"This is the sound of all of us.
Singing with love and the will to trust.
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust.
This is the sound of all of us."*
The relationship between the inner landscape, and Alan Savory's principles of Holistic Resource Management, have fascinated -- and inspired -- me for over two decades.
My first introduction to HRM was through Byron Shelton, who at the time was the Ranch Director for the Adventure Unlimited Ranches in Buena Vista, Colorado. Byron's enthusiasm for Holistic Resources Management was contagious.
I remember that sunny afternoon in June. I'd asked Byron to walk me through the fundamentals of HRM. He explained that native grasslands did not need protection from large herding animals, but thrived in symbiosis with them.
He went on to explain that the practice of fencing off our agri-delineated land so that it would not be trampled on by cattle -- thus leaving it undisturbed and fallow -- was actually depriving the land of its most vital relationship. A relationship that could transform our global landscape. A relationship between the land its inhabitants that had potential for reversing the desertification of grasslands, pastures and prairies worldwide.
He showed me a beautiful -- but fenced off -- high country pasture. Upon first examination it was lovely. Filled with small clusters of flowering plants. He explained that those arrestingly lovely flowering clusters were called forbes. And that each forbe -- although beautiful to look at -- represented a self-seeding cluster that was surrounded by arid, dry, cracked, earth devoid of organic plantlife. He explained that, in fact, each cluster -- however beautiful -- would continue to grow smaller and smaller as it self-seeded. And as each cluster grew smaller all that would remain would be a pasture of dry, arid, useless soil.
He explained that by removing the fences and allowing the large herding animals -- cattle, elk, bison, etc -- to trample on and break up the hard, dry soil we would be taking the first step in renewing the land. This breaking up of the soil allows the rain water and snowmelt which washes through the pasture to collect in the broken up land, to penetrate more deeply, and thus rebuild the natural water table far below the surface topsoil.
He also explained that when the large herding animals ate the nourishing grasses, their digestive system (including natural, efficient waste management) would spread the seed throughout the pasture by way of their dung. Thus providing a warm germinating medium for the seed, and preventing it from blowing away in the wind.
I was fascinated.
This all made so much sense to me then. And it still does today.
And I've loved considering its implications for other landscapes -- community, church, family. And for me, most importantly, the invironment -- the inner pastures of the heart and mind -- where the most vital transformation can take place.
How often do we think that the best way to protect our principles -- our values, traditions, or dogmas -- is to fence ourselves off from anything that would trample on our precious, beautiful, well-patted-down ideals? We self-seed. And we become thrilled with the beautiful flowering plants that begin to spring up. But on closer examination those flowering clusters are growing smaller and smaller as their re-population within the pasture becomes less and less frequent.
How do we "save" those ideals we love so dearly, and care for with such fervor? I believe it is through rigorous spiritual biodiversity.
Mary Baker Eddy, advises, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that:
"All nature teaches God's love to man."
If we look at nature -- and at what the Savory Institute has tested and proven in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in agri-communities throughout the world -- we begin to learn that we must begin by taking down our self-preservationist fencing. We can start by removing the mental boundaries we constructed between "us" and "them." Just as in Holistic Resource Management principles, the pasture lives in symbiosis with the cattle, each providing an important counterpoint to the other's survival -- so do our most loved ideas grow by being challenged and investigated by others. We did deeper for fresh water and our roots grow stronger in being tested.
I am beginning to think that we must allow our much-loved, well-protected, and self-certain belief-landscapes to be questioned, reasoned through, and tested. In doing so, that the soil will be broken up and aerated. This well-turned mental soil is then ready to receive and drink in the healing, nourishing, refreshing waters of inspiration. This is soil that receives new seed eagerly. This is fertile ground for sustainable growth.
And when we share the seed without restraint, we allow those precious flowers to be eaten -- taken in, chewed on, digested -- and yes, spread both on the wind, and through the process of bio-elimination.
Yes, our well-loved beliefs may get stirred up with the soil, but so will the self-certainty and cultural mis-interpretations that come with decades of self-preservation.
I've been exploring the principles of Alan Savory's Holistic Resource Management to govern the care of my in-vironment -- my inner landscape -- and my sense of community. I have learned to welcome those "others" who are willing to challenge my self-certainty. I am not afraid to have my beliefs examined and turned upside-down by genuine inquiry. It is often through this exchange that I receive fresh inspiration, find that the soil of my heart is less fallow, and my inner water table renewed.
And I love it when the flowers of my pretty forbe-like thought-clusters are chewed on by those who are interested -- not just in hearing about the beliefs that I cherish -- but are willing to share their own in spiritual symbiosis.
Yes, sometimes this leads to my beliefs being rejected -- eliminated from their system of thinking. But it is also true that through this process, the essence of those same ideas will be shared more broadly, and foster new growth.
These are just some thoughts that have been absolutely critical to the vitality and sustainability of my own inner ecosystem. I admit, I may have taken what Byron shared that day and unwittingly walked all over it -- I sure hope not. These principles transformed my sense of what it meant to live and think in a diverse spiritual thought-community. It has made such a difference in the way I see the world, and my place in it.
Recently The Savory Institute was honored by TED as having produced one of the "TED Ads Worth Spreading".
I am not surprised. Their video was produced by Foresight Media, under the direction of Laurie Benson. Its purpose is to introduce a larger audience to principles that have the potential of reversing devastating environmental concerns and giving thought leaders, ranchers, and spiritual pioneers around the globe a model for sustainable inner health and viability.
Thank you Alan Savory, The Savory Institute, Joel and Laurie Benson, John and Alison Abdelnaur at Foresight Media. And thank you Byron Shelton. Your willingness to take an afternoon and explain these principles to an eager listener was life-transforming.
*Please enjoy the Wailin' Jennys "One Voice" -- it speaks to me tonight.