Grateful for Meg Wheatley

I recently gave a talk to the Climate Coaching Alliance about how to support people, professionally, who are beginning to integrate an awareness of the bad-to-worse scenarios of climate chaos into their work and lives.

In the coming weeks I will share the insights I gained from engaging with business and life coaches on this topic. But for now I want to give a shout out to the coaches, therapists, facilitators and guides who are already aware of how much has already been lost, how difficult things are and are set to become. Understandably, most business coaches and life coaches are not yet alive to these issues. They need to go through their own journeys on this issue for themselves. Which makes a network of coaches who are ‘collapse aware’ so incredibly necessary. The professionals you find in this network will not pathologize your outlook and you won’t need to worry about traumatising them! If interested, have a look at  http://guidance.deepadaptation.info

You will notice the framing of ‘deep adaptation’ for the coaches listed on that website. I have edited a whole book on the topic, but it basically means a deeper adaptation to societal disruption than the mainstream approaches that are tried or talked about so far by policy makers and thinktanks. It is deeper because it is an ethos and framework for a movement of people who consider the collapse of industrial consumer societies to be either probable, inevitable or already unfolding. Sadly, after it became a ‘thing,’ Deep Adaptation has persistently been misrepresented in various media as being about human extinction (it’s not and never was), or about giving up on climate action (the opposite is true; but don’t believe me, then see this speech of rebellion). If interested in the concept, an audio recording of the intro of the book on the topic is here and a list of videos of some of my lectures and keynotes is here.

I am promoting the availability of these ‘Deep Adaptation’ guides again now because I have recently been engaging with executives who are alive to some of the most depressing analyses of trends, which together are being termed as the ‘polycrisis’ by policy wonks. I have realised that whether we engage usefully or not in such issues will depend, in part, on how aware we are of our habits, emotions, cravings, and aversions, especially when our worldviews and identities are challenged.  

From first-hand experience over the last 4-years I know that staying engaged with these issues can be tough, emotionally. It should be. There is a risk in how the anxiety can ‘get to’ us. We risk harming ourselves or, even, potentially, harming others as we cling on to our existing worldviews and identities in response to growing anxiety. It’s called ‘worldview defence’ in ‘terror management theory’ (and you can read about in a paper I did for a psychotherapy journal). I have also noticed that some of us can buy into new stories that help us to feel better for a time (whether newly hopeful, or simply absolved of any sense of our own guilt). These are quite natural responses which can be unacknowledged drivers of any of us, myself included.

Within the field of coaching, the concept of ‘law of attraction’ is particularly popular. It was used with me, by my first coach. There are variants of the philosophy and theory, but generally it conveys the idea that each of us can manifest what we want in our lives, or even in the wider world, due to how we cultivate and manage our attention. I think it is a great idea to become aware of how we wish to experience life and then recognise that much of that experience is within our own power. It helps with the setting of intentions and organising the way we live. But the idea that we can imagine-away difficult realities would be a perversion of both ancient wisdom and quantum physics (two fields which ‘attractor’ coaches like to mention). It is something I had a problem with and wrote about in The Law of Distraction when The Secret book and movie came out 15 years ago.

‘Law of attraction’ types of readings of quantum physics are now being shared to help people escape their ecoanxiety and exhort others to stay positive or be seen as guilty for a bad outcome. One example is a recent article by the publication Desmog, which says we should recognise the potential for ‘quantum social change.’ Immediately I witnessed a conceptualisation of quantum reality, ancient wisdom and spirituality which I consider deeply flawed. The idea we are able to shape reality at a planetary scale by our thoughts involves some assumptions. First, humans aren’t the centre of the universe, whether we imagine it as Newtonian or not. It is a strange claim that we are the pinnacle of evolution, even before considering the trillions of galaxies out there. If lifeforms can shape the future of the planet through intention, then perhaps all the remaining mammal species that we haven’t killed yet are intentionally imagining a planet without homo sapiens. That may seem bizarre, but I wish to highlight the assumptions we must make about human supremacy to create such stories of quantum social change. Second, if humans affect futures through our attention and intention, then the influence is by billions of people every second, with all the myriad preoccupations we all have. Oh, including our dreaming at night. So that’s not the few moments of intentional thought by hundreds of thousands of activists.

De-centring ourselves, our time horizons and our fears, means that a spiritual awakening, or if you want to use a more secular funky language, a ‘quantum awakening’ , might inspire us to live in wonderful ways, but where the outcomes might not even be something our species experience! It is a strange idea to embrace quantum physics insights on how time and space do not exist in the ways we experience them daily, and yet think the effects of our thoughts and actions at a quantum level will impact in our own galaxy or in this millennium.

I think climate chaos is a spiritual invitation, as I have written about and talked about before. I think spirituality is key to how we might better navigate the troubles ahead. But spiritual bypass of any kind will not be useful – and is likely even counterproductive. Simplistic ‘law of attraction’ ideas will not be of much use for life coaching in a time of dying. Fortunately, due to my public sharing of my views on societal breakdown over the last 4 years, I have met some people who are very wise and experienced about such matters. One of them alerted me to Meg Wheatley on this very topic, and I had an enjoyable lunchtime today watching her video interviews. As someone known to people in the worlds of coaching, facilitation, and leadership, I hope her ideas will have an impact in those fields. I will link to a couple of her videos below.  

One risk with the word ‘spirituality’ and the paraphernalia that surrounds it is how it can take people away from simple loving kindness. So another brilliant thing about the last 4 years is that I have met people whose ‘spirituality’ is a daily lived practice of gratitude and kindness – and easily returning to that when slipping up. No wonder then that the Deep Adaptation Forum came up with the idea for a Gratitude Month, where participants are sharing gratitude for people, who then choose to share gratitude with someone else. Please check out their blog on the issue and consider joining in.

It might be quantum gratefulness. Or just beautiful anyway.

More gratitude sharing is possible in the comments below (but don’t let that replace sending private thanks to people).

6 thoughts on “Grateful for Meg Wheatley”

  1. Molly, Read this or at least listen to the beginning of Meg Wheatley’s talk. This is one reason I answered Brooks and Capehart the way I did.

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. file:///Users/wendyandrews/Desktop/zoom_0.mp4
    hello Jem
    Wendy Andrews here, in Australia. Thanks for these videos. I’ve been healing terror that manifested as seizures, among other things, in my teens. Now almost sixty, it morphed into finding my way back to my ancient, well ancestors for help in facing what’s happening, along with recognising it’s been ‘happening’ to Indigenous people here since invasion, and learning what my once intact culture might have looked like. The link to the recording of my words probably doesn’t work, so I will paste them below, if you feel inclined to read. Thank you for YOUR service.

    I’m here to announce myself,

    Only because it may be key to survival, 

    Otherwise I’d stay quiet,

    with silent scribbles.

    Here goes.


    I’m descended from seer,

    Thin, White furred woman
    Outside cave
    
Eagle nearby

    Scrying small bones on the ground,

    Valley stretched out below.


    Dragon Mother
    
Hovers in that valley

    One giant Thunderclap of wings.
    These powerful Old Ones
    are connected through me.



    Dragon first appeared,

    All noise, heat and smoke,
    at a workshop in Mullum, where else?
    
Right IN my body!
    To feel the boxy, long head IN mine,
    looking calmly around the room
    through my closed eyes.

    It is weird, to be taken over like that.

    These are the words
    that call to be spoken
    in spite of inner Protector
    screaming, ‘SAY NOTHING!!!!’
    But what can I do?
    
I will no longer shrink,

    There’s too much to lose.



    The ancient men are both healers 

    in their own ways.
    
One straight up and down
    
in blue buttoned gown, with light curly hair….serious medicine.


    The other, a young Journey Man

    a Song Man,

    so delighted to see me,

    he jumps off the wall
    where he’s 
sitting with others.
    He has requested a drum
    
I’m yet to make.



    These are just the four lines

    from which I’m directly descended, 

    through sperm and egg.

    Who else is waiting

    for me to discover,
    
through both the Web of our making
    
and Mysterious other?



    The terror is real

    in showing myself
    
but vulnerability
    is my main form of activism
    
in this spirit-phobic,

    scientifically evangelical

    economy of hungry ghosts.



    When I sense falseness, that’s Seer

    When I call out oppression, that’s Dragon

    When I listen with intuition, that’s Journey Man

    When I help souls, wounded, that’s healer.



    We, called ‘white’,

    plaster our loss and lack
    with false superiority
    It’s time to claim our truth
    
It’s time to reclaim imagination,.

    As this schmozzle
    lurches 
on its last legs,

    Claim Your ancient truth

    of who you are,

    Magnificent and Humble

    Divine dirt and stars.
    
Never alone.

    It’s. all. the. same. moment.

  3. An excellent resource Jem – Thank you. In this moment I’m in my tent at the foot of Ben Nevis, collating a plan for an Art installation I will be showing here on Wednesday – about the microcosms that exist in this great mountain. Wishing you a joyful day🌞 Grace

    Drawing inspiration from Tim Ingold…

    >

  4. Hello So grateful you have introduced MW and her work . Thank you Carol Randall

    Sent from my iPhone

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  5. So grateful for this analysis Jem, i read the Desmog article too and it sure did not sit well with me. I first came across a critical look at the Law of Attraction in Charles Eisenstein’s book Sacred Economics, which he really delved deeply into it with regard to money, and I remember I posted quite a lot of quotes from this book on facebook at the time (which most people weren’t interested in!) So having the holes in this theory pointed out in this way you have on the global level with regard to social tipping points is so needed, to see why this article seemed so ‘sticky’ and to reject it. Watching Meg’s interviews also helped confirm this. I agree that climate chaos/collapse is a continual invitation to a spiritual life, but one that does not bypass the grief and the action that can be taken when we truly accept and trust what is inevitable. It means life is grief soaked every day but humans do seem to have an infinite capacity for holding grief and to see that change is the only constant in the universe. (and I will check out that article from way back in 2007 on the Secret as well – wow!)

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