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Going to Ground

Last week on my podcast, I talked about the path of descent.

I live in the United States, a culture obsessed with ascent. With striving. Climbing. Achieiving. Every person a demi-god, a star waiting to be discovered, a lord over their dominion.

The problem is that this narrative, this meta-story that we have laregly swallowed hook, line & sinker, is a delusional story that ultimately leads to the collapse of our eco-systems, and all other systems.

Nothing else on this planet imagines itself a lord, conquering all other life. Except maybe cats....but that's another post for another time. ;)

On this planet, resources are finite. In the natural flow of life here, the waste of the life process of one creature becomes food or medicine or shetler for another creature. Creatures communicate fluently with one another between species. This is especially true of plants and pollinator species, but it seems to be true of many other species as well. Not only do they communicate clearly with one another within the same species, but they are participating in an inter-species community in ways that we (modern science) are just beginning to understand (but has been understood by indigenous cultures forever).

Man has taken this delusion of superiority and exile from the web of life to the most extreme extent possible. We are hostile and guarded from one another, and we actively destroy ecosystems to build more box stores and parking garages and suburban developments, with very little thought to how this is effecting the rest of the sentient community of which we are a part.

We do not descend into the web of life to consider how our existence impacts the rest of our kin. Instead, we accumulate and amass and ascend.....sitting atop our hoards as imagined lords of convenience and luxury and pleausre. At least, this is the "dream" we have been sold. But how does the fruition of the dream really feel in our body? You see, our bodies are animals, like it or not. Our bodies need the same things that all animal bodies need on this earth. It is just our cerebral cortex that has given us this strange and powerful gift of being able to imagine ourselves to be more than animals, and to create technologies and complex stories about power and control to keep us firmly rooted in our delusion of separation and dominion.

Most of us are feeling pretty shitty, honestly. We are anxious, depressed, inflamed. Our brains are foggy. We are exhausted but can't sleep. We eat but we can't digest. We are also consuming huge amounts of information without digesting it. In Ayurveda, these accumlated byproducts of digestion that cannot be assimilated are called Ama, and they are the primary source of disease and imbalance in the body.

The foods we eat are inflammatory, the media we consume is inflammatory, the lack of movement and sunlight and natural surroundings are inflammatory. We are suffering from the end-result of this story that convinces us of our superiority, our specialness, our invincibility. And it is truly all delusion.

The truth is that we are animals. Our bodies need sunlight, fresh air, living water, food that the body recognizes as actual food (whole, unprocessed fruits, veggies, proteins and grains). We need light that our body recognizes as light (not fluorescent, not screen, not TV light). We need sounds that our bodies recognize as sounds. Birdsong. Thunder and rain. The murmur of community life. We need touch. Let me say that again. We Need Touch. Infants die without being touched. We need eye contact. We need to be seen, cared for, understood. We need a story that allows us to be unique and successful in a way that contributes to the world around us. Not just to amass our hoards of cars and plastic trinkets and trips to places where we can amass photos and facebook check ins. Our successes need to actually, tangibly benefit the web of life around us-human and non-human. This is what gives life meaning and purpose.

We go up the ladder so that we can see with a greater persepective, and then bring that persective back down and within, to live life in a way that is wise, informed and connected. Our astronauts talk about the life-changing perspective of seeing all life held on that one blue ball shrinking into the distance. It is frequently a spiritual experience for them. We are all connected, bound to one another on this finite planet hurtling through space.

I spend a lot of time listening to trees and mushrooms and plants. They are not delusional. They deeply understand the heights and the depths. They deeply understand interconnectedness. They are striving toward balance, at all times. Through the path of descent, going down close to the ground, going deeply within these bodies (rather than spending all of our time in the fiction of these human constructed systems we have created), we are able to make contact with what is essential. What is truly real. Not contrived or designed to separate and control, but what is truly and oberservably real.

Clean water is essential, for everything. Clean air is essential, for everything. Healthy soil is essential, for everything. Greenspace is essential, for everything. Community is essential, for everything. These are truths. The stock market is not a truth. Health insurance is not a truth. Money is not a truth. We have made these things real by our belief in them, and the consequences we have created for those who do not have access to them. But they are human-made constructs. Which means that we have ultimate power over them. They are only stories that we have told ourselves.

When we can descend, we can begin to deeply understand the true meta-story of life on Earth. And then we can wisely recreate our systems to mirror the truths that are universal and undeniable for all things that exist on this planet with us. This, to me, is the only sane way forward. To rewrite our stories with undeniable truths at their center. Truths that emerge from fungus and rivers and old growth forests and our children.

Until we reach critical mass and make these shifts collectively, we can do our part to make them personally. We can care for our animal bodies to make them safe and healthy and connected to the ecosystem. We can learn from the ecosystem we live in. Where does your water come from? What animal species share your home with you? We can turn off artificial lights earlier in the evenings to allow our brains time to unwind before trying to sleep. We can eat seasonally and locally. We can get to know our neighbors. We can refuse to allow artificial stories to divide us, and control us. We can spend time with the plants, with the rivers, with the birds. And we can listen and watch, and remember the truths from them. They have never forgotten our place here. They are waiting patiently for us to remember.

It seems obvious that humans have emerged out of the landscape with a very unique function. I believe that we have lost the thread that ties our function to the world around us. Most indigneous cultures believed that humans emerged as stewards and partners with life, to co-create in harmony with the rest of life. We would feed the world with our songs and our stories. Our grief and our laughter echoed through the web of life, adding nuance and elevating the possibilities for all life here. But our songs and stories have become only an echo, reaching the web of life as shards of glass that tear and destroy rather than harmonize and heal.

We can find our way back, because in truth we have never left. We are nature. The great mind that turns leaf rot to soil and guides salmon on their spawning and monarchs on their migration is also working in us with the same wisdom and power. We have only to get quiet and listen, and we will be quickly guided back into right relationship and embraced by the world that we have alienated ourselves from.


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