Scott’s Writing

/Scott’s Writing
Scott’s Writing 2016-10-21T16:01:02+00:00

On Interbeing

Interrelatedness, interdependence, and interbeing—all these words convey the same basic meaning. Interbeing is the more beautiful word and it speaks to the physical and spiritual essence of our existence, our beingness, in the most direct way. As humans we cannot exist without the sun, air, soil, and rain—without all the elements and processes of the Earth and biosphere. Nor can we be without each other and other species. Everything from the bacteria in our guts, the decomposers in and of the soil, the insects that provide pollination, the plants and animals we eat, to the phytoplankton, trees, and plants that absorb carbon and create oxygen—we are all in it together, interconnected in a web of relationship and interdependence. As Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist teacher and peacemaker who coined the word interbeing, put it, “We inter-are.”

Interbeing is a new word in English, and I hope it will be accepted. We have talked about the many in the one, and the one containing the many. In one sheet of paper we see everything else, the cloud, the forest, the logger. I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am. That is the meaning of the word ‘interbeing.’ We inter-are.
—Thich Nhat Hanh (Being Peace, 1996, p. 87)

The Belief in Separateness

An excerpt from my book, Active Peace: A Mindful Path to a Nonviolent World—

Those of us who grew up in mainstream Western society are products of a worldview based on separateness. A worldview is an individual’s or a society’s all encompassing view or perception of reality. It forms a guiding narrative that dictates what is valued and noticed and what is not; it is a story that people live by. The individual worldview is unavoidably influenced by the societal worldview, which is shaped over generations by largely unconscious, and therefore unexamined, beliefs, values, and assumptions.

We have been steeped in a view of reality where living systems such as the Earth and the human body are considered machine-like, and only what can be seen and measured is truly valued. In this worldview, humans are considered separate from, and superior to, the Earth and all of nature, and are thus free to manipulate the world at will.

This dominant worldview also separates human beings from each other and the divine source of all existence—a separation that contributes to the systemic violence and injustice that shows itself in many ways, including war, torture, the death penalty, racism, environmental degradation, and ever-increasing levels of economic inequality.

The belief that we are separate from each other, from the Earth and other species, and from spirit is the big lie. It is the ultimate cause of all our suffering.

OpEdNews Article


An excerpt from my book, Active Peace: A Mindful Path to a Nonviolent World

A key aspect of our restorative context is the human/nature split—the largely unconscious belief that we are separate from nature. Of course humanity never has been and never will be separate from nature but we have come to believe that we are and, consequently, our behaviors and technologies are undermining life on Earth. As the day-to-day functioning of industrial society continues to wreak havoc on the planet, individuals and even organized groups seem nearly powerless to change things in any kind of fundamental way.

The field of ecopsychology delves into this territory and points directly to the human/nature split as the root cause of our degrading and shortsighted treatment of the Earth and other species. While its roots are ancient, contemporary ecopsychology has developed over the past couple of decades as some environmentalists and psychologists began to think about the environmental crisis and its relationship to the psyche.

Ecopsychology gives voice to our embeddedness in the Earth and how our health and sanity are intimately tied to the health of the natural world. There are compelling arguments to make that our imaginations, our ability to feel and experience, and our sense of meaning and purpose have all been damaged by the lack of conscious and intimate participation with the Earth. It makes sense, since we are of the Earth from the very beginning, with bodies and minds that developed over millions of years for finely tuned and direct relationship with virtually every aspect of the Earth, with plants and animals, water and wind, soil and seasons.

Given the reciprocal relationship between humans and nature, it follows that there is something pathological in the thinking of people—and I mean virtually all of us—who allow and perpetuate the degradation of their life-support system. It also follows that living with such degradation will negatively impact people’s psyches in profound ways.

Having lost much of our conscious connection to the natural world and our own bodies, it is little wonder that depression, drug abuse, violence, obesity, attention deficit disorder, excessive materialism, and many other symptoms of mental imbalance have arisen on such massive scales. The root meaning of the word insane is “not whole,” and this characterizes industrial society and the psychic splits it perpetuates in a poignant way.

Ecotherapy can simply be considered “applied ecopsychology” (Buzzell and Chalquist, Ecotherapy: Healing With Nature In Mind, 2009). A range of nature-based practices can be employed to begin to heal the human/nature split and build a foundation of real health, wholeness, and resilience.

Transpersonal Psychology

Transpersonal psychology arose as a modern field of study in the 1960s with the large scale experimentation by Westerners of Eastern spirituality, meditation, indigenous wisdom and culture, psychedelic drugs, and the openings people were experiencing with creative, body-centered psychotherapy. A few psychologists of the day saw people having mind-blowing experiences and realized that mainstream psychology was not paying attention. As a result, a group of influential psychologists, including Abraham Maslow, got together and formed transpersonal psychology to fill the gap.

It turns out that many people have had some kind of transpersonal experience, meaning an experience of being beyond the limits of personal ego. And even though such experiences can be life changing—or perhaps even because they can be life changing—they don’t tend to be talked about. Transpersonal psychology offers a framework and language for talking about, processing, and integrating these shifts in consciousness.

An excerpt from my book, Active Peace: A Mindful Path to a Nonviolent World–

Human development and maturation can be said to move through three primary stages: pre-personal, personal, and transpersonal. In the pre-personal stage, we are born unsocialized and without a sense of independent self. Later, with the personal stage, we are enculturated and learn the norms and values of society. This includes developing our individuality and the functional aspects of ego. It also includes absorbing the belief in separateness that comes with the dominant worldview.

Human development often ends here, with conventional belief and value systems going unchallenged. But as the perennial philosophy and the three-stage model of development suggest, the transpersonal stage lies beyond the personal as an open field for realizing true maturity and our spiritual essence as human beings.

Restorative Activism

A restorative approach to activism heals the activist at the same time it contributes to healing society and the Earth. In terms of the personal benefits, this form of activism is a constant reminder to see others and ourselves with conscious awareness. We take care of ourselves and avoid feeding destructive emotions and unhealthy levels of stress. We cut ourselves the slack we need and embrace the practices that support us.

In terms of the collective benefit, restorative activism limits our unconscious lashing out and contributing more resentment, shame, and other forms of violence to the world. As any parent or mentor knows, people learn more from what we do than what we say. Sowing the seeds of life-affirming beliefs and values through our actions is much more powerful than going around telling people what they should do. Through consistent nonviolence we put interbeing into action.

Mindfulness, nature-based practices, relationship skills, and an expanded sense of self all combine to support a transpersonal approach to activism. Transpersonal awareness moves us out the ego and all the attachments that come with it—to be in control, to be right, to be important, to be liked. When we see the bigger picture of reality, we can take ourselves less seriously and give priority to relationships, even the most challenging.

From this place of transpersonal awareness we can stay grounded, even in the face of the ignorance, chaos, and uncertainty that could otherwise overwhelm us. Despite how dire things may seem, we train ourselves for a marathon and not a sprint (remember, there is no quick fix). Awareness, openness, compassion, and love are the basis of a sacred approach to activism that goes to the roots of the crisis we face.

Restorative activism begs the question: What would be possible if every activist had real training and capacity as a peacemaker?