TreeSisters Founder Clare Dakin on Cultivating Feminine Leadership Rooted in Nature

Clare Dakin is an Earth lover, facilitator, and social entrepreneur with a big vision. The mission for TreeSisters came to Clare in a flash of white light after her car crashed into a tree. Once it arrived, the mission was so daunting that Clare rejected it for nine months, knowing she would have to completely remake herself in order to show up for the task. Now, she has fully embraced the mission to lead a crowdfunding campaign to reforest the tropics in 10 years, while also supporting the development of feminine leadership that arises out of deep connection with nature. So far, TreeSisters has funded its first 27,000 trees through Project GreenHands, and it has plans to scale up to a global movement in order to fund 100,000 trees a month by the end of 2016. 

For Clare and the team of TreeSisters, the two parts of their mission are deeply intertwined. They believe that reinstating feminine consciousness is essential to stopping the destruction of the Earth and coming into a balanced relationship as caretakers rather than takers. Underpinning all of her work is a devotion to feeling things as they really are, no matter how painful. She says that only through feeling how things truly are can we wake up to take responsible action. This weekend at Bioneers, Clare will be teaching two workshops about bringing balance to any system by reinstating the feminine.
Clare Dakin Clare, in your experience, what is feminine consciousness?
Feminine consciousness, which exists within both women and men, is the willingness and ability to feel and receive the intelligence of life through our bodies. The masculine consciousness is the part of us that can then respond with what to do about it.
And you’re saying that most of the time we are disconnected from what’s actually going on, because the feminine principle is undervalued, and that’s what allows us to perpetuate all the destruction of the Earth—because we’re not actually feeling what’s going on?
Essentially. We can see it but we can’t feel it. There’s no amount of news about climate change that is causing us to change our behavior to the extent that we need to. You have to be able to feel the health of the system in order to be able to respond appropriately. We’re not responding appropriately because we’re not feeling how it is, because we’re cut off, because the feminine is down.
How do you see women as uniquely poised to bring about change?
We’re wired to instinctively feel—we can tell if there’s something wrong in the room the moment we walk in. We are wired to feel what’s going on. But it's not valued or really understood, much like our emotionality is not valued or understood. Emotion is often shamed as weak or less than when in reality it takes way more courage to feel than to not feel. Our feelings are the guidance system that will help us to recognize that what we’re doing—to the Earth and to ourselves—is unhealthy.
You know, a woman is supposed to work straight through her bleed, because that’s the “productive,” “appropriate,” “evolved” thing to do. Whereby completely running over her own energies, missing the fact that she has different consciousnesses that arise within her at different phases of her cycle. And when she’s most supposed to rest—when her body is saying “now you rest”—we’re not allowed to. There you have it—at the micro level a woman overrides the cycles of her body and at the macro level humanity overrides the cycles of our planet. What's happened to womens bodies is what’s happened to the bigger body—nature’s body. We're not taught the value of rest, just like we ignore the renewal phases for fish stocks and forest. Productivity rules and so we're burning ourselves and our planet out.

At TreeSisters we have coined the phrase “nature-based feminine leadership” to describe the creativity and solutions that arise through women when we are plugged back into nature as the root of our intelligence. If our species is going to wake up to our indivisibility from nature fast enough to stop destroying it, then we need a different consciousness and responsiveness, and women have a crucial role to play in that.
Can you share how you draw on feminine consciousness to influence decisions and actions within your organization?
One of the things we’ve done is to operate with the wisdom of living systems. Every week our team operates in accordance with the moon. The organizational year flows with the sun. So that as life ebbs and flows, what we’re doing in the organization actually makes sense in relation to the natural energies. This way we are supported by nature rather than running over the top of it. Nature knows when is the best time to do things. My dream is that it has to be possible to go to work and your work more deeply connects you to nature, rather than disconnects you. Right now you go to work and you’re just disconnected, and that’s what we’re modeling. 

So you actually do all of your workflow in accordance with the life cycles?
Yes, we vision when it's time to rest, outreach when it’s time to grow, and reflect when it’s time to harvest.
So autumn is a time to look back at the year and harvest our learning. If we can really appropriately harvest in the autumn, then the learnings from that become the seeds that get planted in the winter, so we do better next year.
Can you give an example of how you’re doing that this autumn? What are you doing in your organization to reflect and look back on the year?
As a team we do reflection processes, where we’ll look at the whole year—what we call our seasonal flow—and look at what was growing, what’s worked well, what have we achieved, and as we come into autumn, what we need to drop. What hasn’t worked? What do we need to take forward? What needs to go into the compost pile? What will we keep? It’s a whole evaluation of everything.
That’s beautiful, and it makes so much sense.
That’s the yearly rhythm, although it happens every month in a woman’s body. Life rises and falls every month in a woman’s body. So at the level of our team, our weekly team call reflects the current phase of the moon. We address our workload through visioning, exploring what’s growing, doing our outreach, and then harvesting our learning' every month, according to the phases of the moon.
Going back to the theme of feeling, I’m curious if you experience overwhelm—for example, as you see the devastation happening to the rainforest? I think overwhelm is something many of us struggle with, and as a feminine leader you want to include feeling, emotion, and heart, but I wonder: Does feeling ever become overwhelming?
These are two different things you’re talking about: overwhelm and grief. Overwhelm to me is “it’s all just too much, I’m too stretched in my life, and I’m going to use that as an excuse to not look at anything deeply because I feel I can’t.” That’s where most of us are.

Overwhelm disconnects you enough to not be able to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Disconnection produces insecurity. If you’re in insecurity, you’ll do whatever it takes to feel better, which for women is often to make sure everyone else is alright and run yourself ragged into burnout. Some of us have to get sick to change our behavior.

Then there is “if I let myself feel the reality of what’s going on, then I will be disabled in constant grief.” I can only speak from my experience, which is that there is no greater font of creativity than grief. I have cried more for this planet than I have for any single person, any relationship, any death, and I cry a lot. When I have gone into my howling fits because the forests will all burn, or the dolphins and whales will all leave us, or whatever it is that has gotten inside me, I can cry as if there is no heartbreak more heartbreaking for me than the loss of our species and our world, but then I can never remember when I stopped crying, because suddenly I’m awash with ideas.

The more you grieve, the more it will push you into your love, and your love will push you into your creative passion on behalf of life. So I would say to anybody—if you want to find your passion, then let yourself feel the truth of what’s happening. And your grief will take you there. And it will be short-lived, because life will only give you as much grief as you can handle in that moment. But if you can cry intensely, creativity will be what stops you crying—you’ll start having ideas. Life will break through.


Feature Image: "Birke" by Katja Kemnitz

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