Back in July, participants from Sweden and Denmark gathered for the annual Circle Way camp hosted by Manitonquat, a Native American who bases his teachings on traditional tribal ways.
The camp, held at the Mundekulla conference center, has been going for some 11 years now. This year for the first time they were joined by people from the Swedish Transition movement.
TRIBES WORK FOR RESILIENCE
There is a lot for Transitioners to gain from learning about these traditional ways as I discovered right from the opening ceremonies. Firstly, the whole meaning of forming a tribe and living in a tribe is to create security and safety for all members, a good environment for the next generations to grow up in, and a way for the elders to pass on their wisdom.
To me it makes a lot of sense; it is about resilience. A group of people who are organised, supportive, open and warm will be able to handle a lot of the challenges thrown at them, far better than each individually, especially if the talents and gifts (as well s the experience) of each member can be put to good use.
With each individual contributing to their full, the tribe will make good decisions, create a warm and supportive atmosphere, and build a place to grow up and thrive in.
It’s all about love and appreciation
Apart from resilience, one thing that struck me is the focus on love and appreciation that lies at the core of the old ways. I remember many of my first meetings with the Transition movement; they all started with people turning to each other expressing what they appreciated about where they lived, food, holidays etc. It always gave the right frame to start the meetings off. And Appreciative Inquiry, the problem-solving method based on looking at what is working uses the same frame of mind. Manitonquat takes it one step further. He uses the idea of humans as being a unique “mothers and others” creatures. Because of the long time it takes to reach adulthood, and the amount of attention and care needed, human children’s needs extend far beyond what two parents can provide. The child needs the tribe to grow up.
For humans to evolve, we need a lot of contact with children
And, according to Manitonquat, it is a two way street: for us adults to grow, we need the connection with children, they challenge us to find out hearts and our love, and to open up to continue our own growth. Appreciation, love, compassion, so much a part of the human experience, are all brought out in us by children. And in that mode we become creative and generous, the energies needed to evolve humankind.
So much of the customs and practices we learned at the Camp have to do with personal growth: creating a secure and safe environment, creating a space that invites the peace everyone longs for into their lives, putting everyone’s talents and gifts to good use, and securing the community for the next generation.
IT IS A PERMACULTURE APPROACH
Standing in the ceremonies and listening to Manitonquat I got the strong feeling that I was experiencing a permaculture approach to creating a healthy and healing culture: you design practices and customs to support that culture, and you take good care of them. Just as the design for food provision gives food security, the design for cohesion brings security to every member from a social point of view. It is easy to brush off traditions and ceremonies as being artifacts from a less developed past that are just, like the appendix, hanging around with no real function. Not so from a North American Indian view: they are the very tools of survival.
IS SO DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE
So, how do you actually go about bringing people together to form the tribe? Manitonquat says that in all living things there must be some kind of original instructions. And that finding a resonance with these instructions is something that every human being can do. If we just get started, we might let our intuition guide us.
It all starts by standing in a circle and holding hands. Looking around at the people present to see them and having everyone expressing their shared intention and appreciation of that which we resonate with. We did it several times during the camp and it always felt good. It is deceptively simple, but it needs to be done in a sincere way, and with sensitivity to all the people present.
I was reminded again how similar it was to the way we start Transition information meetings, where we get people to share their favourite place or food or holiday spot, to remind attendees that we come from a place where we want to preserve the Earth for ourselves to appreciate and enjoy and to hand it on to others.
LISTENING BUILDS RESILIENCE
The practices Manitonquat teach contain a lot of powerful techniques of listening, I would say on par or maybe better than those taught on top leadership and counselling courses. Again, deceptively simple. In the resilient community, when going through tough changes, everyone needs emotional support. With a whole tribe armed with a sincere wish to help and powerful techniques it is just to grab the person of your choice and get going!
Being listened to, unconditionally like that was for me actually a wonderful experience. I have been through a pretty tough past six months and hadn’t realised just how much it had been dragging me down until I got the chance to participate in the session where I got heard and listened to, as one of the techniques is called, actively.
Another similar approach they use is called “discharging”. You give the other person 10 minutes (enough to express, not enough to burden the listener) to express the difficult, negative feelings and emotions they are carrying, and then you get to swap roles.
Just the efficacy of this practice is born out by academic research: in one experiment, hospital patients who spent 20 minutes writing about difficult emotional issues healed faster than the control group who did not express in that way. Follow this link.
YOU NEED A CLAN AND A TRIBE
Let me just explain this bit about the ideal size of a community: our temporary “tribe” was about 70 people including children (who were, by the way always welcome to take part in the common activities). I think the ideal tribe size is larger, I should guess that it needs to be no larger than you can hear everyone’s voice when sitting in a circle, and no larger than everyone can make a contribution. But to make it work you need smaller groups too. We divided into clans of 5-6, to not only take on some of the practical tasks needed to be done at the camp but to also create a support group. I guess in native practices one of the clans you belong to is through blood relations. Anyway, our clan was there to be supportive in listening and we had several sessions where we just got the opportunity to talk and be listened to.
It sounds simple, it is, but done with sensitivity I believe a clan approach as a support group could be useful to Transitioners or any community. Being a human in this modern world, in these challenging times is not easy. Having someone to talk to like that is truly valuable, and healing.
Manitonquat was saying how they always had a ceremonial clown. Part of the whole thing is not to take yourself too seriously. In fact, doing a good job of making a bit of a fool of yourself is highly encouraged. One evening we had an “open stage” session where each clan did a skit. Mostly humorous, sometimes profound it reminded me of how much your own home grown entertainment is thousands of times better than that you see manufactured for television!
TRANSITION IS ALSO ABOUT DESIGNING THE CULTURE YOU WANT
I had the opportunity together with Pella Thiel to run a session to introduce the Transition movement. We did a few “mapping” exercises where people stand physically in the room relative to where they live. It felt right to talk about the compass directions. As we saw later, traditional native practices are infused with a sense of North, South East West literally and figuratively. Then we talked about the oil, climate, money and social challenges we see and how we are responding at a local level.
THE STORIES WE TELL ARE FORMING OUR CULTURE
As I was talking about oil I felt a sense of being a story teller. Manitonquat has another name: Medicine Story, and he IS a great story teller. In the North American Indian tradition stories are enlightening and healing, they are educational and entertaining. Just as working with a sense of space and direction gives us orientation, stories help orient us in time. Maybe that is why children like to hear the same story, and maybe why I am still drawn to the drama of the oil story.
That is another thing I take away from the camp: the importance of telling the Transition story in a way that gives an orientation and a sense of time.
We got a lot of good feedback from participants who had not yet heard of Transition. They saw a way they could connect with people locally to invite them to circles and for themselves to get involved in the practical side of creating the culture they wanted.
PARTING AS FRIENDS
I loved the final parting ceremonies, from singing a “goodbye, see you again” song to dancing in a long line past each other, giving a little “nod” of recognition and thanks for the time together, the circle sharing of what we most appreciated and what we take with us to use in our own community.
FIND OUT MORE
Highly recommended are Manitonquat ‘s books on Amazon (link) and his website if you would like to attend a camp.
TAKING IT ONE STEP FURTHER
I left feeling inspired to see what I can do in my own community, my family and Transition groups to apply the insight and wisdom from the camp. I considered introducing a few activities in a way that suits the group and Swedish culture. The Viking culture had something called a “round” where everyone got the chance to speak, rather like the talking stick of the Native Americans. That works well even when introduced to people new to the idea of community.
I really appreciated the way the camp was outdoors a lot and integrated with the children. The kids had a lot of space to play and run around, they had their parents close by, but it was more than just a camping holiday because of all the activities. Something to build on, at least for the few months the Swedish climate allows it.
REFLECTION: CAN RETURNING TO TRIBES BE PART OF A GLOBAL EVOLUTION?
In his recently-released talk, Robert Gilman of the Context Institute argues that we have a new freedon to evolve. We are so highly connected (75% of the world population have access to a mobile phone) and highly mobile, we could evolve from being stuck in our immediate groups (town, corporation) to move into new, consensual groupings in new forms of cooperation. Certainly, adopting and buidling on the old ways, combining with new forms of social enterprise could form the foundation of the transition to the healthy, healing culture we long to be part of.
You can be a part of the change by engaging locally wherever you live. Around the world, people are seeing the limits – of carbon dioxide, energy availability and economic growth – as opportunities. They are not waiting for permission. They are coming together to create more stronger, more resilient communities.
Last night’s event with Charles Eisenstein was like listening to a spellbinding story teller, the story of the old story and the story of the new emerging. I twittered like mad until my battery ran out. Here are the tweets unedited.
#ceisenstein disrupt the old story with love and kindness; miracles happen when you come in the flow
#ceisenstein change agents can offer experience of new story: connection, love, acceptance
#ceisenstein now age of gifts. Leaders hold the story. Leaders encourage all to give gifts.
#ceisenstein sees mans exponential growth as childhood. Painful passage of rites ahead as we go to adulthood.
#ceisenstein money no longer created as debt would see universal basic income
#ceisenstein new story is give of your gifts all have gifts to give
This is a translation and adaptation of the leader column I submitted – in my capacity as JAK board member – to JAK’s alternative economy magazine, Grus och Guld. JAK is a member- owned cooperative bank offering interest-free loans.
Like many JAK members I am driven by the desire to change society for the better. Not only to counteract the negative impact of interest on our economy, but the whole system’s negative effects on people. It is sad how money has penetrated our culture so deeply that it is determining the very fundamentals of our way of life. Soon, we won’t be able to “ afford” to be those wonderful, generous, creative, spiritual, loving, appreciative beings that we are in our true nature.
Still, it is not only the monetary system itself that shapes our culture, but the attitudes this money culture carries. It is attitudes not system that mean a farmer can hardly live on producing healthy food while a heart surgeon, who fixes the effects of poor diet, lives in luxury.
As an immigrant to Sweden in the 80’s I see how the hard side of Swedish culture continues to evolve. Despite priding itself on being a socialist nation, they accept domination of state, oligopolies and other strong forces, they accept individuals competing themselves into burn-out and they accept exclusion, even to the extent that people go homeless, toothless and hungry. This development is self-perpetuating. Companies encourage their executives to take risks, cut costs and act on the edge of what is legal in order to achieve profit. This in turn fosters a social psychopathic work ethic that recently had a private old-age care company badly mistreating the old people in their care just to squeeze a few more percentage points.
There are alternatives and possibilities, not least in the Transition movement. Last summer I had the privilege to meet with representatives of alternatives currencies in England. We did a membership count. (It went something like this I don’t remember exact numbers.) Totnes: 2000, Brixton:1000, Bristol: 3000, JAK: 37.000. A silence fell in the room where I can just imagine the thoughts the others were having – what THEY could achieve with 30 000 + members!
Although I do not have money to put into my JAK account, and even if I cannot borrow to put into a community project, there are things I can do, preferably together with other members of JAK. We can get together locally, talk to each other, discuss how we can become creators and bearers of a new, human, Swedish folk culture.
We can do small acts of kindness to our neighbours. And just inviting them for coffee, forming groups that do things together helps create the feeling that as long as we can form trusting relationships with each other there is enough for all – even an abundance – of what we need to live well. And it is just that – good feelings and good relationships – that form the heart of a healthy culture.
No corporation or government is going to contribute to this development. We must create it ourselves. We can start by looking at the real capital we have in our communities – social, human, natural as well as the infrastructure built by the toil of our forefathers. Respect and trust are absolutely the most solid currencies available. It befalls those of us who recognise what’s going on – and you know if you are one of them – to do what we can to grow this kind of capital. Everything else is just numbers that we were enticed into putting our faith in by those who had the most to gain from perpetuating the illusion.
It was great to meet so many people interested in joining in the dialogue around community development at Future Perfect festival held recently in Vaxholm, just outside the Swedish capital, Stockholm. So much arose out of that dialogue that I felt it was worth recording a summary from memory here it is: WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
The Humanitarian Water and Food Award’s mission is to promote food for all in a sustainable way. They have been looking for over a year for initiatives that send a message of hope that everyone on the planet can be fed.
The situation today is miserable, with some billion undernourished and even more without access to clean water. Something is obviously not working.
You would think that with signals everywhere about how world energy production has peaked, there would be more rational discussion generally about how to prepare for the future. In some ways, our way of living is ridiculously wasteful of energy. At least ten litres of fuel are used to get the 50 litres of petrol to your local filling station and into your car. And when you go and pick up the shopping in the car, you use more energy in the transport to do that than is embodied in the calories in the food itself. In fact we are surrounded by huge amounts of energy in embodied form. To make a car uses nearly as much energy as the car uses over its lifetime.
Embodied energy – emergy – and why we need so much of it is an evolutionary conundrum
For scientifically minded people like myself who like to put things in spreadsheets and do back of envelope calculations this all seems like dysfunctional behaviour gone mega. You would think there would be a drive for all of us to live better on less energy, more equitably at that, which would reduce wars and crime. However, the biologist in me has another explanation. To understand this conundrum you need to think about evolution.
When you go and pick up the shopping in the car, you use more energy in the transport than is embodied in the calories in the food itself.
I remember being on a biology field-trip during my university studies way back in the 70s, and my lecturer pointing out the shape of one of the shells of the snails living in the woods.
“Isn’t evolution a mystery?” he said. “That large protuberance on the side of the shell has no function, and it has taken a lot of energy for the snail to make it. Still the snails survive. You would think evolution would make everything a lot more energy effective.”
At first thoughts one might be tempted to think that the snail shell shape was a snapshot in time of shells evolving towards a more energy-effective future and a better design. In fact, today, the discussion is very much alive in sustainability circles. The term emergy, short for embedded energy, means the energy required to get a product into your possession, for example for a car it could be from mine to driveway.
You might think mammals’ energy use is a snapshot in time evolving towards a more energy-effective future. You would be so wrong.
However, looking at the animal kingdom, mammals and birds especially, although nature is highly energy efficient, you see peacocks with giant spectacular feathers, lions with huge manes, elk with magnificent antlers etc. There is something more than energy efficiency behind all this; and it has to do with mating.
A theory of evolutionary biology says that animals, often males, develop features signalling they have an excess of energy. This makes them more attractive to the opposite sex. Crudely put, the female thinks “if he has all that excess energy to make those stupid antlers then he probably has enough to look after me and all the wonderful kids we are going to have”.
What does this all have to do with the peak of oil production? Well, humans work the same way too. We don’t develop protuberances or fancy feathers, but we are nuts about making things look really neat, shiny, straight, flat, fancy, big … you get the idea. I could go on for ages.
This drive to make great stuff, including clothes and running all the way up past yachts to skyscrapers is in part down to a built-in evolutionary drive to procreate. As we are flock animals, the position in the flock is important for the couple so both males and females drive the creation and acquisition of possessions that signal excess of energy.
We are not going to address peak oil until we address our own built-in natural drives.
By now you will probably realise this drive is comparative. For the couple to establish their rank in the flock they need to be a little bit better than others they see around them. Put another way, there is an evolutionary drive in humans to use excess energy to form the environment around them. In a way, this is forming themselves, the environment and possessions define who they are.
Stepping aside from the deeper discussion of how this drive operates in society, we turn to the incredulous scientists – standing with an advanced calculator in their hand wondering how the population of the Earth can use so much energy and get so little achieved.
Some examples: despite the fact we have used up around half of the world’s oil reserves, more people are in poverty, without food and water and education than ever before. Despite years of research and development we are still driving around in cars that give the same gas mileage as the Model T Ford. And the third largest cause of death is in the transport system.
A growing number of scientifically educated people, me included, are baffled by the apparent disinterest in doing anything about creating a standard of living using planet friendly levels of energy.
But of course we still love our shiny stuff, we scientifically minded still want to establish our position in society so we still exhibit high emergy behaviour. We have to find a way – and you could call it new technology of you like although not the kind of technology that requires machines – to act as responsible stewards of the planet whilst living with the genetic drives built in to us. We need if you like, an inner way to come to terms with these animal drives. We already have advanced practices to deal with aggression (laws, policing) and sex drive (moral codes, marriage). This technology (maybe I should use another term – like cultural value and practice) could include rites of passage into adulthood, ceremonies, training from elders, self-imposed limits, all kind of things.
Which brings me to my final reflection: these things are probably to be found in ancient tribal cultures. Tribal cultures appeared in a context where the amount of energy available was constant (for example what the forest, in walking distance, gave in terms of fruit and animals). Let us find the bearers of these cultures and go and talk to them before they disappear from the face of the earth, killed by fast food, runaway trucks or fossil-fuel powered war.
2nd Sustainability Conference 17-18 July in Mundekulla, near Emmaboda, Sweden.
This year’s theme: “Man and Nature”
“Think seven generations forward in every important decision”
Native American proverb
Scientists, business leaders, politicians and ordinary people are increasingly beginning to question our lifestyle.
How has it become the way it is and what can we do about it? How can we create a sustainable future?
These questions are vitally important and affect us all. The change begins with each of us and together we can make a difference if we take these issues seriously ….
The conference takes place in conjunction with the annual Circle Way Camp
Inspiring lectures, meetings and talks!
Welcome to experiential events where you get inspiration to take steps towards your vision of how to live, work and live. Over the weekend, involved representatives from different parts of the world will give their perspective on the human attitude towards nature. After each lecture small groups will gather where everyone can express their own thoughts and attitudes. The weekend concludes with an “Open Space Forum” in which all participants are invited to share their thoughts. On Saturday night, we offer film shows, slide shows, dance, movement and mingling. Lectures are held in simple English and translated on request.
From the programme: -The Original Instructions
Has the man lost his original relationship with nature? Is there a way back?
Listen to a fascinating lecture based on the original Indian wisdom
Indian Medicine Story, 81 years (USA) & Ellika Linden -Transition Towns / Transition Sweden
A unique worldwide initiative to meet the challenges of peak oil and climate change. It starts with you and me and local initiatives!
Stephen Hinton (England), author of the book “Inventing for the Sustainable Planet”
From mechanical to ekocentrisk worldview! What do the ancient and modern philosophers (Aristotle, Descartes, James Lovelock and Peter Singer on our relationship with nature.
Tania Rebel (Holland) MD in Ethics, Religion, Society
-Permaculture and The Cuban Way
A fascinating lecture on Sustainable Development in South Africa and Cuba! Be inspired by the basics of Permaculture – an approach that includes everything from farming to urban planning.
Ezio Gori (SA) Sustainable Development Consultant -Auroville – A Sustainable Example
Auroville is a unique eco-village in India where people from all over the world live and have created a common vision and a sustainable example
Saturday at 09:30, 17 July – Sunday at 17:00, July 18 (Arrive Friday evening)
Stay in tents (for free), mobile home, dormitory, single electricity. doubles.
All meals are included such as lunch, dinner on Saturday and breakfast, lunch and refreshments on Sunday.
Price including food
1600: – in your own tent
Reduced rates for children and adolescents and the possibility to rent rooms
We offer the opportunity to arrive a day before according to the pricing below.
100: – in your own tent
150: – on the mattress in the dormitory
250: – in double room with shared shower & toilet
350: – in double room with private shower & toilet
500: – single room with private shower & toilet
Read more about our rental rules and how the notification works. Click here
Registration is done online as below link or by phone: 0471-50450 alt firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are in dire need of a paradigm shift. One that brings us into sustainability. Before I explain what this shift could entail I need to spend a short time talking about paradigms.
The word first entered more general use in 1962, when Thomas Kuhn released the book The Structure of the Scientific Revolution. For him a shift of paradigm was a change of one way of thinking to another when “one conceptual world view is replaced by another”.
In business, the concept has been used to explore ways of thinking and working that are so common and ingrained in the organization that staff probably do not know they are using them. In this respect, a paradigm gives a HOW often phrased in everyday terms as “the best way to…… is to ….”.
Consultants work to identify the paradigm and bring it to the surface, to examine how functional is it given the new business reality.
So a paradigm shift occurs when there is a major change in circumstances or attitudes.
Take the paradigm “The best way to calculate sums is to use one of our mechanical adding machines”. This paradigm became obsolete when they invented electrical calculators.
Here are some other paradigms that have shifted
The best way to discourage murder is to hang murderers. (Changes when taking human life is valued differently and research into prevention reveals other possibilities.)
The best way to keep in contact electronically is by e-mail. (Changes when social networking sites blossom.)
What situation do we have today that is different from say, ten years ago? Well, we have a growing awareness of the downsides of environmental depletion and destruction caused by our way of life. Emission of carbon dioxide are over the 350 safe limit and oil production has probably peaked. For more on this see my “back of the envelope” explanation of the end of the oil age. We have to explore the paradigms underlying the set-up.
The current paradigm holds that the best way to provide daily needs is via a system that stimulates global human attachment to consumption and to economic growth (as measured by GDP and other indicators). We are convinced that this paradigm is essentially unsustainable and counterproductive.
The system involves human actions that contribute to climate change and to the drawdown of the world’s limited resources. This further limits the capability of ecosystems to provide valuable services for future generations and reduces their access to mineral and biological resources as well.
The application of this paradigm results in:
• Unlimited emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases
• Unrestricted depletion of non-renewable (fossil and nuclear) fuels
• Reckless management of water resources with scarcity of drinking water on one hand and accumulations and flooding on the other
• An economic system that invests in operations with high amount of external burden on the environment
If this paradigm continues to be the main driver of human activity, it will lead to continuing acceleration of climate change, to devastation through flooding, weather extremes, rises in sea level, loss of biodiversity and desertification; to the drawdown of natural resources of all kinds. Furthermore, and equally important, it will not deliver that which it is set up to do, failing ultimately to tackle widespread poverty and human suffering.
Moving towards a sustainable Europe in a sustainable world
We offer a new paradigm: the best approach to providing daily needs to citizens is to configure the system so its capacity to provide services increases whilst at the same time biological and mineral resources stay available, and ecosystems that provide essential services remain intact.
This paradigm is characterised by
• High and visible degree of social equitability
• Limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases
• Limiting depletion of non-renewable (fossil and nuclear) fuels
• Forest cover preservation and regrowth particularly of tropical forests
• Sustainable management of water resources throughout the world
• An economic system that enables investment in creation of daily needs services that work without unsustainable external effects
Acting in gratitude, appreciation and using all our gifts - intelligence, innovation, hope and determination - I believe we can create settlements for ourselves that are truly very beautiful places - reflecting the Very Beautiful Place inside.