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Episode #158  Traditional Solstice Celebration: Looking back and looking forward with Della Duncan and Nathalie Nahai

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As the year stills and tilts afresh, we bring you our annual moment of reflection with two podcast hosts we really admire. There’s a meditation at the end, to bring you into your own space of stillness and reflection, but ahead of this, we delve into where we think the global human psyche is at this moment, how we feel when we look upstream, and what we see; and what makes our hearts sing, and what does it prompt us to do: core questions that open up a wealth of ideas, reflections and imaginings of how our world could be as we step forward into 2023, amidst all the tipping points, clear-eyed, strong-hearted and ready to give it all we’ve got.

Nathalie Nahai is an author, keynote speaker and host of The Hive Podcast, a series that enquires into our relationship with one another, with technology and with the living world. With a diverse background in human behaviour, persuasive tech and the arts, she brings a unique vantage point from which to examine the complex challenges we face today. Her best-selling book: Webs Of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion has been adopted as the go-to manual by business leaders and universities alike, and her new book, Business Unusual: Values, Uncertainty and the Psychology of Brand Resilience, has been described as “One of the defining business books of our times”. A consultant and facilitator to Fortune 500 companies, Nathalie also serves as a behavioural science advisor and helps organisations to ethically apply behavioural science principles to enhance their business. Having lectured at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, Nathalie’s ability to ignite conversation and offer tools and strategies with which to harness human potential, has helped countless organisations transform how they approach business online, with clients including Google, Accenture, Unilever and Harvard Business Review, among others.

Della Z Duncan is a Renegade Economist. Areas of her livelihood garden include hosting the Upstream Podcast, challenging mainstream economic thinking through documentaries and conversations including most recently, The Green Transition Pt 1: The Problem with Green Capitalism and Pt 2: A Green Deal for the People, supporting individuals as a Right Livelihood Coach, helping transition businesses and organizations as a post-capitalist consultant, and teaching and facilitating retreats and workshops on the Work that Reconnects, Systems Change, and Post-Capitalist Economics. Della is also the Course Development Manager of Fritjof Capra’s Capra Course on the Systems View of Life, a founding member of the California Doughnut Economics Coalition, and a Senior Lecturer of Renegade Economics and Regenerative Livelihoods at the California Institute of Integral Studies, Santa Cruz Permaculture, Vital Cycles Permaculture, and Gaia Education.

In Conversation

Manda: This being our solstice edition, we have a three year tradition now of getting together with Natalie Nahai of the Hive podcast and Della Duncan of the Upstream podcast, two women who have become friends over the years and whose podcasts I greatly admire and respect. They have unique and individual views on the world, but they mesh really well with everything that we’re doing in Accidental Gods, and it’s such a delight to be able to sit down and talk with people who think as deeply as they do, as sharply as they do, with as much emotional and spiritual intelligence as they do. So I hope you enjoy the conversation. We talked for almost an hour and then I recorded at the end a Solstice meditation for wherever you are in the world. So may the world’s turning be rich for you. And please do welcome Natalie Nahai of the Hive podcast and Della Duncan of Upstream.

Della: Welcome to our December solstice conversation. I’m Della Duncan. I’m here with Manda Scott from Accidental Gods and Natalie Nahai from the Hive. And today we are going to reflect, reminisce and share stories and insights from this past year. And also go into some invitations and insights as we go forth into 2023. So Happy Solstice everyone, and grateful to be with you both. So, Natalie, let’s start with you. Do you want to introduce yourself? Just share a little bit about the hive. What’s what’s going on in this year in particular; what have been some themes and some insights that you’ve come to, just by way of welcoming you into this conversation.

Natalie: So thank you. Well, it’s so nice to be here with you again. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. So this year on the Hive, there’s been a few different themes. We kicked off the year with themes from my book ‘Business Unusual’, looking at different ways of creating businesses that are values driven and sustainable and ethical. And then moved into a different kind of place where we started looking at things like systemic change, entanglement, activism, the radical potential for rest and what that looks like, and what it means to come into our agency and power. And then there was a long summer break, which was very needed. And in the season that we’re just currently traversing through, the main theme that I’ve been exploring is around integration. So whether you’re coming at that through the lens of psychedelic facilitation, or looking at ways in which to think about economics, or ways in which to think about rewilding and land restoration. What is it that brings everything together? How can we create a sense of connection and wholeness while facing into some of the more difficult things? So really thinking about that, as the core theme. How about you, Della? What have you found to be the most interesting or rich seems within the podcast throughout your year?

Della: Yeah. Thank you. Well, one thing I’ll say is that this was the first year that we produced interviews at a regular schedule, so every other week. And so it actually felt like a very full, abundant, beautiful year for us. And I say us, because I do want to call in Robert Raymond, my co host, co-producer, just because he did half the conversations at least, and really does produce it with me in all the ways. And we also did the documentaries. And so the documentaries this year were on indigenous stories of resistance and regeneration. And then the last two were a two part series on the Green Transition, and that was really inspired by a call that I was in, with comrades from the Global South who said: A green transition for the global North means an open casket for the global South. And I wanted to know more about that and follow those threads. And that led to our two part series on the Green transition and a green deal for the people. And I would say, like the major themes of the conversations were definitely climate change. We had a lot of folks around climate change and around green capitalism as well, and around decolonisation. I would say that was the other really big theme for this year. But yeah, really, really grateful for the the variety of conversations, all trying to be related to economics, but it’s just peripherally related. And also the balancing of evergreen conversations. Like around rethinking economics or around liberation psychology or around green capitalism, but also being very topical. Like we had a conversation around a socialist perspective on abortion, for example. So we did try to be both topical and evergreen, which was a fun balancing to enact. So really a delightful year and feeling so filled with gratitude and insights and so excited to talk about all of this with you both. So Manda, what about you? Would you give us an introduction to your podcast and what were the key themes for this year for you?

Manda: Thank you. Yes. And both of your podcasts have been so inspiring this year. They’re always inspiring, but I’ve learned so much listening to both of you this year. It feels to me as if 2022 has been a turning point year, and I think it’s going to be more clear looking back what exactly was turning and where from and where to. For me, the overarching theme of the year was taken over when we did the Thrutopia Masterclass, which kind of ran in parallel, and I began to populate the Accidental Gods podcast with people who would be complementary to the people that we were getting to speak in there. Because it became increasingly clear to me… I think also I was writing the book. This time last year when we spoke I’d got something like 40,000 words, and I handed in the finished book at 181,000 in October. Yay! And the early part was the easy part, because it was setting up the scene. And the rest was trying to work out actually how do we get from here to there, where ‘there’ is somewhere we would be proud to leave to the future generations. And that has become the guiding light of my life and the podcast is how do we actually get there? In a time frame that’s actually going to work. And so that question has really begun to influence everything that I’m doing. And the themes on the podcast: Economics is still a big theme. Regenerative farming has become a bigger theme as I’m becoming more embroiled in things here and trying to actually make the land here different. And then different ways of crafting the narrative such that it will actually get through to people. Because it seems to me now, listening particularly, Della,to your economics, most recent one, the two parter. And reading Max Ajl’s book A People’s Green New Deal, and then reading Jon Alexander’s book on Citizens. And Nathalie, listening also to you interviewed a gentleman whose name I could never pronounce; he was part of Kate Raworth’s, Doughnut Economics Lab.

Natalie: Erinch Sahan

Manda: Thank you. Yes. And we have the answers now, I think much more than this time last year, it seems to me we actually know what needs to be done. And we kind of know the ways that we could do it. We just need to find the political and social and cultural and narrative structures that allow it. And that that’s a really big change from this time last year. And therefore, what we need to do now is to work on how do we create the structures that allow it, rather than how do we work out what to do. So we each have our own podcasts and we each tend to ask a similar themed question each time. And Nathalie, you ask pretty much the same question, and I’m always in awe of the depth and clarity of the answers that your guests have. So bringing this here, what is your question and how has it changed in the last year for you, both as a question and in terms of its answers? 

Natalie: Hmm. That’s such a nice reflection to consider. So the question that I’d been leading with for a long time and have gone back to, because I love it, is: what do you think is going on in the global human psyche? And the reason I left it for a short while, was because when I was interviewing people for the book about business and values driven organisations, one or two psychologists said, Well, it’s too context dependent. I don’t believe that it’s a question that I can answer. And I thought that’s interesting. And for some reason I kind of thought, well, maybe I’ll let it go. And then I started working more into themes around entanglements and archetypes. And I’ve been listening to an amazing podcast called This Jungian Life, which is just phenomenal. And I started thinking, Hang on, the question itself is interesting in that it assumes interconnection. And if you take it from that perspective and you start from a position of ‘we’re here together, entangled’ and that’s the foundation, then one of the answers can be it’s not specific enough. Or it’s not contextual enough. Or an answer can be, well, I sense it at this level or at a different level, and it suddenly creates the possibility for much more of a mosaic to emerge. And as soon as I understood that, I thought, No, I do want to ask this question again! Because it feels like it’s coming from maybe a richer understanding of what it can hold. So with that in mind, I’d love to ask you Manda, what do you think is going on in the global human psyche right now?

Manda: Yeah, this could be answered on so many different levels, and it depends on where I am in my own centre as to where I send the feelers out. And I think we asked this last year, it feels very different this year. There feels to be more of a sense of a vessel fracturing. I think last year there was a sense of the fear that the fracturing was going to happen and the trying to hold; and different sets of tensions and the different tribal groupings around the world, as everybody hunkered down into the tribes and became more and more vociferously tribal. And it feels now as if to me, there’s more of a sense that we all know that everything is breaking apart. And there is no point in trying to pretend it isn’t. And that leads to both that kind of existential, vertiginous terror of you are Wile E Coyote out over the canyon and you’ve just looked down and you know you’re going to fall. But also, if everything that we know breaks apart, what else could arise? And it feels oddly sparkly hopeful, in ways that I really wasn’t expecting. And I don’t know if I’m projecting this hugely. That’s also entirely possible. But yeah, it feels different and partly I think – okay, so I’ll stop talking in a moment – but when Twitter was taken over by Musk, I moved on to Mastodon. And I could feel the limbic change of not being in that really toxic environment. I obviously spent way too much time on Twitter. It was my only source of news. When the whole Liz Truss falling apart thing was happening, Faith and I were learning about it in real time from Twitter. And then I just stopped doing Twitter and went onto Mastodon, where everybody’s just being really kind to each other, and there are content warnings everywhere and it’s all peaceful. And the world feels like such a different space. And I wonder whether that’s just unique to us or whether there is a degree of that happening around the world. So thank you for the question. I guess we now pass it on to Della.

Natalie: Fantastic answer, first of all.

Della: Yeah. And when I think about what’s happening in the global psyche, something that happened a few days ago comes up for me. I was sitting at a dinner party with folks who listen to a lot of podcasts and even someone who is a radio show host. And the person who was on the radio show host said, You know, I want to start a project where it’s just solutions focussed. And they were remarking on how often or what percentage podcasts or talk shows focus on the problem, and what percentage they talk about the solution. And obviously solutions and problems is something that we’re aware of on our podcast. But I hadn’t really made it visible of how much time, like which percentage. And I was just listening and watching the dinner party guests and they were talking about things like, Oh, well, I think it should be 60% solutions, 40% problem, and then someone else is like, actually it should be 80% solutions and 20% problem and then somebody else is like, how about no problem and just solution? And it was just really interesting and it really connects with how you, Manda was describing 2022 and just what you’re noticing. And so I was just thinking about is, is one thing in the global psyche, maybe more of an awareness or a knowing of the pain of the world and a hunger for more solutions oriented thinking and inspiring stories of alternatives. Like I’m thinking of the podcast, What Could Possibly Go Right? You know, or the work about moral imaginations that a lot of folks are doing, like Rob Hopkins and Thrutopia, right? The idea of imagining other futures and visioning, the power of visioning.

Della: So, yeah, I’m thinking of maybe something in the global psyche is a hunger for more solutions oriented focus. And it just, it was an interesting thing, and I was just thinking about which of the conversations that we had really focussed on the problems. And there were several. Like we had a one on the War on Cash with Brett Scott. We had one on Fortress Conservation with Prakash Kashwan. So we had a lot of, yeah, like what’s the problem with certain areas. But we also did have some really interesting solutions oriented conversations, like we had one on Fully Automated Luxury Communism. We had a degrowth conversation with Jason Hickel. We had the not for profit economy model with Jennifer Hinton. So we had kind of a mixture. But yeah, just something that I’m more aware of now, starting the new Year and reflecting in this conversation.

Della: And then the other thing, when I think about the global psyche, I’m aware that the last time we spoke, the conversation or the book that was really on my mind was with Johann Hari on Stolen Focus. I remember I spoke about that a lot. And now coming into this conversation, what was really on my mind is the book Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. It’s called Four Thousand Weeks Time Management for Mortals. And it’s So delicious. I’m really enjoying and excited to speak with him. And one of the things that he brings up is that John Maynard Keynes said in the 1930s, Oh, you know, in a hundred years we humans will only be working about 15 hours. Because we’ll just have all these, you know, benefits to efficiency and how we work that we’ll only be working about 15 hours each. And we’ll just have so much free time, that the problem will be what do we do with all our free time? And of course, that’s not the case. And it’s so interesting to think about how busy and full our lives get. And of course, I think about how capitalism really finds new things for us to do and new products for us to buy and new things to consume our time and focus and attention. So I think one thing in our global psyche that I’m also noticing is just a dizziness or fullness and, you know, the never ending to do lists and things like that. At least I’m sensing that in myself. And yeah I think the deeper question there is, you know, how do we seek enough ness? How do we find sufficiency or find contentedness? And this of course, goes to the degrowth conversation too. So it’s on all scales: our individual lives, collective and planetary.

Della: So that’s another thing that’s on my mind right now. And just one quick, one little more anecdote on that. I was having dinner with a friend who works in a tech company, who said that his company gives them a bonus for taking five consecutive days off. And they get paid time off. And and it was because they so rarely take vacation at this company, that the company has to incentivise them taking paid time off by giving them a bonus! And that was just absurd to me. So it’s like we’re we’re so full and we won’t even take the free time that we’re allotted. Not all of us, but so just bringing in yeah, fullness and solutions focussed. But Natalie, we also want to hear your answer because we know you’ve been interviewing lots of folks, so please share with us what do you sense is going on in the global psyche right now?

Natalie: So I think one of the things that comes up a lot in these conversations, which I think is really interesting in terms of the answer from others, it’s kind of like if you think of it as a diamond, and everyone picks a facet that relates to them or that resonates most closely to them. And they use that as a lens through which to see the whole. I think one of the things that I’ve noticed in almost all of the answers that I’ve gathered from others and so it reflects in my question, is a sense of fracturing. Back to use Manda your word, the sense that there is now somehow more possibility to make change happen. It’s like a shaking loose. And I think that is impacting people in various different ways. So in some folks, it’s this sense of denial, which, you know, you see in a lot of people who just don’t want to give up the golden handcuffs or whatever it might be. In others, it’s a question of, right, I’m here. I’ve gone through the pandemic, I’ve experienced isolation. I don’t want to be alone. How can I focus on community? That is a word that’s coming up so much in so many conversations around me at the moment. Another is also around the quality of our feeling lives. So how do we feel into a sense of connection and joy? And so I’ve noticed that when we’re thinking about difficult things, one of the answers is to tap into this sense of longing. Like, how can you long for something different? And to have the sense of longing you have to connect with a sense of love. And that means travelling often through grief. So I think there’s a lot in the mix. It feels like there’s kind of a crack that’s opened. We’ve got access to this rich, kind of fertile, painful ground beneath. And people are starting to plant seeds there and I’m starting to see people coming together to tend to these plants and say, okay, what is it that we want to grow? How do we do it in a way that is joyful and together, as well as realistic and facing into the scale of things to come. So there’s for the first time in a long while, I feel a sense of possibility. And that actually may be it depends on where you are in the world, of course. But when we’re thinking about the possibility of disruption to our lives, we look at the ways in which other people’s lives have already been devastated or having to be rebuilt. I feel like people are now stepping into greater agency and saying, okay, well, we’re not just going to ignore that anymore. What can we do now and how can we do it together? Yeah. So, Della. On that note, do you want to dive into your provocative, meaningful question?

Della: I would love to. Thank you. Yeah. So our podcast is called Upstream, and it comes from this metaphor from public health, which is that you imagine you’re standing at the bank of a river and you see people floating by drowning. So you jump in to save them, pull them to shore. You look up, you see other people floating down the river, drowning. So eventually you call for help and you get others involved. And a group of you have to go upstream to figure out why is everyone falling in in the first place. And so we have this metaphor to guide our show, in order to look at the challenges of our time political, economic, social, ecological, and then to ask our guests to go upstream with us to what are the root causes. And then the root causes; hopefully there is where we can see some solutions, some some invitations, some ways of living and thinking and being differently. So I’d love to ask you, Manda, when you go upstream, maybe take maybe a problem or a challenge that’s breaking your heart right now, or really concerning you. Or a whole host of them. And then take us upstream. What are you noticing? What have been some of the insights from the guests that you’ve had and the conversations that you’ve had, around what are some of those upstream root causes? And then to add this solutions focussed piece, when you realise those root causes, what solutions open up from that space? So Manda, I’ll hand over to you and then let’s ask Natalie as well.

Manda: Okay, Thank you. It’s such a rich and deep and fascinating question. And before I start, I just want to say that part of the book that I’m writing, I needed to create a movement. I needed to give it a name. And that movement in the book is currently called The Upstream Movement. And I used exactly this metaphor because it seems to me to encapsulate everything that we need. And it’s also not yet the name of a movement around the world. There were other names that I looked at and they’d all, people were using them and that didn’t feel right. So I’m very wedded to the idea of going upstream and very much like Natalie’s question, it depends where I am, and I could get very spiritually focussed on this one. But I think on a slightly more practical note, I’m much clearer this year that right at the heart of everything that is devastating us is capitalism. Predatory capitalism and its innate colonialism. Max Ajl’s book has really clarified things for me, of the degree to which the violence inherent in capitalism and the way that it has been imposed on the world, and its need for growth. Capitalism needs to keep us consuming, because it needs to keep growing because it’s this giant Ponzi scheme that will fall over if anybody steps back. There’s a total catastrophe happens if we all stop consuming and we go into what they call recession.

Manda: And I was very struck, Della, by something that somebody said almost in passing in your recent podcast documentary. Which was that Musk, Elon Musk had said on a tweet that he deleted, but obviously Twitter lives forever in the cloud. ‘We will coup whoever we like. Get over it’. And I just had to stop listening and go for a long walk at that point. Apart from the fact he’s using the word coup, which I take to be a noun as if it were a verb, and the guy is obviously an idiot. But leaving that aside, We will coup whoever we like. We will impose the whatever we want, in order to continue to be the kind of people who can buy Twitter from the petty cash and not care if it doesn’t make any money. It was very interesting. But the fact that that’s been spoken aloud. The quiet thing is now stated. I think it makes it much clearer to me anyway and much easier, then, to consider what do we do? And that’s how do we change? Because we have this system, where predatory capitalism is the economic system, but it’s bolstered by business, and business owns politics and business also owns the media. And we’ve got this kind of stable structure of economics, business, politics and the media that hold everything. And it’s this structure that is falling apart. And then the question is, what can we do? And I very recently spoke to Julia Steinberger, who is one of the key authors of the IPCC report.

Manda: And I asked her, it’s politics; how can we change the politics in time? And she quoted Donald Rumsfeld, and I thought she was going to say the known knowns and the unknown unknowns and all that sort of thing. And she said, he said, you go to war with the army you’ve got. And she said, you have to fix it with the politicians we’ve got. And she is much wiser than I am and much more deeply embedded. But I don’t think that will work. I just don’t think we can. You know, Biden introduced the IRA, which is fascinating because he’s Irish. The Inflation Reduction Act, which is basically a way of palming off large amounts of money to the fossil fuel industry, while spamming some greenwash. And the spamming greenwash is getting worse and business is moving in to these areas, so that the narrative sounds right and the impact is carrying on getting worse. I was very struck this year by Simon Michaud, who spoke on Nate Hagen’s podcast, and I’ve got him coming on Accidental Gods in February. All about supply, the material supply chains and the fact that nobody seems to be doing the arithmetic. He said, and I don’t know where he gets his numbers; is that if every car in Europe were to become an electric vehicle tomorrow, it would take 16,000 years to mine all the lithium.

Manda: It’s not going to happen. And even if it does, as was really clear from Della’s two part documentary, it will annihilate the Global South. So we can’t do that. This idea that we’ll just change our power source and then carry on with business as usual is not going to work. So I am wholly invested and I don’t have the answers. We need a peaceful revolution because the use of power is the old paradigm. We cannot use power to change things. We have to change from the ground up. So finding movements like something that we could call Upstream, that are connected and have integrity, seems to me absolutely priority. I have one friend who was on the podcast earlier this year, Ros Savage, who is now potentially going to stand to be an MP for one of the three major parties, simply in order to have that sense of integrity beginning to enter into our House of Commons. And that’s a holding pattern. You know, in Joanna Macy’s, three pillars of the Great Turning, that’s fine as a holding pattern, but I think we need the structural change. So I don’t know exactly what it looks like, but I know that that’s what needs to happen. So over to Natalie. When you look upstream, what do you see and what solutions do you find?

Natalie: Well, I think it’s interesting going after you speaking about all these systemic issues that we face. And it’s something that I’m very interested in. But I think the question that comes to me also upstream is: given that there are so many factors at play, one of the answers, I think, to going upstream and finding how we can affect change is where is it that I can best contribute? So I think there’s this question of what’s the most pressing question? Each of us will see different bodies floating down the river, as well as some others. Now there’s going to be some of the same issues we encounter, but there will be some of them that call our attention more than others. And so I think part of the question summons up in me this response, which is, okay, you can’t drag them all out. You can’t change all the problems. Maybe there’s five problems upstream that are all interconnected and maybe you can’t fix or seek to transform or address every single one. So then the question is, where are you best placed? And so when I bring that into the question, the thing that I think I’m most attracted to, in terms of the fundamental issues that cause many of the others, is this sense of of just complete disconnection. Which, of course factors into the ways in which a more extractive, capitalist, rapaciously hungry, consuming culture enables itself to continue. So it’s either because there’s also, it exists because there’s an existing lack of connection; and then it perpetuates by fostering greater lack of connection through various systems, such as social media platforms, which you mentioned. The dynamics of some are different to the dynamics of others.

Natalie: But I think there’s also this sense of; and I’ve witnessed something very exciting here for thinking also about the solutions side; There’s also this sense of numbing out that happens, as an option when we feel disconnected, which consumption plays into. And if we find a way to not numb out and to not placate ourselves, then we can travel to where it is that needs the most healing in that moment. So instead of kind of eating five pizzas and a Ben and Jerry’s tub, you know, I like pizza and I like Ben Jerry’s, you go, okay, wait, I’m feeling really alone. So maybe I want to go and spend some time singing with my friends tonight. And then that gives you the reflection to be able to talk about things again. Personally going upstream, it might be small to your big T traumas. And what I’ve been really struck by this year in particular, certainly in my circle, is how many people and actually watching the World Cup this is something that’s really struck me. How many people are actually talking about trauma and pain. I know it’s a very complicated ecosystem. It’s a shit show. And also it’s a forum for men to express support about things that are deeply difficult for many people to stand up for. So one of the things that struck me about that as well was men holding each other when they’re crying. Men kneeling to support inclusivity. Men wearing armbands to promote education for all, regardless of where you’re born or what your gender is. So everywhere I see a light being shone on people fighting with love, to reveal sources of disconnection and trauma, and to make it more visible and more possible to discuss. So that then together we can start healing and have the strength and the integrity and the wholeness to then be resilient, to change the systems that will need courage and effort to change. So I think there’s that really key point. And I think the connection, the trauma bit, then inevitably for me leads back into our connection with with nature. The fact that, you know, we see trees as objects in a city, as opposed to seeing them as a species or better still, as individuals. There’s kind of this sense of being-hood, that I think we also need to kind of repopulate our imagination with; the fact that we are living with all these other beings that most of the time go unseen and unnoticed. Yeah. So I think that it’s where is the trauma? How do we find ways to to to reach into it and to witness one another and to help one another so that we can have the fortitude to grow together and build the strength to challenge the current system and build regenerative ones. I hope that made some sense.

Manda: Sure did.

Natalie: Della, back to you with your own question. Where does that question take you when you go upstream? Where do you land?

Della: Yeah. Thank you. And thank you both for your answers. I love it. And one thing, Natalie, I love that your invitation got personal. Like I love who you asked about yourself in that upstream question. And it just reminds me of how I just love bringing in invitations for listeners into conversations. And so what I’m hearing is, like, go upstream, but also like, where are you in that going upstream? Like, you know that ‘what breaks your heart?’ piece is critical. And I’m thinking of that Frederick Buechner quote ‘that we are called to the place where the world’s deepest hunger meets our deepest gladness’. And that’s a good foreshadowing for our last question, I think, too. But so just appreciating you, Natalie, for bringing in that piece and then Manda your big systemic perspective. I’m loving that. And I’m just again, thinking of folks who’ve brought some solutions or alternatives that have been inspiring this year, to predatory capitalism. As you said, I’m thinking of, again, the not for profit economy model, you know, imagining a world without profit with Jennifer Hinton. That was really inspiring. When I thought about the profit imperative and greed and growth within capitalism. And then the De-growth thing again with Jason Hickel. Finding that frame and again, the widening circles of that, so that on our individual lives and our collective communities and globally. What that would give for us as a solution. And then finally this liberation psychology, which is kind of the theme right now for me, in this last conversation we released and the first one of the New Year. Just thinking about ways that we can awaken or create liberation in our therapeutic models, which I know is also related to what you’re saying, Natalie, around trauma and working with individuals and healing.

Della: And one thing, one thread that I’m finding when I’ve gone upstream this past year, is, you know, I usually have this map that I’ve visualised over the years and it has the problems or challenges of our time. And then the second stop on the river as you go upstream are supremacies. So human supremacy over nature, patriarchal supremacy, hetero supremacy, supremacy of capitalism, white supremacy, right? And then when I go even further upstream from those supremacies, I have found disconnection, which is what you’re saying, Natalie. Or separation. So separation from ourselves and our bodies, separation from one another and separations from the more than human world. And so and then, you know, upstream from that is exactly what you’re saying around beingness. It’s our perception of self and who we are and our relation with others. Whether we see ourselves as an interconnected part of a web of life, an eco self, so to speak, or a separate, disconnected entity. And then coming back downstream from that, you know, thinking of the solutions, it would be re-membering, you know, remembering who we are or remembering this more interconnected ecological eco self worldview. And then going back downstream from that, we have more solidarity and mutual aid and reverence and respect. So just to say that’s kind of the map that I’m holding when I think of this question over the years. And one thread that stood out to me this year was around Christian Supremacy, which was really interesting.

Della: We got to speak with Vandana Shiva, and she brought this up around what are the traditions, the ecological spiritual traditions beneath Christianisation, particularly for folks in Europe? She she said something. She said Europe was colonised before the Americas. We can see this in the Papal Bull and the witch burnings. And I know Manda, particularly, this is a big theme for you, with your amazing work in the UK with what you’re doing. But just to say that that theme of like how do I see Christian supremacy? How is that unhelpful? And then going upstream and then back downstream from that; where are the helpful invitations or the solutions in that realm? And David Loy, a writer thinker, really helped me with this. He said religions or spiritual traditions are unhelpful when they have cosmic duality and individual salvation. Cosmic duality meaning there’s this earth and then there’s another. So we can mistreat this one because there’ll be another. And then individual salvation is like my own individual salvation is the ultimate goal. And then what’s helpful, is when they have cosmic unity; so earth reverence or that this earth is sacred and important and beautiful and collective salvation, collective liberation. So that’s just one little upstream journey that I’ve been excited to go on and I’m excited to explore more in the New Year. So I’m wondering first, if either of you have any thing you want to add or share to each other’s shares? And then I’ll then hand over to Manda. So anything you want to just add or uplift?

Della: I really love the way that you wove together both Manda’s and my responses. I think sometimes it can feel like these lenses, the kind of the systemic, vast scale, entangled lens, down to kind of the micro, what can I do, me and my life by myself or with my friends. And then widening that circle, they can feel like they live quite far apart from one another. So I really appreciate how you just connected those together. I enjoyed that. Manda what are your reflections?

Manda: I was very struck by that last bit about cosmic duality versus cosmic unity, and then everything that Natalie said about the need for us to somehow reconnect with the web of life. And I’m wondering, I also I haven’t really got it totally in for Elon Musk at the moment, but I am aware there’s this kind of tech bro’s taking over the world. There’s this whole we should be eating food that’s created in a stainless steel vat, rather than something you grow in the garden. And we should be living on the metaverse, because then we can all basically live in concrete hutches and consume everything and live in a different world. And this seems to be, as we hit the technological singularity, as well as the kind of economic capital singularity and all the other singularities of our world, that there’s an enhancement of the disconnect. And I keep going back to Musk, who long before he was sending rockets into space, I think in a TED talk… Certainly in one of these platforms that’s online… Said that the chances of this being base reality are so small that it can’t be. So we have someone who who has enough money that he could order a coup on most of the global South, if he decided that their governments were not doing quite what he wanted. Who basically believes that he’s in a computer simulation. And it’s essentially a game, as far as I understand it. And that if he just manages to level up out of this one, he’ll, you know, he’ll get all the levelling up stuff that you get and he’ll get into a new level where everything was completely different. And that level of disconnect with the living world, has never been joined with that much power, in in the whole of human history. I don’t think. So then the question is, how do we how do we help the reconnection of the world? So that that level of disconnect isn’t there. So that we can heal the traumas that require us to insulate ourselves from the magic of the world. So that was a rather lengthy answer.

Natalie: Beautiful.

Della: I think it connects to your question, Manda, as to your question around what makes our hearts sing and where does that take us? That points to this reconnection. So we’d love to hear the question and explore it together.

Manda: Yeah. So this is a bit of a cheat because this is going to be my question for 2023 rather than what has been my question. And it loops both of you together. It’s the upstream and it’s the personal of what makes your heart sing. So, Nathalie, because we know that you have to go probably quite soon. What makes your heart sing and where does that take you?

Della: I love this question, and actually the reason I’m going is because I’m about to go do something which makes my heart sing. And it’s singing to make my heart open. Tonight, the night that we’re recording, this is a full moon. And I’ve been attempting, because I live in a city, to find a way to stay in rhythm with the natural world. And so sometimes, not always, I hold gatherings on the full moon. And I decided to do it at my art studio. Two weeks ago I ended up quite unusually having two gigs back to back with friends and new friends, with fellow musicians and poets. Really heartfelt, wonderful evenings. And so I thought, Well, I’ll just do a full moon gathering on the Oak moon, bring people together, and it’s going to be a kind of collective offering. And that’s something which, after years of doing it in rather a different way, I find that every time I do this – I attend someone’s gathering or come together and voice is their; Magic happens. And I can’t explain what it is, but it’s… There’s an unlocking that happens with these little gatherings that makes my heart sing and makes people open to one another. And the sense of community is huge. And it’s something that I’ve never really had contact to until coming here. And I think there’s a real hunger for it. So that’s one thing, is being together with people, everyone bringing their own drinks, nibbles, having some candles, doing an opening ceremony, and then singing songs together. And the second thing is, in so many things, the second thing is painting, which I’ve been valiantly struggling to carve out time to do.

Della: And I’ve been painting in a different way recently. And it’s all about working with…let’s just call them dreams, I guess, that I have. And translating that into image. And the reactions that they create in me as I paint them seem to be quite healing. Their kind of narratives almost. And so that’s something else which has been really precious. And these are two aspects of my life that I haven’t really allowed myself to surrender into. And it’s been so liberating to actually give myself the time and carve that out. I do have a few on my Instagram page, which is where I housed my creative projects and my music. Which I’ve started recording another album, like ten years after the first or 15 years after the first. So these will be in my Instagram stream.

Natalie: And the third thing that makes my heart sing is gathering people together and asking questions that unlock deeper conversation. Because people are desperate for connection. Desperate and hungry and thirsty for connection. And all you have to do… So actually, that’s my invitation to you listening. Pick the three of our questions, host a dinner, get people to bring hummus and dips and whatever. Doesn’t have to be fancy and create a gathering where you can dive in some of this and see what happens. You’ll be surprised and hopefully amazed in a very beautiful way. So I’m going to bring the question back over to you two. Who would like to go first? Della, would you like to dive in?

Della: Yeah. And first I want to say this. You know, the Christian supremacy, going upstream piece – like you are embodying the solution, in a way. By coming into rhythm with the moon and by gathering and singing, you know, gathering with song. And also that we are also celebrating the solstice. So I just want to appreciate that, you know, what are the neo pagan or eco spiritual traditions that we all can tap into and connect with, in a way that’s not cultural appropriation, right? So I just want to really appreciate that you are embodying that. So what makes my heart sing and where does that take me? One of the most beautiful teachings I received this year was a Buddhist teaching that was the most important thing is to know what is the most important thing. And I’ve just dropped that in time and time again, wherever I am. And so it’s less what makes my heart sing more generally and more in this moment, what is the most important thing? And if I can just ask myself that question, it helps me orient to the most important thing, or what makes my heart sing. It helps me turn towards more life sustaining, more life thriving, more loving ways of being. And another thing that’s been helpful is, I’ve been really into Buddhism and appreciated the root cause, the going upstream of greed, hatred and delusion being the root causes.

Della: And in my, you know, metta practice, I’ve been like, oh, you know, may we be free from greed, hatred and delusion? And then I heard that Ram Dass and his spiritual tradition had reframed it, to instead of the negative (and again, this problem and solution is really becoming a theme of our conversation) but instead of freeing ourselves from greed, hatred and delusion, he said: Let us love, let us serve and let us remember. The love being the antidote to the hatred, the serve being the antidote to the greed, and re-member being the antidote to delusion or forgetting or disconnecting. So I’d say, You know, what is making my heart sing is any time when I can re-member. And drop that question in; what is most important right now? And then how can I turn towards loving, serving and remembering in every moment of every day? And that is also what then guides any action. When I recall it, when I remember it. So may I have more moments of remembering; And if that question is useful, may you take it with you? Manda, over to you.

Manda: Thank you. This is making my heart sing, actually. Listening to you guys taking that question and making it so rich. And so what is making my heart sing at the moment, is proximity to death. I ran a gathering at Samhain, which is the the point in the year in our calendar where the veils between the worlds are thinnest. And I had just finished writing a book, all of which is told from the perspective of someone who has died. So I spent the year in my bandwidth space in that place between life and death. And then I taught the course and it had a very different feel to it. And as you guys will know and possibly quite a lot of people listening, that when you’re leading a gathering, you have to do the work. When you’re just on Zoom watching, fundamentally you don’t have to. But when you’re leading it, you don’t get to not. And it really changed me, that one. And now my dog is dying. I have a student in Scandinavia who’s dying. There’s a number of people in my close friendship circle, and my dog, who is probably other than Faith, the closest thing I have. And at the last solstice, the summer solstice, the instruction that I had when I said, What do you need of me was: learn to fall in love with living. And it’s taken me till this solstice, I think. We’re recording a little ahead of time, but come the solstice, I will sit with the fire and I don’t expect the instruction to change. Because this feels like a very slow unfolding of understanding what falling in love with living really means. And I think for me it means living with that awareness of death being a hair’s breadth away. And when that is there, then the magic of life unfolds.

Manda: I have never, in many decades now, four decades of shamanic work, felt the web of life so alive as I do just now. And that. Connecting with that. Feeling the textures of that. Feeling a sense that I’ve come home to myself; of finally getting a sense of what I am when fully connected with the web of life, feels magical. And it’s beyond heart sing. So yeah, that. Where do I get too from that? I don’t know. I get to just celebrating life and giving thanks. I’m really much more connected this year with my sense of my ancestors, of blood and of spirit lineage and on the opposite polarity of that, on the wheel that we work with, the generations yet unborn. And me standing in the centre in the now moment, balanced between these two. And of the responsibility to the generations yet unborn, that extends backwards. So that I don’t have to feel it’s only me fixing everything, which I can tend to get into; the saviour complex, that I have to fix the world. But really looking down the timeline to the generations yet unborn and going, What do you need us to do? In this moment. This moment, what do you need us to do? And connecting that with the aliveness of the dream lines feels… Little short of miraculous, I think. And maybe one of the reasons why this year feels so much more sparkly… Last year felt a bit as if it was very held and this year feels as if it’s full of potential, this solstice. So yeah, that. So with that, guys, where does that take us? Where does it leave us, do you think? Either of you, feedback, go. Natalie.

Natalie: Well, I think something I’d like to ask you two, before I have to head off to my singing. Is into that fertility and possibility and space of becoming. If you had to ask people listening a question that you’d like them to dwell with, or reflect on the solstice. What question might that be? Della, what do you feel in response to that?

Della: Well, one question that I’m asking myself and again it comes from a Ramdas talk that I listened to, is what would love have me do today? Or what would love have me do right now? And I think that connects with what Manda shared of sitting by the fire and asking about falling in love with living. So I don’t know. I’m finding that to be a helpful thing. So to ask others, I mean, I think we’ve come up with a lot of questions, right? What would you do when you go upstream and where are you in that? What do you think is happening in the global psyche? What makes your heart sing and where does that lead you? How do you fall in love with the living world? And also what is the most important thing? And then I’ll just add this question around, yeah, what would love have you do right now? Manda, what about you? What question would you ask folks going forward?

Manda: I think my question for now is, is this were the last moment of your life, how would you choose to live it? And then live it as that. Because it clears away a lot of the clutter of the planning. And what this year is teaching me, is a lot of that planning is not going to happen. So if this was your last moment, who would you choose to be and and how best can you bring that into the world? Natalie, as you go to sing, what would your question be?

Della: Um. Probably something like: What do you need to feel rooted. What gives you strength? How can you root in? Because I think we need to find that sense of connectedness, I guess metaphorically, but also physically, to the living ground. To be able to have the fortitude to kind of lean into the difficult things, but also feel that sense of support, and then support with the rest of the forest of folks and beings around us. So I think for me, that’s kind of where my mind goes, is what makes you feel rooted? How can you find a sense of belonging to this earth, with others?

Manda: Perfect, beautiful. Guys, I think that might be a wrap. I think we could carry on talking for another hour quite easily, but fortunately, Natalie has to go singing. So I love that. I hate music. I can’t stand it, but I love being part of music being made. I just can’t cope with it when it’s electronic, it does really bad things to my head, but being part of it, you’re right, it creates so much sense of solidarity and connection and tribe. It’s beautiful. Natalie, you’ve got a minute, so go. And then Della and I can do a quick solstice thing. It’s been so good. Thank you, guys. I love our tradition. I hope it lasts for many, many years. And it’s the full moon out there. It’s just glorious. So, yeah. Go and go and sing to the moon. Thank you.

Manda: So we’re coming to the solstice. For those of us in the north, we’re coming to the deepest dark, the moment of deepest introspection. The longest night and the shortest day. Those of you in the South. Are coming to the obverse of that: The longest day and the shortest night and the moment of most agency. So this is a meditation on the turning point of the year. We’re going to start with a chime and end with a chime. Please don’t do this if you’re driving a car or otherwise operating heavy machinery, any of those things. Take some time for you to simply sit. Close your eyes, feet on the floor. And follow where we go…

Manda: So really bring yourself into your physical body. Feel your feet on the floor, your seat on the chair. Send roots down into the earth, however far that is beneath you. Roots from every part of you that is in contact with the Earth. Send them down through the topsoil. Through the subsoil, through the rock layers, through the magma layers, and deep down into the white hot molten metal at the heart of the earth. Connect your heart to the heart of the earth. And through the crown of your head, send another root up to the heights of the sky. So there’s a three way connection. From the heart-mind of the universe, through your heart, to the heart of the earth. And from the heart of the earth, through your heart, up to the heart of the sky. And with that level of connection, bring your sense inwards to your own heart space. If it helps to put the heel of your hand over your breastbone, so that you can feel the steady rhythm of your heart, then do that. And bring your attention in. Let your breath go into your heart space. Have a sense of your breath expanding the width and the breadth and the height of your heart, so that the energy of it feels bigger within your chest. As you breathe in, as we head towards the turning point of the earth, as all of the energies tilt and come into stillness, and then start to shape in the other way; in that moment of stillness as you stand in balance between day and night, action and reflection, inner looking and outer looking; what says the voice of your heart? What does it yearn for? What are it’s connections? What feeds you? What do you reach for? Who are you in this space of balance? What has your learning been over the last half year? And if you were to leave things behind, like the shed skin of a snake, and move forward into the new half of the year, what would you leave behind? And what would you take with you? As you connect through your roots to the earth. And up to the heart mind of the universe, what do you draw from each of these? From below and from above. And as you breathe into your heart space and these questions settle, have a sense of warmth. Of your breath expanding the warmth, until it fills not only your chest but all of your body. Up to your head, down through your torso, through your hips,through your legs to your feet. Out past your collarbones to your shoulders, then your arms to your fingers. Send the warmth of your heart mind to every part of your body and out into the world beyond. As the tilt of the earth changes.

Manda: Wherever you are, however it changes, let there be the learning from the year half gone. And let there be wisdom carried forward into the half year yet to come. And if there is one idea, one image, one thought, one feeling that you want to carry forward, let it fill you now. So that as you bring your awareness to the rest of your body, to your feet on the floor and your seat on the chair; that feeling or that thought or that image or that sound, can stay with you. To carry through into the year that is starting. To be your lodestone and your star and your guiding light and your anchor and your source of energy, for the next half of the year. Go well into 2023. And find who you could become, if you bring the best of yourself to each day of the year.

Manda: So really connect your seat on the chair, your feet on the floor and open your eyes. And with a very soft gaze look around the room, to anchor yourself back in this time and this place. And if there was a feeling, a thought, an image, a sound, and you want to write it down so that you can remember it, take the time to do that now before you carry on. Into the quiet of your Solstice day. Thank you.

Manda: And that’s it for another Solstice. Enormous thanks to Natalie and to Della, for everything that they do and everything that they are and for the wonder that is both of their podcasts. This year has felt different. It does feel to me as if we we’re at a turning point. And as we move into 2023, we really want to focus the community arm of Accidental Gods on helping people to focus their intention. Intention is the focus of attention; and where we put our attention is where we end up energetically, physiologically, emotionally, spiritually, and as a result of all of those: practically and logistically.

Manda: So when we sat down and did the meditations of what could we bring to Accidental gods, that would be the most useful, this is where we got to. So that’s within the membership. But please don’t ever let the membership fee be a problem. If you want to come and join us and it’s an issue, let us know. You’ll find us at accidentalgods.life and all of the other podcasts are there. I will also put links in the show notes to Della’s Upstream podcast and Natalie’s The Hive podcast, because both of them are inspiring and deeply thoughtful. So that’s it for this solstice.

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