I think sometimes we need to take a step back and just remember we have no greater right to be here than any other animal.– David Attenborough
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 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.
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 – a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universeWikipedia 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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the Universe. We are the Universe bringing itself into consciousness.
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.
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.Read More
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
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.Read More
People suffer terribly when they lack a self-transcending orientation– Adyashanti
Yes, and that can be several forms of self-transcending.
It can be
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.
Where is the final or ultimate “I”?
Where do I think it is? Where have I glimpsed it is? And where is it, in my immediate experience?
Is it in this human self? Is this apparently separate self the final word on what I really am?
Or is it in life itself? As this Earth? As the universe? As all of existence? As all as consciousness? As that which is capacity for it all?
There are several layers to this as well as ways of noticing.
I can have an intellectual understanding, either through western science and philosophy (Universe Story, Epic of Evolution, Ecospirituality) or from mysticism and maps from different spiritual traditions.
I can have glimpses, either without anything apparently bringing it about or through certain practices (inquiry, Big Mind process, basic meditation, practices to reconnect etc.).
And my center of gravity can shift. Perhaps it’s first as this human being in the world. Then, as the wholeness of what I am as human and soul. Or as the wholeness of existence. Or as consciousness somehow separate from the content of existence. Or as consciousness that all experience happens within and as. Or as that which is capacity for it all. Or as this capacity and all it is capacity for (consciousness and all content of experience happens within and as consciousness).
This is one aspect of what spirituality is about. Being curious about where the final “I” is. Exploring it. Noticing new layers of “I” in glimpses. And gradually, and sometimes suddenly, having shifts in the center of gravity of what I experience as “I”.
And really, it’s life exploring itself. It’s life temporarily and locally taking itself as a local “I” and not questioning whether this is the final or most basic “I”. And then being curious about it, either through spontaneous glimpses opening up to something more, or through intuition or a knowing, or perhaps through a crisis that makes it question basic assumptions. It’s life gradually gaining an intellectual understanding and seeing that it must be life itself
I want to add a few words about using (structured) inquiry to explore what we are. We can use forms of inquiry that explicitly helps us shift into what we already are, like the Big Mind process and the headless experiments. And we can use inquiry that helps us see what we are not, and helps us see how our mind creates a certain experience for itself of what it is (through images, words, and sensations), and how it holds onto it as true in order to find a sense of safety. Both are equally helpful and they feed into each other.
Shifting into what we are highlights our old (an incomplete and ultimately false) ideas of who or what we are. And shifting out of our old ideas of who or what we are invites in a noticing of (more of) what we really are. And it’s good, and eventually essential, to question absolutely all our experiences or ideas of who or what we are, even the most “spiritual” or “enlightened” ones, and perhaps especially those. They may still be roughly accurate and serve as helpful pointers, but if we hold onto those ideas as true and our identity, we’ll eventually need to question and see through them.Read More
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
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.
My mystical experience has faded a lot now. I still spend time in nature, but that incredible oneness and closeness of feeling with the birds, trees, rivers is much less.
You may already have discovered this. One thing that has helped me with fading mystical experiences is to see what’s still there. Often, the strength of the experience may fade or the “bells and whistles” (the bliss, amazement etc.) may go away, but something is still there. And what’s still there is often the most central.
What I have found helpful is asking myself “what’s the essence of the mystical experience”, and then see if I can find that here and now. For instance, it may be a sense of oneness, or that all is Spirit or the divine. Initially, it can be a bit disappointing to see that it’s here but not as strong as before. But as you attend to it, you may find a real appreciation for what’s still here. It may turn out to be what’s most important and transformative in the long run.
– from my reply
I thought I would share this here. It’s common for mystical experiences to fade and for the side-effects – the bliss, awe, amazement – to go away. That’s the nature of mystical experiences. And there is an invitation here, and that’s to see what’s still here.
It’s easy to get into “chase the mystical experience” mode. I did for a while. Whether it works or not, it becomes pretty clear over time that it’s a bit like a dog chasing it’s tail. It can be fun, it may work, but it’s also exhausting and – if we are honest with ourselves – futile. It doesn’t really get us what we want because experiences, including the most amazing ones, fade and go away.
So what is it that didn’t go away? What’s still here? Maybe that’s what it is more about?
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.
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
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.
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 Reconnects, Sandra 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.
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.
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.
I just added a link to my old blogs in the about section, and thought I would add them here too.
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