• Kristyn Emmer

Giving & Sustaining Life: The Art of Regenerative Practices

Updated: May 7, 2020

Regenerative practices:  These are the rhythms we engage in that, over time, give and sustain abundant life, and they come in so many forms. Physical. Spiritual. Environmental. In our homes. At the store. With our people. Any thing we do or any choice we make that has life at the center of it from conception to death, from beginning to end, within a complete cycle, makes up a regenerative practice.

It’s in the name. Re-, meaning again and again. And generative meaning to create. It’s a word that asks how we propel what we do daily forward and ultimately asks us how we leave the state of things for generations to come with what we have inherited from the past.

Regenerative practices show up in a million little ways - think about regenerative relationships, regenerative agriculture and eating, regenerative sleep and movement and spirituality, regenerative consumerism and regenerative medicine. We think this lifestyle is so important that we are going to dig a little deeper on some of what we think are the core principles to regenerative practices.

We’ve already talked about how regenerative practices are the things we do and decisions we make that bring life and sustain it. We also talked about how they show up in every nook and cranny of our lives if we do the hard, courageous work to look for it. So we are going to start by  talking about our position within these daily choices.

Regenerative practices require us to look beyond ourselves, viewing our position as a crux between the past and the future. The choices we make today, whether it’s in what we consume or what we buy or what we do, can actually alter history and change the course of our families, communities, and world. It sounds idealistic, sure. But actually it’s a call to responsibility in the agency, wisdom, and freedom we have as humankind.

To emphasize this point, let’s take a look at the interesting work of epigenetics. Essentially, epigenetics is all about the inherited genes we receive from generation’s past, and the most impressive part of epigenetics says that we are not just victims of what we have inherited. We -- through our daily lifestyle choices in what we eat, how much we sleep, the ways we move, how we practices resilience -- can alter our gene expression which is then passed on to future generations. That, my friends, is not only freedom work, but it’s also justice work, and that is exactly what we talk about when we talk about regenerative practices.

Regenerative practices ask us to be mindful decision makers, and oftentimes that means we are invited to take a more mindful look at our values behind how and why we make those decisions. Often it can feel like a rub. It can feel uncomfortable. It can cause us to get frustrated for reasons unclear.

One practice that has been saving me lately has been being a curious observer of the emotions I feel about any particular happening. Instead of judging it (“I shouldn’t feel angry right now.”) or acting on it immediately, I have been trying to first name what is it and ask what it’s trying to tell me. And what I’ve found is that when I’m feeling conflicted, anxious, or defensive, often times it’s because I’m faced with something that rubs up against my value system, or perhaps it’s challenging the gap between my values and my actions.

Regenerative practices have the potential to do the same. So much of our lives right now are a one time use, just get through it, it’s only for a little while kinds of actions. And we can feel uneasy about it because either it’s against our propensity towards life and renewal or it it is asking us to pivot from comfort and familiarity. In any case, though, it asks us to do the hard work of unearthing the values behind our actions. Am I just getting by? Do I feel frustrated, anxious, lonely, defensive? Why?

Regeneration not only sustains life but it actually heals broken systems and broken places. Let’s, for example, take a look at how we consume food. When we as consumers buy non-organic, processed foods, there are serious negative implications on all sides of the equations. This type of consumption pushes conventional farming, which leaves our land depleted of its rich gifts for us, and it leaves farmers to work with seriously dangerous chemicals. And the on the other side, eating and consuming in this way puts a significant burden on people later in life and also on healthcare systems to care for the fallout of chemical saturated, nutrient-weak foods for years and years.

However, when we consume and buy organic, minimally processed foods, we sustain life in the soil, we actually care for the health of farmers, and we significantly increase our community quality of life in the long term. Something like regenerative consumerism gives us a beautiful picture of broken systems mended and hurting people healed. This, ym friends, is something we have a choice on today.

The difficult part about acting on the regenerative practices in our lives is because they require us to look beyond ourselves. They often brush up against our rugged individualism and ask for a more gentle collectivist mindset.

Regenerative practices are inherently future-minded which means that the upfront cost to our wallets, our pride, our comfort feels weighty and maybe excessive. They feel costly because they are - they are radically sacrificial. But the upside-down nature of regenerative practices means that in the sacrifice of our time and treasure and talent, there is return. It’s maybe not exceedingly abundant in our lifetimes, but they are how we stand our ground in our place in history. The move to regenerative practices is how we play our role in keeping humanity moving forward and to ensure that there’s enough to go around for the next person in line.

Today, though, we do have returns. They’re in our peace, in reconciling relationships with people and with the earth, in breaking the generational patterns we carry with us. This is big work, it’s small work, and it’s the absolutely necessary work we need to do in this relentless pursuit of wholeness.

Lastly, we look at our necessary posture towards regenerative practices, which can be summed up into one very important word: gratitude. Gratitude, meaning saying thanks for a gift that was given to us and in this case, continues to give. That’s what regenerative practices do for us - they provide a reciprocal relationship that sustains our being and livelihood. When we say thanks with an attitude and a posture of deep gratitude, we begin to see that we are part of something bigger, part of the purpose in making choices that continue to move our humanity forward in the course of history. In this, we move from becoming stewards of our resources rather than owners of it. This is an important job and, surprisingly isn’t full of shame, guilt, or unnecessary striving, but one that is an invitation into health, wholeness, and right relationship.

We know for sure that we aren’t over with regenerative practices - those choices we make daily that give and sustain life. We’ve talked all about what they are, how we make choices to build into regenerative practices, and we’ve also talked about the cost of them, just to name a few. It’s our way to not only life but sustained health, and that’s what we’re about here.

So we would ask you this: What are your regenerative practices?

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