Why Mycelium?

The first blog of this process of being mycelium was an experiential one. This was because the first move of social sculpture is always on the level of experience, of embodied knowledge and impulse, rather than purely intellectual, logical knowledge or reasoning. Part of sculpting a more sustainable society, one in which we might more fully live, is recognising the rich complexity of human experience, understanding and knowing – and therefore the rich complexity of humanity – and so the first questions of social sculpture is always, ‘What do I love? What am I passionate about? What enlivens?’

When I answer these questions, my deepest answer is always that I love the earth, I am passionate about the earth and my / our relationship to the earth, and that through experiencing that, and sharing that with others, we can create ‘enlivenment’. By enlivenment, I mean a fuller experience of our selves, our shared humanity and our oneness with the more-than-human world, a restoring towards fuller life of all the beings that form that more-than-human world and a rejection of and movement of all those processes that bring death – that lead to something other than life – within that sphere. I have asked in previous writing… if we knew experientially that we were absolutely and inseparably one with all the beings of that more-than-human field, with the earth and all its expressions, would we experience the levels of desparation that so many of us do? Would a sense of isolation be perhaps -ironically – humanity’s most unifying aspect? Further, would our social, political and economic systems work as they do, or in more organic, life-enhancing ways? And would we be fracking and exploiting our planet home in any of the myriad ways in which we are?

No, is my belief, we wouldn’t. And I base that not just on my own experience, of the times when I have felt both at one with another being (human or otherwise) and fulfilled (deep and inspiring as that is, and maybe material for another blog), but on my (admittedly limited) understanding of other cultures, in which remnants of that understanding of our interconnectivity remains.

I believe that thwe have forgotten what a human being is. We live according to a notion that we are self-determining, self-sufficient, autonomous individuals. This is not wrong: It is part of the gift of humanity that we are, indeed, more self-actualising than many other beings (though who knows? Maybe there are many more species that have a greater degree of abilities similar to our own than they are able to communicate to us self-referential humans) but this is only part of the truth: we forget that this experience or reality of self is rooted firmly in the oneness of our true deep self with all other beings, without which, physically as well as philosophically, we and any notion of self simply could not exist. To return to our self, therefore, to return to our senses (through which we experience our relationship to all beings) as individuals and as societies, we need to return to that deep, tacit, inner knowing of our interconnectedness. If we remembered this, I believe, many of the ills that I have spent so long working, marching, and getting arrested for would simply resolve, far more naturally, organically, holistically and completely than through myriad attempts at more superficial change.

I could go on …like I say, this is rooted in my passion. But this brings me (finally!) to the question:


What is it that i hope to get out of this means of learning, this group?

Certainly, it is not the case that I want you to help me with my MA, the one I don’t really need. My hope is that this can, for all of us, not just myself, become a genuine experience of listening to and learning from the earth. It is necessary to involve people in this for two reasons:

One, because, vitally, we ARE the earth. Each of us is, whether we recognise it or not. So in any attempt to listen to and learn from the earth, it is essential, as a first stage, to initiate and propagate learning between each other, those beings with whom we are most readily able to communicate. Not only in order to learn, but then to share and disseminate (to sow seeds in the earth) that learning.

Two, because it is nonsensical and pointless to explore interconnectivity with all things by yourself.

I don’t see this group therefore as a means of me teaching you something (I’m a learner here, not a teacher), or of me leading you somewhere. I have initiated the process, yes, because as I say I have been fortunate enough to be able to gift myself time for this. And at this point, I hold the intent of the group, though that will, hopefully, change.

The intent which I hold is that this will become a place in which all of us can learn – from all of us – what it means to live as if we were one with the earth; in which we can all share the wisdom we have as part of the earth with the wider whole, and it can be recognised, received and responded to as such; in which we can share and develop meaningful practices that enable our selves and others to engage with and experience that oneness; that through doing so, and via the actions, insights and intents that arise through it, that we can begin to create small – or even large – catalysts within our selves and our wider communities; that we may begin to realise something of that sustainable, equitable world we would all, I believe, chose to live in.

To do this, it is not enough that an individual holds an intent, but that others share it and carry it too. Many of you have been doing so far longer – and are far more skilled in it – than I. Others may be intrigued by what seems like a new idea, but perhaps one that seems to resonate with something you hold inside yourself.

So I invite you to share in this ‘mycelium’, this living, enriching, protecting, nourishing, enlivening network; to share your ideas, thoughts, beliefs, imaginings, practices, passions – and also your concerns and pains – we cannot, in this era, relate to the earth without an experience of both its and our own sufferings. You can do so by responding to the blogs, by feeding back your own insights and practices, by coming to the gatherings or sharing from afar (more on how you can do that soon).

But also, primarily, by sharing the intent:

by recognising, exploring, and LOVING your own, unique oneness with the earth.

How cool to be doing an MA in this shit, hey?! ,)

I thank you so much for what you are and what you do.

Yours, Miriam.


Experiencing Mycelium

It is bluebell season… early this year, by my reckoning, as I think of them as May flowers. However, they seem to be pushing ahead this year. No doubt this means that the trees, likewise, are preparing to put forth their leaves and wake from their winter sleep, as it is the closing of the canopy and the loss of light to the forest floor that the bluebells rush to precede… one of many symbiotic, networked relationships to be found in a woodland.

Bluebells are something I love. Since we moved to the country when I was two, my family and later I have gone purposefully every year to visit with them. I wait for them, counting time until they arrive. This year, it is more poignant, as my mum, who loves them equally, is growing frail and dependent on me to get her to see them, as I once was her. This may be the last year she is well enough to make that journey, and that only with great difficulty and arrangement. So to me, they are tied in with so much of my childhood and adulthood memory and formation. Not only in my mental memory, but my body and emotions carry physical traces and reminders of such encounters. And also they are embedded and embodied in that most fundamental of relationships, with my mother. More of the symbiotic, networked relationships to be found in a woodland.

Two days ago, as part of the work I am undertaking here, I went walking… which I am learning to see these days as an embodied practice of being with the earth (another symbiosis). So much of human movement on and interaction with the earth over the millenia has lead to harm, scarring of the earth’s skin. (I felt that recently, walking on the Ridgeway, which has been a human pathway for over 6000 years. The deep ruts along this ridge appeared to me as the scarred, puckered skin of the fact that at one point, nothing I could see from this high vantage point was natural, all was human made, an exploitation, a manipulation, a bending of natures forms to our own… the antithesis of symbiotic, mycelium-like interaction.) As I walk, now, I contemplate how this most intimate act, of placing my foot on the surface of the earth, can become an act not of mutual harm, but of mutual healing, of interconnectivity.

But on this walk, I was not on the Ridgeway, I was in Bagley Woods, near Oxford. Whilst there is little there that is natural (it has been ‘managed’ for many, many years), clearly the soil there bears some of its more ancient, untouched past. The presence of bluebells is one of many signifiers of ancient woodland, and whilst that is certainly not what Bagley Woods is, the magnitude of the profusion of bluebells there suggests that woodland in some form has been present on that land, growing out of that earth, for a very, very long time.

Down one less-trodden path, I came to a large area which was rich beyond measure with the colour of these most extraordinary flowers. With all of the meanings they hold for me, I was stopped in my tracks, immobilised by delight at what I saw. For many minutes, I stood still, then walked slowly, taking great care to keep to the tiny tracks and so not crush any one of my vibrant fellow beings. And finally, I knelt amongst them, and rested with them.

I have a ritual, that every morning, on rising, I pour myself water and before I drink, I spill a few drops on the ground, and give thanks to the earth. Present with the bluebells, overwhelmed with love and gratitude to them and the processes that brought them and I there, and with the need to respond or acknowledge this in some way, I did this now, pouring a few drops on one particular bluebell, and thanking them all. And then – I’m slightly embarrassed to admit how tree-hugger I can be – without thinking at all, spontaneously, I bent over and very gently kissed the flowers blue petals. As I did so, I understood that, through the very real, physical networks of which this flower was an integral part, and through the nature of my intent, I was kissing not only this bluebell, but all of them, all the many thousands, and not just the bluebells, but the whole woodland.

As I reflect now, I see that it wasn’t only the woodland I was kissing, but, through all the intricate, intimate networks in which that woodland rests, I was in fact touching all of nature. Through that mesh of interconnectivity, that kiss ultimately returns to my self… and takes in all of you on route ,)

What we do, what we are, what we intend, happens not in isolation, but within a universal field. What we choose to do and be in this field in turn determines what that field is, which then shapes our own being and that of all others. We could fear this, or, more usefully and wonderfully we could see this as opening up innumerable, beautiful possibilities. This is the profound, potent, fertile nature of all our doing and being. This is the symbiotic experience to be found in a woodland. This is being mycelium.

The Invitation…

What we most need to do is to hear within ourselves the sounds of the Earth  crying” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Having evolved us into self-reflexive consciousness, the world can now know  itself through us, behold its own majesty, tell its own stories  and also respond to its own suffering” (Joanna Macy)

The sound of the trees suffering is audible. But we need to develop new organs of perception so that we can hear this sound in the world, recognise what it means and shape new social forms that do not continue this great suffering of all nature.” (Josef Beuys)


You are warmly invited to a work of  co-learning between our selves and the earth…

Over the next six months, as part of an MA in Social Sculpture1, I will be exploring the ways in which we can experience our oneness, our interconnectivity, with the earth. It is my belief that, if we understood this as a living reality, not just an idea, then we would not encounter the isolation, dislocation and brokenness that so many individuals and communities do. Nor would we be wreaking such havoc on the earth and our cohabitants if we knew them to be our greater selves: If we felt what we do to the earth within our selves, would we be fracking? These are processes that shatter , dismember and alienate: Instead, we must reunite.

Despite this, wholeness is still available – it can’t not be – and whilst it has been hidden under the mono-culture fields and concrete deserts of a confused humanity for too long, there are many, many signs that at this time of global crisis, we are seeking this oneness and it is emerging in response to that seeking. In order that this re-emergence may grow, we need to develop new ways of perceiving, both in our selves and the earth, of clear seeing and deep listening, and pathways for entering it, and drawing it forth. We need to re-feel earth’s rhythms, and move with them, not against.

Clearly, in the work of interconnectedness, the wisdom cannot be gained alone. To take our first lesson from the earth, there needs to be a web, a form of mycelium (which have been called ‘the neural networks of the earth’ (Stephen Harrud Buhner)) to nurture and be nurtured by this organic process. It is this which I would love for you to be a part of. As with every human being, you contain and so much of this oneness, to share and experience.

The work which I will be doing – in my self and in the world– as part of this process needs rich humus in which to develop, and wide space into which to grow. The group I hope to form around it will be an invaluable part of this. Seeds to enable this may include: Sharing experiences and understandings of your self in relation to the earth; sharing or learning new practices of relating; experimenting with and feeding back on processes of engagement that may develop; contributing to dialogue across the mycelium; sharing wisdom and stories; engaging in action that makes this real in the world; providing firm roots in which for the work to grow and branches on which its opportunities might fruit This could happen where you are, in your own personal and community circles, via the worldwide web, or, for those able, in gatherings. You are, of course, entirely free to engage at the level you wish, or not at all, that is fine.

I will be sharing more thoughts and opportunities in the coming days and weeks, and it is my hope you can find your place within this.

Thank you, Miriam.

1 For more info about Social Sculpture, visit the Social Sculpture Research Unit: http://www.social-sculpture.org/