Read these short blog posts to explore the Conventional and Natural Paradigms, and what it might mean to you to Re-Align with Nature.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
I was walking in the woods a while back, pondering what it means to be happy. I was preparing for my last workshop, “How to be Happy with Less by Thinking Like Nature,” and realized that I unintentionally took on a huge topic — How to be Happy. People have been pondering and exploring what it means to be happy for centuries! But I had to be prepared, so I did a lot of reading, had some very interesting conversations, and took a few long walks. What emerged was amazing (at least to me).
During one of my walks, I decided it was important not to try to define what it means to be happy, but rather to describe the feeling of being happy. I was coming up with words like joyful, content, expansive, optimistic. I also considered the feelings you don’t have when you’re happy: worry, fear, loneliness, greed. Just then, as I was walking down the trail, I paused and thought, “I really love this place.” I had a sudden awareness of being aligned with Nature, with that place.
That got me thinking about love, and how to describe the feeling of love.
There are many types of love, yet they all have common feelings. When you are experiencing love, you have a sense of abundance, of possibilities. You feel part of something bigger than yourself while also feeling you are a better you. You have a sense of trust, in the other person and in the world. You feel you can do anything, get through anything. You are courageous, curious, optimistic.
It was then that it struck me: The feeling of being happy, the feeling of love, and the feeling of being aligned with Nature are all the same. Wow. Does this resonate with you?
I started my recent venture (Wild Hazel) to help leaders shift from the Conventional Paradigm to the Natural Paradigm so that they could do more meaningful and impactful sustainability work.
I’m now wondering if this is really about helping people re-align with Nature so that they — all of us, individually and together — can feel and share happiness and love, in and with and as part of Nature.
No small task; however, I know there are lots and lots of you that are working in this same space.
What’s love — and happiness — got to do with it? Everything!
Can You Trust a Tree?
That’s a bizarre question, right? What does it even mean to trust a tree, or distrust a tree for that matter? That question doesn’t make sense because trust is fundamental to the way Nature works and thinks — to Nature’s Paradigm.
In the “real world”, the world of the Conventional Paradigm, you really can’t trust anyone. That’s because, in the “real world”, resources are limited and there’s not enough to go around. You know that, ultimately, you have to look out for yourself because no one else will. In our dog-eat-dog world, you’ve got to play the game and play to win, whatever it takes. You’ve got to get a lot while you can, while it lasts. You’ve got to protect yourself and reject them and their ideas, especially their ideas for change. The “real world” isn’t very nice, so distrust is quite appropriate.
Is that how you feel? Is that what you believe to be true about the world? Probably, sometimes, as that is what our current dominant cultural paradigm drives us to feel and believe. It’s good for exploitative capitalism, political divisiveness, and mass manipulation — as well as climate change, biodiversity loss, and racism.
Is that how you want to feel? Is that what you want to believe to be true about the world? I hope not! Thankfully, you likely don’t feel that way all the time. Your feelings and beliefs are likely quite different when you’re walking in the woods, lost in music, or noticing the ephemeral beauty of a sunbeam passing through the steam rising from your morning cuppa. In those moments, you may feel expansive and appreciative of the wonders of our world. You may have a sense that things are good, that good things are possible. You have a relaxed innate sense of trust. In these moments you are experiencing Nature’s Paradigm, your natural paradigm..
A tree — as well as a mushroom, a robin, and a bacteria — live and grow and thrive because they value and believe in abundance, systems, synergies, resilience, curiosity, and trust. In Nature, trust is knowing what is true and real, and relying on that. It is taking only what you need, knowing that others will do the same.It is about fully participating in the systems that support you and knowing that others will also. Trust is knowing who and what you are and living in full alignment with your own priorities and truths.
That’s what a tree does, so the answer is yes, you can trust a tree. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all trust each other the same way?
You may not be able to change everyone else, but you can change yourself, how you think. You can easily learn to think like Nature, because you ARE Nature!
If elephants were any bigger, they would overheat. If elk antlers were any bigger, they couldn’t run freely through the forest. If you give your houseplant too much water, too much sun, or too much fertilizer it will suffer. Nature is able to discern too much from just right, and has strategies to stay within optimal ranges.
So why is it that we (humans) always seem to want more? Most of us want more money and more time. We want more likes and more followers. We want more stuff. There’s never quite enough. Then we get stressed out and spend our precious time and energy learning how to decompress, detox, and declutter, unfollow, unsubscribe, and unplug.. Star-bellied Sneeches come to mind.
So many of us feel compelled to want more because our culture has convinced us to believe that we would be happier with more — yet we’re never really happy with what we have. We’re also unhappy with our overfull closets and oversized ecological footprints.
Do you find yourself wishing you wanted less, but struggling with the desire for more? If you’re curious to learn How to be Happy with Less by Thinking Like Nature, we invite you to participate in our online workshop offered THIS THURSDAY 29JUNE2023 9-11amPDT.
Please REGISTER NOW as we’re keeping the workshop small and only a few spots are left.
I hear so many people lament that they want to reconnect with Nature. I’ve often said the same thing myself, especially when I’ve had to spend too much time in an urban environment or just indoors. But I had a realization a while back that was so obvious it was embarrassing — I don’t need to “reconnect” with Nature because I can’t ever disconnect from Nature.
Perhaps you’ve had the same realization? If not, take a deep breath. Take another long slow lung-filling breath. Now take one more. As you continue to breathe, as one does 24/7, ponder the fact that the molecules of air that you are breathing in have been circulating around the Earth, in and out of other living beings, for billions of years. Yup, the breath you just took in may contain molecules that at one time passed through ancient Stromatolites, migrating Monarchs, indigenous peoples, or your own houseplant. As you breathe out, you’re sending those air molecules back into the ever-on-going systems and cycles of Nature.
Even if you’re sitting in a windowless building in front of a computer, myriad bacteria in your gut are actively digesting the food that you’ve eaten. And as you visit the bathroom, be grateful for the myriad bacteria at the wastewater treatment plant that are allowing your waste to be reintegrated into the soil, reintegrated into Nature’s systems and cycles.
Every single cell in your body was made by Nature, is nourished by Nature — IS Nature. You are as natural and as much a part of Nature as a mushroom, a ladybug, a hummingbird, an elephant, a giant redwood. You can’t not be connected to Nature.
Whenever you feel disconnected from Nature, pause and take a few deep breaths and know yourself, feel yourself, as a fully engaged participant in Nature. Then, when you get the chance, disconnect from technology and get outside in Nature!
Now that you know you are Nature, you might be interested in how to “Think Like Nature”. If so, there’s still space in the last of our Think Like Nature online workshops: How to Be Happy with Less by Thinking Like Nature [9-11amPDT 29June2023]
How Does Nature Manage Stress?
If stress is having a negative effect on your life, and the lives of those you care about, you are not alone.
According to the American Institute of Stress: 55% of Americans are stressed during the day. Stress causes 57% of US respondents to feel paralyzed. 63% of US workers are ready to quit their job to avoid work-related stress. Chronic stress is commonplace at work with 94% of workers reporting feeling stress at work.
We experience inappropriate levels of stress because our current culture — what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm — drives us to do too much, to want too much, to push too hard for too long. Most of us have become entrapped by these cultural pressures, sometimes unknowingly, and we no longer live our lives in alignment with our own values, our own priorities.
A certain amount of stress for short periods of time can be good. The same AIS article describes how some stress is good for performance, and that there is also good stress associated with positive experiences. And we are all familiar with the very short term fight-or-flight stress that helps us to jump out of the way of an oncoming car.
But uncontrolled chronic stress not only harms our health, it causes us to make decisions and behave in ways that are harmful to our relationships and degrade our sense of self. When we are chronically stressed we are not our best selves.
Our friends in Nature don’t experience chronic stress. When a zebra is chased by a leopard, its stress hormones kick in so that it can react quickly and run away to save itself. But when that threat is gone, the zebra relaxes. What might we learn from a zebra — or an oyster or kelp for that matter — about how to manage the stress in our lives?
If you’re curious, I invite you to join our next online workshop: How to Be Less Stressed by Thinking Like Nature.
This workshop is Thursday June 22, so register soon to hold your spot!
What happens when you don’t live — behave and make decisions — in alignment with who you are and what you believe in? For some, it leads to moral erosion. For others, it leads to shame, self-hatred. For many, it leads to living in a state of angry victimhood and disempowerment — it’s “their” fault and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Is this you? Perhaps you don’t see it that way. Most of us think we’re living in alignment with our values. You haven’t committed any violent crimes or stolen from the vulnerable. But what about the day-to-day things, the things you take for granted? Even for those of us who are committed to fighting for social and environmental justice, there is a slow creep. It’s the small shifts that occur with increasing wealth and social status. You don’t have to be rich to be part of the problem, just not poor, not among the systemically oppressed.
You value nature, but you bought that new shirt because you “needed” it and it was such a great deal — without thinking about the environmental damage that occurred during its manufacturing, shipping, and ultimate disposal. You value human rights, but you live on land that was stolen from indigenous peoples and benefit from those in your own community who don’t earn a living wage.
I’m not pointing fingers — except perhaps at the mirror. If you live in the “developed” world you are likely not living in alignment with your values. It’s almost impossible to do so. Worse, it’s almost impossible to see how to change. You know you can’t just buy or donate or protest your way out of this. So what can you do?
I believe what is needed is for each of us to make a shift deep inside. We need to shift how we see the world, how it works, and our role in it. We need to start letting go of our abusive relationship with the dominant cultural paradigm — what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm — and begin re-aligning with Nature’s Paradigm — start thinking like Nature. Thankfully, you already know how. You already think like this when you’re with your loved ones, lost in a creative activity, or out enjoying Nature. It’s a very good feeling.
Imagine what your life might be like — how you might behave and the kinds of decisions you’d make — if you weren’t chronically too busy, too stressed, and too addicted to consumerism. Imagine how that might feel, how you might feel about yourself. Imagine if instead of wanting to reconnect with Nature, you felt that you were part of Nature, of Nature.
This is totally possible. It’s a journey, of course, but it’s easy — and joyful and empowering — to get started. If you’re curious, I invite you to join our online workshop series called Think Like Nature. The first of the three workshops is this week!
REGISTER NOW TO HOLD YOUR SPOT!
No matter who you are or what you believe, it can feel almost impossible to avoid getting sucked into the dominant cultural paradigm, what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm. For many of us, it starts with a trigger first thing in the morning, You read the news. You look at your email. You complain about what you’ll be facing at work. You begin your day by expressing and reinforcing the Conventional Paradigm. And so the day goes.
Does that happen to you? Are you more angry, reactive, victimized, stressed, or competitive most days than you’d like to be, than who you really are? If so, I invite you to take 15 minutes to re-ground yourself in your Natural Paradigm — your core and fundamental belief in abundance (rather than scarcity), systems (rather than individuality), synergies (rather than competition), trust (rather than greed), resilience (rather than resistance), and curiosity (rather than fear).
It’s called a BCI session, where B is for Be, C is for Contemplate, and I is for Imagine. Here’s how it works:
FInd a place to sit outside in Nature, or a spot inside looking out at Nature, where you won’t be disturbed for 15 minutes. Set your phone timer to 5 minutes. When you’re settled, hit start.
Be: Just be. Relax. Breathe. Gaze at Nature. If you’re outside, enjoy using all of your senses. Slowly observe Nature’s abundance, systems, synergies, trust, resilience, and curiosity. Notice how they are expressed. Let yourself feel it, feel part of it. Relax into it. Enjoy it. Be it. When your timer goes off, hit repeat.
Contemplate: Keep enjoying this moment with Nature. Contemplate the presence and feeling of abundance, systems, synergies, trust, resilience, and curiosity in your body, in your life, in your work. Explore each one, slowly. What does it feel like to you, in your body, in your soul? When your timer goes off, hit repeat.
Imagine: Continue to enjoy this feeling, this being with Nature, of Nature. Now imagine what a specific upcoming task, project, or meeting might feel like if you approached it with this deep sense of abundance, systems, synergies, trust, resilience, and curiosity. How might you show up? How might it play out? What might emerge? What outcomes might result? Enjoy this. When your timer goes off, hit stop.
Take a nice deep breath. Commit to taking this feeling forward into the day ahead, your innate Natural Paradigm. If you have time, take a few minutes to journal about the experience and what emerged for you.
That’s it! The more often you practice being, contemplating, and imagining your Natural Paradigm, the more natural it will become for you.
If you’d like to learn more about shifting from the Conventional to your Natural Paradigm, please request the [free] Tiny Transformation Workbook. While you're there, enjoy the other resources available on the Wild Hazel website.
A paradigm is what you believe to be true about the world, how it works, and your role in it. One of the most self-perpetuating elements of the Conventional Paradigm is a sense of scarcity of time. We feel we never have enough of it. The sense of lack of time both triggers and is reinforced by the other elements of this paradigm.
The sense of Individuality — that ultimately everything rests on you, you have to do everything, follow-up on everything, fix everything. The sense of Competition — that you have to keep up with, or beat, everyone else, all the time. The sense of Greed — that you’ve got to relentlessly drive to be more, have more, and do more than is needed, than is enough. The sense of Resistance — that things are changing too fast, that you have to constantly be on the lookout and on the defense. And a sense of Fear — that you’re going to fail, going to lose, going to miss out, going to fall behind, going to run out of time.
To succeed in the “real world” we’re supposed to be fast-paced, driven, tough, relentless, winning, climbing. But of course we end up stressed and paranoid, self-absorbed and self-important, more distracted and less reflective, regardless of our externally measured level of success. And regardless of the fact that (for practical purposes) the Earth always rotates and spins at the same rates, all the time.
In Nature, time just is. Organisms and ecosystems have evolved, together, so that things happen when and at the speed that makes sense, in response to appropriate needs and triggers, in cascades, in concert. In Nature, there’s just enough time, all the time.
Your nerve impulses reach speeds over 100 meters per second. Hair grows at a rate of about six inches per year. Kept dry, your hair can last indefinitely. Blood can travel through your whole body in one minute. Your blood plasma is replaced every couple of days, while your red blood cells are replaced every month or two. Your skin renews itself in about 4 weeks. Your heartbeat and breathing speed up when needed and slow to a resting pace whenever possible.
All this is happening in your body at the same time, at the right time, over time, and at the right speed. That idea of “never enough time” doesn’t even make sense. That is how your body — and the rest of Nature — is designed. Nature is designed to do what it needs to do in the time available. This can happen because Nature relies on and values abundance (rather than scarcity) as well as systems, synergies, trust, curiosity, and resilience.
If you’ve always felt that you’ve never had enough time, pause and reflect if that even makes sense. Have you never completed anything? Have you never made it where you needed to go? How are you even here, now?
A paradigm is what you believe to be true about the world, how it works, and your role in it. Your paradigm, and the current dominant cultural paradigm, are constructs, perceptions — they are made up. You can live believing that you never have enough time or that you always have just enough time. It’s up to you.
If you’re curious how you might shift your paradigm, I invite you to request the [free] Tiny Transformation Workbook and explore the other free resources offered through Wild Hazel.
I learned a new word today from Vincent Skyers, a student in my class Leading for Regenerative Sustainability: Asé
I learned that Asé has different meanings. It can be used like “Amen” or “Right On”. It can refer to your Life Force or Life Energy. And it can refer to the power to create that which you speak, that you are adding life force onto every word that comes out of your mouth.
As I continue to explore the meanings of our individual and collective reflections and reinforcements of the Conventional and Natural Paradigms the tiny word Asé resonates deeply. How about you?
If you reflect on your day-to-day decisions and behaviors, would you have felt compelled to say Asé? What did you do today? Did you buy a new outfit that will make you look great? Did you nail that product proposal? Did you whip around in traffic in order to get that sweet parking spot? Did you hug your child or partner or friend with deep unconditional love? Did you breathe the morning air and feel deep gratitude for the abundance of Nature?
If you reflect on your day-to-day decisions and behaviors, are you increasing or decreasing your Life Energy — and Earth’s Life Energy? Are you expressing, engaging in, and contributing to abundance, systems, synergies, trust, curiosity, and resilience? Or are you reflecting and reinforcing your, and our collective, devotion to scarcity, individuality, competition, greed, resistance, and fear?
If you reflect on what you said out loud today, as well as your inner monologue, what are you doing to your Life Force — and to Earth’s Life Force? What do you think you’ll say tomorrow? How will you say it? What is your intention? How might that impact your Life Force, their Life Force, our Life Force?
Given that most of us live and work in a world driven by the Conventional Paradigm — the “real world” — it can be hard to reflect and express our Natural Paradigm. But it can be done. It must be done. Perhaps pondering the word Asé might give you a new perspective, a new reason, to begin re-aligning with Nature.
We’re all familiar with the expression “Fight or Flight”, which refers to the strategies that animals employ when faced with danger — they can stay and fight, or they can fly (or run or swim or slither) away. When learning about how people are experiencing their tiny transformation from the Conventional Paradigm to the Natural Paradigm, another interpretation of that expression comes to mind.
When exploring how they express and experience the Conventional Paradigm, the sense of fighting comes up often. They feel like they have to fight for limited resources, fight to maintain their power or position, fight everyone they engage with, fight to get more, fight what is unfamiliar, and fight their fears. It’s so stressful!
But when they explore how they express the Natural Paradigm, the sense of flight seems to permeate their descriptions. When they let go of scarcity, individualism, competition, greed, resistance and fear, they feel like a bird being released from a cage, free to fly. Their words are uplifting, compelling, inspiring. Hearts soar, including mine.
I often talk about how critical it is for sustainability advocates and leaders to operate from the Natural Paradigm if we are to achieve any of our sustainability goals. What might be even more profound is how incredibly wonderful it is — perhaps even critical — to operate from our Natural Paradigms on a personal level. And it can be so easy to start, and to start feeling the benefits.
Often when we want a distraction or need a break, we reach for our phones and scroll through the news, social media, or shopping sites. In doing so, we reflect our devotion to the Conventional Paradigm, and reinforce the power it has over our lives and our minds. What if instead, you took that few minutes to doodle, to work on a gratitude list, to write a quick note to reinforce a relationship, to go for a walk, to watch how the steam rises off of our coffee or tea, to ponder the unique beauty of a knot of wood, to touch a tree.
That’s all it takes to begin to reflect and reinforce our Natural Paradigm, but it does take a bit of awareness and intention. The key to continuing this practice is to notice the value that it brings to your life, even in small moments. Did your blood pressure come down? Did you smile? Did your mind relax and expand? Did you recognize that you are part of a much bigger and beautiful world?
Next time you get that sense of fight or flight, imagine another way to fly. If you do, please share your experience and insights!