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Regenerative Lifestyles: Collaborating With Gaia

By Jacob Devaney

First proposed by James Lovelock, the Gaia Hypothesis is the idea that our planet as a whole is a complex, self-regulating system that maintains the conditions needed for life.

This is to say that organisms co-evolve with their environment. We impact our environment, and our environment shapes us. By observing and learning from this, we can adapt to live in ways that are more harmonious. A regenerative lifestyle is one where we consciously participate in the living systems we are part of.

Human actions are usually motivated by narrow self-interest rather than co-evolution with our biosphere. When our perspective broadens, we begin to realize how collaborating with our environment is in our self-interest. When we recognize that the world is supporting us toward becoming thriving living organisms, we begin to transcend the narrow perspective of the mechanistic material realm. This expansive worldview perpetuates thriving and diverse ecosystems and enriches human life.

The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., is a great starting point for understanding how our inner ecology and beliefs shape our world from the inside out. In a previous article, “Ending the Conquest of Nature,” a few years ago, I explored some of the historical roots to some damaging belief systems. It is clear that we are on a journey from darkness into light when we can shift from destructive mindsets to more creative and collaborative ways of viewing our place in the world.

I am always amazed to discover how many environmentalists harbor an unspoken self-hatred for humans and what we have done to the planet. Although I can relate to the anger and sorrow for the destruction humans have created, this self-hatred does not fix anything. We have these extremes playing out—we have those who think going into a cave and meditating will solve the world’s problems, and others who angrily take to the streets demanding radical change. Meanwhile, some just think the planet would be better without humans at all.

All of this changes when we begin to see ourselves as an integral part of the interconnected web of life on the planet.

What if those with a spiritual understanding adopted some real-world political action, and those environmental activists began to embrace some basic spiritual principles? This kind of balance might do wonders toward creating a better future for us all…and I think we are starting to see this happen.

The way we use language is a doorway into our belief systems, and introducing new words (or making them up) can help change the way we perceive the world around us. My friend Brian Malis uses the term “permachology,” which is a combination of permaculture/psychology, referring to sustainable, regenerative practices that work in natural systems and applying them to psychology.

“Pronoia” is another great word for shifting the way we perceive the world. It is the opposite of paranoia—it’s the sneaking suspicion that the universe is secretly conspiring to help you. In this same regard, random acts of kindness contribute to a larger sense of being loved, supported, and nurtured in this world. If we all embraced these beliefs and practiced them, how might that change the world around us?

During the recent hurricanes, Anthony Colombo posited this powerful question on the blog Dreamspace: “Understanding the nature of dreams enables us to see opportunities within problems. What is the ‘dream’ of Planet Earth?”

There’s an ongoing discussion about how to spark dialogue about the ways that people perceive climate change and hurricanes. Environmentalists might infer that hurricanes are nature’s way of punishing us humans, like bad little kids, for too much carbon emissions. What if we reframed the discussion to consider that hurricanes are nature’s way to cool the oceans and planet to support us so that all of life can continue to thrive?

There is scientific data to support this, so we worded it into a meme. To our surprise, it was shared 1,500 times in the first 24 hours! It is a complex issue, and our objective wasn’t to simplify absolute science, but to spark a dialogue about the ways that we perceive hurricanes. It sparked an invigorating comment thread, in which you can learn a lot. We discovered much better ways to word the concept, and were able to co-evolve shared beliefs by challenging each other to change the way we see what is happening in our world. Social media allows us to all participate in virtual think tanks.

We are currently engaged in a global problem-solving experiment about the many hurdles we face.

Understanding how we got here is important, but exploring ways to change the internal beliefs and external lifestyles that have contributed to these problems is paramount to our evolution. This emergent process can be messy at times, but it can also be collaborative and fun. Each of us has a special piece to this puzzle: What does yours look like?

Self-care, eating the right food, feeding your brain with uplifting information, doing yoga, going on hikes, and relaxing put a person in the optimum place, internally, to interact with their environment in healthy ways. If we can honor the divinity within us, we are a whole lot more likely to see it in the world around us. When you learn more about the Gaia Hypothesis, you might consider some creative ways you can adopt this belief to benefit your life and that of the people around you. We have the capacity to be either regenerative or destructive with our beliefs and actions. Which will you choose?