coevolution through friendship

coevolution is “the change of a biological object triggered by the change of a related object.”

a couple of years ago i hosted a community of practice. one of the outcomes of our year of building relationship and sharing of ourselves was an idea articulated toward the end by gibran rivera: coevolution through friendship. meaning we evolve in relationships of mutual transformation.

since the community’s formal time ended, i have watched and felt this relational coevolution continue in a variety of ways, including close daily personal contact, occasional opportunities for mutual support, noticing and supporting each other’s work and growth from afar, and being more intentional about bringing this practice into the way we hold all of our relationships.

these past few weeks i have been really aware of the power of coevolution through friendship as i have been in what feels like a growth spurt. babies do this, suddenly overnight become taller, fuller, using new words, more confident in their bodies and complex in their communications. it’s pretty incredible to watch – and to feel that the growth doesn’t end even if it changes form. in this period i have been supported, inspired, encouraged and witnessed by a marvelous circle full of people in their own growth.

the very nature of this is iterative, so i am not writing any definitive guidelines up for y’all. but it is so delicious and impactful that i wanted to share some of what i am noticing, some elements of coevolution through friendship.

self-transformation. both/all people in the relationship are committed to their own self-transformation, aligning with the words of grace lee boggs that ‘we must transform ourselves to transform the world.’ we see ourselves as microcosms of the world, and work to shift oppressive patterns in our bodies, hearts, minds, speech, interactions, liberating ourselves into purpose, liberating our communities into new practices.

curiosity. we have curiosity about our own lives as learning labs for our values and figuring out what it means to be human at this moment in time. and we have curiosity about each other’s lives, about why we do what we do, about the roots of our behaviors. we want to know if there are lessons and changes available in the reflection and action cycle of life. this curiosity ranges from philosophical to academic, historical, nosy, somatic. our lives are our life’s work. what matters is that we are authentic with the questions, we believe the answers are important and we listen to each other accordingly.

vulnerable reflection. we reach out to each other and say things like ‘something incredible is happening’, ‘i don’t know’, ‘i fucked up’, ‘i think i hurt someone’, ‘i’m overwhelmed’, ‘i’m terrified’, ‘i think i’m hurting’, ‘i’m lost’, ‘am i falling in/out of love?’, ‘_____ happened, what should i do?’, ‘i want to do something new/different/marvelous/dangerous/that feels essential to my soul – help!’ and so on. we ask others to be mirrors for us at our most vulnerable places, so we can see what we are learning, see new possibilities in our lives.

pattern disrupting. i know i am always whole theoretically, but i don’t always feel that way, i feel half sometimes, i feel fragmented sometimes, messy. being whole includes owning all of that as me. when i am feeling fragmented or limited, seeing any of my friends in their wholeness reminds me of my own capacity. and as i stand in my wholeness, which includes being more honest with myself and others about what i want and who i am in the world, it exerts a pressure on others, both to receive me and to become more whole in themselves. this disrupts those familiar diminishing patterns in my friends and in myself, the internalization of a world that has rejected every aspect of my identity at some point. counter rejection. still i rise. and new patterns become possible, more interconnected and interdependent patterns which rely on being open.

present and intentional. this is perhaps the biggest place to practice. life is not happening to us. we are learning to be in the actual current moment, to recognize where we have choice…in a terrifying twist it turns out we always have it*. so the great question is how to be intentional, in the present moment, to take responsibility for your state of being, and for your life? another participant-teacher in the community of practice asked us to consider, ‘what if i am responsible for everything?’ it’s not a singular task, to be responsible for what happens in this world – we do not exist or transform in isolation. we are in this universe. we are actively reflecting on how to be in our lives, to best embody our greatness and to yield a more liberated future for ourselves and thus, in the fractal sense, for all of existence.

there is a lot to be careful of. we are not yet masterful, even though there are moments of collective genius. sometimes we misread each other, push each other too hard, get defensive or give unsolicited coevolution pressure.

sometimes what is happening in the world is so terrifying and urgent that we forget our complexity, or wonder why take time on ourselves or our friendships when there is so much work to do. what i am noticing is that it is not a privilege to practice coevolution through friendship – it is the deepest work.

i believe it is how communities have survived.
i believe it is harriet tubman going back to free others, because it wasn’t enough to free only herself.
i believe it is ubuntu active in my life.
i believe it is the freedom that we are longing for, which will never be given to us, which we have to create, the pulsing life force of the collective body we are birthing, the rhythm of a shared heart.

“coevolution through friendship is a path to liberation.” – gibran rivera

*recently i have been wrestling with even seeing death as a liberatory choice in response to oppression and suffering, as a wave of suicide moves through and near my life. this doesn’t give me peace, but it gives me pause, trying to see wholeness in a life ending when i wanted it to continue. endings are sacred too. it gives me pause. what i can say is that the unknown is a massive yawning universe, and i have to respect it.