On the first full moon of this year, 43 of us gathered on the southwest coast of Australia to spend a complete lunar cycle on a journey together into deep time. The event, organized by the Gaia Foundation in Perth, was called "Seeds for the Future: Deep Time, Lunar Time, Dreamtime."
Imagine stepping aside from the pressures of daily life and, amidst the wild beauty of ancient coastal forest, opening to a wider time frame from which to see the perils and promise of this historical moment. Imagine taking 30 days, together with fellow activists from three continents, and using the Work that Reconnects, arts, drama, silence and ritual--along with reports on key issues (like genetic engineering, nuclear build-up, end of oil)--to call our larger, ecological self into play, to rediscover the gifts of the ancestors, and to learn what coming generations need us to do.
You're not the same after such a journey. For me the changes seem too deep and inward to describe, though I notice an easing in my heart, a clarity in perception, and a spontaneity in teaching that feel new to me. Still it's hard to talk about what happened; so I'll borrow the words of others who were there, and better than I in reporting to their friends.
From John of Perth, co-founder of the Gaia Foundation:
"(It was) a most significant event in the history of the Work that Reconnects--an important part of the attempt to shift from the cancerous Industrial Growth Society and its hypnotic trance, to a genuine Life Sustaining Society of the future. This Great Turning is necessary not only for human survival, but also for the survival of complex life on Earth. It effectively means the transition from a civilization built upon limitless consumption, and the greed, fear, hatred and delusion associated with that, to (one) built upon radical generosity, courage, love and truth. The depth of our current difficulties means that we humans, as a species, will be required to take 'the longest stride of soul folk ever took,' as Christopher Fry showed...
"The ego-locked self-reflexive consciousness of us individuals must be recognized as a transitional, not the ultimate stage of evolution--We urgently need awareness on a planetary scale of a larger evolutionary and ecological self. The appearance of this larger Self is a necessary condition to secure the survival of human life on planet Earth."
From Emma, young activist in refugee and women's rights:
"We came together as "seeds," intent on recognizing our inherent potential, and emerged a month later as seedlings, tender yet strong, nourished by the courage, honesty, insight and compassion that overflowed within the group. We held each other through the longest, darkest hours of the human soul: we dove into the wellsprings of our grief and despair--our fears that there'll be nothing left for our children's children--and we emerged on the other side, celebrating together our strength and solidarity, and our place in the 'family of things.'
"The process led us from the microscopic lens of the present moment to the vast expanse of deep time. We traveled back in time to learn from our ancestors, we traveled forward to consider the viewpoint of future generations, and we applied ourselves to the excruciating detail of what is happening right now: the political repression, the corporate globalisation, the oil-addiction, the nuclear madness. We voyaged within in search of stillness, and we explored our greater being as a part of the living system we know as Earth. We traversed the diverse landscape of human emotion: we wept, raged, laughed, howled, loved and grieved.
"When we weren't in teachings, we were celebrating, sharing, or quietly reflecting, with a renewed awareness of the joy of being alive. We hugged, we danced, we talked late into the night. We slept under the stars and swam by the light of the moon. We had theatre groups, singing groups, discussion groups, training sessions. We had excursion days and days of silence. We had precious time with the local aboriginal custodians of the land, who welcomed us into their hearts and home and took us to the sacred mountains where their ancestral spirits abide.
"The point of all this catharting and connecting was to empower us, to give us strength and resources to work toward a life-sustaining alternative to the self-destroying 'industrial growth society.' Grounded in Buddhism and systems theory, Joanna's work provides a theoretical and extremely practical framework for this shift, which comes from within, through facing our enormous fear and despair and awakening to our fundamental interconnectedness. It is based on the understanding that activism and spirituality are inextricably intertwined.
"The retreat was an opportunity to deepen our spiritual practice, to get informed about new issues, to learn new skills. Every day there were countless possibilities for challenging yourself or stepping into a new role...
"So what did I come away with? To sum it up in one short sentence: a previously unimaginable inner strength. It gave me the most incredible range of skills, ideas, support, and motivation. It gave me 41 companions on my way, to support and be supported by. And it allowed me to face my darkest fears about the suicidal trajectory of human 'progress.' It didn't give me renewed hope for the future of our civilisation. If anything, our unflinching gaze dashed the little I had had. At the same time, though, it gave me a profoundly different appreciation of what it means to be alive, to be human, to be a part of this Earth and connected to all of its beings. It helped me to understand that the very existence and wonder of life is a cause for celebration. And most importantly of all, it allowed me to realise the simple and complete integrity of working creatively towards a life-sustaining society. This is not a goal-oriented activity. It is an end in itself."
From Jenny of Germany, peace studies graduate and organic farm worker:
"The magic circle is at the Cove in Denmark (Western Australia), where I spent one lunar cycle to explore time, communication with nature, diving into my grief and growing into my true self, healing in every moment...
"Imagine yourself in a beautiful rainforest, right at the beach, pelicans are flying above you and you see the sunrise over Honeymoon Island. You welcome this new day, knowing you will share it with 40 other humans, who care for our planet Earth...
"You share your gratitude of being alive, what makes your heart sing, with the others to prepare yourself for the information of the suffering of the world, which you are about to receive. You listen to talks and go through different exercises about nuclear waste and weapons, the end of oil, genetically modified food, child soldiers, the war on terrorism, dying species, climate change and much, much more.
"Grief flows through you, cracks your heart open and takes you into deep pain, but at the same time you feel deep relief, because no longer do you have to pretend that everything is alright. You live through the pain, feel the healing of it and come out of it ever more compassionate.
"You dive into your creativity, perform a theatre piece on nuclear waste for the future beings, paint, sing, play music and write poems.
"You explore nature and the sacred sites of the Aboriginals who have welcomed you to their country.
"You sleep under the stars and welcome a new day standing in the water naked, the sun in one hand and the moon in the other.
"At new moon you walk the labyrinth, facing your death, watching yourself coming apart, making space for new things to arise.
"You look into another human's eyes, recognizing each other, knowing that you have spent many lives together and finally found each other again...
"You awaken to the new person, your new name you've grown into: Touching the Moment."
These last words of Jenny's remind me to tell you that at the halfway point in our 30-day journey, as we moved into the Dark of the Moon, a ritual shedding of our old identities occurred. My colleague Bobbi led us in a process of writing our names and many roles onto stringed labels, which, with considerable laughter, we were then tied up in so thoroughly we could hardly move. At the last moment before we dispersed, we were cut free, and told that in the next day's silent solo in nature, we would find new names. Names with verbs. Jenny received Touching the Moment. My new name is Peeling Karri, which won't make much sense to you if you're unfamiliar with the gorgeous gleaming, silvery golden trunks of tall Karri trees as their long strips of bark peel off.
Soon after coming home I read a recent speech by one of my teachers Richard Heinberg, author of Powerdown. His words echoed and affirmed our experience at Seeds for the Future. "In essence," he said, "we must plant the seeds for what can and will survive, for a way of life as different from industrialism as the latter is from the medieval period, a way of life whose full flowering we ourselves may never see in our brief lifetimes"
"It is probably optimistic," he went on to say, "to think that (this message) will be understood by more than one or two percent of the population. However, if that seed nucleus of the total citizenry really gets it, we may have a chance. We all know what seeds are capable of."
Yours in glad solidarity,