July 4th, 2021

For those of us in the United States, this day is a celebration of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, a powerful example that articulating a possible reality is the first step toward bringing it into existence.

But now more than ever, we find ourselves reflecting: What lies beyond independence?

All living things — whether a rebellious teenager or a well-oiled work team — need a certain degree of independence. It is a necessary step as we learn to distinguish ourselves from our surroundings and build a sense of our identity and ability to act in the world. But true independence is illusory, as any teen quickly discovers each month when the cell phone bill comes due!

If this past year and a half have taught us anything, it is the folly of believing ourselves to be independent. We’ve all seen how events on the other side of the earth can deeply impact our lives at the most intimate level. Like the proverbial hurricane from a butterfly’s wings, the pandemic has swept us up in its winds. Our sense of who we are and what matters most to us will never be the same again.

And yet this year has also brought into stark relief the fact that although we may have been caught in the same storm, we rode it out in very different houses. Some of our families and households weathered the storm with stress and strain, but are emerging relatively whole. The toll on life and livelihood continues to be far greater for those of us who were already living in the most precarious conditions due to longstanding systemic racial injustice and entrenched economic inequities. This contrast is tragic. Just as it has torn the fabric of our communities, the pain of witnessing it also tears at the fabric of our hearts and souls.

We could turn away from that pain, but this is a self-deception that demands we harden our hearts. It is not a coincidence that these contrasting realities exist side by side — all too often, our comfort is built on the risks borne by others. As much as we might try to numb our empathy, we can never fully insulate ourselves from the call to respond when others are suffering. In the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America.”

We can draw hope from the truth that this connectedness runs both ways: in our mutuality also lies our peace, our power, and our potential. By resting in what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls our interbeing, we can take comfort that no matter how painful or challenging our lives may be, we are never truly alone. Our connection with other people and the natural world sustains us physically and inspires us spiritually. And as the signers of the Declaration of Independence demonstrated in all their audacity and contradiction, the act of even imperfectly declaring our shared aspirations and commitments creates the potential for us to make that vision a reality — together.

At Praxsys Leadership, this awareness of our deep interconnection with people, place, and purpose is at the heart of our systemic approach to coaching and team development. In fact, it’s embedded in the meaning of our name: Reflective Action in Systems.

So we invite you to join us in declaring tomorrow, July 5th, Interdependence Day — a celebration of our interconnected relationship with all human and non-human beings.

It is only by recognizing our need for each other that we can discover the truth of who we are. And it is only by coming together in reflection and action that we can heal ourselves — and our world.

An Interdependence Day Poem & Practice

As we move into the peak of our year-round wildfire season in the Western US, we are reminded of the importance of nurturing Mother Earth. The earth is a powerful teacher in both its suffering and its remarkable resilience.

As a practice of interdependence, we invite you to reflect and create space for the land and ground holding you.

What can you do today to connect and serve the ground beneath you?

Sometime today or tomorrow, go outside. Take off your shoes and spend some time simply feeling your connection to the earth. Let your awareness be drawn to the roots of the plants beneath and around you. Let yourself feel the air as it moves into your lungs and the wind as it connects your breath to the world beyond.

And into that wind, speak aloud your own declaration for the world you wish to create — together with others. In fact, if you’re feeling really daring, you can share it with the people in your life who you are most interdependent with.

The clay, the soil, the water, the trees, all are connected with the life you lead today. We share the poem “Prayer for the Great Family” by Gary Snyder as a resource to ground your reflection.

gary snyder poem readingClick Image to Play Video

Prayer for the Great Family

by Gary Snyder

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet in our minds
so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing, light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowering spiral grain
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave and aware
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep— he who wakes us—in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky:
who holds billions of stars— and goes yet beyond that—beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us—Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife.
so be it.

From Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island

May you be intentional, both for yourself and the planet, as you observe this day, whether it is in celebration of independence, of interdependence, or simply of Mother Earth.