Our summer issue is out now. Our regular contributor Davie Philip writes about thriving in difficult circumstances – dive on in!
Surfing The Waves Of Change
Grace under pressure
by Davie Philip
Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.
Recent events have left many of us in a state of overwhelm. As the waves of disruptive change get bigger, our capacity to cope and live well together has never been more important. Like surfers, we need to be fluid, agile, strong and hyperresponsive to an ever-changing, often dangerous environment.
According to the author and action researcher Otto Scharmer, the underlying cause of our volatility can be summarised as a disconnection from three sources of life: the ecological, the social and the spiritual. The ecological divide – our perceived separateness from nature – manifests in the destruction of the natural world. Humanity’s footprint well overshoots our planet’s carrying capacity and biodiversity. The variety of animals and plants that support life is declining faster than at any time in human history.
The social divide results in a loss of solidarity, along with increasing poverty and inequality. The combined wealth of the world’s eight richest men is now more than the poorest half of the planet’s population. Conflict is escalating and societies are becoming more divided and polarised. Rapidly growing levels of burnout, depression and emotional exhaustion are the outcome of the spiritual divide, a disconnect between our values and our actions. Cultivating the inner conditions that help us to address these divides will help us stay buoyant during these turbulent times.
For psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘flow’ is a state of grace that enables us to navigate difficult times. It is the moment when you are deeply connected, balanced and ‘in the zone’. In flow you transcend your own concerns and see and act from a higher perspective. Research has found that the people who access flow in their lives are healthier, happier and are more creative. These moments of grace are often accessed when experiencing the awe of nature or being fully immersed in an activity we love. It is about being present in the moment and acting spontaneously.
The word ‘grace’ is from the Latin word gratus, meaning thankful or pleasing. Practising gratitude also shifts our awareness, bringing us positively into the present moment with optimism and improves our general well-being. Even being grateful for the challenges we face helps us grow, learn and strengthen our resilience – the ability to thrive under tough circumstances. Actively riding these waves is the art of engaging with the root causes of our unsustainability.
When surfing the waves of change, we tap into grace and connect deeply to ourselves, to each other and to the natural world that we are part of. In the flow we open up to a deep authenticity and integrity that unleashes the potential for personal and collective renewal. Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.” By riding the waves of change we can creatively transform the way we do almost everything. Go for it.
Davie Philip is a community catalyst and facilitator at Cultivate.ie, the sustainability cooperative based in Cloughjordan Ecovillage.