Bioneers 2016 Report Back
As an adolescent, every Sunday morning of my life unfolded in the same orchestrated dance: my mom and three sisters would be piled into our 1994 emerald green Town and Country minivan, my father would be pacing back and forth impatiently by the front door of our house, and I would be racing around the back of the house, scrambling to get ready for church.
My constant tardiness was both calculated– an intentional thorn in the side of my parent’s mandate of compulsory anything– and happenstance– I still, to this day, struggle to be on time. But, despite my rebellion, there was something I secretly loved, just a little bit about church: I loved the community, I loved the philosophy of kindness and compassion, and the opportunity, every week, to pan out and see how our lives extend beyond what we know.
Now an avowed Buddhist, I do not go to Church any more. But, I still have that same need for connection and perspective and community. And, for this, I go to Bioneers.
Bioneers is an annual conference in San Rafeal, CA that brings together activists, artists, scientists, educators and business leaders into one solutions-focused, inspiring weekend. They highlight people on the front lines working for positive change, the movers and shakers who are reshaping our world, those fighting for justice, health and the environment, those who live and breathe this world in this time of great heartbreak and rebirthing.
This is my church. This is where I go, year after year, to get filled up.
This year was nothing short of that. Here is a report-back with the greatest gems of wisdom I am taking away from the weekend:
- Reside in my heart. Right now, I am in a world of academia, a world that loves to dissect and deconstruct and problematize and critique. We love to pick things apart and find everything that is wrong and disavow anything we cannot see and measure. This is Descartes world of reason and rationality, where our thinking minds are our only source of knowledge and the only viable way of being.
We are more than just our minds. Long-time Black Panther leader, educator and activist Erica Huggins stood on stage in front of hundreds of people, and invited us all to move back into our heart and our bodies. I took deep breaths, felt my feet on the ground and remembered: I am a living, breathing body, circulating air that has been breathed by eons of microscopic fungi and prehistoric crustaceans and the earliest glimmers of humans. I have a beating heart that has it’s own rhythm and longings, its own wisdom and knowledge.
When I live with that remembrance, my experience of the world is radically different, slower and more connected. I am a different person– more perceptive, joyful, generous, wise. The actions I take are that too– more informed, joyful, generous, and wise.
2. The value of deep, old friendships. When I listened to several presenters, I didn’t just listen to what they said, but also the stories they told and how they told them. A common thread in these stories was old, long time friendships, the kind that run deep and wear grooves in ridges of your soul. Many of them referred to a fellow speaker or panelist, saying “We’ve been friends for 20 years”, or “I first met so-and-so back in 1975”.
Hearing this awoke a thirst in me. These are the kinds of friendships I want, friendships that will carry me through the milestones of life, friendships that will turn into aunties and uncles for the children I do not yet have, who will comfort me once my parents have gone to the grave, who will go on road trips with me when I am an empty-nester. I want friends that will wear groves in the ridges of my souls.
3. And lastly, the absolutely exhilarating splendor of being alive today. These are amazing times, unreplicated in all of human, and planetary, history. We are alive at a time when the existence of complex lifeforms is threatened. We are living through a mass extinction, something that has never happened when there was consciousness to comprehend it. Never before has there been so much dying, and someone there to bear witness to it, to love it and miss it and grieve it.
This is a double edged sword, both joyful and terrible. This is the kind of grief that, if you let yourself feel it–really feel it– could destroy you. And at the same time, there is so much blessing in it, blessing in the fact that we are alive right now, blessing in the fact that we have the opportunity to act, blessing for resistance. As Joanna Macy says, if you knew the lives of your sisters and brothers were threatened, wouldn’t you want to be there defend them?
Of course you would. And we are here, alive right now, with the gift of doing just that.
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