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Deb Ozarko: Beyond Hope


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Nuggets From Deb Ozarko's Call

Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Deb Ozarko.

Deb Ozarko is a pioneer in the world of “collapse awareness,” seeking to understand the global predicament of our civilization. Her path of heartful engagement with the very real possibility of civilizational collapse led her to write Beyond Hope: Letting Go of a World in Collapse. Deb’s journey has taken her through powerful activism work as a vegan advocate, intense physical performance as a tri-athlete, and experiments with stepping back from civilizational life. Now her work is more focused on living a meaningful life in a context where she believes our collective story is breaking apart in coming years and decades. As she writes: "As a passionate activist for animals, the Earth and accelerated Soul evolution, I’ve dedicated my life to ensuring that there are no wasted moments. This has taught me the delicate balance between being and doing. My mission is to inspire simplicity, kindness, authentic expression, and meaning outside of the stifling confines of today’s dysfunctional, distracted … and less face it, insane cultural mindset. By shifting the paradigm from head to heart we can live a more passionate and compassionate life that excludes no living being. In the end, all you really need to know is that I give a damn. About life. About love. About me. About you. … oh ya, and I really love to dance."

Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me (direct excerpts from the transcript follow) ...

  • Human extinction is imminent and I can’t see us making it to 2030.
  • You have to be realistic. And being realistic as far as I’m concerned means acceptance. I can totally understand that spectrum because I was on it too. I could not let this in because it is so painful. And we are a pain adverse, death phobic culture. Pain and death, wow! When we have to face that, that is pretty scary head on. So of course people are going to deny it…What I feel is more dangerous is denying what is right before our eyes and continuing to push ourselves through this civilization that is killing us and killing everything around us.
  • So when I reached a place of acceptance, it radically changed my life. And that doesn’t mean I’m not exempt from grief. But what it has done is that it has given me way more presence… It wasn’t until I allowed the collapse in that I was able to really understand viscerally what presence really is. And I haven’t nailed it, but I can honestly say that I’m living way more presently than I ever have. The way I look at it is that all those people who are saying all those things are denying the fullness of life.
  • There is so much fear. That is the problem. We are a species that has been overrun by fear. We have denied our deeper, internal connection to the point that we don’t even recognize that we have it…When we deny that internal connection, then we are going to be buying into all these narratives that distance us from our inner world more and more and more.
  • There is so much fear. That is the problem. We are a species that has been overrun by fear. We have denied our deeper, internal connection to the point that we don’t even recognize that we have it…When we deny that internal connection, then we are going to be buying into all these narratives that distance us from our inner world more and more and more.
  • Grief is has been and is still my biggest teacher, healer, catalyst, guru. It has a feral nature to it. There is no controlling it. It has a mind of its own. I wrote a whole chapter on grief in Beyond Hope. You can’t grieve if you can’t love. So for me they are just opposite sides of the same coin. So grief always, as painful as it is, it always cracks me open. Any belief systems that I still hold onto, any realities that I still hold onto that aren’t serving me anymore, grief in its feral quality always cracks me open to deeper compassion, deeper love and a greater connection. Again, we live in a grief phobic culture because grief is pain. And there is no doubt about it, it is very, very painful. I can honestly say that there is not a day that goes by without tears for me. And it is not like I live my life as a sad person, because I don’t. Like I love life, and I feel a lot of joy. What it means is that I allow the movement of every moment of undulating, organic and ever-present emotion to pass through me at all times. I also know that when there is tears that my heart and my mind are united. I am an advocate for grief.
  • When we are expressing from our heart, how can it be of anything but service. As far as I’m concerned, when we are deeply connected to our hearts, our intuition, our internal selves, it leads us towards a means of self expression that touches someone else and penetrates the mask, in our masked reality, that they are wearing. I know that my authenticity touches other people…Our authenticity gives others permission to be themselves. When they are themselves they are more open to exploring different ways of being, different ways of thinking.
  • What I realized in my activism and “trying to save the world” is that there is a real arrogance to that. I don’t do well with arrogance. So when I recognize that in myself…the world doesn’t need to be saved. The world just needs for us to be ourselves. It needs for us to live the way we were always meant to live—connected to ourselves first, and in connecting to ourselves first, then we are connected to everything. But is this separation that happens right from the get go. We are taught that animals are lesser than. We are taught that the natural world is a resource…None of that is connected to the deeper truth of who and what we are.
  • Presence is the fresh air beyond hope. I was one of these people who was clinging to hope like a lifeline, because I could not not hope. There was nothing beyond hope for me until I reached that level of acceptance. Let me just back up here. So as far as I’m concerned, hope prevents the presence infused state of acceptance. There is no way to accept the reality of the predicament we are living in if we are hoping for something different. As far as I’m concerned, hope and acceptance cannot co-exist together. They just cancel each other out. Because hope is future paced, but it is also based on the foundation of a past awareness…I see hope as a motivator for the continuation of a different version of what is already familiar.
  • "Breakdown always precedes breakthrough.” Barbara Marx Hubbard
  • Maybe we are about to become the fertile compost for something far more beautiful to emerge. When I completely remove myself from this narrative and I look at the bigger picture and then I tap into the love that I have for life, then I’m willing to be sacrificed for something more beautiful to emerge from this.
  • Just be yourself. Everybody. That is it. Just be yourself. Be unapologetic in it. Don’t edit yourself. Just be yourself. Can you imagine a world of people who were themselves and didn’t follow the cultural narrative and get caught up in the fears and all the success and all that stuff? If we were all just ourselves and we just lived authentically the way we were meant to be living. Knowing that we still have to put a roof over our head and food on our table, but if we wove our deep authenticity within that narrative that is crumbling, it would be a very different world.
Excerpts from Transcript:
  • What I've recognized now and looking back at all of that really hardcore activism that I was involved in, is that it was a numbing mechanism for the pain in my heart because to resist what is just like the immense Goliath really amounted to just incremental steps forward and so many steps backward.
  • I can honestly say that every time I've screwed up in my life, it's because I have not trusted my intuition.
  • When people read what's … when they read or when we share our inner truth, people can see aspects of their own consciousness in our sharing our own truth. And so that, to me, I've recognized that that's a greater activism than anything I've ever done in any of my, in all of my life -- is just being myself and sharing it out loud.
  • Collapse is an opportunity for us to live differently. And if we choose to not live differently, then collapse is expedited and that's what's happening.
  • On acceptance: I think personally what I feel is more dangerous is denying what's right before our eyes, and continuing to push ourselves through this civilization that's killing us and killing everything around us. So when I reached a place of acceptance, it radically changed my life. And that doesn't mean I'm not exempt from grief. But what it's done is it's given me way more presence. So all of those spiritual traditions that talk about presence presence presence. Yeah, I get it on a cognitive level. But it wasn't until I allowed this collapse in that I was able to really understand viscerally what presence really is. And I haven't nailed it. But I can honestly say that I'm living way more presently than I ever have. So the way I look at it is that all of those people who say all of those things are denying the fullness of life.
  • On grief: I can honestly say that there's not a day that goes by without tears for me. And it's not like I live my life as a sad person because I don't. I love life and I feel a lot of joy. What it means is that I allow the movement of every moment of undulating organic and ever-present emotion to pass through me at all times. And I also know that when there's tears, that my heart and my mind are united. So I am an advocate for grief and I think that when a lot of people start touching on that grief, what generally comes up initially is anger. And that anger is something that pushes us towards activism.  I know that was it for me. I was a typical activist in that it was anger that was fueling me and inevitably just below the surface of my anger was a just an infinite wellspring of grief.  And so every now and then I allow that in. And now I just don't have any problems with it because it's not like I don't get angry. I do get angry. But I also know that that anger is usually just an indicator of grief.
  • On service, authenticity, and effortlessness:  Over the years, service meant something like an external action, something that I was doing to create change outside of me, that was what service meant for me. So whether it was activism or was volunteering -- you know, those are generally the first things that come up for service. And I still do. I'm still learning here at the local wildlife sanctuary because I love it, but now serve it for me. It means just being myself fully all the time. And it doesn't matter who it is -- just really being authentic. I honestly, I can't be anything but that anymore. And I've recognized that when I'm self-connected and I'm in service to myself, honoring myself in my full expression outwardly every single day, that's the greatest service that I can give you anybody. ... [J]ust me reaching out to [old friends after a break-up] was something that they needed as well. So I look at service a little bit differently right now. I look at it as even just this call that we're on right now. You're, you're doing a great service for me by asking me all of these beautiful immense questions. I love that. ... I'm not doing anything but being myself and you're not doing anything but being yourself as well. So there, and it's effortless. So for me, service now is effortless because it's all just about being myself and telling my truth and being unapologetic with it and graceful and loving at the same time.
    • Birju:  If someone said, “yeah, my idea of service is asking someone else for help, and then what came out of it was service.” That makes no sense in the dominant paradigm views that we are all imbued in. And as we step into these deeper places of really holding wonder, I hear you saying, “yeah, anything can be seen as service when it's manifested in this kind of way from the inside of my own authenticity.”
    • Deb: When we are expressing from our heart, how can it be anything but service? Right? Because as far as I'm concerned, when we're really deeply connected to our hearts or intuition or internal selves, it leads us towards a means of self expression that touches someone else and penetrates the wall of the mask -- what's in our mask really? -- that they're wearing. ... [J]ust our authenticity gives others permission to be themselves. And when they're themselves, then they're more open to exploring different ways of being different ways of thinking.
  • On authenticity and soul activism
    • Birju:  To me that's a really powerful thing to say, in the context that you're talking about here, that “there's a lot of folks I know who are out there trying to save the world with deep noble intentions but have this outcome in mind.” And there's this idea that, if we can't stop a collective breakdown, or even the possibility that a breakdown is happening, which a lot of people may have a hard time with that, that creates a lot of resistance. Whereas if we say, “yeah, that's happening and I don't need to save it. I'm just going to show up anyways, because how else am I going to show up? I'm going to show up armed with compassion, armed with wisdom.” I've heard you talk about this idea of being a soul activist. I'm curious if this connects to that, the word authenticity in the word of process orientation or non-outcome orientation?
    • Deb: what I recognized in my activism and in trying to save the world is that there's a real arrogance to that. And I don't do well with arrogance. And so when I recognize that in myself, it's like the world doesn't need to be saved. The world just needs for us to be ourselves. It needs for us to live the way we've always been meant to live -- connected to ourselves first. And in connecting to ourselves first, then we're connected to everything.
  • On acceptance of extinction and the evolutionary cycle: None of that [social conditioning] is really connected to the deeper truth of who and what we are as -- these energetic beings that are animating these corporeal flesh suits for a finite period of time. If we were, if we were actually to tap into that, why are we really here? The only answer that I come up with is to live fully -- not to get a job, it's not about getting a job and a career and getting married and blah blah, and doing all of that stuff. It's about being present in the moment and learning fully and recognizing that life is organic and life is undulating and life is always changing and that death is a natural extension of life. ... [I]t's hard watching trees with a ring around me and, and you know what?, reading the news about mass animal deaths. It's hard. It's really, really hard ‘cause I care and I love, and I also recognize that this is of the evolution of this planet. And I know I look at this from a consciousness perspective because I see the planet as being an organic living entity with its own consciousness as well. And so if my own consciousness can be more aligned with the consciousness of life, then I don't see the demise of all of this is a bad thing. I see this as just another evolutionary process and that removes the arrogance from all of it. And then I don't feel the need to save the world anymore. I just feel the need to love the world and be connected to myself and love everybody who's important to me and just live my life as the often compassionate, sometimes not, being that I am.
    • Birju: the word “perfect” came up -- not in the dominant view of perfect, but this idea that if cause and effect are truly connected, what's happening right now is perfect. It is exactly what we have put into and to try to escape it -- the effect of that -- is what would be imperfect. Now, obviously playing a role in that would also be perfect, but it takes away the sense of there was a wrongness in what's happening.
    • Deb: Barbara Marx Hubbard, who is no longer with us, but she said something really, really potent that I never forgot. And she said breakdown always precedes breakthrough so that's the way I look at it. From my realistic lens I don't look at this as anything. To me I look at this as just a natural evolutionary progression that we are on, there's this trajectory that we have been instigating as a species, as a young infantile species, with the capacity for enormous consciousness, but we just haven't embraced it. And so this is the trajectory that we've created.
      So this is part of Earth's evolution. And when I look at it that way -- and I look at all of the extinction events that have preceded it, at least based on the stories that we've been told about these extinction events -- it seems like more conscious life always emerged from that. So like you said, it's like the fertile compost. So maybe we are about to become the fertile compost for something far more beautiful to emerge. And when I remove myself, because we get so self focused, but when I completely remove myself from this narrative and I look at the bigger picture, and then I tap into the love that I have for life, then I'm willing to be sacrificed for something more beautiful to emerge from this. So again it just comes down to letting go.
  • On living joyfully with collapse awareness -- acceptance and living without hope as a gateway to presence and creativity
    • Birju:  Arundhati Roy said, “if we wait for the people who don't have blood on their hands, we'll keep waiting because they've already been marginalized.” All of us are engaging with the system in some capacity, .... I'm curious what you feel is worthwhile and meaningful to do when you don't have a mentally projected future in the mind all the time. ... [W]ithout that fuel -- the fuel of a projected future -- it's hard to show up in the moment.
    • Deb: How do we find meaning in our lives when we accept that we have no future and, more importantly, because we're so conditioned to be so future-focused, how do we find meaning in the present? I think that's the question that I've been asking myself more and more of these days – is how do I find meaning in the present? Even in the present, we tend to be future focused. So we're in the present and our mind drifts towards the future, and that can create anxiety, or we can drift into the past. And that creates, I don't know, sometimes regret or a longing for what so ... Yeah, this is one I'm just bumbling through every single day, figuring it out myself. So this is one that I am just a newbie at.
    • Birju: particularly poignant as I look at my two year old son and engage with him from a context of saying, “I don't know what the future holds, but I am not attaching to a future for what his experience is now.” And it really feels like a naked way of showing up. You know, I can't justify my behavior to him because of some imagined future anymore. So I'm left with just engaging with him now.
    • Deb: I guess it comes back to presence -- that for me is the fresh air beyond hope. Because I was one of these people who was clinging to hope like a lifeline. Because I could not not hope. I felt like. if I would not, I would die. There was just nothing beyond hope for me until I reached that level of acceptance.
    • Deb: hope prevents the presence-infused state of acceptance. ... As far as I'm concerned, hope and acceptance cannot coexist together, they just cancel each other out. And because hope is so future paced -- and it's interesting, it's future paced, but it's also built on the foundation of a past awareness – so when you think about it, when you're hoping for something, you already have a reality that's living inside of you and you're just hoping for a different version of it. So the thread of hope is rooted in a history that's familiar, with a forward thinking wish for a different version of what we already know. I see hope is a motivator for the continuation of a different version of what's already familiar.
    • Deb: our civilization has been created from separation, so it doesn't really matter whether it's black, green or purple -- it doesn't really matter until we're connected. We're incapable of creating anything that isn't disconnected from the greater whole in some way or another. ,.. In living fully now, we create differently. And we're more self connected, we have more imagination that goes beyond what we already know. And we also reach this place of acceptance with the collective direction that we're heading into, and we realize that -- again, going back to what I already said – that life always prevails. And sometimes for life to prevail, depth is necessary. So I guess beyond hope, ultimately, for me, is acceptance. And in acceptance, there's a deep soul filled empowerment that promotes presence.
  • Activated presence (not passive): for me activated presence is being engaged with the moment. So not necessarily being a passive observer, because it's not about -- I know that there's people out there, who've read my book and who feel like this is a very passive way of moving through the world, and it's not at all. It's very activated and what I am activated towards is what each moment is bringing me, and then choosing to live my life accordingly, with what each moment is bringing me. So in that activation -- it's like I said, it's just cracking me open in ways that I didn't even know I still needed to expand, and that's more love and more compassion. So for me, that's activated presence.
  • Activism as inner change: the sad reality that I had to make peace with over the years with my activism -- is that the only person that I have any control over is me, and as much effort as I put into trying to change others to see my way, to see the way of compassion towards animals in the natural world, it was exhausting. And inevitably, I can't say that it was entirely a failure, but it was a lot with the amount of effort that I put in and the outcome that I was expecting, the failure rate was greater than the success rate. So I realized that when I take my deep passion to change others out of the equation, and I just live as the full expression of who I am -- as somebody who's compassionate, who cares about animals and who is unapologetic about it and I don't hide it -- then I actually have a greater impact. And I certainly noticed that with my work, too, is that -- just like I said earlier in this conversation – just in being myself, I’ve had a greater impact. So it's about making peace with the fact that you can't change anybody else, but you can change the expression of who you are. And as long as you're just unapologetic about it and as graceful as possible, because sometimes there's that anger that rises up, but as graceful as possible, then people seem to listen more. It goes back to what Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I always understood that intellectually, but now I understand that on a deeper level, because when we are who we want to see others as, out in the world, they become curious and inspired -- rather than imposing who we want them to be, which is … that's the arrogance that I was talking about. 
  • Leaving the earth with grace​​​​​​​
    • Listener question: If it were possible for all of us, a majority to become our true selves and loving rather than arrogant and judgmental, how would that change the direction of the collapse you see coming?”
    • Deb: I feel like we would leave this planet with more grace. I feel like the direction has already been set and it's like you can't stop an earthquake when it's already in motion. So I feel like rather than … what we saw earlier this year with people hoarding toilet paper and rubbing alcohol and flour and beans, and the terror and the fear and the fighting in the grocery stores -- instead of that, I feel like we might be able to leave this planet with more grace and that we would share with each other, and that we would be more loving towards each other and we would support each other rather than what I suspect is going to be coming, which kind of aligns with a lot of those apocalyptic movies that are out there now -- the Mad Max scenarios. So, yeah.
    • Kozo: That reminds me of, you mentioned movies, and reminds me of the Titanic, where the musicians -- when the ship is sinking, they decide to continue playing again and …
    • Deb: Yeah.
    • Kozo: That's leaving with grace, right? Leaving with art, grace, service.
  • On the 2030 collapse date: it's not like I have a crystal ball and 2030 is it. The way we're going so quickly, it could happen a lot faster. That's one of the things – that if you pay any attention to what's going on in the Arctic, which I do kind of on the periphery, they always keep using that term “faster than expected.” Faster than expected. And so I just see we're in our last decade -- we've started it, and we're in our last decade. And maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. But what I do know is that it doesn't feel wrong, and it feels really true and right for me, and it's been a provocation for me to live my life very differently -- in a way that I wish I had chosen a long, long time ago. 
  • On the role of her extreme physical fitness and regimen:  I guess this desire for fitness still throughout this, keeps me grounded. It keeps me grounded. Well, that's a really good way of putting it. Yeah. It keeps me grounded, because it's really easy to get caught up in the horrors of everything that's playing out these days. And without my running and my swimming, my biking, and my hiking, I just feel like I would just be constantly immobilized. I would be lost, and the feeling healthy in body helps me feel healthy in my mind, and in my heart too.
  • On still trying the help the planet:
    • ​​​​​​​Participant question: Is it not worth our time, is it not worth our trying to stop our planet from becoming more like Venus, with so much CO2 in the atmosphere that there couldn't be life in ways you and me and all of us cherish?”
    • Deb: I see nothing wrong with that at all. If that's what brings you life and joy and passion and just makes you feel alive, then it's beautiful. Right. So yeah, go for it. For me, it was an evolutionary process towards a different way of living and ultimately, there's no right way. I'm not saying my way is the right way. I'm just saying that as long as you're aligned with what's really true and authentic for you, and you're expressing that unapologetically, you can't go wrong.
Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!


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