In this section of the Joyality Program you will learn how to connect with the nature that is within you instead of “out there” and will begin to deconstruct the culturally supported atomized view of the self as a satellite disconnected from everything and everyone around it. You will also learn how to engage effectively with “negative” information about what’s happening in the world, and finally, how to communicate effectively and compassionately about it to others.
Here’s a fun exercise to get you warmed up.
Try this: Natural Symbol Play (Connect!) 15mins
Not only are we connected to nature through symbols, our everyday lives are embedded within strong biological, ecological and evolutionary systems – even though we are unaware of them most of the time! Our biology determines so much of our behaviour: our rhythms of sleeping and waking, of eating and drinking; our needs to be social, find a mate, to create families, to feel emotional connection and warmth, to fiercely protect what is dear to us. Whether or not we live in or near natural areas, we are part of ecological systems including the water cycle, the atmosphere and the soil, and we are always affecting the health of plants and animals by our everyday life choices. Both negatively and positively! As a part of these ecological systems, we are evolving through time, finding ourselves right here and now at this point in history. The process of evolution on planet Earth is a magnificent process of unfolding greater and greater complexity, marked by challenges and disturbances, but always emerging in new ways and beautiful forms. We are a part of that process!
As human beings, we have an inbuilt psychological need to identify with something larger than ourselves – to belong to a group, to be a part of something that extends beyond the narrow boundaries of our physical bodies and our personal lives. As our societies have drifted – or in many cases been dragged – away from the Earth, away from natural cycles which structure and nurture our lives, away from the sources of our food and water and the things we buy, and away from genuine community, many of us have lost touch with where we belong and what our lives mean in relation to everything else that is happening in the world. We have rapidly removed ourselves from the context of our evolution, the natural world, and we have replaced it with a superficial reality that is deeply, if perhaps vaguely, unsatisfying.
Our mainstream culture encourages us to identify primarily as consumers – we are, ubiquitously and subconsciously, told that is our main purpose. Throughout our lives we may be all too familiar with this story: go to school, get good grades, go to a good university, get more good grades, get a good job, make lots of money, work hard, make more money, buy lots of things with that money, including a big house and expensive holidays, take lots of pictures of your perfect life and post them on social media….whew! Exhausting. And, ultimately, unsatisfying and un-joyful.
One of the reasons that this “modern” life is so unsatisfying is that it operates in a kind of alternate reality vacuum. It ignores and discounts our history as a species, causing us to lose our larger perspective of who and what we are.
“The atoms that make up the human body are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures, and then collapsed and exploded, scattering their guts across the galaxy…We are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, the universe is in us. There is a level of connectivity, and that’s really what you want in life. You want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel that you are a participant in events and activities going on around you. That’s precisely what we are just by being alive.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
Try this: Elemental Being Meditation (Connect!) 20 mins
By practising this kind of nature meditation – whether as a full practice or just as a momentary “ah-hah” moment in the middle of the day – we realise that we are connected to nature wherever we are! We are never actually alone, isolated, disconnected … even if that’s how we might feel. We can source the joy and relaxation of “being in nature” just by being with our own “inner nature”. This is a great foundation for facing life’s personal challenges; caring for yourself; and being courageous enough to stay engaged with the state of the world. We are as magnificent and mysterious as nature is!
** Try this: Get the Whole Story (Stay Awake!) 40mins
A common resistance to getting involved in raising awareness about issues that we care about is “it’s not my place to tell other people what to do”. There is a stigma around activism that it is about “telling other people what to do” or being “preachy”. Most of us have probably had the experience of walking down the street and being approached by people holding clipboards and monthly donation sign ups saying things like “do you want to save starving children?!” or “don’t you care about drowning polar bear cubs?!”. These are questions that provoke guilt and defensiveness and usually prompt us to avoid eye contact, keep our heads down and walk fast. Of course I care about starving children and drowning polar bear cubs!!!
It’s safe to say that if any one of us had a magic wand we could wave to make these problems go away we would, but the reality is that solving these global issues will take a massive shift in our priorities and lifestyles. Because of this, talking about the need for these changes can be a touchy subject, especially in the Western world where we know we are consuming vastly more than our fair share of resources and making a much larger impact on the planet than anyone else. If we want to change people’s values and behaviors, if we want to actually get through to them, we have to be very conscious of how we communicate about the issues.
The environmental movement in particular has a tendency to just throw information at people, believing that if only people knew about melting polar ice caps or could see the effects of oil spills on wildlife they would do something, they would change. The reality is that too much information, or information that is too hard to absorb because it is so awful or so at odds with our modern lifestyles, causes people to freeze, to shut down, to avert their eyes and walk quickly by. The good news is that there are many compassionate, inclusive and inspiring ways to talk to people about how we can change our perspectives, lifestyles and choices to help make the world a more sustainable more just place.
Try this: 5 Tips for Effective Communication (Act!) 30mins
In order to be a compassionate and effective communicator, it is also important to understand the different modalities we use communicate with each other about issues we care about, and to recognize our own communication strengths and weaknesses. The 5 tips we just explored can be used in just about any modality you chose.
Try this: What’s Your Mode of Communication? (Act!) 15mins
Now that you have explored different ways of communicating about issues and inspiring change, we hope that you feel more comfortable and more empowered to communicate with friends, family, your community, and the world about what you are passionate about and how you would like to see change happen.
“The world needs your thoughts and voice.”
– Joseph Reser
Communicating your vision for change to others helps you clarify it, brings up new ideas, and helps you feel supported and empowered to act. After all, having an inspiring vision isn’t enough if you don’t spread that vision. If Gandhi had simply sat in his room spinning his own clothes and fasting quietly, or if Martin Luther King Jr. had not spoken of his Dream to the world, their visions for change would not have been able to bring together and inspire such revolutionary transformation. It is our suspicion that there are many, many people in the world today who want things to change, they just aren’t talking to each other about it. Let’s change that!