Evidence of the Shift

Final in a series

I’ve often written here about feeling overwhelmed, feeling helpless, feeling despairing. At times it seemed the news was all bad.

The Maldives, one of the island nations imperiled by rising seas. Photo by Nevit Dilman, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Maldives, one of the island nations imperiled by rising seas. Photo by Nevit Dilman, via Wikimedia Commons.

At times I feel besieged by evidence that we as a species are beyond hope. Sometimes all I hear is the lowest common denominator outshouting all reason. Sometimes all I see is fear feeding on fear, a downward spiral with no bottom.

Then along comes a hopeful story of human connection, small but significant.

Bethann was at the zoo with her daughter when she heard a man say, “You heard the one about the two Mexicans?” As it happens, Bethann has adopted two children who are not Caucasian. The man had his own young son with him. Bethann stepped up, with nervous heart, determined to make a difference.

Here’s the story in her own words:

“While at the zoo with Bo this morning, a guy with a toddler (loudly) told a joke that started with ‘How many Mexicans does it take…’ I found a moment when he was separated from his group and pointed to Bo and said ‘See that kid? She’s mine and she’s incredible. I can see you love your kid a lot. But, every time you tell one of those jokes, you teach your kid that it’s OK to treat my kid like crap. And, I am sure you don’t mean to teach your child to hurt others, but that is exactly what you just did there.’ He actually quietly said ‘I understand.’ God willing, there will be one more person on this earth who thinks before he teaches his kid to hate.”

Photo by Debbie L., via Flickr Commons

Photo by Debbie L., via Flickr Commons

How stunning that this man, instead of lashing out or being defensive, very quietly said, “I understand.”

To me this is evidence of the shift that Julia Bystrova of Transition US described, the widespread awakening that is already happening. I see it in the way Bethann stood in her center and spoke quietly but strongly to hold this man accountable. I see it in the way she allowed him room to hear her. I see it in his respectful and surprising response.

What evidence have you encountered of this kind of transformation? I’d love to hear your stories.

Confronting the Shadow

Second in a series

Consciousness shift is one thing, but what do we do about systemic ills?

I asked Julia Bystrova of Transition US about the governmental corruption holding us back from systemic policy-level changes—the big changes we are going to need, if we have a prayer of surviving the linked crises facing us. She had an interesting answer.

She pointed out that a healthy consciousness shift is already manifesting on the local level—witness sensible policy changes in cities all over the country. In LA, for example, a group called Tree People convinced their city that urban forestry is key to watershed management.

Photo by Lida, via Flickr Commons.

Photo by Lida, via Flickr Commons.

More than 1000 mayors have endorsed the US Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, vowing to reduce carbon emissions in their cities below 1990 levels, in line with the Kyoto Protocol.

And my own city, right smack in the middle of the stolid Midwest, shows some movement. This year we are gaining both a bike share and an electric car share program.

But beyond the local level where we can see real change happening, the picture looks bleak. As Julia put it, much of our larger governmental machine was “hijacked by corporate pirates.” These titans are not interested in seeing communities flourish on a local scale—not when there are profits to be had.

Greed and control are their modus operandi. Their greed is so extreme that they are willingly sacrificing people’s lives. And they’re deliberately sacrificing the life of the planet.

“That’s what we’re up against,” Julia told me. “We’re up against this darkness. It’s very classic, very mythological…It’s like this classic tale (that) I believe we are living out.”

But spiritually awake people can shine a light on the collective shadow. That’s what these madmen, as Julia calls them, represent: our collective shadow. It’s up to us to gain the maturity to stand our ground, in love and compassion, in the presence of this darkness.

In psychological work, the shadow is the unacknowledged, hated part of ourselves that rules our behavior—unless we turn toward it with love.

It’s time to look at such perpetrators in the face, with full awareness, unafraid.

Rebirth, by Jason Samfield, via Flickr Commons.

Rebirth, by Jason Samfield, via Flickr Commons.

Julia believes that more and more of us are reaching this level of awakening. If we confront them from a high level of integrity, institutions entrenched in corrupt power will crumble.

Again, a powerful vision to hold.

Next: Evidence of the shift.