Ripening ink caps in Amsterdam | Photo by Joshua Glass

The Circular Process of Nature in Human Co-creation

I am an organic being. Nature itself is an organic process. Everything I do occurs within the container of life itself. Therefore, all rules of nature must apply to me and my actions.

If this is all so natural, why do so many of us only realize it during psychedelic trips, 10-day meditation retreats, or near-death experiences?

By avoiding embracing the human self as nature, we position ourselves outside of this wisdom-rich living web. I’m claiming that all patterns I notice affecting non-human life also apply to me. When I choose to welcome myself as nature, I have immediate access to the all-encompassing wisdom of life itself… here we go:

Life works as a series of imperfect actions — failing and improving constantly.

Life forms, and reiterates itself in circles, infinitely. Ants work in groups of three and are great at learning from their mistakes. They act out tiny, imperfect actions which improve with each iteration. Ants learn from each other’s actions, sharing, repeating, and scaling them to support the collective, called a colony.

Similar processes of constant improvement are at work among collaborating people as well. At the end of each week, I meet either with myself or my colleague to review the week.

What was good? What could improve? What’s next?

During this nature-based process in which we acknowledge the cyclical essence of improvement, we use our critical thinking to remember our aims and note how our actions moved us closer and further from that aim. From this, we can move forward with adjusted behavior, just like the ants, but in our human-thinking way. Of course, we’re constantly making these natural adjustments on a less conscious level as well. I walk out the door with untied shoes and trip. I notice I tripped on my laces, so I tie my shoes and walk without tripping. Very intuitive 👏👏👏

Leafcutter ants cutting leaves together | Photo by MD_JERRY on Unsplash

Change is constant, and I’m confident that impermanence is ubiquitous and self-confirmable (thanks, Buddha). Human-driven change is often caused by desire and aversion. I change my clothes because I don’t want to stink or because I want to play with the fun clothes I have. At the same time, whether I choose to change my clothes or not, something will change. Eventually, they will tear and soil, life itself will change around me, even if I ‘do nothing’. Since change will happen anyway, I’ll be making choices to nudge it in the direction I see to be generative of life and wellbeing.

My practice of the collaborative creative process has confirmed to me this cyclical nature of life as well. When we transform a question or idea into experiential form, feedback arrives at the creator in many shapes: a note from a participant can help us understand the emotional impact of the work; a tear in liner, causing a garden pond to leak tells us where to divide a fraction of our focus (i.e. finding a more durable lining or preventing herons from piercing it with their diving beaks).

When we share things, life talks back and signals what to do next. If we listen well, we will always know what step to take.

Life is relational

It’s been observed that nature rewards cooperation. Janine Benyus, the founder of The Biomimicry Institute, agrees with this and it’s something you can notice yourself by watching out your window.

Our increasing cultural fascination with fungicontinues to uncover the power of relationships in life. The organism functions as a major underground communication channel of the forest. The rootlike structure of mushrooms (called mycelium) forms a web of information exchange throughout the forest, offering pathways for trees and plants to share resources and send warnings when unfavorable insects are nearby. Trees keep in touch with each other and send extra nutrients to those who are struggling via this mycelial network. Before information or resources can be exchanged, the tips of the rootlike structure, called fungal hyphae, test for a genetic match. Once the hypha confirms who it is pairing with, the channel opens for smooth exchange. In establishing trust, they ensure not to connect with a parasite.

Shaggy inkcap mushrooms ripen in Amsterdam | Photo by Joshua Glass

Imagine a person or group of people who you trust highly — maybe a friend or group of friends, family members. Like fungal hyphae, humans are able to communicate most efficiently, creatively, and truthfully when we establish trust with each other. We can cultivate this trust at work, with family, and in social settings by testing it in small, easy doses.

Checking in and out is a profound practice for the start and end of a meeting. When we check-in, we dedicate at least a few seconds (most often a few minutes) to hear each other respond to a question like,

“What are you carrying with you as you enter this meeting?” or “What’s alive in you now?”

Checking-in offers quick, low-effort, recurring opportunities to build trust and relationships (allowing for smoother reciprocation of ideas and resources). It gives the group an opportunity to lift each other up. Like fungal hyphae in a forest opening their channels to share nutrients and water,

when I hear my colleague share something about their experience, I get insight into that person who is breathing beneath their suit.

There’s this human reflection of myself right in front of me and this meeting feels purposeful even before we’ve begun updates, ideation, task allocation, etc. That sense of purpose and social connection is hugely rewarding in itself. Vulnerability creates a bridge of trust for an easier exchange of creative ideas and opportunities. When checking in, there’s no rush to spit something out. Allow for silence — if you don’t know what to say, or you feel shy, you can say that too! When we start associating that sense of purpose and connection with meetings, meetings become something to look forward to more often.

Checking out is the same process, but it’s the last thing we share before leaving the meeting:

“What are you taking from this meeting?” or “What’s alive in you now?”

In addition to all of the offers of a check-in, checking out is a moment to harvest the collective intelligence from the meeting. We’ve all spent the same time in the same space, and we’ve all resonated more or less with different moments and pieces of information. Sharing a checkout gives a fuller picture of what we’re doing and how we understand things as a group. When co-creating as a group, our ideas are held in a third space between individuals. A check-out gives visible edges to that third space.

Humans are able to thrive due to their ability to make decisions together, trust each other, and share resources. And still, we can thrive even more when we listen to the ways of ants, fungi, and myriad other living systems. The patterns of nature are ubiquitous, even in us.

🔗 Dive deeper:

Originally published at https://www.joshuaglass.net on April 16, 2021.

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Nature connection. Participatory design. Creative process development. Meditation. joshuaglass.net

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Joshua Glass

Joshua Glass

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Nature connection. Participatory design. Creative process development. Meditation. joshuaglass.net