18 ~ May ~ 2022
Tending to Your Relational Being
Each of us, every human person that is, lives somewhere.
That somewhere you are navigating through is a fantastically rich and dynamic ecology, filled with beings of all shapes and sizes. All of us humans, whether we’re aware of it or not, are constantly connected and dancing together through the ever changing moment of our perceived reality. That slippery place in space we refer to as right now. Intricately and intimately we’re participating in relationships with blurred boundaries and shape-shifting roles.
You live and travel through that place, surrounded by a vast and many layered ecological world. However, we often navigate that space primarily attuned, focused, and more actively aware, of the human made structures, and relationships we have, with other humans. Yet countless beings always abound and surround us beyond this perspective. This lens is limited in scope and context for the networks and communities we’re in collaboration with in this surrounding ecology. Indubitably, we are in concert with these greater exchanges and dynamics with or without much ‘need’ for engaging with them frequently, or consciously much at all. This choice, behavior and pathway denies so much of the agency and vitality of this awesome reality and living world we are intertwined with to enter our perception of reality. And thus, this presents us with a much less interesting and magical version of this incredible story we’re playing out together.
There are thankfully practices and ways to shift this perspective towards a more enriching and vibrant scenario for everyone. Where you are collaborating in concert with these partners in an active and engaged way. Each of us feeling seen, appreciated, respected, and present. Where even the day to day mundane aspects of our journey can be sprinkled with awe and wonder.
Through every breath, you are provided with an access portal to this version of the present, and ability to be a relational being.
We also have the micro of this particular macro view (leaving aside the greater cosmos for the moment), where we can look and relate within. This internal context and framing of our relational lens is also valuable. Allowing your awareness and gratitude to extend to your internal communities and relationships, between all the myriad life forms that help operate these flesh and bone, organ and flora n’ fauna filled, wildly diverse ecological and biome level systems that make up this ‘us’ or ‘me’, ‘you’ or ‘I’ that we identify as.
There is admittedly a more difficult ability to be in touch with these internal and unseen communities (though with mindful breathing and other practices we can access connections within our bodies, too). They are mentioned presently to illuminate our small and beautiful relations which vitally and crucially literally help allow us to exist. And to appreciate what little itty bit of the spectrum of connectivity, space, and matter that we (that limited perception of this ‘self’) are actually ‘personally’ operating (and consciously controlling). This presents us with an opportunity to explore that grand philosophical question, ‘who is this I and we anyways?’. We can leave that for another time. For now, we’re attempting, as best we can to carry on from this basic pulse of the dominant perspective, while also allowing for your identity and greater operating systems broadly defined as ‘you’ to be a bit more porous and fluid moving forward.
Swirling outwards now we can welcome in our cosmic relations. Let us work towards embracing that realm of ‘outer’ space that looks so vast, mysterious, and unknowable. It can be daunting to imagine or see how we are deeply in relationship with all these countless forms of energy, too. They are beings beating with hearts of life and forms of breath just as precious and miraculous as each of ours. They too can be related to. And each and every one of us has an invisible tap-root that connects us all the way back/down/towards the beginning of creation and source.
Through tuning in with the breath, moving through plant pace and beyond into a frequency of being that opens channels with the Stars, Quasars, Quarks, and all of the Black Holes, ‘dark matter’, Planets, and myriad lifeforms doing their thing wherever (or whenever) they may be right now. You can join a dance party in the cosmos, every breath of the day. Or maybe try and get down and boogie in your dreams, meditating your way into these relationships, this can be real fun. And also potent. Powerful. Bringing forth energies to have reverence for, and deep respect. Much like Ocean’s waves, we can play and surf among them and they can also cause significant harm. So let us remember to engage with care.
The Full Moon Lunar Eclipse recently provides a good opportunity to embrace how we can be a relational being, I hid away until the shadow had nearly entirely past by, as these events aren’t necessarily meant to be exposed to, what follows is my reflection of this experience:
Moon is a ‘relatively’ close companion for you to practice your relational be-ing with. This last Full Moon created an intense portal of energy. With it, a conclusion to an eclipse cycle that we have now moved through. Being present and communing with Moon at that transitional stage was potent. After arriving at a place where I could stand relaxed yet attentive, I set up the tripod and camera and then proceeded to breathe deeply and hold a steady gaze with Moon, watching, tentatively in surrender to this trust of that shadow – cast by us here on, and of Earth – would pass and fully allow for that reflected sunlight to beam back towards us once again. Coming with gusto from our dear, generous life-giving companion Star, that we call, Sun. Broadcasting that awesome light and energy that radiates and glows back towards us in this softer, yet still mighty potent way.
Now, as you’re gathering awareness, and an attention towards all these outer ecological relationships, you may be able to better participate with more depth and in inclusive ways with this more-than-human world (and cosmos). This quite often has been an under-appreciated, underutilized, and disrespected realm of this vibrant reality we inhabit together. You are changing this though, remembering that together we in-habit this world into being.
Beautiful relationships beyond the human centered framework by all means can and do exist already. Loads of them in fact. That’s fantastic. A moment of reverence is worth sharing for all the human people everywhere who already (and continue to) participate in this relational way. In spite of the colonial conquests and worldwide attempts to dismantle this rather organic way of being. It is important to share immense gratitude to the Indigenous folks who have continued to practice these mindful relational practices. And help us to learn (and remember) these old ways as well.
The rest of us meanwhile are working our way back towards these paths and practices of relational being. Shifting our orientational position and navigational process into a more rooted, holistic experience of living the center presence, focus, care, and attention, to all of this living world. As you do so, you become a being that is better able to acknowledge and hold reverence for a Redwood Tree for instance, or a Robin, Nettle, Mushroom, River, or Lynx. You are able to see these are companions, family, and kin. In so many ways, we see we are fellow earth dwellers. All the many beings and people of other varieties of being, who are vitally alive and have agency will suddenly appear eager to collaborate, if granted the required attention and gratitude they most certainly deserve. After all, many among them are the important folks doing so much of the day-to-day operations and “heavy lifting” as it were. All of which literally helps to ensure our shared living world all continues to hum through these collective breaths.
Sadly, many vital and precious companions in today’s dominant core narrative are commonly referred to under the blanket term; resources.
Resources that we harvest, extract, and consume. Often we spoil the environments and wider ecological communities that surround us as well. What we have deemed ‘resources’ are living, agency filled, incredible, miraculous beings. Like us, contributing to the greater collective planet-wide living and breathing organism, we refer to as Earth. Gaia, is also a name we’ve given to this planetary being. Like with Mother Earth, Gaia seems more connected with a female identity, though I have to admit, in several communications between us, there was more of a non-binary, fluid gender identity and vibe going on. That was certainly the case with the previous full Moon communication I engaged in just a lunar cycle ago. That entire experience by the way came from, or through a form of language, or message exchanges I suppose you could call it, that sadly I am at a loss to even begin to know how to describe. No, that’s not entirely true. They were intuitive, sensory, embodied engagements/transimissions where information was shared and received both ways. That seems to be a key part of this all, these relationships reside through our mind, body, and beyond. And it ties back to the breath as that natural rhythm provides inhales and exhales, which happen to be a pretty damn handy tool for getting in the flow together.
To take stock in the realization that each portal of the present has all these unique characteristics, stories, and journeys is so rad to contemplate. That you and I, Yew Tree and Magpie, are each in relationship and in relation to so many others in a gloriously ever-transforming web and network of connection.
From this holistic vantage point, it can become more clear that we belong.
This way of being for most of us humans of modernity has largely been forgotten, or obscured and overlooked to the point of it becoming static messaging in the background drum beat of what we see as the current anthropocentric story of life on this planet. This human centered and detached story is in need of composting. So that we may collectively grow from those fertile soils into the vibrant relational, more accurate representation of reality that is actually going on. It’s not that we can’t see it, so many among us have come by this honestly and are merely playing out programming we inherited, we’re taught, and ironically (tragically?) enough nurtured with (or by) this disconnected story. The irony being that nature is nurturing us always and in basically all ways. Again it is important to remember and hold reverence for the many Indigenous and First Nations who have maintained these threads of living and be-ing in right relation with the more-than-human world all along the way. They can, and will be instrumental in helping us find our way back. So too can each of us, tap into our deepest memories and reconnect with our indigeneity as children of this living Earth.
This is where those of us not directly connected to what we commonly recognize as indigenous ancestral lines are invited to confront this lost or broken lineage. To remember and regularly remind ourselves that we are nature, too.
Nature is us, and thus nature we be.
So many humans at this point (including myself often enough), live and navigate through waking life faintly and vaguely aware of the soundscapes and landscapes that surround you, tuning them out instead of tuning them in. This predominant default core operational behavior is partly a design feature of our pragmatic navigation systems. Some choices are driven and dictated by an understandable survival tactic that has worked to various degrees of success well enough. But from this place, we also seem to suffer from poor mental health, anxiety, depression, and a sense of loneliness, isolation, and lack of belonging. A lack of focus, patience, and presence is a major result of this, too.
Though it would appear that an alternative way is possible (and arguably desirable and more healthy and sensible). We can embrace and safely navigate both levels and ways simultaneously, that is, if we have practices, patterns, guides, and processes to follow. And support where needed. And compassion and forgiveness for being born into these perspectives that set us on the wrong foot in the first place.
This current internal system may vaguely have you notice there are bird calls in the background. Hardly directing more than a flickering speck of attention to the source of that sound. Resulting in you missing out on relating with the vibrant, distinct, unique, very alive and present being who is broadcasting near, and potentially directly to you. Nevermind for now exploring the nuance of the messages they are conveying. To simply be ready and willing to be a relational being, at its most basic level, only requires taking deep, slow breaths, and observing what, or indeed who, you are in relationship with at any given present moment of your life.
Once again, it is important to acknowledge and bow in deep respect and reverence to the numerous small pockets of humans, primarily among indigenous groups, who for millennia have maintained a healthy connection and relationship with where they live and what part of the greater whole they inhabit & participate in/with. Their positionality, orientational perspectives, and ability to live in this multiplicity of truths/realities is awe inspiring and provides abundant examples of how to live in this way. These are folks who are much more attuned to a relational worldview and are effectively a part of a different version of reality than most. We all inhabit uniquely tangible realities from our tiny window into this great unknowing that we call life.
Some among us, for whatever reason are mysteriously more tapped into their relational being quite organically. Regardless if this is the case for you or not it is okay, there is and are pathways to take to make your way there. Practices, processes, and actions to help you be better able to find your way towards embodying your relational be-ing.
For there is reason to rejoice and extend gratitude when remembering that the current version of reality, that is essentially known as modernity, doesn’t have to be the most dominant mythology and story for humanity, and our greater living ecology. This other narrative is brought forth through engaging with ecology, exploring be-ing in relationship with these more than human companions and beings. We are Earthmates.
We all have an inherent ability to be engaged and connected to this greater scope of our shared reality. For some, and by some I mean many, access to this is significantly more challenging than it is for others. Why this is the case is also important to illuminate and embrace moving forward. There are hugely unequal access to healthy and vibrant communities of more-than-human beings for so many human beings. This is in large part due to systems of marginalization and oppression and this is absolutely fundamentally important to remember, confront, reckon with, and heal as we continue the unraveling and weaving of this more holistic, caring, and respectful version of reality all back together. A part of the value of being able to see a human’s ReBe, that is, their Relational Being, requires an ability to see and be with at least a handful of whatever nearby beings can be represented and present. Interestingly, this process will over time better illuminate the positional/political/discriminatory disparities of suffering ecologies, who lack abundant and healthy diversity. This can help to provide clarity for who has access and the ability to connect and relate with diverse, healthy and abundant, more than human communities.
Another challenge these concepts, processes, and practices has to embrace in regards to marginalization and oppression involves the greater, and devastatingly more day-to-day challenges so many humans face with the hardships of simply striving to have their basic needs met. This is to be appreciated and this acknowledgment is present here to call to attention that engaging in these explorations is going to be easier and more accessible for some more than others, though hopefully it can contribute in its ways to more equitable, healthy, supportive forms of living that are mutually beneficial to all humans (and of course, to all our more than human relations, too).
The metrics and qualitative and quantitative understandings will likely have broad reaching beneficial consequences. The data gathered by each human person’s contribution to the relational map that will eventually be created here as part of the Institute of Relational being will help to populate a more detailed visual perspective of our greater communities, bioregions, microclimates, and ecologies. And again, provide something of a different orientation for us to navigate from as we see just how related and connected everything actually is. Importantly from a de-centered human perspective as well.
We are capable of embracing this engaged ecological dynamic anywhere.
Even in very urban environments where buildings and roads are the primary ‘landmarks’ of what the eye can see. Living surrounded by parched, suffocating, swaths of land, desperate to breathe and feel the sun, wind, and rain. These other ecological communities of beings are covered by streets, tarmacs, and buildings, which live among their own mostly hidden ecologies that we’ve ‘helped’ to shape. Even these locales have any number of animals, insects, birds, fungi, plants, trees, and waterways nearby, carrying on with their lives, most of the time, like so many of us, also struggling to thrive and safely survive.
All while they’ve been observing most of us human folk carry on, faintly tethered to fickle threads of this greater fabric of reality and relational being that is being woven together. Other beings maintain vibrant threads that are a part of this greater tapestry of being. They produce patterns and behaviors that can be seen but often do remain invisible to our eye. There are ways and exercises though that provide a strengthened and at the same time, more flexible, fluid, pliable way of seeing and being that bring vibrancy to your reality and these relational threads.
Always and in all ways, in the ever-present moment, these communities and dynamics exist as a current with no beginning or end, with trillions of asynchronous perpetual starts and pauses happening, where life, in its seemingly universal pursuit to sustain itself and thrive, does something in cyclical patterns that we humans often resist, they rest. Each of our positions inform what space and ability we might have to prioritize resting ourselves. Perhaps a need to work three jobs and/or having too many demands during our waking life makes this harder to achieve as well. Political, social and economic forces are certainly responsible for this as well. Whatever the case though, we are constantly in motion and in concert with a seemingly infinite amount of beings who are actively in this relational process of living and dying as part of a collective whole.
Ah, death, dying, or partly so as it were, for each of us in some ways through death are contributing back to the greater good as compost, nutrients, and energy that can be transformed and incorporated in new ways into other beings. Through death, we are becoming a vital form of life. What a magical transformation. To be compost is to be a part of an incredible community of generosity and support. Wherever in this spiraling swirling process we find ourselves, a persistent essence of this existence (and the energy that it contains) appears endlessly, and oftenly subtly, to remain in motion.
It is always someone and some being’s beginning.
It is always someone and some being’s end.
Breathe in… Breathe out…
Bringing it back around to pragmatic practices of how to engage with this more-than-human world, it seems evident it requires certain behaviors, routines, rituals, and practices to be in tune, or to tune in if you will, to these other layers of our greater networks, communities, and entanglements.
Collectively, here for most of us humans that are part of Western Civilization and the Global North, we have core narratives and popular cultural themes with few if any cyclical events, rituals, or ceremonies that contain readily evident inclusion of these integral relationships. There are some to be sure, there is just loads of room for others to come in on the regular.
This is a big opportunity for us.
There is great reason to believe these more-than-human peoples and communities welcome wholeheartedly better, and specifically more reciprocal and caring interactions. These perspectives can partially be arrived at through a great deal of educational learning but I do not believe that is required. The bulk of this development and awareness for your relational being will come through all the many parts of your own lived experiences. The more you are actively engaging with your surrounding ecology, the more relational it gets.
This is an embodied journey, folks.
This cannot be arrived at just through thinking about it. We will have to bring our whole bodies into this here dance party. It’s somatic, sensorial, and involves your head and heart, but also crucially your body, too. There are spiritual levels to all of this as well but for now, let us leave what may or may not arrive in that space of awareness to your own personal experiences moving forward.
Through regular participation in relational be-ing (as an active/action verb) there are ways in which the borders (barriers?) that have been built up inside us, over multiple generations and through various overarching mythologies, start to dissipate and disintegrate leaving pathways, currents, and channels open to a richer dynamic of being and becoming a relational being. Where multiple forms of communication become possible. These admittedly can be difficult to intellectually interpret, process or grasp. It may be challenging to confidently and clearly make sense of some of this in words. Though nevertheless, we can acknowledge the presence of these relationships, these multiple collaborators from the more than human world we are in concert with, and appreciate the potential of what this inquiry and these perspectives imply.
There does not appear to be one fixed and/or absolute etiquette for collaborating and welcoming in this more relational way of being. It is recommended to lead with gratitude, reverence, respect, and humility, and a sense of having permission to communicate/collaborate. Conducting active, vulnerable, authentic interactions (relationships) with these many (and seemingly countless) more than human peoples once again can bring forth a wonderful and nourishing way to see and be an active participant in our greater interweaving ecological community. Many of these beings, in their way, can become friends, family, colleagues, and certainly engaged co-creators and collaborators with you. There are so many pathways and communications/engagement methods to explore.
One method worth exploring is to delve into plant pace and meet them closer to their realm of relating. That can take many forms, with numerous access points and sacred companions who can help to guide you to this space as well. Plants and fungi are often favored sources for quick and direct access though they are short lived experientially. These spiritual guides have useful and benevolent ways of helping alter your operating system though it takes care and consideration to integrate (or remember) these teachings. There are organic or synthesized creations that can facilitate one through the threshold of these portals as well. So can certain breathing/meditation practices. Yet, there are so many subtler, gentler plant friends/allies/companions that can bring us to these realms, as well. And the ‘best’ ones are those in your closest ring of your relational being. Closest to home, wherever that may be at any time. For instance, the humble, and profoundly awesome Dandelion could guide you there if you are ready and willing.
Please note that to embark on a conscious collaborative endeavor with these beings who prominently, if temporarily, alter your consciousness is a personal choice that is not for everyone, and is most certainly not required to establish and connect with your relational being.
While each of these transportation/navigational guides and assistants have appreciable value and can be delightful to dance with. It is strongly encouraged to do so with care and considerate intentions. Having reverence for the processes and gifts is of the utmost importance as well. Sometimes the messages and lessons are far from pleasant. So being a ready and willing participant in going to, and through those places is appreciated and respected from the standpoint of whomever the sacred companion you are co-navigating with may be.
Spinning back around to the day to day, base level of living on, as, and with the world, it is important to allow this reorientation process to happen slowly. Ideally, also done so with fellow human companions who you trust and are ready to disentangle from the many toxic parts of our personal and collective navigation systems that are currently in charge. There can be a lot of shock and sense of loss in this process. It can also be rather confronting to clear up our personal relationship with the concepts of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. This comes with grief tending, immense processing and purgings of old shit and also, a great deal of healing, too.
Often enough though, engaging with ecology on the day to day level is quite straightforward and simple. Perhaps it involves speaking aloud to an ecological companion, for instance, an Oak or Elder Tree in bloom nearby you. Saying hello, commenting on its recent additional loveliness. Or maybe silently tuning in with them, and sharing a few breaths while being present together. You may even find yourself in this space being inclined to say thank you (even many times). Being grateful for being further intertwined in our fields. Transformed into something that is being experienced and shared in various forms with many.
We are doing this together, an ongoing collaboration.
There are many, many other collaborators involved too of course, many unseen (or unsung) as they too participate in these types of creations together (such as the water and its sources like rain, clouds, lakes, seas, and underground wells, the surrounding trees, shrubs, grasses, plants, birds, animals, and beings that congregate and commune through their cycles of life and death. Growing and swirling through the seasons and emerging anew through all these many years. And embracing and being open to consciously experiencing the constant transitional phases of our companion, Moon.
Here let us take a wander through this inviting landscape and playground of possibilities. This here and now where you are more in than out (at least temporarily) of a place and space of mutual awareness, exchange, reciprocity, and co-collaboration with our more-than-human communities and locally inhabited ecology, from exactly where you are in this breath.
This is your greater ecological self, your Relational Being.
From this vantage point and level of engagement, there is this realization that the elemental forces and energies of these interactions and ongoing relationships appear to have significant influence upon us. Then the question arises of what amount of participation, nudged direction, insight, ideas (that seem to appear in your brain from nowhere), and actions are happening and being guided, influenced, and communicated to you through these many dynamic relationships? This is a provocative perspective of how we participate on this shared playground of possibilities. It is a queering of our being and this is a very good thing. Reminding you how good it is to play together more intentionally and with more humility and vulnerability.
This was a lot to transmit and receive. It was written in collaboration with so many beings that it feels false or inaccurate for one human to claim any sort of authorship. And it is of course informed by countless other humans and more than humans who have contributed to the formulation of these particular words as well. Indeed, this is entirely made possible because of all the incredible more than human beings who collectively, with us, make up this greater ecology which collectively, sustains life and this reality as we know it. So, it is good to remember here that no one does anything by “themselves”…
Thank you for reading this. And thank you for taking a moment now to do a couple rounds of deep, relaxed breathing. You don’t have to, but all these words piled together in this piece are essentially an invitation to do that anyways…
Written in collaboration by Joe Culhane and so many of his Relational Beings
It feels mighty important to continue to de-center human efforts and to work towards acknowledging we are always collaborating and co-creating literally everything we do.