Welcome to our first season of the PEPP MWe up weekly gatherings.
Initially the acronym, PEPP, stood for Personal Experience of the Planetary Pandemic, and our meetings focused on the pressing issues of cultivating resilience in the face of the massive and evolving disruptions in lives and livelihoods at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As social injustice in the United States became a central focus on top of concerns about physical distancing and viral infection, our conversations expanded to include how the human mind creates divisions, the nature of dehumanization inherent in racism, in-group/out-group distinctions, and what might be done with our collective ways of understanding and ending social inequities and marginalization made even more intense during the pandemic.
A variety of guests were invited to come onto the platform to discuss these pressing issues, including Rhonda Magee, Sará King, Ph.D., Angel Acosta, Ed.D., Mary Helen Immordino Yang, Ph.D., Justin Michael Williams, Nichol Case, Nico Carey, Orlando Villaraga, Jackie Ivy, and Jennifer Bloom. We dove deeply into how to keep hope alive with explorations of music and poetry, education, parenting, and meditation, continuing our focus on practices, offerings, and discussions.
As these episodes took on some of the most challenging aspects of our lives during the pandemic, the acronym we began with evolved to be the Personal Exploration of Planetary Possibility. One perspective that emerged in our discussions was the view that modern culture has pushed for us to conceive of the “self” as a separate, noun-like entity. While this view of a self coming only from the body, akin to the mind that creates the self coming only from the brain in the head, is commonly held, it may be a constricted, incomplete, limited and limiting view. This concept of a separate self keeps the individual living a life of isolation—and places all of us at risk of not only loneliness and despair, but various forms of dehumanization of the separate “other”, be that someone of a different cultural background, race, nationality, or religion. The “other” can also be viewed as non-human living things, and hence what we can call a lie of the separate self sets humanity up to excessively distinguish itself from life-giving nature of which we are fundamentally interconnected, even if our concepts and categories of separation give us the illusion of being apart. As Albert Einstein implored us to consider, this is an “optical delusion of consciousness” that we are separate, apart, and not a member of the larger whole of living beings, of the universe.
A deep dive into the mind is offered in this first season, harnessing the consilience of the multi-disciplinary framework of Interpersonal Neurobiology to offer a definition of the mind and the central role of integration at the heart of well-being. Practices such as an integrative movement series and the Wheel of Awareness provide direct immersions throughout the first season, and the research based affirmation of the medical benefits of mindfulness and compassion practices offer a backdrop for how they might support inner resilience and relational well-being. One emergent experience of accessing the open, receptive awareness of the hub of the metaphoric wheel practice is that who we are emerges from the flow of energy and information—and that this flowing process is more like a verb with interconnections to other emergent flows than the noun-like concept of a separate, fixed entity of a self. Yes, we have a body. And yes, we also emerge in relationships with other people, and the planet.
How might this inner and this inter be brought into harmony as a coherent whole experience of selfing, of becoming who we are in life?
MWe is the term that can be used for how to combat the limiting yet pervasive view in modern cultures of a separate noun-like “me” that lives only in isolation within the individual, or within designated “in-groups” to which the individual belongs and identifies as being a member. What might our world be like if instead of living only as a separate “me” we might integrate our identity as also including our relational, verb-like interconnected self—our We? With integration we honor differences while establishing linkages that do not destroy distinctions. Integrating identity might then be conceptualized in the simple equation: Me plus We equals MWe.
MWe may be the integration needed to move our collective lives forward through and beyond the painful disruption of this pandemic. Our PEPP meetings, our MWe community’s converstations, exploring new planetary possibility through personal exploration, give us the tools to cultivate such integration in our lives. What might the outcome be of living as a MWe? Come join in on our community conversations and explore the possibilities!
-Dr. Dan Siegel