The ISC is a diverse collective of interspiritual practitioners, dedicated to minimizing harms to Earth and all living beings. At the heart of our work is clarity that healthy ecosystems, including humans, are the very best protection against climate change.
The ISC upholds the role of engaged global citizens in protecting and restoring the resilience of all life in the BioRegions they know as “home”. Collaborating with elders, teachers, scholars, scientists, and partnering organizations, the ISC facilitates direct access for local residents to community resilience-building, scientific information, Indigenous wisdom, and ethical deliberation, through grassroots BioRegional Resilience Networks.
By facilitating BioRegional networks, the ISC works to strengthen human wisdom and moral reasoning in local public discourse and decision-making. And by connecting local initiatives to one other and to regenerative networks around the world, we seek to support all contributions to global cultural evolution. In every part of its work, the ISC commits to nurturing courage, cultivating goodness, and fostering the moral clarity that human communities require for a “just transition” to ecological ways of living.
We’re in a planetary emergency and humans have caused it. We’ve already used up the capacity of the planet to process pollutants – but fortunately, this isn’t the end of the story.
As a species we know how to learn and evolve, and what we choose to do in this pivotal moment will directly affect what’s going to happen. If we act together swiftly, many life-endangering global trends can be reversed, and the severity of other impacts can be minimized.
Volatile climate conditions notwithstanding, climate science suggests that humans can still tilt history in life-affirming directions by honouring two core commitments:
- Minimize human violence by living equitably and with compassion in inclusive and ecological communities, and
- Do everything possible (immediately) to eliminate carbon emissions and all other contaminants, to restore and protect the health of the living planet we love and on which we depend.
We know it’s possible for people to serve the common good because humans have the moral will and ethical agency for goodness. If we decide to make the necessary cultural shifts quickly, we also know it’s possible to minimize or avoid many of the long-term runaway climate impacts that otherwise will make the planet unliveable.
The hard news is that our window of opportunity for making effective changes is closing rapidly. The best news is that once the regenerative adaptive work is done, we’ll all live happier, kinder, healthier lives in sustainable and cooperative communities. It’s not that change is an option. Change is inevitable. The changes WE make are up to us.
So, THIS is a moment for human courage, goodness and moral clarity. It’s time for us to choose what kind of people we want to be — and become those people. Together with our neighbours nearby and around the world, we can do this. This is our time to evolve.
Why Work Bioregionally
Some helpful definitions
A sustainable civilization meets the needs of all living beings and moral economies without reducing the life-sustaining capacities of the natural environment for the future. In other words, when our society is sustainable we take no more than we need, minimize all harm to living beings and the natural world, and make full amends if harm is caused. To live sustainably, we have to make honouring the natural rhythms, needs and limits of the natural world, including humans, a first priority in all our activities.
A resilient community (human or non-human) has the capacity to respond swiftly and creatively to adversity, with healthy strength and in life-supporting ways. The capacity for resilience is why healthy, intact natural ecosystems are our most powerful defense against the negative impacts of climate change. Enhancing sustainability and building resilience both mitigate harm to people and planet, and both strengthen the likelihood that humans and other creatures will survive climate, ecological and economic disruptions.
BioRegionalism is a cultural and ecological set of values and views based on naturally defined ecological areas called BioRegions. Humans are part of the ecosystems within a larger BioRegion. BioRegions are defined through physical and environmental features like geography, watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics, along with plant and animal life, etc. These components of ecosystems in the BioRegion also affect how human communities can interact in ways that are optimal for thriving in their environment.
BioRegionalism is proactive and strives for harmonious relationships between human communities and non-human communities. BioRegionalists see humankind as inherently a part of nature and focus on helping human beings develop sustainable and resilient relationships with one another and with the natural world, even in changing conditions. This is the task the ISC has taken to heart.
What does the ISC do?
- In this urgent time of planetary suffering and change, the ISC shares an honest narrative of danger and hope – including positive ways forward, and a moral/ethical framework for regenerative leadership by global citizens.
- The ISC cultivates equitable, inclusive and non-violent cultural patterns for public discourse, deliberation and decision-making. These patterns are consistent with the ethical norms of key global agreements:
- Interspiritual Ethic of Reciprocity, the “Golden Rule: We treat Earth and all beings with the respect and compassion with which we want to be treated;
- International Treaty to Protect the Sacred (2016),
- Charter for Compassion (2009),
- Manifesto for a Global Economic Ethic (2009),
- UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007),
- Alliance Statement of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (2004),
- Earth Charter (2000),
- Towards A Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (1993),
- Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1989),
- Seville Statement on Violence (UNesco, 1989), and
- UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
- Resilient ecosystems are the strongest protection against climate change, and resilient human communities are part of ecosystems within larger BioRegions. The ISC supports the resilience of natural places and living communities (human and non-human) – and the cultural evolution required for this resilience — through participatory BioRegional Resilience Networks. The ISC facilitates citizen access to information from diverse and trustworthy sources, opportunities for resilience-related deliberation and cooperation, convergent models of collaboration, online and offline communication tools, and resources for scalable meetings.
Each Resilience Network involves local residents, like-minded organizations, Indigenous and spiritual teachers, and scholars and scientists from multiple fields of study. Each network is inclusive, self-organizing, structured for distributed leadership, and united by shared commitments to serving the common good and regenerating the social and environmental resilience of a bioregion.
The ISC collaborates with local BioRegional Resilience Networks to address resilience needs by facilitating Network access to multiple streams of knowledge; regenerative principles, processes, and global connections; and the sharing of resources via scalable in-person gatherings and/or online engagement tools
- The ISC strengthens the worldwide convergence of regenerative movements by connecting BioRegional Resilience Networks to each other and other allies via in-person gatherings and online engagement tools.
ISC Principles and Practices
Principles for Regenerative Living
- Honour the sacred oneness, diversity and interdependence of all life. Principle of Wisdom.
- Treat Earth and all living beings with the respect and compassion with which we want to be treated. Golden Rule, or Principle of Reciprocity*.
- Protect Earth and all living beings from harm. Precautionary Principle.
- Hold to truth without doing harm. Principles of Satyagraha and Ahimsa.
- Relinquish all forms of egoism. Self-determination and self-realization are legitimate insofar as they uphold self-responsibility for Earth and our fellow living beings.
- Cultivate wisdom through presence-based embodied practices of alert attention/inner stillness.
- Nurture the essential goodness of human beings.
- Heal power imbalances that provoke human violence in relation to self, others and the natural word
- Cultivate discernment in listening Circles.
- Make decisions for the benefit of seven generations.
- Relinquish wants in favour of the whole community’s needs.
- Open to uncertainty, paradox and ambiguity.
- Build trust and trust-worthiness through constructive conduct and communication in the presence of differences and/or competing needs. Specifically, refrain from imputing motive, and from denigrating, stereotyping, maligning or invalidating persons or peoples.
- The ISC advocates for regenerative principles as actual norms for community conduct. In regenerative communities, ethical principles must be more than “aspirational” in order to serve the common good. For example, in accord with the Golden Rule, the ISC is committed to honouring the inherent rights and authorities of Indigenous peoples with regard to culture, spirituality, teachings and traditional territories. It follows from adherence to regenerative principles, therefore, that moral/ethical questions should arise for the ISC in deliberations about public decisions that would violate a right or authority of an Indigenous.
Principles For Respectful Dialogue (in the presence of differences)
- Prepare for respectful dialogue
- Meet with the people themselves.
- Focus on essentials.
- Allow others to speak for themselves.
- Be aware of our own commitments, loyalties, and attachments.
- Honour differences as well as commonalities.
- Be aware of our own contribution to division and misunderstanding, and
- Cultivate authentic mutual sharing.
Principles For Common Action (in the presence of diversity)
- Deal with issues related to living together in human community.
- Foster efforts at education and communication.
- Share spiritual and cultural insights and approaches, and
- Cultivate an atmosphere of mutual learning and openness.
Presence-based practices (for persons and groups)
At the centre of interspiritual communion is the “wisdom” experience of oneness with all that is. Both historic religions and secular philosophies have long cultivated inner awareness of oneness through presence-based wisdom practices — sometimes called Heart/Mind or mindfulness practices — like centring prayer, meditation, Indigenous drumming, sacred dance, Tai Chi and yoga. Partners and participants in regenerative movements share wisdom’s passion for re-connecting what has been severed so severely in industrial Western societies: our empathic sense of oneness with one another and with the natural world.
Heart/Mind and embodied practices are a valued component of regenerative transition-work. They help practitioners to ease the compulsions of the fight-flight Reptilian parts of the brain, so we can deal more constructively with ego and fear as inner coherence is cultivated. Many people find release from anxiety and a renewal of courage in the peace of alert attention and inner stillness.
Resources are available through the following allied organizations:
- Contemplative Life,
- Multifaith Action Society of BC,
- Shree Mahalakshmi Hindu Temple,
- Spiritual Paths Foundation,
- Surrey Interfaith Council,
- The Contemplative Society (Christian),
- The Pacific InterChristian Community,
- Vancouver Quakers,
- VST Inter-Religious Studies,
- Vancouver Unitarians.
Decision-Making Practices (“practical wisdom”)
Practical wisdom is a classical tradition of informed deliberation, moral reflection and decision-making. Practical wisdom puts our human responsibility to serve the common good into participatory practice. Transparent deliberations that are broadly informed by diverse streams of knowledge, then followed by reflection on moral dimensions and issues, lead to wise decisions that consider “the whole” in specific situations and contexts.
The ISC advocates for the exercise of practical wisdom in conjunction with Listening Circles like those of Indigenous and womyn’s communities, deliberation that includes diverse streams of knowledge, and accountability for choices that benefit seven generations. Practical wisdom encourages us to consider more ways of knowing than just our own, and to reflect on the long-term impacts of choices. Wise decisions will consistently seek the common good, whole centring our moral compass in the goodness of our common humanity.
These basic guidelines for Circle Practices are a gift from Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea of PeerSpirit, Inc.
The circle, or council, is an ancient form of meeting that has gathered human beings into respectful conversation for thousands of years. The circle has served as the foundation for many cultures.
What transforms a meeting into a circle is the willingness of people to shift from informal socializing or opinionated discussion into a receptive attitude of thoughtful speaking and deep listening and to embody and practice the structures outlined here.
THE COMPONENTS OF THE CIRCLE are Intention, Welcome, Centring and Check-in/Greeting, Agreements, Three Principles and Three Practices, Guardian of Process, and Check-out and Farewell.
INTENTION: Intention shapes the circle and determines who will come, how long the circle will meet, and what kinds of outcomes are to be expected. The caller of the circle spends time articulating intention and invitation.
WELCOME OR START-POINT: Once people have gathered, it is helpful for the host, or a volunteer participant, to begin the circle with a gesture that shifts people’s attention from social space to council space. This gesture of welcome may be a moment of silence, reading a poem, or listening to a song– whatever invites centering.
ESTABLISHING THE CENTRE: The centre of a circle is like the hub of a wheel: all energies pass through it, and it holds the rim together. To help people remember how the hub helps the group, the centre of a circle usually holds objects that represent the intention of the circle. Any symbol that fits this purpose or adds beauty will serve: flowers, a bowl or basket, a candle.
CHECK-IN/GREETING: Check-in helps people into a frame of mind for council and reminds all of their commitment to the expressed intention. It insures that people are truly present. Verbal sharing, especially a brief story, weaves the interpersonal net. Check-in usually starts with a volunteer and proceeds around the circle. If an individual is not ready to speak, pass the turn and offer another opportunity after others have spoken. Sometimes people place individual objects in the center as a way of signifying their presence and relationship to the intention.
SETTING CIRCLE AGREEMENTS: The use of agreements allows all members to have a free and profound exchange, to respect a diversity of views, and to share responsibility for the well-being and direction of the group. Agreements often used include: • We will hold stories or personal material in confidentiality. • We listen to each other with compassion and curiosity. • We ask for what we need and offer what we can. • We agree to employ a group guardian to watch our need, timing, and energy. We agree to pause at a signal, and to call for that signal when we feel the need to pause.
THREE PRINCIPLES: The circle is an all leader group. 1. Rotate leadership among all circle members. 2. Share responsibility for the quality of experience. Rely on wholeness, rather than on any personal agenda.
THREE PRACTICES: 1. To speak with intention: note what has relevance to the conversation in the moment. 2. To listen with attention: respect the learning process for all members of the group. 3. To tend the well-being of the circle: remain aware of the impact of our contributions.
FORMS OF COUNCIL: The circle commonly uses three forms of council: talking piece, conversation and reflection. Talking piece council is often used as part of check-in, check-out, and whenever there is a desire to slow down the conversation, collect all voices and contributions, and be able to speak without interruption. Conversation council is often used when reaction, interaction, and an interjection of new ideas, thoughts and opinions are needed. Reflection, or Silent council gives each member time and space to reflect on what is occurring, or needs to occur, in the course of a meeting. Silence may be called so that each person can consider the role or impact they are having on the group, or to help the group realign with their intention, or to sit with a question until there is clarity.
GUARDIAN: The single most important tool for aiding self-governance and bringing the circle back to intention is the role of the guardian. To provide a guardian, one circle member at a time volunteers to watch and safeguard group energy and observe the circle’s process. The guardian usually employs a gentle noisemaker, such as a chime, bell, or rattle, that signals everyone to stop action, take a breath, rest in a space of silence. Then the guardian makes this signal again and speaks to why he/she called the pause. Any member may call for a pause.
CHECKOUT AND FAREWELL: At the close of a circle meeting, it is important to allow a few minutes for each person to comment on what they learned, or what stays in their heart and mind as they leave. Closing the circle by checking out provides a formal end to the meeting, a chance for members to reflect on what has transpired, and to pick up objects if they have placed something in the center. As people shift from council space to social space or private time, they release each other from the intensity of attention being in circle requires. Often after check-out, the host, guardian, or a volunteer will offer a few inspirational words of farewell or signal a few seconds of silence
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