Positive Deep Adaptation in your Life

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As regular readers will know, I have woken up to the global ecological and climate breakdown that’s facing us. A large part of my work now focuses on facilitating something called PDA (Positive Deep Adaptation).

Working with individuals, groups and communities, I help people to look inside and wake up to a new level of consciousness.

PDA was first coined by Jem Bendell, a professor of sustainable development at Cumbria University – and includes an extremely useful framework for considering how we could adapt in a dramatically changed environment – ecologically, socially, economically.

Although the term came out of the need to deeply adapt as a society to the changes heading our way (whether we like them or not) – it struck me recently that this framework is equally useful in a more general context.

How do we really want to live? Who do we want to become? How do we want to treat each other? How do we want to parent, to lead, to contribute? What’s most important to us?

These are profound questions – not just in times of crisis. But perhaps the current crisis provides the necessary wake-up call for us to actually consider these questions.

It’s so easy to lose ourselves in the day to day busyness of our lives, the earning the money, paying our bills, shopping for food. It’s so easy to ‘numb’, or to allow ourselves to be distracted by the latest Netflix binge. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘story’ we’re creating about who we are, and what our life is all about.

As I’ve written about before, it’s no accident that we are experiencing a mental-health crisis in the ‘privileged’ West. The root cause of which is a widespread disconnection – from ourselves, from others, from nature and the planet. And also, I think, a meaninglessness – a sense of anomie arising from a mismatch between how we’d like life to be and the way we perceive it as being.

Bendell’s framework is called the Four R’s, which stand for:

Resilience
What is it that you most value – and how can you keep that? How can you live more in alignment with these things?

Relinquishment
What can you let go of, or give up? This could be life-style stuff – and/or it could be the stories or beliefs that you’ve bought into that limit you, or keep you in suffering. It could be aspirations or goals that you’ve held on to that no longer make sense.

Restoration
What can you bring back that has become lost? Community? Your family sitting down and eating meals together? Real conversations with people, rather than the carefully-manicured social media profiles?

Reconciliation and Reconnection

What can you do to love, support and make peace with others? How can you deepen your relationships? How can you live with love, joy and peace?

It certainly has been that wake-up call for me. I have made substantial changes over the past few months that would have been inconceivable to me earlier this year.

Changes include no flying, far less meat in my diet, taking a train where I can rather than driving, and a massive downturn in consumption generally.

I’ve also closed down my business after 35 years. So, I no longer charge for anything that I do. I’m making a tiny, but I believe, radical rebellion against neo-liberal capitalism. The mindset that says I will do something for you, but only if you pay me.

It’s funny – last week I walked past my favourite clothes shop en route to somewhere else. (I’ve spent a small fortune in this shop over the years. I used to see the look of joy come over the faces of the shop assistants when I walked in!)

Since understanding the contribution of the fast fashion industry to the climate emergency, I’ve stopped buying clothes. As I walked past the shop last week, my first thought was “Oh brilliant – they have a sale on! I wonder what’s new”. Just for a second. But I could not bring myself to go in the shop. Why would I want even more clothes? What for? A second’s reflection meant that the ten-minute dopamine rush I used to get from a purchase just didn’t seem worth it any more.

Whilst some of these changes have felt painful or uncomfortable at times, my over-riding sense is one of being guided by wisdom.

Feeling liberated and peaceful. I experience even more of a sense of purpose and meaning than before.
Life has become a lot simpler.

You may think I’m just virtue-signalling. You may think I’m just a goody two-shoes, wanting to come off as an environmentally good citizen.

But this blog post is really not about that.

It’s not about trying to convince you to do, or not do, anything.

It’s merely inviting you to ask the questions in the 4R’s framework for yourself – and see what shows up from your wisdom.

If it turns out that we MUST adapt because of what’s coming our way, then you and your loved ones will be in a better position to face it with courage and resilience.

If it turns out that we manage to turn things around in time and there isn’t the same NEED to adapt – well then I believe the rewards will be a more beautiful, rich, connected and loving Life.

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