Whole Earth Monographs:
Charting Experiences in the Natural World
The Idea (revised 6/14/2021)
I have been impressed by the wealth of credible information available on the internet for medicinal plants when searching with the word “monograph.“ In an herbalist’s training, the research and writing of a monograph is used as a vehicle to develop a deeper intimacy with a specific plant*. The Whole Earth Monograph is an analogous process - a vehicle we can use to get curious, and then describe the “entanglements” we discover in the Whole Earth Ecosystem - to aid in shifting more of our relationships from “objects” to “subjects,” as we deepen human intimacy with the more-than-human world.
Building a Library
This is a resource that will grow overtime. Each person‘s contribution — from beginners to the most practiced — will bring nourishment, color, and harmony to the whole. You might connect with the maple tree outside your apartment where you’ve been living for a decade, and share your insights with me through creating a monograph. I am diving more right now into the world of lichen, and so I would share my new insights with you through a monograph. This is a tab/page on my The Academy of Natural Rhythms website where we can co-create a library.
The Questions… Cultivating Curiosity About Another Being
We build our monograph reflecting on questions that are carefully worded to push gently on the limits of our current worldview while, at the same time, to minimize assumptions about the life we are meeting. For example, “Do they sleep?” becomes secondary to the question “What are their organizing rhythms?”
These questions could be asked in the third person (observer) or, as we get more comfortable to be in closer relationships, in the second person (relational). It is best to ask these questions of a Being while they are in their home/natural environment. On the Whole Earth Monograph template, I have mixed the perspective around.
The “Being” you choose as the focus for your monograph could be any life force that you are endeavoring to know more intimately - shifting them from being an object that you observe to a subject that you relate to. They could be…
The goal of the questions is to guide our curiosity, to help us be more “porous”** to the experience of the “entanglements”*** among and between all that surrounds and holds us.
The Whole Earth Monograph Template
Diagram suggestion: Place a representation of the being in the center. Diagram a representation of the ecosystem in which they thrive. Add as many “entanglements” as you are aware of. Push at least one edge of your awareness. (eg. go wider, smaller, slower…)
*I was first introduced to the concept of plant intimacy through a course I am continuously enrolled in entitled Intuitive Plant Medicine. Thank you, Asia Suler
**”become more porous…” a beautiful antidote to separation. Thank you, David Abrams
*** “Entanglements” can have a negative connotation, but in our new understanding of the ecology of life on earth, entanglement is the best description of what’s going on. I might even say it is synonymous with the life-giving flow nourishment. Thank you, Paul Stamets, Merlin Sheldrake and Suzanne Simard
I hope you will contribute to the evolution of The Whole Earth Monograph Library.
THIS DOCUMENT IS A WORK IN PROGRESS
Change Management in the Context of “Human Sustainability”
A Curriculum Designed for Emerging Adults (college)
Who is this for?
Students who want to have a clearer sense of personal mission and purpose related to repairing homo sapiens’ mark on Planet Earth, and who want to actively and effectively engage in that repair.
Part 1: Reframing the Issues: Wrestling with Worldviews
Part 2: Personal Effectiveness: Values, Commitment and Motivation
Part 3: Community Cohesion: Solutions and Action
Each part is outlined below with
Each session will include a brief meditation practice.
There will be at least one extended “nature in the wild” experience in each Part.
There will be Intake and Exit surveys to gauge course impact.
PART ONE Reframing the Issues: Wrestling with Worldviews
So much confusion around terms and topics can lead to ineffective action or inaction.
Transdisciplinary perspectives* promote advanced critical thinking.
Fine-tuning a personal worldview supports intrinsic motivation at act.*
Core framing paradigms and worldviews, including
Students will be challenged to fine-tune their own worldview by engaging with the paradigms above. Example: assignments will include questions such as What do you (strongly) agree with? What do you (strongly) disagree with? What piques your curiosity? What makes you uncomfortable? Assignment also includes a personal waste mitigation practice challenge.
Exploring our relationship with...
Exploring our relationship with...
PART TWO Personal Effectiveness: Values, Commitment and Motivation
Unused personal resources are wasted energy.
Knee-jerk reactions often get us into trouble.
Heightened awareness about how what inspires, attracts, distracts and repels us allows us to more intentionally set our course and make better decisions about how we spend our time,** leading to a richer and more meaningful, engaged, fulfilled life.
Personal (adulting-oriented) Coach
Framed in a 6-worlds*** model (physical, emotional, social, intellectual, sensual, spiritual worlds), students will respond to personal assessment questions related to strengths, challenges, triggers and preferences.
How and when do you manifest your best self?
How will you best manifest your best self in your repair work?
PART THREE Community Cohesion: Solutions and Action
Good intentions without adequate resources will not move us forward
Good intentions without effective community support will not move us forward.
Communities are large ecosystems with energy constantly flowing between members
Taking advantage of and contributing to this flow increases the probability of success*
Project Shepherd and Community Catalyst
Invite active feedback
Stay open to passive/observational feedback
*The 3 ½ Critical Factors for Successful Action
**”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard)
***Modified from Lurianic Kabbalah 4-Worlds model of Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual worlds
Possible academic ecosystems for this curriculum
This curriculum is designed to take people through a process of understanding the issues, clarifying their values and their most effective personal style, and ultimately joining with others to spring their good intentions into powerful, meaningful action. Highlights include “Exploring our Relationship with Convenience, Consumption, Separateness and Resilience” and lots of out-in-nature time in order to experience universal sensuality and tune-in to natural rhythms.
A strong/healthy community ecosystem where personal and institutional regenerativity and resilience are continuously nourished and cultivated.
To bring power to a new wave of community engagement in projects related to human sustainability.
All efforts related to human sustainability are placed into a comprehensive diagram, a constellation of a strong and healthy community ecosystem.
Rich with content and process, structure and intention, including models such as behavioral economics (human motivation) and deep ecology (e.g. understanding the mycelial/life connections in the forest).
To prepare, we define Human Sustainability and “Why Bother?“
We identify our best modes of personal and organizational effectiveness.
The deeper level of sustainable and regenerative content will be guided and informed by the projects selected (see “Project Examples“ below).
“In-Residence” Delivery Platform
My personal lifestyle goal (“how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives") is to be a visiting Activator/Catalyst/Shepherd-in-Residence in communities around the country, working across ages and institutions.
My intention is to set-up an effective place-based mechanism to activate individuals, catalyze the community and shepherd projects. I will immerse in the local culture and offer my approach to regenerative practice to the mix, including lots of time “out in nature”in order to learn and experience universal sensuality and deep ecology. I will also offer follow-up tracking/check-in to support ongoing success of projects and activities initiated during my residency.
For example, while in residence, I may be connected with a combination of the following: a fourth grade class, an eighth grade class, a high school club, a university course, a municipal department, a local civic organization, a nonprofit, and a corporate organization. With each of these groups, I would activate/catalyze/shepherd community engagement in human sustainability projects and activities of their choosing.
In working with a class or club, after they learn about issues that challenge human sustainability, I will lead them to clarify their own values and priorities, and guide them them to understand what motivates them personally and in what settings they are most effective. After brainstorming possible projects, my focus shifts to 100% support of chosen projects. Let’s say that they (or a sub-group) choose a project such as composting food waste from their cafeteria. We would target critical research topics, incorporate skills of project management and strengthen strategic alliances with community partners in order to plan and implement the composting project.
Another example for older students or adult community members might be getting involved in local or regional policy, possibly related to stormwater management or nighttime lighting regulations. In this case deep skills would be more oriented to credible research and building a persuasive case while identifying and cultivating allies throughout the community.
How to anchor this project?
This is my current challenge.
Will it work best anchoring in a school system?
National or international sustainability organization?
OMG the Microbiome!
This, what some are calling the largest organ in our bodies, is one the the basic keys to health. Below, I have curated a variety of links. Start with the brief overview, then dive in as deep as you’d like...
Brief Elementary Overview
From Gut Microbiota for Health
Gut Microbiota for Health has been created by the Gut Microbiota and Health Section of the European Society for Neurogastroenterology & Motility (ESNM), member of United European Gastroenterology (UEG)
An Edu-tainment Video
From The Atlantic
Should You Map Your Microbiome? (5 minutes)
In this episode of If Our Bodies Could Talk, senior editor James Hamblin, MD visits uBiome, a company attempting to provide direct-to-consumer information about what everyone’s microbes might mean for their health.
a more indepth video
The Microbes Within Us (46 minutes)
Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes
Recorded at The Royal Institute, 2016
Great overview of the best selling book I Contain Multitudes
3 Interesting links to Original Research
Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome
Microbes, Immunity, and Behavior: Psychoneuroimmunology Meets the Microbiome
General info can be found at the NIH Human Microbiome Project website
A Couple of Very Well-Written Books
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
From the back cover: A groundbreaking, marvelously informative “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a radically reconceived picture of life on earth….
The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out by Dr. Robynne Chutkan M.D.
“Live Dirty, Eat Clean—because every serious disease or chronic ailment begins in our gut. The author of Gutbliss and one of today’s preeminent gastroenterologists distills the latest research on the microbiome into a practical program for boosting overall health.”
A MOOC-type class
Coursera: Gut Check: Exploring Your Microbiome
University of Colorado, Boulder
An Experiential or Immersion Experience
Add your own microbiome to the database at The American Gut Project
“The American Gut is one of the largest crowd-sourced, citizen science projects in the country. We discover new information daily to shed light on the the connections between the human microbiome and health.”
Image: A New View of the Tree of Life
By Laura Hug and Jill
Explanatory article of image
Human beings are born egocentric. As infants, we are not just the center of the universe… we are the totality of the universe. We make no distinctions between our hunger, our mouths and our mothers’ breast. As toddlers, everything we touch is Mine! There is no relating to the experience of any Other. It is all and only about Me. Egocentrism serves a critical purpose at this stage. It ensures we develop a healthy sense of self that will support our biological imperative for survival.
Developmental psychologists have observed that somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10 - given adequate nurturing and minimal trauma - we (hopefully) develop into ethnocentric beings. Life becomes about our expanding circles of “tribes.” My family, my home town, my country. Older siblings start watching out for younger ones. Kids on the basketball court stop ball hogging and start passing... For some, tribes can get paradoxically both wider and narrower as we identify with race, religion, education and economic class. Whatever its form, ethnocentrism serves a critical purpose at this stage. It ensures we develop a sense of community that offers safety, health and cultural norms that support the biological imperative, as a species, to survive, thrive and procreate.
The challenge is that most human beings never develop beyond ethnocentrism. It is the reason for much of the conflict that exists between human beings. It is responsible for the increase in publicly displayed aggression such that we have witnessed this past year, and for much of the social and economic inequity that exists in our world. It is why we have wars. As a species, we are stuck in ethnocentrism.
While we sometimes see hints of world-centrism - the next stage of development - in, for example, the widening interest in sustainable and regenerative farming and in climate change consciousness and activism, I want to propose that "centric”-thinking itself is actually what limits human development. What if drawing circles around ourselves is responsible for the seemingly destructive impact our species has on this living organism we call Earth? What if our drawing of the lines between us and them - any us and them - is what limits our worldview?
Separation does seem to be at the core of our destructiveness. Farmers separate the cows from the field, depriving them of their natural food while depriving the soil of its natural fertilizer. Upper gastrointestinal (GI) physicians see their work as distinct from lower GI docs. And like children who think they are invisible when they cover their eyes, nearly all of us have embedded the illusion that we can “throw it away” when, in fact, there is no “away.”
And it gets even more dramatic… My biggest OMG moment about how we humans have separated ourselves came when I googled “define nature.” The result from the Oxford Dictionary states “Nature: The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.”
What? Really? Everything else?? Literally everything on the planet except humans and human creations??? As if we are made of some alien substance. As if our breathing, eating and excreting, and procreating are somehow “unnatural.” I was, for a moment, uncharacteristically at a loss for words...
When did we separate ourselves and lose the natural connection? It wasn’t always this way. When we nostalgically admire “native” cultures, we underscore how they saw themselves a part of the ecosystem in which they lived. When they hunted, they never killed more than the herd could sustain. When they harvested, it was a regenerative practice that kept the soil fertile and the fruits going strong. They had a relationship with the wind and could smell the rain coming. The pulsing of their lives was in time with the cycles and the seasons and the natural rhythms of the earth. Even though they could be competitive within their tribe and with tribes beyond their own, their framing was not in centric circles. Their cultural narrative was (still is) a connection consciousness that included time and space - not just all that was around them, but also that which came before and seven generations into the future. This is missing for us in industrial cultures, a lost stage of human development.
So, how do we recover? How do we begin to repair that which we have - in our ethnocentric stuckness - brought to such disrepair? How do we challenge the very nature of our human identity, especially right now, when our cultural narrative is fraught with inequity, aggression and violence between tribes?
My default is to study. And then wrestle with what I learn. And then bring people into the conversation and discover the patterns and illuminate the connections. If I find myself feeling closed, I come back to curiosity, and if I need to, to compassion. As I read Jonathan Haidt describing the moral foundations both shared and not shared between liberals and conservatives in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics, I see where I have been closed to the Other. As Peter Wohlleben narrates The Hidden Life of Trees and brings the forest to life - “family” takes on a new meaning and a walk in the woods will never be the same. As Ed Yong intimately describes in I Contain Multitudes how bacteria in our gut and on our skin are our partners in health, I cannot help but begin to see “them” as “us”.
The blurring of the lines between us and them in many ways mimics the “totality” feelings of our infancy, only with a grown-up consciousness, “Life” rather than “I” is at the center of the universe. We understand that our actions cause ripples out into the universe beyond ourselves, even beyond what we can see. This doesn’t mean we are going to stop making decisions ego, ethno, or even anthropocentrically. Our survival impulses are strong and when threatened, it is natural to go there. But if we rise to the challenge to learn more about the complexity of life beyond the narrow human experience - to frame life with a connection consciousness - our decisions are made with a wide lens and for the long term.
I know this can feel daunting. Where to start? (From where you are.) What is the path? (One foot in front of the other.) It is the mission of The Academy of Natural Rhythms to provide experiences that kickstart the adventure and offer inspiration, refreshment and companionship throughout the journey. Read with us as we learn about the intelligent and connective mycelia distributing nourishment under our feet, and about the bubbling magic and nutritional powerhouse of lacto-fermentation. Come walk with us in the woods and activate all your senses. What do you hear? What do you smell? How does it feel? Dive into a Natural Rhythms workshop for an experience more focused on changing your world. All life exists in the flow of nourishment. Can you sense it?
As we reclaim this lost stage of human development, recovery and repair will be a natural consequence. The impact that the intricately interwoven connections have on all our systems - our food, sleep, relationships, energy levels, our general health and the health of all the other life systems in our view - will be subtly and dramatically evident. Moment by moment, the days of our lives will never be the same.
About the Author
Sarah Gabriel has been learning and teaching about "Human Sustainability" - the flow of energy and resources that keep us healthy - for decades. She finds deep nourishment in the Aha! moments that expand our world view.