Many today are obsessing over humanity's seeming lack of adequate resources. According to consensus, we don't have enough energy to sustain our civilization, and we're likely going to run out very soon. Global consumption of fossil fuels has been expanding even as new discoveries have dwindled. The quality and accessibility of what energy is available to us has also been in decline. Analysts tell us that the pending collision between humanity's growing energy needs and the energy depletion of our planet will lead to global economic collapse within fifty to one hundred years, unless we make drastic changes in the way we do things.
This energy narrative goes on to inform us that we're not only lacking adequate fossil fuel resources to power our society, we're also lacking the necessary capital to empower us to do what we must do if we're to thrive. To listen to our politicians and economists discuss things, our society has reached a state where the things we can't possibly afford to do outweigh, by a considerable margin, those things we can still afford. That assumption paints a bleak picture of our future.
If however, we shift our perspective beyond that sort of rational analysis, and instead view our own narrative through a more spiritual lens — i.e., as within, so without — what begins to come into focus is the possibility that much of what we're agonizing over may simply be an internal, fear-based collective projection, rather than the truth. I realize that's a radical statement in a world where most of us have become convinced we're teetering on the brink of utter environmental and social disaster. But stay with me here, because this more spiritual perspective intimates that we've already got at our disposal a vast amount of energy that's capable of successfully resolving every life challenge we're facing. Even better, it's accessible here and now. Better still, it's entirely free. All that's necessary for us to tap into this unimaginably enormous energy reservoir is for us to elevate our love of truth above our attachment to our stories about reality. It then becomes obvious what we'll need to do to solve our problems.
If I've learned anything from my years spent engaging with the shamanic community, I've learned that life is all about energy. Shamanism teaches us that the only place and time our energy can possibly influence life is right here, right now. No matter how much we may ponder the past or fret about things that have happened, we can't change the past. It's only a memory. And no matter how much we might worry about the future or stress about the terrifying unknowns it may deliver, we can't avoid the future. It's only ever unexpressed potential.
Before I became engaged with the shamanic community, and particularly before I began doing intensive work with plant medicines like psilocybin and ayahuasca, I (like most people) directed the bulk of my life's energy toward either punishing myself for presumed past mistakes or worrying about how I'd take care of myself and my family in the future. The thing was, the massive amount of energy I expended on self-flagellation and anxiety left me precious little remaining to focus on what I wanted to accomplish in the here and now. Past and future, I eventually discovered, are equal opportunity energy vampires. They can quite literally turn us into zombies, leaving us without the will and with little remaining power to influence reality in the only place and time where that influence matters: the here and the now. By allowing both past and future to stake their competing claims on our attention, we unconsciously grant them permission to drain away our life's blood — our precious time and energy — leaving us with nothing to show for it but a pervading mix of depression and anxiety.
Think about it. How many hours each day do you spend worrying about whether or when you're going to meet a suitable life partner? How often do you worry about how you'll manage to maintain your home, keep your job, feed your family, save for retirement, pay your bills, or figure out how to pay your children's college tuition? How much of your energy goes into fretting about why you chose your particular course of study, how much you dislike your job or your current partner, whether your parents loved and nurtured you enough, why you've been acting out your destructive addictions, or why you didn't make totally different life choices? Now multiply all that mental time and energy times seven billion, and you'll begin to grasp what's behind our real energy shortage. When we add to that sum the collective sum of the physical energy we're all expending in trying to either redress past wrongs or deflect our fear of the future, by doing things we dislike or that serve no other purpose than to appease our endless anxieties, it's truly mind boggling.
The only thing our awareness of the past is useful for is for providing us with lessons we can carry away. The baggage into which we've all been stuffing those life lessons — our heavy containers of shame, blame, guilt, resentment and emotional self-abuse — become superfluous the moment we arrive where we're going, which is always right here. Why not drop the baggage then, and keep only the lesson?
The only thing pondering the future is useful for is for opening a window onto the here and now, through which we can direct our energy like a laser beam so we can manifest the changes we wish to make. When we peer too far beyond immediacy's threshold and try to plan for every possible future contingency, we merely scatter our focus and dilute our power to influence the present, like a laser beam that's been fired into space. A hundred miles out and it's no longer a beam; it's merely a diffuse smattering of photons that have lost their ability to energize anything of any substance.
Based on the babble of news and noise in society today, one could be forgiven for assuming the power we have to effect change in the moment has become irrelevant. After all, every war being waged today reflects the acting out of some grievance its advocates have determined their children should fight and die for, because they want to redress an injury that was done to them or their ancestors. Meanwhile, life's daily stresses and struggles arise from our shared conviction that we can't possibly generate enough resources to meet everyone's needs in the future. That assumption means billions of people are suffering privation or dying this very moment, so a few of us can accumulate wealth in order to feel more secure about tomorrow.
Strangely enough, we've been seduced into believing money is the most valuable resource a human being can stockpile, when in fact it's merely an IOU we offer as a claim against future resources. A claim against future resources isn't at all the same thing as an actual resource; it's an entry on society's balance sheet. Yet here we are, mindlessly destroying at an alarming pace those real resources we depend upon to keep us all alive, in order to rack up a sufficient number of paper claims against potential future resources that will make us feel we stand a fighting chance of surviving until we have no choice but to perish. (As if it's even possible to do anything else but that!)
When we get right down to it, vast sums of human energy — and by extension the bulk of our planet's real resources — are being directed toward either doing battle over who was right (or did wrong) at some point in the past, or toward mindlessly consuming real resources so we can stockpile more IOU's to spend in the future. Clearly, the two realms where we hold zero power to effect change are thus the two realms into which we're bleeding the bulk of our shared energy. Is it any wonder we're starting to panic about not being able to find enough energy to propel us into a thriving, happy future?
With global population and unemployment rates what they are today, billions of people are finding themselves with loads of free time on their hands. Many of us have brilliant ideas about how we might use that extra time to deliver something much more useful to our fellow man than what we'd deliver by fighting or stockpiling cash. What we're lacking is adequate spaciousness into which we can invite humanity's idle, excess energy to take root, fertilize itself and eventually blossom in its own time and way, for all our sakes.
We're all struggling so hard to immediately exchange our personal energy for money (in order to pay for the past or deflect the future) that we're convinced we can't afford to waste any time on creating a safe container in which humanity's excess energy would be allowed to freely flow, expand and converge. Transforming ourselves in that way, however, is the best shot we have for generating a river of dynamic and creative energy mighty enough to safely transport us all into the future. How insane would we have to be to insist we can't afford to stop infighting or stockpiling money long enough do the single most important thing we could do to save ourselves from total extinction?
The solution to our energy shortage, as I suggested earlier, is self-evident when we view it from this perspective. What becomes apparent is that our only real choice, both personally and collectively, is to immediately stop fighting in response to yesterday's insults, as well as to cease stockpiling IOU's that mortgage tomorrow's potential. Not next year, once we've won all the battles in which we've been engaged. Not five years from now, after we've personally saved up enough money to protect ourselves just in case our world falls to pieces. Right now. It's time for each of us to turn around and gaze deeply into our own heart, to acknowledge where our true energy resides, and then to put it in play in ways that are both loving and life affirming.
On a practical level we'll need to agree to forgive every debt and cancel every existing stockpile of money. We can then direct our attention to determining the most compassionate and thoughtful uses for our existing global resources. Releasing our compulsion — both personal and national — to exploit or control massive quantities of resources at the expense of those who remain in dire need will foster human development for the benefit of all life. The more individuals we empower to become the best they can become, the more healthy, happy and self-actualized individuals we'll be able to call upon to figure out how to better manage Earth's complex ecosystem, upon which we all depend for our very survival. The continued survival of our species is a goal we can all agree deserves attention; it's a goal most of us would be thrilled to facilitate.
We'll also need to forgive our enemies for any harm they may have caused us in the past. Forgiveness involves personally absolving them from any future need to atone for their sins. Instead of saying to them, "YOU broke this, now YOU must fix it," we say to the world, "This is broken. Who among us can help us repair it the best way we can imagine?" If we make that shift, we could then gather all the energy we're now spending on fighting to right our historical wrongs and direct it toward solving the pressing problems that are causing us so much unhappiness worldwide. Rather than fight and die endlessly because we can't believe we can possibly live in peace with our enemies, why not try living together in peace and discover what that choice brings? If we stop fighting and fearing each other, we free ourselves up to be loving, kind and compassionate to our former enemies, and they become free to be the same way with us.
The truth then, is that humanity doesn't have an energy shortage. What we do lack at present is the necessary willpower to divert our nearly infinite supply of human energy away from paying for the past or deflecting against the future, in order to free ourselves up to accomplish what needs to be done, right here and now. If we can somehow miraculously awaken ourselves to the power in that decision, this planet — and all of humanity — will flourish. That's how heaven on Earth can become our destiny. Until then we're but a dormant seed in life's garden, unaware of the awesome magnificence of our potential.
Image by Argonne National Laboratory, courtesy of Creative Commons license.