Reflections on Sea Changes

Thoughts on transformation
by Lauralee Alben

Water’s intention


Have you seen this comic: A big fish swims by some younger ones and asks, “How’s the water?” Perplexed, they respond, “What’s water?”

Water is the ground of being for fish, whether they are aware of its essential nature to their lives or not. Just like air is for birds and soil is for worms. In Sea Change Design we define intention as a ground of being.

On a walk one crystal clear day along Monterey Bay, I asked Water to tell me its intention. While I waited for an answer, I focused on the shimmering sun lighting its undulating surface. And then I heard it—Water’s urgent words: “I want to live.”

How can I pose a question to the ocean? Or ask about its intention? My answer originates in a perceptual and palpable shift, one that is both spiritual and scientific, and one that acknowledges that Water is alive. Living water is not a new concept. That Water has a spirit isn’t either. It’s just news for many of us living in this reality, today. We’ve lost the ability to hear it speak.

If you adhere to the belief that water is solely a natural resource and a commodity, instead of part of the commons—and sacred—then try suspending your belief for a moment to consider that Water’s value might have far more worth than any of us know.

At the end of Sylvia Earle’s thought-provoking film, Mission Blue, she and her team emerge from a dive 100 miles off the coast of Australia. She speaks with great sadness of the barren, ruined wasteland they encountered below. The once pristine and exquisite Coral Sea that many decades before had been vibrant with life was now a Dead Zone. Not one shark. No barracudas. Bleached coral. “I am driven by what I know, by the reality,” Sylvia said, “As a scientist looking at the evidence that my species, the world I know, the world I love is in trouble. People I know and love may not realize how much trouble we’re in.” And yet Sylvia’s intention is one of the most tenacious and audacious ones that I know: “to ignite public support for a network of global marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.” She sums it up simply and profoundly: “No water, no life.”

When the Ocean tells me it wants to live, I hear the life within it echoing this intention. Doesn’t everything that is alive want to live, including Water itself?

The Sea Change Design Institute exists today partly because of a shift in my consciousness that I experienced in the late ’90s. My former design firm was working on the first global iteration of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website. For over two years, my staff and I learned about marine science and ocean conservation. At that time, the Aquarium was designing a special exhibit on the Deep Sea, and I was enchanted by the bioluminescent creatures like the siphonophore and our distant human relative, the predatory tunicate. I fell in love with the ocean’s beauty and wonder. And somewhere in there, marine biologist Randy Kochevar let me know that communicating the Aquarium’s critical conservation mission mattered profoundly. There were high stakes for the ocean and for life.

“Understanding the consequences of our actions as we explore, harvest, and mine the deep sea, will have a significant impact on our chances for survival. If we get exploration of the deep sea wrong, we won’t have another chance to get it right unless we can inhabit another planet.”

Fifteen years ago, I set an intention to birth a new business by asking, “How can I create a design process that anyone can use to find solutions to the challenges we face in business, society, and the planet?” That question summoned the Sea Change Design Process into being. The extraordinary nature of the ocean and the way its waters move across our blue planet formed in my imagination as the perfect archetype, one that mapped well to the territory of design. Many sea changes later, we are amplifying our intention to co-design positive, profound, and enduring transformations in service of life. This iteration is sourced through the Sea Change Design Institute. And through all those who can hear our invitation to design our evolutionary potential.

If ever there was a time to be intentional, it is now. In the midst of this era of Great Transition, it is essential that we know how to design sea changes so that we emerge into an integrated, conscious, and resilient world; one seamlessly flowing between humans, nature, spirit, and time.

When Water said, “I want to live,” it also whispered on the waves, “I flow around this world and within you. I want to live—so you can live.” And then I understood. Life is Water’s ground of being.

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