Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
At this stage in history, many of us are fed up with “humanity.” Yet, we find goodness in people all day long, love one another, and manage to act kindly. So, we are made of light and dark. Unfortunately, however, our collective darkness has shrouded much a bright future for humanity. But with a little help from our friends, each of us, at any moment and for the moment, can act brightly and kindly — with excellence.
Outspoken climate science researcher and professor emeritus of conservation biology, Guy McPherson, is the one who planted in my head this notion of pursuing excellence at this crucial time in history. He speaks of exhibiting good manners, especially in the face of turmoil. This essay explores what I think is needed to pursue a life of excellence and what it might entail relative to our ailing biosphere and our own species on the edge of extinction (as communicated in this article from The Atlantic magazine.)
In a nutshell, pursuing excellence is to live with integrity. But integrity is a loaded word. It’s loaded with goodness, because it means the dark side of our nature has been examined, worked with, made conscious, and modified to make it less lethal and destructive. It’s been integrated into our wholeness. So integrity involves integration, of our dark nature into our light and love. Especially important to integrity is working with our core hurts and wounds, which when unexamined, go on to hurt others, including innocent life on Earth. So, emotional honesty (feeling our true feelings) and intellectual honesty (getting the facts straight, or as straight as we can without emotional bias and with the effort of critical thinking) are crucial for integrity. Without integrity — without working on ourselves — we can’t really treat the world as well as we imagine we can.
Working on our dark sides allows us to lift a little of the dark shroud we have thrown over the body of the Earth. For me, this is paramount, even if my fellow human beings don’t join me. So, to me, living a life of excellence includes acting in ways that amount to the opposite (though not unconsciously and reactionary) of those that have gotten us into this mess: keeping my word, consuming what I need more than what I want, celebrating nature each day, helping others in need, telling the truth, being humble and non-defensive when my shortcomings are presented to me, fighting injustice, feeling my true feelings and seeking intellectual truth. For me, this is the least I can do as a consolation to the Earth in this eleventh hour.
In any given moment, we possess a certain level of integrity, or we don’t. While most of us would like to be excellent, we find ourselves acting in ugly and hurtful ways. This is human nature, and one that we can better. The great alchemist of the soul, Carl Jung, said that despite our best intentions, we cannot act wisely and kindly without making our darkness conscious. The amount and quality of emotional work we have done, along with whatever rational means for being kind and diplomatic we can muster in any moment, determines our integrity. Rational diplomacy, however — as the mustered effort to be decent while underneath we are a mess — quickly breaks down when emotions are triggered, as they are in any challenging situation, which is most of life, and especially as our world is taken over by mongrels. When shit falls apart and hits the proverbial fan, it’s our already-in-hand integrity that determines how we behave, how we respond to turmoil.
I’ve long said that a person’s true colors show when they no longer need anything from you. When something is damaged or ruined, especially in America, we throw it away. Generally, when something makes us feel badly, we move away from it. When someone shows us where our integrity is lacking, we ignore or try to get rid of them.
Our capacity to be with difficult and hurtful feelings determines how well we can remain connected to ourselves and to others (but not to abusers) when we are emotionally triggered. When we can’t consciously be with difficulty, we sever, which limits our capacity for integrity, for excellence.
So, when the Earth is hurting, when we are killing off hundreds of species each day in the current and verified sixth mass extinction, as our oceans are dying from acidification, and when our own species stands to be extinguished due to our own mischief stemming from a lack of collectively integrating our dark nature, what does integrity say? Well, it might depend on how much integrity any of us has. In the face of current demise, do you show more love and care towards one another and to the Earth, or say screw it and party your brains out? For me, especially in the face of our situation, I want to love up the natural world, as a way of saying thank you, and as a small consolation for the gift of life that humans have collectively desecrated.
When we are confronted with our collective darkness for what we have done to the planet, we usually behave the way we do when anything challenges us emotionally and evokes our dark side. We either embrace it or, more often, turn from our embarrassment, guilt, grief, anger, disgust, hopelessness, despair, or fear. Or some of both. But, the turning from pain is what perpetuates suffering. Therefore, I posit that the degree to which we have followed the path of befriending these dark emotions is the degree to which we lift darkness from the world and liberate ourselves to act with sustainable integrity that doesn’t break down so easily in the midst of stress or when no one is watching. This integrity includes loving one another and the world as we fall apart and enter this time of unrest, extinction, and transformation.
Practically speaking, it means keeping our hearts open and tender, courageous and resilient. This requires that we welcome all our emotions. It means fighting for justice even if we can’t save the world, via “relative revolution.” It means having the capacity to be present with and celebrate what is beautiful. It means being able to show up in the midst of what is dying and falling apart, to love it anyway, and especially in its fading moments. All this requires we be able to handle and be intimate with our dark emotions. And so we see that shadow work and being with pain are crucial to being able to love unconditionally. All of this is integral to living a life of excellence.
To live a life of excellence, we can effort good morality, which is to live with “good manners.” But, as discussed, good manners are not enough for deeper integrity. If it’s all we got, it’s better than nothing. Additionally, however, we can become more moral, which morality is both an intellectual and an emotional endeavor. Deeply rooted integrity involves a change of heart, a change of our emotional make-up. And, in my experience, changing our emotional make-up is achieved through body-centered emotional work, of which I have written about extensively in other articles.
To some degree, we can still act with decency and good manners even without extensive shadow work, though we may not be able to comprehensively manage triggering repercussions. So, in a bit I’ll share a list of what I think it means to live with good manners (quick-fix integrity) and with deeper, sustainable integrity (becoming an integrated, sustainable human being).
Dr. McPherson sums up his pursuit of excellence as radicalism, as in “getting to the root,” which is the etymology of the word. He says,
“My approach is to constantly question the culture and my role in it.” For others, he says, “a pursuit of excellence might include refined artistry (e.g., painting, sculpture, photography, musical composition or performance), appreciation of history, or understanding of cultural anthropology.”
Of course it’s up to you what you consider excellence, or if you even care about excellence. For myself, excellence means living with integrity and wholeheartedness. It means doing the best I can at what is meaningful to me, while promoting wellness for the whole, even at personal sacrifice. Here are some of the meaningful ways I pursue excellence and invite you to consider. Please share your own in the comments.
1) Ask questions and inquire before assuming anything.
2) Apologize and make amends when I am wrong, and enjoy doing so.
3) Be kind to humans as much as I can muster, but without being a doormat and without allowing myself to be mistreated.
4) Express love and protection to animals.
5) Spend time in nature, honoring it, and refreshing myself.
6) Fight against injustice and do what I can to protect the biosphere, especially in everyday “small ways.”
7) Humbly sit with difficult feelings, ask questions, and use good thinking to check my beliefs stories before reacting.
8) Simplify my external life to have time for cultivating a rich inner life.
9) Make a conscious effort to notice when others help me, and show my appreciation.
10) Give things away for free, including time, money, possessions, and random acts of kindness.
11) Continue to do Earth-friendly things such as recycle, consume moderately, purchase non-toxic, non-polluting stuff as much as possible.
12) Continue healing my core emotional wounds from the past. This leads to integrity because by learning and feeling first-hand how I was hurt makes me less likely to hurt others and to act with wisdom.
13) Take care of my physical health.
14) Purchase organic food and stay away from junk and toxic food, especially any GMOs and anything made by Monsanto and friends.
15) Learn about what’s happening in the world, feel my real emotions about it, and do what I can to help the situation.
The Nourish Practice
Jack Adam Weber’s “The Nourish Practice” is an easy, guided meditation-Qi Gong practice in radical gratitude and self-love. It is an Earth-based, body-centered practice — at once physiological and ecological — that is deeply relaxing and replenishing, especially for modern-day burn-out syndrome, and requires little physical effort. It “resets your nervous system” and fosters a rich inner life.
You can purchase The Nourish Practice as a CD or Digital Download here.
Previous articles by Jack Adam Weber:
- The Monsanto Years: Singer Neil Young Rips Into GMOs, Big Biz and Conformity
- ReVOLUTION: When Enough is Enough
- Sex – Truth and Dare, Pleasure and Purpose
- Relationships: The Costs of Staying When We Should Leave
- Emotional Work
- Yin Yang — Ancient Wisdom for Personal and Planetary Transformation
- Choosing a Partner – How to Avoid Relationship Suicide
- Re-Thinking Love: Why Our Hearts Must Also Be Minded
- 11 Crucial Tips for Better Digestive Health
- Shadow Work: Becoming a Sustainable Light Worker (Part 1)
- Heartbreak – Loving Ourselves Through Difficult Times
About the author:
Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac. is a Chinese medicine physician, author, celebrated poet, organic farmer, and activist for body-centered spirituality. He is also the creator of The Nourish Practice, an Earth-based rejuvenation meditation. Weber is available by phone for medical consultations and life-coaching. His books, artwork, and provocative poems can be found at his website PoeticHealing.com.
You can connect with Jack Adam Weber at: