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Navigating The Space Between Worlds

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Navigating The Space Between Worlds

By Joe Martino

”Mastering the art of being in the world,

even when we know it’s filled with heavy challenges and chaos.”

Over the last few decades, many have written about our time as a space where humanity is between worlds. On one hand, we have our current way of life which is incredibly demanding on our minds and bodies, is rather toxic, and filled with conflict and destruction. On the other hand is a vision for a world that’s slower, more connected, more natural, and more loving.

As we navigate what appears to be the dying stages of the old paradigm, the intensity of what it is seems to increase. The qualities of the old system become louder, acting as an evolutionary pressure to push things along.

Many become inspired to explore ways to bring the ‘new world’ to the here and now via their actions.

How do I live without money?

How do I exit the toxicity of our current system?

How do I not participate anymore?

If we aren’t careful, these questions can create a framing of our current world that can make it very hard to live within.

If we deeply judge the need to work, to make money, to pay taxes etc, all of it can become a heavy thing to carry. We end up waking up every day dreading going to work, and having endless conversations, thoughts and emotions about how the bad guys are ruining life for us and we’re the victims in it all.

While there may be truth to some of the observations about our society, the framing of it in our minds is disempowering many of us, and it’s making our current moment dreadful. Further, it holds us back from living and being able to solve the problem.

So how do we work with this? How do we live in the space between worlds?

What Feels Natural To Us?

Indeed, our current societal design is not supportive of human beings thriving. In that sense, it has been poorly designed. We have such an easy time as a species doing this because our higher-order thinking allows us to override what is good for our biology. Simply put: it’s easy to ignore our needs using our thinking, especially when we become so identified with life cognitively.

I have 7 alpacas. The moment they need to poop, they just do it, no thinking, no “I’ll just finish this paragraph,” they just do it. They listen to their biology. Humans on the other hand don’t always listen. In some cases we don’t because we have social structures, social norms, and brains to hold this all together. But we also don’t because we’ve learned to ignore our body, feelings, and emotions in many ways.

Two of our boys.

While our higher-order thinking is beautiful in one sense, how do we know when it begins to work against us?

I often use an example with friends and clients of a bear. The bear (a mammal like us) was likely raised by an attached parent. It learned how to ‘bear’ and how to be in its environment from that parent in its natural environment. If that bear’s ecosystem was cut down or destroyed by humans, it wouldn’t stay for too long. It would know that concrete, a lack of forest, and a lack of fresh water aren’t good for it, and it would leave to find a suitable home. The bear is simply following its connection to its biology.

We as humans know we are doing this to animals and call it ‘displacing nature/animals.’ Interestingly, we tend to see ourselves ‘outside’ of nature, conveniently ignoring how we’re ‘displacing’ ourselves.

As mentioned, humans are resilient in that we can survive in different environments. We find ways to adjust, cope, and problem solve within environments that are not natural to us. Here I’m not just talking about physical environments but also emotional ones. We find ways to survive in abusive situations for example. We know we should leave, but sometimes we feel we can’t or don’t have the capacity to.

Further, there are difficult elements to our environments like not having access to clean food, clean water, and shelter without having to work very hard to get them.

Because of our amazing thinking brains, humans can do and create incredible things, but we can also become so cognitively and mentally identified that we override our basic biology so much so that we build systems that aren’t attuned to our own well-being.

Thus, humans are currently surviving, but we are in no way thriving. And we did this to ourselves via a disconnection from ourselves.

To be clear, it’s not that we shouldn’t have roads, technology, and societal systems, it’s that they should be designed with human and natural thrivability in mind. Instead, our world is designed with economic thrivability and elite power structures in mind. All at the expense of human wellness.

The tricky part is, that the more people see and experience this truth, the more we can become angered and upset by it. This is fair. A boundary feels crossed because we living now aren’t necessarily the ones who built it or are choosing it. “Why am I subjected to a system I don’t like nor support, yet feel like I can’t escape it?”

As I stated in my essay If No One Wants This, Why Are We Doing It? our way of life doesn’t feel natural to us deep down and it’s overwhelming the challenge is we can’t change it overnight. So what do we do to live within it without driving ourselves mad?

Exploring The Art of Existing Between Worlds

Over the last 15 years exploring alternative thinking and spiritual spaces, I have discovered that it’s common for people to want to fully “exit” the system. They don’t want to integrate, use money, or do anything within the system as they feel it’s “toxic.”

As mentioned, these feelings are somewhat valid, but how we choose to navigate them is everything. Here are a few key observations.

1. Having unprocessed anger, resentment, victimhood and judgment for the system is a recipe for disaster.

If we go to work each day, pay taxes, or drive on highways with the mindset and emotional drive that we are victims and stuck, we will certainly make our lives feel more challenging. Our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual framing at that point is that of contraction and stuckness. And it’s often built on a nervous system foundation of survival.

Everything will feel much more difficult in this state. Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t observe the state of the world, understand it, and explore how to change it, all of that can be done without getting stuck in mental and emotional traps. But we have to be careful about the general state of mind and being we are taking into our daily lives. Without being aware of this, we give all of our power away to the system and allow it to dictate how we feel.

I’ve watched people panic and freak out about not eating organic apples, yet their mindset and relationship with themselves and the world is creating more toxicity in themselves than a non-organic apple.

When this mindset goes unchecked, our locus of control for our own well-being is outside of us, not inside. (Key note, I’m not suggesting that the system doesn’t have toxic effects on us, I’m saying that there is a space where we can exist within the system with greater wellness.)

Can we begin to see work, life, and what we currently have going as an opportunity? Can we change the lens through which we see it so it doesn’t add to greater dis-ease? Can we support ourselves, our nervous system, and our emotional well-being through practice that helps us build capacity and resilience?

2. Trying to exit completely is incredibly hard, and most end up just as unhappy.

I have found a lot of people trying everything in their power to avoid working and making money. Here I’m not referring to people who are not well or injured and can’t work, I’m talking about folks who can yet have such a degree of judgment toward the system that they avoid being within it.

Often this path leaves people stuck, uninspired, unable to experience much of the world, and unable to even afford fun projects at home. Life begins to become small, and these people rarely seem truly happy.

That said, intentional communities are an interesting path for some. Although they work and exist within the system in more ways than people think. Sure, a few places are fully off grid, but for the most part money, utilities, land purchases, property tax etc, are all part of the mix.

If you don’t have a lot of money, this path is very tough. People can of course move to countries where things are very cheap and start over, but even that is tough for most people as it’s still expensive and work still needs to be found to live well into the future.

1. Exploring capacity and resilience building to exist in our current world and help solve problems within it seems a fruitful path. This includes doing small things within the system to make life more natural.

To me, this is a path that is accessible to most people and provides a meaningful balance of making a difference and enjoying life. I may also be biased toward this as this is the path I’ve chosen and have taught throughout my work since 2009.

For example, I chose to start a company and embrace the world as it was in 2009. I built my business on a foundation of creating an amazing work environment for employees to work, rest, grow, and contribute to a ‘collective evolution.’ Over time, I was able to give back by hiring 14 people to come into this environment of serving something greater than our personal ambitions, yet those were taken care of too.

We did some amazing projects around the world with excess funds, and we helped establish an internet culture of wellness, consciousness and conscious media. If I had kept the system at a distance, those benefits would not have been shared.

Humans have lived for such a long time in unnatural ways, disconnected from ourselves, and not processing our emotions and traumas, our nervous systems hold that history. It is further being re-inforced by the reality that yes, there is toxicity still in our world. It is badly designed.

But still, regulation and capacity at a deep cellular level need to be restored for most of us. We need to clear out the messy stuff. Otherwise, we will take our pains into any revolutionary systems that pops up outside the system anyway. We see this a lot with intentional communities that collapse.

This means focusing on deeply restoring physiological safety, wellbeing, emotional fluidity and regulation is foundational to living well, and it can be done even in the existing system. Even though our system is tough, this path gives us much more energy, resilience and capacity to exist within the system and make as big a difference as possible while enjoying life.

This path is work. It acknowledged that it isn’t easy to feel great in our world due to the poor design, but that it’s still within our capacity if we focus on it.

This doesn’t mean we ignore the need to change or adjust our system. But this path gives us the greatest ability to do so as we will have built the capacity and deep empowerment to actually do it, vs. being feeling stuck, tired and victimized resisting the system so heavily.

Existing in a space between worlds means building individual and collective wellbeing, and creating change along the way. The more resilient we are, the more we can make money and use it as a tool to find ways to make our lives better, less reliant on the system, and healthier.

In that space of wellness, we can have meaningful conversations and learn to hold visions of a future world that isn’t built on hating and resenting the old. If I’m honest, almost all of the successful changes and projects I’ve seen out there have come from this space of being.

In summary, taking stock of whether our observations of the world have become deep disempowering judgements is a worthwhile reflection. Being ‘awake to corruption’ doesn’t have to come with lifelong resentment toward the system, where we comment online about ‘the bad guys’ ruining things for everyone. Or that somehow Biden, Trump, Trudeau etc. are the root of the problems. I hate to say it but, this gets us nowhere.

Questioning whether we are truly living our lives in a way that promotes emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being and expansiveness is important. Without this, our foundation is weak.

The path forward I’m suggesting is one of building enough strength, well-being, and energy to live with wellness in our current system, so we have energy left over to see clearly and act upon changing what is not natural to us. Good sensemaking of our current events goes alongside this, but as you’ll note from my previous work, good sensemaking is built on a healthy nervous system.


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