Did you know you share 90% of your DNA with an apple tree? Part tree you are! Get ready to dig in deep and be prepared to see yourself in a beautiful new light along side of other living beings on earth. Think ‘six degrees of separation’ with all living things on the planet and you’re on your way to feeling a kinship with nature all around you. As you know, our charge at World Wise Beauty, is to ‘nurture your nature’ inside and out. Together, we celebrate our unique bio-individuality cultivating wellness wisdom for life’s beautiful journey. Like the flowers we love, we too bloom, grow, and flourish. And like beautiful flowers, we don’t do this alone. I invite you to take our World Wise Beauty mindset and jump into ‘Full Ecology’ with an open mind and heart. I promise when you finish reading this book, climate action and awareness will no longer be a source of anxiety or pressure, but rather a deep feeling of commitment to live life well harmoniously–at peace with nature and yourself.
It is an honor to have a conversation with these two beacons of light, and I hope you have a chance to know them even better with their live virtual event “Walk in the Wild’ scheduled for later today. See the promo video and link to registration below the Q&A. Happy Earth Day to all! As the wise sage Gandhi has said…
“Be the Change You Want to See in the World”
Laura Connolly, Founder of World Wise Beauty
Mary M. Clare & Gary Ferguson -Authors of Full Ecology
Lauroly Q- The first chapter is titled Stop. Stop? I first thought, “Now wait a minute the world is on fire and we are meant to stop?” I am reading so much lately about what I can do to prevent climate change and stopping seems counter intuitive? What do you mean by Stop?
Mary: Well, feel the word. STOP. In all caps it sounds like yelling. But it’s really a constant invitation – and one that in our busy lives, we rarely hear. Stop. Just stop. Feel what is here when you stop the stories, the whirl of thoughts, the buzz of anxiety about the future or regret about the past. Maybe it’s just for an instant, but in that instant is the possibility of feeling a moment of deep peace and connection – the truth of what’s really going on all the time. So, as the first move in Full Ecology, to stop is to have a chance to open to the connection and belonging that are present every moment of our lives – in nature, as nature.
Gary: It’s tough to address a problem like climate change until we really understand the perspectives that led to the mess in the first place. And further, how those perspectives are expressed in our personal lives. I’m not talking about shaming. Rather, we can stop in order to take an honest look at whether some of the ideas we thought about life – like our notions about being stand-alone beings, rugged individuals – are really true. Stopping is how we begin to trade old, unhelpful stories for the truth about how life on this precious planet – all life – actually works. In this stopped place we can begin to perceive the critical role in life of relationship, of diversity, of elderhood. And when we perceive those realities, we can ultimately use them to guide our actions.
Lauroly- The chapter titled ASK is one of the most enlightening chapters in the book. While Full Ecology is focused on repairing our relationship with the natural world, it is also a great self-help book! Living in a western society like America with a pull up your own boot-straps mindset, it is hard for us to dance between interdependency and independence. Funny, because in nature this is exactly what is going on all the time. Living life is an adaptive dance between the I and the we. Knowing who you are is important but it’s also equally important to understand who you are in relation to others. How do reconcile our sense of separateness and individuality with nature’s apparent law of interdependency? So many good questions and answers in your book! For now we glean…
Mary: Right. Once we’ve stopped we can see better what’s going on, within us and around us. And this stopping is not ‘one and done,’ it’s a skill to use from here forward. But after stopping there’s the real chance to inquire into what’s most true – to ask. We’ve found with that asking that, in the natural world, what’s really going on is nonstop connection, exchange, adaptation and with all of that, survival and thriving. Of course, that thriving includes death. The system contains the expression of individual lives – each drawing from those who have come before, from those who live at the same time, and each contributing to those who come next. When we ask sincerely into human circumstances, we see success and we see messes like climate change and war and poverty and rampant social injustice. Beneath that we see the erroneous belief that we are separate. We call it the separation myth. It results in thinking first from the idea of ‘me’ separate from all else. That’s a scary thought. It makes for lots of behaviors that are actually harmful to those who follow us.
Gary: If you look at how nature evolved – and again, please remember that you’re part of that brilliant evolution – you find what philosopher Neil Evernden called “a rhythm of exchange.” On one hand are individuals, offering a wide range of expressions. When it comes to how an alpha wolf relates to her pack, she can be playful or aloof. An elephant, or an orca whale, can be prone to acting boldly or going through life as a very cautious being. But those individual expressions are always firmly connected to the community that sustains them. The wolf connected to her pack. The orca to her pod. The elephant to her herd. And then on top of that, each of those small groups are dependent on a vast array of other lives, other beings, outside their own species. It’s not by accident that we humans are considered to be one of the most cooperative species on the planet. Yes, be your best self. And at the same time, relax into the fact that on planet Earth, true creative genius has always been a team sport.
Laura: The chapter on Inspiration really resonated for me. I love this line in your book “Inspiration is how you remember the world has your back.” We are never really alone are we? You go on to say “Opening yourself to grief instead of running from it will always reveal inspiration. It will restore your sense of belonging. It will deepen the color and texture of your relationships with family, friends, the earth, and life itself.” How do we find inspiration to move forward when we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom as a species?
Mary: It’s exactly then – each time we feel at ‘rock bottom’ – that we are learning the very most. In developmental psychology, scholars have taken to referring to these kinds of times as disruptions. One term is disruption in the embeddedness environment. They note that without these disruptions, no essential growth can happen. Whether we know it or not, we’re all, quite naturally, embedded in ways of seeing and knowing that, for now, work. Then here comes a pandemic, or social unrest and political mayhem, or – closer in – a breakup, an illness or a rejection. At those times, we may turn to old ways of thinking and find them inadequate. At worse, we mistake the disruption, which really is a ‘little death’ with the end and that can lead to danger – even to suicide. That’s because it’s so disappointing, even terrifying when what we think is true isn’t the whole truth. With support and courage, we take one step and then the next, we’re developing bigger understandings that are more adaptive and more supportive of our living well. It’s the way each being in the natural world grows – by responding to disruption with adaptation and growth.
Gary:Maybe it’s worth first stopping to check out that thought: We’ve hit rock bottom as a species. On one level this is a reasonable, even logical conclusion. But what if we let whatever is true about that be first and foremost not an invitation for giving up, or blaming or shaming, but a simple, elegant invitation to grieve. Within the honest sadness we feel about the mistakes we’ve made is undeniable proof of how much we love, how much we care. (Otherwise, after all, there’d be nothing to grieve.) When we walk into our grief – honoring it, but not using it as a spark for shame – we end up touching the very qualities nature wired into us for compassion and meaningful relationship. Qualities that in turn help us find the next steps.
Lauroly: What beautiful answers full of so much wisdom. This is hardly a glean my friends, we are filling up! Many people start to think in annihilation terms when it comes to solving any big challenges these days. We seem to have lost our ‘repair mode’ which is inherent in nature. Your ideas in the book about a holding space seems like a much better option than self-destruction. What is a holding space in a spiritual sense and how does it lead to repair?
Mary:The funny thing about the idea of ‘spiritual’ is how easily it can be co-opted into separate thinking. As if spiritual things and thoughts and ways are separate from other ways. At the same time, we all know in some deeply felt way, when we are connected spiritually. It’s different from feeling anxious or afraid or depressed or overwhelmed. And the feeling of spiritual connection is different for each of us. Still, we all know the feeling. It’s a sense of belonging, of peace, of being safe in the moment – and not just safe, but feeling that we are enough, even loved. That’s inspiration. And when we’re in that space, we’re inspiring without even trying. The natural world – and like Gary always takes time to say, “that includes you” – is holding spiritual space all the time. Scientists just call it ‘space.’ We tend call it ‘outdoors’ or ‘wide open space’ or ‘nature’ but we can forget that it’s not separate from us. It’s who we are. This is again where stopping comes in. Every time we stop – really stop – and perhaps particularly out in nature, we feel that belonging, that sense of being and having enough, and that’s an orientation that can support all sorts of healing.
Gary: Some environmentalists these days like to dismiss individual recycling efforts, or turning the thermostat down, or picking up litter. If we’re to save ourselves, the thinking goes, we have to take big, bold steps aimed at the worst of the corporate polluters. Such small individual acts don’t matter. It’s true that we need big, bold steps. But thinking of it as an either/or situation is an illusion. Truth is, the kind of culture that would insist on those big, bold steps for the long term is going to be one made up of people who know the sacred aspects of the planet in their personal lives. When you pick up litter, you honor the Earth. When you recycle, you touch the long chain of connections that make up the products that sustain you. Such consciousness is for many a powerful part of spirituality. Helping to heal climate change is going to be a long journey, lasting many decades. And while clever technologies and smart regulations will be a big part of that healing, the energy and resilience needed to insist on those things in the first place, is ultimately driven by what we hold in our hearts.
Laura: Thank you so much to both of you for sharing your wisdom on Earth Day and for writing such a beautiful and enlightening book. I wish everyday was Earth Day, but I hold this space with hope that we will all find our way back home, connected once again with our holistic nature. Happy Earth Day!
Mary and Gary Closing: Thanks to you, Laura, for this opportunity. We keep learning with every conversation. That’s the thing about Full Ecology – it just keeps welcoming us, giving us chances to get closer to our truest human nature; and that’s our best hope for addressing climate change, as well as for passing along ways of thriving to the ones who follow us. And yes, Happy Earth Day!! Hope to see you at our virtual event! https://www.wildboundlive.com/events/walkinthewild