The Ecology of Personal Growth

The idea of ecology is that we are part of a constantly interconnected living system. As individuals, we evolve and transform together.

Yet we do commonly believe in our isolation, in lives uniquely separate from all others. We have our own thoughts and feelings, our own identities — or at least we think and feel and believe it is so. And this is especially so in the realm of “leading,” where the common definitions frequently imply something that comes out of a single person as an influencer of others. Perhaps, in truth, what we mean by leading is only a slight elevation of consciousness in a particular direction, a negotiation with a desirable future, a single bird’s heading that in some small way influences the larger flock. “Oh yeah,” we say. “Let’s go that way.”


If an ecology of personal growth exists, it means:

1) we cannot disentangle our own evolution as individuals from one another or from the evolution of humanity itself;

2) we learn as flocks, as tribes and societies, not just as individuals; and not only as flocks, but as single flocks among others of many kinds in a deeply diverse world;

3) we learn with the support and also the press of others;

4) we become who we are in the context of some type of emergence, personal and group and environmental in nature.

What might you say that process of emergence is for you, knowing that it is already in you?


Deep in this ecology of personal growth is the notion that we teach each other what we most need to learn personally; that we are looking for ways beyond own known edges; that we want, finally, to understand how we collude in the problems we say we want to solve and the shadows we create. Whether we say so or not, there is a spiritual side to all this, a soulful side to our learning. After all, time is running out. We have our mortality to consider.

Mortality and change and the cycles of happiness and pain we see within our lives — they, too, are all part of the ecology of growth. We stand between what we know and what we don’t, bringing back whatever messages we find from the deeps that are just beyond us.

One other piece, vital I think, among the many — is vision. In the primitive sense, seeing, discerning what we can be and what I can be and must be as a path of heart, a thread of being to follow.

And the last piece, an opportunity, the word from Latin, opportunus, from ob- “in the direction of” plus portus “harbor,” originally describing the wind driving toward the harbor, toward home.

We must feel that opportunity in our bones.


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  • There’s David Whyte, a personal favorite…and right up there close by is Dan Oestreich. (grins)

    I absolutely LOVE and look forward to each one of your posts, no matter how long of a gap there is between, it doesn’t matter.

    They always seem to settle right in comfortably; seep right down into the heart and soul of my bones as it rings out and speaks of a dimension of truth that I can easily relate to and understand. Without having to defend against it. (and that’s precisely one of the qualities I love about David Whyte’s writing as well…)

    Ok…all that very sincere flattery dished out. I have one word to say about the whole thing.


    And perhaps to echo the idea of your own words that resonate with my own..

    We ALL contribute our essence and energies to the collective nature of things. When it’s time for the flute to play a solo piece, it does when the call and need arises, and when done, settles back into the harmony in time with the rest of the orchestra. The drums will not whistle like the flutes or sing like the keeps the rhythm and plays the beat in time to the collective tune. Speeding up and slowing down when needed. No two instruments are alike. And like us, we can each learn to play in harmony.

    Conflicts are often when we’re merely playing out of tune for whatever reason.

    Thanks again for another subtly powerful post.

  • […] Despite the common belief in our separation, we evolve and transform together.  […]

  • Dear Samantha~

    Yes, and I love the comments your share! In this case the image of the orchestra is particularly striking. I’ve had some very special experiences with just this effect of one “instrument” rising for a moment and then returning back to an ongoing harmony. This is such a lovely way to say it. Thank you!


  • Dan,

    Your writing is always tremendous, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. I am grateful our paths have crossed.

    The ecology we face seems to more of a choice than a necessity. In reality, it is both. There are some changes that happen, and we may not even notice them. Others will though. In other times, we need to change, and we choose not to. This creates an interesting force against nature, which isn’t healthy for anyone.

    We need to adapt and learn and, most importantly, grow. This is our human responsibility.

    Thank you.


  • Dear Jon~

    I, too, am grateful our paths have crossed and I greatly admire your work. Your point about choice and necessity is such a good one.

    A great deal of energy can be invested in staying the same — and trying to defend that choice. Although surely there are times when it is important to hold to our boundaries, over time we also need a certain permeability — the ability to let others in, to let the environment in. Sometimes this is a basic as giving ourselves permission to follow our own path of learning and desired growth. I’ve encountered many who thought they needed to wall out others when in truth what they accomplished was only to wall out the persons they wished to become.

    Thank you so much, Jon!


  • Gurmeet Singh Pawar wrote:

    Hi Dan,

    It’s a lovely post as usual.
    There is a concept of wholeness or oneness which describes what you say. I think the idea of ‘ME’ arises due to the existence of consciousness among us. If I am conscious of myself, how can I not exist and if I exist then how it can be ONE. That’s the beauty of contradiction or duality, if you choose one side the other side will reveal itself.

    Oneness lies beyond duality, beyond contradiction. There is a concept in Indian Philosophy called ‘Shunya’ which tries to explain this contradiction.

    By Shunya, people mean the Reality which ultimately transcends existence, non-existence, both and neither. Thus Shunya essentially means indescribable. Shunya, as is gravely misunderstood, is not void. On the other hand, it is DEVOID.

    Being in the state of devoid & doing Karma is what can open you to new understanding.

    Do you have diverse thoughts in your head sometimes; does one thought say to do one thing & another thought asks to do other. Are these two different entities or part of you that is β€˜ONE’?

    Thanks for the lovely post.

    Have a great day ahead.

  • Dear Gurmeet~

    Thank you for this rich comment and my apologies for the delay in responding!

    I had never heard of Shunya and when I looked it up on the net I found very little. Of course that would be quite appropriate to its nature, would it not? Some comments about nested Subtle Organizing Energy Fields (SOEF’s) on the way back toward Zero.

    In this and other comments, Gurmeet, am I sensing your own experience of non-dualistic states?

    Every once in awhile — for example watching a leaf flutter down from a branch to a stream that carries it away, I touch a sense of deeper transience. Perhaps as a poet that is as close as I will get.

    It’s such a treat to find your comments here!

    All the best to you!

  • Gurmeet Singh Pawar wrote:

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for your kind words & no need for any apologies at all.

    Frankly I do not know how to answer your question, though I did made futile effort to think of something. πŸ˜€
    There is a story that goes; once Baba Bulleh Shah was farming his land & a man with him asked why it is difficult to find GOD. He replied, β€œO bulleya, how difficult it is to find God, pull it from here & sow it there.”

    About my understanding of ‘Shunya’; it is limited to single page of blog I read while writing a comment here apart from my own sense & interpretation of it. You can check the page here,

    Being scientific illiterate, I might not be much help in understanding SOEF’s, though they do seem to talk on similar lines.

    And that is quite interesting, we can say same thing but in different languages based on how our brain associates certain sounds & alphabets with meanings. And since it’s uncommon for us to question our brain associations, we tend to reject, accept, debate or judge thoughts and ideas spoken albeit differently.

    Thanks for your revert & beautiful post.

    Have a nice day ahead πŸ™‚

  • Thank YOU, Gurmeet. As to that leaf I mentioned, here is a poem I wrote many years ago…


    It fell
    so suddenly.
    One moment
    the wind
    tugged against it,
    a small flag attached
    to a strong limb,
    the next it fell
    fluttering away,
    a terrible loss.
    Perhaps yes perhaps
    but freely now
    heading toward
    it falls
    to the river
    and touches down,
    one side
    to face the dark waters
    swiftly moving,
    one upturned
    to the light
    and the fragrances
    of the world.
    It floats
    so quickly away
    in the current,
    through the rocks
    lightly around,
    toward some
    or dawn,
    its being
    only this
    one true love,

    All the best

  • Gurmeet Singh Pawar wrote:

    That is a lovely poem Dan, thanks for sharing it.

    Have a great day πŸ™‚

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