A True Rebellion – Approaching the Environmental Crisis from a Place of Love

Posted by on December 31, 2011

When connected to our center, we genuinely want to help others, but do so from a much different place than when we have an agenda... it begins from a place of genuine acceptance of how things are and focuses on the love, kindness and consciousness that are generated through our efforts regardless of the results. -------------- (Picture by Jano Cortes)

(This article is dedicated to my friends and colleagues working tirelessly to make this world a better place. May you respond to the crises of our world from a place of deep love.)

Environmentalism, sustainability, being green – they don’t matter. Not only that, but they are actually a part of the environmental crisis that we are facing on the planet. In fact, they are just as much a part of the problem as the multinational corporations producing coal-fired power plants, toxic chemicals, deforestation and social upheaval.

By the way, this is coming from someone who has had a strong environmental ethic his whole life and who dedicated six years of his career working on the cutting edge of the environmental and sustainability movements.

I say this not because I believe environmentalists are bad people or because I’m disillusioned by or in denial of the continued decline of all the earth’s major ecosystems. I say this because after being at the forefront of this movement for over six years, I realized that we were operating from the same paradigm as those we were trying to change. The biggest mistake we made is that we were actually trying to preserve the current system that is destroying our biosphere. We simply used the euphemism “change” to refer to preserving the current system. Can you imagine? We could not accept the undeniable truth that the system could not be fixed – that this system has to die for any real change to occur.

Why could we not accept this obvious truth that stared us in the face every day – the truth that jumped up and down and said “Hey, look over here! Here I am!” ? (And let me tell you, we were a brilliant bunch by most standards.) Because to accept that the system has to die means that we have to allow certain very cherished ideas to die – ideas like things always get better; my children will have a better life than I did; I will leave a legacy for future generations; all I’ve worked for will be “worth it” in the end; I will retire in comfort; I will make the world a better place along with many other dearly held notions.

Most fundamentally, to accept that the entire system in which we live is terminally ill, we are also faced with the reality that we too have to die. Consciously or not, we are confronted with our own mortality not as some vague, distant event, but as an immediate reality. This shakes the very foundation of our worldview, and, for most people, it’s just too damn scary. So, we go on holding our meetings, talking about how to “crack the code,” how to make change and how to get “the non-believers” to convert. But we ourselves aren’t willing to face the deepest problem at the root of everything – attachment to our closely held beliefs, worldview and identity.

The fundamental shift that will lead to a sustainable society (if indeed we ever create one) is a shift in consciousness, not simply a shift in political agendas, policies, financial instruments, carbon markets, and the other million ideas to put an organic chicken in every pot and a hybrid car in every driveway. The state of the world and the collective consciousness dance with and inform one another. It is a two-way dynamic, and at some point, the next stage in our outer evolution will require a major shift in our inner evolution. All the dreams, all the plans, all the hopes, all the anxieties – we must let them all go. We must allow the idea of who we are to dissolve and drop into what feels like an abyss – an abyss of confusion, meaninglessness and fear. If we are brave enough to take this leap and move through this territory, we eventually come to a sense of freedom and clarity that is indescribably beautiful. It’s a perspective that simultaneously accepts the difficulty and pain of the situation and yet isn’t afraid of it. Somehow, love, compassion and even playfulness arise. We know deeply that all is well, and yet we also acknowledge and respond to the suffering of the world.

If we admit that we are facing a major inevitable crisis, what really matters, if anything? I would offer that how we do what we do is much more important than the tangible results of our actions. The focus shifts from what we are doing to the quality of being that is manifesting in our actions. We begin to be less attached to the outcomes of our efforts and more focused of the quality of our presence while performing them. This shift to focus on our state of being, paradoxically makes our actions more effective. We tap into a deeper wisdom within us that somehow knows the most appropriate action to take in a given situation. We no longer cling to a fixed idea of how the world should be, and we begin to open more consciously to life’s flow and innate intelligence.

So, how should we respond to the environmental crisis of our planet? I’m not advocating that we all buy gas guzzling cars and start spraying aerosol cans into the air because “the world is coming to an end.” I do think we will experience in a major “correction” in human civilization in the near future, but I don’t think that means we should just say, “screw it,” and party until that day comes. Neither, however, should we lose ourselves in a frenzy of activity trying to prevent the collapse from coming. Paradoxically, slowing down and doing less may be our most powerful response.

Consider Mother Teresa. Her focus was not to eradicate poverty all over the world. Her focus was to care for, be with and love the person right in front of her in each moment. She and her nuns emphasized the quality of their response to an immense suffering, not only the tangible outcome of the situation and whether poverty would ever be eradicated once and for all. They accepted that it would likely be a part of the human situation for a long time to come, and yet they chose to respond to this situation with love. Their impact has been massive both in the number of people they have helped, but even more in the way they have profoundly inspired and transformed people around the world. This is true power. This is the kind of power that the environmental sustainability movement desperately needs.

I believe a more helpful response than the current war-like paradigm is to look within, to face our attachments to our fixed ideas about how the world “should be,” and to begin letting these notions go. Once we have established a connection with our center, our inner stillness, we simply act from this place – a place of integrity. When connected to our center, we genuinely want to help others, but do so from a much different place than when we have an agenda. It’s not done to win the fight and is not motivated by fear. Instead, it begins from a place of genuine acceptance of how things are and focuses on the love, kindness and consciousness that are generated through our efforts regardless of the results. We consciously become part of the dance of life. This is real change, real transformation.

What to do next? Try doing less and loving more. Try meditation or just slowing down. Consider what might change in your life if you stopped fighting to preserve or modify the current system. What beauty might lie beyond the world as we’ve come to know it? Keep asking these questions in a place of inner stillness and see what happens. You’ll be amazed at what you find. A true rebellion is at hand, and it starts with you.

10 Responses to A True Rebellion – Approaching the Environmental Crisis from a Place of Love

  1. 1
    Deb Guenther says:

    Thank you for sharing your insight Brandon. I am smiling and shaking my head in recognition as I re-read. In this year of adversity for so many people I am guessing this is the silver lining for some. It’s wonderful way to think about the new year. Thanks for voicing. Best wishes. Deb

  2. 2
    Jo Brickman says:

    Beautifully put, Brandon. Thank you for putting this deceptively simple idea in words and sharing. I wholeheartedly agree that there is an essential difference in our work based on the place that work emerges from. Too often I find myself in the mode of “struggle” – so the reminder is appreciated. Keep up your good work!

  3. 3

    Brandon,
    Thanks for being on your path and sharing it with others. This year we are also focusing on the more subtle energies that ripple out as we do our work with clients, and so resonate with your comment on “how we do what we do is much more important”. Talk with you again soon.

    Wishing you 2012 filled with joy, depth, and connection.

    Eric & Beth

  4. 4
    Bruce Hostetter says:

    Brandon, I feel immense gratitude for your sharing of these insights. Its hard to know how to respond, there is so much here. There is no switch that I can find to flick and “no longer cling to a fixed idea of how the world should be” to “open more consciously to life’s flow and innate intelligence”. I think that we sometimes speed up and do more to avoid coming to terms with our own internal turmoil. Maybe we do this because we don’t trust ourselves to have “a deeper wisdom within us that somehow knows the most appropriate action to take in a given situation.”

    “I believe a more helpful response than the current war-like paradigm is to look within, to face our attachments to our fixed ideas about how the world “should be,” and to begin letting these notions go. Once we have established a connection with our center, our inner stillness, we simply act from this place – a place of integrity.” Remember John Francis’ advice? “You need to learn how to be with your self before you know how to be with the environment.”

    We are all engaged in the pursuit of solutions to a Wicked Problem–How to save the planet. Looking inside and letting go of our world view seems like such surrender. But I don’t think that is what you are asking us to do. I think you are asking us to let go of our notions of “how the world should be” because, as you say, they “are actually a part of the environmental crisis that we are facing on the planet.” This makes me want to hold hands with anybody who is able to let go, to stand side by side so we are present with the problems instead of fighting them. The shift in consciousness may begin within, but I believe it is our connection to community that will drive the outer evolution to which you speak. I hope you speak more about our connection to community in the future.

    thanks again——–==bruce hostetter

    • 4.1

      Bruce, Thank you for your thought provoking and thorough response. The idea of surrender is rich and tricky. I believe there are two kinds of surrender. The first is giving up or apathy. I’m not a proponent of this one.

      The second is when we stop trying to solve the problem from our limited perspective – when we realize that the egoic mind cannot solve it. One could call this, surrender to a higher intelligence or to a deeper part of ourselves or to a deeper wisdom within us. When we surrender in this way, we may very well still be active in addressing the things we now feel are important (e.g. environmental issues), but we also may realize that addressing those issues directly is not our true calling. For example, we may realize that our deepest calling is telling us to go feed starving children, create beautiful works of art or become a bike mechanic. When we surrender our egos, we may no longer identify as “environmentalists”, but that is ok because we will be working from a place of deep love. This doesn’t mean that we won’t still care about the environment or address environmental issues, but doing so directly may not remain our primary activity. This is why many involved in addressing social and environmental issues refuse to surrender in this second way. They are scared that they may no longer care if they trust their deeper wisdom. They are afraid to give up control – to allow Love to choose, and so they live from fear and paradoxically help perpetuate the problems they are trying to solve.

      Thank you also for highlighting the importance of community. I too believe that our connection to and care for one another is instrumental to our evolution as a species. A great author on this topic is Charles Eisenstein.

      Bruce, thank you for helping me to deepen my thinking.
      Much Love and Light to you,
      Brandon

  5. 5
    Doug McCraw says:

    Wonderful perspective of the Soul’s journey, it always begins within and grows without. Discovering and knowing our Consciousness is the most powerful force we can create to evolve the planet.

  6. 6
    Sonya says:

    Hi Brandon,

    This is beautiful and real. Thank you for sharing! Have you heard of Derrick Jensen? I think you’d appreciate his writing.

    Once you’re back in the U.S., I look forward to connecting with you in person. Until then, I’m sending a hug!

    Sonya

  7. 7
    Janet Gibson says:

    Thank you Brandon, for eloquently reminding us that in this point of our evolutionary path, everything must be done out of love instead of fear. It’s sometimes difficult to know when we’re acting out of fear, when we think that what we’re doing is the right thing. But when we’re able to detach from the outcome, we take a step forward in truly acting out of love. In the stillness we can answer the question “what does your heart tell you?”

    So happy to be on this co-creative journey with you!
    Many Blessings,
    Janet

  8. 8
    Jed says:

    Beautifully written and thought provoking Brandon. It scares me to think what I might have to change in my life if I truly consider your point and decide it is truth. I appreciate the challenge.

  9. 9
    Marni says:

    I often think of your words, that we [in the sustainability movement] are rearranging deck furniture on the Titanic. I quote you often, and I am pleased to see the progression of your thinking…or is it the opening of your heart? You’re so intelligent in all the ways – spiritual, emotional, social – thanks for writing and for being in this world. xo

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