Nature, Culture and the Sacred: Integration and Congruence through Practical Magic

In her new book, Nature, Culture and the Sacred (Green Fire Press, 2018), Bioneers co-founder Nina Simons offers inspiration for anyone who aspires to grow into their own unique form of leadership with resilience and joy. Informed by her extensive experience with multicultural women’s leadership development, Simons replaces the old patriarchal leadership paradigm with a more feminine-inflected style that illustrates the interconnected nature of the issues we face today. Sharing moving stories of women around the world joining together to reconnect people, nature and the land—both practically and spiritually—Nature, Culture and the Sacred is necessary reading for anyone who wants to learn from and be inspired by women who are leading the way towards transformational change by cultivating vibrant movements for social and environmental justice.

The following excerpt is from the book’s final essay.

Many among us are reaching to cultivate our best selves in the most regenerative and effective ways to help heal our ecological and social systems, and shift the course of our ailing world, while also celebrating and enjoying life. My hope is that this offering might prove useful to cultivating your own emergent or evolving leadership.

While some of the chronic biases and injustices of our social systems are increasingly visible to many — across economics, race, environment, gender, class, age, orientation, ability and ethnicity — the harms and violence resulting from them are also escalating. And, as we are also the immune system of the planet, people are mobilizing, thankfully, and acting on behalf of what we care most deeply about.

Now is definitely the time.

That movement-building, however, is still more factionalized than it needs to be, which keeps us from becoming optimally effective. To cultivate our best opportunities to shift our systems, bridge-builders and connectors are needed across all sectors and issue areas to help create connective tissue among diverse yet related communities and constituencies.

And of course, the impacts of our escalating imbalances are not evenly distributed. The harms and violence being felt by some are far worse — due to color, class, nationality, gender, or faith — than for those of us with the privileges that whiteness, wealth or maleness still confer. In the global south, refugees fleeing their homelands due to climate change impacts and violence are increasing, even as white nationalism is spreading. Thankfully, many individuals and communities are stretching and boldly risking much to help alter our course, with approaches as diverse as running for political office, engaging people through the arts, as well as grassroots and movement organizing.

Many more of us now are seeking clarity for how best to develop ourselves to protect and defend what we love. We’re heeding a call to act on behalf of a future where diversity in all its forms is valued for the strength and resilience it can offer, and life’s creatures and living systems can thrive along with our kids and grandchildren.

What’s at stake? Only the capacity of Earth to sustain human life into the future. Many more of us now know that our personal and global health, human rights, peace and freedom — and a viable future and quality of life for humankind — are not only interdependent but are also hanging in the balance.

With all the current challenges of our broken social systems, over the coming years the impacts of climate destabilization will rapidly and inexorably increase the challenges that lie ahead. Potable water and healthy food may become increasingly hard to access, and costly, as droughts and wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes roil any perceived sense of safety we may have left.

There are no guarantees and we cannot know the outcomes, but I am heartened by my faith that together, with all of our resilience, love and inner knowing, we can “bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice” while we grow our community connections and alternative support systems to help sustain us through the times ahead. One thing’s for sure — we cannot do this work alone. We need the power of collective and community for the work ahead.

I am immensely grateful for the emergence of gender fluidity and the dissolving of old gender norms and identities that are increasingly prevalent among younger people. Life has also taught me to appreciate the unique value of caucus work. When people who identify as sharing a gender convene with others who mirror many of their lived experiences, potent healing and strengthening can happen. This has proven valuable in race and class work, as well as with gender.

I realize that — coming from a different generation — my focus on women and balancing gendered qualities in our institutions and culture may seem outdated to some. If so, I apologize for my blind spots, and ask you to receive these ideas flexibly and with understanding.

For the remainder of my days, I will act toward co-creating the world I want, in collaboration with others who share many of my values. For me, this means working to advance the leadership of women, and all people leading more from their “feminine” aspects and an integrated wholeness of our humanity. It also means shifting our culture to achieve greater gender equity and balance in our institutions, cultures and policies. This is the most comprehensive and systemic way I can see to help us to heal on every level — ranging from the individual to the societal and from the social to the ecological.

I am not alone in this perception. Public awareness, in many parts of the globe, is changing far sooner than governance, policies and institutions. Increasingly, researchers, think tanks and survey data are also proving that the leadership of women — and those who lead in a more gender-balanced way — is our best shot toward shifting our course toward a future that’s Earth-honoring, equitable and vital.

Republished with permission from Nature, Culture and the Sacred (Green Fire Press, 2018) by Nina Simons.

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