Two weeks ago, I posed this question to many of you: “Name at least one feature of the kind of world you aspire to live in.” I found your answers to be inspiring. For one thing, there was so much consistency. Here are the seven most popular responses, in order:
Creativity and Play
In 24 hours, I received 100 responses. What you described for me is your vision of utopia. When Thomas More came up with this term, utopia, he meant it as a pun because it could be derived from one of two Greek words meaning either a “good place” or “no place.” Our ideal society may exist only in our imagination, but that is where all human creations begin. If we cannot envision it, we most certainly cannot create it.
The good news is that we can come up with a fairly cohesive vision of the kind of society and world we want to create. It took a day for all of you who took part in my informal survey to paint a picture of this ideal place. I believe that if we assembled a global council charged with the task of generating a utopian vision for our planet, we would arrive at consensus about its basic qualities, which would include most if not all of the features you identified in your responses.
The bad news is that this utopian vision seems unattainable to most of us. In a separate survey, I asked for your take on the following statement made by comedian George Carlin a few months before his death: “It’s circle-the-drain time for humans.” The vast majority of you agree with Carlin’s position that the demise of our species is inevitable.
Why is that? The problem is that we don’t know how to get from Point A to Point B. It is one thing to envision utopia and another thing entirely to create it. The forces that have to be overcome appear insurmountable. These include runaway greed, intolerance, short-sightedness, and a seemingly insatiable lust for power.
But the quest for utopia is not a fool’s errand. In fact, I would argue that we have no choice in this pursuit. It is built into our biology. Our basic instinct as parents is to seek a better life for our children. Only the most selfish and dysfunctional parents lack this drive.
We have a parental duty to future generations. All the children of the world, present and future, are our children. We must make sure that the world they inherit from us is richer not poorer; more beautiful; more peaceful; teeming with life; and guided by love, kindness, compassion and respect.
If we give ourselves completely to the task of creating a better world for the next generation, we will succeed, but only if we have the right tools at our disposal. Such tools will allow us to magnify our vital creative energy and direct it with precision towards the realization of our common vision.
Here is what I have learned about these creative tools after three decades of research and exploration: They have to engage the entire body and not just the mind. In fact, the mind can be an enormous obstacle to creativity. My TEDx talk, “The Art of Creative Inspiration,” focuses on a body-centered approach to major creative breakthroughs. That approach is generally undervalued by those who study, write and teach about creativity, which is why the video of this TEDx talk has been gaining momentum recently, with 1000 new views in the past month.
When you learn to channel the creative power of your body, you can create an entire universe. This is not hyperbole. I know what it feels like to have all of creation emerge from deep inside of me during moments of inspiration. At such moments my imagination is free to go anywhere or to create anything. And my intuition allows me to absorb and internalize any or all of it.
One of the secrets to realizing a utopian vision is to use this vision as a filter. Although the bodies we inhabit can give birth to a whole universe, there are only certain parts of that universe we want to keep. Virtually every artist knows that creativity is in large part a process of omission. French sculptor Auguste Rodin observed, “I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.”
This is where the mind and body come together in the act of creating. First you allow all possibilities to flow through your body, and then you use your mind’s capacity for discernment to capture those elements that serve your vision while surrendering those that don’t.
As I have noted elsewhere, a creative revolution is coming. Why? Our species is in dire need, and as Plato noted, “Our need will be the real creator.” We can create utopia together. It’s a matter of sacrifice, determination, and mastery of the skills needed to usher in a positive new era. Who's in?
During a recent visit to the White Mountains of Northern Arizona, Maria and I walked by a mansion proudly displaying a sign with the following message, “KEEP AMERICA GREAT.” In three words, this sign captured the essence of conservatism, which is: Everything is fine the way it is. Leave it alone!
Conservatives maintain that existing institutions and policies must be preserved in the name of social stability and continuity. There are certainly times when this position makes sense. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the summer of 2020 is not one of those times.
As I write this, the United States has recorded over six million cases of COVID-19, with nearly 200,000 fatalities. Unemployment has reached its highest levels in over 60 years. Major American cities face violence and unrest in response to a tidal wave of police brutality and systemic racism. Political divisiveness is tearing apart our families and communities. Climate change is taking its toll on our country, with raging forest fires in California; one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded striking the Gulf Coast; and record-breaking heat waves producing temperatures as high as 130 degrees in Death Valley.
At a time of unprecedented crisis, we must take our cues from Nature. As evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris points out, “Nature is conservative with what works well and is radically creative when crisis strikes.” We see evidence of rapid adaptation and change throughout the natural world. For example, mussels and other sea creatures have already adapted to live in the more acidic ocean conditions caused by climate change.
Other species have done more than just adapt to less tolerable conditions. They have actually altered those conditions in ways that have made the planet more livable. According to Sahtouris, there was a time, approximately two billion years ago, when only single-celled bacteria populated the Earth. These bacteria were so prolific that they caused worldwide crises of hunger and pollution. The problem was that they were all competing for the same food sources and producing the same waste products. In short order, they evolved specialization so that the waste product of one organism would be the food source for another. These bacteria were also able to harness solar energy, invent breathing, and establish elaborate communications networks. Perhaps most importantly, they came together to form cooperative communities, which are the precursors of the nucleated cells found in our own bodies today. And they did it all without the benefit of a brain.
Now, imagine what we humans can do with our extraordinary creativity. The first challenge is to put conservatism on hold for now so that you can embrace change. Whether you like it or not, major change is coming. Scholars and sages have long understood that every crisis represents an opportunity—and a choice. If you choose to hold onto the past, you will be crushed by the enormous forces that are being unleashed right now. It would be like trying to stand up to a giant ocean wave.
On the other hand, you can seize the chance to harness that energy in productive ways. The crisis we now face is actually a set of converging crises, all of which stem from our own alienation. We perceive ourselves as individual entities: alone, isolated, and self-contained. Our sense of disconnection—from other people, other species, and the Earth itself—have led to the unsustainable behaviors we see modeled on a daily basis in our leaders and institutions: aggression, conquest, divisiveness, greed, hostility, intolerance, jealousy, racism, and selfishness.
Now is the time for what Sahtouris calls “creative cooperation.” We have now entered into an age of global cataclysmic change. The current pandemic is just a taste of the disturbances that are going to impact our lives on a daily basis. If some of the experts I’ve interviewed on the Nature Am I podcast are right, here is some of what we can expect to deal with in the next decade: food shortages, runaway inflation, energy rationing, massive unemployment, drought, and the health effects of an increasingly toxic environment.
The only way we get through these challenges is by looking beyond our perceived differences and pulling together as one. “Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence,” wrote psychologist Erik Erikson. “We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.”
One important way we can practice creative cooperation is by developing a resilience plan for our local community. Such a plan would prepare our community to withstand major disturbances and disruptions to global supply chains, which provide basic necessities like food, shelter, water, and energy.
To learn more about what you can do to build community resilience, please check out this interview with Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute:
What are you longing for the most right now? The pursuit of freedom, happiness, love, health, security, peace, and abundance all share a common factor. At their core, they are a search for:
In 2020, wholeness is what most of us are craving—and lacking. Something is missing from our lives, which is why we don’t feel complete. This void manifests within each of us in different ways. You may be longing for human touch, whereas I yearn for a more sustainable way of life.
We may think that the fulfillment of our desires will make us whole, bringing a sense of fulfillment into our hearts and our lives. In actuality, satisfying a perceived need or desire rarely brings total fulfillment. That is because the deficiency we feel is not the same as the one we have been seeking to remedy. If we feel a lack of wholeness, it is because we lack the ability to perceive wholeness in ourselves or our surroundings.
The wholeness we are seeking has always been present within us. That is why Blaise Pascal wrote:
I call this wholeness Nature. You are welcome to choose your own language, keeping in mind that what we are naming is always the same. There is only one wholeness, and in all cases, our names and concepts fail to capture it.
Nature abides in all of us equally, while also surrounding and engulfing us. Experiencing the wholeness of nature is like being immersed in water. There is no way to tell where the water ends and your body begins because you are made up of water. All of the membranes in your body, including your skin, are permeable to water, which means that water moves in and out of your body fairly easily. So, a water molecule that is outside of your body one moment can be inside of you the next—and vice versa.
Early in my career as an environmental chemist, I discovered a simple idea: Whatever we know or think we know about Nature, there is always more. Science and philosophy may give us a glimpse into Nature, but never the entire picture. That is why we have trouble resolving basic questions about the relationship of mind and matter, or deciding if matter is comprised of particles or waves, or reconciling the differences between one theory and another.
Later in my career, after I switched from chemistry to psychology, I discovered another important idea: Human nature is simply Nature. When we focus on our individual and group differences, we may fail to notice the underlying commonalities. All of us have the same basic needs, regardless of age, sex, race, religion, political party, or any other division. We are made of the same stuff, breathe the same air, and share the same Earth.
What I am seeing right now is that most of us are stuck: our minds are trapped in a viewpoint or ideology that is incomplete at best. Our attitudes, opinions, arguments and theories all fall apart when pushed to the extremes. So much of Nature lives beyond the fringes of what we can conceptualize or understand. There is always a higher-order reality that we have yet to grasp, which means that questions requiring an either-or answer often make no sense.
Progressives and conservatives may argue about whose approach is more effective, when in fact Nature displays elements of both. In Nature, masculine and feminine are equally important. Competition and cooperation both have their place. There are times of balance and imbalance, stasis and change, growth and decline. There can be no beauty without ugly, no truth without falsehood, no peace without violence. Although Nature may tend towards one end of the continuum, it allows room for both. The higher-order reality is always more inclusive—not less. Beyond all differences is wholeness.
If you value truth, embrace wholeness. When asked to check off the box that pertains to you, choose: ALL OF THE ABOVE. Our true nature—who we really are at the very core of our being—is masculine and feminine, gay and straight, Black and White, Christian and Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish, Democrat and Republican, human and non-human.
The wholeness of Nature is both immanent and transcendent. It abides in all of us—and then some. Search for Nature anywhere in the universe and you will find it. Search for Nature beyond anything in the universe, and you will also find it. At every moment Nature is engaged in a dynamic, never-ending spiral dance that we perceive as life and death; as creation and destruction; as unfolding and enfolding. And yet at every moment, Nature is also perfectly still, indivisible and whole.
How can it be all of these at once? Perhaps time and space are not what we think they are. The line between real and imagined gets blurry around the edges. And when we examine them closely, waking and dreaming are not so different. Albert Einstein noted that “reality is an illusion, albeit a compelling one.” That is why my strongest recommendation, at this point, is to stay flexible. Don’t adhere too strongly to any belief, attitude, or idea of reality because now more than ever, our reality is being questioned, challenged, and disconfirmed.
This leads me to one last idea, and it’s a big one: Reality is the dream from which we have yet to awaken. When you are dreaming during sleep, you have no idea that you are living in a dream world of your own making. Once you become lucid or are awakened, that changes. You see clear evidence that it was all a dream. What if the same is true for what you call reality? That just means you are on the brink of a great awakening that will open your eyes to a higher-order reality, wholeness beyond all divisions and distinctions, and your true essential nature. What seems like unendurable chaos might just be the start of this great awakening.
Last night, I watched this powerful video, in which Trevor Noah captures with such eloquence the common link between the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police; the rioting and protests that have ensued; and the global pandemic that has impacted every aspect of our lives.
What we are seeing, claims Noah, is a breakdown of the social contract that we have made with our society and specifically our government. He says, “We agree on common rules, ideals and practices that define us.” And we play by the rules because we want society to work for everyone. In exchange we have certain expectations from society—especially from those in power. Right now, these expectations are being violated in the most egregious ways imaginable.
Just consider the following:
The social contract that has been thrust upon us since birth has been rendered null and void. When public servants act like profiteers; when law enforcement personnel act lawlessly without consequence; when captains of industry seek only to amass personal fortune at the expense of everyone else; and when those in power have absolutely zero accountability to most of the people they represent, the social contract is no longer valid.
This is a done deal. There is no need to protest and riot. We simply need to create and enforce a new social contract. That contract is among ourselves, person-to-person. Pandemics, natural disasters intensified by climate change, and the chaos and injustice we are witnessing on a daily basis are teaching us one very important lesson: WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Instead of focusing on our differences, we have no choice but to find common ground.
It is time for a DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE. Let’s focus on what connects us, regardless of race, religion, sex, age, or any other factor. I believe we all have one common link, which is: NATURE. We are all embodied, sentient beings with the same basic needs, which psychologist Abraham Maslow identified in his famous hierarchy of needs:
In his final formulation of this hierarchy, Maslow placed self-transcendence (ST) at the very top. That is because he realized that our highest motivation—our true nature—lies in transcendent oneness with the people we value or cherish the most, not to mention the places, animals, plants, and ideals that we hold sacred. If you have ever loved someone or something so much that you would lay down your life for them, then you know what I mean.
The only way we are going to make it through these cataclysmic times and find light at the end of the tunnel is by valuing and cherishing EVERYONE the way we do our spouses, children, parents, lovers, pets, and dear friends. There is no other viable alternative.
Social engineering has led us to focus on our perceived differences and turn those differences into hatred, violence, discrimination, and disdain. In other words, those in power benefit from our animosity, and so they fan the flames of anger and prejudice on a daily basis. That is why the social contract imposed by the rich and powerful has no worth: it is not in our best interests. Let’s turn our back on it and replace it with something far more inspiring and sustainable.
We must reach out to each other, especially those who are most different from us, and say something along these lines:
YOU AND I ARE ONE.
WHAT YOU FEEL, I FEEL.
I HONOR AND PROTECT YOUR WELFARE AS I DO MY OWN.
WHEN YOU THRIVE, I THRIVE.
LET US COME TOGETHER FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL.
I know this is hard to do. That is why I have my doubts about the future of humanity, as I imagine you do. But extreme times demand extreme measures. Looking beyond our differences to find commonality, even when confronted with individuals and groups that stand for everything we despise, is our only hope. The social contract of the future will be one that promotes unity, cooperation, caring, and sharing. Why? Because in a rapidly-shrinking world, there is no other choice.
This past week, I came across the following video, entitled "The Great Realization," which I find tremendously inspiring and consistent with my own thoughts about the COVID-19 outbreak and its potentially positive ramifications:
As devastating as this pandemic has been, it has also presented many of us with an opportunity to reflect on what is and is NOT working in our society. We are seeing this time of stoppage as a Global Reboot--the subject of a recent post on the NATURE AM I blog. Also, in the newest episode of the NATURE AM I podcast, which you can listen to here, evolutionary biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris explains how COVID-19 may mark the beginning of an important evolutionary shift for the human species, from social and economic models driven by competition to ones based on cooperation:
Now, I need your input to help me formulate strategies for this Global Reboot. If you would, please take a few moments to answer the two questions shown below. They will be of great benefit. Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.
I am excited and honored to announce the debut of the NATURE AM I website and podcast. This is the biggest undertaking of my life, and I need your help. I believe with all my heart that now more than ever, we must learn to tune into nature's wisdom and let nature guide us to a more peaceful, balanced, and sustainable way of life.
The COVID-19 outbreak that we are experiencing and witnessing together is the result of climate change, habitat destruction, and other human-caused imbalances. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the time of procrastination, denial, and half-measures is over. Humanity has entered the Age of Consequences. Our carelessness and disregard for nature as a species is taking its toll in ways that will only intensify over time. Now, more than ever, those of us who care about the future of humanity must take action. But where do we begin?
Whatever questions or problems we may have, nature has the answers. This has always been true. The Art of Inspiration that I have devoted my life to studying and exploring is all about quieting the mind so that we can listen to what nature has to teach us. After more than three decades, I came to an important discovery this year. My entire life's work and spiritual path can be summed up in three words: NATURE AM I.
This may seem simple at first but actually far from it. First of all, what is nature? The dictionary defines it as "the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations." But this surely can't be right! Everything in the universe, including all of the elements, the cosmos and the biosphere, is nature with the EXCEPTION of humanity?
This is the heart of the crisis our world is experiencing. We have managed to separate and alienate ourselves from nature. This is no small feat! How does anyone convince themselves that they are apart from nature while inhabiting a body made of atoms, molecules, cells and tissue? Nature is the sustaining principle of the universe. It can be found in everything that exists, including all that can be known and all that can know. Nature is the consciousness that monitors and regulates all the dynamics of the universe, from the spiraling cosmos to the collisions of subatomic particles.
You do not need faith to believe in nature. It's just THERE. And guess? It always has been and always will be. This is Science 101. There is the law of conservation of matter and energy. Everything in nature gets reshuffled, rearranged, and recycled, but nature itself is never born and never dies, neither created nor destroyed. That's just reality.
NATURE AM I is not spirituality in any conventional sense because it does not invoke anything that can't be found or that is separate from the physical/material universe. But it is extraordinarily deep, because the history of science has taught us one crucial lesson: WHATEVER YOU CONSIDER NATURE TO BE, THERE is ALWAYS MORE. And it is a path of holiness in the purest sense possible. "Holy" and "whole" derive from the same root.
Humanity is crying out for a sense of wholeness and integration at a time when we have never felt more disconnected from the natural world, from each other, and even from the experience of our own bodies. NATURE AM I offers a simple way back to wholeness. Here are three things you can try right now:
This is a basic start. But it's how we begin to find our way back to the deepest possible connection we can have with nature: the experience of nature inspiration. And it holds the key to our future, to the future of our species and of the Earth. Thanks for your time.
NATURE AM I.
I am excited to announce the launch of the new, improved version of Virtual Global Chant this Wednesday, April 15, 6 pm Arizona Time. After four weeks of experimenting with different platforms and new technologies, we think we have something in place that will give you a really high-quality chanting experience. Here are instructions for how to get onto the site. Some of this information is intended for first-time Zoom users. So, if you are already experienced with Zoom, you can scroll down to the chant list for tomorrow's circle.
This Virtual GC is being hosted on Zoom, On Wednesday April 15, 2020, at 06:00 PM Arizona Time. To take part in this online event:
1. You can choose any device that has a web camera and microphone, such as a computer, laptop, Tablet/ iPad, or Smart phone. Both will be turned on before and after the chant circle, but we will turn them off while chanting to minimize noise and distraction.
2. To Join the Zoom Meeting, click on the following link:
Topic: Global Chant in Nature Alive's Personal Meeting Room
6 pm MST (Arizona time) Wednesday April 15
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 534 752 5737
3. The Meeting ID for this circle is: 534 752 5737. You will be prompted to enter the six-digit password: 733028. If you follow the link above, you probably won't need to type in either of these numbers.
4. If you don’t have the Zoom app installed on your device already, click on the same link above, and you will be prompted to install the app in order to enter the class.
5. Make sure you have installed the Zoom app on your device, at least one day before our chant circle.
6. If you cannot download or run the Zoom App, you will see a link that says, “Join From Browser.” When you click on that link you will see a message that says “Input your name to join meeting” followed by a box where you can type your name and click on the “Join” button to enter the class. PLEASE NOTE: this option has limited functions compared to installing the App and should only be used as a last resort.
7. You can also just call in from a mobile phone without any video access (only audio will be heard). Here is the number to call:
You will be prompted to enter meeting ID: 534 752 5737; and password: 733028
Once you're in Zoom:
1. You may be placed in a virtual waiting room, until the meeting opens. We will enter at approximately 15 minutes before the chant circle begins and start letting you into the meeting room then.
2. When you enter the meeting room, look at your screen. You will see icons at the bottom. There will be an icon to turn on the video so we can see you, and one for the microphone so we can hear you.
3. Once the chant circle starts all microphones, except our facilitator's (June Maker) and mine, will be muted. If you need to communicate with us, you will see an icon for “Chat.” You can click on this to type a brief question or comment.
4. When we unmute the mics, please make sure there is not a lot of ambient noise where you are, such as music, TV, or background conversations. That makes it harder for us to hear you or anyone else. If you do not want to be seen on the screen you can turn off your video icon. Then you will not be seen, but you will still be able to see June and me.
VIRTUAL GLOBAL CHANT
April 15, 2020
We are opening up in sweet surrender To the luminous love light of the One (2x).
We are opening (4x).
Sri guru sharanam namo namo namo
Let me be one with the infinite sun,
Forever & ever & ever (2x).
Kee-ay wahtay lenya lenya mahotay
Hi-ah-no, hi-ah-no, hi-ah-no (2x).
Native American: Sioux chant
Everything is Love, pure flowing Love,
There is only Love, Love, Love, Love (2x)
Jai Ma (8x).
Take me away won’t you carry me,
Let me rest in your arms for a while.
Take me away won’t you carry me,
Let me bathe in the sweetness of your smile.
Won’t you take me away (3x).
I am filled with the light of a thousand angels,
Softening my way (2x).
I am filled with the light of a thousand angels,
Softening my way to thee.
Joy, Joy is in my heart, Joy is in my heart,
Joy is in my heart (2x)
In my last blog post, I told you that I was working on an important project and that a big announcement was forthcoming. Then life took an unexpected turn! Although I am still working on that project with great excitement and hope to make an announcement soon, dealing with a pandemic has taken precedence. I have spent the past few weeks responding to the challenges at hand, as I am sure you have. My concern is for the welfare and safety of my family and community during this chaotic period.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, turning our lives and our world upside down, please remember that we are all in this together. You are not alone. If you are feeling scared or worried, I want you to know that I am here for you. And I will not forsake you.
With everything shutting down, the temptation is to shift into survival mode. But you and I can do much better than that. We can actually thrive in these challenging times. The secret lies in community. It always has. If we look out only for ourselves, we might be able to survive. But if we look out for each other, then we can flourish and make the best of this pandemic. With that in mind, here is what I would like to offer you:
1. Talk to me. I am happy to set aside a few minutes to touch base and listen to your concerns. You can email me here and we can set up a time for a telephone conversation. It will be my honor to listen to your concerns and to offer solace if you'd like. We can start with a 15-minute call and then schedule additional calls or longer sessions if you feel they are of benefit to you.
2. Come chant with me. I am starting up a Virtual Global Chant and welcome your participation. Starting on Wednesday, April 3, you can join the chant circle, hosted by FreeConferenceCall.com, in one of two ways:
a) By Phone (voice only): Call into this number, 978-990-5000, and then enter the following access code: 958340.
b) On the Web (which includes video capabilities): https://join.freeconferencecall.com/vastucson
Please note: You don't have to ascribe to any belief system or worship any deity to find benefit and enjoyment in these virtual chant circles. All of the chants we choose are focused on universal themes such as nature, love, beauty, peace, and harmony.
3. Take advantage of our online resources. Maria and I are sharing all kinds of free information in the days to come. She is in the process of preparing some wonderful online yoga classes, and we are putting together information about boosting your immune system, reducing inflammation, managing stress, nutrition, self-care, and other practical things you can do to stay healthy. She is also offering free 15-minute consultations on yoga therapy and ayurveda. You may want to check out Maria's blog for updates as well as this blog and my Facebook page. I will be sharing things that are inspiring me right now, such as this beautiful video by Riya Sokol:
I feel very aligned with her message about gratitude. Every morning when I say The Pledge, I recite these words, "I pledge to live without expectations so that I may consider everything that comes into my life, even that which challenges me the most, as a gift and as an opportunity to grow, to learn, and to serve." For me, this pandemic has been both a challenge and a gift. While I despair for those who have fallen ill and are struggling just to catch a breath, not to mention all the health care workers and first responders who are putting their lives at risk every day tending to the sick, I am also relieved to see empty streets and blue skies uncontaminated by carbon emissions; to know that families are coming together to share quality time with one another; to hear stories of people who are are finding positive ways to reconnect with nature, take care of their precious bodies, and alleviate stress; and discover all the wonderful resources that people are making available to their communities out of a spirit of compassion and generosity. As someone who has devoted himself to the quest for inspiration, I find such responses to be incredibly inspiring.
Last but not least, I want to offer you this:
4. Let me know what you need. Whatever your issue or concern, I may be able to help you, or at least to connect you with someone who can.
You and I have the capacity to really flourish and find deep happiness even in the midst of a major crisis like this one. Just keep the following in mind:
together we thrive!
Since the start of 2020, I have been returning to my roots. Having been born in Havana, my heart has always been drawn to Cuba and the Cuban spirit. I gravitate instantly to wonderfully loving and joyful Cubans like my beloved friend, spiritual brother, and high priest of Cubanismo, Jorge Porrata. In January, Jorge helped me conduct a survey of fellow Cubans on the nature of the Cuban spirit.
I discovered what it is that I find so compelling about my birthplace, its people and culture. The two factors that Cubans most commonly associated with the Cuban spirit are: 1) a deep connection with nature; and 2) the desire and ability to rejoice in life. Let's look a little more closely at each of these.
For many of the Cubans I have met and admired, nature isn't something apart from themselves. It lives in them, and in their bodies. They know how to feel and savor the rhythms of life; their connection to the elements; the natural beauty that surrounds them; sights and sounds; tastes and scents; plants and animals; forests, oceans, and rivers; sensuality and sexuality; romance and passion; friends, lovers and family.
Very closely linked to that is the capacity to rejoice wholeheartedly in life, including all of its cycles and phases--its ups and downs. The word gozar is an important part of the Cuban vocabulary. It comes from the Latin gaudium meaning "joy" or "delight." This is not mere enjoyment. If I ask you, "Did you enjoy that movie you saw the other day?" and you say, "Yeah, it was pretty good," that is not the kind of enjoyment that Cubans are describing. They mean rejoicing fully, which is enjoyment to the nth degree.
For me, these two factors are inseparable. I express my Cuban spirit when I REJOICE IN MY CONNECTION WITH NATURE! And I have come to realize that this is what my life has been about, including my passion for sacred music that led me to start Global Chant and write The Chanter's Guide; my powerful connection with play, which I described in The Way of Play and which led to the establishment of PlayHaven; the profound love I feel for the practice of Repose, which opens me up to nature on a consistent basis; my 30-year obsession with creative inspiration, as described in Deep Creativity and my TEDx talk, "The Art of Creative Inspiration"; and most importantly of all, my passionate love and adoration for my wife Maria, who inspires my Cuban spirit to sing, dance, and celebrate the blessings of this life on a daily basis!
At a time when chaos and despair are all around us, I see an obvious path to a brighter future. Humanity has to get back in touch with nature. More than at any other time in the history of our species, we humans have become disconnected from our own bodies; from human touch; from family and community; from sensuality; from the joys of tending a garden or walking in the wilderness; from the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars; from clean air and water; from pure, unprocessed foods; and from a sense of our place in the universe.
As we reconnect with nature more fully and take our cues from those who know how to rejoice wholeheartedly in that connection, we can begin to let nature show us how to heal ourselves and our world, how to become better stewards of this beautiful Earth, and how to integrate ourselves back into the web of life so that we can feed and nurture the incredible biodiversity of this planet.
I am about to unveil an exciting new project that I believe has the power to initiate the evolutionary shift that the current times demand of us. We have no choice now but to step up and assume our role as important members of the global ecosystem. Please stay tuned for a big announcement in the days ahead. Here and Now, Baby!
In 2020, chaos seems to be prevailing. Can you feel it? I certainly can. Things seem to be spinning out of control. Humanity appears to be driving itself off a cliff. Meanwhile, those in power are putting their foot on the gas as they steer us towards impending disaster.
Today, approximately 25,000 people will starve to death. Some 200 species of plants and animals will go extinct. Over 100 acres of land will turn into desert. And at least 20 square miles of ocean will become dead zones devoid of oxygen.
Meanwhile, here are just a few of the topics that journalists are covering today: Valentine’s Day gifts, how to choose a video surveillance system for your home, gifts for new parents, the age gap in celebrity couples, and unique texts to send your BFF.
Those in power, including corporate, government, and religious “leaders,” want you to turn a blind eye and go about you daily life as if nothing was wrong. It’s just business as usual. Is it any wonder you may feel stressed, frustrated, or helpless. You might be asking yourself, as I have: Is there hope for the future? Can we get ourselves out of this mess before it’s too late?
\After searching my whole life for answers, I say: YES! And I say it wholeheartedly, definitively, and without the least bit of hesitation. I am not blind to what is happening here. Before switching over to psychology, I taught environmental chemistry at the college level. I have been monitoring this ecological catastrophe for over 40 years. Part of the reason I became a psychologist is that it became apparent to me that the crisis we face requires political will, leadership, shared vision, and inspiration. Humanity already possesses the technical know-how to steer away from this mess. The problem is 100% psychological.
I believe in my heart of hearts that we can right this ship. Humanity can thrive for the next 1000 years or more under the right conditions. And what are those conditions? How do we change to a more productive course? The answer is simple, and it is right in front of our eyes.
Nature is the answer. It is time for us to align ourselves fully with nature. We are an integral part of an ecosystem. Climate change has taught us one profound and unassailable truth about that ecosystem: IT ENCOMPASSES THE WHOLE EARTH. The decisions each of us makes and the actions we carry out affect everyone in the ecosystem, including other people and other species.
So, what can you do, right now at this critical juncture in human history? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
This is just the beginning of a global movement that has the potential to bring us all together in ways that transcend our differences so that we can all co-exist and even thrive. Nature is the one link we all share, and it’s time to treat that connection with the utmost reverence and care. Whatever problems or concerns you face in your life, I assure you of one thing: NATURE IS THE ANSWER. Don’t believe me? Share some of your greatest personal challenges with me, and I will suggest a few practical, nature-based strategies that you can begin to implement today. Give it a try! What do you have to lose?
I want to hear from you! Please share your questions and comments. And sign up for my newsletter, where I will pass along the insights, ideas, and inspiration that come my way.