How we see ourselves in relation to the rest of nature

 

This is a big topic, and yet also very simple.

We are – in a very literal sense – part of nature. We are a local and temporary expression of the processes of this living planet. We are local and temporary expressions of the dynamics of this universe.

We are, equally obviously, animals. We share ancestors with all other animals and everything living. We are relatives, and if we look at it from the bigger picture, we are close relatives.

When we look at specifics, we also find how we are animals and share a huge amount with other animals and living beings. Other animals, and especially those closer to us, obviously have emotions much as we do. They even have cognitive processes not dissimilar to our own. They have personalities. They suffer. They want to stay alive. They have culture.

There is an immense beauty in this. To the extent we take this in, it can bring a profound sense of belonging. It can even give a deep sense of meaning and encourage us to live in a way that takes all life into account.

After all, we are part of the same living systems and processes. Our own health and well-being, as individuals and civilization, is intimately connected with and dependent on the health and well-being of this larger living whole.

I find it slightly bizarre that some still insist that we are categorically different from other animals, and perceive and live as if we are somehow separate from Earth.

I understand that it comes from a wish to see humans as special and different, maybe so we can feel better about ourselves, or from a wish to use this fantasy as an excuse to exploit nature and other species.

It’s also possible that just like a teenager often will distance themselves from their parents so they can gain some autonomy and discover who they are as individuals, humanity has needed to distance themselves from nature for the same reason.

And yet, the effect of the view of separation is terrible. It gives us a sense of disconnection, separation, and existential loneliness. The power-over orientation embedded in it causes a huge amount of suffering for the other species and destruction of the ecosystems we depend on for our own life.

Equally seriously, we treat ourselves as we treat other species and the Earth. We are often disconnected from our bodies, sensuality, instincts, and anything we consider “animal” – and that leads us to either deny it or over-indulge in it, and inevitably both.

The benefits from this fantasy of separation are hollow victories. And the damage to ourselves, other species, and Earth is severe.

Of course, I understand why some consciously hold a view of separation, and many – perhaps all of us – hold it somewhere in our system. It comes from centuries and millennia of views of separation in western society. It has a long tradition. It’s held deeply in our systems, and it takes some effort to make it conscious, shift into a more realistic view, and allow this conditioning to soften and perhaps fall away.

How can we support this shift in ourselves?

We can expose ourselves to the insights of others who have explored this, for instance through deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, big history, the Universe Story, or similar approaches.

We can identify views of separation in ourselves and examine each one. Is it true? What happens when I perceive and live as if it’s true? What do I get out of holding onto it? What am I afraid would happen if I didn’t operate from it? What’s more true for me? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can explore how our mind creates the experience of separation, how sensations and thoughts combine to create this fantasy of separation, and what’s associated with it. (Living Inquiries.)

We can explore how we imagine we – as individuals and humanity – may look to other species, ecosystems, and Earth as a whole, and imagine what advice they may have for us. (For instance, Big Mind process.)

We can engage in the Practices to Reconnect developed by Joanna Macy and others.

We can engage in Earth-centered rituals and spiritual practices.

We can discover what we really are – capacity for the world as it appears to us – and find the oneness of the world as it appears to us.

Another important shift is to recognize that all of this is part of the processes of Earth and the universe. We are the universe and Earth locally and temporarily taking itself as separate from itself. This sense of separation is not inherently wrong, it’s part of life exploring itself.

I usually start out with this as the context, and this time chose to start from a more conventional or human view and include this at the end.

Jeanette Armstrong: Before anything else, we are the living, dreaming Earth pieces

 

The way we talk about ourselves as Okanagan people is difficult to replicate in English. When we say the Okanagan word for ourselves, we are actually saying “the ones who are dream and land together.” That is our original identity. Before anything else, we are the living, dreaming Earth pieces. Dream is the closest word that approximates the Okanagan. But our word doesn’t precisely mean dream. It actually means “the unseen part of our existence as human beings.” It may be the mind or the spirit or the intellect. We are mind as well as matter. We are dream, memory, and imagination.

– Jeanette Armstrong

We are, in a very real sense, the universe and life dreaming itself into existence.

Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero

 

Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero.

– proverb from somewhere in Africa

This is an interesting proverb in several ways.

It reminds us to listen to the story of the ones who haven’t yet told their story. If that’s not possible, for whatever reason, we can at least acknowledge there are other – perhaps equally valid – stories to be told about any situation. And sometimes, we can do our best to imagine what those stories may be.

The proverb also reminds us of our anthropocentrism. We see the world through human eyes, and sometimes ignore the viewpoint of non-human species. We – explicitly or implicitly – assume and live as if the world was created for us, and chose to ignore the myriad of other beings who want the same as us. They want to live. They, in their own way, want to be respected. If they could speak, they would tell us to take their needs into consideration as well.

In a similar way, we tend to prioritize our own needs and wishes over the needs of future generations. We are unable to listen to the voices of future generations since they are not here yet. But we can give them a voice. We can include someone who speaks for them in the decisions we collectively make. We can imagine their needs and wishes. And we can probably imagine these needs and wishes pretty well since they are the universally human ones.

The lion also represents the lion in each of us. The primal power. In our western culture, we have ignored this voice as we have ignored the metaphorical voice and viewpoints of flesh and blood lions and animals in general.

Listening to the voice and viewpoint of lions and animals, future generations, and our inner lions and voices, all go hand in hand.

How would an imagined dialog with the lion go?

Hello.

Hi.

What’s your view on humans?

They are not someone we would normally care much about. But they keep taking our land, and they hunt us for no reason that we can understand. We hunt because we have to eat to survive. They don’t seem to hunt for food. What else than eating can justify killing us?

It seems they brag about killing us. We don’t understand. We hunt because we have to. It’s nothing to brag about.

And they have a way to kill us at a distance. We don’t have a chance. We need to get close to kill, and they won’t allow us to get close. If we got close, and they hadn’t their way of killing us, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

And what about a dialog with the inner lion?

How does P. relate to you?

He likes the rawness and power I have and makes use of it sometimes, but otherwise tends to ignore me. He is cautious about me and has learned, from culture and family, to be cautious and often ignore me.

How do you help him?

I help him feel stronger and more in charge of how he deals with situations. I help him feel more whole. I help him get things done. He feels more whole, embodied, and alive when he taps into me.

What advice do you have for him?

You don’t need to be so cautious with me. Tap into me and bring me into your daily life more often. I can be with you more constantly, and you’ll feel stronger, grounded, and alive, and it will help you be more real with yourself, others, and life.

Footnote: It seems that giving children and students the task of writing stories from the normally voiceless – animals, plants, future generations, ecosystems, Gaia and so on – would be very interesting. It helps us imagine the world from another perspective than our own, including as human beings. I am sure some teachers and schools do this, and I would certainly have loved it.

Adyashanti: Each human is a point of orientation through which the Universe experiences itself

 

Each human is a point of orientation through which the Universe experiences itself.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 57, Garrison 2017

Yes, we are the universe experiencing itself. We are a point in this universe, located a specific place. And we have a unique orientation – a unique way of experiencing, perceiving, and acting.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe through which the universe experiences itself.

This is the intersection of science and spirituality, of the universe story & the epic of evolution and Big Mind, of who we are – as this human self and local expression of the universe, and what we are – as capacity for the universe as it appears to us.

Through and as innumerable beings as part of this planet and perhaps throughout the universe, the universe – existence – experiences itself in innumerable unique ways. Each location is different. Each being is different. Each filter of perception – made out of matter and psyche – is different. Each experience is different.

In a bigger picture, we can say that this is not only the universe exploring, experiencing, and expressing itself, it’s existence and even Spirit and the divine exploring, experiencing, and expressing itself – in always new ways. It’s the dance of life or existence. It’s what the old Hindus called Lila.

And we – as humans and humanity and Earth – are part of this dance.

Any mythology or cosmology reflects us here and now. So how does the idea of Lila mirror what’s here and now in immediacy? What I find is that all my experiences happen within and as consciousness. They are, in a sense, this consciousness exploring, experiencing, and expressing itself. Lila is here and now. And to me – as this consciousness – it appears that the whole of existence explores, experiences, and expresses itself in the same way.

This is an instance where we can say that both are equally accurate. We can put a story on existence saying through and as this universe – as us as part of it – it is exploring, experiencing, and expressing itself. And we can say that we, as this consciousness, are exploring, experiencing, and expresing ourselves through all our experiences.

Why is this important? In a way, it isn’t. This view or insight or realization is just one of the many ways consciousness or existence is experiencing itself. In another sense, it makes a difference to us – and through this point of existence that is us.

It helps us be aware of something essential in who – as this human self, and what – as consciousness, we are. It helps us loosen the grip on any (other) ideas we have about how life should or needs to be. It helps us find some appreciation and even gratitude for life as it is here and now. It helps us appreciate the dance of existence as it appears as and to us here and now.

Mother Earth: not just a metaphor

 

When you hear the words Mother Earth, what does it mean to you? A poetic metaphor? A reminder to recycle? Something a tree-hugger would say?

Or does it mean something more? Perhaps it’s literally true?

We are born from Earth. We are sustained by Earth. All we know is Earth. We are, in a very real and literal sense, Earth. We are a local and temporary expression of this living system we call Earth – amazing and beautiful far beyond what we can even begin to understand.

Our human culture and everything part of it is Earth. That too is a local and temporary expression of Earth. We and all we know and all we are and all we have created grew out of and is part of this amazing, beautiful, living, evolving system we call Earth.

Earth is not other. It’s not something to take care of as we take care of a possession. It’s what we are. When we care for Earth we care of ourselves.

This is the most obvious thing in the world. And yet, it’s not. And the only reason it’s not is that we live within a culture, a mindset, and a worldview that says we are separate. Earth is a commodity. Earth provides resources for our civilization. Earth provides space for our waste. Earth can be owned and used for our pleasure.

And we forget that we are part of this amazing living system. We are part of the evolution of Earth. We are born from and sustained by Earth. We are the local expression of Earth. We are Earth. We are the ones who can speak for Earth. Protect Earth as ourselves. Cherish Earth as ourselves. Love Earth as ourselves.

We need a profound transformation into a more sustainable and life-centered culture, and this shift in perception is part of it. It’s a change in how we see ourselves and Earth. We never were separate individuals wandering around in an environment. We are local expressions of Earth.

Rewilding ourselves

 

Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats.

Rewilding Europe

How do we rewild ourselves?

It’s another big topic that a short article can’t do justice, but I’ll mention a few things.

One is to recognize that we are nature, we are already wild. We are the local expression of earth, the universe, and reality. Recognize it, feel it more deeply, reorient within this realization.

Another is to look at what in us prevents is from realizing this and live from it. And also from living from a more natural expression of our kindness and wisdom. Often, and perhaps more often than we realize, our beliefs, identities, and emotional wounds keeps us within a narrow range when a far larger range could be available to us.

Spending time in nature is helpful for rewilding ourselves. As is becoming comfortable with silence and listening. (Inner and outer silence, and listening to the inner and outer.) And befriending ourselves as we are, including our emotions, feelings, and body. And learning to appreciate and enjoy who and what we are.

Rewilding ourselves is a process of recognizing and taking in what we are. (A local expression of nature, Earth, the universe.) Listening. Befriending ourselves and reality. Venturing outside of artificial boundaries we put on ourselves. (Aka stressful, limiting beliefs and identities, fear rooted in emotional wounds and trauma.) Respect. Patience. Recognizing all as part of the same whole.

Befriending the wild in ourselves is very similar to befriending a wild animal.

Rewilding ourselves helps us find a deeper and more stable and universal identity (and perhaps freedom from identities). It helps us feel that we belong to nature, earth, the universe, and existence (as we do). It can help us find a deeper relaxion and ease, and comfort with ourselves and reality.

And it helps Earth. We realize we are the earth, and this naturally leads to changes in our life. We reprioritize. We live differently. We may become activists in our own way.

We realize that, by doing so, we are nature taking care of itself. We are nature protecting and defending itself.

How to deal with ecological grief

 
Joanna Macy: Befriending our Despair

As our eco-systems keep unraveling, ecological grief will only go more into the mainstream as an experience and topic.

How do we deal with our ecological grief?

Here are some things I have found helpful for me:

Recognize it’s natural and even healthy. My ecological grief – for what I see happening locally and globally – is natural, understandable, and even healthy. It’s an expression of recognizing what’s happening. It comes from caring for myself, those close to me, humanity, future generations, non-human beings, species, ecosystems, and Earth a beautiful and amazing-beyond-comprehension living whole.

Share with likeminded people. Share as a confession.

Deep Ecology practices – like the Practices to Reconnect. These help us befriend our grief, find nourishment from our deep connection with all of life and past and future generations, and renew our hope and motivation for action. They can be done with a small group of friends or larger and more organized groups. I have led them myself with one or two other people and up to groups of ten or more.

Channeling the grief into action. This is not only how we transform society into a more Earth-centered one, but it also helps our own mental health. Even small actions are valuable, especially when I do it with others. (A while back, I helped start up neighborhood eco-teams and NWEI groups and these transformed people’s lives at many levels.)

I can support politicians and policies that help us transform into a more life-centered society. I can donate to organizations. I can make changes in my own life. I can join a local organization. I can communicate with politicians, businesses, and corporations. I can inform myself about what’s happening and win-win-win solutions. I can choose to focus on the solutions. I can envision the world I want to live with and share my vision.

I can choose to focus on systemic solutions because that’s where the problems are (not in individuals or “human nature”) and that’s also the best strategy for getting others on board (avoiding blaming individuals or particular groups of people).

Changing how I see it. I am not (only) an individual stressed out or in grief from witnessing the destruction of nature. I am nature reacting to its own destruction. And when I channel it into action, I am – quite literally – nature protecting itself. (Deep Ecology, ecopsychology, eco-spirituality, Deep Time, Big History, Universe Story, etc.)

Clear up stressful beliefs and identifications, and find healing for triggered emotional issues. When we respond to ecological destruction – whether it’s local or global – it inevitably ties into our own personal wounds and hangups. I can use my reaction to what’s going on in the world as a pointer to my own personal issues and I can explore and find healing for these. That not only improves my quality of life, it also makes me a more effective agent for change in the world. I act more from clarity and kindness and less from reactivity and wounds.

Yugen and beyond

 

yugen – a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe

Wikipedia article on Japanese Aesthetics

I don’t speak Japanese so I know I am bound to get this slightly wrong. It seems that yugen often refers to something evoked in us related to our own past (as most poetry does), although perhaps also something evoked in us about nature itself?

Here, I’ll be selective and use it in the sense of something evoked in us about nature itself.

If we talk about that, and a feeling or sense of nature as sacred, then we have nature mysticism.

Nature mysticism can refer to this feeling or sense of the sacred in nature and the universe. It can refer to a deep sense of belonging to nature and the universe. And it can refer to a sense of oneness with it all, that we are all one and the same and part of a seamless reality. (Which is obviously true even from a modern science perspective, and this sense of oneness happens when we realize it, take it in, and perhaps live more from it.) Either of these can come over us, often when we are in nature. Or it’s more stable and with us most or all of the time.

Is this just something that happens on its own or can we invite it in and deepen in it? For me, both seem true.

Yes, it can certainly happen on its own. (For me, all three happened from early childhood on and later became more stabilized in the oneness. The mysterious feeling was stronger earlier on and now is rarer, but that’s natural since the oneness is independent of any feelings.)

And yes, we can invite it in – through being in nature, poetry, deep ecology readings and practices (Practices to Reconnect), eco-psychology and eco-spirituality readings and practices, inquiry to help us remove mind-barrier to a sense of oneness with it all, and so on. (I have been deeply involved in this too over the last three decades.)

And we can go beyond nature mysticism. It can become much more clear and – in a sense – simple.

We can taste and stabilize in oneness. In noticing, realizing, and living from all content of experience happening within and as what we are. (Whether we chose to interpret this in a big or small way, or a spiritual or psychological way, as I have written about in other articles.)

Here, any sense of being a separate self is left behind.

This too can happen spontaneously or through practices and exploration. Usually, it’s a combination of both. (The practices are the usual spiritual ones like meditation, prayer, heart-centered practices, inquiry, energy- and body-centered practices and so on.)

There are a few things it’s good to clarify.

Nature mysticism does often refer to a feeling. A feeling of nature and the universe as sacred, and perhaps even a feeling or sense of oneness with all of existence. Here, there is usually still a sense of being a separate self. (Which is fine and natural, it’s the mind creating this experience for itself.)

Even when oneness is more clear and stabilized, this feeling can come and go. As mentioned above, for me the feeling was much stronger earlier in my process although it still comes very occasionally. Now, there is usually just the noticing of oneness.

And all of this, whether it’s a variety of nature mysticism or some level of oneness, is typically translated into profound shifts in our worldview and – yes – in our lives and how we live in the world.

That’s why I write about it. It can be cool and help us as (individual) human beings in the world. And yet, what it can do for the world is equally or more important. The world today needs this. It needs more people experiencing it, being transformed by it, sharing it with others, and – in turn – transforming humanity (even if it’s just a tiny bit) and how we are in the world.

Image: Hiroshige, View of a Long Bridge Across a Lake

Adyashanti: Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal

 

Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal consciousness. The depth of our being is just astonishing.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 70

There are many definitions of spirituality, and the most basic one is perhaps Adya’s definition above. Spirituality suggests that we are going, or intend to go, beyond the personal human being and into something wider. Whether that is our human community, our Earth community (nature and Earth as a whole), the Universe as a whole, or Existence as a whole. And whether it is to connect with this larger whole, take it into account, live as if it matters, expand our sense of “us” to include all there is, or – ultimately – find ourselves as that, and this human being as an expression of it.

The importance of space exploration from human, Gaia, and Spirit views

 

I have always loved outer space, astronomy, space exploration, and science fiction. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ll write a few words about it at the end.

The moon landing happened 50 years ago on July 20. So here are some ways the moon landing and space exploration, in general, is important from the view of humans, Gaia, and the Universe, and also in the context of Spirit.

Human view

At the time, the moon landing was important for US politicians to show the superiority of their own technology over the Soviets. And, by extension, the superiority of their political and economic system. (The Soviets had reached earlier space-exploration milestones before the US.)

The space program was and is important in order to develop technology and understand our near neighborhood in space, and it was a good way of employing a large number of people (some say 400,000).

The moon landing inspired many young people and brought some of them into science and technology. It showed that technology and science can be cool and glamorous.

Space exploration is an expression of our need for adventure and exploration, built into us through our evolution.

The space program allowed us to, for the first time, see photos of the Earth as a whole and from the outside. This, along with testimonials from astronauts, helped us get a more visceral sense of the Earth as a seamless whole and a fragile living system we need to take care of. (This is part of the Overview Effect.)

As Carl Sagan and others said, the moon landing and early space exploration is a necessary step in humanity becoming a multi-planetary species. And this is essential for our long term survival. (Elon Musk is talking about this today as a motivation for his space technology business.)

Gaia view

The view from Gaia – Earth as a seamless living system – gives space exploration a different context.

Human space exploration is Earth’s space exploration. Earth has developed itself into ecosystems, the human species, human technology and science, and human sense of adventure. And it has done so over time, within itself, and as part of itself. It’s all part of the evolution of Earth.

Space exploration is the living Earth exploring beyond its borders. It’s beginning to explore its neighborhood.

Through space exploration, Earth is seeing itself from the outside and as a whole for the first time.

And through humans, Earth may eventually reproduce. Humans may terraform planets, making them into Earth’s offspring. They won’t be identical to Earth, but they come from the living Earth. (In this sense, humans may function as the reproductive organs of Earth.)

Gaia means Earth as a seamless living system. It doesn’t mean that Earth is conscious in the way we think of it. And it doesn’t mean that space exploration or anything else was intentionally planned at the level of Earth as a whole. It’s more something that naturally and organically grew and continue to grow out of Earth as a living system.

Universe view

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the Universe. We are the Universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Spirit view

All of this is Spirit – the divine, God, Brahman – expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

The evolving Earth. Ecosystem evolution. Species evolution. Human evolution. Cultural evolution. Development of science and technology. Human sense of adventure (and wanting to be better than the other tribe). Human space exploration. It’s all part of Spirit and Spirit exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways.

Some background…

I’ll add a few words about my own interest in this.

Early on in my childhood, I had a deep love for exploration and adventure, anything having to do with the future, and anything to do with deep space and deep time.

I also had an early sense of belonging to all of existence including the universe as a whole. I remember going out into the yard after watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan when I was about ten. Looking up at the infinite space and the stars. And experiencing profound awe, gratitude, and sense of not only belonging to the universe but being the universe in awe of itself.

Later, through the spiritual opening or early awakening when I was sixteen, it became clear that all of it happens within and as consciousness. It all happens within and what I am, and everything is. It all happens within and as Spirit.

And in my mid-to-late teens and early twenties, this evolved into a deep interest in systems views (Fritjof Capra), Deep Ecology (Arne Næss), the Gaia view (James Lovelock), the Overview Effect (Frank White), ecospirituality, ecopsychology, the Universe Story, and similar approaches.

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What is evil?

 

What is evil? What does it refer to?

As usual, there are many answers – each with some value.

Personally, I don’t find the word very useful and rarely if ever use it, apart from when I explore it in inquiry or as I do here.

So with that caveat, here are some answers to the question: what is evil?

The easy answer is that nothing is inherently evil, and nothing is what we call it. Evil is in the label. The idea of evil is created from a mental overlay.

We could also say that it’s intentionally causing harm to others, whether as a byproduct of getting to another goal or for its own sake. This is tricky since we all cause harm to other living beings in our daily life – especially to non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations.

And that’s a reminder that what’s evil depends on who we are. If we are a human, then evil can be seen as what other humans do to us when they act in ways that systematically harm us. If we are a non-human or an ecosystem, we can say that the current behavior of humans is evil since it systematically harms non-human life. Animals are imprisoned and killed just so they can provide food or other products to humans, and they often suffer immensely in the process. Ecosystems are systematically damaged and destroyed so what’s extracted from them can temporarily support human activity. And if we are any being in the future – any future human or non-human being or ecosystem – then the current human behavior is evil. It’s destructive for all future generations. This means that, in a sense, we are all evil. Each of us is evil to someone. And our current human society, the way it’s organized, functions in an evil way. If we chose to use the word evil, and if we want to be honest with ourselves, we have to include this view.

And, related to “it’s all in the label”, evil – as anything else we see in ourselves or the wider world – is a projection. It’s an idea we put on something in the world. And the idea, as any other idea, is made up by our own mind by a combination of mental images, words, and sensations. We may feel that something is evil, because it’s connected to sensations in our body that makes the idea seem solid, real, and perhaps even true. And that, in turn, is happening because we have learned it from our parents, friends, subcultures, and our culture in general. (That’s probably why I don’t find the word very useful or compelling: I didn’t grow up in a culture where it was used much or was seen as meaningful.)

In a more pragmatic sense, what we conventionally label evil in humans is often their reaction to their own trauma and pain. Hurt people hurt people. When we see someone acting in a way we can call evil, it’s often because they themselves have deep wounds they don’t know how to deal with in a constructive way, so they react to their deep pain by inflicting pain on others. Or, at the very least, by not caring very much if they inflict pain on others. (This gives us some understanding and empathy for people acting in this way but doesn’t in any way condone their actions. It’s still our duty to do what we can to stop harmful actions.)

This lack of caring can also happen if we are very removed from the consequences of our actions. If most humans today can be seen as evil from the perspective of non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations, it’s not because we wish to inflict pain and suffering on these. It’s because the consequences of our actions are often far removed from us. We don’t see the consequences and don’t get immediate feedback. And it’s also because we live and operate within a social system that’s created in a world (in the 1800s) where the resources and garbage-absorption capacity of the natural world seemed infinite and is still – for the most part – considered infinite in our economic system. It’s not, in itself, evil, but the consequences can certainly be experienced and seen as evil.

How can I work with this in my own life?

I can explore my ideas of evil in this way, and through inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process etc.). I can find in myself the qualities and characteristics I see as evil, and see “out there” in the world and other people. (Even if what I find are perhaps much smaller or even just seeds and potentials.) I can put myself in the place of others – including non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations – and ask myself how they would see my behaviors, and perhaps use that as a correction. I can inform myself about the far-reaching and distant consequences of my actions and use this as a correction and guide for my own life. I can invite in healing for my own traumas and wounds so I am less likely to create and operate from ideologies aimed at protecting me from my own pain (racism, sexism, uncaring anthropocentrism, general dehumanization etc.), or lash out when my pain is triggered and harm myself and others.

Personally, I find my actions are evil from the perspective of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. It’s not intended to be evil, but I know it can easily be seen that way. After all, I operate within a system that doesn’t take the long term and distant effects of our actions much into consideration. It’s not incorporated, because it didn’t need to be when our system was developed. I also know I my actions have caused suffering for others, especially when I have not been able to be completely honest or in my own integrity because of my own pain and fears. That is something I am working on, both in terms of finding healing for my issues creating this behavior and preventing it by being honest, taking care of my own needs (some of it has happened because I didn’t), and be more in integrity.

The other climate change denial

 

When we talk about climate change (or climate crisis) denial, we usually mean denial of it happening or that it’s created by humans. Although this gets a lot of attention, it’s fortunately not so widespread. When it happens, it’s typically fueled by money from the fossil fuel industry, based on misinformation, and mostly involves people who – based on what they have heard and emotional reasoning – think they know better than people who have devoted their life to understanding and studying it.

There is another climate change denial that’s as or more important. This is the denial of the seriousness of the crisis we are in. It’s a denial not only if the seriousness of the climate crisis, but of the wider ecological crisis we are in.

Here are some of the views characterizing this denial:

It won’t be very serious. For decades, this was the default approach. Some years ago, I read news stories about a 10-30cm ocean level rise while anyone who had thought about it (the amount of land-based ice that would melt) realized it could easily be in the several meter range. 

Other things are more important. Again, this is a typical default view. Short-term interest are more important. Group interests are more important. We sometimes also assume that issues that are important – education, healthcare, infrastructure etc. – are more important. They are obviously important, but to prioritize it over creating a truly sustainable global culture and society is misguided. Currently, the young climate rebels are among those who really gets this and act on it. 

We have time. No, we don’t have time. We needed to make the changes yesterday, or a decade ago, or several decades ago. We can’t put it off. 

It requires only a few peripheral adjustments. No, it requires profound and deep systemic changes in all social systems, including economics (how we think about economics and our framework for it), transportation, energy production and use, education, and more. It requires deep changes in how we see ourselves in relation to the world as a whole and how this is reflected in our intellectual frameworks and social infrastructure. 

Others will do it. Others may take the lead, but we – each one of us – are required to participate. This is about humanity as a whole. 

It’s mainly about climate change. No, it’s equally or more about shrinking natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, toxins in air, water and soil, lack of clean drinking water, and social injustice. 

It’s true that the denial of the climate crisis – or denying it’s created by human activity — is serious and needs to be addressed.

But the real climate denial is the one most of us participate in. It’s the denial of the seriousness and acuteness of the issue and that it’s about a lot more than just climate change.

Space exploration and the epic of evolution

 

And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos, episode 13

When I was a child, I was strongly influenced by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and especially the quote above. It touched something in me. It resonated with a knowing in me.

Later, in my early twenties, I read The Overview Effect by Frank White, and that too resonated deeply with how I already experienced the world. In it, he describes how astronauts, when they see the Earth from space, often viscerally realize that the Earth is one seamless whole, fragile, with a thin layer of air supporting life. For some astronauts, and especially those who went further away from Earth, it was a deeply transformative experience.

All of us have access to it through photos, movies, and first-person accounts. And also through seeing the starry sky at night, and any time we are reminded of the Earth as one seamless whole. In my case, I had a profoundly transformative experience when I was 10 or 12 years old, in a sleeping bag under the vast starry sky on a mountain in Norway (Sølen) with an equally vast view of the landscape stretching our below me.

I see that Frank White has a new book coming out in a few weeks: The Cosma Hypothesis – Implications of the Overview Effect.

Following the pattern set in The Overview Effect, the book draws on interviews with astronauts about the ways in which spaceflight shifted their understanding of our relationship with the universe. The Cosma Hypothesis suggests that our purpose in exploring space should transcend focusing on how it will benefit humanity. We should ask how to create a symbiotic relationship with the universe giving back as much as we take, and spreading life, intelligence, and self-awareness throughout the solar system and beyond. 

From the Cosma Hypothesis book description.

I obviously haven’t read the book yet, but again it resonates with me.

As Carl Sagan said in the quote above, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into awareness. We do it in all the different ways we live our lives, individually and collectively, no matter how exciting and novel or mundane and familiar it seems to us. All beings are the local senses, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. All beings are the universe locally bringing itself into awareness.

And so it also is with space flight and space exploration. That too is the universe bringing itself into awareness. The universe exploring itself beyond this one living planet. It may even be how the universe spreads the life on this one living planet beyond this planet through colonization and terraforming. From the Earth’s perspective, we may well function as the reproductive organs of Earth.

The universe brought itself alive through this living planet and us, and it’s very natural for it to wish to explore itself beyond this one planet, and even to spread life beyond this one living planet, and to do so through us. We happen to be the social and physical organs of the Earth that are equipped to do just that, and the time for the first small steps happens to be now.

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Adyashanti: People suffer terribly when they lack a self-transcending orientation

 

People suffer terribly when they lack a self-transcending orientation

– Adyashanti

Yes, and that can be several forms of self-transcending.

It can be a genuine care for someone else – a partner, parents, children, friends. It can be a genuine care for the larger society, Earth as a whole, and future generations.

It can be a sense of belonging to a larger whole – whether it’s a family, group of friends, a larger society, the Earth, or even the Universe or existence as a whole.

It can be a sense of oneness with the larger whole or all of existence, or a realization that all of existence – as it appears to us – happens within and as what we are.

What are some of the benefits of a self-transcending orientation?

Most of us have a self-transcending orientation, at least sometimes and in some areas of life. It’s more a matter of what we give our attention to. I notice that when I give my attention to the larger whole in one of these ways, there is a sense of belonging, care, and gratitude. I know who I am in an important sense.

Also, a self-transcendent orientation tends to reward us back. We serve ourselves and the larger whole, and the larger whole responds.

ltimately, a self-transcendent orientation is aligned with reality and who and what we are. We are the universe locally bringing itself into awareness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. And as what we are (aka consciousness), we are that which existence – as it appears to us – happens within and as.

And that also gives the answer to why a lack of a self-transcending orientation creates suffering. It’s out of alignment with who and what we are. It’s out of alignment with who we are as human beings, completely interdependent with all of life and as a local expression of society, Earth, and the universe. It’s out of alignment with what we are, as that which everything – ourselves and the whole world as it appears to us – happens within and as. And pragmatically, it’s very unwise and tends to create a miserable life.

In a sense, life rewards a grounded, sane, mature self-transcending orientation. And it discourages the opposite. Life can’t help it, because a self-transcending orientation is aligned with who and what we are, and a lack of a self-transcending orientation is out of alignment with who and what we are.

Healing and the limits of what happens inside of thoughts

 

When it comes to healing of emotional issues, it’s limited what can happen inside of the person’s thoughts. There is a limit to what can happen through thinking and talking. 

Of course, through thinking and talking, some limited resoling and healing can happen. It can be good to think or talk about something and put words on it. It can be good to have someone listening to it, whether that’s ourselves or someone else, especially when the listening is kind, insightful, and helps us find our own insights and resolutions. 

In the best case, it can help us gain some perspective and resolution. In the worst case, our painful (and trauma-creating) stories can be reinforced by ourselves or the other person. And by entering into something too quickly or in an unskillful way, we can also retraumatize ourselves. 

And although emotional issues may be largely created by us believing our own thoughts about something that happened, the emotional issues themselves go far beyond out thoughts. They sit in our whole system. 

So for a more thorough and real healing and resolution, we often need something outside of thought. As mention above, the main healing factor may be listening with presence, patience, respect, kindness, and invitation for us to find our own insights and resolution. 

Among the many outside-of-thought approaches to healing out there, I am only familiar with a few so those are the ones I write about here. They are just examples, and I don’t mean to say you have to do any of these. The ones available to you, and the ones that work for you are the ones best for you. 

So here is a list of examples I happen to be familiar with: 

Release tension related to and created by the issue out of the body through therapeutic tremoring (TRE). 

Reorient in how I relate to the emotional issue and to the triggering situation through heart-centered practices. (Ho’o, tonglen, all-inclusive gratitude practices.) 

Examine the stressful and issue-creating thoughts, and find what’s more true for me (The Work). 

Examine how the mind creates its own experience, and specifically the issue, through combining sensations and thoughts. Peak behind the curtain. Shine sunlight on the troll. (Living Inquiries.) 

Use energy healing to release the issue, including through releasing conditioning at all levels and invite in new insights. (Vortex Healing.) 

In addition, there are the time-honored ways of healing through touch, movement, loving social interactions, and time in nature. 

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Why is nature healing?

 

Why do we experience being in nature as healing? 

In nature, we are reminded of our larger ecological self. We are an expression of this living planet and its ecosystems, and in nature, we remember. We remember who we are. 

And the same is the case when we look up at the night sky. We are the universe evolving into this living planet and us, and we remember. That’s one reason a dark night sky is so important. 

Our species evolved in and as part of nature. Almost all of our ancestors lived in nature. It’s our natural habitat. It’s where we are home. 

In nature, we more naturally connect with our physical body. We remember who we are. We are invited to shift out of our obsession with thinking and into sensing and feeling, and this in itself is a relief and healing. 

Nature reminds us that the natural state is allowing and non-judgment. Nature allows all as it is. Nature doesn’t engage in value judgments. It doesn’t say that this straight tall tree is better than that crooked old one. And when we shift in that direction, that too is a relief and healing. 

We learn a lot by being in nature. We learn how we respond to different situations. We learn to handle challenges. We learn nothing is personal. 

In my experience, the more wild nature is, the more I benefit from all of this. And that’s one of many reasons why it’s not only important to preserve nature and ecosystems but to preserve the wild. 

Of course, not all experience it this way. In nature, we are also faced with our own conditioning. We are faced with the beliefs and habits that – in our minds and experience – remove us from our body, ancestry, and nature. And that’s another benefit of being in nature. We get to see how we divorce ourselves from our larger self and who we are. 

Deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, healing, sustainability, spirituality, nonduality

 

These are the types of articles that quickly mushroom into something that could be a book instead of a brief article. So I’ll try to keep it brief and succinct. The downside is, of course, that a lot of the richness and juiciness is left out. The upside is that it invites the reader to explore the richness and left-out connections for themselves. Rich explorations sometimes come out of very simple pointers.

What are some of the connections between deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, epic of evolution, systems views, healing, sustainability, and spirituality? These are all areas that have been passions for me since my teens, and they are closely related, although often not explored in connection with each other.

Deep ecology can help us change our conscious view and be more aware of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life. We are a part of nature and the Earth. All life has intrinsic value.

Deep ecology practices, such as Joanna Macy’s Practices to Reconnect, helps us have a visceral experience of deep time and the deep interconnectedness of all life. Over time, this visceral experience of deep time and deep interconnectedness can become a new norm for us. It can become something we naturally live from in daily life.

Ecopsychology can provide very helpful pointers for how to bring more people on board with sustainability, and organize society so that what’s easy and attractive to do is also something that benefits society as a whole, ecosystems, and future generations. Other branches of ecopsychology give helpful pointers for individual healing.

Systems theories help us also change our conscious view to recognize the deep interconnectedness of all life, of society and ecosystems. Earth is one seamless system, and we can learn basic principles of how Earth as a living system – along with most or all other living systems – work. A systems view also gives us pointers for where to target what types of social interventions to invite systemic changes.

Healing is essential for reducing reactivity, open for more flexible, pragmatic, and big picture views, and provide contentment and a sense of safety allowing us to act more consistently in the interests of the larger whole and future generations. As we heal, and if our basic needs are taken care of and we feel relatively safe, we tend to mature. And as we mature, we naturally tend to broaden our concern to include others, the wider social and ecological wholes, and even future generations. Our sense of “us” tends to broaden and be more inclusive. At the very least, as we heal and mature, we don’t feel as threatened if someone else acts from this more inclusive sense of “us”.

Society and culture is another aspect of this and a big topic. Some cultures already offer a deeper sense of connection with all life, while our modern western one tends to teach us we are separate from nature and disconnected from past and future generations (however illogical that is). Similarly, I imagine that societies with good social safety nets tend to allow people the “luxury” of being concerned with sustainability. And, of course, ecological crisis – whether regional or global – will tend to do the same out of necessity.

Ecospirituality can open for a deeper sense of all as expressions of the divine, and it can help us bring people from different religions on board with sustainability by using their existing religious language, values, and rituals. Depending on the religion, and the subgroups within the religion, we can say that all is the divine, or infused with the divine, or at least divine creation. And that we are not only part of but stewards of God’s creation and responsible for passing on an Earth to our descendants that will allow them to thrive. The specific language will depend on the religion and the subgroups, as will the rituals and practices aimed at deepening our experience of all as the divine, and how we bring it into our lives and society.

Epic of Evolution uses science to help people shift into views and more visceral experiences of deep time, the deep interconnectedness of all, reverence for all of existence, and even Big Mind. As Carl Sagan said, “And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.”

Spirituality and nonduality provide tools supporting all of these shifts in perceptions, views, and visceral experiences. Heart-centered practices help us reorient from indifference or aversion to befriending and finding genuine love and appreciation for ourselves, others, society and ecosystems as a whole, life as a whole, and future generations. Inquiry helps us heal from wounds and hangups created by identifications, and it also helps us see through and shift out of the sense of separation created by identifications. The Big Mind process, which is a form of guided inquiry, can allow us to have a direct and immediate taste of all as the divine which can also help us reorient and feel a greater sense of responsibility for how our actions impact all life.

I should add the obvious, that natural and social sciences, and technology, are all vital components for us creating a more sustainability society locally, regionally, and globally. Effective global governance is another vital component. As is shifting out of neo-liberal views and policies aimed at benefiting corporations over people, nature, and future generations.

When I imagine a more sustainable society in the future, at least in regions of Earth, I imagine all of these as important components and commonly found in different parts of society. And I imagine serious research being done in each of these fields. Of course, most likely only a small(ish) part of society will be actively interested or engaged in these areas, although that’s often enough for it to be reflected in mainstream culture, and it may be enough to bring about the changes needed.

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Finding healing: three basic ways

 

In my experience, I can find healing in three ways.

I can find healing for the issue itself, whether it’s physical, emotional, a relationship, or something else. This is the conventional approach and obviously an important one.

I can change my relationship to it. From seeing it as a problem and an enemy, I can befriend it and what it triggers in me. This, in itself, changes a great deal and is often experienced as a great relief.

I can find that which is already whole beyond the issue. This may be my wholeness as a human being, which is always here and goes far beyond any issues. It can be being part of the wholeness of the Earth or the Universe or all life. It can be being what I am, that which any experience happens within and as.

How do I go about finding these forms of healing?

Since the first is the conventional approach, the world is full of advice and opportunities for this one. I have written about my own experiences in healing from CFS and Lyme, and also in finding healing emotionally and for parts of me (using inquiry, heart-centered approaches, TRE, Vortex Healing, and other approaches).

I can change my relationship to anything that seems problematic through, for instance, inquiry or heart-centered practices. Inquiry for me is often The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process, parts/subpersonality work, and dialogue with a part or actual person. Heart-centered approaches may be ho’oponopno, tonglen, prayer, gratitude explorations, or whatever else works for us.

Finding what’s already whole depends on what level of wholeness we wish to explore. In periods when I have done meditation and yoga daily, I have found an amazing sense of my wholeness as a mind-body whole. I have also found it, slightly differently, through receiving and giving Breema and especially when I have been immersed in the atmosphere through an intensive or when I gave daily sessions. The connection with (or as) the wholeness of the Earth and Universe can come through being in nature or any number of practices, for instance, the Practices to Reconnect. Finding myself as that which already allows and is any experience can happen through meditation, inquiry, heart-centered practices, and many other ways.

And really, it all depends on grace.

Getting to the point where we are able to have issues and discomfort is grace. It required this amazing universe and Earth and us as temporary parts of it. That’s an amazing grace if there ever was one.

Getting to get to the point where we are interested in finding healing, in any of these forms, is grace.

Having a glimpse of the possibility of these forms of healing is grace.

Inviting it in, through intention and exploration, is grace.

When it happens, it’s grace.

What we call grace is really just the universe or life coming together a certain way locally. Sometimes, we may see just some things (the ones our mind tells us are good) as grace. Sometimes, we may see everything as grace (because it is).

Note: In the “finding wholeness beyond the issue” section, I lumped together things I normally would keep in separate categories. Finding mind-body wholeness is quite different from finding the Earth/Universe wholeness, and those are again quite different from finding what I am, that which allows and is any experience. But that’s OK. In this context, and especially in a brief article like this, it seemed OK to group them together. And it’s a reminder that this should really be a book rather than just a set of brief articles.

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Why is the world beautiful?

 

Why do we experience the world as beautiful?

Why do we experience people, animals, plants, landscapes, art, music, science, the Earth as a whole, stars, nebulae – and much more – as beautiful? As intrinsically beautiful?

Could it be because we are it? We are the universe experiencing itself as all of that. We are Earth experiencing itself as landscapes, animals, plants, humans. We are life itself experiencing itself as all of that. We are a product of the evolution of the Universe, Earth, and life on Earth. We experience ourselves. And we find it fascinating, interesting, and beautiful.

And what happens when we find some of it not beautiful? Could it be because we have stressful and unpleasant stories about it, and those stories temporarily shade our experience of its beauty?

In the even bigger picture, we can say that all is Spirit. All is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriads of forms. So it’s only natural for Spirit to find it beautiful. Spirit – as us – finds Spirit – as the world – beautiful. And Spirit sometimes forget. Spirit – as us – sometimes tells itself parts of itself is not beautiful, and temporarily believes it, and that too is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriad of ways. That too is Lila… the play of the divine.

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Janeway: In my time, no human being would dream of endangering the future

 

In my time, Mister Starling, no human being would dream of endangering the future to gain advantage in the present.

– Captain Kathryn Janeway to Henry Starling in Star Trek Voyager, Future’s End II

Star Trek is loved by many exactly because it’s optimistic about the future. It shows a future where we have solved many of the “childhood diseases” of humanity and where society is more life-centered. As Janeway says, they wouldn’t dream of (knowingly) endangering the lives of future generations to gain advantage in the present.

To many, this is inspiring and shows us the direction we want to move in. We can make small steps in the present to live more like this in our own lives and in creating this type of society.

It’s out of fashion to talk about steady or continued social progress, and for good reasons. (What is progress? Who decides? Who says it continues indefinitely?) And yet, we have seen a gradual progress in terms of who we include in the circle of us. Outright slavery is no longer acceptable. And in the future, animals, ecosystems, and future generations of all species may very well be included in who we see as “us”. It may well have to happen for us to create a more ecologically sustainable civilization.

Most likely, it will happen through a combination of changing norms and expectations, a realization that it’s in our own enlightened self-interest, and structural changes at all levels so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term is also what supports life in the big picture.

And, of course, we may never get to that place. Or it may continue to happen within subgroups of people, as it already does. I think what’s most likely is that eventually we will collectively do the minimum to have a more ecologically sustainable civilization, and it will include some of these norms. We will, by necessity, include more of life in who we see as us. As they say, it likely won’t be as bad as we fear, nor as good as we hope.

A footnote: It seems obvious that a society where we take all life into consideration, including the welfare of future generations, is what’s best for us and everyone. Even a child knows it. And yet, it seems it’s not so obvious when we see what policies we support and implement.

This is where some forms of ecopsychology comes in. How do we present the case so people see it’s in their own interest? How do we get to the structural changes needed so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term, for individuals and groups, is also what’s life-supporting in the bigger picture and longer term? What are the practical steps we can take?

One pretty obvious step is to focus on attractive solutions, make it personal, speak to their existing values (shows how it fits into their existing values and identities), and offer concrete and practical steps we – individually and collectively – can make.

Some already do take these steps. Elon Musk comes to mind. He, almost single-handedly, made electric cars cool and attractive. People want those cars even if they have no interest in sustainability. He is developing batteries so buildings more easily can be off grid and create and store their own energy. And he is also thinking further ahead, working towards us becoming a multi-planetary species. (Which may be needed for our long-term survival, and is a way for Earth to reproduce and bring all kinds of Earth life and ecosystems to several planets. As I have written about before, with terraforming we function as the reproductive organ for the Earth.)

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Civilization and its discontents

 

A friend of mine’s profile picture on Facebook is of her snuggling with her cat. It’s very cute. And, knowing something about her background, it also reminded me of our human situation.

We have created a civilization that harms us and the Earth in some significant ways. It harms all life. And because of it, we seek comfort and healing in myriad of ways. My friend does it, partly, through reconnecting with nature and animals.

There is a lot more to say about this topic. But the main thing that struck me was just the image of her snuggling with her cat. And how that, in some ways, is such a good image of the trauma we have created for ourselves through our civilization and how we all seek comfort and healing from it in different ways.

Our civilization is partly built on an imagined disconnect from nature. That hurts us and all life. And we try to compensate for that hurt in so many ways, including seeking love, acceptance, money, power, healing, awakening, connection, and a great deal more that we see all around us and in ourselves. From our experience of disconnection comes a sense of lack and something missing, and we try to fill that hole in many different ways.

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If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person

 

Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.

This is the classic analogy, but it’s still very appropriate.

Take care of your own basic needs first, and then you’ll be in a much better position to assist others.

On the one hand, this is a dynamic balance. Sometimes, it’s appropriat to focus on taking care of our own needs. Other times, we are in a position to focus more on the needs of others. And this often changes with the roles we play over the course of a day and a lifetime.

On the other hand, they are two sides of the same coin. We may spend time taking care of our own needs, for instance when we need healing or to get basic needs taken care of, and that benefits others in the moment or later. Or we may find ways to assist others in ways that are deeply nurturing and meaningful to us, and also takes care of our own material needs.

Several things may help us find and live these solutions that simultaneously benefit and nurture ourselves and the wider world (even if it’s in apparently small ways).

It helps when we hold the bigger picture in mind. When we seek solutions good for all, including future generations. And when we are open to solutions outside of what we expect or are familiar with.

It helps when we take care of our beliefs and identifications around either being a self-sacrificing martyr or selfish. The solutions present themselves easier the less we are identified with these, and the more we are free from them.

It helps the less substantial we take the imagined boundary between ourselves and the larger whole to be. The more we experience it as just a temporarily imagined boundary, the easier it is to act in ways good for ourselves and the wider whole.

And it helps the more healed we are as human beings. Wounds often make us act in reactive ways, including from reactive and narrow-minded self-preservation. The more healed and whole we are, the more natural it is to wish to act in a way that’s kind and informed by larger picture concerns.

And working on these is, in itself, an example of a solution that benefit ourselves and the larger whole.

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My larger body

 

Some statements are often seen as poetic or romantic, but in this case, it’s a literal reality.

My larger body is nature and society. My larger body is this planet. My larger body is this solar system and universe.

My existence as a human being depends 100% on this larger body for its existence and survival. The only boundaries between this human self and the larger whole is imagined, and invested with reality only by our minds.

This is very real from a ordinary material and scientific point of view.

And going beyond that, as what I am – what all experience happens within and as – it’s all what I am.

It may seem a romantic or hippyish notion, but it has very real consequences for how we live our lives.

If I see myself as a human being mostly separate from the larger whole, I’ll act accordingly. I’ll act as if the health and well being the larger social and ecological systems matters little for my own health and well being. I’ll tend to act from a short term and narrow perspective. I’ll tend to act in a way that’s – intentionally or not – harmful for the larger whole. And we create our societies, social systems, and worlviews to reflect this. We’ll use economic models that assume that the health and well being of the larger whole doesn’t really matter. We’ll create transportation systems, production systems, food systems, water systems, energy systems, and more that reflect this world view. And we’ll reap the consequences individually and collective. That’s what we see today with a growing awareness of the consequences of toxins in our air, land, and water, diminishing ecosystems, and climate change.

If I see the larger social and ecological systems as my larger body, my view and actions will be different. I’ll act from a longer term and larger perspective. I’ll seek solutions that benefits myself as well as the whole. And we’ll collective use worldviews and systems that reflect this reality and this desire to support life at all levels.

If I see the solar systema and universe as my larger body, I’ll tend to experience a deep and profound sense of belonging and meaning. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into conscious awareness.

Of course, this has to be a lived reality for us. It may become a living reality through natural adult maturation and development. It may happen if we live in a society or group where this is a mainstream view. And it can happen through education and experiences such as the Practices to Reconnect by Joanna Macy.

I am aware that I am using the word “reality” here and it’s not really that. It’s a perception. An experience. A worldview. But “reality” works as a shorthand even if it’s not that precise.

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Why wolves?

 

There is an ongoing debate in norway about whether we should have wolves or not, and how many. The fault lines – as so often these days – seem to go between the urban and/or more educated, and the rural and/or less educated.

Here are some of the arguments against wolves, and my comments.

They take livestock. They do, but they take far fewer than trains, traffic, and disease. And the farmers receive compensation from the state if any are taken.

They are a risk to humans. No, they are virtually no risk to humans. The real risks are what we all know about, including traffic, suicide, poor lifestyle and food choices, and much more.

They are evil and scary. Yes, we may culturally have learned to see them as evil and project our shadow onto them, and they may trigger fear in us. That’s no reason to get rid of them. (I suspect this is what’s really going on since the apparently rational arguments are not very strong.)

And here are some arguments for having wolves.

For the benefit of the wolves. They have as much right to be here as we do. They are sentient beings just as us and wish to live.

For the ecosystems. Our ecosystems evolved with large predators, and healthy and thriving ecosystems depend on large predators.

For our benefit. Just as ecosystems, we need the wild. We evolved with and in the wild, and with high level predators. We need it for our own health and well being. We need it as a reminder of who we are, in an evolutionary context. We need it to feel alive.

Why are people really against wolves? I suspect primal fear of wolves is one aspect. Specifically, fear of losing animals to wolves may trigger a more primal fear than losing them to illness or trains. Another may be instinctual competition. Humans and wolves are both large predators, and it’s natural to try to eliminate the competition.

In my view, the arguments against don’t hold up well. And the arguments for are far more important – for them, for us, for nature as a whole.

As usual, I can add that this view is very predictable for someone with my background. I grew up in a well educated urban family. I love nature. I want to consider the rights and needs of other beings, including nonhuman species. I am liberal in terms of politics. If I had grown up as a sheep farmer in an area with wolves, my views may well have been different. And that doesn’t mean I won’t speak up for wolves. They need someone to speak for them.

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Ecopsychology and inquiry

 

Inquiry can easily be used in an ecopsychology context.

Specifically how depends on the person and his or her situation.

For people concerned about our current ecological situation, we can look at fear, stress, a sense of inadequacy etc.

For people worried they are not doing enough, we can look at guilt, shame, fear, and commands to do more (or less!).

For people caught up in us vs them thinking, we can look at identities and perceived boundaries creating this sense of division and separation.

For people who want to experience a deeper connection with nature, we can look at identities with a charge that creates a sense of separation.

There is no end to possibilities. It would be fun to do a workshop on this one day. It could perhaps be combined with Practices to Reconnect developed by Joanna Macy.

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Carl Sagan: We who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos

 

And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.

– Carl Sagan, Cosmos, episode 13

 

Thomas Berry: The story of the universe is the personal story of everybody

 

The story of the universe is the personal story of everybody.

– Thomas Berry in an interview with Drew Dellinger, June 1998

I can’t say it more clearly or simply.
The history if the universe is the personal story of all of us, of all beings and everything else.

In our modern science-based story of the universe, we are told how we expanded rapidly as energy (Big Bang), how we became light and matter, formed into stars and solar systems, how we exploded as stars and formed heavier elements and new solar systems, how we eventually formed into this planet, and how this planet formed itself into life, and eventually all life we see and know today. This is all my personal story. And yours.

When we tell this story, it’s often told from a more fragmented perspective. We look at it from the perspective of the parts. And it’s equally or more accurate to look at it from the perspective of the whole as well as the parts. We can say that the universe formed itself into all these things.

This story is also often told in the third person as “it”. It – the universe – formed itself into all these things. It’s equally true and accurate to tell this story in the first person plural. We formed into all these things, and eventually, what we see and know today.

Even from a mainstream science perspective, the universe is a seamless whole that formed itself into everything we see and know today, including you and me. Everything is “we”.

These are vital differences. Do we tell this story from the perspective of the parts and in the third person? Or do we tell this story from the perspective of the whole and the parts, and in the first person? These different views have real life consequences. They inform how we perceive ourselves, the universe, and our relationship to everything. They inform how we live and act. They even inform policies and how we organize ourselves as a society.

The first view creates the type of western and global society we see today. One that’s not aligned with ecological realities, and one that does not take nonhuman life, ecosystems, and future generations into account in any significant way. The second view has the potential to transform our society into one that is more aligned with ecological realities and takes nonhuman life, ecosystems, and future generations into account when it comes to policies and how we live and organize ourselves.

Historical perspectives: Including nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations

 

I just listened to the Revisionist History episode of Stuff You Should Know.

As they suggest, all history is by nature revisionist. We always change how we see and interpret the past, based on what’s important to us now (and sometimes just new information).

For a while now, historians have looked more at economy and class, gender, ethnicity, religion, and more. They have used these as filters, and looked at history from the perspective of groups previously left out such as women, children, non-European ethnic groups, the working class and poor, and religious minorities.

Two things were not mentioned in the podcast:

First, the difference between focusing on “ordinary” people vs. extraordinary people in history. Both has it’s value, and more historians are now focusing on the history of the ordinary people. How was their life and conditions? (This was a big part of my history classes in school.)

The other is looking at history through the filter of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. If history is, at least partly, about giving voice to the voiceless, and giving focus to the previously invisible, then this has to be included. How has our actions through history impacted nonhuman species and ecosystems, and also future generations? How have we treated these? How have they been ignored, or included and valued, in our decision process? 

A Green History of the World by Clive Pointing is an example from the 90s, and many people in the Deep Ecology and ecopsychology world have addressed the topic, but it’s still not included in mainstream history. It will, most likely, and perhaps sooner rather than later as ecological and sustainability issues become more and more obviously important to us.

Some green history questions that come to mind:

How have we (humans, at different places and times through history) treated the nonhuman world? How have we treated nonhuman species, nature, ecosystems? How have we treated future generations? (Both human and nonhuman.)

Have they been ignored? Included in our decision making? Respected? Have we been blind to them? Have we justified mistreatment of them, and how?

And why? How has our world view, values, fears, survival needs and more influenced this?

What can we learn from this? How does it apply to our current situation? What are the lessons?

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Doing what’s easy and attractive

 

I watched the climate change episode of the new Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and was surprised that he named “greed” as the main reason for the problems we are facing.

That may be a small part of it. But it’s not the main part, and it’s also not a helpful orientation if we want a change. We have tried shaming and blaming, and it doesn’t work very well.

To me, it’s mainly structural. And it’s also about identity.

We have an economical system  that’s not aligned with ecological realities. It’s created as if there is unlimited natural resources, and unlimited capacity to absorb waste and toxins. And the same goes for how we have organized ourselves in terms of transportation, energy, waste, politics, education, and more. None of these systems have been designed with ecological realities in mind.

And there is a good reason why: they didn’t need to. When they were designed, or when they evolved into what we have today, ecological concerns were peripheral at best. Other concerns were far more salient and important. Ecology wasn’t important, since we didn’t have the technology to wreak the kind of havoc we can today, and we also didn’t have the numbers to make it add up the way it does today. Our current systems were designed in a very different situation than we have today, and they are outdated, and have been for a while now.

These systems were designed, unintentionally, so that what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals, corporations, and societies – often happens to be what’s destructive for the living systems we are part of, and depend on for our well beings and lives. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it is right now. More and more people are waking up to this.

And we cannot fix it by patching here and there. We need to redesign these systems at a very basic level. We need to redesign them so that what’s easy and attractive to do, is what’s most supportive – or even restorative – for the Earth’s living systems, for ourselves and our families, for the global society, for non-human species, and for future generations.

We know quite a few solutions. One is to tax what we don’t want, and subsidize what we want more of. Another is to set product prices so they reflect an approximation of the real ecological, health, and human costs of the product.

This is also about identity.

If we see ourselves as an integral part of the Earth’s living systems, we are more likely to be concerned with this and support the solutions.

And if we are faced with (a) reasons to support these changes that fit into our existing values and identity, and (b) solutions that do the same, we are also much more likely to see this as important, and actively support it – through voting and how we live our lives.

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Conservative identity, climate change, and framing

 

Conservatives who reject the science of climate change aren’t necessarily reacting to the science, according to a new study from researchers at Duke University. They’re reacting to the fact that they don’t like proposed solutions more strongly identified with liberals.

– from Conservatives Don’t Hate Climate Change, They Hate The Proposed Solutions: Study in Huffington Post

There may be a scientific answer for why conservatives and liberals disagree so vehemently over the existence of issues like climate change and specific types of crime.

A new study from Duke University finds that people will evaluate scientific evidence based on whether they view its policy implications as politically desirable. If they don’t, then they tend to deny the problem even exists.

– from Denying Problems When We Don’t Like The Solutions, Duke University

This can be understood through the lens of identity. Conservatives assume that the solutions to climate change don’t fit with their conservative identity, so they deny the problem even exists.

My uncle is a good example. He deeply loved nature and even taught biology at the university. At the same time, he deeply despised hippies and environmentalists. So he would take a position against sustainability and anything else he associated with dirty hippies and dangerously naive environmentalists. This included the reality and importance of climate change. It’s possible that the thought of agreeing with dirty hippies was too much for him, even if he loved nature and was an environmentalist at heart.

How can we use this understanding? For instance, how can  we frame the topic so it’s less threatening to the conservative identity, or so it fits well into and is attractive to the conservative identity?

Here are some ideas for framing and communication:

Highlight reasons for supporting sustainability that match conservative values and identity. It allows us to maintain our society and traditions. It’s good for business. (Opens for new business opportunities.) It’s good for our families and children, and their children. We take care of God’s creation. We are better stewards of God’s creation. 

Highlight solutions that fit into conservative values and identity. (See that there are solutions that are non-threatening, or even attractive, from a conservative view.) Reduce taxes on sustainable technology, products and energy. Subsidize businesses that move strongly in a sustainable direction, in how they operate and the services and products they offer. Emphasize business opportunities. Support innovation in sustainable products and services.

Highlight conservative business and political leaders who (a) acknowledge the need for sustainability, (b) support sustainability, and (c) embrace solutions to sustainability that fits into the conservative values and identity. (See that it’s possible.)

 And some research ideas:

Divide up in two, three or four conservative groups: cultural conservatives, old fashioned business conservatives, free-market liberals, libertarians.

Offer differently framed messages, and see if how they respond.

Different messages: (a) Connect it with traditional environmentalists and their message. (This would be a control group of sorts, and is likely to get an averse reaction from many.) (b) Highlight how it fits conservative values. (c) Highlight solutions that fit conservative values. (d) Highlight conservatives who actively support sustainability. (e) Combine b-d. (f) Possibly target the different types of conservatives within b-d.

The control group would receive an unrelated message before answering these questions. The other groups would receive the messages outlined above.

Outcomes: How important they see sustainability. If they see sustainability as desirable and supportive of families, communities, and business. Their support of solutions aligned with their values. How important it is that the solutions and approaches align with their (conservative) values.

Do preliminary studies and interviews to (a) identify types of conservatives, and (b) which types of messages seem to resonate the most for each of these types.

The message can be written, or audio or video.

It’s important to note that this is coming from an honest place. By framing the message so it fits conservative values and identities, it’s just made available to another group of people. They get to see that sustainability very well can fit their values. And, possibly, that it’s something they can support more wholeheartedly through voting, words and actions.

Note: What are the values of a green conservative? It will depend on the type of conservative, and there are probably books on the topic, and groups out there who define as green conservatives. And, of course, as with any greens, there are light (small steps) and deep (deep restructuring) variations, and also green-washing (sustainability in name only).

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Andrew Solomon: They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better

 

“We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave.

They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.

Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.”

~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.

From The Moth podcast, Notes on an Exorcism.

Book trailer: Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth

 

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth Book Trailer from Working with Oneness on Vimeo.

SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY: THE CRY OF THE EARTH

Contributors include: Chief Oren Lyons, Thomas Berry, Thich Nhat Hanh, Chief Tamale Bwoya, John Stanley & David R. Loy from EcoBuddhism, Joanna Macy of the Work That ReconnectsSandra Ingerman, Fr. Richard Rohr, Wendell Berry, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Brian Swimme, Sister Miriam MacGillis from, Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Dr. Susan Murphy, Pir Zia Inayat-Kahn, Winona LaDuke, Bill Plotkin, Geneen Marie Haugen, Jules Cashford, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

A collective spiritual emergency, and possibly dark night

 

Spiritual emergencies happen at individual and collective levels.

A spiritual emergency is a crisis with a spiritual component. It may stretch and open us up to new ways of perceiving and being in the world. It may also be experienced as deeply challenging, requiring more of us than we thought was possible. And it eventually requires us to act from insight and love instead of from our old fear based patterns.

A dark night is a particular form of spiritual emergency. It may involve loss in many forms…. of situations, roles, hopes, dreams, and even fears. Old identifications are seen through or worn off. Wounds and traumas surface to be healed. To our conscious mind, it may seem that grace is lost and everything is moving in the wrong direction.

We are now collectively headed into a spiritual emergency, a spiritual emergency shared by humanity as a whole. We may even be headed into a collective dark night.

The Earth is going through major changes. We are about to face the consequences of our western worldview and how we have seen ourselves in relationship to Earth.

Ecosystems unravel. Large number of species go extinct. Water, soil and air is poisoned. There will be more frequent and more serious regional, and possibly global, water and food shortages.

And all of that is because we have seen ourselves as separate from the Earth, and the Earth as unlimited for extracting resources and dumping waste and toxins. We have organized ourselves collectively, in all areas of society, without taking ecological realities into account.

Facing the increasingly obvious and tangible consequences of this is, in a very real way, a collective and shared spiritual crisis. It forces us to re-evaluate our priorities. It requires us to examine and profoundly change our worldview and how we see ourselves in relation to the Earth, and to current and future generations of all species. It requires us to reorganize ourselves in very practical ways, so that what’s easy and attractive to do also supports life in a deep sense.

This spiritual crisis has already taken the form of a dark night for some, and it may do so for many more in the near future.

The Earth is merciless. It mirrors back to us our relationship to it in a very tangible way. And as with any spiritual crisis, and any dark night, this is also grace and an invitation to find a new life, to find a new way of perceiving ourselves and the world, and a new way of being in the world.

 

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Nonduality, systems view, ecophilosophy

 

I went to a talk with Stephan Harding and David Abram at Schumacher College earlier tonight, and was reminded of the connection between nonduality and ecophilosophy. (Mainly because the way they talked about it bordered on the nondual, but didn’t quite embrace or come from it.)

To me, nonduality, systems views, and various forms of ecophilosophy are natural allies. They complement each other beautifully.

Nonduality simplifies and unifies, and offers pointers to see through stories.

And the other ones are powerful stories which can transform our lives at individual and collective levels in a very much needed way at this point in our history.

What these all have in common is a recognition of stories as stories, with a power to guide and transform our lives. And of the oneness of all life, of everything that is.

Old blogs and rants

 

I just added a link to my old blogs in the about section, and thought I would add them here too.

Here is a list of my my old blogs, where the most interesting one may be the Rants. It’s mostly about US politics, and I see  lots of beliefs there!

I also have a few old essays listed, and these are also included and more easily read on this site.

Ecospirituality – an outline for a presentation I gave in Madison, Wisconsin.

Ecospirituality: an outline of a worldview – text fragments for an older website.

Ecopsychology, ecospirituality, deep ecology and health – a letter translated from Norwegian.

Økopsykologi, økospiritualityet, dypøkologi og helse – et åpent brev