By guest blogger, Spring Cheng of the Resonance Path Institute.
What Will the Acupuncture of Collective Climate Patterns Look Like?
After I closed down my acupuncture clinic, I was determined to bring what I learned about Soft Reality science through acupuncture into a wider realm of applications. With my partner Joe Shirley, we have founded Resonance Path Institute. We have distilled the principle of resonance as a primary agentic process of Soft Reality.
We teach the principle of resonance through innovative ways of social organization and collaboration, starting from individuals relating with themselves. We have participated and worked with many individuals and groups who are passionate about reinventing ways to organize social collaborations and facilitate cultural paradigm shift.
What can we learn from the Soft Reality science of acupuncture to treat the body of nature and restore the balance of Qi?
First, we may shift our view and see climate change as an invitation from nature to humans, an invitation to learn how to work with Hard Reality and Soft Reality in harmony and mutuality instead of an antagonistic struggle of dominance.
From the perspective of Soft Reality, climate change is a set of symptoms that reflect dysfunctional patterns of human relationships in our culture. My colleague Robert Gilman at Context Institute in his talk What Time Is It has presented a brilliant analysis, pointing out that we have sufficient technological resources to solve the problem on the material level. What stands in the way are the immaterial issues: inertia of old ways of thinking and being; resistance to changes; fear of losing short-term interests; and deeply ingrained beliefs, assumptions and attitudes that block us from trusting each other in the kind of collaboration needed to deploy those technological solutions.
We need the Hard Reality Science to solve the technological issue, and Soft Reality practitioners to apply resonance to work with soft issues. When we stop the war between Hard and Soft Reality and learn how to navigate the uncertain future with both, there can be so many amazing discoveries about the nature of the universe and ourselves.
Second, we are simultaneously the acupuncturist and the “points”!
Hard Reality science exerts its power through machines and technological inventions. Soft Reality conducts its power through its powerful instrument, human beings. To conduct acupuncture on climate change, we need willing individuals to come forth as “acupuncture points”, to resonate Qi for nature and the web of human relations. The way we serve as the acupuncture points for nature is to commit to a much deeper changing and learning process than we have all been used to.
Our very own changing and learning is where the inter-penetration between reductionism and holism, material and immaterial will first happen. Those of us who are experimenting with cultural paradigm shifts are the natural candidates as “acupuncture points”.
Since the 70s, Soft Reality technology in the form of many eastern mysticism practices has been introduced to the west and spawned a wave of cross-cultural learning and discoveries. In my 23 years of living in America, I have come across many western renditions of eastern Soft Reality science. Seeing my own culture and tradition from this new angle has catalyzed incredible transformation in me. To that I am forever grateful. At the same time, I also acutely feel the immense gravity of western psyche’s unconscious engagement with the ancient Soft Science through the habitual materialistic and reductionist approach, so tenaciously pervasive in western culture.
Many of the eastern practices were introduced into the west and attached to fixed forms. For example, acupuncture is associated with treatment of pain by poking needles into points. Taoism is associated with practicing TaiChi in a beautiful natural setting. Buddhism is attached to meditating quietly on a zafu in retreat centers. These are no doubt valid forms. However, these forms are only expressions of a vast, dynamic field of rich essence, with complex and nuanced meanings and associations relevant to the cultural, economic, and social relations in its native environment. If these forms are productive fruit trees, the essence is the fertile rich soil these trees are rooted in.
Of course, without close contact with the history, culture and language, a westerner has little access to the essence. Practicing forms is immensely valuable in itself. However, equating those forms with the essence reduces these Soft Reality practices into reductionist representations and dilutes their potency. That is what is happening to acupuncture and many other indigenous practices. The tree has been uprooted from the soil. It still produces the fruit, even bigger and more beautiful looking. But the fruits have lost the original flavorful taste.
On more than a few occasions, I met westerners who have learned about esoteric eastern practices in English with little knowledge about either the original language or culture, and claimed their knowledge is substantial enough to promote themselves as a master. I very much admire western people’s entrepreneurial spirit and drive for self-sovereignty. However, when people take those sacred names coming from thousands of years of tradition without continuing to nurture the sources through deeper learning, they are committing the same act as modern technology is committing to natural resources: taking without giving back. Yet they themselves are the primarily victims of this act. Practicing Soft Reality technology in the materialistic and capitalistic society without the nurturing support of traditional sources can be a very brutal business.
This phenomenon points to a pervasive “point” in western culture. Driven by the habit of reductionism, it has become imperative for people to always take the stance of knowing. Education and society rewards those who know and marginalizes those who don’t know. That has instilled a habit in the western psyche to always reinforce the stance of “I know”, resisting the stance of “I don’t know.” This habit closes people to more nuanced experience and learning necessary to replenish the source of knowledge.
In fact, I would extend this to say that when dealing with a complex issue like climate change that calls for a more holistic approach, claiming that we know the answers could be dangerous.
We don’t need to be perfect and all-knowing to engage with Soft Reality. However, we do need to be open, nimble, fluid, and always ready to refine and re-calibrate our existing knowledge. A commitment to continuous learning and changing is absolutely necessary for any practitioners of Soft Reality science.
The reductionist view of Soft Reality also shows up in people’s attitude towards indigenous people. For many environment-oriented social gatherings, meeting organizers like to include indigenous people’s presence. I appreciate their intention. However, I often feel the presence of indigenous people is more like a superficial display without much substance to it. Seldom are indigenous people consulted for important decisions, even though it is often their lands and livelihood which are most affected. Again, in modern culture that privileges intellectual knowledge over other types of knowledge, “less-educated” indigenous people are generally viewed as less capable or developed.
The flip side of the dynamic between east and west is a blind worship of anything esoteric from the east, without applying a critical view. Eastern esoteric practices are extremely dynamic, diverse, often intimately related with environmental and cultural contexts specific to the land where they originated. A healthy, experimental attitude to investigate their relationship in new contexts is essential for a grounded practice.
This point is not a criticism to any individual. I have met many western Soft Reality practitioners whose dedication and commitment has inspired me tremendously. What I offer here is my observation of how Soft Science interacts with the socioeconomic systems in the modern western world. Yet these socioeconomic systems are nothing but an expression of the “genetic makeup” shared by the collective psyche. And everyone of us living in the system carries a representation of that genetic makeup in our own psyche, with or without our conscious awareness.
I offer my observation as an invitation for readers to go deeper into the essence of Soft Reality science beyond the constraints of reductionist mindset. The collective wisdom of humanities provides infinite legacies of ancient Soft Science, waiting to be re-discovered and re-invented to meet today’s challenge.
For us easterners, there is equally so much to learn from western culture. The reductionist approach is a weak point in eastern thinking. This weak point renders its Soft Reality technology vulnerable, nonspecific, and inconsistent. It also makes it elusive and opaque, thus susceptible to misuse. It has been a tremendous learning journey for me to absorb from western thinking and explore how to enhance the efficacy and specificity of eastern practices with a more reductionist approach!
To serve as “acupuncture points” for the collective climate patterns can be a sacred privilege and incredible experience. It connects us directly to the field of collective (un)consciousness in an embodied way, through our felt sense and experience. As these acupuncture points, we need to embrace our imperfection and vulnerability, instead of trying to control it, mask it or even heal it! Our deepest wound is the very portal through which we can have direct contact with the Qi of nature and the collective climate pattern. In fact, a more precise translation of Chinese character 穴 for acupuncture point should be cave, a cave into the infinite source. Our deepest vulnerability is that cave. More about these materials will be released in our book, The Resonance Path, scheduled to be published in May. (Please check our announcement.)
Third, we need to become aware of the “climate” we are making in all the relations we participate in.
When a group of people are called together by a common project, we are making our “climate patterns”. The results and deliverables coming out of the project will carry the stamp of these climate patterns.
In my experience of working with groups, I find often little attention is given to the kind of subconscious attention that blocks the Qi of the group. These subconscious activities include subterraneous resentment towards one another, bruised ego, insecurity, power or ownership struggle, and resistance to listen to each other’s views. Often this blocked Qi comes from attachment to the “hard” meaning of language, and a lack of specificity and depths of one’s authentic experience of the moment. We call these patterns dissonance.
When we bring passion, commitment and personal investment into a collaborative project, dissonance is totally natural and necessary! Just like a body goes through phases of illness and wellness, the ebb and flow of Qi is normal. In fact, dissonance is the very sign that shows us the potentials and opportunities. The problem is that we often feel so much is at stake if we communicate dissonance with each other. We take it in as personal, rather than a sign of the system speaking through us. As a result, the system we are forming is bogged down by stagnant Qi or hidden dissonance, lurking in the darkness, waiting for a weak moment to explode into crisis.
At Resonance Path Institute, we have some ground-breaking experience working with dissonance as illustrated in this video. Our practice advocates “leaning into dissonance”. When there is dissonance, even at a minute level, instead of avoiding or diffusing it, we invite it to express itself in embodied and non-rational ways. That expression enables us to harness that energy into more creative responses and intimate connections.
This essay is an invitation for deeper dialog and co-explorations. Climate change is an issue that sits perfectly at the junction between Hard Reality and Soft Reality. These two sides of our reality have been locked in a struggle for dominance for millennia. What an exciting opportunity we are facing, if collectively we may carve a new pathway, to weave a new relationship between these two sides of reality!
With that, a vision comes to me. In this vision, people from all walks of life who are called by the issue of Climate Change would come together. They may range from politicians to indigenous tribe members, philanthropists and stay-at-home parents, climate scientists and community leaders, engineers and city planners. They would offer themselves as the “acupuncture point” and work with their Soft Reality climate patterns as they interact with each other as representatives of their family, ethnicity, profession and country.
Dissonance will arise. Guided by the principle of Resonance, people will bravely lean into it and allow it to lead us to new discoveries and emergence. From there, they will create a space to invite nature to “speak” and participate in co-creating solutions to solve Hard Reality problems that involve sections of our culture that have been conventionally segmented.
In my beloved language of Chinese, climate means the Qi of nature. It is reminding us that nature is the larger body, and we are each a cell of this body. Both the cell and the body have their own level of intelligence. If either the body or the cell claims the dominance of its intelligence without the awareness of the other, we have diseases.
Nature’s body has its own will, intention and mood, related but standing independent from us humans. What will it be like when we learn to speak its “language” and listen to what it wants to say to us, as opposed to always imposing our language and value system onto nature?
I don’t know what that will be like. But I will guess how I would feel about it. I would feel more intimately connected with the flow of life around me, including the storms and inclement weather. I would be in constant wonder of this ongoing dialog! What will it be like when we re-weave the fabric of our culture and society from this place?