Principle #12 – Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Founder of the Transition movement, Rob Hopkins, taught permaculture—design principles in agriculture that mimic sustainable patterns found in natural systems—when he and his students decided to apply these same principles to social culture. Out of this experiment, Transition Towns went viral across the world as a model for building thriving local communities. Permaculture is guided by 12 principles and several slogans, or maxims. This is the twelfth in a series of articles exploring the principles of permaculture within the landscape of relationship, both personal and community.
This month’s permaculture principle #12, Creatively Use and Respond to Change, couldn’t be more timely. You see, this is the last in my 12-part series exploring social permaculture. This may also be the last article I’ll write for Country Wisdom News, and this just may be my last summer as a resident of Ulster County. You could say I’m standing on the cusp of a lot of change but let’s face it, this whole human experience is nothing but change, one big experiment in impermanence. We just pay attention to some changes more than others but if we tell the truth, life is an unfolding, unfurling, endless flow that is always simultaneously weaving together and unraveling everything.
We all have different conditioned responses to change. Some people try to deny it, others make a drama out of it, and still others use it as an excuse. And maybe we all do a little of everything depending on the occasion. But almost everyone likes to think they have some control over change—that we are in charge of the waves of the ocean. We busy ourselves with plans and then feel betrayed or guilty for not trying hard enough when it doesn’t turn out like we thought it should. We try to get out ahead of change, as if that were really possible. We even try to take ownership of change, especially the changes we like, the ones that bolster our sense of identity.
In David Holmgren’s book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, he writes, “Be flexible, adaptable; allow the process to emerge rather than rigidly adhering to a plan.” By relaxing and simply recognizing that change happens, we can experience the fluidity of which we are made. A lot of our suffering comes from the belief that we are one thing separate from this other thing called Life and we have to manage it somehow. However, we are not separate from the ocean of life; we are the very water itself. When we fully realize this, then there is no need to try to be flexible or adaptable because those qualities come naturally. And in this relaxation, life gets so much simpler, even in the face of change.
And when did rigidly adhering to a plan really work anyway? Life goes the way it goes. Sometimes it appears to follow our plan, and most times it doesn’t. More often than not, we are mentally adjusting our idea of a plan to adhere to life. Yet when we recognize that our true nature is the flow of life in all its unexpected detours and divergences, our ability to respond to change is naturally enhanced. The creativity that we are becomes more accessible and detours become doorways leading us to something unexpected and full of wonder. On the other hand, try to insist that life should follow our ideas, and we suffer. It’s pretty simple.
I’m not saying that change always feels good. Sometimes it brings exhilaration and sometimes it brings grief; sometimes it brings love and sometimes pain. Sometimes change seems to take everything from us, emptying our hands and our pockets of what we thought we could save. Sometimes change leads us into dark alleys and sometimes to high peaks, but it never leaves us there because that is the nature of change, to keep flowing and moving and unfolding. And even in confusion and grief, there is an ongoing invitation to open to the fluid poignant beauty of being.
It’s been a privilege to write this column for Country Wisdom Newsand to be part of such a visionary community paper. Thank you, Chris Hewitt. This little drop of water called Deena in this vast uncontainable ocean called Life is grateful to you and to all of the readers. Peace be to all.
Deena Wade is a local massage therapist, freelance writer, Living Inquiries Facilitator, and dog mom. Her websites are sensiblebliss.com, theradicalinvestigation.org, and her blog is easeofbeing.org. She is moving to the beautiful barrier island of Beaufort, South Carolina sometime after the summer—that is, unless life changes course again.