Fractal Praxis is not wholly adaptive

I cannot claim this way called Fractal Praxis is totally adaptive to life on the earth at this time.

I claim that Fractal Praxis is about becoming more adaptive. And classically, that is true, as it is about partnering with Life’s intelligence for an overall improved reality.

But it cannot be said to be fully adaptive. The way the world is today, there’s a lot of karma that’s been set in motion. There’s a lot of harm and trauma cycling, cycling, around. And this is a trend that will continue for some lifetimes, for some generations. With so much harm circulating, the more you open yourself up, the more potential damage you invite.

As I wrote about previously, the Fractal Praxis approach requires us to be more aware, sensitive and attentive to what we feel. Doesn’t that put us at risk for retraumatization? Yes, it does. And that’s why this way is an inherently dangerous way. *

To know this world, you must feel this world.
And you must open to the information in your felt experience.
From the rich information there, from direct experience, you can distill profound insights.

You can learn enough to free yourself.


It is a precarious way.

Comparative Adaptivity: Little-a and big-A Adaptivity

But how then is this way in fact adaptive? How is it adaptive to feel more and know more?

It’s adaptive in a much grander scheme of things. It’s adaptive in the sense that to know gives advantage. To reach gnosis is to become fully realized. To achieve enlightenment… you get the idea.

Simply: to know this world directly is one of the most liberating processes and experiences that a human being can have.

I believe we are made to know, and that it satisfies our greatest purpose in life. Consider the built-in chemical reward experienced in the brain when learning something new. A new insight is experienced as bliss. The reward makes sense: learning supports your survival and thriving, which is what life wants.

And yet, there’s a sense in which to know is to suffer. Chogyam Trungpa, renowned spiritual author of Shambhala: Way of the Warrior talks about the path of the bodhisattva. He characterizes a bodhisattva as a tender-hearted, broken-hearted warrior, who chooses the treacherous path of bravely opening his spirit to the truth of the world and therefore taking the world’s suffering into his heart. And yet he is motivated to do this because he loves the world. He becomes a powerful warrior through his ability to endure such pain. For us to really see and to love the world is to be forced to grapple with the level of suffering involved.

Yet, the extreme suffering we endure today is largely a product of the accumulated consequences of not knowing. Not-knowing is an essential ally and predicate to knowing, but when it is in excess, suffering proliferates. Not-knowing can also be called ignorance.

In Buddhism, ignorance is often rendered as the opposite of enlightenment, and the source of all karma (or “harm”) circulating in the world. Ignorance is akin to the gap in what we know… the gap, fault or crack in our mental model of how the world is, causing us to act in ways that map our "wrong" take (mistake) into the tissue of reality. One example is: acting as though “self” and “the world” are separate is a widespread type of ignorance which generates a vast spectrum of suffering. (In fact, this is the primary type of ignorance Buddhist teachings and practices are designed to overcome.)

Let’s talk about the biggest ignorance of them all: that we forget we are actually merely an extension of Life, which is a much bigger and more flexible pattern than our little selves are.

We received original instructions, encoded into our very cells and lineages by the hand of life itself, that provide for a good way of living. But we’ve neglected and forgotten how to live in good ways, in ways that generate and propagate good. So we live in miserable circumstances—inescapably miserable because at our deepest levels, we are living ignorant and separated from irreducible parts of ourselves—staved off from our own truth like a boil encloses an infection. Despite how wrong and off course we’ve become, we remain ignorant (or worse: in denial) about the source of our wound, and so we exhaust ourselves fighting symptoms instead of remedying the cause.

Yet these instructions, this way of being life, this way of attuning to life—these are baked into us. They are essential to our ordinary functioning as organisms. They are an indelible part of the code of our existence. We cannot live a whole life by residing in denial of certain indissoluble parts of ourselves.

Thus, to live in defiance of that code is the source of the suffering. It is not the escape from it.

All the clever workarounds we can fashion have got nothing on our indefatigable suffering. All we can do is design better mousetraps: new, convincing ways to deflect and avoid and contract and attack and fear and flail… that only creates more suffering. We get lost in stories of ourselves, in attempting to cope or deny or suppress our suffering. To wall off the unwanted parts of ourselves, of our lives, like a boil does to an infection.

But here’s the rub:

No path of separation is a path of liberation.
No path of ignorance is a path of liberation.

The path to liberation is to know.
The path of liberation is to integrate.

And unfortunately, you cannot selectively know and you cannot selectively feel. To deepen awareness is to deepen the capacity to feel both extremely pleasant and horribly devastating truths.

You cannot choose what you’re meant to learn.
You cannot unsee what you’ve begun seeing.
In response to what you encounter: you can only integrate it.

At the grandest level: if you survive this process, that’s adaptation, that’s evolution in action. That’s contributing to collective adaptivity.

At the individual level, the results can be somewhat more dynamic.

And so: this way isn’t just about adaptivity, it’s about resilience. Ultimately we must become more resilient as we also become more knowing—or else it might all be our undoing.

Resilience = live our truths and abide our truths

In my life I have recently met with some of the true limits of this way—at the very same moment that I’m preparing to publish and promote Fractal Praxis into the world.

And this is beyond irony—it is a cosmic necessity, perhaps, that I grapple with exactly these limitations at exactly this time. Facing these limitations has been excruciating and humbling, and yet it permits me to admit that this way is not universally adaptive. I am speaking about universal truths governing living systems—and yet, I cannot claim that this way is universally adaptive.

Thank heavens that’s out in the open! One of my core principles is to avoid producing or promoting dogma. Rather, I will do my best to describe what I have come to know—and encourage you to deepen your praxis as a being in a likewise manner.

Here’s a warning, and this is the bottom line:

If you’re in a condition of prolonged traumatization and you begin to practice this way without the appropriate supports and contacts around you, you could very well retraumatize yourself. By deepening into what you feel without the techne or psyche to effectively process what you tap into, you could reinforce the wound of the trauma without the breakthroughs of resolving it.

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been told by others I was “overreacting” to something. Meaning: I was experiencing something and undergoing a process of knowledge in an emotional way. Other people who were more effectively conditioned by the dominant culture than me have internalized that they don’t do that here. Despite the fact there’s so much good insight, so much key information, embedded in the nuanced emotional textures of life—our society, by training, is flatly failing to harvest it!

However, consider that society might discourage, and most people might not practice witnessing their emotional truths, because it’s actually adaptive to suppress emotions in a world packed with trauma and rife with abusive and predatory behaviors. It’s actually adaptive to hold low expectations for one another, in a world so wounded.

That’s real. That’s legitimate. That’s adaptive… small “a.” It is adaptive within the confines of a frail and dying context. Beware being falsely assuaged by conforming to a little-a adaptive context.

Because if we’re actually going to the heal the world, we have to be daring enough to go beyond the edges of merely keeping ourselves safe and protected. To be more generalizably adaptive is to become a truer person, to become a more alive and open-ended person. That’s adaptive in the grand scheme of things, in the overall set of interactions that make up the living family of organisms on this earth and beyond.  That’s big-A adaptive.

And when certain social and cultural orders collapse that have necessitated and perpetuated our trauma, who will we be then? How ready will we be for radically different conditions? How adapted will we be to a world that is healing, that is rewilding, to a world that’s becoming more whole and true? What about a world that is tearing itself apart from its own deep confusion?

Resilience is preparing effectively for the future

I am a futurist because I am a prophet. By that I simply mean: this method of training my mind has also trained me to interpret and anticipate likely results and phenomena, and be able to "read" them distinctly before they happen in real time. (Here I'll advocate that practicing systems thinking is one major technique for developing the capacity to accurately interpret and shape the future.) Some call it prescience—it’s maybe less mystical than that. It’s maybe just a refined method of seeing that is not bound, that can go beyond, conventional frameworks such as linear time and fixed space.

So I’m a futurist: I’m oriented towards the worlds that are possible and that my actions can help to bring into being. And I am oriented to bringing about a world that is truer.

So, if you’re daring and if you’re cunning, and if you trust yourself to know what’s right, to know what’s true—in your bones, in the center of yourself… Then this way might be fit for you, and befit you (and even benefit you to boot)! If you trust yourself enough to know and to wield your knowledge to develop more of it, then you are very much a candidate for this A-daptation way.

And I really hope it serves. Recently I’ve teetered on the cliff in horror of the limitations embodied in this way. By using this way I might have caused myself trauma, I might have deepened my wound, in how I have oriented to the information embedded in my relationships and in my emotions. I’m always trying to extract even more truth out of every situation. But it’s not always wise to do that. It’s not always safe to do that. Fortunately discernment and meta-discernment is a sword that can be endlessly sharpened. So, even a very rough road is not a hopeless one. Even to acknowledge the limitations of this way is one path to including and transcending them.

So, use discernment AND use this way. Please don’t go all in. If you catch yourself doing that, you might be catching yourself giving your power away. You might be unconsciously assigning your power to me or to this way. You might be enacting a regressed, childlike self who seeks others to save you, to free you. But there’s a reason praxis is right there in the name: YOU have to make sense, and you have to act from that sense, and you have to keep refining. Do not hand off the hard work that it IS to be present to what you feel, to the sense it makes to you, to the truth as it’s held by you. Do not give your power away like that.

This way is for your adaptation, but it is not a panacea. And I mean that. I know through direct experience that it is not, that it can sometimes contribute to a localized increase of damage or harm when it is wielded in excessive ways. Nevertheless: it is the way, the way of gnosis, the way of integration, the way of truth. But it should not be wielded like a hammer where you interpret every problem as a nail. It should be wielded wisely, measured by whether it increases the regenerativity of a system—whether it increases life’s thriving. Including yours.


* This excellent talk by Stephen Jenkinson discusses, among other depths, the notion that the affliction of allergy is a real physical consequence of increased sensitivity. Sensitizing ourselves to a highly violent, vicious world can actually exacerbate our body’s immune response—so extremely that it kills us.

Kudos to Matthew Duffy for sharing this with me.