*Love as an action*
This letter has been wanting to be written for weeks and months. And the waiting deepened the richness of the gratitude that lives within me. This gratitude is widening, ever extending in continuous circles and is rooted in a strong foundation in love.
When I speak of love, I mean “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. Radical writer bell hooks understands love as an action, as a blend of care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust as well as honest and open communication in order to have the ability to nurture growth. She affirms Scott Peck: “We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
From day one at the Institute, this blend of care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust as well as honest and open communication surrounded me, transmitted through the faces and hearts of Kit, Shannon and George. From day one at the Institute, this radical lived practice of love has supported me in opening and liberating spaces inside myself: places previously numbed or locked. From day one, I felt and saw clearly that it is not at all exclusively the WHAT we focus on but largely the HOW we do things. From day one, I understood that there was a continuous striving in my co-workers to align their own lives along the principles of nonviolence and to embody an integrity of thought, speech and deed.
*From product to process*
This radical practice of love and the focus on process is inherently subversive. It counteracts the societal pushing to isolate and atomize human beings and to treat and form each of us as insular and identical individuals. Both Joanna Macy and Gene Gendlin speak about the act of de-isolating as the crucial step in co-creating a sustainable and regenerative world. The act of de-isolating encompasses a shift towards comprehending and engaging with all beings as interrelated processes woven into a fabric of diversity and radical interdependency.
Most of us are strongly conditioned to think in entitites and to comprehend reality as a bunch of ‘given whats’. There is such a commitment at this Institute to approach life as a process, as a continuous experiment, as a testground for what works and what does not work. This commitment to experiment is opening wide and creative possibilities and potentials. It reframes how questions are asked.
There is such commitment to stay present and awake and to ever freshly respond to what comes towards us.
Another world is not only manifesting itself at the Institute. It is being crafted and strenghtened in this place. It is being crafted by choosing to base our work in the principles of service, embodiment, responsibility, accountability, and meaning and it is being strengthened by saying yes to our ideals and aspirations.
*On metamorphosis and the becoming human*
A dragonfly spends most of its life cycle in the nymph stage in which it is only visible if you are swimming underwater in a lake or pond with your eyes opened. It can take years for their development into dragonflies.
Once the dragonfly nymph is fully grown, and the weather is right, it will complete the metamorphosis into a dragonfly by crawling out of the water up the stem of a plant. The nymph will shed its skin onto the stem of the plant and will then be a young dragonfly. I believe that the nymph carries the experiential knowledge of its potential within itself and I believe that it cannot quite know how life will feel like once it spuns its wings open and flies lightly into the world. Similarly to the metamorphosis of a dragonfly, I transformed from a retreated and insecure being who was more comfortable to not speak in groups to daring to speak out and daring to be fully seen.
Carl Rogers and Marshall Rosenberg inspired me to intellectually understand myself as an “essentially positive” living system striving to fully actualize my potential. Instead of solely relying on guidance from outside, Rogers believed in an inner source of wisdom which is accessible to every person and can act as internal locus of evaluation. Rogers believed in the necessity of three core conditions in order to enable a person to develop trust and confidence in their ‘inner compass’: unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence.
There is a lived culture and practice of empathic receiving, honest self-expression and unconditional appreciation at the Institute. I believe that these external conditions allowed me to learn how to fly and step towards my inner strength and truth.
The last 11 months at the Institute have taught me that every living organism, whether dragonfly or human being, has the ability to thrive within a life-sustaining context.
I am sitting in a train in Europe and notice my nervousness around finishing this letter. It is hard to not leave it open ended because my gratitude seems to change and grow every day. Every day, I realize how much I have grown as a person in my time in Rochester and how my choices and reactions to reality have shifted. I am noticing how choices for self-care and self-connection come with much more ease and natural flow in navigating reality around me. Equally I notice the spaciousness inside myself for other people and their experience of reality which might differ from my own in crucial ways.
I have often heard and strongly internalized the judgement that self-care is indulgent. What seems more true in my experience and in my inner and outer journey is that self-care is crucial in order to care for the wider system. In a deep ecological understanding of the world, the wider system and the self are not separate but part of each other. The self is a holon of the wider system and crucial part of the whole. In this open systems perspective, the notion of self-care shifts to a notion of care for life rather than care for a separated and disconnected self. In this perspective, intrapersonal, interpersonal and systemic aspects of reality are not separate but densely woven into the same fabric of the complexity of life and our precious all-encompassing web of inter-existence.
 The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
 On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers
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