Chapter One (sort of)

Dear reader, I suspect that when this book is finished, this chapter will look very different than it does right now. At the very least, it will have been professionally edited. (I'm a writer, not an editor.)

It may be two more years before I'm done with this book. It could be five. (I'm a writer, not a fortune-teller.)

In any case, here's a sneak peek. It's about a ten-minute read.

I'm going to take a deep breath now and hit send.


Chapter One – The world of make-believe

Long before I knew words like dysfunction, narcissism, climate change or patriarchy, I knew that if I remained still enough for long enough, the wind would speak my name. Lying in the backyard on our acreage during Alberta summers, I could hear the loud chatter of frogs, crickets, birds and even inchworms. I sensed the roots of the trees stretch the earth and felt the subtle vibrations as the ground gave way. In all those mysterious sounds I heard a lively conversation. It was the wind who told me that I was a part of it.

I didn’t know it then, but I felt sovereign. I didn’t know it then, but I belonged.

I’d often come in from the yard with a longing to talk with my parents about these joyful and profound connections, but I couldn’t find a way in. They were buzzing with more important things: money, work, tasks, stress, and gossip. My parents were young immigrants and occupied with learning the language, planting roots, making Canada a home for us and generally trying to survive. Everything was foreign to them and they were stressed most of the time. I remember thinking that they were missing something – maybe even missing ‘the thing,' but I also valued what they were doing. I didn’t question much. I belonged, they belonged - everything belonged.

When I got older, I would lie on the grass with my best friend. We’d find shapes in the clouds and hear laughter in the bird songs while talking about homework or boys or the new girl at school. Mighty as the wind was, our conversations slowly drowned it out. Looking back, I see we were becoming conditioned to a worldview that nature was merely the backdrop to the fascinating drama of the human story.

I graduated from high school and promptly left for a university five hundred kilometres away. On the first night alone in my tiny apartment, I lay awake listening to a loud buzz right outside my window. I assumed it was a colony of fireflies like the ones that accompanied me on summer night walks at home. When I opened the curtains and saw the source of the sound was a light post, I stared at it in distress. I didn’t think I could ever get used to it.

I was profoundly ill-prepared for University and got the “Dean’s vacation” after the first year. I briefly moved back home and a fear took hold of me. I feared that I could not find my way in the world and lacked the qualities needed for success. I was disappointing my parents who hoped that I would find some ‘security’ in the world, but I wasn’t concerned with hard facts or knowledge. I wanted experiences. The wilder, the better. I became worried that I simply wasn’t good enough or smart enough. I wasn’t wired right or maybe just defective. Those innocent days of belonging to the wind felt, in my worst moments, like a delusional memory.

I ended up getting on track and much like my parents before me, I have spent many of the last thirty years working, striving, worrying, and gossiping. Time and gravity have only recently forced me to abandon my pursuit of perfection, but I spent at least twenty years in its pursuit. All along, I’ve longed for the freedom and connection I experienced in my childhood. I tried to satiate it in a variety of ways – spirituality, drugs, work, and relationships, to name but a few. As I’ve gotten older, the ache has become louder, but I’ve spent precious little time laying in the backyard waiting for the wind to speak my name. I no longer notice the sounds of the electrical buzz outside my door. Like the moon to the Earth, gravity has pulled my attention to the weight of the human world and the stories we tell about our ourselves.

We, humans, are obvious outliers in the natural kingdom. Thanks to our opposable thumbs and frontal lobe, we are super busy. Boy, do we get it done. We’ve created the ballet, air travel, electricity, and toilets. We’ve doubled our natural lives through medical and sanitary innovations. We’ve invented symbols whereby you and I communicate without ever needing to meet or use our voices. And my word, look what we’ve done with the dogs.

 Exhibit A

Exhibit A

On the dark side, we’ve also created systems of institutionalized violence that are set to go off when our stories don’t match one another’s or the truth of a greater reality. Even though we know that our consumption is unsustainable, we continue on the path to our extinction. Dogs and cats aside, most of us are completely disconnected from all other Life on the planet.

The extent of the human range of possibilities is outstanding – we are blessed and cursed with our powers of creation.  There is no denying that the intelligence that resides within us is unique on the planet. Generation after generation, we push the limits of our brilliance yet move further away from any emotional connection to the natural world. We are facing devastating climate change caused by our own innovation, consumption and disconnection yet here deep into the eleventh hour we haven’t made the collective changes needed to save ourselves. Most of us are so deep in denial that we set aside money for our kid’s education in a planetary reality that suggests that two-thirds of the world’s species may be extinct in the next three years.

We are merely bit players in an epic story that started many thousands of years ago. All the structures and the rules of the game that seem so stable are props. None of this will endure. Not the concrete, the laws, or the borders between countries. The fixed beliefs we hold regarding ‘human nature’ are made up. We know some things, sure – facts that exist within our limited perspective. Ask my boobs; there’s no arguing with gravity. However, most of what we think we know is a grand illusion, a magic show - or Maya, as the Buddhists call it. In our desire to be loved and fit in, we have played along like good little boys and girls. We’ve tried to live by all our confusing rules. Even if they make no sense, we do our best to pass them on to our children – to ‘prepare’ them for the ‘real’ world. We may feel a stirring of rebellion within us and may even try to stay wild by drinking too much on weekends or saying inappropriate things.

Many of us feel lost in our existence. We are overwhelmed, cynical and disconnected, so we concoct all kinds of strategies to help us cope with the symptoms. You name it, we've tried it: time management systems, self-help books, higher education, drugs, life coaches, therapy, Buddhism, goddess worship, Landmark training, jade eggs, yoga, diets, better jobs, bigger houses, marriages, divorces, juice fasts, ayurvedic medicine, Reiki, Tantra, running, fake eyelashes, CrossFit, granite countertops, Botox and bleached assholes.

The consciousness we have today has been cooking over centuries, even millennia. We carry within us the small mind of all of humanity which is impossible to live and unravel in one lifetime. We can, however, roll the clock back a few millennia and look at a couple of fundamental beliefs that are contributing to our current condition.

Planted in the fertile soil of our Aristotelian collective psyches some two thousand years ago was a man-made concept of original sin. The ‘original’ original sin parable is symbolically potent. Adam and Eve went against God by eating from the tree of knowledge. They had everything provided for them already – they were in the frickin’ Garden of Eden! They didn’t need knowledge. But those meddling kids ate from the tree anyway, and now we have talking fish statues, outdoor escalators, and Pokémon Go.

The all male church leaders of the day co-opted the story of Original Sin and told our ancestors that they could only find salvation through the church. Rather than seeing themselves as manifestations of the divine Creator who may be at risk of over-identifying with the mind, our ancestors came to view themselves as an inherent flaw who disobeyed a perfect God. The sin passed from generation to generation, and there wasn’t a goddamn thing we could do about it except rely on male church authority. No matter what we did, we were inherently damaged – women especially. We could be as sweet as honey, but we were still sinners. Forever and always, we were destined to be a disappointment to our creator – the force of Life itself.

And then, in an epic twist, God also gave us sinners dominion over Earth and put us in charge of everything.

Two thousand years later, we may not be as outwardly religious as a society, but the rules of the patriarchy, dominion over nature, and original sin have taken deep root in our minds. Our psyche's today reflect a masculine superiority that seeks to dominate nature while spitting out shame at the same time. Nearly all of our choices are made from a mindset of not being good enough or not having enough.

Scarcity beliefs are the reason marketing works so well and why we work and consume the way we do. Jonah Sachs in his book, Winning the Story Wars, refers to the majority of marketing we’ve endured as “inadequacy marketing,” which points out /creates our inadequacies and then with all the resources of nature at our disposal, promises a solution.

We keep holding out for the hero who can absolve our sins and believe that it’ll come in the form of some product, technological innovation, elected official, or guru. Paradoxically, we have been fed plastic for so long that we’ve become cynical. But we're still buying it because it’s the only thing on the shelf.

Our psyches have been hijacked by these self-propagating systems of beliefs. On any given moment we could be consumed with hating our bodies, feeling helpless about the corrupt world leaders, or heartbroken over the environment.

Rather than digging into the pain of these uncomfortable emotions and taking the risk to really change our approach to life, our current strategy is to plant the seed of gratitude or false positivity right over the top of them and hope that those seeds will quickly germinate so we can bypass the throbbing and get to feeling good. Guilt. Gratitude. Ping/Pong.

The principles of original sin and dominion over nature are so parasitic that they may cause the demise of our species. It’s very hard to feel a deep sense of peace and belonging with a consciousness life that. The beliefs have given rise to twin neurosis most of us wrestle with on a daily basis. We feel the need to prove we are special, yet we feel unworthy. Special. Unworthy. Ping/Pong.

These beliefs are the metaphorical cancer stem cells that threaten our planet, and we are entrusting the patriarchy to come up with the solutions. It won’t. The patriarchy is a world of make-believe that we are brainwashed to think is stable and it is crashing down around us.

When we spend even a moment giving full presence to ourselves in nature, we see an entirely different system of life at work. Imagine if the Cedars and the Maple trees wanted to kill each other because they each thought they were superior? What if all the fish spent their energy second guessing themselves? What if the sunflower looked at the rose and shriveled up in jealousy and then cut down the rose and painted itself red? What if the clouds were always worried they were making a mistake? And what if each of these forces got it into their heads that they could control the other? Imagine the tyranny. Life prospers because everything has stayed relatively true to what it is and when conditions aren’t favorable, evolution happens.

Largely thanks to our collective behaviour, conditions are no longer favourable to much of Life. Besides being inside of the sixth mass extinction, we are also  invited to participate in our own evolution.

I used to believe that as we got older, we got wiser. This is a bit like saying that the longer we live in a house, the more organized and clean it will be. Wisdom comes when we experience our lives with awareness, curiosity, and are open to reexamination. Wisdom asks us to adjust our position as our circumstances change over time. For wisdom to flourish, it needs well-tended hearts and minds to participate in an open society. Our civilization is like living in a six-thousand-year-old house, where little has been thrown out, least of all the bullshit. We see the walls are caving in and we are buying duct tape in bulk, some of us are building bunkers. The patriarchy isn’t working. It is only a matter of time before we see its collapse. Maybe the worm was in the Rose from the beginning. Setting up an economic system based on ecological destruction can only go so far.

Though women have felt the dismissal the strongest, everyone is stifled under patriarchal rule. Women were never going to win in this game, and frankly, the men aren’t winning either. Maybe the balance of power has shifted just enough now that women can slow down and connect back into ourselves and the world. Maybe it’s our time now.  We have more influence than ever before and the world needs us to use it.

The Dalai Lama has said that western women will save the world. I’ve often wondered why and though it may appear that we don’t have as much power as men, we may have more sovereignty. In general, we have a broader range of emotional development and expression.  We have free access to masculine expression, but collectively, men are ridiculed for expressing feminine attributes. At present, women have more tools in our toolkit. And what is power without freedom?

Check it out:

Right now, in Canada, I can get a Ph.D. in Neurophysics or Women’s Spirituality. I can join a coven, lead a corporation, and openly cry when I see injustice, a sad movie, or I just fucking feel like it. I can have kids. Or not. I can get married. Or not. I can marry a woman. And I can divorce her and marry a man. Then I can become a man and come out of the closet. I can feel a chill in my bones when I hear a resonating truth. I can wear a dress or jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap. I can plan a ritual for my newly divorced friend. I can organize my thoughts and communicate intelligently, concisely and forcefully. I can buy a joint from a store. I can run a hot lavender bubble bath when I feel tired.  Not only can I vote, but I can also take political office. I can gush over a pair of breathtaking shoes. I have health care. I can call a friend when I think I can’t do it alone and open my heart and vulnerabilities.  I can manage my family's finances. I can plan a vacation. I can (and did) open a boxing gym. And I have the compassionate teachings of the East at my fingertips.

Today’s Western women hold a unique place in history. Thanks to the trailblazers who have gone before us, and those who walk among us, we have access to high levels of education and the opportunities they bring. According to the Harvard Business Review, women make the decision in the purchases of 94% of home furnishings, 92% of vacations, 91% of real estate, 60% of automobiles and 51% of consumer electronics. We drive the economy. Areas historically dominated by men have opened up for us, and in many schools, young women are out participating young men in the hard sciences.

Some among us might say: that’s great – women are winning at a man’s game. But now we don’t have the choice to stay home and raise children because we’ve become economically dependent on two incomes and have wholly bought into the ‘masculine’ notion that the more productive we are, the more value we have. And even within the system where we have supposedly gained so much ground, there are serious inequities.

Yes, within the systems of the patriarchy, we are still on losing side. I’m not suggesting that we stop discussing inequalities or the barriers that stand in the way of our full expression, but that we stop for a moment, evaluate our sovereignty and place ourselves directly into the dire times we are facing.

What are the inner obstacles to freedom and action especially for those of us with the most choice, the most privilege? Equality does not equal sovereignty. We may have reached a critical mass and if we’re not careful – we may identify more with the inequalities than with the immense power we have to script the future. The psyche has a way of internalizing history and unchecked; it may prevent us from achieving the sovereignty that our foremother’s wished for us.  It might also stand in the way of realizing the hope that the Dalai Lama has for us. It would be tragic for us to go down attached to our own victimhood when the time is ripe for us to step forward.

Deep down in my bones, I believe that we have enough sovereignty to create a new game. We are being called to the garden and into ourselves. We are being asked to pull our attention away from the bombastic commotion that we’re are making and sit humbly in nature’s vast intelligence. This raw intelligence also lives within us but has been kidnapped by ideas powerful enough to remove us from our own authority.

It is time to question our most basic assumptions. We have been looking outside ourselves for the solution to the world’s problems, but the logical place to start is at home, with our own consciousness. Let’s begin by unhooking the expectation that we can be fulfilled by winning the scarcity game. Let’s begin by recognizing that we carry thousands of years of conditioning. In a world where inadequacy stories are so widely accepted, we have forgotten that we are the hero in our own story. What if we are the ones we’ve been waiting for? What if Western women really can save the world?

If you’re reading this, I suspect that you felt something similar to me as a child - some sense that your life was extraordinary. And maybe, like me, that specialness was hijacked by an egoic, dominating society. Maybe you are in a never-ending Ping-Pong match between wanting to be special and feeling worthless. Maybe you are hearing a call to something deeper, like your own truth.

Or maybe, like me, you’re wondering if you’ll ever again hear the wind speak your name.

Sandy Ibrahim