Regenerative wellbeing – life restoring life

Posted on: 25 July 2022

The word ‘Regenerative’ refers to life’s innate ability to restore itself. This term gets used in a variety of ways, but in the context of wellbeing, it brings together a broad range of elements to create rich and diverse ecosystems where life can thrive. Essentially, the regenerative way invites us to live in alignment with nature’s cycles. This touches us on many levels and has the capacity to influence the relationship we have with ourselves, each other and the natural world.

This is not something new,  simply an opportunity to reclaim elements that have been lost over time as our culture and relationship to both nature and the body has changed. Many of our ancestors knew these things very well and for generations they practiced this way of living as nature. Thankfully, there are still some remnants of these old ways being tended to by nature-connected cultures all over the world.

I’m currently exploring this more deeply with young people participating in my ‘live and learn’ programme here in southern Spain. Weaving together nature connection, community, growing, wild harvesting, medicine making, creativity, permaculture, embodiment and wellbeing. The key themes include:

Inviting wholeness
We can clearly see in nature that there is nothing bad or unwelcome that needs to be rejected. Nature is in a constant state of change and even death and decay have their place. Everything being expressed has an equally important function in keeping the ecosystem in a healthy state of balance.

When confronted by information from the body that is uncomfortable or interrupts the status quo our initial response is to want to get rid of this experience. On one level this is very natural, but at the same time it’s helpful to recognise that this is simply a signpost to staying attentive long enough to listen and go deeper. Paul Brand, author of ‘Pain: the gift nobody wants’ offers us this after many years working with patients with leprosy.

We silence pain when we should be straining our ears to hear it.

A regenerative approach meets changes in the body with curiosity and love. There is a sense of ‘welcoming in’ and becoming intimate with rather than pushing away or ‘getting rid of’ the parts of our experience that are inviting our attention. This shift of perspective, offers us the opportunity to reclaim lost or suppressed parts of ourselves and re-integrate into the whole through cultivating a deeply intimate relationship with the body.

Inhabiting winter
The dominant cultural narrative tells us that our value is directly linked to our productivity. We are conditioned to believe that we need to feel ‘better’ in order to be of service or value to life. I have written in more detail about this in ‘Radical Rest as Sacred Action’.

What I want to bring in here is the possibility that any individual’s healing process is directly contributing to the whole in unimaginable ways, on multiple levels simultaneously. Such complexity is often disregarded as it is difficult to quantify, but we must stay in relationship to this truth as we journey deep into ourselves. Life is mysterious and wild. Just because we can’t rationalise it with our minds doesn’t mean it’s not valuable, perhaps only in ways we cannot yet perceive.

The more we can show up in the wild realms of chaos and darkness the more possible it is for others to feel able to inhabit this space and hold the space for others. This courageous descent then is brought into the light for others to see as a rich and valuable aspect of the process. In nature you might know it as death or decay and it has a powerfully transformative place in a regenerative cycle. You only have to look at composting to know the value of this in very practical terms, then look again at our depleted soils and our collective physical and mental health to see the value our culture places on this phase of the cycle.

Body ecology
We could see ourselves as unique microclimates within the broader ecosystem of life, but even this would suggest an inappropriate degree of separation. We now know that we are more microbial and fungal cells than human cells, which of course invites the bigger question of who we are…

Just as there is enhanced resilience and multi-level functioning in permaculture rather than monoculture system, we too can increase resilience and enhance our capacity to live vibrantly by welcoming diversity into our lives. We are what we eat, drink, breathe, watch, read, think, listen to, smell, touch and so much more. Our wellbeing is influenced by the company we keep and the quality of relationships we have. All of our senses need to be online and in constant dialogue with healthy stimuli to thrive. There are an increasing number of studies that show how our ancient wise bodies heal more quickly when surrounded by love and in connection with the natural world.

Re-weaving community culture
An over-simplified view of health would place the responsibility for wellbeing entirely in the hands of the individual. This push to isolate and separate weakens social support networks and is simply fuel for the consumerist narrative. For generations, we  maintained connection with and received support from our communities as we inhabited times of suffering. We now live in a culture where crucial elements such as mothering, eldering, caring and mentoring are deeply under-valued but hugely important in creating integrated communities that have the capacity to hold and support others during times of rest and repair.

Chronic conditions are rapidly increasing generation, by generation and overall, human health is on the decline. I see this as an increasingly clear invitation to know that we absolutely cannot continue to go it alone. It’s time to come together and prioritise building resilient, nature-connected communities where we can support each other to truly thrive.

Ultimately, the invitation is remember we are nature and live in alignment with that truth.

We are elemental beings and our wellbeing is directly linked to the wellbeing of the ecosystems that we inhabit. By living with this in our consciousness we see that life is offering us many beautiful opportunities to live, love and thrive together. Let’s welcome them collectively with open hearts and minds!

These are all huge topics and so all I can do really is offer a summary to provide a taste of some of the themes we’ve been exploring this year as part of my ‘live and learn’ opportunity. I am now considering applications for Autumn 2022 so please get in touch if you are or you know a young person between 20-30 years interested in exploring Regenerative Wellbeing here in southern Spain.

Sam Lacey