As part of Ubiquity’s Humanity Rising series, Peter Merry hosts Malcolm Stern, psychotherapist, author and the co-founder of Alternatives in the UK, the UK’s longest running weekly mind body spirit events company. Malcolm’s new book “Slay your dragons with Compassion” is being released this September. In the book, Malcolm explores practices for managing loss, informed by his daughter Melissa taking her own life in 2014 and how he coped. Building on that, Peter and Malcolm will go into some tools for thriving amidst the kind of instability and loss that we are facing individually and collectively as humanity today.
I have recently been reading the dialogues between David Bohm and Krishnamurti and have been particularly intrigued by their interactions around time and thought. A key part of volution theory (www.volutiontheory.net) is that linear time as an experience and construct is an inadequate expression of how life works. The concept of evolution itself is part of that linear mindset, hence my proposal that volution – that integrates linear and cyclical in the spin-based toroidal image – is a more encompassing way to describe our individual and collective development.Continue reading
I recently received two emails that triggered some reflection in me. One was from my Ubiquity colleague Dr. Will Taegel, Dean of the Wisdom School, who carries deep indigenous knowing as well as modern scientific perspectives. The other was from an Irish woman Anne Marie who had listened to this interview I gave about my upcoming book called The Pain and the Promise.
Will wrote to us about his perspective on the US Thanksgiving celebration. Here are some of his words:
I will follow the lead of the United American Indians of New England who in 1970 reframed this holiday to include a Day of Mourning. I will utilize Saturday as a day of fasting and mourning for the policy of extermination directed toward American Indians by the United States government. Over 600 formal treaties were broken along the trail of tears and dashed USA integrity. To this day we harbor a terrible national secret of systematic extermination, a denial that grinds at our innards. Until we face this secret our nation will continue as dysfunctional.
When I read it first it resonated with me as I recognized his perspective but it didn’t move me beyond that. A couple of days later I received the mail from Anne Marie. Here is an extract:
I have pondered today about why I was so stuck with my pain and come to the possibility that it is because, with access to racial memory, I am indigenous in my Ancestral lineage back to Neolithic times, colonised and then post modern. The colonised journey in the middle annihilated the indigenous self belief and the trust in what had gone before, and even with those parts restored the interface with the post modern is terrifying. A stranger in a strange land.
I worked with Joanna Macey 13 years ago at Findhorn in a Deep time workshop. We did the Truth Circle accessing the power where the pain is and that is when I was opened to it. Joanna moved on to an evening of celebration and lifting of spirits afterwards. I and two others could not lift. We were all three, women and the other two were South American Indian and Australian part aborigine. I am Irish.
[After listening to your interview] I feel healed just because another human being knows it too and can face the pain of the split and it’s consequences. It feels a joy now to go on and release it. Do you mind if I say thanks in Irish; Go raibh mile maith agut – just because it means there are a thousand goodnesses with you.
Her mail touched something deep in me. As I contemplated my reaction, I began to get a sense of where it was coming from. As primarily an Englishman (I also have ⅛ Irish and ⅛ Scottish blood), I have had to deal with what it means to embrace the identity of a nation that has created much suffering for others in the past – the colonial violence overseas as well as the oppression closer to home in Scotland and Ireland. I worked through much of this with my Irish friend Gavan and during my MSc in Human Ecology in Edinburgh many years back. In that period I found my peace by identifying with those movements in England that had resisted the enclosures and disempowerment – such as the Levellers, Quakers and Diggers – and by my commitment to work for a just and sustainable world today.
So what was touching me in Anne Marie’s mail? As I probed, I found that what moved me most was her words of thanks in Irish. It felt like something systemic was being healed in me through that. That set off a thought process.
The thought that started to form was the following: could it be that peoples who damage other peoples’ relationship to their land, their collective identity and core sense of belonging also have their own foundational belonging-system repressed which in turn is what enables them to continue to undermine that of others? (This relates to the “purple” energy dynamic, for other Spiral Dynamics geeks).
You see how this relates to Will’s points now. The implications would be that the oppressor nations are so damaged in their foundational energetic of belonging, which is what provides rest and relaxation in the embrace of the Mother, that they flee into a restless ungrounded pursuit to fill a deep hole in their own sense of themselves. That pursuit involves the ruthless exploitation of the external world around them in a desperate quest to quench a thirst that ultimately can only be satisfied through a healing of their own internal collective cultural trauma, in relationship with the place which is their natural home. Anne Marie, in a follow-up mail, wrote “That is what made them so frightening, there were no natural limits to what they would or could do. They were not in their bodies and their hearts were frozen.”
I have seen this reciprocal dynamic demonstrated explicitly at individual level during one of Lynne McTaggart’s events. She had a Russian scientist with her who was able to show the energy fields of two people on screens. When one person got angry at the other you saw the anger energy leave one person and hit the other, shaking their energy bodies. At the same time you saw how the same negative effect took place in the fields of the person expressing the anger. You literally do to yourself what you do to the other.
It is the “great” nations that have built empires and repressed native peoples in the process (e.g. England-Ireland, USA-native Americans, China-Tibet) who seem to have most lost touch with nature and the basic principles of life and are fueling our collective planetary demise. These nations and peoples – and there are many more than I have mentioned – need to acknowledge our past oppressive roles, apologize, and ask what we can do to heal any pain. At the same time we need to reconnect to the land that hosts us and ask for support in our own collective healing. For by harming others at their roots we have been made rootless and restless ourselves – a numbness that has allowed us to wreak the havoc that we have on this planet that is our home. Now we need to heal our relationship to those we oppressed and to that we repressed in ourselves, to be able to navigate our uncertain future with dignity, integrity and grace.
Books that helped me on this journey: The World Turned Upside Down, by Christopher Hill; The Progressive Patriot, by Billy Bragg
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“The ego … in its zeal to assert its independence, not only transcended the Great Mother, which was desireable; it repressed the Great Mother, which was disastrous. And there the Western ego demonstrated not just an awakened assertiveness, but a blind arrogance. … The Western ego did not just gain its freedom from the Great Mother; it severed its deep interconnectedness with her. … When the Great Mother [Purple] is repressed, the Great Goddess [Turquoise] is concealed. … And one may – it is a terrible realization – look in vain through Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religion for any authentic trace of the higher touch of the subtle Goddess herself. And that, we will see, would become a perfect and terrifying comment on an entire civilisation.” (Ken Wilber, Up from Eden – my additions in [square brackets] )
We are entering a new phase of our work and evolution as the CHE Netherlands, and it feels like this step we are taking is a fractal of the step the nation is being called to take, and indeed the planet as a whole.
During our retreat at the mid-point of the Fifth Day of the Galactic Underworld (May 22-23) – as the new consciousness really starts to take form in the mainstream and at the same time the shadow energy of the Fifth Night starts to seep in – we were called to a new step. It manifested in patterns such as the need to create clear structure, process, agreements etc, combined with a call to make explicit dissonance that we are feeling as individuals about the way the organisation might be shaping up, and about the way we are choosing to behave as individuals. The general theme was for more earthiness, realness, authenticity, clarity – basically “descending” energy as compared to the “ascending” energy that had been guiding us in recent months. The physical gestures that often accompanied the conversation included a strong slapping of the belly region!
At the beginning of the Fifth Day, we made a conscious choice to push outwards, expand, explore, diverge, ascend – and then to take stock in May. Now we are being called to put the foundations in place so that the many initiatives that are emerging can become rooted and fully manifest (descend).
At the same time as this was going on in the organisation, we have been confronted with a reality in the Netherlands of a very serious issue with the dikes. Marieke de Vrij, a highly respected intuitive, has been getting clear images the last couple of years of weaknesses in some of the key dikes. She had been going through the formal institutions (who had already tested her intuitive capacity and accepted its validity) until a couple of months ago, when she decided that they were not taking it seriously enough, were not moving ahead quickly enough, and did not seem to have the capacity to collaborate cross-institution to do what needs to be done. She decided to sound the alarm-bell in public, firstly amongst the more conscious population.
As she told us her story during the Dutch Confab (on May 29), we probed deeper into what it was in the Dutch psyche and soul that was preventing people from moving into action. She revealed a very significant characteristic, that I feel is not only Dutch-related, but connects to the dynamic that Ken Wilber describes for Western civilisation in the opening quote.
She said that the Dutch have a tendency to stay very much in the head and analytical domain, and that the whole belly and groin area is constricted and cramped. Given that we should move ourselves from that area, it means that there is a sort of action-paralysis, whereby people often find good reasons not to act. Sensing deeper, she explained how the amount of animal suffering in this country is truly unbelievable is you let it in (there was a programme on TV the other day showing young chicks going through a shredder). Somehow, we have managed to cut ourselves off from our sensitivity to the experiences of the animal world, and nature more broadly. That denial has as one consequence the paralysis of action.
In Spiral terms, you can see what she is describing as the transcendence and repression of Purple (the Great Mother Ken talks of above), which is leading to the lack of a solid foundation for the healthy expression of Red warriorship and creativity (to learn about these colour codes from Spiral Dynamics, click here). The way she described the Dutch dynamic was one wherein when people do act it tends to be fairly harsh action that creates turbulence around them, and so rather than act in that way, they hold back and don’t act at all. An emasculated culture. Without the embeddedness of the masculine Red action system in the feminine Purple sensing system, it cannot function healthily for the whole. In the Martial Arts, this is represented in the way you bow to each other, where the action hand is always held in the compassion hand.
One of the things I am initiating to help us engage this dynamic, is some Deep Ecology work, building on initial work by John Seed and Joanna Macy (more recently they refer to it as the Work which Reconnects). In this work, you really connect to the Great Mother, feel who you are as part of that, and listen deeply to what the rest of life is telling you at this time. There has been much critique of Deep Ecology work in the Integral community, mainly because it is not being seen in this evolutionary context. If it is used as a sort of romanticisation of a back-to-nature way of living, then it won’t necessarily serve the evolutionary impulse. If however it is used in a way to deal with the repression of the Great Mother that we have experienced in the Industrialised world (the burning of literally millions of women as witches is but one example of what is creating our collective pathology), then the consciousness that is brought to the process and participants is likely to help release the blocked energy from that repression so that we can move into rapid and effective action in the world.
Building on this insight, I got another one yesterday. I was watching the Trooping of the Colour for the Queen’s birthday in London on TV, and was deeply impressed by the powerful Purple and Blue systems at work. The discipline and commitment of those soldiers to manage to keep it all together was truly remarkable – many having just come back from duty in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It all made me feel a bit home-sick! When my Dutch wife returned, and we were watching the highlights in the evening with our 4-year old boy Finnlo (who loved it!), I was eulogising about the beauty and power of it, and she just could not resonate with it at all! That set me thinking…
The lack of healthy Purple over here is bound to have repercussions for the Blue system (Blue emerges out of Purple, under influence of Red). Blue is also a system that makes things happen – responsibility, commitment to a cause, discipline in the application – all things which I know Andrew Cohen laments as lacking in this country when he is over here. The reputation the Netherlands has as a liberal country reflects a more individualistic tendency – people can choose what they want to do. That freedom of choice, if not embedded in healthy collective systems, can lead to paralysis – and so we go full circle to the water issue. Healing the individual interior Purple and Blue, will create healthy and rapid action out of Red and Orange. Healing the collective interior Purple and Blue should enable the emergence of new systems in the collective to manage the life conditions threat that is now on the doorstep. Revitalised Purple and Blue will also lead to a functional Green where the capacity to engage the diversity in the nation is activated to enable the country to deal effectively with the complexity of the challenges it is facing.
So that’s it for now! Needed to get that down and out. I’m intrigued to know what the Cloggies reckon, and if there are others out there who see this also as a dynamic in their countries or communities.