Month 4: Uncovering Interconnectedness

PRACTICE

Connecting To Your Senses

Have everyone in the group find a partner. Facilitator reads:

Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

When we were four we could just experience. But as we age, the part of us that is always managing our way through the day, organizing, comparing, taking care of everything, can become more pronounced.

To start please follow my instructions. First let’s all stand up next to our partners. The person who will go first today in your partnership will be the one with the longest hair. This person will be your guide on our tiny journey of magic and awe.

In this journey, the person with the shorter hair will have your eyes closed, and the person with the longer hair is going to take care of you. Longer hair person, you will let your partner know if there is a step that they need to take or if the temperature is going to change, and you will guide them so they do not bump into anyone else. Person with the shorter hair, you do not need to manage anything because your partner is aware of and managing your vulnerability fully so you can let yourself really go with it.

Over the course of five minutes the long-haired partner will introduce you to three sensory experience snapshots. These will be touching, smelling, hearing, tasting or seeing. Long-haired partner, give it a minute to find something and then introduce your partner to five seconds of the experience at a time, then go quiet for another minute and then another sensory snapshot. If you want them to see something delightful, place their head in the right position, tell them how far away they are to focus their view, and then let them open their eyes to experience it for five seconds.

After five minutes of being guided I will alert you to the time, and you can open your eyes and silently thank your partner. Then we will switch partners.

Time 10 minutes for the two partner experiences.

Now take 10 minutes to stand in a circle for reflection.  Ask the question:

“How is the world magical?”

PARABLE

Paicines Ranch: A Model of Regenerative Agriculture that Supports Life Above and Below the Soil

Facilitator: Next we will read today’s parable and reflect slowly. Let the words touch you. We reflect here for these few minutes, less in a book club kind of way, and more in a savoring of a text kind of way. I will read it slowly. Note anything that touches you. When I finish reading we will go around the circle and I’ll ask everyone to share just a word or a phrase that stood out for them. Then we’ll conclude.

Have you ever felt awed by the complexity of the cosmos while looking up at the night sky? Rancher and engineer, Sallie Calhoun feels that sense of awe when she looks down at the earth. On a microscopic level, she says, soil is so complex that “it is as if there are whole galaxies down there.” There are as many microorganisms in one cup of fertile soil as humans that have ever lived on the earth.

Paicines Ranch in California, which Sallie co-owns, practices regenerative agriculture, a method based on evidence that healthy soil teems with microorganisms – and that those are best produced by cultivating an abundance of diverse plants and animals. In other words, says Sallie, “the goal of regenerative agriculture is to maximize for life both above and below the soil.”

She says this is very different from modern agricultural practices. For instance, today when we aim to grow a carrot, the goal very often is to remove any life from the land that is not a carrot. But common methods such as monoculture, tilling of the soil between rotations of carrots, or leaving soil bare with nothing growing between rotations, are now being shown to destroy the ability for microorganisms to live in our soil. At Paicines Ranch, she says, their methods are about “being respectful of all of nature and working with all of the lives in an ecosystem. It is not saying, all I want to grow is a carrot, and if I grow my carrot, I don’t care what else happens. You cannot separate any one piece out from the whole system.”

Interestingly enough, focusing on the health of the whole ecosystem, actually also results in particular crops like carrots having greater nutrient density or “the stuff that makes food taste good”, and a greater capacity of the soil to yield an ongoing livelihood for the farmer.

Martin Luther King once said, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. …This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

This may be true far beyond what we yet comprehend. The best soil is rich and black from carbon – but our modern agricultural practices have caused on average about 3/4 of the soil carbon that they started with, to have escaped into the air. Regenerative farming methods not only grow healthier food, they also pull the carbon out of the air that is contributing to climate change. Sallie says, “Through photosynthesis, a plant pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere and then uses maybe half of that energy to grow the plant. But what we’ve recently learned is that it takes the other half of the energy and actually sends it out into the soil from its roots to feed all of those soil microbes that are there, and it feeds them in exchange for the minerals and nutrients that the plant needs to make food nutritious and delicious.”

“The more green plants we have and the more diversity of green plants we have, the more microbes and the more diverse microbes we can support. In fact we’ve been finding that even growing two kinds of plants is better than growing one. When you get to a complexity of 12 or 14 plants —it is an exponential benefit that is astonishing everyone. And that makes the food produced by the plant much healthier for us.

When asked if there are studies showing what percentage of agriculture we would need to transition in order to reverse climate change, Sallie says, “David Johnson’s work at New Mexico State University shows it would take one fourth of all the agricultural crop land in the world really cycling carbon, to offset current emissions. And there are other numbers for grasslands that show we could get back to 350 parts per million.” (Think grass-fed cows for all meat and dairy consumption.) The scientific research is new and growing, but says Sallie, “At Paicines, we don’t even really focus on those numbers because no matter what, it is probably the most important thing in the world to do anyway, since we are running out of topsoil. Even if there weren’t climate change we would still need to do all these things. Climate change just means we need to go faster.”

“This has all made me more humble,” says Sallie. “We can see that focusing on the health of the whole ecosystem – works, but “the soil is so amazingly complex that we can’t begin to know how it works.  We are starting to figure out just teeny bits of it.”

Wrapping Up Your Circle

Facilitator: Now starting on my left, can we hear a word or phrase from each person? Something that stood out or touched you about this parable.

(Facilitator might want to model by starting first, then go around the circle.) 

Thank you. I invite and encourage you all to use these practices & parables in other settings – staff meetings, or at group gatherings with other business and community leaders. We are joining hundreds of other communities in doing this. Together, we can choose to meet these times with courage, and we can #ChooseConnection.

Share Your Stories

Have a story about how your company is defying “business as usual” or how the members of your circle develop a new tool or process to help others? Please share your stories so others may be inspired by your experience. We welcome you to email us stories, feedback, or photos at any time. On social media, use the tag #ChooseConnection so we can repost.