Tuesday, November 20, 2012
By all outward appearances, our world is in a time of profound contraction, a growing suspicion that the very social, economic and political foundations on which our society was built are crumbling around us. We all are touched in some way by this - by stalled access to credit, layoffs and furlows, trade deficits, growing debt, and shrinking housing values, incomes, and 401K’s, threats of austerity measures and cutbacks in public services. When humanity is faced with a time of contraction, much of the good work we engage in to uplift the world is put on the back burner – it, too, contracts at the very time we seem to need it the most. What takes center stage instead are activities such as self-protectionism, violent uprisings, hoarding, medicating and distracting ourselves with addictions of all kinds. There has been a perceptible and deliberate ratcheting up of angst and contention in the media, something which makes us forget that we are all in reality in this mess together. We are hearing a rising call for arming ourselves, for closing our borders, for distrusting anyone who doesn’t look like us or share our point of view. In other words, we are being taught, told, and coerced to fear and hate.
Learning Organization guru Peter Senge tells a parable about frogs placed in a pot of water on a stove. When the temperature is raised slowly enough, the frogs will fail to notice the change and will not leap out of the pot or notice that the pot is about to boil. When we find ourselves in hot water, we tend to have an expectation that our leaders will save us or that the economic ebb and flow will eventually return us to more prosperous times. Rarely do we take matters into our own hands and “leap out of the pot.” Usually things do eventually turn around. Somehow we know this time is different, that the system itself is deeply broken and that on many other fronts we have hit a profound crossroads for which there will be no simple answers or quick fixes. If ever there was a time to link hands and jump out of the pot, this is it.
Whether we look to ancient wisdom teachings, science, our own intuition, or modern metaphysics, we are learning that that what we are experiencing is part of a larger epoch, necessary contractions on the way to birthing a new humanity. Breakdown of the old paradigm is the ticket price to transformation. To those who can see the true opportunity at hand, the question becomes how do we move as smoothly and rapidly as possible to transformation? Nature’s iterative design offers many clues. One of the most obvious is to look at the human birth process itself. How do we cope with it, how do we hasten the process? What works and what doesn’t?
The Feminine comes onto center stage during the time of pregnancy and birth, taking the lead role in bringing to fruition a new life. Qualities of nurturance, receptivity, selflessness, compassion, and flexibility become essential. There is no direct use at this time for the masculine qualities of competition, assertiveness, productivity, aggression, and directiveness. The masculine stands for a time in the background while the feminine carefully brings forth the new creation. New parenthood is a time of transformation from adolescence where one’s skills are used in service to self, to adulthood where one discovers how he may be of service to others. As products of 6000 years of being stuck in what is essentially an adolescent culture, it is quite a leap for our world culture to place the masculine in the background for a time, allowing the feminine to lead the first giant steps towards our collective maturity. However, if we are interested in moving as painlessly as possible toward a new world, there is no better or more direct way.
So what does the feminine deeply know about coping with pregnancy and birth, and how can she advise us as we experience the monumental contractions of the emergence of a new age?
When a contraction comes, try to relax.
In Lamaze class we are told to focus inward on our breath rather than to resist contractions by bearing sown or screaming. Rhythmic breathing helps us to focus our attention on a quiet still point within, relaxing our body and mind and hastening the opening of the birth canal. Deep breathing provides more oxygen, feeding our bodies and giving us vitality and strength. Meditation, deep breathing, prayer, and stillness all help us to relieve stress and pain. When all in our world seems chaotic and negative, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to have a daily mindfulness practice to keep us centered, peaceful, and positive. In addition, mindfuless practice leads to a growing awareness that we are neither our egos nor our bodies. We become aware that who we truly are cannot be threatened or harmed by anything exterior to ourselves. As we come more in touch with our essence selves, we learn to trust the wisdom of all that is happening in our lives, and how it is ultimately here it to propel our growth and expand our consciousness.
Lashing out helps no one.
How many times do we hear stories of women in labor suddenly swearing like sailors? While it is understandable why someone would lash out at others when they’re in pain, it is obvious to see how pointless it ultimately is, and how it could cause further damage to the relationships we count on to keep us safe and secure. The rise in outrage, blame, and racism we are witnessing in the news is just that, a from-the-hip response to the growing sense of insecurity we are unconsciously feeling. Blaming or labeling others as “the problem” may temporarily provide a sense of distance and control over the problems at hand, but ultimately, the hatred we project will come back at us, perhaps in the form of increased terrorism, backlash, and violence. We make a bad situation worse when we accept none of the responsibility and take no action to improve things.
When our lives feel out of control, instead of letting our anger leak out unimpeded, we must discipline ourselves to do the exact opposite – to give to others what we wish to receive. Perhaps this is kindness, gentleness, respect, compassion, cooperation, security, peace, and trust. We can only attract what we have fostered within ourselves, and we can only give away what we have to give. So it is only someone with a peaceful, loving heart who can attract to themselves peace and love from others. Hatred is a poison which ultimately pollutes the one who is doing the hating, souring for them anything that could otherwise be pleasurable or nourishing. Times like these give us plenty of negative things to focus on. Yet there is always something good in our lives worthy of gratitude. Every moment is an opportunity to choose between constricting our hearts with hatred and blame, or expanding our hearts through forgiveness and gratitude.
Gather loving support around you.
Since ancient times, women instinctually gather around when a woman goes into labor. They offer comfort, nurturance, and support. They bring food to her family and do her chores. They watch the baby so the woman can rest and recover her strength. A time of birth is not a time to go off on your own, but a time to rest within a circle of support. We are in such times, a time to partner with others who possess complimentary abilities and needs. If our economic system were to completely collapse, it would not be the person who hoards food and guards it with a gun who will thrive, but the person who has gathered with others to combine strengths and skills to form a cooperative community. We each cannot do it all or know it all, but in community, we can increase the chances that our creativity and efforts will combine to help us to thrive.
Now is a good time to identify your support system and to engage in conversations about how you could work together as a cooperative community. If you don’t have a good support system, consider inviting others to start one with you. In addition, you could join a cooperative, time bank or Transition Town group where you can trade services with a broad community.
Know that this too shall pass.
Most moms gather strength from the fact that as excruciating as labor may be, they know that it will eventually be over and the result will be a much anticipated new life. The promise of the future gives us strength and resolve. It is difficult for us to imagine that the labor pains we are going through as a society will have an end, even more difficult to imagine that they will result in a wildly improved future. But we become powerful creators when instead of complaining, we spend our time gaining a clear picture of what it is we really want. When we gather with others to create a shared vision, this effect is multiplied. Whatever we focus on expands, so if we focus upon all that is wrong with our world, we will continue to get more of it. (Thus the saying, “You cannot simultaneously prepare for and prevent war.”) When we focus instead on what we truly want, we are well on our way to creating it.
Do not resist or try to hold back the inevitable
If you have ever been in labor, you know how difficult it is to resist the urge to push. Conversely, you know how automatic it is to tighten up with fear and angst when a contraction comes. The birth process has a natural flow to it – a time for letting go and a time for active participation. Our job is to sense the flow and to align with it rather than to work against it. We mustn’t forget that the ultimate purpose of a contraction is not to close up but to hasten expansion. This is true now for us. Economic contraction then is not ultimately about creating scarcity, but about hastening abundance. Our economic system is truly a vehicle which limits the common man, designed to benefit a few at the expense of the many. Who do you know who does not worry on a daily basis about how to pay for current expenses while saving for the future goals? How many people do you know who are working at a job they hate only because they feel they cannot afford to explore a career doing what they really love? So much human potential is wasted in service to the bottom line. More and more the American Dream seems like a carrot dangled before us only to distract us from the dismal treadmill we are on.
So much unnecessary human suffering is generated by an economic system which allows pockets of poverty alongside obscene wealth. It steals our sense of security and optimism and the masses find themselves spending more and more time trying to stave off the economic tide. If any of us were to design an ideal world, would any of us choose the economic framework we now have? If this system is facing imminent collapse, perhaps we should be celebrating its demise, just let it go. We could instead be investing our creativity in a new kind of economy which supports and uplifts humanity. As long as the old economic system is functional, it is difficult to anchor something better. Soon the time will be here to push, a time to throw our efforts into birthing the new world and the new economics, a void clearing the way for movement.
What do you really want? What would truly support human wellbeing, expansion, and happiness? Will you stand for that? Will you push for that when the time comes?