Transform Ourselves, Transform the World

“The only hope for human kind is the transformation of the individual.”

Krishnamurti’s words, quoted above, are central to a life philosophy which drives the work of Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell and her husband Jeremy Tunnell. Their upcoming retreat, Zoetics: Personal Awakening for Collective Transformation, is the duo’s second annual offering at the Whidbey Institute and is open to everyone. Over Memorial Day Weekend, they’ll use science-based tools for understanding ourselves and the larger universe, as well as practices rooted in ancient traditions such as yoga, permaculture, herbalism, and meditation, to explore what is possible when individuals can connect more fully to themselves—their stories, their intentions, their bodies and their breath—as well as to one another and the world.

“We cannot change the world or seek transformation if we don’t start with ourselves,” Gerry said. “If we change the way we perceive the world, the world will change. We are all interconnected—not only to other people, but to every living being on Earth.”

In a recent conversation with Gerry and Jeremy, we covered topics ranging from the necessity of holding challenging conversations around racism, colonialism, inequity, and injustice to the beauty of a flower and its sacred geometry. “I see the flower of life as a lotus,” Gerry told me. “It only blooms in the murkiest of waters. We’re exploring how we can emerge from the unknown—from this troubled place that we’re in as a society today—into a world where we allow our interconnectedness to inform how we exist and coexist.”

“We’re exploring how we can emerge from the unknown—from this troubled place that we’re in as a society today—into a world where we allow our interconnectedness to inform how we exist and coexist.”

Born and raised in Hawaii, Gerry carries her Pacific Island heritage with her in everything she does. She often speaks of Mana, or a powerful life force running through and around all of us. A scientific explanation for this energetic field is revealed through the study of a living heart, which emits a rhythmic electromagnetic field. The shape of this emanation recurs on a cosmic scale, explains Jeremy. Modern astronomy and quantum physics have revealed patterns at both the micro and macro levels which are markedly similar in shape and behavior to the invisible fields which emanate from and around each of us. “There are invisible forces at work which connect us to one another,” he said, “and which influence us and through which we influence others.”

Jeremy’s Master’s degree in Whole Systems Design marries well to his current postgraduate work in Unified Field Theory and Geometric Physics. Together, these areas of study are a perfect compliment to both Gerry’s professional expertise as a certified trainer of the Institute of HeartMath’s ResilienceAdvantage Program and her ongoing doctoral work exploring the question of how participating in the Hawaiian Forgiveness Ritual (Ho’oponopono) contributes to cultural healing. Ho’oponopono relies on four powerful sentences: “I apologize. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” It proceeds from an understanding that Mana is the unifying force which binds all living things, and that it is only an illusion that we separated from each other.

When asked to describe how the patterns we see in our bodies and in our universe are related, Gerry describes the different levels on which our relationships can be examined. “At the personal level, there’s connectedness with the self—with our feelings, our bodies, our emotional and physiological responses to what we experience. When we are in a place of incoherence in our physical, mental, or emotional balance, it effects everyone around us. Have you ever walked into a room and felt the tension? Self-connection helps us shift how we relate to one another. On another level, there’s how we relate with our environment. Are we doing things to be at peace with the planet? Are we cognizant of how much fuel we’re using? I like to go outside and just breath, inhale among the trees. When I can connect with my environment, I feel more whole. How do we take responsibility for our impact, locally and globally?”

“When I can connect with my environment, I feel more whole. How do we take responsibility for our impact, locally and globally?”

Connection with the environment is part of the allure of the Whidbey Institute for Gerry and Jeremy, who both feel drawn to this space for reasons which transcend its beauty. Discussing the land’s recent and distant history, including the legacy of white colonization in the Pacific Northwest, we touch on the necessity for healing old wounds. “The Chinook land holds so much power,” Gerry said. “It plays a really big role in our work. It breeds inspiration, compassion, love, understanding, and forgiveness. The place itself holds forgiveness, and when there’s forgiveness there’s healing. Being a woman of color and understanding the complexity of colonization with my own ancestors, I look to how we can move forward. What future are we going to create for the next generation? Do we want them to continue fighting?”

As a multicultural couple, Gerry and Jeremy have had much to learn from and with one another. “She sometimes has to show me the privilege I didn’t even know I held,” Jeremy said. “I’ve learned that, as a white man, sometimes the most powerful support I can offer is my willingness to take up less space—to speak less, and listen more.” Gerry acknowledges the importance of courageous conversations in facing the multifaceted challenges of racism, and the vulnerability and transparency which are required if those conversations are to take place. “I’m not someone who takes no for an answer,” Gerry said. “If I want to stand up for equality, you can’t make me sit down. When I was growing up in Honolulu, I was always asking ‘why?’ and my parents would tell me, ‘curiosity killed the cat’. I’d ask, ‘WHY? Didn’t the cat have 9 lives? What happened to the other lives?’”

During the Zoetics retreat in May, both Gerry and Jeremy hope to create a safe space for others to ask questions, be curious, tackle tough topics, and stay connected with themselves and one another. “We’re asking everyone to come as they are,” Gerry said. “We know that there will be different personalities, different perspectives, and different ideas. We want to create a space where all voices can be heard and all opinions are considered valid.”

“We know that there will be different personalities, different perspectives, and different ideas. We want to create a space where all voices can be heard and all opinions are considered valid.”

When asked what she would say to someone who’s wondering whether the Zoetics retreat is right for them, Gerry said she’d ask them to consider a question. “How am I existing in the world today? How would I like to exist in the world?” She encourages anyone who feels curious about the work to reach out for a personal conversation. “Meet with me, and talk with me about it,” she said. “Get a deeper understanding of who Jeremy and I are, and what we’re offering. The true meaning of all of this is building relationships, and collective transformation emerges from that beginning.”

To learn more or register for the May 27—29 Retreat, visit www.whidbeyinstitute.org/zoetics-2016.

Featured photo by George Lu.