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Decay & Growth, We Need Them Both

By Taina Lyons


If you work in a business or corporate setting, you’re probably accustomed to growth-oriented values.  There’s a lot of cultural focus on increasing yields, business growth, and planning for future developments. 

This makes perfect sense, that individuals and groups would work together to create and grow their visions.  Yet we can see the impact on the planet when this mindset is lopsided, as human-centered projects and the construction of stores, factories, warehouses, and so on strain the living ecosystem shared by many other beings.  It seems that the choice to build for the sake of capitalist growth is hardly ever questioned. 

Ironically, a lot of what looks outwardly like development or growth is actually an expression of death, and what looks like collapse can be ripe with potential. 

If you observe nature, it is magically generative!  continually renewing itself!  continually growing!  procreating with abandon!  It’s totally, magnificently growth-oriented!  And - it is also continually dying, shedding, and composting. 

So what’s the difference between rooted expansion and capitalized growth? 

What would a human ecosystem that was in life/death balance look like?

Relationships would grow, blossom, transform, and regenerate.  Groups, businesses and organizations would do the same, seeing where generative creativity is flowing, and when transformation is needed. There would be a rich exchange of inspiration. 

Consent practices support this natural process of generativity and decay by bringing into focus what is real in the moment in the body, emotions, and relationships.  In your choices, you may feel the pressure of upper management, culture, or that third grade teacher who taught you to feel your worth through gold stars (Bless them and their efforts to shape us into functioning members of society and thank you, our adult selves will take it from here).  Discerning how to live in integrity with your own body, heart and values as you interact with these influences is part of the practice of consent. 

Consent helps us to see what has intrinsic value to us. For many people, this has to do with accessing states of joy or ease, pleasure or purpose, creativity or connection.  Go ahead, it’s ok to want these things!  What is it you bring through your most playful authentic expression?  That is what it means for you to be “growth oriented.”  It means being in living relationship with your own creative life-force.  By turning attention to this aliveness and nurturing it, a surrender of what is transforming is just part of the process. 

Here’s a practice you can do to connect with how to bring more aliveness into yourself, relationships, or work.  Look at the above image that represents both a dystopian and utopian landscape.  Don’t take it to literally mean something that needs to be created or exists in the future, but something that already exists in some form in your lived experience and psyche.  First, looking at the dystopian image and write down the aspects of yourself that are being exploited, overused, overworked or mistreated.  Then, looking at the other side of this image, write down aspects of yourself that you want to nurture, tend, and protect- maybe peace, creativity, generosity, joy, or whatever it is that you cherish.  Take a moment to acknowledge this wish for yourself to be experiencing and participating in less harmful actions, and the desire to experience more of these nurturing states of being.

This image from Liberating Structures ( illustrates the process of moving from Gestation through Birth, Growth, Maturity, and Destruction, in a cyclical way. Between Maturity and Destruction lies Rigidity, when there’s a tendency to maintain structures that need to be released or revitalized. Between Gestation and Birth lies Scarcity, or the risk of not bringing visions to fruition.

Here’s an exercise you can do on your own or with a group for assessing where your projects are in this cycle.

  • Make a list of all the activities (projects, initiatives) that occupy your time.

  • On your own or with a partner, decide the placement of every activity in the Ecocycle.

  • Make a list of activities based on each phase: Gestation, Birth, Maturity, or Creative Destruction. There may or may not be agreement about the placement if you’re working with others, so everyone can make their own list.

  • Reflect on the placements of your activities. What activities do you need to creatively destroy or stop to move forward? What activities do you need to expand or start to move forward?

  • For each activity that needs to be stopped (activities that are in the Rigidity Trap), create a first-action step.

  • For each activity that needs to start or get more resources (activities in the Scarcity trap), create a first-action step.

  • If you’re working with a group and there’s disagreement about any placements, have some discussion about this in order to understand the varying perspectives.

A women’s menstrual cycle is a perfect example of this process and can bring awareness to what is growing and what is shedding.  Over the course of a monthly cycle, a woman who practices listening to her body and intuition has a keen sense of what's requiring energy and what needs to be released, when to expand and when to rest.  This is a practice and, as with any practice, it requires honing skills which are not generally supported by many male-dominated settings. Just as women and gender non-binary people have learned to thrive in environments shaped by male norms, men can also develop their intuitive-emotional skills.

Acknowledging women’s intuition and cyclical nature is a good starting point for respecting women in the workplace. Women can bring this capacity for guiding decisions to leadership positions, although feminine leadership doesn’t simply replicate typical leadership norms. It offers a complimentary way of seeing, processing information, and problem-solving.  A setting that structures their teams in a way that uplifts women and non-binary people helps to repair harm caused by cultural misogyny, while bringing this natural strength forward in a company.

“Ecocycle” exercise was originally adapted by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless from professor Brenda Zimmerman (see EdgeWare excerpt) and ecologists (see

Art by Jonas Fricke

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1 Comment

This article made me think about consent in a broader way than I have before. It invites us to do an honest accounting of the ways in which organizational roles sometimes set us up for burnout, or to pursue goals that may not reflect our values or be good for our planet. That kind of inquiry requires a lot of bravery, and we'd be better off not doing it alone.

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