Expanding the Boundaries of Our Identity

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by Jessica Zeller

Recorded by author

 “Through widening circles of Identification, we extend the boundaries of our self-interest.” ~Macy & Brown (1)

Zooming In/Zooming Out

Here we are… the Milky Way Galaxy, outer spiral, third rock from our solar system’s Sun.  We are spinning through space. As you read this, can you align with Polaris or Sigma Octantus? Can you orientate yourself in space? How is our axis tilted? This time of year, we are coming to equilibrium, the Equinox, about to begin the northern hemisphere’s tilt toward the Sun, culminating at the Summer Solstice. Where did the sun rise this morning? Where will it set tonight? What planets will you see hovering in the sky tonight? On what part of Pangea do you find yourself? Turtle Island? Alkebulan? Abya-Yala? What are the landforms and rivers that are shaping your bioregion? Can you feel this Earth as earth, air, fire, and water, always shaping, reshaping, evolving, shifting? Can you feel these elements alive in your human body?

Welcome home.

Coming Home to Grief                          

I have been in mourning. For our home, our mother, Earth. For my Mother, Gaia. I am grieving for the multitude of species who, at this moment, are on their way to extinction or who have already gone extinct—on my watch. Will my species also disappear before my great-grandchildren are born? I grieve for all my relations who are stressed by the condition of our biosphere. 

I have been exploring a remedy that gives me some hope in the midst of my grief and the strength to remain present through this transition. This remedy comes from the interplay of two concepts that Joanna Macy wrote about and explored in her book Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory (1991).

Mutual Causality

I am learning that I live in a world of radical and profound interdependence, and all of us are actually “interbeing” with everything else. “MY” viewpoint, “MY” consciousness, plays a part in affecting all that IS. So does yours! Each of us, each species, each awareness, each soul, holds a position in a vast network, the Web of Life, the Actual World Wide Web that is sometimes referred to as Indra’s Jeweled Net.

It is through this network, Earth’s Neural Network, that the Buddha’s idea of Mutual Causality and Dependent Co-Arising takes shape. Just because sapiens can’t see networks of communication doesn’t mean communication isn’t happening.

Mycellium Dreaming © Autumn Skye

We are learning that the trees are talking through their “World Wood Web.” (2)  Because things appear to be separate does not mean that they are. The grove of aspen trees is one great organism. There are vast nets of mycelium under the ground making the soil a transmitter of information. (3) Everything is conscious and is made of consciousness. (4) The forms we see are emanations of the One Being coming to know itself.

Mutual Causality is an alternative to the linear and hierarchical expression of cause and effect that shapes our Western minds. We must understand that everything is affecting everything. At this time especially, we must learn to see from this viewpoint. Scientists have been showing us that the preconceptions of our minds will affect how we see our reality, and “our reality,” says Joanna Macy, is “a dynamically interdependent process.” It seems that the impact and skillful means of coronavirus and other viruses demonstrates this principle. Gaia will ultimately find the balance of species She needs in order to have a healthy biosphere.

Everyone needs to become an active member of Earth’s neural network

Everyone needs to become an active member of Earth’s neural network, consciously resting in the unique point of infinite reflection that is each soul’s unique calling.(5)  We are each, at this moment, the form and destination of stardust released billions of years ago, unique but not separate. 

My choice is to become more aware of and take responsibility for my thoughts, my actions, my words, and my intentions. I choose, in each moment, to be a transmitter of loving awareness. I now feel more connected to this network and have greater hope that my life is a healthy contribution to this greater Dance of Life. The frustration and despair I have experienced in not being able to “do enough” begins to dissipate as I come home to my soul and trust that, as I rest in this moment, offering what is in my heart and soul to offer, is enough. I am enough.

General Systems Theory (GST)

General Systems Theory, developed by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, tells us that we are always a part of a greater system unfolding and evolving. He emphasized that natural systems are open to and interact with their environments and can acquire qualitatively new properties through emergence, resulting in continual evolution. (6) 

The smaller system won’t necessarily know that it is a part of a greater system until or unless its “identity” makes a leap, a shift to the greater being.

Open systems will naturally expand into larger, more inclusive systems. The smaller system won’t necessarily know that it is a part of a greater system until or unless its “identity” makes a leap, a shift to the greater being. I am becoming more aware of my identity, not only as a woman and an American, but as a homo sapien. As a unique function of this biosystem, I am simultaneously aware that this “I” can be a moment-to-moment construct of my preference, viewpoint, and attachment. Does my microbiome, my gut bacteria, know “I am Jessica”? I intend to open the boundaries of  my identity to embrace larger and larger systems of Life while simultaneously letting go of my attachment to an identity that separates this “I” from the rest of Nature. 

“I am Loving Awareness” (Ram Dass)

My hope lies in the process of “actively” resting in this moment, in this body of earth, air, fire, water, space, and Presence/Awareness. I am breathing in oxygen that I gather from the trees, the plants, the rainforests, and the oceans—breathing out carbon dioxide that I offer back into my biosphere.

 “In what Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry call ‘one of the greatest acts of creativity in the four billion years of the living Earth,’ prokaryotes (single cell organisms) learned to capture photons of light from the Sun…to use their own bodies to create photosynthesis.” (7)

Pura Vida ©Autumn Skye

Just as that single cell transformed life on Earth, I’m exploring how I can be the mutant, rogue cell that makes the leap from my limited “mistaken identity” into knowing I AM the One Being Breathing Itself into Aware Manifestation. Our precious human birth allows us the capacity for imagination and energetic sensation in this form. Our identity, intention, and imagination can help us leap into our True Nature: embodied awareness, present in this home of our soul, Earth.  I offer my “self” to be pulled into this surrender to the larger system of which I am a part: Mother Gaia.

 We must use these gifts to plug into this neural network to allow our contracted identities to surrender into this system of Gaia.  Through a global shift in understanding this interdependence and interconnection, we can find our unique place in this hologrammatic, jeweled web of life. How can I be the one to identify as an aware and loving presence in this vast web, Gaia’s living network? As I practice Being nature, aware and present in this body, an active part of Life unfolding, I find peace.

Who Says I When I Say I?

Here is a guided meditation to assist the anchoring of this understanding:

Inhale, allowing Loving Presence to be with what IS. Exhale love and compassion into the living web of life where you rest.

Imagine that what you identify as “I” is resting as a point of awareness here and in a vast spherical silk spider web that surrounds and permeates this Earth, floating in space. This is your home. Rest HERE. Perhaps you can feel the sensation of this image here in this body.

Healing © Autumn Skye

Experience your locus of awareness as a multifaceted jewel, conscious of and reflecting all the other jewels in this silken net. The net is constantly shifting, adjusting, and dancing with wave-like impulses from the whole net. Feel these impulses dancing inside this body, your body. Your body, my body, is Earth’s “Local Representative”.

Feel how you can sense the subtle shifts in this web as you, a point of infinite reflection, rest in your nest of silken connections. Enjoy this dance of the web as you feel it in the neural networks of this body. 

This body is highly receptive to the feedback it receives from this web. It is in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the subtle electronic impulses of each heartbeat. We share our breath with the trees and plants. This body of elements and awareness is your neighborhood in this vast web of Life. Your Heart is the receiver and transmitter of information and transformation. What you refer to as “I” is the “body cam” of this Infinite Awareness.

Resting here, each of us is in our home, in the Home of our Soul. Each of us at home, all species—plants, animals, canines and sapiens, rocks, rivers, trees—all contributing to and communicating with each other in this web of Life, interconnected and interdependent.  Each one saying “I AM,” resting in the awareness of I AM, resting in this Home of our Soul.

Be an Active Presence in this Pulsating Web of Life

Now is our time to identify with the greater system that we are, cells of the greater body of Gaia.

Now is our time to identify with the greater system that we are, cells of the greater body of Gaia. Our human birth gives us the power to choose. Let’s choose to see from the perspective of our Whole Being, Gaia. We must not lose hope. We must resist apathy and despair. Even in the face of apparent catastrophe, we must remember what Uncle Albert pointed out:

A human being is a spatially and temporally limited piece of the whole, what we call the “Universe.” He experiences himself and his feelings as separate from the rest, an optical illusion of his consciousness. The quest for liberation from this bondage [or illusion] is the only object of true religion. Not nurturing the illusion but only overcoming it gives us the attainable measure of inner peace. (8)

Let us aim to free ourselves from this “optical illusion of consciousness”, so we can widen the circle of what “I am” and find true peace.

  1. Macy, J.,  Brown, M. Coming Back To Life, 2014.
  2. Simard, S., “How Trees Talk to Each Other.” Ted Talk. June 2016.
  3. Wohlleben, P., The Hidden Life of Trees, 2016.                
  4. Spira, R.,  Consciousness is our True Body and other You Tubes.
  5. Plotkin, B.,  The Journey of Soul Initiation, 2021.
  6. Macy, J., Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory, 1991.     
  7. Haugen, G.M.,   Wild Faith, by Geneen Marie Haugen | DailyGood
  8. Hammond, B., “Einstein’s Misquote on the Illusion of Feeling Separate from the Whole” https://www.thymindoman.com/einsteins-misquote-on-the-illusion-of-feeling-separate-from-the-whole/

An earlier version of this article, “Widening Circles,” was published by EPIC Magazine on June 1, 2020. https://epicconsciousliving.com/widening-circles/

Artist Autumn Skye graciously gives her permission for Deep Times Journal to publish her artwork in this article. www.AutumnSkyeArt.com

Recorded by author

Jessica Jean Zeller was trained in Psychosynthesis by Molly Young Brown and in Non-Dual Meditation by Peter Fenner. Her current passion is to directly experience the intersection where nonduality meets interdependence. She taught Ecopsychology at Naropa University and guided wilderness rites of passage with Bill Plotkin for the Animas Valley Institute. Jessica uses her love of nature, meditation, music, dance and mystical wisdom to help others experience an embodied awareness of Being Human. “Expanding the Boundaries of Our Identity” is adapted from the author’s presentation at the 2019 Science & Non-Duality Conference. She and her husband Steve co-founded Natural Pathways Foundation. They live on the Animas River in Durango, Colorado. Naturalpathways.org

4 thoughts on “Expanding the Boundaries of Our Identity

  1. Jessica, mahalo for putting what I feel and know into words on a page/screen that allow me to release my small self thinking and leap to the higher and wider realms that exist everywhere. My life is a dance of remembering and you have, in this moment, been the perfect guide home. Love & Blessings!! Vika

    • Dear Vika,
      Thank you so much first, for reading this essay, and, for gracing me with this comment that shows your understanding of how we are all helping to “walk each other home” (Ram Dass).
      Love, Jessica

  2. I surely enjoyed even if not well understood Jessica Zeller article of expanding the boundaries of our identity.
    The meditation excellent and l wonder how l could make the optical illusion of consciousness less visual.

  3. Hello, Magda
    Sorry I’ve been so slow in responding to your comment. I don’t often check on this.
    I will ponder your suggestion and play with making the meditation with less of a visual emphasis.

    Thanks, Jessica

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