By Julian Caspari
I spent 20 years of my young life in school being conditioned to find “success” in this world. I was schooled to learn with formulas, theories, structures and systems as defined by our industrial age curricula. I walked a path that overlooked the inner wisdom of myself. Sadly, “environmental systems” was a class and not a way of life.
At school I came to know things, but rarely did I understand them. My realization of the wisdom held in our natural environment felt more like a fleeting dream, scattering in my consciousness as I woke up in a pool of drool on my desk.
Realizing how little “success” I was having on my traditional learning path, I co-founded Schools Without Borders (SWB) in 2003 with the audacious goal of changing the face of education.
However, even through my exploration of learning outside the confines of the traditional classroom, I found myself handcuffed to structures designed to “empower” people and organizations to create change – less for people to lead and determine the change process themselves. I was told to force my ideas into outcomes, deliverables, and numbers – those classic industrial indicators of “success.” The non-profit industrial complex suffers from the same quantitative shackles of institutional education. And with that slap in the face to the “change I wish to see in the world,” the seeds of un-learning were sown. My learning community at SWB was fertile ground to explore a different path.
At SWB, we built internal relationships, chemistry and productivity through weekly themed meetings: Planning, Action, Emotional and Professional Tuesdays (a spoof on Casual Fridays). Once in a blue moon there was a fifth “Blue Sky Tuesday” - a rare opportunity to collectively create and brainstorm on future visions for the organization. As we flowed through our meeting cycle, we stumbled across a Lunar Calendar, which forever changed the way I work.
We learn in school that the moon’s gravitational pull is responsible for global tidal patterns. We also learn that we humans are 70% made of water. So we put it together: What is the effect of the moon on our personal behavior? How do our own internal tides affect how we work with others? Have you wondered why one week you are feeling exceptionally extroverted and then the next week the thought of being in a public place is terrifying? Do you just need to be alone for an “emo moment”? We decided to explore how we could find alignment with this natural phenomenon and we began hosting our meetings according to the phases of the lunar calendar:
A New Moon is the time when the stars are brightest. The darkness of the sky presents the best time for seeds to germinate. In a new moon, our intuition is strongest to identify challenges, navigate obstacles and chart a course. It is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and rebirth. It’s a good time to set goals and identify desires because emotions are high.
The Waxing Moon is the period during which the moon grows from the new moon to the full moon. Like a sculpture, the moon is waxing into its fullness during this phase. It is a time of emergence. It is symbolic of growth, manifestation, attainment, and gravidity (both philosophically and literally). It is a time for being together and building together – building consensus around issues and doing collaborative work towards the course we set at the new moon.
A Full Moon illuminates the night sky and the earthly environment. This phase of the moon is symbolic of the height of power and the peak of clarity. It represents fullness and obtainment of desire. It is the ideal time for decision-making. We scheduled significant staff and board meetings to take place on or close to full moons – howling expected.
The Waning Moon is the period during which the moon diminishes from the full moon towards the new moon. This is a time for letting go, surrender, release, quiet, contemplation and incubation. It is a time to be apart, reflect, digest and meditate. It’s an opportunity to focus on the individual work that is necessary to contribute to and build on decisions made during the full moon. It is a time to release.
Needless to say, we raised a lot of eyebrows with our pagan organizational development strategies! The Gregorian calendar is deeply ingrained in the flow of most people’s lives, and it’s not easy to break away from. Building from this natural system was a pivotal change in how we worked together as a team. Practicing, socializing and manifesting it continue to be a challenge. While we still use the Lunar Calendar to guide the organizational flow, many staff members have taken it on to guide their individual process. Personally, it keeps me on a balanced diet of creation, emergence, clarity and reflection.
With this realization of the million-year-old wisdom available to us from our natural world, we must dig deeper for further guidance. Why do redwood trees grow in families and how can their roots maintain some of the biggest trees on the planet? How do thousands of starlings at a time demonstrate such amazing coordination and alignment, moving as one and flocking with such grace and precision? How can we establish the same balance of a thriving ecosystem within our own lives?
Many of these natural processes and truths offer a blueprint toward our personal health and happiness. Many offer solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. It’s our choice to decide what wisdom, knowledge and understanding we champion as our guide.
Julian Caspari is the Co-founder of Schools Without Borders (SWB), a Canadian charity committed to changing the face of education. With over a decade of leadership experience working with communities as a strategist, facilitator and organizer, he has led initiatives ranging from corporate and community engagement, to youth employment and health & wellness projects in local and global contexts.