I was listening to the radio this past week and heard a news segment interview with a striking teacher in Chicago. When asked what the strike was about, the essence of his response was, “The administration thinks this is a hierarchy. We think it’s a collaborative. That’s the issue. They want to tell us what we do, while we want to work with them on that.” These few words express so beautifully the heart of the paradigm shift that humanity is moving through. I see signs of it everywhere, with pioneers in every field pushing the edges in all forms of relationship to evolve past hierarchical thinking and move into partnership and collaboration. Buck Brannaman and Pat and Linda Parelli are at the forefront in natural horesmanship; Marshall Rosenberg has Non-Violent Communication; Cesear Milan’s concept of calm-assertive leadership is reprogramming the dog world. There is also freeschooling, community supported agriculture, couch surfing, ecological forestry,… and plant spirit communication. Collaboration is breaking out all around us.
Like most (all?) of us, I was raised by people who had themselves been indoctrinated with the thoughts and beliefs that create hierarchical structures and “power over” relationships in human societies. Like many of us, I am on the path of rewiring my body-mind system and forging new perceptions and interpretations of who I am, who we are, and how I/We are connected to – really the same as – what seems to be “outside” our selves. I am part of the whole that is carrying humanity past this 5,000-year-old infatuation with hierarchy.
The garden is a great place for me to become aware of and let go of the old wiring, while choosing and creating the new wiring. Plants, insects, microbes, soil, and water are all calmly persistent (or calm-assertive) when it comes to delivering the feedback, the messages, that can move me into collaboration. When the harlequin beetles get busy eating the broccoli, I can use a domination approach – a nice, organic neem oil spray, for example – or I can take the time to sit down and tune in and find out what message they carry. I still sometimes use the former approach, but more and more and more often, I remember to slow down and take a breath and gently begin the process that moves me out of the back-of-the-mind-almost-invisible-thinking that causes the panic that leads in the direction of that magic bottle/pill/gun/stick/neem oil spray. Now I can choose to sit down and listen.
There is a wonderful new book out called Building Soil Naturally, by Phil Nauta. I highly recommend it because his main goal is to build soils that will vitalize plants to such a degree that they can take care of themselves when it comes to insects and diseases. That’s right. Plants can be empowered to take care of themselves. We don’t have to think of them as helpless children or poor unfortunates that have no legs and can’t get up and run. Healthy plants – truly vital, vibrant, balanced plants – create an internal chemistry that is insect proof because insects don’t have the enzymes necessary to digest healthy plant tissue. Insects are out there with their antenna, trolling for plants that emit the universal infrared signal for “I’m unhealthy, eat me!”
The next time you find an infestation of plant-eating insects in your garden, thank them. They are doing you a favor by cleaning up the less vital plants, the imbalanced plants, the plants that can’t offer you, the human being, the high quality nutrition you need and deserve. They are your wake up call to do whatever it takes to understand healthy soil and get busy building it They are the equivalent of striking teachers, letting you know that it’s not a hierarchy, it’s a collaborative.