I like millenials. I like the quality in them that says "I won't 'settle'". I won't settle for slavery at work. I won't settle for doing something I hate. I won't settle for a lack of choice. Now all we need is millenials with ethics, with deep concern for the planet, human and non-human beings, with care and responsibility and service. Millenials 2.0.
When we meditate, some people say we are practising dying, again and again. In relationships we have the same. How many times can you let go - again and again? How many times can we die, only to trust in coming back to Life, more vigorously and authentically than ever before? It is as a friend put in an email this morning:
"It is just like you trust breathing - letting all the air out of your system despite not seeing if there will be more air to breath in seconds later."
NB: this only works when the letting go and the dying really is felt authentically. You cannot have a near-death experience where you actually know all along that you will live. It's a bit crazy, but this is what we must go through.
“In the first movement, our infancy as a species, we felt no separation from the natural world around us. Trees, rocks, and plants surrounded us with a living presence as intimate and pulsing as our own bodies. In that primal intimacy, which anthropologists call "participation mystique," we were as one with our world as a child in the mother's womb.
Then self-consciousness arose and gave us distance on our world. We needed that distance in order to make decisions and strategies, in order to measure, judge and to monitor our judgments. With the emergence of free-will, the fall out of the Garden of Eden, the second movement began -- the lonely and heroic journey of the ego. Nowadays, yearning to reclaim a sense of wholeness, some of us tend to disparage that movement of separation from nature, but it brought us great gains for which we can be grateful. The distanced and observing eye brought us tools of science, and a priceless view of the vast, orderly intricacy of our world. The recognition of our individuality brought us trial by jury and the Bill of Rights.
Now, harvesting these gains, we are ready to return. The third movement begins. Having gained distance and sophistication of perception, we can turn and recognize who we have been all along. Now it can dawn on us: we are our world knowing itself. We can relinquish our separateness. We can come home again -- and participate in our world in a richer, more responsible and poignantly beautiful way than before, in our infancy.”
― Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self
"Every established order tends to make its own entirely arbitrary system seem entirely natural."
— Pierre Bourdieu
When I first heard one of A Capella Science's music videos, it quite literally blew my mind. I think my brain must have been releasing 5 different neurotransmitters at once, it was like a short circuit of the brain! It was a joy to witness such pure talent and passion translated into a catchy song... It also reminds me of just how much privilege we have as scientists, and those who understand science, to access the mind-blowing secrets of how our complex life forms and solar systems self-organise and what happens at the molecular and grand cosmic level.
I feel the same way when I read anything from Buddhism, or listen to Dharma talks. There is such a rich source of knowledge and wisdom available to us in our short time on the planet. So those who are translating these quite frankly spiritual happenings into accessible forms, like music, art, poetry, or teaching - you are serving humanity in a huge way. Thank you.
Thank you to the person who introduced me to this channel. <3
A quote I’m pondering —
“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, ‘What else could this mean?”
― Shannon L. Alder
What if we were to hold paradox and complexity, and pause - without feeling the need to jump to conclusions, to have the "right" answer.
What if our education system rewarded this sort of behaviour - instead of breeding people who thrive off competition, one-upping, and getting the answer before anybody else?
What if we asked the question: "What does it feel like to be you?"
"We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely."
- E. O. Wilson
Life is surprising
Adapt, transform, flex.
Walking through the Da Vinci museum in Rome, I was filled with awe and admiration at the prolific inventions, designs, drawings, and totally different ways of thinking so characteristic to Da Vinci. He has been a mentor-beyond-the-grave for me throughout my life, starting from when I was very young and used to sketch anatomical drawings from a huge book filled with sketches from Da Vinci. I always loved how in the presence of his work, I felt comfortable about the lack of distinction between 'Art' or 'Science' - both fed each other for him, as they have for me.
This time round studying his works, I was also struck by how strong the practise of Biomimicry was in his works and way of thinking. He, too, also looked to Nature and her mechanisms for inspiration in his inventions, and would obsessively study the human body and intricate workings in a hope to build better machines.
It also reminded me of my decidedly left-handedness since a young age. I have been independently researching some of the studies of the 20th century that led us to understand the complex functions of the right-side of the brain. While the left-side of the brain which controls the right hand, and promotes rational, sequential, logical and 'time-based' thinking, the right is the majority contributor to our intuitive thinking, holistic thought and understanding, subjective and 'space-based' thinking. The left hemisphere (right side) is also the verbal processor - which often makes it difficult for the right side of the brain to translate its realisations and intuitions into words - and some say has even had consequences in the language we use to describe 'left' and 'right'.
'Left' in French is 'gauche', meaning 'awkward'; in Italian 'sinistre', meaning sinister, dark, or bad. It's quite a chicken-and-egg situation, but we now have evolved as a society into one that promotes left-brain thinking in the way we provide education, test our students, and expect people to behave in organisations, even making some of the left-brain characteristic synonymous with what it means to be 'professional'.
I found it impossibly difficult to leave Art behind when having to choose between Art and Science at university - it felt like being severed in two. Luckily there was also a lot of space for creativity within the field of Molecular Biology and even learning about the neural underpinnings in Neuroscience, but still - it often felt like my right-brain self was not totally at home in our left-brain world.
Hand preference is the most visible outward sign of how an individual's brain is organised. Swapping hands in writing and other tasks can also help stimulate and strengthen different sides of the brain. Even better is to engage in activities that different sides of the brain 'win' at, and doing exercises that tease out your less-dominant side. I'm currently developing some workshop exercises around this topic, and creativity - if this is something that interests you or you know about, please get in touch!
When I first started writing as a child, I wrote with my left hand, refusing to change to the right (although I had family members who tried to nudge me!) and alarming my parents by writing right-to-left, in mirror writing - they were worried about whether I'd ever learn! What made me grin was seeing Da Vinci's intricate notes alongside his drawings, in secret 'back-to-front' mirror writing code - to keep his genius ideas and plans private! It's got me thinking... Maybe it's time to revive the mirror cursive scrawl!
I will be in Sweden next week teaching and facilitating around the formation of projects and communities that will serve the emerging future. One of the networks I am part of, with increasing involvement, is the Enspiral network. It is a thing I draw huge amounts of inspiration from, and feel committed to serving and growing through this next period of my life.
When asked, “What is Enspiral, and what does it mean to you?” the most common answer I receive is along the line: “It depends who you are talking to, and the answer you will get will be different each time you ask that question.”
Part of the intention of Enspiral is to model a "company of the future" - illustrating the possible "future of work" meshing the "more beautiful world" and our economic reality — into a really practical alternative to our mainstream way of working. I think these networks are the future, in being our best selves, unlocking our collective intelligence and potential.
How do we use our tools and new forms of viral communication to unlock our co-intelligence, do things in collaboration, outside of the system?
Enspiral, to me, is a RELATIONSHIP of RELATIONSHIPS.
When we look to Nature, how does Nature organise these things? How does Nature do governance? How does Nature do decision-making? How does Nature do finances? Communication? This is part of what is so exciting to me, as a biologist and systems thinker, about the network. This is what happens when a group of nodes collect together, and listen to what wants to evolve and emerge.
What I am enjoying about this work... The combination of biology, social alchemy and social organisation... A version of my heaven!
This diagram, from Aaron Sachs and Anupam Kundu of the Thoughtworks network, captures a nice dimension of what Enspiral is too:
"People often say about mystics, that they're holding some kind of repressed sexuality. But maybe it's the exact opposite. I think society's obsession with the erotic is due to a suppressed mysticism." - words recently told to me by a Buddhist monk, who is teaching me once a week.
In reality, meditation is a hugely sensual practise. Not sexual, sensual. And the intimacy possible between us human beings is vast, deep and unbounded, of which sex is just one dimension.
One way to keep meditation practise alive is to show up with the whole self, experience the deep intimacy, sensuality and tingling aliveness of meditation. Training the brain is a huge part of what happens, but if you treat the practise as simply 'brain-training', it's unlikely to be a sustainable practise, lasting long into life. I am learning to jump, full-bodied, into my contemplative practise.
Part of this is seeing the practise as deep and intimate time with the being you are closest to: yourself. Every biological system needs feedback to remain evolving, alive, flexible and adaptive. I think so often we cut off the feedback coming from our own very selves: How does it feel to be you right now? What is your intuition telling you? What are the signs something is wrong? What are the subtleties that you have failed to notice? Who's there?
These were part of my teachings and learnings yesterday. And part of these teachings, is sharing them onwards. Facebook, blogs, the internet are all part of our modern day sangha! I am being taught weekly by an ordained Buddhist monk. Grateful for the ancient wisdom peppered into modern day life.
On the side of all this doing and building, I am working to reverse the effects of suppressed mysticism. And I have a feeling the two may work together...
“India’s best ideas have come where man was in communion with trees and rivers and lakes, away from the crowds. The peace of the forest has helped the intellectual evolution of man. The culture of the forest has fueled the culture of Indian society. The culture that has arisen from the forest has been influenced by the diverse processes of renewal of life, which are always at play in the forest, varying from species to species, from season to season, in sight and sound and smell. The unifying principle of life in diversity, of democratic pluralism, thus became the principle of Indian civilization.”
- Rabindranath Tagore, infamous unschool-er, and inspiration to start Schumacher College.
"The future has an ancient heart"
-- Pari Centre for New Learning
I am recently returned from a series of transformational gatherings in New Zealand, where I had the privilege and joy of dreaming, playing and planning with a bunch of world-wide change-makers. All different ages, and from a huge range of spectrums, we collided for 5 days. Among us were space scientists, technology activists, Singularity University teachers, radical self-love and intersectionality poets, consciousness gurus, farm innovators, food innovators, alternative education specialists, organisational innovators... the list goes on.
Over the 5 days, a new space beyond the ordinary mechanics of bringing a group of people together began to emerge. People would start to finish each others' sentences -- and beyond that, speak to each others' thoughts before anyone had even spoken. In circles, I felt a great ease noticing thoughts or realisations bubble up in my mind, only to have someone else do the sharing for me! Ideas of new collaborations and projects were coming to people, as if from the land. The collective intelligence of the group began to emerge, and with that, the self-organising, swarming, stigmergy behaviour that is associated with it. It was remarkable.
I'm very aware of what a huge privilege it is to be able to have the time, funds, and just general - privilege - to be attending such events on the other side of the world. It makes it feel even more imperative that the time is spent wisely, and productively, while also leaving time to just "be" and allow whatever needs to emerge between us to do so. And also has a certain responsibility that comes with it to think: how do we best serve the greater whole by our gathering together like this?
Apart from the inspiration we all received from spending time amongst other dreamers, story-weavers, innovators and doers (and on a piece of land that has magical qualities of its own), I got to experience something I haven't felt renewed in a while -- the relationship and space that forms between two or more of you, when you share a vision and see each other (truly 'see' each other) in your abilities and commitment to work towards achieving it. It's a flavour of love that I'd like to find the word for. A platonic but electric love for the possibility you hold between you.
And it's also more than that. It's a totally different kind of commitment to each other, and each other's personal growth and transformation. Because you each know that your collective ability to act and deliver on that vision and work depends on all of your potential to be the best version of yourselves. It's a commitment to building each other up, and unlocking the potential in the parts and the whole.
As I sat down to write today, I was directed by a few clues to the website of the Co-Intelligence Institute, where I found this recurring quotation by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
"There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfilment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe."
This certainly comes close to describing the communion I spoke of... and touches on a large part. But some of it is also seeing the possibility of what is possible in the eyes of the other, and the feeling of commitment to do the work.
It's tough that many of us are flung around the globe... But I have a feeling we'll meet soon again, and by training that 'recognition' muscle, I am already noticing the quality of my relationships, both new and old, as I recognise what is possible in that person's evolution, our evolution together, and the evolution of the collective human race.
Incase you missed this: earlier this year, Google's translation services was changed to a machine learning system, and invented its very own language in the process.
Google has done something quite impressive behind the scenes - it's switched its translation system from "phrase based translation" to "Google Neural Machine Translation" (GNMT).
"Phrase based translation" is essentially the equivalent of translating word-by-word - like you thumbing through a Lonely planet dictionary, but super fast. It's limited by its vocabulary, and has no understanding of linguistic structures. It maps words and phrases from one language to another.
GNMT, on the other hand, got smart. It is able to learn from the people that use it. It can transfer the "translation knowledge" from language to language, and so able to translate phrases and languages it may never have seen before.
What's more, when Google engineers looked under the 'bonnet' of the system, they found something pretty amazing: it had created its own language termed "interlingua" - as the most efficient way to solve the problem of translation.
The system encodes the patterning behind the semantics of the language, instead of memorising phrase-to-phrase translations.
Tuesday morning #TechForHumanity geek-out. What does this say about the way our own brains codify and translate languages...
Black crumbs of magic, holder of water, mysterious space of teeming life.
"If it's not accessible to the poor, it's not revolutionary"
Profound changes in our understanding of matter and of the earth offer an opportunity to heal the largely unconscious, dangerous Western estrangement from the earth. Within the “New Story” our deepest spiritual aspirations and many central Christian insights can find a vast, full expression enabling us to embrace a deep belonging within the Earth community, and a caring, loving relationship with our home.
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 5
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim, 10
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 15
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss; 20
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 25
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, 30
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a (wo)Man, my son!
It's funny how economics puts 'value' on things.
If a non-Earth human came to our world and saw humanity, perhaps they would estimate the 'price' of one of us to be around £3. This is the approximate value of the carbon, water, air, chalk - and trace minerals like zinc, phosphorus and iron that make up our bodies.
This is essentially what economists do to rainforests when they make estimates of the value of the wood- and decide whether or not to clearcut the forest.
One day we will look back on this in disbelief that we could be so narrow sighted and ignorant.
How do you put value on relationships? How do you estimate the net 'worth' of climate regulating networks of living beings? Or roots that protect the soil, and converse with underground fungi? How can you put a price on the life of an ancient being, itself home to many, and its worth far beyond the weight of its wood?