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From Changing The World To Changing The Paradigm (It's A Paradigm Shift)

Robin Rice

We toss around words like "changing the world" pretty easily these days. I just added it to a blog title earlier this week. Seems like I've been saying it all my life. I recall the wise words you can love the world or want to change it, but not both. True confession: Until age 35, I never loved the world. I could not. 

Even today, when girls (and boys) are stolen across the globe to fulfill men's (and women's) agendas, I want to change the world. When someone is bullied, afraid to live and wanting to die, denied every part of the spirit of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," I want to change the world. When someone is free to take out a gun and shoot anyone, and when that someone actually wants to do so, I want to change the world. When corporations have human rights and they use those rights to create profits that poison our food supply, so that a single healthy meal is hard to find in countless neighborhoods across the US, I want to change the world. 

But you have heard about this. You have spoken of it, too, or not. You have rallied to fight the good fight, or not. You have marched, or not. You have posted on social media, or not. 

I'm guessing that, like me, you have grappled with both the horrors and beauty. What is yours to take on and what must be someone else's. What is possible and what is simply too big. For all our thoughts and words, the complexity remains. 

I have gone from wanting to change the world, to realizing I cannot. This happened in India in my mid-thirties, and it truly shook me. 

So I took on the task of changing my part of the world, which lasted about ten minutes.

I went on to study the masters, and from that I began to write about how in order to change the world, we could only change ourselves. That idea had quite a bit of traction, because by and large, it worked. The more I changed myself, the more my world changed. Mean people showed up less and less often. Healthy eating became commonplace. Harmony was found in my home on a day-to-day basis.

Had I not looked outside my own little life, I would have felt successful in changing the world. Alas, it was not everywhere, and only a few have wanted to do for themselves what I have done for myself. Not the proselytizing type, I have had to let that go, too. 

Even so, a great desire remains. A desire to fundamentally reduce pain and suffering in the world around me, and to increase joy and love for each human being. If the real agenda was not, and could never be, to change the world, what might it be? 

A Paradigm Shift

In science, a paradigm shift is a change in the basic assumptions of the ruling theory. It is complete when the shift so accepted, there is no going back. It becomes foundational to our understanding--our "well, of course." To create such a shift, you must start by challenging the premise of the current theory. You can't just keep on keepin' on. I can almost hear my apprentices laughing, for my "challenge the premise of the question" is heard so often from me, it has become the gentle class joke. 

At the moment of this writing, I am sitting in Santa Fe in a gloriously appointed house filled with so much exquisite art, steeped in so much religious and/or political symbolism (literally twenty pieces in each glance), I feel like every single question posed to the human race and born out in our history is held in this space. The other four women I am with in this "mastermind" week are posting on facebook, tweeting, making videos, writing articles, and spending 3-6 hours each day focused on one woman's life and work. We are talking about anything and everything. It feels to me both indulgent and critical to be here. 

Each woman is bringing something of her skill set to her "session" for the first hour or so, and then asking for help in some area for the remaining time. There is no content agenda except what is expressed by the one the spotlight is shining on. Like a family meal we come to as the dinner bell rings, knowing someone else has worked long and well in the kitchen while we were off doing our own thing, we partake of what is offered with gratitude. Everyone learns from everyone. 

Speaking of food, each woman is contributing to the collective food buying and making, as well as making her own. Yet there is no clear demarkation between mine and ours. If I have something you need, by all means, you are welcome to it. Tonight we will invite in others from the local community for a meal, extending the gracious luxury of this place to others around us. We are a specific kind of wealth the community is hungry for, and so they are a great wealth to us. 

Each woman is honoring the other women in their current state of being, whatever state that is. We do not all agree. We do not all weigh our values the same, not even by the same scale. We do not all want the same things. But this seems not to matter. How this is, I do not know, but it is. It is happening without proclamation of intent, or rules to ensure it, or even much thought about it. 

I have noticed that each of us came with questions, and our own answers (which may or may not work for another), and this seems vitally important. If misunderstandings arise (so far they have been few and very small), we simply work them out and move on, intending on growing closer for the encounter instead of further estranged. 

It may seem what we are doing is small, but the further into the week we go, the more I am wondering about that. What might the world look like if we could encounter each other in some of these ways? If we each had a turn, each was given to and received from, each open to whatever came, and each was willing to share? 

I know, I know

Before you point it out, let me assure you that I am aware, so very aware, that we are in an idyllic setting and situation. We have money enough to not only eat, but eat well. We are healthy. We are privileged beyond measure. And we are here, away from our normal life, for only one week. In this, we cannot hope to say we have solved anything for the world at large. But I will also point out that there is a myth that those "at the top" will always play king of the hill, and we are living proof that this is not so. 

Things do not happen in isolation. If we are here, my guess is there are a thousand other small groups gathering this very week, having similar experiences. In fact, I am counting on it, because five women are surely not enough. And perhaps this is what I am getting at.

Perhaps we will not change the world. Perhaps we will be a part of the world changing. Like the rose that, once planted, always becomes a rose, and the dandelion that blows every which way always lands only to become the dandelion, so maybe we will become something beautiful, in our own time. And not only we five, or we five thousand, but all of us. 

The question, then, is not will we change the world. It is simply "Will we grow?" Will we become our highest and best selves? Will we bloom?