A note from Carl:
Greetings dear friends,
May this find you well. Before I dive into today’s writing, a few announcements:
- We have a new podcast with our friend, teacher, and binary-busting, amazing human being, Bayo Akomolafe. You can listen here.
- Today is the last day to join Erin’s Living The Questions online course.
- This Friday I begin my 6-week online Natural Movement and Feldenkrais Course. If you want a way to deepen strength, mobility, and movement intelligence that is fun, dynamic, and functional (no matter what pandemic shape you find yourself in) you might want to join us!
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
Recently I have been contemplating the experience of “enoughness.”
With the many limitations that have come with the pandemic over these last months around less income, no travel, fewer trainings, no gatherings, re-routed plans, I find myself frequently asking: Can this be enough?
In a culture so biased toward perpetual expansion, growth, and improvement, the experience of enough can be elusive.
Francis Weller describes the difference between what he calls primary satisfactions and secondary satisfactions. Primary satisfactions being the activities that have shaped and fed the soul and psyche over hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution: Sitting by a fire, sharing meals, sharing dreams, nursing a child, practicing ritual, singing together, being intimate with the natural world, dancing together… Inside of primary satisfactions, there is a sense of being deeply nourished, of being satisfied, of belonging, of not longing for the next thing and certainly no yearning for the next iPhone or Netflix series.
In the absence of primary satisfactions, we turn to secondary satisfactions like status, power, “likes” on a Facebook post, buying things, distractions, or intoxicants. Secondary satisfactions often leave us empty, longing for more. Like the Tibetan image of the preta or hungry ghost who has an enormous belly, an insatiable appetite, yet just a tiny, skinny neck with no capacity to receive nourishment; thus the hunger is endless.
I have found this distinction between primary and secondary satisfactions deeply helpful, both in how I can recognize and appreciate more deeply the moments of being nourished within a moment of primary satisfaction, and in how I can notice when a sort of hunger or malaise can come when those primary satisfactions are not as present.
Often, it is the quality of attention, along with the activity itself, that determines the nourishment and satisfaction. As John O’Donohue says, everything depends on our quality of approach.
A couple of weeks ago, Erin and I got to do a week-long online retreat with one of our mentors, Deena Metzger. The retreat was centered around healing and looking deeply into what healing means to each of us in these times. Deena has remarkable skill at holding our feet to the fire and bearing witness to the devastating realities of the suffering, harm, and destruction that comes from these seas of capitalism, growth, extraction, and consumption that most of us are swimming in; what has become normalized as modern life.
Native Americans have used the term Windigo or Wetiko to describe the spirit or mind-virus of self-interest and consumption that has become so wide-spread in the modern world.
In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer describes Windigo, along with the importance of gratitude as an antidote:
“It is the Windigo way that tricks us into believing that belongings will fill our hunger, when it is belonging that we crave. On a grander scale, too, we seem to be living in an era of Windigo economics of fabricated demand and compulsive overconsumption. What Native peoples once sought to rein in, we are now asked to unleash in a systematic policy of sanctioned greed…
The fear for me is far greater than just acknowledging the Windigo within. The fear for me is that the world has been turned inside out, the dark side made to seem light. Indulgent self-interest that our people once held to be monstrous is now celebrated as success. We are asked to admire what our people once viewed as unforgivable. The consumption-driven mind-set masquerades as ‘quality of life’ but eats us from within. It is as if we’ve been invited to a feast, but the table is laid with food that nourishes only emptiness, the black hole of the stomach that never fills. We have unleashed a monster.
Each of us comes from people who were once indigenous. We can reclaim our membership in the cultures of gratitude that formed our old relationship with the living earth. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to Windigo psychosis. A deep awareness of the gifts of the earth and of each other is medicine. The practice of gratitude lets us hear the badgering of marketers as the stomach grumblings of a Windigo. It celebrates cultures of regenerative reciprocity, where wealth is understood to be having enough to share and riches are counted in mutual beneficial relationships. Besides, it makes us happy.”
I’ll close with a poem from a master of attention, reciprocity, and enoughness:
by Mary Oliver
Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?
I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.
Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man, is tending his children, the roses.
With love and appreciation,