Embodied Intimacy, Transformative Inquiry, Creative Emergence

Lifeletter #133: This Changes Everything

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 in Articles by Shayla, Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 3 comments

Lifeletter #133: This Changes Everything

I had the great privilege last night of listening to Naomi Klein, who wrote ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate.’ Her book was described in the NY times book review as “the most momentous and contentious environmental book since ‘Silent Spring.’” Over a thousand people from all over our area showed up to hear what she had to say. Our town is only ten thousand people, so that’s an astonishing level of interest. The event was sold out for months in advance, and people were lined up at the door, looking for last minute cancellations. We were packed in so tightly, I had to put my arm around the back of my seat the whole time.

I haven’t been in that kind of crowd since I was at rock concerts in the 60’s. But we weren’t sitting there, waiting to be entertained, waiting to enter some euphoric state, like the ones the Grateful Dead used to transport us into. We were there to face into the truth that Naomi is asking us to face, a truth which is difficult to face.

She spoke to that almost immediately: how deeply our human conditioning moves us away from the truth of what we are doing to our home, this exquisite living planet, our beautiful mother. According to Naomi, whose prodigious research is well-matched by the bright intensity of her integrity and intelligence, we can turn this whole thing around. Isn’t that amazing? We could stop using fossil fuels by 2015. It is possible, but only if we start now.

If we don’t make massive changes on every level of our global culture, we are faced with unimaginable consequences. Those terrifying consequences are inevitable if we keep on doing what we are already doing-nothing. Which doesn’t mean that many of us have not made changes in our individual lives-we have. But the massive shift that is essential right now has to happen in the public arena, not in our private lives.

“If we allow our current political leaders to keep doing what they want to do, they will drive us right off the cliff,” she said. This in itself is an astonishing thing to really take in. It’s up to us now. We can’t rely on the political system, the economic system that we already have. They are what is destroying our environment.

The inner work I have been doing with people focuses on ‘the momentum tunnel’ we all tend to get caught in—the invisible structures of our psyche that keep us creating the same things, perceiving in the same way, believing the same thoughts, over and over and over. The nature of any structure is to resist change-that’s how it became a structure. We need structures in our lives, some of them are essential. But a lot of them create a tunnel of momentum that becomes incredibly powerful at maintaining itself. This kind of momentum is like the force of gravity, the force of habit, the force of unconsciousness.

To give a very simple example, I stopped eating dairy this year. It took a very strong motivation for me to change that habit. I could feel my inner structures wanting to pull me back into eating cheese, milk, yogurt, whipped cream, ice cream, butter-all of the foods I have loved for my whole life.  Once I got out of the momentum tunnel of my dairy fixation, I no longer cared about it.  And I started to feel a whole lot better. But it took quite a while, and a lot of intention, determination, and clarity.

Can you imagine the force of the momentum tunnel that holds us inside our addiction to fossil fuels? The motivation that would help to move us out of that tunnel would have to be so much stronger than the tunnel. Stronger than the apathy, fear and numbness that keep us inside it.

If we turn towards the truth that is staring us right in the face, we could do it. If we helped each other to face it, without going into numbness or collapsing in despair, that would be very powerful. If we kept the conversation alive, in our collective spaces, so we didn’t fall back to sleep.

We are asleep right now. We are inside a collective tunnel, and it’s a dark place. To know that we are asleep is to start waking up. But not every bit of us is asleep. I believe in the vast intelligence of our body. Our body, which is part of the earth, part of the living system that is our home and our life, knows what is going on. It knows, and it is helpless to do anything, unless we are able to listen.

There is an epidemic of anxiety on our planet at this time. We can attribute it to all sorts of causes. Last night, after listening to Naomi, I thought, “Well, maybe it’s all a lot simpler than we think. It’s kind of hard to relax when your precious home is being plundered and trashed. The only home you have.”

Of all the points Naomi makes, the one that really gets to me is this: To change everything, it takes everyone. This means you. And me. And the woman on the street. And the person next door. Nobody gets to let themselves off the hook.

We need to create a new future, not because of some idealistic fervor. We need a new future or we won’t have any future at all. It’s time for all of our practices, our spiritual efforts, our creativity, our love, our passion, our intelligence, to converge. We can’t afford to indulge our feelings of loneliness, separation, isolation. It’s too late for that now. We need to step into another way of living, we need to get together. Now, not next month. This moment in history is offering us an incredible opportunity. Let’s not go back to sleep. It can be very uncomfortable here, in this awake place. But if I know I am not alone, it’s much easier to bear.


We Have A Beautiful Mother

We have a beautiful
Her hills
Are buffaloes
Her buffaloes
We have a beautiful
Her oceans
Are wombs
Her wombs
We have a beautiful
Her teeth
The white stones
At the edge
Of the water
The summer
Her plentiful
We have a beautiful
Her green lap
Her brown embrace
Her blue body
Everything we know.

– Alice Walker


with love





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  1. Diana van Eyk

    Hi Shayla.

    I was really moved by Naomi Klein’s talk too. We so badly need to heal, grow and act now. And we need to use all avenues available — voting, demonstrating, petitioning, supporting and helping one another and finding a good path forward together.

    For me, her talk was a testimony to our collective sanity. I’m so glad the place was full and that she’s so valued and heard.

    The thought that leapt out at me, and maybe it’s because it’s one of the underlying themes of my novel, is that we have to see our planet as a living being and not just a bunch of resources to be harvested. We would treat her so much differently if this were the case.

    Thanks for posting, Shayla.

  2. Terence

    Thank you for your always inspiring newsletters Shayla. At the end of Naomi’s talk she offered a precious quote from the French writer, Victor Hugo, “How sad to think that nature speaks and mankind doesn’t listen.” It’s time for all of us to listen.

  3. Betsy Nuse

    I have just read your article after viewing this slideshow: http://www.slideshare.net/GuyDauncey/a-new-green-economy. I feel he offers encouraging and helpful information to help take next steps from the realization you so clearly describe. Thanks for your letters!

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