“Kanyini is best expressed in English as the combination of the two words ‘Responsibility’ and ‘Unconditional Love’, but it is actually a relationship; it is an enormous caring with no limit – it has no timeframe: it is eternal” ~ `Uncle Bob Randall
To stop the worsening climate crisis and the mass extinction that is happening through catastrophic biodiversity loss, we need to radically shift how we live on our Earth. Technology alone is not going to solve the root causes of our sustainability crisis. A much deeper shift is needed, for which indigenous wisdom has much to offer.
The sustainability crisis is a direct reflection of the extent to which we have grown disconnected from the natural world, and the evolutionary process of life. Many people do not feel whole, and struggle to experience a sense of peace in societies that seek to divide, extract, and fragment who we innately are. Trapped in social, economic, and political systems that do not intrinsically contribute to our quality of life, or our intrinsic worth. It's not surprising that so many people burn-out in systems and cultures that compromise our Oneness with life.
The pressures of the old paradigm economic dream of 'progress,’ comes with a huge shadow-side, which is becoming increasingly unbearable. Living in societies that are run by mechanical clock-time, locked into a rat race of always seeking more and never feeling good enough, takes a huge toll on our natural world and our psyches. This dream of modern progress is, in fact, rather like a nightmare.
Life is not linear; much of what we aim to achieve through this narrow definition of economic ‘progress’ has little meaning in the bigger context of life. Worse, this artificial progress comes at the expense of so many lives that are sacrificed for our pursuits of the so called ‘better life’.
This false ‘progress’ cannot fill our hearts with the sense of home and belonging that comes from realising our communion with life and Nature.
When faced with problems, we tend to look for new technologies to save us. Yet, this is precisely how we got trapped in this loop that only takes us further away from the inner solutions. Perhaps our challenge today is to stop looking outside, and instead connect with the wisdom of life from within, for the solutions we seek.
Through this article I will share some of the indigenous wisdom teachings that I received from one of the oldest continuous living cultures: the Australian Aborigines. I had the great fortune to learn from them and their wisdom during my eight years of living in Australia, from 1998-2006. Their wisdom continues to guide my life and work today, and filled me with a profound sense of acceptance and belonging to life. It strengthened my sense of humanity and purpose, and helped me stay true to myself and my direct relationship with life and our Earth.
The solutions we seek are already within us, which are also medicines for our souls. To access these inner solutions we need to return to our connectedness with Nature and life. We tend only to care for the worlds we feel part of. Yet, how can we expect people to care for our natural world, if we don’t experience our belonging and kinship with Nature?
The Elders shared with me that they understood long ago that their purpose was to keep these ancient wisdoms alive, not just for their community, but also for humanity as a whole. Knowing that one day people from all over the world would look for these wisdoms to regain their own roots to life, and Mother Earth.
Uncle Bob Randall, a former Yankunytjatjara Elder and Custodian of the Uluru Sacred Heritage, explains in this video what living from unconditional love with responsibility means to him.
“The purpose of being on this Earth plane it to be of service to all that will be. Be willing to care for all things equally.” ~ Uncle Bob Randall
Uncle Bob Randall also explains how Kanyini is based on four dimensions of aboriginal life, based on four universal principles:
- Ngura– A sense of belonging to home and Land.
- Walytja – Family connecting with life.
- Kurunpa– Psyche, Spirit or Soul.
- Tjukurrpa – Creation period, also called the Dreamtime, and the right way to live.
The principle of Ngura reminds us of our innate belonging to life as a whole. How we are nature, we are life, and we belong to the Land that grows us up. Land is alive, as a being, offering us a home in the natural world for growing our humanity in community with life and each other.
When we can no longer experience the principle of Ngura, we'll feel alienated, isolated, and disconnected from the larger realities of life. We then no longer feel at home within ourselves and the natural world. Modern societies tend only to measure our worth in terms of what we can produce and achieve, and not by who we intrinsically are. This undermines the principle of Ngura; our sense so belonging to the Land, and our sense of being at home in life.
One of their Elders explained to me how many of the ‘modern’ mental diseases and physical illnesses were uncommon to them in their traditional lives. He explained how for him all these diseases result from the disruptions of "oursness;" our disconnection from life as family.
The principle of Walytja, reminds us that when our sense of kinship with life erodes, we lose our sense of connectedness and relatedness. This limits our capacity to receive the spiritual nourishment from the Land, which is so much more than a physical place. Land is an entire ecology of being.
The principle of Kurunpa refers to psyche, spirit and soul; our spiritual nature and spiritual essence. Kurunpa reminds us of our spiritual connection with life and each other, and how we can draw deeply from the living wisdoms of Nature that can guide us through the darkest of times. When we experience life as family, irrespective of whether we are living in Nature or in the city, our hearts are sustained from a deep and unconditional love that is always present.
When we only connect with life materially, we block ourselves from receiving and experiencing this unconditional love. We are not machines, we are life, we are nature. By connecting with ourselves, life, and each other through Kurumpa (our timeless spiritual essence), we naturally start to experience a deep connectedness with life as a whole. Without this inner connectedness we may feel lost, lonely, and like our lives don't matter.
The more we relate to each other from the larger spiritual realities that connect us, the more we deepen our wholeness. When, instead, we reduce Nature to a resource for owning and consuming, we also reduce ourselves. Reductionism leaves no space for a sense of sacredness, and no gratitude for all our relations, including the animals, plants, trees, and insects with whom we share our Earth.
When we live from Kanyini, with gratitude and enormous caring for all our relations, we stop being consumers. Instead, we then learn to honour each and every one of us for our intrinsic worth. By appreciating the consciousness and spiritual essence of life, we discover how to live in right relationship with the wisdom that sustains us. Through gratitude and appreciation for the gift of life, we return to our innate wholeness and unity. This is the nourishment we need for human flourishing.
Kanyini also reminds us how there is nothing we need to do, or prove, for gaining acceptance from this unconditional love that is ever present. Each day life offers us new opportunities for entering into relationship through unconditional love with responsibility. The power of love is part of life, and part of consciousness. Love as fundamental reality is never withheld from us. Even when we move astray or may feel like we're losing our way, love remains ever present and continues to embrace us unconditionally.
The aboriginal Elders taught me that this deeper understanding about psyche, spirit and soul comes from Tjukurrpa. In English, Tjukurrpa has been translated as the Dreamtime, which relates how the process of creation is ongoing and multi-dimensional. Based on sacred principles and universal laws that extend throughout space and time, and originate from the Dreamtime dimensions that precede space and time.
The principle of Tjukurrpa relates to the invisible world behind the material Universe. From this world of consciousness comes the understanding of the right way to live, in accordance with universal laws and principles. The Elders also shared with me how this sacred knowledge has been passed on to them as spiritual powers, transmitted from the ancestral Creator Beings of the Dreamtime, whose role is to guide humanity in becoming custodians of life.
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home. ” ~ Aboriginal Proverb
SACRED LAW AND UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES
In our modern societies, the concept of sacred law, right relationship, and the right way to live is rarely taught or transmitted to our children. Accordingly, many people do not know how to live their lives from universal principles. Whether we believe in Tjukurrpa, or not, the effects of our actions on the web of life, and our own sense of happiness and purpose, is real. By becoming aware of these universal principles we can learn how to balance, heal, and restore our sense of inner worth, and communion with life as a whole.
The universal principles that are expressed through Kanyini can be observed and experienced by becoming attentive to this. Start by listening closely to Nature with an open mind and the softest part of your heart. Become aware of the patterns that connect us. Allow your heart to guide you. Trust in your own direct and innate intuitive knowing. These universal principles are not created by anyone, they form part of the very fabric of reality itself.
Become aware of your whole self; your feelings, thoughts, dreams, desires, and the quiet voice within. The spiritual presence within and all around you. You are all that.
Release and dissolve the perceptions and beliefs that cause division, duality, and fragmentation. Enter into the wholeness that is part of the fundamental reality of life. We live in a whole and undividable Universe.
By making time and inner space for life as sacred, through gentle observations and deep listening, you become a living expression of Kanyini.
DEEP LISTENING AND QUIET STILL AWARENESS
The following video from Aboriginal Elder Miriam Rose Ungunmeer introduces the practice of Dadirri, which translates as, “inner deep listening and quiet still awareness”. This practice can help us become attentive to the universal principles and restore our connectedness with Nature.
“Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words.” ~ Miriam Rose Ungunmeer
We all want to experience happiness, fulfilment and balance. The practice of Kanyini and Dadirri remind us how the healing of our world begins within, and extends relationally. By growing our love from within, we can then extend this to others.
These living wisdom practices also remind us to honour the natural life cycles and rhythms, which many people have lost touch with through their busy and hectic lives. We are nature too, our bodies know how to heal and regenerate when given the support. Your body will tell you when you need to rest, or integrate after receiving too much information, or go for a walk to balance yourself.
In the practice of Kanyini, love with responsibility, our true human potential will blossom as a living relationship of deep and unconditional caring. You already are a custodian, namely for your life as an an expression of the greater wholeness to which we all belong.
By caring deeply and equally for all beings, including ourselves, we begin to heal the inner and outer divisions, and learn how to co-create a thriving world that is home for all.
CUSTODIANSHIP – CARING FOR OUR WORLD
Kanyini provides us clear guidelines for how to make our love active and concrete. First of all by accepting that our life is given to us in custodianship, as Caretakers. We do not own life and we never know when our earthly life will complete.
Once we have learned to care for ourselves, and share that unconditional love with others, we are better able to practice custodianship for our planet and life as a whole. Caring for each other grounds us in the here and now, and restores our connectedness with each other and our natural world.
“We are only Caretakers for our time on this Earth, for our children’s children who are going to come after us. We are not the owners, we are the carers, that is the law of survival for every single one of us. Care for everything, care for each other. When we start caring for what needs caring for, which is Mother Earth, our waterways, our environment, our air, .. we got a lot to do. We are caretakers for Mother Earth. Let’s care, let us be that. Knowing it is for our children’ s children’s children, and not for us to abuse.” ~ Uncle Bob Randall
This life is given to us in trust. Perhaps the question is, can we trust ourselves to use it for the good of the whole? Can we trust ourselves with the creative power that is life? Perhaps the humble answer to this question is: yes, sometimes, yet not always.
With our creative power also comes the responsibility of choice, and free will, which does not imply doing whatever we want. It implies taking responsibility for the development of our consciousness; body, mind, and spirit. Learning how to use our creative power wisely and compassionately is an ongoing learning process. Practicing Kanyini can help us in that process.
Kanyini, to me, means honouring my life as a gift, with deep appreciation for my place, purpose, and belonging within the larger ecology of life. To live with care for all that's been given to me in trust, as a custodian. By growing my contributions for a more beautiful world through the power of love with responsibility. To become Kanyini.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT & GRATITUDE
With deep thanks to Uncle Bob and the Custodians of the Living Wisdoms, for all you taught me and for how you continue to remind and guide me in the unfolding of my human life.
With warm thanks to Anne-Marie LaMonde and Christopher Chase for your valuable feedback and support for this article.
To all of you who are reading this, I hope these indigenous wisdom teachings will inspire and support you as much as they have for me. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and please feel free to share it further.
Updated October 2022, based on an earlier version that was first published in 2017, via UPLIFT Connect.