Three Questions with NaRon Tillman

NaRon Tillman, Pastor of One Ministries and Mindfulness Coach

How can we reconnect with our deeper selves, our essential nature? 

We can reconnect with our deeper selves through focused Spiritual practice. This can include things such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, and a variation of connecting with mentors that are purposed to guide you in these practices. 

How do you feel and live your connection to the earth? 

I feel my connection to earth by being mindful of our connectivity. I live this out by teaching these truths to my children, congregation, and others that I come into connection with. 

How can we create or reimagine a more compassionate world from within the current structures? 

The Scripture teaches the followers of Christ teaching ”Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I believe that if we did this then we would remove the impulse to be greedy and possessive. By caring about others, not just our families or people that think like us, we position ourselves to transform our local communities and then our world. This happens in one community at a time. 

NaRon Tillman, Pastor of One Ministries and Mindfulness Coach. 

Reflections on Village Life in Uganda or The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change

by Robert Kugonza

“When I try to reflect on the meaning of the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change what comes to mind are the things that are not seen, that are not the most talked about or thought of by our leaders and people. There is something more quiet and under the surface that needs to be brought into the light. Mother Earth is definitely grieving and in her grieving she reacts or retaliates to show us this grief. The floods we see today in places where they never used to occur. Droughts are lasting longer than in the past. Our forefathers — my parents, would tell us exactly the day, in a year, in a month when the rains would come and believe me they would come. Everyone prepared their seeds for planting and the next day everyone would be ready and out in their gardens sowing. I have seen the change in my lifetime. I remember the forests where we once walked to gather dry branches for the fire or the clear running river where we would go to fetch water. I will never forget the sense of community in the sharing of harvests with everyone in the village, where no one would go without squash or pumpkins. There was a harmony that existed in the community that is no longer present.” ~ Robert Kugonza, Uganda

Delegate to COP22 Marrakech, Inner Dimensions of Climate Change gathering

Green hills of Uganda

We were in touch with Robert recently and he wrote us more about life in the village. 

YES, the village indeed,  where harmony still has a place, where care, concern and love for one another still exist. Where respect for elders and good regard for the young ones are values in practice. Where you witness real passion and love in those greeting you. Where even with challenges of poverty, reduced forest cover and climate change and lesser food productivity, people still share the little they have. Where no view is obstructed by walls or enclosures, where sounds and vision travel freely, interaction is easy, even from a reasonable distance without mobile phones people will still call each other – the organic way. The birds sing, the roosters crow and the gentle rustle of the cow, her moos blending with the bleating of the goats and sheep. What harmonized music of nature you can hear.

Visiting with wise elders

Our village is a place where Mother Earth has the liberty to show all the mothered, her ability to love, to care, to provide and to sustain. But increasingly, the new generations do not know how to care for her in return. Unfortunately each passing day, especially for the young ones, they become more intoxicated and fall for the illusion of so called ‘development and modernity’, ways that are not in tandem with living harmoniously with Nature.  It saddens me and my heart bleeds seeing these trends of development and the people who are heartless in their treatment of nature and each other. All of these conditions led me to choose the name for my organization; Friends with Environment in Development (FED). Our focus and passion through FED is to making the local, regional, national and the world realize that the elders in local communities who are still with us are an incredible and incomparable rich resource.  They hold the richness of unlimited knowledge that this young generation needs to tap into before these elders depart. The elders hold a knowledge not between walls and exclusive of others, but a knowledge unlimited. They hold the wisdom of how to live in harmony with Nature – our Mother the Earth, and the knowledge of how to live with one another accommodatingly.  

To learn more of the work of Robert Kuganza or Friends with Environment in Development, you can write to him here: kugonzarobert@gmail.com

Three Questions with Dena Merriam

Dena Merriam, founder, Global Peace Initiative of Women

How can we reconnect with our deeper selves, our essential nature?

All day long, and all night, our mind is busy with thoughts, plans, desires and memories. We are so engrossed in these thoughts that we begin to identify with them.  To connect to our deeper Self, our true nature, we must still the mind and free ourselves from its busyness. Only when the mind calms down and becomes like a clear still lake, can we tap our essential nature and realize who we truly are. For me, the surest way to still the mind is through meditation; not casual or brief meditation, but long, deep meditation. One must give the mind time to release itself. But there are other ways to access this stillness. Nature is also a doorway to the Self.  Sitting by a river, gazing up at a sacred mountain, walking with the beings of the trees, these are also ways to put aside the mind and be in our essential nature. We then realize they are no different from us, and we are no different from them. We are all expressions of the one consciousness, the one life energy.

How do you feel and live your connection to the earth?

I am a river girl and so the surest way for me to feel oneness with nature is to sit by a river and listen to her quiet wisdom. Rivers speak to us, often guiding us and helping us find solutions to our problems. But they speak from inside and so one must be very quiet and receptive to hear. I also love to stand or walk barefoot on the earth and to feel her healing currents pass through my body. I love to feel the strength of mountains and breathe in deeply the fresh forest air. Trees and all plant life give us the air we need, and we give them the air they need. This life-giving exchange bonds us to them and so we must make time to honor the tree and plant beings. We deprive ourselves when we fail to connect deeply with earth and all her wonderful expressions.  So for me, it is taking time to love and honor all that earth is.

How can we create or reimagine a more compassionate world from within the current structures?

The structures must begin to change because they were born of an earlier, less conscious era, and we have moved on from that time. But change can come gradually and so we slowly have to insert more caring into the way our society is organized. To bring about change, we have to look into the causes of the current disfunction. We must look into why we as a society are so unhealthy, why people don’t have satisfying jobs, decent places to live, why there is so much unhappiness. We will find that one answer that comes up again and again is that we have divorced ourselves from the earth, from nature. We are unhealthy because of the processed and tainted food we eat, the toxins in the water, the chemicals we have put into the environment, the stress we submit ourselves to. We live in concrete jungles with little fresh air, no access to the healing currents of the earth. Even people in suburban or rural areas are for the most part cut off from the healing elements of the natural world because it is also a mindset. We must change the way we interact with nature. Compassion arises when we bring these healing elements back into our lives – urban farming, urban forests, undammed rivers, time to be with nature and oneself. Connecting to nature opens the heart and then one is able to connect more deeply with fellow human beings. When we ourselves are healed, we can extend our hearts to others. So we must begin, collectively as a human community, by cleansing the soil, the water and the air of the toxins we have poured into them. In doing so we will also cleanse our hearts. It is the hearts and minds of people that must change before we see change in our institutional structures.

Dena Merriam is the founder and convener of the Global Peace Initiative of Women. She is the author of, “My Journey Through Time: A Spiritual Memoir of Life, Death, and Rebirth”, and most recently, “The Untold Story of Sita: An Empowering Tale For Our Time”.