive, that another mass-extinction begins an unraveling of the very web that sustains all life on Earth.
What happens next will depend on whether or not the humans get creative.
Our Great Work
Thomas Berry further suggests that humans are called and guided to a Great Work: and that everyone, without exception, has a role. Each generation has their own Great Work. The Great Work of our time is to remember our interconnection and to bring humans back into right relationship with the living systems of Planet Earth before it is too late. He proposes that we not only have the capacity to turn our own situation around, we each have a unique role that only we can play.
To do so, we must reach into our deepest knowing, wisdom and creativity, to each discover and live our own passion and our own paragraph in Earth’s unfolding story.
We are miracles, after all. Together we make up a living system on a small blue planet in an infinite dark sea of space. If that isn’t miracle enough, as a result of these transformations, we now see and imagine that original flaring forth nearly 14 billion years later. We are energy transformed… contemplating the very first energy that flared forth.
We are story telling a story.
But we are living it too, and it’s not easy to tell it and live it at the same time.
We do know this: we need to get creative! Not the kind of creativity that produces plastic lawn furniture or plants that do not reproduce. But really creative. So creative that humans everywhere awaken to their dream—their sacred creative force.
Awakening the Dreamer
Humanity’s Great Work is to both remember our part in this story, and to reimagine and restore our connection with the web of life. Our work is to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling human presence on the planet. Our personal Great Work lies at the intersection of our deepest joy, the world’s need and our unique gifts and genius, and it’s part of the Great Work of our time.
We are stardust transformed over 13.7 billion years. Each and every one of us is called to connect with our inner life force and with the needs of Earth and her inhabitants. We must understand both who we are and what is ours to do at this moment in Earth’s history.
If the humans are to be a part of Earth’s story moving forward, then awake and creative human beings will be the reason why.
Form this moment forward, it is time to awaken the dreamer and create a new dream, a New Story.
Even as a child, I understood that the game was rigged. Over time, I’ve become even more aware… though I have had the luxury of not having to think about it all the time–to not have to face it, and the feelings it brings up, day in and day out. All day. Every day.
Until this week.
This week has been particularly difficult (the supreme court nomination hearings) and has exposed yet a another level of the rigged game. It brought up in me a deep rage–and I felt it all week in the pit of my stomach… I was struck by the injustice of it all.
I felt like throwing up.
It gave me the opportunity to imagine what others have felt over generations of systemic injustice.
I understand that I am both privileged and oppressed. I’ve benefitted from the rigged game in so many ways… from being able to walk into a store without suspicion to having access to higher education. I have also suffered from the rigged game–from wanting society and power structures to be different for others (immigrants, people of color, and the planet’s living systems), to feeling unsafe at times as a woman, being called “intrinsically evil and objectively disordered” for being in a same-sex relationship.
Understanding what works to transform the systems of power has been a life-long pursuit. I do not have many answers for how we transform these dominant structures–except that I believe we can learn a lot from how nature does this. There are times when a little energy goes a long way and where collective action can change the game.
Pachamama Alliance has a course entitled “the Gamechanger intensive”. In it they share the qualities of a gamechanger in these times (Source: Pachamama.org):
1. You understand that all life is connected. You see the human family, in all its diversity, as an integral component in the web of creation, and you are committed to building a society that reflects and reveres the sacred and interconnected nature of all life.
2. You stand for a sustainable, just and fulfilling future. You stand for, and act from, an informed vision that a sustainable, just and fulfilling future for all beings is essential urgent, and possible.
3. You recognize an evolutionary force at work. You recognize that the evolutionary force that put the stars in motion is moving through us and is a dynamic, self-organizing process whose grace and guidance we can trust.
4. You appreciate that human beings are called to become “evolutionary activists.” You realize that humanity has now become an active driver in the evolutionary process and that the human role and responsibility now is as an evolutionary activist, intentionally engaging with the momentum of evolution to shape the future as it is being brought into being.
5. You inquire deeply into what it means to be human. You understand that the collective transformation of our society requires a completely new definition of what is possible in being human, and requires that we inquire deeply into questions such as: “Who am I, really?” and, “What is my relationship to the whole?”
6. You recognize systems of power and privilege. You recognize that the social injustice and environmental exploitation in our world are not the “natural order of things,” but rather, are the outcome of intentionally designed systems of power and privilege.
7. You put forth a new cultural story. You are able to discern the cultural stories that perpetuate inequity and concentrate power and privilege, and you live from and share new stories that create the paradigm for a just and sustainable future.
8. You are no longer “food” for the system. Your actions and interactions move in the direction of undoing — rather than being complicit with — the systems and structures that perpetuate an unjust, unsustainable, unfulfilled world.
9. You take action that strikes at the root. You seek to identify and engage in effective personal and collective actions that strike at the root causes of the global crises, and you involve others in taking those actions.
10. You are part of a global movement. You experience being an integral member of a vast and growing evolutionary movement toward a just, sustainable and thriving world.
The historic and inspiring Global Climate Action Summit, @GCAS2018 closed yesterday with a strong Call to Action to “step up ambition”, chart a clear path towards a zero-carbon future and to empower grassroots climate action. So let’s work together to amplify this call.https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/call-to-action/
We can do this. It is our Great Work.
“The Great Work before us, the task of moving the modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence, is not a role we have chosen. It is a role given to us, beyond any consultation with ourselves. We did not choose. We were chosen by some power beyond ourselves for this historical task. Yet we must believe that those powers that assign our role must in that same act bestow upon us the ability to fulfill this role. We must believe that we are cared for and guided by these same powers that bring us into being.”
My grandbabies are taking their first steps now–and in a few months from now they will be RUNNING… in a couple of years, skipping.
They don’t know it now, but these baby steps are opening up a whole new world for them. Today, they cannot imagine playing varsity basketball or hiking Mt. Lassen, but any of that is possible.
What does this have to do with reversing global warming?
Drawdown shows us that reversing global warming is possible, yet the required change to human behavior and systems seems massive from our vantage point today.
This presents us with a crisis of imagination. A spiritual crisis… one that can be solved with baby steps.
What do I mean?
Today, most people are sitting on the sidelines out of overwhelm, apathy, despair, cynicism or worse. We need to get connected and take action together. Yet, many cannot imagine how to do this.
Behavioral change expert and Stanford University Professor B.J. Fogg (tinyhabits.com) says that there are three things that need to be in place to change behavior in any given moment.
1. A Trigger
If you don’t take action, chances are one or more of the above was missing.
Professor Fogg’s studies also demonstrate that there are only three ways to actually change behavior:
Option A. Have an epiphany
Option B. Change your environment (what surrounds you)
Option C. Take baby steps
Option A is possible, but rare, so let’s set that aside for a moment.
Option B is possible, but can be a bigger challenge and takes much more work.
That leaves Option C – Baby steps.
Why do “baby steps” work so well in changing personal behavior? Consistent long term change can happen best if we become the “type of person who does____”
New habits start small. Meditate for three minutes today. Floss one tooth a day. Do one push-up a day. Connect with nature for two minutes a day.
Consistency is key. Want to begin an exercise program? Start with a ridiculously easy baby step. Walk for two minutes a day. right after breakfast. Do it every day. Of course, by day three, if you are like most people, you’ll be walking for more than two minutes.
The “tiny habits” method demonstrates the real problem to change is inertia… If we can overcome initial inertia with what Fogg calls “a trigger” after sixty-five days, we’ll have a new habit.
Experts recommend introducing a new tiny habit every thirty days.
A “trigger” is something you already do or something that happens regularly. Examples:
– the morning alarm goes off
– You pee
– You brush your teeth
– Your mobile phone rings
– You see a negative political post on social media
Doing this also demonstrates the power of changing the story, even in small ways. If I walk for two minutes a day, I am now “the kind of person who exercises daily.” Voila!