Before a flourishing commons, exists a tragedy…


The “tragedy of the commons” (William Forster Lloyd, 1833) reveals that individual actions of self-gain from shared resources would eventually destroy the well-being of a society’s commons.  

Undeniably, we are now living this Tragedy—this social paradigm fueled by oblivious and unhindered consumption.

Yet, are we willing to reverse our Tragedy of the Commons?

The real tragedy behind this parable is not about the commons, per se…

Common to the teachings of Greek tragedies, our Tragedy is also one formed by a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fundamental flaw in this consumptive paradigm is the belief that our commons can be commodified. Our physical home on Earth—the land we live on, the air we breathe; the water that cleanses, the food that nurtures—and our psycho-spiritual homes—our sense of self-worth, our dignity irrespective of our external wealth—are commodified to give narrative to a false sense of scarcity.


For what purpose?

Maybe only to perpetuate a belief in our collective consciousness that says we are not inherently worthy, and our existence is not innately priceless.

A Flourishing Commons is a social enterprise that helps people re-envision the world they live in by learning to recognize the relationships they have with it.
Together as a society, we work to hold space for our desired future by appreciating the beauty that already exists in the world; becoming aware of our collective social-ecological traumas; and healing these traumas by nurturing communal reflection, self-love, and conscious decision-making.

I invite you to consider a paradigm shift.


What if we took an eco-spiritual and self-loving approach to education, place-making, and social-advocacy?

  • Do you feel disheartened by our world’s rising social and political problems?
  • Do you feel secretly oppressed by our world’s hierarchy and systemic challenges?
  • Do you repress your true feelings in the face of increased political correctness, polarized beliefs, and other people’s intolerance of differing opinions because of a deep-seated fear of social abandonment?

If there is an ounce of truth to the questions above for you, then know that you are not alone. Our feelings of loneliness, despair, apathy, and/or repression arises because of our collective amnesia to the true meaning of our common home.

The essence of the “spiritual” is the recognition that every element in the universe is interconnected. So despite everything that happens, we are constantly making home (“eco” from Greek oikos) out of our lives on this planet. We all play notable roles in this world.

How “at home” are we in our social roles (as students, educators, designers, environmentalists, advocates etc.)? More importantly, how “at home” are we purely as living entities? It’s time to love ourselves inherently as human beings.


A flourishing commons starts with a paradigm shift of how to BE in the world by . . .

1. Turning knowledge into wisdom


Not all bodies of knowledge are equal in our societies. Some knowledge are institutionalized and deemed valid. Some knowledge survive through resistance and stay on the sidelines. Some knowledge have been persecuted out of existence. Lurking beneath our modern world’s concept of objective-scientific knowledge is a fear of not-knowing. This fear creates a desire to consume more knowledge and build defensiveness to preserve an existing illusion of certainty.

This paradigm of knowledge perpetuates insecurity and separateness. Alternatively, knowledge without insecurity is the willingness to break through existing perceptions of the world.

We often need first-hand experience to successfully break through old perceptions (because the mind is quite stubborn and textbook learning won’t cut through it).  As we are changed in the process of learning and understanding, we develop greater wisdom.


In a world of narratives that feed insecurity and unworthiness, we make a difference by turning knowledge into wisdom.

2. Tending to our inner and outer landscapes


As the ancient hermetic saying goes, “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” Although ancient wisdom reveals that our inner and outer worlds mirror each, conventional problem-solving approaches to social issues ignore our inherent enmeshment with the world. By treating world conflicts as “problems”, we unknowingly treat ourselves as problems too. We then constantly miss the mark, like a dog chasing its own tail.

Professions like landscape architecture aim to change our outer landscapes. But its entanglement in social paradigms of separateness, problem-making, and identity insecurity limits its potentials.  

As an institutionalized profession, landscape architecture sees the “landscape architect” as a title of status and legality. But as a steward of nature and culture, the “landscape architect” is a sacred archetype of our spiritual, pragmatic, and compassionate service to the world as humans.  A flourishing commons needs more “landscape architects” (in archetype) to tend to our inner and outer landscapes.


Will we choose to use our professional identities as defense of our insecurities, or will we open our hearts toward collective flourishing by sharing our gifts to the world regardless of our titles?

3. Transmuting pain into beauty


Tending our inner landscapes means taking care of unkempt emotions and beliefs. However, human civilization has had a long history of aversion towards emotions. We generally avoid painful emotions and displace them with a pursuit for idealized happiness. In spite of this, repressed emotions don’t disappear. Instead, they foster nihilism and aggression. A social world that endorses narratives of scarcity, not-belonging, and unworthiness is deeply wounded. The pain of this wound lives in our collective unconscious.

We heal by witnessing pain with empathy. In-between suffering and healing are poignant moments of awareness, reminding us that there is beauty in learning to be human. To heal our society’s greatest wounds, this beauty inevitably must be greater than society itself. Found in nature—especially in our own nature—is a kind of faith that we must choose in, to flourish.


Consequently, to heal the world and to change it, we need to first love ourselves.

The seeds of change originate from each individual. That includes me and you.

I, Van Thi Diep, am the founder behind A Flourishing Commons. As an idealist, an empath, and a natural-born philosopher, I feel the world deeply and think about my place in the world relentlessly. The human experiences that I have described above, I know them so well: the insecurities, the pain, the wonder, the healing, and the innate desire to make the world a better place. I have a PhD in environmental studies and previously practiced as a landscape architect. I am also a Certified Coach Practitioner and a Human Design Specialist.

If you find your soul resonating with mine, you can learn more about my story here or consider working with me in one of the areas below.

Spiritual Empowerment for Graduate Students


Are you a graduate student who has a deep desire to make the world a better place?

Do you believe in social justice, world peace, and sustainability, but feel disheartened by our world’s rising social and ecological problems? Do you believe that knowledge, research, and education can help solve our world’s problems, but can’t understand why hierarchy and systemic challenges still exist in our social institutions?

Our world is going through a transformative process that appears to be quite chaotic. The chaos played out in the outer world is often reflected in our inner worlds as difficult emotions, such as despair, resistance, or confusion. A paradigm shift is necessary to usher in new ways of being on Earth, but change is more difficult than it appears. I help graduate students build a spiritual foundation to see their lives and research in more empowering ways, and consequently, to nurture mindful and compassionate change in themselves and in the world.  

My expertise bridges academic knowledge (particularly in ecophilosophy) with the wisdom gained by overcoming the challenges of my own spiritual journey towards self-love. Through this integration of knowledge and wisdom, I’ve created a self-reflection program that covers the seven essential facets of being at home in the world: acceptance, belonging, embodiment, narrative, courage, compassion, and praxis.

If you are doing meaningful research but feel overwhelmed or defeated by society’s problems or your own internal struggles, enroll in my Self-Love for Graduate Students Online Course for free.



Research and Consulting


I take a big picture approach to understanding social and environmental issues.

Whether these matters are tangible or intangible (i.e., anything from urban design to climate change, to colonialism and racism etc.), they all originate from a flawed worldview. Deconstructing and re-envisioning our worldview changes narratives of oppression and insecurity to narratives of compassion.

Because our social wounds are collective and intergenerational, we cannot do justice to all this suffering without a heart-based attitude. A heart-based attitude to any project work starts with self-reflection—for both the researcher/organizer and for participants. Using individual and collective storytelling supported by theories in phenomenology (the study of experience) and hermeneutics (the study of interpretation), research and investigative projects can become tools for healing, empowerment, and ethical choice-making.



Workshops and Teaching


Although flourishing starts as an individual commitment, to collectively flourish, we also need to come together. Therefore, I am interested in supporting organizations that want to approach their social commitments through deep reflection and purposeful visioning (e.g., imagine a group coaching workshop towards a social goal). If you have a workshop in mind for your organization or group and would like my assistance in the design or facilitation phase, contact me to discuss.

From time to time, A Flourishing Commons will also host educational webinars and workshops. To receive notifications of new events, subscribe to my mailing list. 

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