Never give up! Together there is nothing we cannot do.
In permaculture we have realized the dependence of our health and well-being on our relationship with and care for the plant life and its needs. That has had a strong and salutary effect on many lives, in our individual homes and gardens, in our communal sharing through community gardens, Transition Towns and especially ecovillages, all good models for the future.
There is a great need for us to focus on the health and well-being of our relationships with each other as human beings. Even when we gather in common cause to create better relationships with the plants and the Earth, we still get confused in our interpersonal relationships. That often surprises us, when we began our relationships with such high hopes for them, but more and more we have seen ourselves and others give up and abandon those relationships saddened, or angered, or just bewildered.
Many people have been working with the problems of human relationship for a long time, making great strides in understanding during the past century, Every advance in understanding has been helpful, but the most helpful, in my opinion, in terms of the number of people being helped and passing that help on to others, has been through the activities of an international community known as Re-evaluation Counseling. I became acquainted with it in 1979 and I stay connected to that community and its many wise and wonderful people who keep exploring the use of the tools of listening and encouraging, discovering and publishing new insights.
In the past 30 years my wife and I have been bringing other people in many countries together, teaching the methods of taking turns listening to and encouraging one another. To distinguish our work from that of Re-Evaluation Counseling, which requires a different agreement, we call the tool we teach Supportive Listening, and a growing community now exists calling itself The Circle Way- to denote its connection to the social wisdom of indigenous people and the ancestors of us all, who lived in circles to support one another and in harmonious relation to the Earth and all life.
The concepts of The Circle Way and of Supportive Listening, as well as as those of Re-Evaluation Counseling, have proved to be extremely effective in understanding and improving all relationships, and particularly those of our complicated and confused human societies. I think it might be useful to consider this approach as a basis to begin to develop a Permaculture of the Heart.
With permaculture of growing our food we consider the natural environment that proves best for the growth of each species in all their relationships, with soil, water, air, sunlight, temperature – and for the continued health of those relationships into the future. For the health and vigor of our human relationships we must consider the needs of the human being. Under what conditions do all human beings and human relationships thrive and flourish in health and joy?
What is poisonous to us, what hinders our growth, our well-being? Shame, guilt, disappointment in ourselves, feeling not good enough, all these interfere with our contentment and enjoyment of relating to others. We thrive in an environment, a family, a community, a society that appreciates us, accepts us, finds us worthy. We need an environment that is safe, a society that is free from fear of others, and one in which we have a place, we belong, we are valued..
Human beings have an inherent need to belong. We became human when we joined together to protect and help one another. In creating those communities trust was a primary need.
We needed, for our survival, to trust every member of our community with our lives. Building and maintaining that trust was everyone’s first job. For those tribal circles the sense of belonging extended often to smaller groups, or clans, in which the members knew one another more intimately, being cared for by the clan since infancy. Each clan usually had ceremonial responsibilities in the tribe, and a spirit of cooperation prevailed among them
So if we are to design a permaculture of human relations we must take into consideration this ancient desire to belong, to be accepted, wanted, appreciated and honored in our group. That is the same for every relationship, for couples, for families, for clans, for communities, and, if we are able to expand our conscious awareness, for the entire human race.
We bring greater love and appreciation of other people when we learn to love and appreciate ourselves. In the pressures and confusions of our cultures we do not always fully respect ourselves. We may feed ourselves on fare with poor nutrition, we may put unhealthy substances into our bodies, we may overwork ourselves, get inadequate rest or exercise, develop stress and tensions we know are not good for us, adding to our feeling bad about ourselves. Sometimes we are in relationships that are toxic to our well-being, and our reactions to that are often not helpful or healing.
If we can develop relationships that satisfy our needs to give our love and to be helpful, and if we recognize the need in others to be helpful and to give their love to us, we can help each other to greater enjoyment and fulfillment. Money and power and fame do not give us what we want and need, which is to be loved and valued for ourselves, for who we actually are, not for how much money or power or fame we may have.
The happiest person I ever knew was my great-grandmother, whom I called Nana. She was absolutely content with herself, and she loved everyone, was happy for and about all the family and all she met, and so of course, there was no one who did not love my Nana. Until today I still keep a large portrait photo of her on my shelf to remind me of what is truly sacred and valuable in this life.
One thing I have found in the past forty years of listening to and counseling people is that the more I learn about each one the more I grow to understand and to love them in all their struggles. Ellika often tells people the story of how sometimes in our early circles she would see someone who stood out as being very disagreeable to her, perhaps aggressive, opinionated, or full of himself. She says that somehow fate always arranged that she would be partnered with that person for a short supportive listening session, and she says that every time she heard that person’s story she began to understand and to like him more and more.
That’s how it is. We are all completely lovable. You are absolutely lovable, a shining gem of a human being – do you know that? Oh, I know you have developed patterns that neither you nor others like very much. But those patterns are not your fault, you can’t blame yourself for them – you certainly never asked to have them. They developed as a response to ways in which you were being hurt, lessened, and oppressed. In some circumstances they may have helped you avoid some hurt, but now they only get in your way.
And of course you have made mistakes like everyone else. Probably the result of poor information or some emotional pressure at the time – not your fault. And mistakes are the way we learn. You want to be wise? Make a lot of mistakes.
These patterns and the memory of mistakes occlude you to yourself, hide the real you, who really only wants to be loved and accepted, appreciated and understood, to feel close to others, relaxed and having fun, learning and creating and sharing all the love that is in your heart.
That’s who you really are, who every one of us is: a good-hearted person who has always tried to do the best you could every moment of your life. If you don’t recognize yourself in that statement I can sympathize, but that is because you are stuck with the inhuman values of our culture that work night and day to educate and indoctrinate us all in the worship of sacred money. Notice that it is not money that is the root of all evil in the old proverb, it is the love of money.
Creating a non-toxic and healthy environment in which to grow happy people and joyful relationships organically, we need to exclude all the pollutions of our present society. Our nature is to be helpful, to want to cooperate and to share; we need to learn about our needs and our desires and what inhibits and injures our hearts and minds. We want to be accepted and appreciated so we need to accept and appreciate others and build relationships and communities that focus on acceptance and appreciation, on helping each other, on understanding and encouraging. We need to exclude blaming, shaming, humiliating, judging, attacking. Creating, working, playing, learning, sharing together we will be making a new and more human world.
What if schools dropped grades and exams and assignments and just began to love the students, to enjoy them and listen to them, to bring wonder and excitement to learning, making it not a competition but a shared, cooperative adventure? What if play, the way children learn naturally, was the primary tool of schools? What if having fun and sharing, listening and telling stories were important to the teachers and not rules and discipline? What if each child was helped to be seen and heard and known, loved and accepted? For most people, the last time they were in a really educational environment was in kindergarten.
As a teacher and educator for over half a century who has helped create many free alternative schools I can testify how much more effective those ways are in enhancing children’s natural desire to learn which our education system does its best to kill.
Our institutions are inhuman largely because they are just too big, aside from also being the tools of Sacred Money. We need close relationships with other human beings. We need to listen to others’ lives, feelings and ideas, and we need to have our own feelings and ideas listened to and understood. We understand ourselves more by listening to ourselves exploring our feelings and ideas, our own fears and desires, our dreams and visions, and as we listen to others doing the same.
Many people are now considering the destructive force of our economy. How capitalism is progressively increasing the gap between rich and poor, the rich getting more and more of Earth’s resources, the poor getting poorer and more numerous. It is the ownership of the Earth’s resources by a small percent of its population that protects that system and keeps change from happening. Now both capitalist and socialist states are destroying the environment and imperiling all life. We must stop what we are doing and build a new basis for society.
With ecovillages and Transition Towns, community farming exchanges, worker ownerships of businesses, free schools, free stores, and community gardens and parks, for example,we are already slowly moving away from governments and political parties toward people involvement and a new human culture. We need to keep our social units small, where we can look into each others’ eyes and listen to each heart.
We need to begin to develop an economy based on giving (which is love-based and human) rather than getting (which is fear-based and anti-human). An excellent study towards that is Sacred Economy by Charles Eisenstein. But ideas have value only when put into action. Can we experiment with that now?
Another book of Eisenstein’s, The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know Is Possible, says it all in the title. We know our society is heartless and inhuman and we know we need to give love even more than we need to receive it, and our hearts all dream of a world where that love reigns, and we know that world is possible. We need to follow that promise and let it guide us.
We can make our own renewable energy now, build our environmental houses, grow our organic permaculture food, and we can prepare a permaculture of natural organic relationships based on our natural understanding and love for one another, on learning ourselves and each other, our natures, our stories, our needs, our dreams, and the joy of playing together and learning from our lovable lively children and the many stories of our dear and honored elders.
We need to create and sustain new communities that are loving and human. I propose the Circle Way, from the teachings of my elders that the best form for community is the circle, and the purpose of a circle is to help others. By helping others we are ourselves helped, but our purpose is to help others. In the Circle Way we learn to do this by Supportive Listening.
Communities are built of relationships. I am proposing we work together on a permaculture of relationships, a permaculture of the heart, to grow and sustain the most beautiful and fruitful relationships among us all
Never give up! Together there is nothing we cannot do.