Towards a 5th R in the Deep Adaptation Framework?

In the last few years a few people have suggested additional “Rs” for the 4 questions that comprise the Deep Adaptation framework for reflection and dialogue within an expectation or situation of societal disruption and collapse. As the idea of DA is used with groups around the world, various new ideas on what it means and what personal and group practices are relevant are emerging. One new R that I learned about recently is “Reverence.” That is what Reverend Lauren Van Ham adds to the framework as she uses it for the past couple of years with seminarians and faith-based communities. In my recent Q&A I asked her what a question might be that relates to Reverence, as I think DA involves inquiry, rather than simple answers. That is because societies and people are diverse, and an environmental breakdown affects all of it and, ultimately, everyone, thereby making generalised recommendations somewhat problematic!

One idea that Lauren suggested as the question for a 5th R, drew upon the DA Forum’s Reverend Stephen Wright’s question: “What do you want me to know, and what do you want me to do?” Lauren shared it with an apt body movement, to describe the ‘who’ or ‘what’ that one is asking this question to. Because the “you” in that question is omnidirectional, and could refer to the divine, the cosmos, a lifeform, our own higher selves, or something else. That is different from the existing four R questions that we ask ourselves and each other within the DA framework. With this 5th question we are asking for inspiration and guidance from beyond ourselves, and beyond what is typically regarded as material. Thus, it is a reminder of the perspective that there is something ‘extra ordinary’ that many people – myself included – regularly ignore in our daily lives. Some people call it spirit, others call it soul, God (in whichever language), the field, the Akashic Record, universal consciousness, our ancestors, Gaia, or Mother Earth. And still others call it by many names depending on the aspect of soul or spirit they are trying to resonate with.

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In my short film on my own emotional processing of the situation a few years ago, I ended with the question: “What does love ask of me now?” It was another way of approaching this issue. One aim is to reconnect with a sense of reverence for this experience of life, and of what we are part of on this planet and how special it is to be alive right now. That includes a reverence for all of the life circumstances and experiences that led me to be writing this and for you to be reading it. Another aim is to maintain a sense of open-hearted compassion, as we invite guidance beyond ourselves. That is important to avoid how the ego can creep back in to tell us that it is our role to ignore or override the needs and wishes of others. The task here, therefore, is less about asking the question, but creating circumstances in our lives where we remember the big picture – that is, to feel alive within the biggest picture that is the eternal cosmos.

Some cultures clearly recognise that non-ordinary states of consciousness can help with inviting inspiration and guidance. Many years ago, when I participated in a sweatlodge led by Adelard Blackman of the Dene Nation of Canada, I realised that ritualised practices that invite non-ordinary states are key to wisdom-as-process rather than remembered knowledge. That involves recognising how insight from ethereal realms can only be contextual once interpreted by our language-shaped minds in physical time and space. Therefore, it all comes with a ‘use by’ date and faces difficulty in translation across cultural contexts. That is quite distinct from an attitude that puts all emphasis on concepts of right and wrong that are codified in language across time and context. That is why I am never enthusiastic about anyone claiming that indigenous wisdom, from whichever culture, tells us what is generally right or wrong, rather than advising us on how we can invite guidance on right action in a particular situation. Unfortunately, both indigenous wisdom and mystic insights are communicated today within a culture of modernity that imposes a straightjacket on what is an inherently fluid wisdom-as-process rather than fixed knowledge, about a goodness that is loving consciousness rather than codes of behaviour.

My preceding sentences are my attempt to give language to my experiences of indigenous wisdoms, both non-European and ancient-European, as well as insights from the more mystical traditions within the great religions in the world. Perhaps the implication is that we need to be asking ourselves on a regular basis: How am I allowing inspiration and guidance from beyond the ordinary? Some people may like the concept of opening ourselves to the ‘more-than-human’ for describing what is beyond the ordinary that we seek to invite into our consciousness. For some people, allowing inspiration and guidance from beyond the more-than-human might involve sweat lodges, but it also might involve prayer, nature immersion, breathwork, fasting, meditation, deep relating, yoga, chanting, kirtans or song circles. Perhaps even ecstatic dance or plant medicines. In the Q&A we discuss our enthusiasm for the interfaith space as it is where people show up with a calm from their own spiritual grounding that combines with a curiosity in universal truths that manifest in culturally specific ways.

I hope you find the Q&A recording to be insightful. Even if spirituality or religion aren’t your favourite topics, it is important to recognise how significant they will be in the coming years as societies experience greater distress. Lauren approaches this topic as an ordained interfaith minister. She served as a hospital chaplain for nine years, focusing in psychiatry, palliative care, and bereavement support. She later worked with a consulting firm on employee engagement programs on sustainability. For more than a decade Lauren was Dean at The Chaplaincy Institute, an interfaith seminary based in California, US. She is a spiritual director and guest faculty for several schools in California, and serves as Climate Action Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative, a global interfaith grassroots organisation. She shares her thoughts on a different kind of optimism, which includes an optimism around there being more reverence in our lives, in an article here.

For a short summary of the 4 Rs of Deep Adaptation, please read The Love in Deep Adaptation, from 2019. Further reflections on faith-based organisations and links to other consciousness-related DA Q&As are here. Coming soon, Katie Carr hosts Matthew Painton to discuss coaching in the face of societal disruption and collapse. Next month, I return to issues of faith and collapse with Reverend Michael Dowd

To connect with others on these subjects, consider subscribing for free to the Deep Adaptation Forum. To receive an email every 3 months on related topics, subscribe to the Deep Adaptation Quarterly

If you would like to receive information from Lauren about the Project Adapt course, then contact her at lauren [at] laurenvanham [dot] com. If you are working with groups on related issues, and have ideas for how to invite exploration of what we are calling “reverence” then please leave a comment below. 

asato mā sadgamaya
tamasomā jyotir gamaya
mrityor mā amritam gamaya
Oṁ śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ
From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality;
Om peace, peace, peace

3 thoughts on “Towards a 5th R in the Deep Adaptation Framework?”

  1. “Original Wisdom : Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing” by Robert Wolff is really excellent book, and first-hand account, on the topic of “…wisdom-as-process rather than remembered knowledge”. Highly recommended!

  2. I have found engaging with the (non human) natural world an essential practice for providing me with answers to ‘what do you want me to know and do?’.
    I started this practice during my coach training a few years back. I joined this because it was the only program that promised to help me understand what it meant to ‘follow the laws of nature’.
    I have now cofounded a group called Earthaconter which shares this practice and we offer a program (the Tree Journey) that gives people a structured way of gaining insight from nature (this helps with something that is very unfamiliar).
    Coaching honours the idea of ‘you are the expert in what you need’. I believe this goes further and honours the idea that ‘the earth knows what you need to do’.
    There is more info here

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