Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature?

I recently watched the last season of His Dark Materials, and find I have as much and often more empathy with the dæmons as I do with their human counterpart. (The dæmons are animals representing an aspect of the people, their inner self, anima/animus, or something similar.)

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature? Why is it sometimes easier to find love for a non-human being than for some fellow humans?

There are many answers and they all (literally) come out of one.

Here are some that come to mind:

MISTREATED

Non-human beings are often mistreated by humans. I tend to side with the underdogs, and in this relationship, non-human beings are almost always the underdogs. I have a natural empathy with non-human beings for that reason. (I know this particular dynamic is rooted in my own history and experiences.)

INNOCENCE & DIFFERENT HISTORY

The natural world has everything from cooperation and care to fights and mercilessness.

At the same time, we see an innocence there. For all their savvy and specific skills, knowledge, and experience, many of them generally function cognitively at the level of human children or babies.

Most non-human species must have mental representations and use them as we do, to orient and function in the world. And yet, it seems they are much less likely to elaborate on and believe these imaginations. They use them in a more simple and direct way.

For many of us, it’s easier to find love for animals. They are simpler. In some ways, they are innocent like children. For that reason, we don’t experience the same friction with them as we do with humans. We don’t experience the clashes of hangups and worldviews we experience with humans. And most of us have been more hurt by humans than non-human beings, we have a different history with them.

For all of these reasons, it’s often easier to find love for non-human beings. And especially the ones we know personally and live with.

MIRROR

Animals mirror me in several different ways. I see myself in them.

They mirror my animal nature. They mirror how I am with a simpler mental field. They mirror how I am minus my more complicated – and complicating – human mental field with elaborate ideas, beliefs, identifications, etc.

And the different animals mirror different parts of me as well. Whatever story I have about any type of animal, I can turn it to myself and find specific and genuine examples of how, where, and when it’s true.

And since I wish to have – and have – some love and care for these parts of me, I have the same towards the beings mirroring these sides of me.

WE ARE CLOSELY RELATED

All Earth life is closely related. We are all, literally, part of the same family. We share ancestors. We are cousins. We are far more similar than we are different. We share far more than what’s unique and different.

We are “we” far more than we are “us” and “them”. And we all know this in our cells and bones and our mind when we subtract our complicated human mental field. Any ideas of separation come from our ideas, not from reality.

PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM

We are all part of the same living and evolving system we call Earth or Gaia.

We are subsystems in larger living systems.

We are subsystems in the larger systems we call the Earth and the universe and all of existence.

We are all expressions of the same larger living wholes.

We are part of the same metaphorical body we call life, Earth, the universe, and existence.

And that’s not just metaphorical or poetry or wishful thinking. It’s what current science tells us.

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

We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

EXPRESSIONS OF THE DIVINE

We can call existence and reality God, Spirit, or the divine.

Here, we can say that we are all expressions of God, Spirit, or the divine.

We are all the divine expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

We are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the divine.

We are the divine bringing itself into consciousness through and as us.

PART OF THE ONENESS I AM

There is also another oneness here, and one that’s far more immediate.

In one sense, I am this human being in the world.

Ehen I look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

To me, everything – including any being – is part of the oneness I am.

And to the extent I allow this to sink and infuse and transform my human self, this gives birth to a natural love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

WORDS AND LANGUAGE

I use the word “animal” here since that’s the terminology most people use these days.

In reality, we are all animals. We are all living beings.

There is no reason to create a hard and imagined boundary between us and the rest of Earth life.

We are all closely related. We are all in the same boat. We are all embedded in the same larger living systems. We are all expressions of the evolution of the universe. We are all expressions of existence. We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself through and as us.

When I hear the word “animal” I am reminded of the old Greeks who used a similar mind-created division. They called any non-Greeks barbarians. I assume future generations may see our current human-animal distinction as equally quaint and old-fashioned.

Today, there is a growing awareness of all the many ways racism and sexism is expressed in society and our language. In the future, I assume there will be a similar awareness of how our anthropocentrism is expressed in our language and society, and a movement to change it.

CULTURE & OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

How we see humans versus the rest of life is obviously dependent on our culture.

In some traditional cultures, all life is seen as related and part of the same whole.

The irony is that in our culture, that’s the view of science. Science tells us all life is closely related and part of the same living evolving systems. And yet, most people operate on an outdated and misguided idea of the basic separation of humans from all other life. We operate on misconceptions while we know better.

Why? I assume it’s not just because of tradition and habit. It’s also convenient. It allows us to keep using and abusing non-human beings and nature in general.

And that brings us to saw over the branch we are sitting on. It’s out of alignment with reality, and operating on ideas out of alignment with reality has consequences. In this case, the consequence is the destruction of the living systems we are fully embedded in and dependent on.

NOISE

I’ll add one topic that’s been on my mind since my early teens.

I have personally never liked noise or loud music. I love silence and natural sounds, and less human-created sounds (apart from some music).

And, as far as I can tell from research and personal observations, it seems I share that with most non-human beings.

So why do some humans apparently love noise and loud sounds and music?

I don’t know but I assume it has to do with our noisy and complex mental field and what happens when we take certain (painful) ideas as reality. (Taking any idea as reality is painful in itself, no matter what the idea tells us.) Perhaps the outer noise masks the inner noise, at least for a while? Perhaps it’s a strategy to distract ourselves from our own discomfort and pain?

Perhaps it’s a sign we haven’t found peace with our own experience, as it is? A sign of war with our experience?

In our culture, we act as if we are at war with nature, and we act as if we are at war with our own experience. The two are closely related. They depend on each other. And they may break down together.

FINDING PEACE WITH OURSELVES & PEACE WITH NATURE

In most cases, if we find peace with our experience, we tend to find a deeper love for nature. And finding a deeper love for nature tends to be reflected in finding more peace with our experience.

Of course, both take work. And even if we find this peace, and wish to live in a more peaceful relationship with life in general, we are still living within a social and economic system that is inherently destructive. It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take the limits of nature into account. And now – with increasing human numbers and more efficient technology – it’s obviously destructive to life.

We can personally experience peace with life, but our life is not peaceful to life as long our collective human system is as it is.

It takes personal intention, skill, and work to find peace with our experience.

It will take a similar collective intention, skill, and work to find real peace in our relationship with nature – and transform our collective life so it takes ecological realities into account.

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Nicolette Sowder: May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things-the dandelion, the worms and spiderlings.

Children who sense the rose needs the thorn

& run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards sun…

And when they’re grown & someone has to speak for those who have no voice

may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things

and be the ones.

– Nicolette Sowder, May we raise children who love the unloved things

Nicolette Sowder is the creator of Wilder Child and Wildschooling.

And yes, I love this poem.

I love anyone who loves the unloved things.

I love finding love for the unloved things in nature, in people, and in myself.

FINDING LOVE FOR MY OWN EXPERIENCE

For instance, it seems that any part of me that experiences stress, unease, discomfort, and so on, and goes into reactivity, does so because it’s unseen, unfelt, and unloved. Meeting it with love makes all the difference. I can meet it as I would like to be met when I feel that way. (When I identify with those parts of me.)

And to really meet it with love, I can do a bit more. I can dialog with it, listen to it, hear what it has to say, and see how I can shift my relationship with it to be more helpful. I can also find what’s more true than its familiar stressful stories, and help it find it for itself. And we can both notice that my nature is the same as its nature. We share nature. (AKA consciousness, we are both consciousness, we are the same, it happens within an as what I am.)

FINDING LOVE FOR THE UNLOVED

Finding love for the unloved – in people, nature, and ourselves – is crucial for our own well-being.

It’s crucial for creating a society that works better for everyone and especially those less fortunate.

And it’s crucial for the survival of our species and civilization. We are now facing the consequences of not doing this, and not speaking up for those without a voice, and life is showing us that our own survival depends on it.

Life is giving us a masterclass in finding love for the unloved and giving a voice to the voiceless.

It’s up to us if we realize what this class is about, and whether we learn and change and transform as needed.

Loss of biodiversity – Norway & the Andes

Many talk about climate change these days, although the global biodiversity loss we are experiencing is as – and likely more – serious.

NORWAY

I grew up in Ski, a village outside of Oslo, Norway. Growing up in the 80s, I remember that the garden was full of life. There were butterflies everywhere, grasshoppers, beetles, and all sorts of insects. A badger family lived next door. There were frequent hedgehog visits. We saw swallows flying around and eating insects. At night, there were bats. If we kept doors or windows open at night, the house would get lots of moths and moths inside.

In the last decade or so, these are all gone. I don’t see butterflies. There are no grasshoppers. I don’t see beetles. The swallows are gone. There are no bats at night. If we keep the windows or doors open, nothing comes inside.

It’s easy to think that this is because this village is more built up and the general area is more built up. That’s true to some extent, but it still has the same mix of rural and suburban. And the same has happened at the cabin which is in the woods outside of Oslo. This is an area that’s scheduled to become a national park, and here too, there is a noticeable loss of biodiversity and life.

A few decades ago, we have several swallow families nesting at the cabin each year. Last year, there were none. I don’t see bats anymore. I see some butterflies, but fewer than before. I don’t see all the insects that used to come inside when we kept the windows and doors open at night.

THE ANDES

I am now in Cañon del Chicamocha in the Andes mountains. The insect and animal life here reminds me of how it was in Norway two or three decades ago. And that makes me worried. Will the same happen here? The loss of biodiversity has been going on here too for centuries, and will most of what’s left be gone too in a while?

CAUSES

Why is it happening? The simple answer is that we – our culture and civilization – don’t prioritize biodiversity and life. We don’t value it quite enough. We have created a system that treats ecosystems as an unlimited resource for us and as having an unlimited capacity to absorb our waste and toxins. We see ourselves as somehow separate from the natural world and the Earth.

The more immediate answer may be a combination of many things: Loss of nature. Use of toxins in agriculture and homes. More manicured gardens and fewer flowers. Loss of key species. And I am sure much that doesn’t come to mind right now or I don’t know about.

We are currently in the middle of a mostly quiet and very serious ecological crisis, and we will all be impacted by it – likely far more than we imagine.

SOLUTIONS & WOLDVIEWS

What’s the solution? We can all do our small part in terms of not using toxins, replacing a manicured garden and lawn with a more natural and wild one, encouraging plants and flowers that support a diversity of insects and wildlife, raising awareness on this crucial topic, and voting for politicians who take it seriously (only a few politicians and political parties do).

Collectively, we need to change our economic and social systems. We need a deep transformation so our human systems take ecological realities into account. In our current public discourse, the vast majority of solutions are piecemeal and far from sufficient. ‘

CULTURE CHANGE

And we need to realize, in a more profound and visceral way, that our ecosystems are fragile when impacted by our civilization, and that our health, well-being, and civilization are dependent on the health and well-being of our local, regional, and global ecosystems. It’s all one living system. It’s all us.

“Us” is not only our family or local community or nation or humanity. It’s all of life. It’s Earth as a whole.

It’s existence as a whole.

That’s the mindset that will support a more sustainable civilization.

And the more viscerally we get it, the more it will naturally color our individual and collective life.

THE SHIFT

This shift in worldview and culture is crucial, and it’s not something that will happen through wishful thinking or shoulds.

We can explore it in our own life and deepen into it. We can make it available to others. We can help others explore it. We can also include it in the education of children.

And, most likely, it’s a shift that will happen because it has to happen. Life and nature will show us that we cannot continue as before, that a major shift is needed, and that’s how many will find it and perhaps how we’ll collectively find it.

The upside is that this ecological mindset is more aligned with reality so what’s needed is to shift our views to be more aligned with how it already is. The downside is that a worldview of separation has been ingrained in our culture and individual mindsets for centuries and millennia. Systems typically don’t change dramatically unless there is a big disturbance. And the upside is that life will show us when we operate on worldviews out of alignment with reality, even if the wake-up call can be harsh and difficult.

Hilde: When the scaffolding of taking yourself as the center of the universe falls, the jaguar emerges

When the scaffolding of taking yourself as the center of the universe falls, the jaguar emerges. It comes from the depths of life to remind us that we are instinct, river, and jungle.

– Hilde

I love this quote, found at the bookstore in the town I am in.

It’s not just our pristine nature that’s revealed when the scaffolding of taking ourselves as the center falls. It’s everything else as well. Our human nature. The nature in us that comes from all our ancestors going back to the first single-celled organisms. It’s ourselves as the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

What does it mean that the scaffolding falls?

In a conventional sense, it means we realize that although we are at the center of our universe, every other being is also at the center of their universe. Every single thing is at the center of the universe. It’s not just us. We are part of the web of life. We are one local expression of this living planet and this universe, just like every single being and every single thing. Living from and as this is profoundly transformative, and it opens for the metaphorical jaguar in us.

It can also mean to notice our actual and real nature. Our thoughts may tell us what we are, for instance this human self, something within the content of our experience. And when we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find something else. We may find we more fundamentally are capacity for the world as it appears to us. And what our experiences – of the world, this human self, and anything – happens within and as.

Here, we find we already are the world. To us, it’s happening within and as what we are. And we are more free to find ourselves as nature, as instinct, as river, as anything.

Wolfwalkers & our relationship with the wild in nature and ourselves

I loved this movie in many different ways. And as any good story that deals with primal archetypes and archetypal dynamics, it can be interpreted at many different levels.

It can be seen as a metaphor for how humans treat each other, including how the English have treated the Irish. It can be seen as a more literal story about how humans treat nature and the wild. And it can be seen as a mirror for dynamics in ourselves, and how we civilize ourselves at the expense of the primal aliveness in ourselves.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WILD

It’s easy to imagine a history of the human relationship with the wild, and it will – by necessity – be somewhat speculative when it comes to the early history.

Before agriculture and civilization as we think of it, people lived in nature, with nature, and from nature. They may have had more of a partnership relationship with nature and the wild, and they likely respected nature out of necessity. They had a more nature-oriented spirituality. They didn’t have much property so they didn’t have much hierarchy. They may have had a more matriarchal culture. The inevitable damage to nature was limited since their numbers were small and their technology simple, and they also moved if they needed to which limited their impact on the areas they were in.

With agriculture, this all changed. We could accumulate wealth. We had more division of labor, tasks, and skills. We developed a hierarchy. The ones higher up in the hierarchy developed a wish to control others and the general population. We got culture as we know it. We got more removed sky-God religions. We got a more patriarchal culture.

We lived in tamed landscapes or towns and cities. With agriculture, we depended more on tamed nature. We lived more distanced from the wild. We depend much less on the wild. The wild became “other” to us. For those higher up in the hierarchy, it became in their interest to also tame the population.

We learned to tame nature and ourselves, and find this comforting and the wild scary and unsettling and perhaps even evil.

Our human relationship with the wild shifted. We went from living in and from the wild to becoming distanced from it and viewing it often as something scary and suspicious. We learned that taming ourselves and nature was safer.

WHAT DOES TAMING OURSELVES MEAN?

We know what it means to tame nature. It means to make the wild into agricultural land, towns, and cities. Replace wild forests with planted forests. To kill any animals – typically large predators – we see as competitors or any danger to ourselves. And so on.

But what does it mean that we tame ourselves?

In one sense, it just means that we learn to live with others and in civilization. We learn to express our feelings with words instead of through actions that may harm others. We learn to cooperate. We learn to take others into consideration when we make our choices and live our life. This is natural for us since we are a social species and it doesn’t necessarily come at much or any cost. 

In another sense, it can mean that we tame ourselves at the cost of our aliveness, sense of connection and meaning, and authenticity. This happens when we take taming ourselves in a slightly misguided way. We may deny our emotions or needs, wishes, and desires instead of acknowledging or expressing these and finding ways to get our needs met. We may disconnect ourselves from our body and nature and feel disconnected, ungrounded, and aimless. All of this tends to come as a consequence of believing painful beliefs and identities and perceiving and living as if they are true. And these painful beliefs and identities tend to come from our culture or subculture. They are passed on and shared by many if not most humans in our culture, and some may be common across cultures – especially in our modern world.

HOW DO WE REWILD OURSELVES?

Rewilding nature is a popular topic these days, and very much needed for the health of nature and ourselves and our culture.

But how do we rewild ourselves?

There are several approaches, and what works best is probably a combination of the ones that resonate the most with us – and that may change over time.

We can connect with nature through spending time in nature, gardening, spending time with non-human species, learning about nature, spending time in the wilderness, learning to survive in the wilderness, spending time at a bonfire, looking at the stars, and so on.

We can connect with our body by walking barefoot, receiving bodywork, doing different forms of yoga, learning to recognize and take seriously the signals from our body, and so on.

We can engage in nature-centered spirituality and rituals, including the Practices to Reconnect from Joanna Macy.

We can shift our worldview from one of separation to connection and oneness, for instance through deep ecology, the epic of evolution, the universe story, ecospirituality, system views, integral models (AQAL), and so on.

We can engage in actions on behalf of other species, the Earth, and future generations. These may be small and “invisible” everyday actions or more visible in the world. These may be actions to stop damage, change our culture, or envision and implement life-centered alternatives.

We can learn to notice and acknowledge our emotions and wishes, needs, and desires. We can find ways to express this and meet our needs in a kind way. We can find a more authentic way to live that’s kind to ourselves and others.

We can identify fears we have of rewilding ourselves.  What’s the worst that could happen?  What does my culture tell me could happen? What do I find when I examine these stories? What’s more true for me? How is it to meet and be with the fear and allow it as it is? How is it to find love for it? 

We can find healing for any emotional issues that create a sense of separation and lack of connection, aliveness, groundedness, and meaning.

We can identify and investigate the views and beliefs that create a sense of separation – with ourselves, others, nature, and the universe as a whole. We can identify beliefs passed on through our culture. We can find them in ourselves and inquire into them and find more freedom from them and what’s more true and honest for us.

We can connect with and taste the wholeness we are at a human level, through a combination of meditation, body-centered practices, emotional healing, and more.

We can explore what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience. At one level, we are a human being in the world. And what do I find when I explore what I am in my own first-person experience? I may find I more fundamentally are capacity for the world as it appears to me. And what the world – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as. I may find myself as the oneness this human self and the wider world happen within and as.

This is not only for the benefit of ourselves. It benefits our culture. It may help our species survive. And it will likely benefit other species, this living planet, and future generations.

Note: This article itself is an example of rewilding ourselves. I saw the movie three or four weeks ago, made a few notes, and allowed it to rest. Today, I was moved to write the article and it came out easily and naturally, without much if any effort.

When I saw the movie, I noticed I wasn’t ready to write the final article. I knew that pushing it would be uncomfortable and likely wouldn’t give a good result. So I allowed it to rest and digest on its own, and I waited for it to come to fruition in me and move me to write it.

I planted the seed, waited, and it sprouted in its own time in the form of this article.

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Why do we find nature beautiful?

Why do most of us find nature beautiful? Especially if it’s mostly natural and untouched by humans, or mimics a more natural state?

There are many answers to this question.

CO-EVOLUTION

We have co-evolved with the rest of nature. We evolved as part of Earth’s living systems. So naturally, we’ll tend to experience an affiliation with the rest of nature.

EVOLUTION

We have evolved to find certain types of nature attractive. We tend to be attracted to landscapes that serve our survival needs. Landscapes with trees, sun, wind, water, lush vegetation, shelter, abundant life, and so on.

CULTURE

There is obviously a cultural component to this. We learn what’s beautiful in nature and what’s not, and this is often rooted in something that makes sense in a survival context. Sometimes, it made sense several generations back (for instance, wanting to get rid of competition in the form of large predators) and not so much anymore.

SEAMLESS LIVING SYSTEM

We are, in a very real sense, Earth taking the form of us. The living systems of Earth take all the forms we see around us. We are Earth locally seeing, feeling, and experiencing itself. When we experience a tree or a landscape, we are Earth experiencing these parts of itself through and as us. And conversely, when the rest of nature encounters us, it’s Earth experiencing that part of itself – us – through all these other parts of itself.

SEAMLESS EVOLVING UNIVERSE

More fundamentally, we are existence experiencing itself. In the words of Carl Sagan, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. No wonder we find a lot of the universe and existence beautiful.

OUR NATURE / WHAT WE ARE

There is yet another fundamental answer to the question.

And that is that, to us, all our experiences happen within and as what we are. Our nature is to be capacity for all our experiences, and any and all experiences happen within and as what we are. We are oneness, and we are the love that comes from this oneness recognizing itself. We may not notice, but that doesn’t change our nature.

We naturally have preferences, including from evolution, culture, and our own biology and experiences. And because of this and sometimes our beliefs, hangups, issues, and so on, we find certain things distasteful or even ugly.

And yet, we tend to find much of nature very beautiful.

Why? One answer is because it is already and inevitably happening within and as what we are.

WHY DON’T WE FIND EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL?

Looking at all of this, another version of the question comes up:

Why don’t we find everything – all of nature and all of existence – beautiful?

I have already hinted at this earlier.

The answer is partly in our evolution, culture, biology, and personal experiences. We have natural preferences and biases because of all of these influences.

And the answer is partly in our beliefs, identifications, hangups, issues, and so on. These cause us to find certain things repulsive and unattractive, or even just boring and neutral.

The two often overlap, and the second tends to build on the first.

So the more we heal our beliefs and issues, the more we heal our relationship with all of life, and the more we notice and live from our nature, the more we tend to find everything beautiful.

We’ll still have our preferences. We’ll still be a good steward of our life and choose some things and not others. And we’ll tend to find more and more – and perhaps even everything – inherently beautiful.

CHANGING DEFINITION OF NATURE

Through this, we see a changing definition of nature.

I started out by defining nature in a more conventional sense, as relatively untouched ecosystems.

We went through defining nature as us too. Everything we are, do, and experience is – in a very real sense – nature. All of what we are and experience is part of the living seamless systems of Earth and the universe.

And we end up defining nature as all of existence.

Each of these is accurate in its own way.

Image: Scott Kelly, ISS

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How do we rewild ourselves?

Rewilding activities are conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas.

Rewilding in Wikipedia

Rewilding is a hot topic these days and is sorely needed. It’s needed for nature in general, and it’s needed for our human civilization to continue and thrive.

I have had a deep love for nature since childhood, and have had a passion for sustainability, deep ecology, ecospirituality, and ecopsychology since my mid-teens.

REWILDING OURSELVES

If we talk about rewilding nature, doesn’t that also mean rewilding ourselves?

What about rewilding the part of nature we call ourselves?

What do we mean by rewilding ourselves?

And what are some of the ways we can rewild ourselves?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REWILD OURSELVES?

In a very real sense, we are a wilderness area that has been impacted and domesticated by civilization.

There is nothing wrong with this. It’s a natural process. Civilization is also nature.

All we know from society, culture, industry, technology, science, and so on is nature taking these forms.

All of it is Earth exploring itself through and as us and through and as all of what we think of as civilization.

And yet, internalized culture can put a damper on our aliveness, passion, and curiosity. It can impact our sense of wholeness. It can lead to a sense of fracture in our connection with the rest of nature and existence. And that often leads to a life that feels a bit disconnected and artificial.

So what does it mean to rewild ourselves?

For me, it means nourishing our natural sense of belonging to our wider natural systems and all of existence. It means restoring our natural aliveness, passion, and curiosity. And it means to invite in and nourish a sense of wholeness.

REDEFINE NATURE

A good place to start is our definition of nature.

Do we have a sense of nature as opposed to what’s human? As only “out there” in the form of conventional ecosystems like forests, lakes, and so on?

Or do we recognize that nature is all of what this living planet has formed itself into, including us humans, our thoughts and feelings and imagination, and human civilization, culture, and technology?

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

For me, a more inclusive sense of nature is an important first step in rewilding ourselves. It breaks down the imagined wall between nature and humans, which was a product of our particular form of civilization.

A GOOD STARTING POINT IN REWILDING OURSELVES

There are some relatively simple ways we can explore rewilding ourselves.

We can spend time in nature. Especially long periods in nature, over weeks and months, tend to deepen our sense of being part of nature.

We can learn about nature, including the patterns of weather and animals.

We can learn how to survive in nature and how our ancestors lived. We can learn what plants are edible, how to fish, how to cook food on a campfire, how to make and fire pots from local clay, and so on.

We can do gardening and grow food.

We can rewild our yard, or join a local rewilding project.

We can develop inter-species friendships. We can get to know someone from a different species and seek to understand their communication. We can make a practice of seeking to understand what they wish for and give it to them if possible and imagine how they perceive us and the world.

We can follow the natural cycles of nature. Go to bed and get up with the sun, within reason and what’s possible. Rest more and seek nourishing environments and activities during the dark season, and naturally be more active during the warmer and lighter season.

We can have days where we minimize our use of electricity and anything electric or motorized.

We can sit by a campfire in nature.

We can spend time in nature in the dark. (It’s amazing how much we can see on moonlit nights, and many other nights if we allow our eyes and senses to adapt.)

We can spend time under the night sky.

We can walk barefoot in nature.

We can walk in the rain without protection now and then.

We can go to the shore and watch the waves during a storm.

We can swim in lakes and the ocean at any time of year.

UNIVERSE STORY AND PRACTICES TO RECONNECT

As mentioned, how we see ourselves in relation to Earth and the universe is an important part of rewilding ourselves.

We can explore views that help us find a more fundamental reality beyond our ideas and images of separation. This includes systems theories (Fritjof Capra), deep ecology, deep time, Big History, the Universe Story, and the Epic of Evolution.

We can participate in, and perhaps learn to facilitate, the Practices to Reconnect.

We can seek out and explore local or global ecospirituality groups. If we belong to a religion, we can explore the ecospirituality movements without our religion. (There is always one.)

We can participate in any form of nature-oriented rituals.

EXPLORING OURSELVES

We are already part of nature.

Any sense of disconnect comes from our own imaginations that we – somewhere in us – hold as true.

For both of those reasons, it makes sense that rewilding ourselves includes exploring ourselves.

AUTHENTICITY

When I explore rewilding myself, I find that authenticity is a vital component.

We often allow internalized culture to hijack us and lead us away from following what’s more authentic and alive for us. This is an important part of how we domesticate ourselves.

So finding what’s authentic for me at the moment helps me rewild myself.

This doesn’t mean acting irresponsibly or in an unkind way. That worry is the voice of our western culture.

For me, I find that authenticity means living in a more responsible and kind way. It means to find what’s alive and juicy for me, in a way that’s kind to myself and those around me.

How do I know what’s authentic to me? If we are used to following culture and shoulds rather than our own inner guidance, it can be a process to uncover our authenticity. For me, it’s what brings up a spontaneous YES in me.

Acting from a “should” feels a bit disappointing and discouraging and it tends to lead to resentment. Finding what’s more authentic comes with a whole being YES.

GET IN TOUCH WITH OUR PHYSICAL SELVES

This is another obvious approach to finding the wild in and as ourselves.

Go barefoot. Swim naked in lakes, rivers, and the ocean.

Dance. Move with the rhythm. Make music.

Do yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema.

Run. Swim. Play.

Learn inner yoga and energy work. Get in touch with you as an energetic being and the world as energies.

See how it is to bring playfulness and authenticity into this.

UNDO ASSUMPTIONS AND BELIEFS

For me, an important part of rewilding myself is to examine my assumptions and beliefs.

I find that just about all of my stressful assumptions and beliefs come from somewhere else. They come from culture. Many of them are common or universal within my culture. And some may be relatively universal across cultures.

Identify a stressful belief. This is often a version of a universal assumption and belief from my culture.

What happens if I hold it as true and live from it?

How would it be if this assumption didn’t exist?

What’s more authentic for me than this assumption and belief?

FIND WHAT WE ARE IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE

For me, another aspect of rewilding myself is to find what am in my own first-person experience.

At one level, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. (Although it does come with some inherent and inevitable stress.)

And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience?

When I look, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience, for anything that appears in my sense fields.

I find I am fundamentally what the world, to me, happens within and as. I find I am what whatever appears in my sense fields happens within and as.

To myself, I am the oneness the world – to me – happens within and as.

Here, I am already inherently free of any particular identities. I am free to allow and use any one identity. And I am inherently free from it.

This is what already allows the rewilding process, as it allows anything else.

And noticing this and resting in (and as) that noticing supports the rewilding process.

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Robin Wall Kimmerer: In some Native American languages, the term for plants translates to “the ones who take care of us”

In some Native American languages, the term for plants translates to “the ones who take care of us”.

– Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

We could call anything in nature this. It all takes care of us. Even what seems harmful or dangerous is part of natural systems that take care of us. The universe as a whole takes care of us. We wouldn’t be here without it.

Water = the one who takes care of us. Land = the one who takes care of us. Ancestors = the ones who took care of us. The stars = the ones who take care of us.

Nature: Rich sensory experiences & connection to place

I once had a cat-friend whose brain had swelled up following an injury (hit by a car). He was blind for a while, and we kept him inside, in one room to make it easier for him. Most of the time, he was passive and only mildly responsive. When I took him outside, after a few days, on a leash, he became a whole different cat. He became alert, interested in his surrounding, and far more alive and active.

I wonder if that’s not how it is for all of us. We are all animals whose ancestors lived in nature. We are wired for nature. Our senses and nervous system are wired for nature.

As so many, I notice I feel more alive, alert, and content in nature. My senses come alive. I notice more of what’s happening around me.

I am happy to sit outside, under roof, and just enoy the rain with its sounds, sights, and smells, and how the humidity and breeze feels on my skin. The aliveness of it captures my interest as much as anything.

There is a lot more to this, and many have talked and written about it.

Being in nature reminds me that I am part of the Earth community. Right now, I am at the cabin, and I am very aware of being a guest here, and at the same time belonging to this community of plants, insects, animals, birds, and even the community of the soil, rocks, water, wind, clouds, and air.

There is also a simplicity to this life. The cabin doesn’t have electricity (apart from a small solar panel to charge my phone), running water, or anything else. The light is from the sun and sometimes candles and old oil lamps, the heat for food from gas containers, the heat for the cabin from wood stoves and a fireplace, the water from the lake, and so on.

My focus here is on taking care of my simple daily life needs, which are basic and universal. I get water. Cook some simple food. Make sure I am warm enough. Go to sleep when it gets dark and wake up (more or less) with the sun. I am far more in touch with my animal nature.

Occasionally, I do some maintenance of the cabin, which is something I can do since the technology is basic, simple, and intuitive. It’s a slice of the life generations of my ancestors lived. And it feels very good to know how things work here, and that I can repair and do maintenance as needed. It deepens my connection with this place.

Being here, in nature and a simple life focused on the basics, also allows me to meet my own experiences more intimately. It is a kind of reatreat, and it’s no coincidence that retreats often are held in this type of environment – with nature and days filled with simple tasks.

Over time, it allows my mind to settle a bit from the buzz of civilization and find a simplicity that mirrors the simple life here.

Michelle Bender: The changes in the legal system deeply affect the psyche

The changes in the legal system deeply affect the psyche. If the law says I’m in relationship with the ocean and the river then it won’t be long before people start behaving as if we are interconnected with the other life forms on the planet.

– Michelle Bender in Should rivers have the same rights as people? The Guardian

Talking with other species and giving them a voice

There is a recent trend I love, and that is communicating with non-human species using buttons. It’s mostly cats and dogs so far, but I imagine we can communicate with a much wider range of species using buttons and a variety of electronic pads and other devices.

This particular method comes from teaching language to children with autism, and it seems to work amazingly well for inter-species communication.

Why do I love it? Because it helps us see other species as thinking and feeling, and with needs and wants much as our own. We are not so different. What’s universal and shared is far more than what’s different.

And this, in turn, can shift how we relate to other species in general. It can lead to a relationship characterized more by respect, kindeness, and taking the wants and needs of these species more into account.

Other species have not had much of a voice in our culture. Now, they literally have a voice, and what we are seeing so far is just the beginning.

My hope is that non-human species, ecosystems, and also future generations, are given far more of a voice in our culture and society. Partly literally through this type of communication. And partly more metaphorically by giving them rights and a real voice in our legal and political system.

A FEW RESOURCES

How Stella Learned to Talk – a book by Christina hunger

Hunger for Words – website for Stella, the original button-talking dog

Billy Speaks – a cat on YouTube

What About Bunny – a dog on YouTube

Lao Tzu: kindhearted as a grandmother

When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

How can we become kindhearted as a grandmother?

How can we become kindhearted as a grandmother to ourselves?

Many of us have internalized an unkind way of relating to ourselves. At least to certain parts of us, and in some situations. So how can we invite this to shift into a more kindhearted way of being with ourselves?

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE

As Lao Tzu suggests, one way is to notice what we are. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as. That’s a start.

Here, we may notice that the true nature of all our experiences is the same as our own true nature. It’s all stillness. It’s all what we can call consciousness. It’s all a flavor of the divine.

WAYS TO REPATTERN HOW WE RELATE TO OURSELVES

There are also other ways to repattern how we relate to ourselves and our experiences, and we can do this whether we notice what we are or not.

We can engage in an intentional dialog with these parts of us. We already do, and this dialog is not always so kind. So why not engage in a more conscious and kind dialog? A part of us surfaces – as fear, anger, sadness, discomfort, reactivity, or something else. We can ask it how it experiences the world. How it sees us and how we often relate to it. What advice it has for us. We may get to see that it comes from a desire to protect us, and that it comes from care and love. (Even if how it goes about it is a bit misguided, although also understandable and innocent.) When we see this, we can thank it for being here and for it’s love and care. We can find ways of dialoguing with these parts of us as a kind and wise parents would with a child. And this is a learning process, it’s ongoing.

We can use heart-centered practices as a kind of training wheel. We can use ho’oponopono towards ourselves or these parts of us, and also whatever in the world triggered these parts of us. We can also use tonglen, or Metta, or any other similar approach.

We can explore the painful beliefs in how we typically react to certain parts of us. What are these beliefs? What happens when our system holds them as true? How would it be if they had no charge? What is the validity in the reversals of these thoughts? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can explore our fears, identities, and compulsions around this, and how they show up in our sense fields. What sensations are connected with it? How is it to notice and allow these, and notice the space they happen within and as? What do I find when I explore the mental images and words connected with this? What is my first memory of feeling this, or having those images and words? What happens when I notice how these sensations and mental representations combine to create my experience? And so on. (Living Inquiries, a modern form of traditional Buddhist inquiry.)

We can allow our body to release tension around this, for instance through therapeutic tremoring. (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises, neurogenic yoga.)

We can find a gentler way of being with ourselves through body-centered activities like yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema, and so on.

We can learn to say YES to the NO in us. We can learn to welcome the parts of us that sometimes desperately don’t want to us to have a certain experience. These parts of us want to protect us and come from care and love.

We can learn to be with the energy of what comes up in a more gentle, kind, and loving way. With patience. Respect. Gentle curiosity. Allowing it to be as it is and unfold and change as it wishes.

We can spend time in nature. Nature shows us a gentler way. An allowing.

TRAINING WHEELS

These approaches are all training wheels.

They can help us shift from an unkind way of being with ourselves, to a more kind way.

They help us find something that’s simple and natural.

They mimic how our mind naturally functions when it’s more healed and clear.

And they do so whether we notice what we are or not.

Karl Schroeder: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature

Karl Schroeder

I love this quote. It’s a take on Arthur C. Clarke’s: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And it highlights the hugely advanced “technology” of nature which is far beyond anything we can do or even understand very well.

We do best when we ally ourselves with this technology, and when we make use of it in a way that interferes the least with the natural processes of Earth and all the living systems we are a part of.

In a very real sense, we are one of the many examples of the technology of nature. Everything we are and do and think and feel and create is an example of this amazing technology of nature.

Nature as a guide

This is one of the oldest themes of poetry and wisdom….

Use nature as a guide. Learn from nature. Take your cues from nature.

This seems to happen daily for me.

I have the thought I should make something more out of my life. My old dreams and plans were dashed for different reasons, including my health. I see the tendency of my mind to go into disappointment, sadness, hopelessness, envy, and so on. It’s natural and I know it does so to protect me, although it’s not so helpful.

And then I remember nature. A tree doesn’t think or feel it should live another life, that it should be taller or straighter or a different kind of tree. A fish is happy to live its life as a fish. A stream doesn’t feel it should be larger or in a different place. A cat may lose a leg and still lives its life as best it can as if it hadn’t.

So how would it be for me to do the same? I can find it in me. Nature helps me connect with this side of me.

I am nature. I have this in me too. And nature reminds me.

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.

How does God speak to us through nature?

I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour.

— George Washington Carver, Tuskegee University, 1930

I love this quote and it fits my experience.

Although the quote speaks for itself, we can also explore it further.

First, what do we mean by nature?

We obviously mean nature in an ordinary sense, as ecosystems, landscapes, oceans, air, water, plants, animals, and so on. And we cannot exclude ourselves from it. We, as human beings, belong to nature. And even our culture belongs to nature. It has grown out of and is part of Earth as a living and evolving system, although I doubt that was what Carver had in mind.

And what do we mean by God?

For me, God is the word for all of existence and what existence happens within and as (awake emptiness). God speaks to us through nature as nature.

So the question is, how does God speak to us through nature?

Nature, through its existence and as it is, speaks to us. There is a huge amount of information there for us, which helps us understand nature, ourselves, and how to better live our lives. Most humans through history have learned from nature in this way. Sometimes, it’s just insights we pick up from living our daily lives. Other times, it’s information systematically sought out. I imagine people through all time and in all cultures have systematically learned from nature, and we do it today as well – including through formal science.

There is another way God speaks to us through nature.

If God is all there is, then we can also find God in nature. Some do it through nature mysticism. They may sense or perceive the divine in or as nature.

There is also a simpler way to find God as nature – as all there is, and there are two ways to talk about this.

We can notice ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can find ourselves as that which all our experiences – of ourselves and the wider world – happen within and as, and we can call that capacity, awake nothing full of everything, awakeness or consciousness, or Big Mind.

We can also call this the divine. If this awake nothing full of everything is not only our own “true nature” but the true nature of existence itself, then this is the divine, it’s Allah or Brahman or God. God speaks to us through nature AS nature.

The true nature of nature, existence, others, and ourselves is right there on display and not hidden at all. It’s just up to us to notice it.

If the true nature of everything is on display, why don’t more people notice? And how can we find it for ourselves?

Why don’t more people notice? Mainly, because we identify with and as this human being, and we are fascinated with these stories of ourselves as this human being with all sorts of identities and roles and activities in the world. There is nothing wrong with this, although it’s inherently a bit uncomfortable since it’s not completely aligned with reality.

How can we find it for ourselves? The most effective approaches I have found are the Big Mind process, Headless experiments (Douglas Harding, Richard Lang), and Living Inquiries. Through these, we can relatively easily get a taste of what it’s about, learn how to re-notice in daily life, and – if we are interested – learn how to bring this noticing more regularly into daily life and explore how to live from it.

Wait a minute… if God is all there is, what does that make us?

Yes, good question. In this context, we are the divine locally and temporarily taking itself to be something physical and separate, and then –sometimes – (re)discovering its true nature. This is the play of the divine, lila. As Alan Watts said, it’s the divine, or nature, playing hide and seek with itself.

Documentary: The rights of nature – a global movement

https://www.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR1ReB_ZHxD2j3IPJNFOzORbf4gwkCNTq1dGD-ZxIm7ij_wh_WFT_aDK5rc&v=kuFNmH7lVTA&feature=youtu.be

Description from the creators:

Western views and the legal system tend to view nature as property, and as a resource from which wealth is extracted, a commodity whose only value is to provide for human needs. But for millennia indigenous communities have viewed themselves as part of nature.

As pressures on ecosystems mount and as conventional laws seem increasingly inadequate to address environmental degradation, communities, cities, regions and countries around the world are turning to a new legal strategy known as The Rights of Nature.

This film takes viewers on a journey that explores the more recent origins of this legal concept, and its application and implementation in Ecuador, New Zealand, and the United States. Learn how constitutional reforms adopted in Ecuador have helped recognize nature as a legal entity, and how partnerships between the M?ori and the government of New Zealand have led to personhood status for rivers, lakes and forests, and a renewed sense of balance between people and nature. See how the Rights of Nature function in the urban setting of Santa Monica, California.

The film explores the successes and challenges inherent in creating new legal structures that have the potential to maintain and restore ecosystems while achieving a balance between humans and nature.

Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things XIX

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little rantish. And some may be made into a regular article in time.

BEING NATURE

In our western culture, we often have the idea that there is nature and us, and animals and us. We see ourselves apart from nature.

The obvious reality is that we are nature. Everything we are – as individuals and collectively – is a product of the evolution of this universe and this planet. It’s all, including our cities and civilization, emerging from the universe and this planet. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe locally bringing itself into consciousness.

Why is this important? Seeing ourselves as separate from nature allows for mindless destruction of nature, and it also alienates us from the parts of us we see as more nature – our body, feelings, instincts, sensuality, sexuality, and so on.

To the extent we see ourselves as nature, feel ourselves as nature, and live as part of nature, we are more likely to care for the Earth, future generations, and embrace and find comfort with the more primal parts of ourselves. It also opens for a deep sense of belonging – to all life, to this Earth, to the Universe, to Existence as a whole.

There is nothing new here. Many have pointed this out for a long time. And there is perhaps some general social movement in this direction, but it’s a good reminder.

Click READ MORE for more of these brief(er) posts.

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Why do we love nature?

Why do most people love nature? Why do we experience it as healing?

One answer is that it’s because we are nature. We are an expression of this living planet as everything else is.

Another is that nearly all of our ancestors lived in nature. They were adapted to it. It was their home. It is our home. We are – literally – made to be in nature.

There is also a simplicity in being in nature. It helps us focus on the basics and we don’t need to pay attention to all the complexities of modern life. Food. Shelter. Getting from A to B. That’s the few simple things we need to focus on.

It also helps us prioritize and see our life in perspective. When I am in civilization, I am immensely grateful for electricity, running water, hot showers, and being able to go to the grocery store for food. These are not anything we can take for granted at all. Also, I get to see that I can be content with little as long as my basic needs are covered. My quality of life does not come from all the extra things that modern life offers. It comes from the simple things in everyday life, and especially in how I relate to my life and the world in general.

The simplicity of being in nature is also a kind of retreat. It helps us meet ourselves. And instead of going to distractions, we are invited to find another – and more kind and content – way of being with ourselves.

Is this love for nature only for ourselves? No. It can certainly enrich our lives immensely and also clarify our lives. But it also makes us into advocates for nature, and few things are as important – for us as humans and for all Earth life – than that today.

I am very aware that what I write here is a reflection of privilege. I can go into nature when I want. I have a home in civilization. I have my basic needs covered. I don’t need to collect or catch my own food.

I am also aware that since I am from Norway, and a deep love for nature is an important part of Norwegian culture, these views are somewhat influenced by my culture. In the US, I didn’t find the same universal love for nature, or at least not the love that makes us want to be in and experience nature first hand.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XVI

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Climate crisis is irrelevant….sort of. Since I first heard about climate change in my teens, I have had the same view on it as I do now. We have to change into a sustainable culture and society anyway, we have to do it soon, and we have to do it for innumerable reasons.

Climate change is just one reason so we don’t need to get too caught up in discussions of whether it’s happening (which it obviously is) and whether it’s human-made (which it obviously is). Focusing too much on those questions is a distraction. And that’s obviously why some – especially the petroleum industry – want to have that discussion. They want to sow just enough confusion, doubt, and strife to derail – or at least delay – action.

There are innumerable reasons why we need to transform our culture and society. Some have to do with what any sane person and society would want to avoid: toxins in our water, air, soil, and bodies; illnesses because of those toxins; death of insects and all the animals and plants dependent on insects; loss of ecosystems; loss of species; and so on. Some have to do with what we want: a society and culture that’s life-centered; that thrives; that recognizes that a society that’s ecologically sustainable, that is more socially just and inclusive, that takes care of those with the least, and where there is less gap between the rich and poor, is a society that’s better for all of us.

And there is really just one reason: We live in a system that doesn’t take ecological and physical realities into account and didn’t need to when it was created. And now – with a dramatically increased population and more powerful technology – we do need to.

In that sense, climate change is irrelevant. We have to make the same changes anyway and for a lot of other reasons. In another sense, climate change – or climate crisis – is important because it’s getting a lot of attention and it does show us that it’s urgent.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XV

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

Spending time nature. This is something many have written about so I’ll just say a few words. Since I was little, I have spent time at a family cabin on a lake in the forest outside of Oslo. (The area is on track to become a national park.)

The cabin is without running water and electricity (apart from a small solar panel to charge phones and iPads). We get the water from the lake, the firewood from the forest, cook food with gas we bring with us, and heat the cabin with one of two fireplaces.

When I go there, I notice it takes a few days to “land” and that continues to deepen the longer I stay. There is a sense of gradually becoming part of the place and nature.

When I am there, I inevitably become very aware of resource use. I need to plan what food to bring and for how many days. I tend to eat fresh foods first and then, after a week or so, have more of the lasting foods to eat. I notice the effects of the different foods on my body.

During the summer, even when the temperature gets over 30 degrees Celcius, there is never a problem with the heat. If I get hot in the sun or from physical activity, I cool off in the lake. And the cabin stays cool due to the breeze, open doors and windows, and the shade from the trees.

Early and late summer – when they days are warm and the nights cool – I warm the cabin during the day by opening doors and windows, and trap it during the night.

The rest of the year, when I need to heat the indoor space, I separate the cabin into heat zones. I mostly spend time in the new living room, and use the fireplace there since it’s a good heat sink (the stones and brick stores heat and gradually releases it even after the fire is out). I close off the room and allow the other parts of the cabin to stay cooler. The kitchen warms up from cooking. (On early cold mornings, I sometimes eat and read in the kitchen since it’s warmer.)

When I go to get firewood, I typically take the rowboat and go to one of the three or four places where I know there are beaver-houses. There, close to the lake, I find birch trees felled by the beavers. They do the initial work, eat the bark and leaves, and I take the trunks they are done with, bring them back to the cabin, and cut them up for firewood. It feels like a nice partnership with the beavers, although they don’t get that much out of it.

I also notice what they say about firewood warming three times: When I collect the wood. When I cut and split it. And when I burn it.

In early and late summer, I tend to go to bed when it gets dark and wake up when the sun comes up. This changes other times of year since the sun is up 18 hours a day during the summer and only six in the winter.

In the summer, I enjoy swimming in the lake. Sometimes, I put on snorkeling gear so I get to see what’s under the surface.

I notice the direction of the wind and the types of weather the wind brings from different directions. I notice how it’s often still in the morning and evening, and windier during the day. When I row across the lake and it’s windy, I often take the slightly longer path through a group of islands since its more sheltered.

I am grateful when I see butterflies, insects, birds, and other creatures. They and I share the space for a while. We are neighbors. (This awe, gratitude, and sense of fellowship is heightened by my awareness of the loss of insect, bird, and animal life in the area and the world in general.)

I wash from top to bottom each day, either in the lake or using hot water in the kitchen. After a few days without showering, I notice that my skin doesn’t feel dry anymore. It retains the natural oils.

By being there, I gradually and effortlessly feel more and more as part of nature. My days are simple and mostly focused on basics such as food, heat, water, and sleep. And I become very aware of resources in many different ways. All around, it’s healing and – to the extent I allow it to work on me – transformative.

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Taking in the “death of nature” and a synchronicity

I am at the cabin in Norway (by the lake Mosjøen in Enebakk), and a couple of nights ago, while falling asleep, I listened to an audiobook. The author talked about the loss of butterflies and other insect life at her home in Ireland, a gradual ecological devastation, the and the possibility of a very dystopian future for humanity.

I have been impacted by the same – the very obvious loss of insect life in Norway and corresponding loss of bird life and a variety of other animals and animals – and how it is just a small local expression of the global loss of biodiversity and nature.

In a very real sense, it’s a “death of nature” caused by us humans – and our current worldview of seeing ourselves as separate from nature, and a society that operates within frameworks that do not take limited ecological resources into account.

After listening to this description of loss butterflies and insects in general, I was unable to sleep.

I got up, and allowed the sadness, distress, and pain in the heart to be here and work on me. The more I am able to allow it all as it is, the more it is allowed to work on me and transform me.

As I took it in more deeply and fully, I felt something in me realigning with the reality of what’s happening, and there was also a sense of a deeper healing. I don’t know exactly what happened, and I don’t really need to know. (Perhaps we never can know fully.) Although painful, it was  a beautiful process.

The following day, there were a couple of synchronicities.

I found myself surrounded by a huge amount of insects when I was down by the lake in the evening. (I have noticed the loss of insect life at the cabin too, even if it is in relatively untouched wilderness and soon-to-be national park, and the corresponding loss of bird life is very noticeable.)

Later, I was down by the lake again to get water and saw several bats flying over the lake. (During the previous night, the absence of bats was one of the things that came to mind. I hadn’t seen any bats here for many years although they were abundant when I was a kid.)

It was as if life was telling me: Yes, it’s good you take in what’s happening – the possibility of a dystopian future for humans and many other species, and that there is already a dystopian present for many humans and other species

And also, see, there is hope. It’s worth working and fighting for a different future, one that is more life-centered. One that values life. One where humans organize themselves so what’s easy and attractive to do is also beneficial for other people, ecosystems, and future generations.

You know it’s possible. Help others see it’s possible.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XIII

Trauma-informed schools and society. There is a movement to create more trauma-informed schools. These are schools where teachers and students are aware of the symptoms of trauma and how to relate to traumatized students, and where knowledge opens for understanding, empathy, and healing. In the best case, it can help whole generations of students in all areas of life. And there is a similar movement to bring trauma awareness into some types of workplaces, including police, firefighting, and the military.

When we don’t know about trauma, we tend to react to it – in ourselves and others – in ways that may retraumatize or deepen the trauma. And when we know the symptoms and how to relate to traumatized people, we can create a safe space, invite in deeper healing, and people’s lives can change for the better in all areas of their lives. The more a whole culture – whether it’s at a school, workplace, for teachers in general – is trauma-informed, the more transformative this can be.

My wish is that we will, eventually, have more trauma-informed people, communities, and even societies. It’s already happening some places, and it will most likely spread. So much of what we see as problems in our society today is typical trauma behavior, including reactivity, recurrent or ongoing anger, anxiety or depression, extreme ideologies, dehumanization of groups of people, substance abuse and any form of addiction, violence, physical and emotional abuse, and homelessness and crime. All of these are often reactions to trauma, or rather to the pain of trauma.

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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. 

Nature mysticism and me

Nature has played an important role on my spiritual path and in my life in general. 

It feels strange to write that because I am nature, and I and humans and human civilization wouldn’t exist without nature. All of it is nature, and all of it requires the whole universe which also is nature. So to say “nature has been important to me” makes very little sense. 

As a child, before school age, nature – and especially sunlight filtered through the leaves – sometimes brought me back to life before incarnation. I had flashbacks to a life where all was (golden) light, beings and everything were formless, and all was infinite love and wisdom, and profoundly home. 

When I was around ten, I slept under the stars by Sølen, a mountain in Norway. There was a sense of infinity of the night sky, and also of the landscape stretching seemingly endlessly into the horizon. I looked at the stars and the satellites passing over, and it opened a profound sense of oneness with it all. I was the universe experiencing all of it. I was a local expression of the universe experiencing itself in its endlessness. Again, it came with a profound sense of being home, of not only belonging but being it all, and a deep sense of quiet joy and gratitude. It changed my life. 

Age sixteen, between Christmas and the new year, I walked along a gravel road at night. It was dark, the sky was full of stars, and a big wind moved through it all. This time, there was an even more full blown opening. The divine woke up to itself as all there is, without any exceptions. Even the divine locally and temporarily taking itself to be something exclusively local and temporal – a separate being – was seen as the divine, the play of the divine. This too changed my life, and even more profoundly. 

When I was 24, I went to Utah to study at the university there. (And, without knowing it in advance, to live at the Zen center there for a few years.) When I first went to southern Utah, I took my sleeping bag and walked into the desert on my own and slept under the stars and the milky way stretching from one horizon to the other. Again, there was a profound sense of being home and a quiet and deep gratitude and joy. This time, there was also the most profound sense of belonging to that particular place and landscape. (If we have several lives, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one or more of mine where in that area – the Four Corners area – of this planet.) 

I still often feel a profound sense of belonging when I am in nature or see the night sky. A deep sense of quiet joy and gratitude. And it’s always there, low level, in the background. 

As a child and in my early teens, it was probably more of a genuine nature mysticism. A sense of the divine in nature, or – more accurately – nature as divine and sacred. Later in my teens, it became very clear that all of it – all there is – happens within and as the divine, and that that is what we and everything already are. It’s all the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as all of this. Including when it locally and temporarily takes itself to be separate and a separate being. 

The nature mysticism element is still very much here and it plays a beautiful role in my life, but it happens in a different context. 

Note: When I say the divine, I could say consciousness, and love, and even a quiet bliss, because those labels also work. And there is the small and big interpretation of all of this, as I have written about in other posts. But I wanted to keep that side of it simple in this post. 

Note 2: The image is from Sølen from a more recent visit and overnight stay.

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Reflections on society, politics, and nature XII

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

One essential way Trump is no different.

But it wasn’t sane before. Obama was not sane; he was led by the same interests that put the corporate business ahead of people, with bread buttered by Goldman Sachs, only now, it is more brash” Sadier said. “For centuries the political class has been fucking poor people off.

This is a view I often hear from regular people, including most of my friends. But I don’t see it much from mainstream politicians, journalists, or social commentators. Of course, the job of the mainstream is to maintain the status quo, even if it benefits the few in the short term rather than the many in the long term. (Or perhaps just for that reason.)

Most politicians and political parties support neo-liberal capitalism, which in turn is designed to maximize profit for multi-national corporations at the expense of nearly everyone else, including nature and future generations. In this sense, Trump is no different from most other politicians, including Obama and both Clintons. He is just less subtle about it.

September 6, 2018

Strawman arguments
. This seems so obvious I haven’t mentioned it before but I wanted to say a few words. When American football players protest during the anthem, they are not disrespecting the US, they are highlighting a very real issue of racism and inequality. And when people criticize or disagree with Israeli policies, they are not anti-semitic. To say they respectively “disrespect the US” and are “anti-semitic” are strawman arguments and it’s transparent and childish. It’s an attempt to shame people into silence and deflect from the real issue by attacking the person. 

The golden rule in politics. Why should we treat others as we would like to be treated, even in politics? For me, it has to do with a couple of things. First, self-respect. If I treat others with respect, I can have respect for myself. The other is for strategic reasons. When I act and speak with respect, I invest in norms I would like myself and others to follow. I strengthen them. Also, if I don’t treat others with respect, I cannot expect others to do the same towards me (or politicians I support) and I am not in a position to ask them to do so. 

This came up for me today since the New York Times has an article about the resistance to Trump’s policies from within the administration. Some liberals seem to applaud this. And I understand the impulse to want to curtail some of Trump’s worst actions. But he is legally elected and the resistance described in the NYT article is actually a subversion of democracy. It sets a very dangerous precedence. And it’s definitely not something I would approve of if it happened in an administration I happened to personally support.

On the topic of the NYT article: The other side is that these unhappy civil servants would do better quitting and speaking out openly about their concerns, or try to get Trump removed if they think he is a danger to the country. It does seem a bit spineless, as Trump said, to anonymously complain in this way.

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Follow-up to Earth Day dream

My Earth Day dream earlier this year marked a shift in me.

In my dream, I am at the cabin, on a cruise ship going around the lake. I learn it will remain on the lake and keep taking people on cruises, and I realize the destruction it will cause over time. The lake and the forest around it will die. I feel it as if this natural area is my body, and as if my body is this natural area.

Since then, I have felt these types of things – the suffering of people and destruction of nature – in a far more visceral way. I feel it in my bones.

It’s a good shift. Where I before could hold it at an arm’s length distance, I am now unable to. I feel it as if it’s happening in my own body, and as if Earth now is my body. It’s not abstract. It’s immediate, apparently inevitable, and very visceral.

There is a small stream in me that is despondent from this more visceral experience. And another movement responding to it finding a deeper and equally visceral trust in the larger whole. In the inherent wisdom of the processes of the Earth, life in general, and the divine as all. The two go hand in hand.

Note: As I write this, I am at the cabin, sitting outside looking over the lake. Feeling the breeze. Hearing the sounds of the waves hitting the shoreline.

While I have been here this summer, I have experienced a mix of concern over the loss of life here (fewer insects, missing ant hills, far fewer swallows nesting, fewer birds in general, no bats at night and so on), I have felt the loss in my bones, I have experienced the immense value and divinity of even the smallest forms of life, I feel the small stream of despondency in me, and the deepening felt trust in life – no matter what happens.

There is a very real possibility that we, and Earth as a whole, is heading for major disasters. Climate change, combined with general loss of natural ecosystems and biodiversity, combined with toxins throughout nature and our own bodies, combined with economic and social systems inadvertently designed to destroy nature, combined with our own inability (or lack of will) to do what’s needed, does not bode well. Already, large parts of nature are dying off, and significant parts of humanity are impacted by it. And humanity may be the next to experience such a die-off. We don’t know.

What we know is that we need to redesign how we have organized all parts of society to take ecological realities into account. We can do it. We know how to do it. We have faced major challenges in the past, eventually – when avoidance is no longer possible – made it a priority, and found solutions. The question is at what cost? What will our delay cost? What will it cost us, nature, and future generations?

And what will we gain? Will we become more aware of Earth as, literally, our own wider body? Will designing systems that take ecological realities into account become second nature? Will we find a deeper sense of connection with all life? Will we include the interests of ecosystems, non-human species, and future generations in our decision making?

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Reflections on society, politics, and nature XI

Continued from previous posts…. These posts started out about Trump but have morphed into brief notes about society and politics in general. For this one, I added nature as a theme.

Nature & Norway. Nature is an important part of Norwegian culture, and there is a certain culture about how to be in and relate to nature. In terms of sustainability, Norway isn’t that much different from or better than other industrialized countries (think of the oil industry etc.). But I do very much resonate with and appreciate the traditional Norwegian culture of how to be in nature.

My parents passed it on to me, and their parents passed it on to them, and as it must have been passed on through generations. They took me out skiing, hiking, berry picking, swimming and more throughout my childhood.

And almost invisibly, certain norms were passed on to me: Leave no traces. Use only dead wood for fires. Be quiet in nature. (To not disturb the animals, so you are more likely to see animals, and to not disrupt the peace for other people.) Take time. (There is usually no need to get somewhere quickly.) Be respectful. (To nature, animals, plants, other people.) Enjoy. (There is a deep enjoyment in being in nature – the sounds, sights, smells, sensations, and there is a profound enjoyment and nourishment in experiencing ourselves as part of nature, as not separate at all… whether we are in nature or in urban areas.) Maintain good spirits. (Set stressful thoughts aside and focus on the privilege and enjoyment of being in nature.)

Although not many would put it this way, nature is – in many ways – the cathedral for Norwegians. It’s the sacred place. The place where we are reminded of who and what we are, and our intimate connection to the larger natural world.

Loss of insects. When I started spending more time in Norway again, about ten years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the loss of insects. It seemed that my parent’s garden, which I remember as brimming with insects and life in general as a kid, now is mostly barren with just the occasional bumblebee or other winged creature. I considered that it could be because of the usual quirks of memory, but realized it must be something more. For instance, as a kid, I often saw crickets of all sizes in the yard, and now I haven’t seen any – not a single one – for years. Similarly, some types of birds seem completely gone. If that’s not a wake-up call close to home, I don’t know what is.

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Dream: Cruise ship by the cabin

I am on a cruiseship on the lake by our cabin, which I find odd since it’s a relatively small inland lake. It seems to be a family gathering. Towards the end of the outing, people wash their hands and good deal of soap is released into the lake. I comment on it, but others don’t see it as a problem. I realize the ship will stay in the lake and continue taking people on tours. They are very focused on selling things, and they will continue to release oil, soap, and more into the lake. I realize it will destroy the lake but the others say it won’t be that bad. I see them as being in denial.

I wrote an initial response to this dream which you can read below. I didn’t publish it at the time since I felt something was off or missing. And now, several weeks later, I feel ready to rewrite my response and publish it.

This dream is about a lake in the forest south-east of Oslo where our family cabin is located. I spent a good deal of time at that cabin growing up and it is an important place in my life.

I had this dream just before waking up in the morning, and later the same day (at a Vortex Healing practice group in San Francisco), I learned it was Earth Day.

This dream seems to have represented a shift in me in how I experience the destruction of nature. I have always taken it seriously and even worked in sustainability for several years, but I have also held its impact on me at an arms-length distance. In the dream, there was very much a viceral experience of the destruction of the lake. It felt as I was the lake and the nature in that area. I felt it in my own body. There was no separation. And, somehow, that’s how it’s been since. I now feel these things viscerally, in and as my own body. It’s a welcome change since I knew the distance was artificial. It was created by my own mind as a protection. And it seems that’s no longer needed. For whatever reason, there must be a readiness in me to have a more visceral experience of what’s happening with Earth these days.

I have spent a few weeks at that cabin since the dream, and I notice a renewed and deeper appreciation and gratitude for all life there. Even the smallest insect is sacred and gives me joy.

A small footnote: I was at the cabin last week, and on the path to the outhouse I saw something resting on top of a shrub. It was a loose collection of feathers and fur, and I suspect it may be a wolf’s shedded winter fur a bird collected for a nest and then dropped. Somehow, it felt like a nod from nature. We are on the same side. I am on the side of the wolves and the birds. We are all part of nature. In a very real sense, and in a very visceral sense, I am that forest, those animals and plants, and that lake. The photo above this article was taken at that trip, just before midnight one night in the third week of June.

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Vortex Healing story: Fear of dark

I thought I would share some Vortex Healing examples and stories.

Here is one from my own life: As a kid, I had some fear of the dark and especially when I was at the cabin. It’s by a lake, in the woods, far from the city, and without electricity. It’s a natural and common fear to have as a kid. (The tendency to be afraid of the dark is built into us through evolution.)

As an adult, I have noticed traces of this fear of the dark, and most noticeably at the cabin. If I went out in the dark at night, I would notice – and remember – the fear.

While at the cabin his summer, I did a few minutes of Vortex Healing for myself on this fear. Afterwards, I noticed it felt more neutral to go outside in the dark. That wasn’t in itself surprising. It’s what I would expect based on my experience with Vortex Healing. (It was a relatively isolated and not so strong fear, so it didn’t take long to clear.)

What was surprising happened on my next visit to the cabin. I went outside in the dark to go to the outhouse and noticed a whole new experience. Not only was the fear gone. But in its place, I experienced the animals and plants around me, and a deep sense of being part of the natural community. I was a natural part of life.

I assume this experience may have been there the whole time. I do often experience it in nature. But it had been covered up by the fear. With the fear gone, attention was available to notice this deeper sense of connection and aliveness.

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Influenced by circumstances

I am very strongly influenced by circumstances – by place, housing, and people around me. Right now, I am in San Francisco which is in a region where I feel very much at home, and I am near San Francisco Zen Center and the Breema Center. Here, I feel alive, clear, engaged, and passionate about life. In other locations, it can be the reverse. And for me, the difference is not subtle. It’s like night and day.

Some say we are the same person no matter what, so circumstances doesn’t matter. That’s true in one sense. We are the same person and we have the same potentials and characteristics in us. But it’s very much not true in a practical sense since different circumstances bring out different parts of us. And for some, this is stronger than for others.

Note: For me, the land has the largest influence. The spirit of the land. It’s very tangible, and it can bring about clarity and aliveness, or dullness and a sense of drudgery. I can quite easily tune into the quality of the land at a distance, so the quality of the land is rarely surprising to me when I actually arrive there.

Climate does play some role, the geology and ecology do as well, and the duration and extent of human settlement play a significant role. If a large number of people have lived somewhere for centuries or millennia, the land feels saturated with the energies of all these people. I think that’s why I like places like the North American west coast, the Rocky Mountain region, Iceland, and the wilderness and sparsely populated areas in Norway so much.

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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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Quick boost in well-being from outdoors activities

Just five minutes of exercise in a “green space” such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.

There is growing evidence that combining activities such as walking or cycling with nature boosts well-being.

In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem.

– from the BBC article Green exercise quickly boosts mental health

We all (or most of us!) know this from our own experience. And yet, it is good to have it conformed by research, and also explore it in more detail. For instance, through these studies they found the most benefit from the first few minutes of outdoor activities, an additional boost if there is water nearby, and the largest effect for young people and those with mental health problems (they have more room for improvement as well).

Another article is available from Environmental News.