Stewardship for our collective wellbeing

Whole Self development through connectedness with Life and each other, is not encouraged by our conventional educational, economic and political systems. Major changes are required in each of these systems to develop the competencies for becoming Stewards for our Collective and Planetary Wellbeing. My recent conversation with Prof Alexander Laszlo, Prof Pavel Luksha, and Prof Ivan Ninenko as part of their Global Education Futures (GEF) Report “A Vision of Societal Transformation through Educational Ecosystems for the 21st Century, puts this further into perspective. Herewith a video with transcript from a shorter section of this GEF interview that relates directly to this challenge and requirement for our conscious evolution now. Click here to read and download the full Report.

“We are interrelated and interconnected in many more ways than we thought. By the very nature of the problem that we have created, we have the greatest incentive for our conscious evolution, to not learn ‘by default’ but to learn consciously. If we look all the way back to the tribe. We grew from that wholeness relationship, then we lost it because we changed our relationship with the land, we started to adjust the land to our needs, and we divided. As a humanity we broke apart. That model came to its very limits.

Now out of this problem we have created the seed for our own awakening as a species that now forces us to see ourselves as connected…We have in this huge challenge a tremendous opportunity. We would never have consciously embraced, or even started to understand that opportunity, had we not reached the limits, because we need an incentive…

Our healing is in the reconnection and alignment of our communication. Then we start to see that the inner process and the healing, and the outer process as a species is the same process. Sustainability can be the starting point to that conversation, but it cannot take us all the way. It can provide the context for why that conversation is required. Then the conversation around our flourishing and thriveability takes us to the next step of the journey.”


In order to make the transition from Sustainability to Thriveability we also need to re-envision our leadership and governance models. The traditional leadership model cannot take us there. Only a deep sense of stewardship and custodianship for the good of the whole, can prepare us for this journey. Some of us have already embarked on this journey. The indigenous models of governance through council and preparedness for collective responsibility through Custodianship training is more important now than ever before. This video below from the GEF Interview emphasis the responsibilities and consciousness that go with Stewardship and Custodianship.

“As Stewards and Custodians we stand in the care for the emergence as well as the care for what is dying. We help the transitioning of that energy and those investments also into what is emerging.” ~ Anneloes Smitsman


As is mentioned in the GEF interview [17:40min]: “If we are looking at eco-system design and the kind of feedback loop systems that we see, and the balancing that we see, then we need to have a completely different idea of progress. With our lens of progress, and this comes back to how we perceive time, there are always these linear functions and then there is exponential growth. We have on the basis of that designed our evaluation, testing, assessment, bonus and performance systems. What is expected is always extra, extra, extra (more and better) until you get burnout. Exponential growth leads to exponential decline.

It is like we build into the system a crash. And now we are surprised that we are standing with our back against the wall and we have gone over the critical boundaries of many of the most vital systems on Earth. It comes back to that fundamentally: We have to re-envision how we look at progress and development. And also to understand that not all learning leads to development.

We talk a lot about progress in learning but does it lead to truly holistic human development? Do we understand development? Then maybe if we still as human beings have this desire for this expansion, expand in your wisdom, expand in your care, in your consciousness. Feel the growth impulse there, so that we don’t have to expand materialistically in the same ways that we have.

Furthermore, for the indigenous communities the incentive to learn and develop new skills had directly to do with how they were living in their environment [28:52min]: “The impulse for that learning and their development is contextual, always in dialogue with place, directly meaningful to where they are.” This is one of the key principles for our Education for Sustainability programme.

In our Self guided learning processes, what is the impulse to that learning, and what is the feedback to that learning process? If this is decoupled from the living systems that we are part of, which is the problem of our sustainability and why we have not been able to create education for sustainability, then we need to ask ourselves: What is the Self that is learning?.. What is expected of that Self, and which part of your Self do you bring forth?


“It is my experience that the world itself has a role to play in our liberation. Its very pressures, pains, and risks can wake us up, release us from the bonds of ego and guide us home to our vast, true nature. For some of us, our love of the world is so passionate that we cannot ask it to wait until we are enlightened.” ~ Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self

Empathy informs us and empathy takes us out of ‘me-ness’ and brings us back to “oursness“. The question regarding our empathic abilities, is what do I do with what I have been informed by? Learning is a process of integrating, differentiating, synthesising, and responding to the various sources of information that we are in relationship with. Development happens in the way that we can apply this and learn from further feedback in the process of our application.

With this in mind, let us look deeper at empathy with regards to how this informs us and what information we focus-in on in a way that is empowering for ourselves and those we are in relationship with. The following video and transcript below, from the larger GEF interview explores some of these dimensions about empathy and our application for healing and empowerment.

Encouraging empathy enhances sensitivity. Yet heightened and activated sensitivity without being able to do something about it at in a meaningful way can create problems. If you ‘suffer with’ and you don’t feel there is anything you can do about it, it can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. And the protection mechanism of that emotion often is cynicism.

We need to, in a systemic way, have the understanding that if we are stimulating this ability in a human being, yet if it cannot find its right expression in the relationship and interactions and in meaningful action, and in a way that we can also feel we can help create those changes that we feel is necessary, then it becomes blocked energy. The healthy relationship of empathy is when you feel the emotion of the other person to then focus on their direct connection with Life. If you do that you empower, otherwise you ‘take on’.. Focus on the Light in them.

Sometimes the person does not know how to connect with their Wisdom. Yet just because the person does not know how to connect with that, does not mean it is not there. If we remind them and guide them back to their own Wisdom, they reconnect. If we take over and then try to provide solutions ‘for’ then we take them away from themselves, and that does not empower.

Empathy is an ability, but you need to have an understanding for the purpose of that ability. How can you apply that sensitivity and empathy ability in a purposeful way that it makes the person stronger in themselves, in their authentic Self and their own resourcefulness. When I see a person in crisis I see at the same time a butterfly. When I see a breakdown I see also the possibility for a breakthrough. When we empathise it is important that we don’t only tune into what is now the phenomenal world, go deeper than that, to the process behind it. What rises up in the conscious mind for the person in all kinds of emotional states, may also be a flushing out. Behind that is a deeper Wisdom process.

When you keep your focus and awareness on that, somehow the other person resonates back into that Wisdom as well. What happens for people then, is that they come back to their body and the centre of their being. How you use that empathy, what you focus in on, what you give direction to, what you energise by your attention is essential to the outcome, and therefore we need to be so aware of what we are projecting. 


Life knows how to transform and transmute it, because energy likes to come back into the wholeness naturally. It knows how to restore itself.

To see the full interview, click here.

Author: Anneloes Smitsman – CEO & Founder of EARTHwise Centre.
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