EcoDharma Doula

Flexing our Visioning Muscles

August 2023

One might say that human societies have two boundaries. One boundary is drawn by the requirements of the natural world, and the other by the collective imagination.

—SUSAN GRIFFIN, ‘To Love the Marigold’

Rob Hopkins, a permaculturalist that founded the Transition Movement, has written a book that challenges us to consider what world we want and to begin fashioning that world by bridging “What Is” to “What If.” By visioning what we wish our world to be and working backward, we might avoid the perils of cocooning and the imprisonment of the past. COVID-19 demonstrated to us the swiftness with which change can occur, and it also allowed us some breathing space to consider what we want to put back into our lives, what we wish to leave behind, and what we are missing.

The transition concerns what I am naming the flexing of our visioning muscles. When systems break down, the interdependence principle states that chaos consumes all the interdependent parts. Sound familiar? The worldview of separate Masters of creation resembles Icarus’s fated fall or Yeat’s center that will not hold.

The antidote is the Warrior’s Way of establishing Islands of Sanity. Here is what Meg Wheatley has to say about them:

Islands of Sanity are healthy human communities led by sane leaders. They consciously create themselves as islands, removing themselves from the insanity that is destroying community, the insanity of leaders using fear to escalate separation and conflict. These islands resist the forces of separation and stay together to solve their own problems. They can’t solve the global issues, but they do create strong, harmonious communities, following Teddy Roosevelt’s dictum to “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” They stopped looking elsewhere for help. They turn to one another and discover the deep well of creativity and caring in every human that comes rushing to the surface when people are offered a chance to contribute. 1

This human community sounds like the Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective. With 50 years of training in developing an Enlightened Society, the Shambhala community is well-equipped to lead in our complex instability. As your EcoDharma Doula, I challenge us to put the “Do” in Doula. I claim an Enlightened Society presupposes a healthy planet, and our community is already a breeding ground for Islands of Sanity. We are already what we are searching for. The “Do” has to do with “doing what we can, where we are, with what we have.”

I am assigning homework this month. The assignment is to spend some time flexing your prodigious visioning muscles and answer the question, what will the world look like when we succeed in an Enlightened Society? I realize this is a challenge, and I assure you that we are not alone. Others have preceded us.

And yet, imagining the future in positive ways is also, in some respects, our natural condition. As Donella Meadows puts it:

Children, before they are squashed by cynicism, are natural visionaries. They can tell you clearly and firmly what the world should be like. There should be no war, no pollution, no cruelty, no starving children. There should be music, fun, beauty, and lots and lots of nature. People should be trustworthy and grownups should not work so hard. It’s fine to have nice things, but it’s even more important to have love. As they grow up, children learn that these visions are ‘childish’ and stop saying them out loud. But inside all of us, if we haven’t been too badly bruised by the world, there are glorious visions. 2

To flex your visioning muscle is to relax into what you want our world to be now and wish it in the future. Here is an example:

There are no cars.
Everyone feels so much more relaxed.
The city is so green; there are plants and trees everywhere. 
There are bicycles, lots of bikes.
From my window, I can see fields of crops.
There are food gardens everywhere I walk.
I am walking among lots of happy children playing. 
The streets are full of people.
I see many solar panels.
There are no homeless people.
There is a lot of activity.
There are no big shopping centers anymore.
I hear laughter. 3

As a further example, during the summer of 1990, the Disembodied Poet gathering at Naropa produced a Declaration of Interdependence. Here is the preface:


Events of recent decades have shown that the planet now faces an immense threat to its health and future as a life-sustaining celestial body. Evidence of global warming, destruction of the ozone layer, pollution of soils, air and water, deforestation of tropical and temperate forests — all derived from human activities — have provided this species with ample warnings to change its ways or risk the possible loss of the planet within the next hundred years. Our planet is an organism existing as a series of interdependencies and interpenetrations; what all people do now and in the coming years will determine the fate of the Earth.

We believe acceptable human behavior now and in the future should harmonize with the law of interdependence (which includes all living creatures), recognizing that what we do will come back to us or to our descendants, as well as to all other beings on the planet.

We believe all beings on this planet have a perfect, inherent, and natural right to clean Earth, Air, and Water; this right is sacred and inviolable.

These principles should be the working premises for any future human activities. We call for an ecological reconstruction involving community action in which every person contributes his or her part in maintaining ecological equilibrium in their location. 4

The signatories were Antler, Jack Collom, David Cope, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Rick Fields, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Christopher Funkhouser, Allen Ginsberg, Eliot Greenspan, Miguel Grinberg, Anselm Hollo, Mary Kean, Joanne Kyger, Lewis MacAdams, Christina Nealson, Jeff Poniewaz, Joseph Richey, Ed Sanders, Andrew Schelling, Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, and Peter Warshall. It was July 1990.

And, finally, if words do not convey the entire vision, perhaps drawing will. Here we have an artist who draws the future. 5

Please share your visions. May our collective imagination inform us!

Attribution of Illustrations

Flexing your Visioning Muscle:

James McKay drawing of the future:

1 A Songline Meg Wheatley and Jerry Granelli

2 Meadows, Envisioning a Sustainable World.

3 Hopkins, Rob; Hopkins, Rob. From What Is to What If


5 James McKay, the man who draws the future: who-draws-the-future/

2024-06-23 07:35:38