Everywhere I look these days, I see an new, integrated awareness emerging from collaborations that transcend just about every conventional boundary there is: national borders, cultural differences, race, religion, gender—you name it.
Two weeks ago, my good friend was one of more than 1200 people attending an event at the Pachamama Alliance, an extraordinary group that has dual missions with respect to the developing world (“the South”) and the industrialized world (“the North”). Pachamama’s work is grounded in a relationship between American environmentalists and Achuar people, members of an indigenous group living in the Amazon basin in southeastern Ecuador.
The collaboration began as the northerners responded to an invitation from the Achuar people to assist them in planning and determining their relationship to the encroaching industrialized world. Through Pachamama, technical assistance and support are being channeled to assist the Achuar in:
* Developing sustainable economic enterprises based on the renewable resources of the land
* Capturing and recording traditional Achuar knowledge and supporting the empowerment and revitalization of traditional indigenous education and healing practices
* Strengthening the Achuar’s ability to defend their lands against outside encroachment, including demarcation, mapping, and legal work to secure clear title to land
* Supporting initiatives that strengthen their governing federation and its leadership
Then something quite new happened. The Achuar people asked Pachamama leaders to undertake a mission to their own sphere, the global North. Here’s how cofounders Lynne and Bill Twist tell part of the story in videos that can be viewed at the Pachamama site:
From the very beginning, our indigenous partners told us that it was really, really great that we were working with them in the Amazon, shoulder-to-shoulder, but that was only half the battle. They told us that if we really wanted to protect their lands permanently, we would need to go to work in our part of the world, and as they put it, we would need to change the dream of the North, the dream of the modern world, a dream rooted in consumption and acquisition, without any regard to the consequences to the natural world, or even to our own future.
Changing the dream of the modern world is certainly a daunting—some would even say an impossible—task, but we took the request of the Achuar very seriously. Out of our work with them, we came to see that we in the modern world truly are in some kind of a trance, living in a dream that’s threatening to destroy not only the rain forest and their way of life, but the health and well-being of our entire planet.
And what is the new dream, the one we can dream wide awake? Its roots are in ancient prophecy:
The prophecy of the eagle and the condor comes from many centuries ago, passed down by our grandmothers and our grandfathers. According to ancient indigenous legends…, the eagle is the bird which represents societies that are very materialistic, very human-oriented, and the condor represents more spiritual societies, ones that feel more integrated with their environment. And so the legend said that every 500 years, we go through cycles, and the last cycle began at the end of the 1400s, roughly the time of Columbus. And it was predicted that during that cycle, the eagle would dominate, and that within 500 years, that would start to change, and the eagle and the condor would fly together in the same sky. And in fact, we’re seeing that happen today.
As the paradigm shifts, one of the knee-jerk responses of the old order is to dismiss new thinking as irrational and unscientific. But if all this sounds too woo-woo for you, think again. Since the writings of Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, philosophers have asserted that our understanding of the world is a co-creation, the product of the interaction of our minds and whatever we perceive through our senses. In other words, what we understand—and what we dream—is grounded in what we see, hear, feel and smell, but it is strongly shaped by what we think about those things.
Recent study of the human mind and perceptual apparatus has shown us the biological basis for such philosophical understandings. For instance, by studying the brain in action, scientists have learned that our memories and imaginings of experience produce much the same sensations as the direct experience itself. The more we study, the more we learn how powerful our own beliefs are in creating what we experience as reality.
All of us have had the experience of believing something with utter conviction…until a few seconds later, we realize our conviction is grounded in our own thoughts, not in external realities. At this time of year, I miss my dear departed kitty cat, who exited this mortal coil two winters ago. Yesterday, as I sat at the computer, I heard a loud purring sound. My office is on the second floor, so I knew the sound couldn’t be coming from outside. Kitsa’s black and white furriness leapt into view. I began peering around the room: where was she hiding? Half a minute later, I came to my senses. The “purring” had issued from a family of doves nesting in the eaves just beyond my office window.
What happens with respect to such small things is exactly what happens in every other realm of thought: the world delivers sensory inputs, but our own minds determine how we understand and respond to them. There’s nothing woo-woo about it. In fact, it’s hard to think of a more elegant and accurate formulation for the emergent paradigm shift—the necessary turning toward an I-Thou relationship with the rest of humanity and creation—than Pachamama’s rubric: “Awakening the Dreamer; Changing the Dream.”