Resonating with a more hopeful, regenerative future
Following on from Part 1 — Letter to the child of 2021 — I want to elaborate a little on how I am exploring the 3 prompts: cultivating presence to what’s alive inside of me; learning to connect to people, place and planet more deeply; and coming together with people to weave healing harmonies.
Cultivating presence to what’s alive inside of me
For me it has been helpful to explore this with Jung’s 4 Psychological Functions in mind — thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. My tendency has been to over-focus on thinking as a way of making sense of the world and my life and so I need to intentionally compensate for that with practices that help me experience more through my body which naturally aligns more with the other psychological functions. The current practices that are helping my exploration are:
- Cold-water swimming
- Mindfulness meditation
- Body-scanning meditation
- Journaling (and body journaling)
- Internal Family Systems therapy (an interesting therapeutic modality that views the mind as being made of relative discrete subpersonalities)
Learning to connect to people, place and planet more deeply
I enjoy myself most and connect to the present moment most effortlessly when I am sharing an experience. I can share that experience with people, but in my more serene moments I can soften personhood to extend beyond humans to include the animals, plants, rivers and mountains I encounter.
My current inspiration for help connecting with people more deeply comes from the Microsolidarity theory of groups, and groups of groups. This theory explores how groups can effectively organise themselves and what practices people can use to relate to each other at different scales. It suggests the most valuable group sizes to explore are the self, a partnership (2 people), a crew (3 to 6 people — roughly the amount of people who can sit round a table and hold one conversation), a congregation (30 to 150 people — which approaches the Dunbar number — a suggestion for the maximum number of people one person can maintain stable social relationships with) and a crowd (150+).
I am blessed with plenty of great people in my life to explore relational practices in 2 person partnerships. My friendship groups often coalesce into small crews but I feel my working life could hugely benefit from finding a crew of people to work on the same projects and experiments with. Something that is helping me understand how I might find this crew is being part of a few fantastic congregations, most notably Zinc Academy who have encouraged me to write this article.
My current place related practices include having a sit spot, a short walk from my house which I visit regularly to look over the River Dart (though I must admit I haven’t really sat there for a few weeks with the weather so cold). I’m also taking a horticulture and food growing course in April at a local community-supported agriculture project and I’m trying to connect more to the community of people in Totnes who spear headed the Transition Town movement that looks to make places more self-sufficient and in the process more resilient to the uncertainty of the future.
My planetary connection comes unintentionally in one sense, which is that as soon as I unlock my phone and head to Twitter or read the news I am digitally connected to many layers of the vast world around me, and intentionally in another sense in that I am trying to live a more regenerative, low impact lifestyle which connects me to our global environmental ambitions.
Coming together with others to weave healing harmonies
There are four approaches or movements that have been calling out to me as having a part to play in how I connect to this prompt. They are:
- Metamodernism — The most impactful book I have read in the last year has been Hanzi Freinacht’s The Listening Society. In it he explores what might be emerging to follow pre-modern, modern and post-modern worldviews and suggests a role for the metamodernist as a peace-maker helping these different worlviews co-exist by appreciating the values, drives and blind spots at the heart of each. For me Hanzi Freinacht’s most intriguing contribution so far has involved the mapping of a range of felt states that humans tend to experience and proposed that a metamodernist value is that we should look to maximise people’s time experiencing the higher felt states (feeling good, lively, joyous, vast, grand, blissful), and minimise people’s time experiencing lower felt states (feeling very uneasy, tormented, terrified, horrific). It’s sounds simple but for me there’s something undogmatic, non-judgmental, yet deeply moral about this proposition.
- Psychedelic-assisted therapy — In my time working in mental health I have been struck by how often stuckness comes up as a feature of people with poor mental health’s experience. Especially in my work with people experiencing anorexia I have met lots of people desperate to change but both scared and unable to do so. My reading and experience of psychedelic-assisted therapy so far has convinced me it can be a profound catalyst for change. It can help people approach their wounds more objectively and it can help them synthesise meaning from previously disparate, confusing experiences. Through this it can help them become unstuck: an opportunity to walk a different path often presents itself. I feel like the psychedelic-assisted therapy movement could be a profoundly healing movement but it is not and will not be without it’s share of controversy and concerns.
- Communing with nature — I believe our disconnection from nature both physically and psychologically has a hugely negative impact on our individual and collective mental health. It is no coincidence that the increasingly industrial, concrete backdrops to our lives have coincided with the proliferation of a mechanistic view of the universe as well as of the human mind and body. With this mechanistic view of the world it is easy for life to feel inert and meaningless. Rewilding the land and rewilding our hearts brings back meaning into our lives as we once again resonate with nature — the rich context from which we have arisen and depart.
- The Regenerative Renaissance — The last renaissance ushered in an age of individualism that has helped us explore the universe in innumerable ways. As we reach real boundaries and thresholds of the systems that maintain the conditions for human life on this planet it is time for a renaissance that combines what the age of individualism has taught us with the acknowledgement that we live in a world where everything is fundamentally interconnected. Our actions have consequences so we must live like that is the case.
Regarding metamodernism, I have mapped my felt states over a period of 3 months and intend to write an article exploring the results.
Regarding psychedelic-assisted therapy I am speaking to the Imperial College London Centre for Psychedelic Research on Tuesday about how I might help with their study looking at how psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy may help those experiencing anorexia nervosa.
Regarding communing with nature I am in the process of assisting two local groups that are part of a Woods for Wellness project — one holding council circles and the other running a six-week nature bathing course for people with depression. I am also working as a kitchen porter at Embercombe, a 50-acre rewilding estate where people come to reconnect to nature.
Regarding the Regenerative Renaissance I have been working on a project for those overwhelmed by environmental concerns about small, personal steps towards living more in line with their values called The Next Right Thing, as well as joining the SEEDS community.
I have lots of ideas but I don’t often share them and this stops them from developing past a certain point. I keep them close and play with them by myself. The moment they come near to external review I move on to the next idea and project. I can see now how that’s come from my schooling, how I unwittingly put too much of my self-worth on the line when presenting a piece of homework for marking. This has limited me for too long and I am choosing to climb the next mountain which involves learning to share my ideas and hear other people’s ideas on the topic in return, so that I can expand and develop my understanding of, and relationship to, the topic.
Therefore, the next right thing for me to do now is to speak to lots of other people about what connects and disconnects them from feeling hopeful about the future.