What does regeneration mean to you?

Regeneration, in biological terms, can mean “restoration or new growth by an organism of organs, tissues, etc, that have been lost, removed or injured.” In spiritual terms, it can mean a revival or renewal. (See Merriam Webster)

When asked what regeneration or regenerative action meant to him, Paul Hawkens, world-renowned environmentalist and author of the Ecology of Commerce, shared these guiding principles:

  • Does the action create more life or reduce it?
  • Does it heal the future or steal the future?
  • Does it enhance human well-being or diminish it?
  • Does it prevent disease or profit from it?
  • Does it create livelihoods or eliminate them?
  • Does it restore land or degrade it?
  • Does it increase global warming or decrease it?
  • Does it serve human needs or manufacture human wants?
  • Does it reduce poverty or expand it?
  • Does it promote fundamental human rights or deny them?
  • Does it provide workers with dignity or demean them?
  • In short, is the activity extractive or regenerative?

What principles would you add?

For me, these questions inspire the imagination and at at a fundamental level are about what a regenerative society values:

  • one that honours human dignity and equality,
  • one that gives rise to ecological thriving and flourishing of biodiversity,
  • one that heals and renews relationships,
  • one that is grounded in and aligned with living systems,
  • one that is based on trust, generosity, respect, reciprocity and cooperation,
  • one that embraces diversity and inclusion.

The shift towards a regenerative society, that Paul Hawken’s articulates, rests on transforming our relationships with one another and our planet.

Specifically, it involves transforming our mindsets and beliefs about who we are, towards an inclusive awareness of the profound interdependence of all life (see Buchanan and Greig 2021), where the self, others, and nature are distinct yet interdependent elements of a united whole, intimately connected as part of the Earth’s living system. Another way of envisioning and thinking about the level of interdependence and the level of decision making is the Earth as the household (Sanford and Haggard, 2000).

What is the connection with my thinking around leading with nobility?

This brings me back to regeneration as spiritual renewal.

Professor David Orr author of Earth in Mind argues that “something akin to spiritual renewal is the sine qua non [essential condition] of the transition to sustainability.” (2002) He puts forward that because the challenges of sustainability are divergent, with profound dilemmas, we need a higher order spiritual awareness, which honours mystery, science, life and death.  This level of spiritual awareness needs to enable healing from centuries of oppression, colonisation, nationalistic hatreds, and devaluing of cultures, peoples and nature itself. This involves he says, higher order methods of wisdom, love, empathy, and understanding, and a sense of gratitude and celebration of each other and the natural world, that will energise us to act.

He calls these qualities “spiritual acumen,” which I think of as our inherent noble qualities and capacities.

Capra (1997, 7) describes it like this:

“Ultimately, deep ecological awareness is spiritual or religious awareness. When the concept of the human spirit is understood as the mode of consciousness in which the individual feels a sense of belonging, of connectedness, to the cosmos as a whole, it becomes clear that ecological awareness is spiritual in its deepest essence.”

Ecological regeneration results in spiritual renewal, and spiritual renewal is necessary for ecological regeneration.

Regeneration of our ecological and social systems, rests on our sense of interdependence as a facet of living systems and on these noble qualities that support the renewal of relationships, guide our response to the challenges we face, and inspire the kind of society we want to create.

The helpful thing here is that by being guided by spiritual principles and living systems principles, and then caring for and becoming tender stewards of the natural world and each other, we develop these qualities of character. We are moulded by the environment we are part of creating.

Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng, a Wakka Wakka Wulli Wulli Traditional Owner from Central Queensland and Adjunct Asst. Professor with ANU shares her wisdom on sacred leadership as a development path that sheds light on these two aspects of regeneration, that are intertwined.

Her PhD ‘The road to Eldership: How Aboriginal culture creates sacred leaders” brings together Aboriginal knowledge with sacred leadership and consciousness as described by Kegan to say that sacred leadership is a:

“way of being, thinking and doing, that integrates the whole planet, all relationships, families, communities. And the way you act has an impact on everything around you. An acknowledgement that I have an impact on the environment, on the animals, on the land, on the food, on the population.”

My friend and PhD Kenyan brother Dr Abel Barasa Atiti, put the relationship between leading with nobility and regeneration this way:

“For me leading with nobility would entail adopting a more indigenous-inspired way of co-existing with nature, including leaving habitats intact and respecting the connection between human and planetary health.”

As Jess Scully, Deputy Lord Mayor City of Sydney said at the Regen Sydney gathering on 18 August 2021,

“…this way we do things right now is not the way things have always been done… First Nations people did not work with these models, in this short term image of history. This extractive, individualistic and completely unsustainable model that we have today is a blip in history. It will not last. It is not the way things have been or always have to be. And we have to spread that message to everyone.” 

What is an example we can turn to?

I would like to turn to words and actions of Mr Noel Butler, Budawang Elder from the Yuin Nation, qualified teacher, educator, horticulturist, chef and historian, and owner with his wife, Trish Roberts, of the Aboriginal education and cultural teaching property Nura Gunya, in Milton NSW.

Nura Gunya was blasted apart and devasted by fire in the Summer of 2019/2020, as was millions of hectares of bushland, wildlife and ecosystems, as well as communities.

Mr Butler and Ms Roberts, and the community members, focused passionately on replanting before rebuilding to ensure food supplies were restored to encourage the return of native fauna and insuring an active breeding season.

His words sum up for me much of what I have shared about regeneration:

“We have to change our values, respect our land and nature, and help by putting back.”

What does it look like in practice?

Regeneration, and what it looks like in your life and work, will take a different shape to what it looks like for another person, in another locality and country.

What connects us and our efforts to restore and heal relationships and the land, is that these efforts contribute to healing the whole.

They are important steps towards living into the consciousness of our interdependence, expanding potentialities for action.

What does regeneration mean to you?

These are some of my thoughts and musings, as well as ideas from writers and voices.  I am curious what regeneration means to you?

  1. What resonates with you from this blog post?
  2. What does regeneration mean to you?

Keen to explore more: Join me for The Regenerative Life Short Course

How might you unlock the regenerative potential of your life and work

Join me for this upcoming short course, The Regenerative Life, focused on an exploration and application of Carol Sanford’s book of the same name. It is a living systems and developmental approach to personal, team and system change, and I am excited to share it with you.

Carol Sanford, is a pre-eminent critical systems thinker, social innovator, executive educator, and best-selling author of Regenerative Business. In The Regenerative Life, she calls us to reflect on how we conceive of ourselves as agents for change:

“It comes from learning how to live one’s life and play one’s roles in ways that are designed to create change. … It is slow, steady, cumulative, and powerful, like water shaping rock.” (Carol Sanford, Author, The Regenerative Life)

It is a real pleasure and privilege for me to facilitate this short course.

When: 2 September – 11 November, across 6 x fortnightly sessions.

Where: Online, Zoom

Who with: A group of between 10-20

Register here

Carol writes this about her book:

“The world often falls short of how we’d like it to be, and our ability to make even just a little difference can seem limited. Sometimes it feels like you need to be a super-hero to achieve anything meaningful. But what if by re-conceiving what you do, you could change the world for the better?

This book aims to highlight the inherent potential for individual and societal transformation that is embedded in these commonplace roles, teaching us how to access and manifest their regenerative power. It draws on living system thinking, ancient and indigenous cosmologies, and scientific and philosophical investigations into how large-scale change works. Although this thinking has systemic social implications, it is addressed to individuals seeking to create a better world through day to day engagement in their lives and work.”

What is involved? 

  1. Join 6 fortnightly interactive and reflective sessions, hosted & facilitated by me. Sessions are 12-1pm, on 2 Sep, 16 Sep, 30 Sep, 14 Oct, 28 Oct, and 11 Nov
  2. Receive Carol’s book, “The Regenerative Life,” (in e-book form)
  3. Recive an executive  60 page workbook, designed and written by Carol
  4. BONUS: Explore 6 hours of video content from Carol as we go through the course.
  5. Explore with with like-minded and like-hearted peers
  6. Join the fortnightly pattern: 1 hr of book reading, 1 hr of video content, 1 hr session.
  7. Continue the conversation on our Mighty Networks community platform

What will you gain from participating?

  • Reconsider and tap into the regenerative potential of nine roles you can play
  • Gain tools  and frameworks to strengthen the rigour of your thinking
  • Explore and apply regenerative principles and frameworks in your life
  • Manage inner obstacles and generate a new pattern of thinking, feeling and being
  • Integrate systemic critical thinking skills, based on a Living Systems Paradigm, into your own life and professional practice
  • Expand your personal agency to contribute to social change
  • Harness collective insights from a group of like-hearted and like-minded humans
  • Be moved, inspired and energised

Who is it for?

  • You may be a purpose-driven entrepreneur, founder or leader who owns or leads their business, social enterprise, unit area, or initiative
  • You may be a change agent, including consultants, coaches, trainers and facilitators, keen to bring regenerative principles to your practice.
  • You may be a team, focused on social innovation, sustainability, or creating a kinder, workplace. Get in touch to organise a short course exclusively for your team. Get in touch here.

What does it cost? 

For the 12-week short course package, the cost is $330 (plus GST).

Two scholarship places are available in every cohort (two have been awarded).

The course will run with 10 or more registrations (capped at 20). You are welcome to invite your colleagues and friends!

Register here