"Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble," wrote poet and world leader, Vaclav Havel before his death.
What happens when our systems really break, show their cracks and our foundations begin to crumble? How do we find the resilience, ingenuity, open-heartedness in our souls and in our collective heart to respond in new or generative ways?
What are the practices, as individuals and collectives, that sustain us during massive moments of change or throughout transitions, when that which we have known is no longer and the future is uncertain.
Tibetan Buddhist teacher Reginald Ray speaks about "discomfort" as an intensified form of intelligence. We tend to move away from discomfort because it is, well, uncomfortable. But in meditation practice it is something to explore and lean into because it has something to tell us about our emotions, our body, our ego - our deeper intelligences from which we are so often cut off. And as we practice, we encounter that part of our selves that is hardened or scared and we soften it through continual encounter.
What is practice? It's to show up even when you don't want to, to something that you might not be very good at. It is leaning into the edges of what we know and what we are comfortable with so that the edges soften and we grow into and beyond them. Practice is showing up to ourselves and to others - with our full presence - and even then, we might fail. But we get right back up and try again.
I am curious to know what are the practices of community which can hold, sustain and transform high levels of discomfort, fear and the terrible unknown of "what will happen to my family"? How do we work with the collective energy of dying and disintegration - especially in the West where we do not honour, but we fear, medicate and ignore death.
I ask this because I have been in the thick of the dying and the not yet-birthed. Since 2009, when I moved to Jerusalem, I've been witness to and participant in the Arab Spring and the protests in squares across Europe, which ricocheted across the Atlantic to Occupy and Idle No More... In Greece, we began in 2010 to host participatory conversations to bring people together as people faced shame and confusion about their own personal livelihoods, not yet connecting it to the collective collapse of their economic system -and the global one. It wasn't yet a conversation. Yet, ALL of it - beliefs and world views, the economy and governance structures, infrastructures, jobs, pensions and the ways people have been living were more visibly crumbling. There was no ignoring it, and so people were forced to face massive discomfort and live an emergence of the global economy they did not ask nor were they prepared for.
Our response was to invite people to come together, to come into conversation, to not be alone and to begin to see collective patterns that might be pathways forward. This became the founding of the SIZ - the Systemic Innovation Zone. We found through our many forums and trainings through the Art of Participatory Leadership that many Greeks had already started their own complementary currencies and time banks, and volunteer health clinics - but they didn't know about each other's ideas nor how to help each other - yet. The importance of creating spaces for citizens to come together not to solve problems but to be in and share their discomfort as well as their ideas, was crucial. Invitation and conversation held with deep intention and openness is a practice for transitional times.
Holding the paradoxes of emotions of hope and despair, grief and intimacy, anger and creativity seems to also be a critical practice for these times. It is incredible to witness the human ingenuity, compassion and open-heartedness in such close contact with violence, grief, anger and outrage.
Another is to b r e a t h e, to stop and slow things down. To re-locate from the stress of the outer world with an inner anchor point, to find the still points within ourselves and then begin again from there.
There are many practices~ and I am curious to know what else will emerge from this intense "transitional period" that is our new practice ground. If we are to imagine and then manifest a new way of living life together, on this earth, what practices help us access and re-member a wider and deeper spectrum of intelligences within and around us?
What are your collective practices for uncertainty and chaotic times?
How do you lean into discomfort, as a friend who has wisdom to share?