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Sustainability & Reciprocity

It sure is an interesting time to have a human experience. As I write this from my kitchen in Southern California, my home state and country are experiencing the extremities of the spectrum. We have whole cities flooding, and record snowfall trapping families in homes or crushing roofs of houses. A few banks have failed, with more threatening to join them, and thereby folks are scrambling to “secure” their finances, but are unsure where is “safe” to put it. People are fearful and panicked. Many are grasping at lifelines both physical and metaphoric...creating more of a divide amongst us.


And yet, we are experiencing the results of our choices. We’ve overbuilt the land and re-directed nature’s natural paths of water flow, including damming it up. We’ve created a profusion of pollution that has changed our climate and the Earth isn’t evolving fast enough to keep up.


We’ve allowed the insatiable hunger for greed and power cause us to look the other way from – or directly create – circumstances that risked financial stability for others. We made choices that benefited ourselves without thought to the ramifications it would have on the community and world as a whole. We bet on short term gains for the few at the expense of long-term communal abundance. (And I say "we" because -- if we’re really honest -- while we may not run financial institutions, each of us do this daily in our own ways.)


We are experiencing what it is to have free will and use that free will to separate and divide us rather than unite us. We are reaping what we sowed.


In indigenous cultures, the needs of the whole outweigh the desires of the one. And “the whole” takes into consideration all of creation and future generations. In Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass,” she gives countless examples of what it is to live in reciprocity and partnership with the collective so that all benefit and live in abundance well into the future. It recognizes the interconnection between all life and our symbiosis.


Whether it’s harvesting rice in a way that leaves enough grain for the very fish whose feces offer nutrients to the plants and to naturally repopulate the rice fields. Or harvesting sweetgrass in a way that keeps it flourishing for generations. Or planting the three sisters together (corn, beans, and squash) that both feed the people and feed the land in a sustainable way.


It’s not too late for us to shift our perspective from me to us, and to change our habits to live in reciprocity with all.


The rules are simple:

(1) Take no more than you need.

(2) Never waste what you’ve taken.

(3) Take no more than half.

(4) Don’t take the first (which ensures you’re not taking the last).

(5) Always ask permission before taking. Wait for the answer (intuitively) and abide by the answer. (Trust the answer is for the highest good of all.)

(6) Do so in a way that minimizes harm.

(7) Reciprocate with an exchange of value (ie: leave an offering).

(8) Give thanks and be grateful for what you’ve been given.

(9) Share with others.

(10) Care for others (plants, animals & land included) in a sustainable way.


In the words of Kimmerer, “Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”


As we welcome the Spring Equinox next week and with it the balance of light and dark, let’s put into practice what it is to live in balance with our fellow inhabitants of our precious planet. Let’s live in equal exchange and reciprocity. Let’s see us as a whole and thrive together as a whole.

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