If you’d like to follow the path that I did today, start by watching this. Then take a long walk up a big hill and spend half an hour thinking. My results are below:
When I think back to where I was many years ago, before I “woke up”, it’s hard to believe I’m even the same person. Working a desk job to pay for things I didn’t need. Struggling with my health because I drove everywhere and never got outside. Understanding environmentalism but not realizing how it’s all connected. I don’t know what the moment was, or even if there was one. I remember the period of my life when I started to wake up, but it was definitely a piece by piece process. My brain was still very much concerned with things like physical appearance, material goods. I remember a period when I woke up to realizing that if I wanted to make any sort of change in my life, I would have to make it happen: that no one was going to do it for me. I remember feeling empowered by taking action. And I remember learning about peak oil. I watched a lot of documentaries. Learned a lot on the internet. It started by deciding how to spend my very modest income on upgrading my home. Then reducing my carbon emissions by walking more and buying less stuff. I think that was when I started to understand that the system we live in is broken.
Learning about peak oil really changed everything. When you start to think about energy usage and how you contribute to it on a global scale, you start to realize how connected everything really is. “Connectedness” as a concept can start out small, and grow enormous in a single day. Tracing back consumptive habits can quickly show you how you contribute to climate change on a global scale – and then scare the shit out of you because you don’t know how to be a part of the change. The options really aren’t there for most people to NOT be a part of it. But once that understanding happens, there’s an immense feeling of discomfort when you realize just how bad things are – how deep in we are as a society and culture.
Testing the Waters
I think everyone finds their way to this step differently. For me, it was backyard chickens. Followed closely by the Transition movement. Here was real, tanglible solutions! Here was a way of life where I didn’t have to be part of the bad, and where I had every opportunity to be part of the good. Whatever the solution that people find, most start by testing the waters, making small changes in their life that reflect their own personal understanding of the problem. Volunteering with community organizations, becoming passionate about local food, meeting like minded people in the community who are also aware of the problems that we face in our world. Farmers markets, fair trade products, buying used goods, subscribing to newsletters about sustainability – all easy to take baby steps that make you feel like your learning more about making positive change.
Immersion and Making the mental paradigm shift
And then – opportunity knocks! Sometimes I think that opportunities simply become more obvious when you’re reaady to notice them. But perhaps there’s ka at work that helps you to notice them better. Something happens in your life that allows you to dedicate more time and effort to living the life guided by happiness, creativity, etc. rather than profit. For me, it was a job change (career change really) that showed me that I could focus my effort almost entirely on making the paradigm shift, and helping others start to wake up to the possibilities of change that already exist around us. By immersing myself in this culture, I am able to better understand it – devote more brain power to try and find tangible solutions – have more resources to help better understand what’s happening in my head, and in the world around me. I am excited about being able to devote my skills and thoughts to making change in the world – the change that I believe is so important. The more I learn, the more I immerse myself, the strong that this mental paradigm shift becomes. I truly begin to see the world as a connected unit and understand the implications of the great turning, but with it comes struggle and grief – hardship and frustration. Why are people so slow to see the change that must happen? Why are we so selfish as a race and unable to make the sacrifices needed to save the planet? The inner transition that happens with this stage takes over all of me sometimes. I call it depression, but I think it’s something different – not a mental disease, but a very real frustration with the world in which I live.
So now I’m here. I’ve made the paradigm shift and changed my lifestyle. I’ve downsized my home, changed career paths, understand The Great Turning and have decided to live my life in the new model. Yet, I feel deeply unsatisfied because the rest of the world hasn’t changed with me. I’m still innindated with the day to day struggle of living in the old paradigm. I need to pay my mortgage and bills, I need to have money to put food on my table – to feed my family. I struggle to find others who will live in this new paradigm with me. Work seems to lose meaning when you no longer believe in the old systems. Even work that helps contribute to that paradigm shift feels like a weight because it’s a constant battle and struggle to generate a feeling of self worth when profit no longer plays a role. I understand the value of quantifying success in terms of things like happiness, health, creativity, productivity – but am still bound by the constraints of needing to generate revenue in order to be “successful”. When trying to contribute to the paradigm shift, there isn’t any long term or big picture tangible measure of success, so it feels as though I’m constantly trying to reach for something bigger and unattainable. There isn’t anything to hold on to, other than that measure of profit, so I feel as though I’m always just reaaching, although I don’t know towards what.
And thats it. It ends with a big question mark. I don’t know what the next step is. I don’t know where the resolution will lie. I’m left with the constant feeling of “what’s next?” without an answer.