Research & Writing

Ecology, Learning & the Subconscious

The more I learn, grow, develop new skills, reach out to new groups, try to engage creative social change, I’m consistently reminded that most of our thinking and decision making is driven by unconscious processes. (One of the articulations of this is Buddha’s metaphor of the Elephant and the Rider—where the rational, conscious mind is the rider, and the elephant, the subconscious. A crude metaphor, yes. But the take-away is valuable—where the elephant goes, so does the rider. It’s why marketers, politicians, and anyone else that tries to persuade does so through engaging your deeper emotional being, despite their methods appearing so artless to our neocortex.) And I think this is a source of a lot of resistance to creative change and evoluation in groups, communities, and societies.

I was at mycology seminar this past weekend, and spent a minute or two considering ecological innovation in leading the way for subconscious thought transformation. The developments in mycology today are jaw-dropping—medicinal mushrooms and their ability to support immune system adaptation, mycelium to filter agricultural waste and water-born contaminants, bioremediation of petrochemicals & nuclear waste, mycopesticides. And I’m thrilled to be working so closely with them.

These technologies are certainly stunning in their ingenuity and simplicity. They’re truly elegant designs and disruptive innovations. But what’s even more interesting is the application of mycological metaphors to systemic change. Social networks as hyphal networks, mycelium as a neurological network of nature, fungi as transformers/decomposing forces, fungi as connective tissue of the Earth. In a historically mycophobic society, this heralds a shift in consciousness. In a society who hasn’t previously really understood or embraced the fungal realm, it’s now picking up and revolutionizing diverse industries, fields of study and scientific inquiry.

I think a big reason for this is the deep knowledge gained from new aspect of the ecosystem, and this is spurring a change in those subconscious thought patterns. Can you imagine the potential for our evolution if we embrace the sheer power of the life forms of our biosphere, or the jewels inherent in our interspecies relationships? We have still only touched the tip of the iceberg of knowing and relating to our planet. What rich insights and revolutionary metaphors await us? Those at the forefront—the herbalists, permaculturists, artists, farmers, community organizers, educators, scientists, medicine carriers, spiritual leaders—can engage one another to inspire generational impact that can ultimately open doors we never knew existed.

It’s right under our nose and deep in the Center of the Earth—all at the same time. Our work with ecology can and will change our psychologies.

About Author

Renée A. Davis MA RH is a designer and educator in botanical and mycological medicine. Her training began at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York City and concluded in biomedical sciences at the University of Washington. She currently directs research and development for a nutraceutical mushroom company in the Pacific Northwest.

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