Awe drew me in. Connection made me stay

by Ann Hempleman

Ann is a certified Deeptime Leader (2023) and this post appeared in Mary McDowall‘s  Earth Day edition of her weekly newsletter, which she sends to her mailing list of clients and others interested in her work.  Ms. McDowall is a creativity coach.


Awe drew me in.  Connection made me stay.

“We are blown away…” Then, “We’re creating a deep future…”

I paused my scanning through my inbox — the side inbox, the one I use to follow writers and organizations wrestling with questions of being, of interconnectedness. Questions of how to live as a modern human on Earth and still be in alignment with life.

There are always way too many messages to read each one in depth. But sometimes it comforts me  just to know they’re there, asking the same questions I’m asking, feeling their way into new ways of being.

I’ve been doing environmental work my whole career. But it’s been an ongoing search, trying to find a way that brought my heart, mind, and spirit together in the work.

It’s taken years – decades, even — of circling more and more inward, from environmental engineering (what we do) to sustainability education (what we know) to community activism (how we create change) to, finally, inner transformation work (who we are).

All of these approaches are needed, but figuring out what was mine to do took some trial and error.

The deep future email came at just the right time: I was still searching. I just didn’t know what for.

I was finishing up training in Internal Family Systems, a personal and collective change process grounded in compassion and the higher Self of the practitioner and the participant.

I was developing a somewhat off-label use of IFS to shift our mistaken beliefs that keep us feeling separate: separate from one another, separate from nature, separate from our higher Selves.

I believe that building and deepening a sense of belonging is the key to helping us feel more connected, more joyful, more at ease. As we live more fully from our higher Selves, we bring our individual truth into being. We naturally become more compassionate, creating a world that works for all beings.

The only problem was that I didn’t feel that sense of belonging.

“We are blown away…” What were they feeling that I wasn’t feeling?

That one email changed everything.

There’s so much I could share about the Deeptime Leadership Program that I was inspired to join.

Over nine months, about ninety of us from around the world, India to Egypt to Mexico to Canada, worked together to learn and integrate the deeptime principles into our lives. They’re simple principles, but profound when you really take them in.

  • Context: We humans have emerged from and depend on an evolving universe.
  • Matrix: Life as we know it depends on Earth and its interrelated matrix.
  • Subjectivity: Each individual is an outcome of the 14-billion-year evolution of the universe and is a unique expression of the whole.
  • Action: We each have the opportunity and responsibility to help create a better world.
  • Continuum: We can engage in Deeptime learning throughout our lives.

Over the course of the program, sunlight warming my skin came to feel like a direct connection to the ancient genealogy of stars, one giving birth to the next in a series of blazing fireballs.

A bite of salad at lunch came to feel like a gift brought to my table by the sun and rain and living soil, with a nod to those stars again, the ones that fused iron and carbon and hydrogen in their fiery cores.

Even my beloved dog seemed offer a glimmer of deep Earth history in her friendly brown eyes.

Science and meaning. Understanding and caring. Creating and being part of creation. Belonging.

I’m pretty blown away, too.

Now, thinking of Earth Day, it’s the deeptime principle of “subjectivity” that’s most active for me.

Thomas Berry, one of the founding thinkers of Deeptime, says, “the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” Thinking of others as objects makes it harder to treat them with kindness and care.

I think of subjectivity as personhood: who is a person? What is a person? What parts of our living — and life-giving — planet qualify for personhood? Other creatures, trees, mountains, rivers, clouds: what if we think of them all as subjects? As persons?

Indigenous leaders across the Pacific Islands have entered into a treaty giving whales legal personhood.[1]

In the U.S., there’s a movement to grant forests and rivers the same rights as humans.[2] That’s already happened in Ecuador and Bolivia.[3], [4]

I think the awe that the Deeptime folks talk about is an invitation.

We can try it on: what does it feel like to consider a shared aliveness with all the animals on Earth? With all the plants? How does it feel to even consider rocks, rivers, mountains, and clouds as part of the community of life – the communion of subjects – on Earth?

What would it be like if we all experienced that as our shared reality?

After spending nine months pondering this question with people from all over the world, I feel a sense of awe and connection about the possibilities.

Finally, this is my work to do. I’m sharing this sense of belonging with my clients. They are shifting into that experience themselves as we weave it into my Earth-based IFS programs. One says,

Much like in IFS, when I first experienced the compassion and curiosity of Self rising naturally within in me to tenderly care for my parts, the Deeptime conversations with Ann were a breath of wonder, integration, and connection that until then I didn’t know existed within me.

I wish that sense of belonging for you and all of your persons.

Happy Earth Day.