Thursday, January 29, 2015

Is the Big Breakdown-Breakthrough Moment Almost Here?

I'm sure most of the people who would read my blog have heard of Charles Eisenstein, who is very hot on the circuit these days. I have been following his posts with interest, particularly because I feel his work on "the new story" is in alignment with Enough. But I've noticed something else. He is yet another prominent person who is admitting he does not have a clear vision of the way forward.  In a 3 post series he shares the story and aftermath of a near mutiny at his retreat in Bali.   He is supposed to be the expert, people are coming to him for answers he does not have. They are angry and frustrated. They want him to take charge of the group.  Through his posts, he is trying to come to terms with not knowing how to fix it and how to find the silver lining, the breakdown-breakthrough.  I witnessed a similar near-mutiny at the New Story Summit at Findhorn in late 2014 during which "mutineers" in the middle of the night had littered the stage with post-it notes spelling out "We don't know."  I use the term mutineers lightly because I believe they were divinely inspired truth-tellers, people who were courageous enough to face their uncertainty, discomfort and pain and to name it.  

Last winter, Margaret Wheatley was having what seemed like an existential crisis of her own, so went on extended retreat at Pema Chodron's convent up in my neck of the woods.  She wrote that she was losing faith in humanity as not much had changed since she first wrote Leadership and the New Science.  I predicted the fall of the expert paradigm when I wrote the  "Expert to Essence" section of my book three years ago. But it seems to be happening now with increasing public regularity.   These are tough times to be an expert, particularly in the higher consciousness community for which the expert paradigm is quickly losing relevance.

I know by all outer measures, the world seems pretty grim right now, and change seems to be happening far too slowly to meet the enormity of the challenges we face.  But I see every reason for us to feel optimistic about the future because I am looking in different places, the places that I believe birth the future and offer the kinds of solutions we cannot even imagine yet.   I see that much has changed in the subtle (causal) realm and feel the pulse of the spiritual women's movement quickening significantly just beneath the surface. I witness profound inner and outer breakthroughs every day in those who are dedicated to their spiritual growth. I see thriving social movements and green businesses finding firmer footing and more fans.  I see people moving out of jobs and relationships that no longer fit. I see people being less materialistic and more introspective. I see technology making it cheaper and easier for people with similar visions of the world to come together and to collaborate. But perhaps the greatest breakthrough is in our increasing ability to directly access what Rumi called "the field" and Rupert Sheldrake called "the morphogenetic field."  Ideas that come from this place are fully, instantaneously formed. They come from outside the box of our current Never Enough mindset, instead drawing from the well of abundant enoughness and connectivity.   One small example of this:  it is from this place that the Enough Message © came to me.

Despite acknowledging that the Enough Message was accessed from this divine field of awareness,  I still cannot assess the Enough Work without obvious bias. I have been its scribe and guinea pig for three solid years, so have a personal relationship with it that disqualifies me from possessing true objective perspective.    But I've never felt a more opportune moment for the simplicity and optimism of the Enough Message. From what I understand about the Enough Message, it is not complicated what we need to do to flip the paradigm.  All we lack at the moment is a simple common focal point for action, a shorthand if you will, a way to feel we are all in this together. The 60's had the peace sign. We need the equivalent of a peace sign for our present time.   I get a strong feeling that Enough could be that symbol because it is not a prescription but an inner, personal assessment of ourselves and the world.  Your enough is not my enough, so defining Enough invites participation, relationship and co-creativity.    At a time when even the experts are doubting themselves and some of the most popular TED speeches are about shame and vulnerability, I think we may very well have reached the breakdown-breakthrough  - the "enough is enough" - moment where "I'm not enough" is so intensely painful and so in our collective experience, that we are ready to do something radically different to shed it for good. 

In his post below, Charles searches for an answer to the question, "What should we do?" I love his description of how we cannot seem to find peace with whatever we try to do, and why, no matter how hard we try, we feel that we are failing.  I would add to his vivid map of the "I am not enough and am not doing enough" landscape, that the game is rigged by the Old Never Enough Story itself.  I would suggest that  believing "I am not enough and am not doing enough" is the cause of our ineffectiveness and not merely a symptom. Our embeddedness in the Never Enough belief system is like finding ourselves in a pool of molten tar. From within it, we cannot move far or quickly. But who is to say how quickly and effectively we would be able to take action from outside of it?  For most of us, the "not enough" limiting mental model of ourselves takes root long before we even reach kindergarten and certainly long before we have the capacity to challenge its validity. And so we ingest its poison without even knowing it, limiting our potency and effectiveness as change agents despite all our efforts, insights and good intentions.

Enough as a new sign of unity could express a refusal to internalize "never enough" disempowerment, victimhood and disenchantment ever again.  Enough could be a statement of conscious divestiture from old structures and old systems that abide by an exploitative, destructive  "Never Enough" ethic. But the most powerful potential for Enough as a symbol of unity is when we use it to claim and define the beautiful vision that we do want - enough for ourselves, enough for our communities AND enough for our planet. If we claimed this more complete, whole enough as a group, and held governments, companies and institutions to OUR standard, the world would have to meet us where we are - in a place of expanded consciousness where we only choose to be in relationship with people and institutions that pay it back and pay it forward.

See Charles' most recent post below.  (red accent added by me):  
Previous posts in his series:

Wasting Time

I'd like to comment on one of the responses to my piece about the breakdown followed by the powerful emergence at the retreat in Bali. The commenter said:

I haven't read the full story but my thought is this. Why are they wasting time moaning about the cutting down of the forests, and use that 4 days reflective time to stop it fucking happening? And use the money that they have spent getting there to buy some of it?

I quote this, because it is a question I ask myself every time I lead a retreat, or even speak at a two-hour evening event. It is also a question many of the participants are wrestling with. They are not, by and large, New Age spirituality addicts seeking an easy escape from engaging with the problems of the world. Quite the contrary: many of them are seasoned activists in environmental and social justice issues, sometimes (like the rainforest ecologist) with decades of experience. They come to this inquiry for much the same reason I do: dissatisfied with the methods and the failures of their movement, they sense a far greater potency is possible.

With few exceptions, anyone who has grown up in the dominant civilization is deeply programmed with the same story of self, theory of change, and habits of perception that are also responsible for ecocide and social injustice. That is why simply trying harder, putting more effort into doing what we have been doing, is unlikely to produce different results. After doing that for a while, we burn out. That is when the deeper inquiry begins; that is when invisible programming comes visible and is available to be changed.

At risk of being presumptuous, I hazard to guess that the comment above comes from a place of frustration and helplessness with which I am much familiar. We want to do something about the unfolding horror, but what? The jaded activist has an easy rebuttal to any suggested course of action.

Sign a petition? A submissive act that reinforces and validates existing power relationships; a useless exercise in self-righteousness that picks a single fashionable issue from among a million, which, even when the petition succeeds, leaves the system unchanged while lulling us into thinking we're actually "doing" something.

Donate to an NGO? What, and contribute to the infamous NGO-industrial complex that depends for its very survival on the continuation of the problems it supposedly seeks to solve? And which has grown too cozy with its ostensible opponents in the corporate and political sector?

Join a protest march? Do you mean the permitted kind, which feeds the mainstream media discourse about how wonderful our society is for allowing free speech? Or the spontaneous kind, which is usually crushed before it even begins?

Engage in direct action and civil disobedience? Sure, now you're going to feed the narrative of a few disgruntled extremists - then go to jail and congratulate yourself on being a martyr for the cause (if only anyone were paying attention.)

Start an organization? Yet another one, you mean, competing for funding, members, and mailing lists with a hundred thousand other organizations?

Buy up threatened rainforests? If only it would be more than a drop in the bucket. If only the government there would allow foreigners to own land. If only illegal loggers cared who owns it. If only something as flimsy as property rights couldn't be swept away by eminent domain should the government, at the behest of "investors," decide to develop its "natural resources."

OK, enough of that. My point in quoting the jaded, burnt-out activist is not to disparage any of the above tactics, all of which, I believe, have their utility. My point is that there are usually no easy answers. Accordingly, it is hard to know whether "doing something about it" is actually doing something about it, or if it merely satisfies an emotional need to believe that one is doing something about it.

Sometimes, whether in our personal lives or in our work as change agents, we come to a point of "I don't know what to do." At such a time, to continue going through the motions of previous doing is usually counterproductive. Why? Because the "I don't know" comes from a realization that whatever I've been doing isn't working, or isn't working well enough. That is the moment to sit back and ask why.

Part of the process of uncovering why is a phase of hopelessness and despair. It seems that the world will never change, that the powers-that-be are just too powerful, that our efforts will never be enough. After all, look how hard we tried. We gave everything, and still it wasn't enough. So we fall into helplessness, victimhood, and blame. Maybe it is those other people, those myopic self-interested greedy idiots who just don't care.

But then, the conscientious person begins to wonder, Is my blame and victim story obscuring something in myself I have been unwilling to see? How have I been sabotaging and limiting myself? What beliefs about change are a product of my indoctrination in this culture and not the truth? How have I been perpetrating by my actions the same things I seek to overthrow? Why is my organization a microcosm of the same dysfunctional system that rules the planet? How is the world mirroring back at me my own inner ecocide and inner oppression? What can change in me, that would allow me to be as effective as those inspiring individuals I so admire?

It is questions like these that launch people on a journey of inner and interpersonal development. (They are not abandoning the cause or indulging in New Age narcissism.) That journey can be scary, for most of us harbor an inner cynic who, echoing the words of my commenter, demand that we do something about it - now! Don't waste time in moaning or self-reflection. There is no time to waste! Do you know how many trees were cut down while you were reading this essay? Perhaps you recognize that inner monologue, as well as the hortative tactics it mirrors, as an example of a failed approach to change-making, as a subtle echo of the domineering relationship to the Other that has brought society and the planet near to ruin.

I hope, my dear reader, that it is clear that I am not saying, "Don't take action." If I am saying anything beyond "I don't know what to do," it is to warn against reflexively acting from an urgent need to seem to be doing something. And also, to invite us all to trust the impulse to look inward, to do work on oneself, to accept that by healing the inner dimension of oppression and ecocide, we can become more effective at healing the outer as well. And perhaps sometimes, yes, to moan about the destruction, to let in the grief and the anguish, and especially to be witnessed in it in community.

All of this, surely, can proceed alongside continuing action, but often we require an empty space, a retreat, a time of non-doing in order to deprogram ourselves from old habits. We can trust ourselves to know when that moment has come in life, and also to know when that moment has ended, bringing a shift in perception, a new experience of self, and an expanded awareness of what is possible.  

Laurie McCammon is a planetary change agent, blogger, facilitator and author of Enough!How to Liberate Yourself and Remake the World with Just One Word, published  by Conari Press, out  April 1, 2016.  You can contact Laurie with comments at, Like LaurieMcCammon on Facebook or follow her on Twitter at @EnoughMessage

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