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The Share Guide: A few years ago you were in
San Francisco at the Body and Soul Conference and I was
fortunate enough to attend. You spoke on the subject of Cultural
Creativity and in this interview I'd like to explore with you the
concept of Holistic Education and how it relates to Cultural
Creativity. First of all, I think we should talk about the term "Cultural
Creative"--where it came from and how long it's been around.
Joan Borysenko: Cultural Creative is a
wonderful term that was coined by sociologist Paul Ray. He's grouped
people by their dominant beliefs and behaviors and come up with three
categories: Cultural Creatives, Traditionalists and Modernists.
The Share Guide:
I remember you said it was
just under half the Americans are what you call Modernists,
approximately a quarter Traditionalists, and a quarter Cultural
Joan Borysenko: Yes, that's correct. The
first group, Cultural Creatives, consist of about 44 million people or
24% of the population. What's interesting about this group is that it
didn't exist before the 1970's. It's an outgrowth of what you're
calling Holistic Education. This came from the Women's Movement, from
the Humanistic Psychology Movement, and from the Spiritual Movement.
These people are what Ray calls leading-edge thinkers--people who are
capable of creating cultural change. They're very interested in the
environment, spirituality, women's issues and education, and leaving a
better planet for our children.The second group, the Traditionalists,
have held on to some of the wonderful old-time values. For example,
family values and community values. That's another thing that Cultural
Creatives are attempting to do--to have more of an emphasis on
community and family, which is really the heart of where stability and
change can come from. The Modernists are very interested in technology
and the economy. Their orientation is more towards money and personal
success. Taking a look at Cultural Creativity, I think it's exciting
because the data shows how people are actually changing their
behaviors. When the Baby Boomers began to crest on the shores of
mid-life, in the 1980's or late 1970's, what began to occur is all the
mid-life biological and spiritual and psychological changes that are
still unknown and that is the quest for meaning. The idea as Carl Jung
said that if your own family grows up you turn more towards caring for
the World Family. In my research on Women, I call mid-life the Guardian
Years. That's when women develop a very fierce energy of wanting to
guard the integrity of the planet; they want to guard the family.
That's when women say, "Over my dead body they're going to cut off
funding for Education, the Environment and the Elderly." Women in
mid-life really find their voices. In my thinking that's a lot of what
is fueling the Cultural Creative Movement. It's simply the enormous
number of people entering the mid-life years.
The Share Guide: It appears that the Cultural
Creatives are approximately two thirds women and one third men. So that
means your two thirds of that Guardian Years movement is comprised of
Joan Borysenko: Yes. If you take a look, for
example, in the rise of Holistic Medicine, it pretty much parallels the
rise in Cultural Creativity. Back in the early 70's there wasn't much
of an interest in Holistic Health and Medicine. In 1978 I had the very
first National Institute for Health Scholarships Slot which helped me
to retrain myself in Behavioral Medicine. Since then there's been a
huge increase in acceptance of what's now called Integrative Medicine.
The Share Guide: Right, that and the Natural
Foods Movement--they go hand in hand.
Joan Borysenko: Yes. I think it not only
comes out of the Cultural Creative Movement, but also from women
starting to get into their late thirty's early forty's...when they
really start to wonder what is important, how they should really use
their energies; what they could do to not only preserve the function of
their own body, health and happiness, but how they could help other
people. As women started to get peri-menopausal in great huge numbers
we started to say "wait a minute! do we need a prescription? Are we
going crazy? Are there things we can do for ourselves? Is this a way
that wisdom arises in me…these symptoms…am I really being rewired for
wisdom? So I must say that much of the Integrative Health Movement has
also been driven by women approaching and entering mid-life.
The Share Guide: I was amazed to hear that
what you've termed the "groundswell" had gotten to that number of
Joan Borysenko: Well, it's tremendous! I just
want to stand and cheer. It's no longer what we would call a fringe
The Share Guide: Do you think there are jobs
for all of us Cultural Creatives? I think that's what a lot of people
fear. They believe they have to get more traditional training and get a
traditional career to make a living.
Joan Borysenko: Personally, I think that
never before has there been such a choice of careers and jobs and
people inventing new forms of livelihood all the time. Part of this
lies in the phenomenal growth of the internet. It's a little like the
Wild West. Everyone's out there saying, "Wow! what a wonderful
opportunity!" People are going to have much more control over the way
that they spend their time, being in many cases their own boss. So I
think we're in for a huge renovation of the way that Americans think
The Share Guide: We came up with the term
"Holistic Education" by which we mean education of body, mind and
spirit--a more well-rounded type of education. I wonder if you have
used similar terms or what Holistic Education means to you?
Joan Borysenko: It's a global concept. It
would mean everything to me, starting with how we educate our children
in the classroom so that they have more full-brain learning that is
more geared to different learning styles, and recognizes differences
between kids. Some schools have programs where the Arts are an integral
part of the curriculum, so that children's right brains can be
stimulated as well as their left. That would be at a very basic part of
The Share Guide: Starting with children.
That's good. What else?
Joan Borysenko: I'd like to mention what
Daniel Goleman calls Emotional Literacy. This is also something that
begins in childhood. It's when you know that you are part of a family,
and that you are loved unconditionally. The fact is that many of us did
not have this, or we might have had good enough parenting, but there's
still some wounding. So Emotional Literacy is not only something that
we teach our children as they grow, but it's part of the human process.
As we get older, we develop this ability to be in touch with what our
emotions are telling us. Emotions are stored in the body. Since we're
talking about body-mind connection, you have to be aware that the
emotions are a very important part of us. So a part of Holistic
Education then is healing the wounds of the past, and learning to
attend on a month-by-month basis to what your body is telling you. I
think another part of Holistic Education has to do with health. I mean
not only the health of the individual, but the health of the
planet--which is another thing that Cultural Creatives are very
interested in. Paul Ray talks about two kinds of Cultural Creatives:
what he calls the Core Cultural Creatives and the Green Cultural
Creatives. The Green Cultural Creatives (which is around 10% of the
population) are interested largely in environmental issues but not so
much in the spiritual or personal growth issues. The Core Cultural
Creatives (which is 14% of the population) are interested not only in
the environment issues, but also in sspiritual issues and community and
The Share Guide: More of the mind, body,
Joan: Yes, the whole ball of wax.
The Share Guide: I liked it when you said in
your talk, "We have to work on healing our inner wounds and on our
physical health, and as we heal ourselves then we are in better shape
to work on healing the world through social change..."
Joan: One of things once again
about mid-life is that you realize you can't just take your body for
granted. It has to be cared for. As we get older, hopefully we get
wiser, and we'll want to maintain ourselves to make a difference.
That's because we'll feel better, our families will feel better, and
also because we'll have the energy to really use the wisdom that we
have acquired to help make positive changes in the world. The fourth
level of Holistic Education has to do with the Spiritual. Certainly
there is an enormous interest in America today in
Spirituality--everything from the effects of prayer on health to the
presence of Angels. That's because people are really looking at
questions of meaning. Questions such as: Who am I? What's the nature of
success? What am I doing here in this body? Am I this body only, or am
I something else? If I'm something that survives bodily death, what's
the reason that I'm here in the first place? These kinds of questions
are suddenly very much present within the popular media and books and
movies. That again is a Cultural Creative phenomenon.
The Share Guide: In India, they have four
stages of life. After childhood, and education, and adulthood with
family rearing, then comes the more contemplative, meditative social
action period. This is when your family is raised, so you don't have to
focus as much of your energy there. What I'm thinking of is how we're
at this time of change…you had mentioned the roots of the changes we're
going through going back to the American Transcendental Movement…and
you said we are at a crescendo now of Transition. I'm thinking that
choosing right livelihood (both for people coming out of college and
for people in mid-life), which is what I did back then, is not only
beneficial for your own family, but for society at large.
Joan: Well, absolutely. I think
there's much more of an interest in younger people than there was with
the younger people of my day. My kids are now in their 20's and 30's,
and they look truly upon the entire world as their home. They really
think about things like the impact of what they do on the environment.
They really think about, "Is my work a path with heart?" I see an
enormous difference, not only in my own kids, but within society itself.
The Share Guide: I think we were groping our
way more in the late 1960's and early 1970's. We felt more like outlaws
or rebels. Today for those in college I think one has many more
options. You can despair about the environment unraveling, but there's
also many more positive options that seem to be available.
Joan: Oh absolutely. We didn't have
Environmental Sciences as a major when I was in school.
The Share Guide: Exactly. What I'd like to see
is the whole pace accelerate. We're not groping. We really see we can
make a difference. The natural foods are on the shelves at the local
supermarkets, etc. Dr. Andrew Wiel and the whole Integrative Medicine
Movement is huge. Maybe we can accelerate the pace of the change. If
more of us (both in mid-life career change and coming out of college)
choose to make a difference and believe they can by the example of your
work and mine and others, maybe we can enhance the change.
Joan: I think that's absolutely
happening. I've been very interested in some particular American Indian
prophecies that look upon this as a time of change and that say we're
at that point where things can swing either way. Either we heal the
Earth and we mend the Sacred Hoop or big Earth changes are in store. My
husband, Kurt Kaltreider, is part American Indian. He wrote a book
called American Indian Prophecy. That book has actually been very
prevalent in my thinking--and Kurt's research in general. What he came
across was a very interesting prophecy that came from a Lakota by the
name of Crazy Horse back in 1871. In that particular prophecy,
essentially, Crazy Horse went on a vision quest because his people were
in such dire trouble with the European invasions. Their whole way of
life was being stamped out. As he went to do this vision quest, to see
how he could be more helpful to his people, he saw unfolding a series
of events through the 1900's...he saw WWI, WWII, and the dropping of
the atomic bombs, the building that was going on all over the earth,
the pollution, the difficulties, cars, planes, you name it. The most
fabulous part was that at the end of this vision, in the midst of these
plains that were devastated...the grounds scarred and all replaced by
roads and cars…he saw growing a small sacred herb which grew into the
Great Tree of Peace and eventually he saw people of all four colors,
from the four directions of the Earth, red and black and white and
yellow coming together and dancing under the Great Tree of Peace. There
are a number of other Lakota prophecies which say that this is the time
for mending of the Sacred Hoop. Then of course there's the vehicle, the
white buffalo, in 1994 in Wisconsin, that really was the sign for many
Native people that the time of mending is upon us.
The Share Guide: I remember the prophecy of
the white buffalo calf, and I remember that it had been fulfilled here
in the early 1990's. What was the significance of that?
Joan: The significance was that the
Sacred Hoop would mend when the white buffalo calf was born, and that
eventually four such calfs would be born, and there have been 3 of them
born to date. The first one was born in 1994 on a farm in Wisconsin.
Not only American Indians, but spiritual leaders from all over the
world have come to pay their respects. The Heiders, the owners of the
farm where Miracle lives, have opened their farm to people who want to
come to see her. There's a fence there where people have left little
offerings and prayer objects and the Smithsonian Museum wanted the
Heiders to donate the fence to the Smithsonian. They said no, because
they felt it would only be on display for a few months and end up in a
basement somewhere. They wanted to honor all the people who had made
the pilgrimmage there, so it was quite an event worldwide.
The Share Guide: So the Sacred Hoop is the
Circle of Life?
Joan: The Circle of Life, the
Interdependency of all Life.
The Share Guide: And the mending of it would
be the renewed reverence?
Joan: Yes, the renewed reverence
for life that would be all of those levels of human we discussed...the
human within ourselves, the human in our relationships, in our
communities, the human in our Earth, because everything is
interdependent, interconnected. As the Lakota would say, "We are all
The Share Guide: You have also mentioned that
only once or twice a millenium do we build up to this point in time
where the see-saw can change.
Joan: That's right. We're at this
enormous pivotal point and what I like about the metaphor of the
see-saw is that the see-saw may be evenly balanced but it takes just a
tiny bit of pressure one way or the other for the entire see-saw to
tip. It means that you don't have to get to the 100% point before
change is possible, you only have to get to 50.0001%--just enough to
shift the balance. That's very helpful because if we take a look and
see the magnitude of the changes that are required we can get negative
and hopeless about it.
The Share Guide: Yes--we despair and do
Joan: Right. If we think instead
that we just have to make it slightly over the 50% mark and then the
rest of the see-saw as God's Gift of Grace in return, it's easier.
The Share Guide: I guess the Earth Day
Movement would relate to your Green Cultural Creatives. There is
certainly a lot of spirit involved in that, and it's hopeful to see
that even though global warming and other problems seem so very large
that there are large levels of organization happening. It would also be
nice to think that more people would think twice before they went into
a career--not just for their own income goals.
Joan: I think that little by little
that is really happening. I really do think that the whole
environmental and healing movements have reached back all the way to
very young kids, who are now reading all these books about the
environment and who are brought up to care in a way that we were not.
We just didn't know.
The Share Guide: Right. It just wasn't part of
Joan: That's it.
The Share Guide: In closing, one question
about the future. We're at about the same place--I'm in my late 40's,
you're in your early 50's. I basically envision being around until
about 2050. How do you think things will go over the next half a
century to a century as far as our transition into a more conscious
Joan: I truly have that vision of
Crazy Horse always in my mind. I feel that we're going to make steady
progress with an occasional enormous shift in consciousness. For
example, who would have thought that the Berlin Wall would suddenly
fall? I think we're going to see more of that. We are, however, at a
time of change which is the New Time of Polarity. This means that we'll
see the worst as well as the best. Every time I see something difficult
I like to remind myself that what that means is that we have to
mobilize and do something about it, not become paralyzed by it. At the
same time we need to hold the vision that this is part of the process
enjoined. But what I would like to avoid is what I see some people
saying and that is, "Oh, just hold a positive vision and don't get
negative and everything good will happen." Well, it won't happen unless
we actually do something about it! I think it's important to do both,
to hold a positive vision and to be socially active.
The Share Guide: Thank you for your positive
vision, Joan. The mending of the Sacred Hoop is certainly something to
work on and look forward to. Thank you for being with us.
Joan: You're welcome, and thank you
for helping mend the Sacred Hoop with The Share Guide.
information about Joan Borysenko, please visit her
website at www.joanborysenko.com
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