“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
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
meets with many young ecologists and activists out in the field restoring the
damage we have collectively done to nature. It can be emotionally difficult at
times for the individual and one must often draw on inner reserves of spiritual
strength to continue.
Riddhi Shah wrote to us recently, exhausted and feeling defeated at the disparity she saw in one drought stricken area of India where temperatures of 45C left three villages facing severe water shortages. ‘It was stressful and exhausting trying to bring attention to local authorities’ and urging corporate leaders to put their spare money in these places. She pressed on seeking to find the local business leaders who understand the gravity and urgency of the situation, knowing that children drinking water from contaminated wells are in grave danger.
just don’t understand the gravity of the situation.”
returning to the villages, Riddhi met with the village heads in the district.
She also assembled the younger members of those communities. Since she wrote to
us a month ago disheartened by what she saw, she has worked hard to understand
the situation, the cultural sensitivities and now has organized a
‘super-active’ group of villagers who are working on a model project. The
project aims to increase the ground water retention and raise the water table.
women and children are spending every free minute digging swales, trenches,
ditches and channels to collect and store rain water. It has brought together
the whole community who are now planting new trees and caring for the ones that
are there. A local prosperous land owner who manages a vineyard took notice of
these efforts and has offered to lend support in some way. Riddhi has invited
corporations to help and now has a pledge of $25,000 to support the project.
thought you would like this story of how one young woman helped to mobilize a
rural community to bring back their life giving water and forest cover again.
Across the world young people are engaging in Earth repair and restoration and
there are many opportunities for each us to seek them out and assist
them. Commitment and devotion can bring about real change.
part of the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change Program GPIW will be sharing
more stories about young people restoring the natural world.
Soil is born from
the cycle of life and death. Soil is about 50% air and water, 45% minerals, and
5% organic matter. Soil mineral is formed from the wearing of bedrock that is
birthed from core of the earth. This weathering takes thousands of years and
much of our present day agricultural soils are more than 10,000 years old. But
before there was an Earth, there was just universe.
The universe was originally composed primarily of the lighter atomic elements hydrogen and helium. The rest of the heavier elements, including carbon and oxygen, were fused in the hearts of the giant floating nuclear reactors we call stars. When a massive star is dying, it becomes hotter and hotter; its pressure-fueled expansion culminating in a violent explosion, a supernova. These massive explosions blow the heavier elements in the star’s core out into space, where they are incorporated into the formation of other planets, moons, and stars. The minerals within and on the earth come from stars that died when the universe was young. All living matter on Earth is composed of this ancient debris. And stars are still dying and exploding. Every year, 40,000 tons of cosmic dust rains down upon us, erasing all validity of human-conceived borders. This cosmic dust settles everywhere, particularly in our soil. The chemical elements in the cosmic dust are taken up by plants, which are then eaten by us. Our bodies are constantly being rebuilt and nourished by dying stars.
The Life of Soil
Soil is a living
entity. It is composed of a thin skin over the surface of the earth called the pedosphere. The pedosphere exists as the
lithosphere (Earth crust and upper mantle)
atmosphere (air in and above soil)
hydrosphere (water below, in, and above soil)
biosphere (living organisms)
pedosphere can exist only when there is dynamic interconnection among all forms
of life and its supporting mediums. Soil, the pedosphere, is a revolving sphere
at the heart of interlaced cycles of life.
is not just a living body, but also a place. Soil is a physical meeting place
for the key processes that support life. It is a physical place where we can experience
living interconnection. Within the 50% of air and water and 45% of mineral that
comprises soil, lives the 5% of organic matter in various stages of death–living,
dead, and very dead. All three are inextricably linked in a biogeochemical
process of nutrient and element cycling across land, sea, and air; where
everything is transformed, consumed, and shared all at once. The consumption
and excretion of the dead frees up nutrients and molecules needed to fuel life.
Communication and sharing among plant, microbes, and fungi manages and moves
these elements. This is the foundation for all ecosystem health. The process
requires such a diversity and density of life that there can be over a billion
living organisms in just one teaspoon of soil–only a small fraction of which
we have identified. These billion organisms and plant parts are part of the
only 20% of organic matter that is alive.
be able to understand the existence of soil is to understand that so much
precision, symbiosis, and harmony goes into supporting just 1% of the solid
living earth. That understanding is a call to remembrance– that we are loved
The Death of Soil
With one spray of noxious pesticide, one extra pound of synthetic fertilizer, and another round of unrelenting tillage, we can unintentionally wipe out all future hopes for joy, health, and the tiny friends we have co-evolved with for millennia.
We are loved like that. And there we go, 93% stardust and magic, walking around both alien and native at once, in constant calculation of what belongs. Building walls and guns against what doesn’t. And many times what doesn’t belong are the living beings we don’t understand and can’t see. The grace that moves invisibly through our lives. When we breathe in the soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain increase. The bacteria makes us feel calm and happy. That pleasing sweet, metallic scent of the earth after it rains is released by soil actinobacteria. Seventy-eight percent of the top 150 prescription drugs in the U.S. and 70% of all new drugs are derived from plants and soil-dwelling microfauna. With one spray of noxious pesticide, one extra pound of synthetic fertilizer, and another round of unrelenting tillage, we can unintentionally wipe out all future hopes for joy, health, and the tiny friends we have co-evolved with for millennia.
Most of the times, what doesn’t belong are living
beings we can see and don’t want to understand. Our soil is soaked through with
the blood of the wolves that scared us but kept rivers and forests healthy. The
soil is glutted with the murdered bodies of entire civilizations of people who
knew it first and best. Only to have its insides then persistently gutted to resurrect the dead in their ghostly forms
of coal and oil. Scientists say that more carbon resides in the soil than in
the atmosphere and all plant life combined. Soil is all skin, thin and naked,
absorbing our sins. Yet, despite the abuse, she is still holding her breath for
us while we are stuck in this deranged wetiko
dream. But you can’t hold your breath for long, when the air is being stamped
out of you. Under that dark skin I can hear a muffled “I can’t breathe” that
pushes through the sidewalks and reverberates in the streets.
The Soul of Soil
The soil teaches
that we are loved. And also where we fail in loving back. When I first learned
to read the Bhagavad Gita in
Sanskrit, I learned to read it in two weeks and by the third week the pages in
the brand-new book began to inexplicably disintegrate without being touched,
and the book immediately looked like it was over one-hundred years old. The tiny
pieces of pages would fall into the ground whenever I picked it up or carried
it in my bag. Even tightly wrapped in its cloth covering. Pieces so tiny and
thin that they would disappear into the ground and become part of it so that I
couldn’t find them again. This is how I first realized that the Word lives in
day I go to the farm and take my familiar position. Kneeling down on one knee,
head bowed down to work, I run my fingers through the dirt, combing through its
pages. The wisdom of the soil starts with what I can see and then speaks to me
about the Mystery that I can’t see with my eyes. Transplanting young plants, I
follow their roots as they are embraced and gently clothed in soil. I know that
though I cannot see it there is an orbit of bacteria and fungi protecting and
communing with the plant. There are thin strands of mycorrhizae with fingers
gently wrapped around plant roots, radiating out into all directions to forage
for nutrients and relay messages that these roots cannot quite stretch far
enough to reach. The unfolding drama of the living attracts more life –nematodes
and protozoa, which then attract other nematodes and arthropods, which call out
larger invertebrates, etc. Orbits expanding out like ripples in the water. The
echo of the infinite taking shape. Beyond the field, the trees sport roots
wrapped in mycelium connecting and communicating with the entire forest through
an organic internet far more effective, intricate, and complex than our own–making
all things whole and together even as they stand separate. I am again reminded
that our salvation and spirituality lies in our interconnection. And that I am
both whole already and at the same time always in a state of becoming whole by
learning how to revere what is holy. The soil is calling for me to reimagine
how I pray and love back–together, connected, sharing.
to the row of new transplants, an uncovered row of planted seeds looks like a mala unhooked and laid down on the
ground. The cultivation of my devotion and awareness has always belonged inside the soil. So does my redemption. When
I pull my hands from the dirt, they are stained in life, death, sacrifice,
happiness, and healing. The compost is where I begin to take real responsibility
for my existence and actions on this planet. I mark my penance with the work of
my hands, turning and spinning that garbage until I help make medicine. Help, because it’s not me making
anything. I am just learning from the masters; from that 1% of living, moving
soil. It is their living and dying and love-making that produces a heat that
transforms garbage into black gold. These tiny, unseen, unloved beings possess
the power of alchemy. To make it truly medicine for all, the decomposing
organic matter has to rest at a continuous temperature of at least 131º F for a
minimum of three days at the core of the pile. So, even in this pile of trash
and cast-offs, it is deep in the heart that the transformation and healing
takes place. I have to make sure every square centimeter gets to spend some
time resting in the cocoon of its own heart. Only then can it be applied to the
open wounds of the earth and taken in through the open wounds of mouth, eyes,
nose, ears, and skin. Composting works hand-in-hand with time. The time it
takes to hopefully learn that in order to heal my insides, I have to be able to
heal what is outside of me too. And to heal what is outside of me, I need to
learn how to heal myself.
Word follows me inside, embedded into the creases of my fingers. Writing organic matter on the board, scribbling
it into my notes, seeing it in books–the words organic matter inevitably morph into OM. All of existence conspired to culminate and begin in OM. In a
world where the OM is stripped away what do we have left?
gift of our lives comes up through the core of the earth and, bursting forth
from the core of stars, right into the blazing core of our souls, if we let it.
Which means all ground is sacred ground no matter what or where. It is we
humans who decide when it is not sacred when we choose to desecrate it. When
something is sacred we don’t want to or need to trade it in for a Plan B on
Mars or carbon credits. We will protect and sacrifice for this home that is
living body, place, teacher, and sanctuary. A temple to pour our love,
suffering, gratitude, and remorse into. A place where we learn to breathe
together again and slowly open our eyes to all of our gifts and their
fundamental nature. That they are grace and miracle and love in a more-than-human
world. That they cannot be possessed and that their value increases with how
much we cherish them and offer them to others. That our greatest contribution
as a species is to humbly know everything as Gift and, with dignity, surrender,
and awe to practice upholding “sacredness” so that we are not complicit in
stripping away the OM of the world.
is somehow easier to see that the
Mystery lives in everything when you are nose to ground. So I go back outside.
I kneel once more, putting hand to ground so that it is soil pressed against
soil in prayer. We live in holy times.
This essay was originally printed in Parabola Magazine, Fall 2017
Whales were very much on my mind. I had just returned from a dialogue in Japan that included a discussion on the impact of pollution and climate change on the communities of life in the oceans and was preparing to go to Poland for the United Nations Climate Conference. I had also just read an article on how the US administration had just approved the use of sonic cannons to find oil and gas reserves in the Atlantic, up and down the coast, a devastating decision for marine life. My heart ached for what these animals would now have to endure.
While on route to Poland, I had a dream, one of those dreams that is more vision than dream. I saw myself standing by the window in my Manhattan apartment looking out over the East River when I saw a beautiful large whale quietly and speedily swim up the river until it stopped just in front of my building and stared up at me. All I could do was whisper, “I see you. I hear you.”
This was the dream that followed me to Poland and haunted me as I walked through the hallways of the conference wondering how to bring the voices of the ocean into a meeting that would help determine whether life in the ocean lived or died. There was one session on oceans, which I did attend, but sadly it made no mention of the whales, the dolphins and other marine life. The main message to come out of that panel of marine experts was that the scientific organizations studying the oceans are now cooperating, whereas they had previously been working in their own silos. Well, a good first step, but the audience was not satisfied. When a member of the audience pressed them on why more action was not being taken, the response was that action will only come from the bottom up, not from the top down. The UN can do its studies, bring the best scientific minds and data to the fore, present the predictive models, and then — and then, if the governments don’t act, there is not much more these officials can do. All they can do is warn, which is what the United Nations Secretary General just did when he flew to Poland to try to encourage some progress. If we don’t act, we are on a suicidal mission, he said. At the same time, UN officials continue to appeal to civil society, which is why they let so many of us into these annual climate conferences. Again and again we are encouraged to pressure our governments toward concrete and meaningful action. In the US, for the time being, that means at the local level – our state and city governments that are part of the “we’re still in” movement.
A few months ago, I attended the Climate Action Summit in San Francisco and there much time was devoted to oceans. The presenters shared that too little attention and funding has been applied to researching the oceans, and in fact we understand very little about them — not very comforting. But one thing was made clear — the oceans determine the climate. If the oceans die, we die. Human life depends on the health of the oceans, and the oceans now are not very healthy.
So there was the dream, and the warning, and the positives and negatives of COP 24. Whatever is decided at the end of this climate conference, we will know that the responsibility partially rests on our shoulders. We must speak now not only for the human species, but for all who inhabit our precious planet.
I will remember the whale who appeared and appealed to me. I will continue to see and to listen.
This past March, the Global Peace Initiative of Women organized a five-day retreat in Costa Rica with 20 young ecologists and environmental activists from different regions of the United States. Mentors from various spiritual and indigenous traditions guided the program in exploring the convergence of spirituality and ecology, as well as the intersectionality that must be taken up in addressing the multifaceted, global crises beyond climate change. Participants met to discuss the shifts in consciousness and relation to the Earth through a long-eschewed spiritual lens, in the context of the environmental movement in the United States.
This was one gathering in a series of meetings (see highlights of last year’s Costa Rica gathering here) with young people around the world that GPIW has organized over the last few years. This initiative grounds its efforts and expression in the idea of Mother Earth’s essential sacredness, as well as in the cultivation of inner wisdom or self-awareness as a means of healing and restoring bonds with both the natural world.
Earth’s biodiversity, including the cultural diversity and vitality of the global human community, manifests as incomprehensibly complex systems in motion. These systems are fundamentally deserving of respect, care, and awe. Reciprocity and mutual flourishing, two elements often found among coexisting species and communities in the natural world, in a way represent the crossing of thresholds that embody any healthy living system. En route to transformation, may we first and foremost seek the paths toward harmony and shared prosperity by learning to face inward—not selfishly, but instead as liminal beings whose inner dimensions illuminate a collective source of wisdom, so often unseen and inaccessible in today’s world of distractions and artificiality.
We were honored to be joined by Pacha K’anchay, a young Kogi leader who traveled from the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Colombia to deliver his people’s message. Trained in the teachings of community elders, Pacha kindly imparted profound wisdom unto the group on the opening evening. His words, and those of Mindahi Munoz, a resident scholar at the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, are translated into both English and Spanish below. As you read, consider how you yourself might recognize the animate, dynamic essence of the natural world. Perhaps you may let that energetic force flood your individual mind, if only for a few moments, as one living, beating, breathing being among innumerable others.
“Eagle and Condor”
From the lands of Central America, where the beaks of the condor and the eagle unite, we meet here, offering a tribute to the ancient and ancestral peoples who walked on this land.
Which today, as spirits, provide food and are the nature of this land. They are the songs of birds, and they still live in the sounds of our waters, and they still have a community.
And this spirit has allowed many beings to learn, to unite in knowledge, and today, there are many ways of wanting to join with nature.
We are here to make a call to the conscience and to the heart of all human beings, so that we can once again synchronize our heart with that of Mother Earth’s.
From the things that are real, from forgiving the person next to us, and from understanding the time in which we find ourselves, it is time to unify ourselves among our peoples.
It is time for nations to understand that millenary wisdom was left on Earth for humanity to uphold herself.
And we were given forms of thought so that in each territory there would be peace and balance and harmony among the beings that live there.
From the heart, we send a message to all the beings that can see this message, that from your heart you may feel the need for a transformation, to protect life, to unify with nature.
Many today have spiritual faculties, and the thought is growing; others, from the reason and with scientific faculties, can aide so that nature, our Mother Earth, continues and lives for a long time.
From our heart we have come here to give thanks for life, to unify ourselves with the essence of thought.
We are in the time of prophecies where the Sun sends his messages and the Earth manifests her changes.
We are in the time of birth pains, moving towards a time in which we reconnect with our interior.
The prophecies of our ancestors are fulfilled today. The prophecies were told so that today, we who are alive in this historic moment, may again synchronize ourselves with the Earth and with the Universe.
From the peoples of South America of the lands of the condor, from the people of the eagle.
We also lift up unity to Tibet, the Himalayas, to the great territories found all over the planet to unify ourselves in the heart of Mother Earth for life.
This is how, here today, in nature, among family and among the hearts of the people, we send to you, from our heart, all the strength to unify ourselves in this web of life.
From the heart of the lands of the eagle and the condor, Abyayala, in the center of what is now called Costa Rica, we raise this call to the unity of the peoples for life. HAYAYA
Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz:
Greetings! We greet you with our hearts from the lands of the central highlands of Mexico, here in Costa Rica.
I greet my KJUADA, Pacha K’anchay. Eagle and condor, here in these millenary lands.
The time of our voice has come, our time has come.
Nothing and no one will speak for us any more, nor will they sit to discuss what they will do with our peoples, with our territories.
The dawn is approaching, the birds are saying so. The quetzal will return to these lands and to others.
We also want to greet the distant lands: the dragon and the Phoenix, because one day we will join them, also.
We send this message because we all have something to contribute.
Human beings have created the problem, and now we are going to create the solution, together, in a process of unification where we learn ‘to be’ in this ‘collective way of being’.
In the ‘way of being’ from which we departed many times over the past seven thousand years.
The dawn is approaching, and we are in a process of transition. We are here for the new dawn.
MOXINGUINTINI KJUADA MOXINGUINTINI KJU. KJAMADI. Onward with everything, with life, for the life, and for life.
Desde las tierras de Centroamérica, donde se unen el pico del cóndor y del águila, nos encontramos aquí ofreciéndole un tributo a los pueblos milenarios y ancestrales que caminaron por acá.
Que hoy, como espíritus, brindan alimento y son la naturaleza de esta tierra. Que son los cantos de las aves, y que aún viven en los sonidos de nuestras aguas, y aún tienen comunidad.
Y ese espíritu ha permitido que muchos seres aprendan, que se unan en conocimiento, y hoy aparecen muchas formas de querer unirse más a la naturaleza.
Estamos aquí para hacerle un llamado a la conciencia y al corazón de todos los seres humanos, para que podamos nuevamente sincronizar nuestro corazón con el de la Madre Tierra.
Desde lo real, desde perdonar al que tenemos al lado, y desde comprender el tiempo en el que nos encontramos, es el momento de unificarnos entre pueblos.
Es el momento de que las naciones comprendan que la sabiduría milenaria se dejó en la tierra para que se sostuviera la humanidad.
Y se nos dejaron formas de pensamiento para que en cada territorio hubiera paz y equilibrio y armonía entre los seres que ahí están.
De corazón enviamos un mensaje a todos los seres que puedan observar este mensaje, de que de corazón sientan la necesidad de una transformación, de proteger la vida, de unificarnos con la naturaleza.
Muchos hoy día tienen facultades espirituales y el pensamiento va creciendo; otros desde la razón, con las facultades científicas, pueden aportar a que la naturaleza, nuestra Madre Tierra, continúe y perviva en el tiempo.
De corazón aquí hemos venido a agradecer por la vida, a unificarnos con la esencia del pensamiento.
Estamos en los tiempos de las profecías en donde el Sol envía sus mensajes y la Tierra se manifiesta con sus cambios.
Estamos en el tiempo de dolor de parto hacia un tiempo en donde estamos volviendo a conectarnos con nuestro interior.
Las profecías de nuestros ancestros hoy se cumplen. Se dijeron para que hoy nosotros, que vivimos este momento histórico, podamos sincronizarnos nuevamente con la Tierra y el Universo.
Desde los pueblos de Sudamérica de las tierras del cóndor, desde los pueblos del águila.
También elevamos la unidad hacia el Tíbet, el Himalaya, hacia los grandes territorios que se encuentran en todo el planeta para unificarnos en el corazón de la Madre Tierra por la vida.
Es así, como hoy aquí, en esta naturaleza, entre la familia, entre el corazón de los pueblos, les enviamos a ustedes, desde nuestro corazón, toda la fuerza para unificarnos en este tejido de vida.
Desde el corazón de las tierras del águila y el cóndor, el Abyayala, en todo el centro de que hoy llaman Costa Rica, elevamos este llamado hasta la unidad de los pueblos por la vida. HAYAYA
Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz:
Saludo! Les saludamos con el corazón desde las tierras del altiplano central de México aquí desde Tepantí, desde Costa Rica.
Saludo a mi KJUADA, Pacha K’anchay. Águila y cóndor, aquí en estas tierras milenarias.
Ha llegado el tiempo de nuestra voz, el tiempo nuestro.
Ya nada ni nadie hablará por nosotros ni se sentarán a discutir qué harán con nuestros pueblos, con los territorios.
Ya se acerca la alborada, los pájaros están mencionando. El quetzal volverá por estas tierras y por otras.
También queremos saludar a las tierras lejanas: al dragón y al Fénix, porque un día nos uniremos también con ellos.
Enviamos este mensaje porque todos tenemos algo que aportar.
Los seres humanos ahora hemos creado el problema y ahora vamos a crear la solución, juntos, en un proceso de unificación donde nosotros estamos aprendiendo a ‘ser’ en este ‘ser colectivo’.
En ese ‘ser’ que muchas veces se desvió desde hace siete mil años.
Ya se acerca la alborada, y estamos en un proceso de transición. Estamos por el nuevo amanecer.
MOXINGUINTINI KJUADA MOXINGUINTINI KJU. KJAMADI. Adelante con todo, con la vida, para la vida, y por la vida.
This year I decided to retreat along the bank of the River Nile, to connect and communicate with the conventional energies that travel and circle the planet.
River Nile originates from Lake Victoria in East Africa and travels to the Mediterranean Sea before it joins the Atlantic ocean. From there it circles the planet and returns to Africa by conventional means. All along this journey it carries much wisdom and holds the secrets of the planet.
I was prompted to retreat along the Nile by the visit I had to the River Rhine in Europe, where I was invited to attend as a special delegate to the UN Climate Change Summit COP 23 in Bonn, Germany. I was there as a spiritual mentor and facilitator of a program organized by GPIW called the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change, a retreat and dialogue for young ecologists from Europe.
At the United Nations portion of the program, I heard nature complaining that her voice was not effectively represented, and her wishes and desires were not included in the resolutions. I believe that the UN secretariat should endeavor to invite more wisdom keepers from different parts of the world and prepare a special forum for them to share-out what nature tells them should be done to solve the climate crisis, and the future of life. However, I was gratified by the effort made by the industrial nations to reduce carbon emissions and to examine several other environmental dangers.
On the part of Europe, nature revealed that the European spirituality has the most comprehensive data base for nearly everything on earth. It’s on record that the social events, political decisions, and the scientific discoveries that took place on the European continent, greatly changed and transformed the planet in the past and in present times. As revealed by nature, Europe’s responsibility is the spirituality governing space, and Africa’s responsibility is the spirituality governing the land. Space symbolizes Europe’s energetic nature in a light, intelligent, fast and radiant spiritual system, which are qualities that give it a transformative value. Therefore, because of its transformative potential, Europe will be a key player in the new eco- evolution and transformation, hence Europe should work hard to reconcile and rehabilitate its ecological mistakes and to groom able and competent spiritual leaders to face new ecological challenges.
Lack of able and competent spiritual leadership is the greatest problem humanity faces. The divisions and competition reigning within the spiritual world and their desire to dominate and control man, has disabled man to unite and to solve the ecological demands required of him. Many communities today that passed through colonization had faced spiritual manipulations or social indoctrination of their cultures and values and now find it extremely difficult to identify their sacred spiritual chiefs. In this regard, some “unidentified” chiefs are completely lost/hidden to the society, while others that are recognized are classified with witchcraft or evilness and need to be protected from discrimination.
The way to overcome this problem is for the different traditional leadership at community or regional levels to collaborate so that the cosmic energies of oneness and conscious awakening can work together to reactivate the healing energies in nature, in order to awaken the sacred leadership that disappeared in the past to rise again in those communities. The community leadership we see in many indigenous communities today are either elected or appointed or inherited leadership, but the world needs sacred value holders – the men and women with the ability to tap into the secrets of nature and hence protect and guide their communities and the world. But because of the fear held by the civil and religious leaders of losing their social influence and leadership status, they are using their positions now to suppress and demonize the very leadership the world needs due to the ecological demands of the time. New measures should be taken to formalize matters of nature instead of leaving the big questions about natural systems and manifestations to be answered by civil or religious personnel who may not be the legitimate representatives and wisdom holders of these natural systems.
The manifestation of the new ecological evolution appears to rise through the young people, but it’s our collective responsibility, young and old, to reconcile the past with the present eco-systems as fast as possible, so as to reduce the magnitude of calamities that befall man through natural disasters for his lack of ecological action and disobedience to supreme nature.
New revelations given to Chief Tamale Bwoya
In my retreat meditation, I received the following messages from Supreme Nature:
“People should follow the messages I share regarding the environmental problems on the planet. If science is the cause of the ecological destruction, I will reverse it.”
“I have given several messages of warning and guidance to mankind, but people have chosen to challenge these.”
“I will weaken the greater nations and raise weaker ones so as to neutralize supremacy.”
More secrets about the upcoming ecological evolution were revealed as below:
An introduction of new values into life on Earth, as old ones are being gradually withdrawn. The new measures will limit human authority and pressure mankind to accede to the requirements of nature. For example, man will not have the power to manipulate the new ecological concepts for economic, social or political gain. There will be a new spiritual energy present that will shift our ambitions and enhance human consciousness toward a more positive and higher purpose of life. (These new conceptual values seemed to give Mother Earth some relief, because in my visions, I saw her tears dry out. This transformative action according to Nature is already gradually taking place).
Life did not originate here on Earth it was transferred from elsewhere in the cosmos due to ecological circumstances. It is revealed that since the time life emerged on Earth, it has undergone three fundamental ecological evolutions: T
1.This first evolution did not take place on Earth, but took place in the spiritual realms.
2. The second evolution saw the introduction of physical life on Earth. While life on Earth has undergone different states of social and ecological developments, the conceptual values of Nature have remained the same.
3. The third evolution is the one we are currently in. The first and second evolutions will be evaluated for trial. Both spiritual and physical life will be cross examined. Harmful actions will be condemned and any values that led to the manipulation of life will be withdrawn and higher values introduced into life.
According to observations of the ecological developments and the spiritual evaluation of climate actions taken on earth per continent, Nature indicates that Asia will rise up as a world power and will take up the ecological obligations to lead the planet through this third evolution. However, Europe will be a major ally because of its great contributions in the second evolution. Africa and South America will make strong economic and social partnerships. Finally, Nature calls on the chiefs to become more practical. To come out of their hiding places and explore the magnificence and completeness in which the world was created. The cosmos has multi-dimensional applications that are untapped and are needed to help heal the planet. It is only the sacred spiritual chiefs that have access to these mysteries from Nature.
Mother Earth is calling on you, as her tears are drying up in the hope of the new ecological transformation. The introduction of new values will require the help of the sacred chiefs to oversee and guide the world into conscious science, politics, social and economic policies that humanity and nature need for ecological sustainability.
As the big nations endeavor to reduce carbon emissions and other industrial dangers on their own continents, the same programs should extend to other vulnerable continents. We now see pharmaceutical and big industries closing down in the industrialized continents only to be transferred to the continents supportive of ecological work. We are making the same mistake because the equation remains exactly the same everywhere on the planet. No matter where the environmental danger is placed, whether in Africa, Asia or in Europe. We should help other continents cultivate their own development that is aligned with their ecological values instead of suffocating new wisdom and civilization that is rising up on these continents that is supportive and sustainable for all of life. Nature said, “This world was put into the hands of the chiefs” – this was the revelation given to me by Nature in Laikipia, Kenya in 2012. Please endeavor to open the social barriers because the duty to govern the world was mandated to you, Spiritual Chiefs, by the Divine Authority. Life was not created in the institutional spaces defined by places of worship but in the wilderness, in nature, in the forests and the mountains themselves. Therefore, come out of the institutions to receive the creative wisdom and instructions that you will need to move into the new evolution on Earth.
The ceaseless demands of today’s world so easily fill up our days. With our smart phones and computer screens we often remain caught on the surface of our lives, amidst the noise and chatter that continually distract us, that stops us from being rooted in our true nature. Unaware we are drowned deeper and deeper in a culture of soulless materialism. There is a vital need to return to simplicity, to create an inner and outer space that allows for a real connection to what is sacred.
In response I find it more and more important to have outer activities that can connect us to what is more natural and help us live in relationship to the deep root of our being, and in an awareness of the moment which alone can give real meaning to our everyday existence. Over the years I have developed a number of simple practices that bring together action and a quality of mindfulness, or deepening awareness, that can nourish our lives in hidden ways. These activities, like mindful walking, cooking with love and attention, can reconnect us with the web of life, our natural interconnection with life in its beauty and wonder. They can help us “declutter” our outer life and instead become rooted in what is simple and real. One of these practices, which combines action with mindfulness, is simplicity.
Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings
in the world.
The boat people of Southeast Asia, the Moken, have few possessions. They can only carry what they need in their small boats. They also have no word in their language for “worry.” But when the tsunami came, they were attentive and watchful of the water; they saw the sea first come high on the beach and then recede far out. They remembered their stories, their myths of what happens to the seas, and so took their boats into deep water and survived the tsunami. The local fishermen did not survive; their boats were destroyed. They did not watch, they were not attentive.17
How can we be fully attentive when our lives are cluttered with so many possessions, so many attachments, so many desires? Will we have time to remember the stories, to watch and move our little boat to deeper waters? Or will we be like the local fisherman, inattentive to the need of the moment, sunk by the tsunami of materialism? We live in a culture in which we are constantly bombarded, our attention distracted, no longer just by the “ten thousand things” of the ancient world, but by ten million things. Everything is demanding our attention, wanting us to consume, to buy, to spend our money and our time. And we do not even know the depths and subtleties of this web of consumerism, its powers of deception.
How can we create a space of clarity, of attentiveness? How can we return to what is essential? How can we remember what really matters, what gives meaning and substance to our daily lives? How can we return to a simplicity of life that honors the simplicity of our essential nature, that gives space for the sacred?
First, we have to acknowledge that our whole culture is caught in the grip of unnecessary desires and recognize the poison of accumulation for what it is. We are conditioned and pressured to want more and more—this is the myth of continual economic progress. This myth has become a monster destroying our ecosystem, taking our money and our life energy. It has polluted our consciousness with its slogans and jingles, designed to distort, to manipulate. And we do not even know the power of its dark magic, how much it has us in its grip, feeding us false promises of a better life, assuring us that “things go better” with the purchase of a product. It has saturated every corner of our culture. We are pressured to consume packaged food and even packaged spirituality. We no longer know the ingredients of our lives.
Second, we have to have the strength to say “no.” To go against this toxic flow, to resist the power of its empty promises and the corporations behind them, we have to regain an essential simplicity, return to what we need rather than what we think we want. Only then can we begin to hear the music of life, be attentive to the inner and outer need of the Earth. Only then can we become alive with what is sacred and true.
Third, we have to learn to discriminate, to clear our inner and outer clutter. In the classical love story of Eros and Psyche, one of Psyche’s almost impossible tasks is to sort a huge pile of seeds. Like Psyche, we have to sort the many things in our life; we have to make conscious what is of value, what we really need.18 Discrimination is never an easy task. But as Psyche is aided in her task by some willing ants, we too have help, in the form of an instinctual wisdom, a quiet quality, that is present to us if we are paying attention. And it becomes easier after time and practice. As we clear more space in our inner and outer lives, we become more attuned to what is necessary, more aware of the deceptions and false promises of unnecessary “stuff.” We see more clearly how our possessions take more than just space, they also take our attention.
Personally I love the old Taoist ways, the ways of the hermits whose spirituality and nature were blended together, their poems a flock of wild geese crossing high in the sky. They lived an essential simplicity that speaks to my soul: their possessions one robe and one bowl, the decoration of their mountain hut “the moon at the window.” I have tried to recapture this simplicity in my life, but today we seem to need so many things just to get by. Again and again I have tried to empty my room, especially when I was younger. But family life demanded more and more possessions—many more than needed by a hermit in a hut—though my children would still complain that I threw out too many things.
So over the years I have tried instead to keep an inner simplicity, an empty space in as many moments of the day as is possible. Now I am getting older, once again I feel the tug of this other landscape, a longing for a small cottage and rain-swept hills—maybe the beautiful and bleak Scottish highlands I knew as a child. But my life remains full, though more with people than possessions. So I keep this simplicity as an inner secret, an emptiness that I crave.
Still I have to be careful. I use modern technology: a computer, the Internet, and I love listening to music on an iPod. All around me I feel consumerism and its dark web of desires that so easily entangles us, more than we realize. And often it is not enough to clear out the physical clutter in our homes; we need also to bring a simplicity to how we spend our time, how we use our attention—to be mindful in how we live.
The practice of meditation and mindfulness can clear the clutter of our minds. A few trips to the goodwill or charity store can clear the clutter from our homes. And then continual attention is needed so that the currents of accumulation do not fill the empty space we have created.
And beyond the clutter of thoughts and things, we also have to watch that we are not caught in constant activity, our culture’s emphasis on endless “doing” rather than “being.” We need space in order to watch, to listen, to walk, to breathe—to be present. The Tao Te Ching teaches the value of not doing:
Less and less is done until nothing is done,
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
Through a quality of emptiness we can access a deeper rhythm than the surface jangle of constant activity. We used to be held by the rhythms of the seasons and the soil. Now we have to struggle to return to a rhythm and a space that are not toxic with consumption, that belong to the seasons of the sacred, where life still flows true to its essential nature. Simplicity, patience, and compassion can guide and keep us inwardly aligned. Gradually we can once again listen to the Earth, to Her wisdom and beauty; we can feel the beating of both Her heart and ours. We can feel again the deep belonging that allows us to be present in every moment, not as a practice but a simple state of being. We can remember why we are here.
Simplicity is the essence of life. The word itself comes from the Latin simplex, meaning uncompounded or composed of a single part. Simple things reflect this essential nature, which belongs to everything in creation. When we honor the simple things of life, we bring ourselves back to this oneness, our true Home.
All the practices in this book are a return to simplicity. Breathing, walking, growing food, cooking … these are the “chop wood, carry water” of our day. If we honor what is essential in our lives, we connect with the life force that runs free of the dramas of our individual and collective psyche. Here we are connected and responsive.
Begin by giving extra attention to your simple daily activities, like rising from bed and putting two feet on the floor. Pause there. You are awake; you are alive. Take note of how you feel in your body, and how your feet touch the floor. Be aware as you move towards the bathroom, towards the kitchen and the coffee or tea. Be grateful for water in the sink, for oranges that made your juice, for milk in your tea. Drink slowly. Appreciate your food. Appreciate your family, the sun coming in the window, the beauty you see in your partner or children. Simplicity reveals itself through slowness, in quiet moments when you can see, feel, taste, touch. Take time during the day to stop rushing. Move through the day with respect and openness.
Take an honest inventory of your life. Look at the things you have that take up time and psychic space. Look at your activities and commitments. What of these things do you actually need? Which are habits and entanglements that take up space and weigh you down? Which reflect your real values, feed your soul, touch you with love? Do you need or just want that new thing, that new activity, that has caught your eye? For a short time, try going without some of the things of your life. Maybe you don’t need them after all.
Let nature teach you. In nature, we are students of simplicity. The way a tree grows towards the sun, the way a cat stretches beside the fire, the way the seasons come round again and again without fail, can teach the simplicity of what is. The essential nature of our own lives—the cycle of birth, death, suffering and joy, and even liberation—also reflects this simplicity. We might make our lives complicated by how we relate to these—fighting death, avoiding suffering, searching for freedom and happiness—but that is our superimposed experience, not what is. Look for ways to attune to the natural simplicity of life that underlies the complications of our human experience.
Bring yourself back again and again to what is simple, to what does not change over time, to what shines steady through the fog. Ask yourself, do we need more than these things? Do we need more than the beauty of a crab apple tree in spring, a warm house in the winter, the way water sounds flowing through a stream, a cup of tea with friends? Do we need more in our lives than love?
Practicing simplicity doesn’t mean giving away all our things, quitting our demanding jobs, and moving to a mountain hut or living off the grid. It simply means being very honest about what we value within our lives, what sustains us, brings us joy and meaning, and devoting ourselves to those activities, people, or things. While we might end up having fewer possessions or changing some of our habits, simplicity compels a return, not a rejection—a seeing through and within, rather than looking somewhere else. When we live from a place of simplicity we naturally find we need less, and instead are more open to life.
Don’t be afraid of simplicity. It can feel stark and empty because it is free of psychological complexity and the coverings of accumulated need and desire. But our attention and our genuine response—awe, gratitude, appreciation, and respect—help transform that starkness into the richest of human experiences.
Before the 2005 tsunami that caused so much loss of life, the nomadic Moken sailors who live among the islands in the Andaman Sea, off Myanmar (Burma), recognized the signs of the coming disaster in the dolphins and other fish suddenly swimming to deeper water. So they too took their boats further from the shore and rode out the waves, unlike the Burmese fishermen who were not attentive to the signs of nature but stayed close to shore where they perished as their boats were wrecked by the tsunami. The Moken said of the Burmese fishermen, “They were collecting squid, they were not looking at anything. They saw nothing, they looked at nothing. They don’t know how to look.”
In this love story of classical mythology, Aphrodite gives Psyche a series of seemingly impossible tasks. In She: Understanding Feminine Psychology, Robert Johnson gives a simple and profound interpretation of this story in relation to feminine psychology.
We first met Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in Boulder, Colorado in 2008. We sat with him in warm and cozy surroundings, a home filled with books and handmade things, a place unfettered by excess. We had come to convince the Rabbi to participate in a think tank of America’s spiritual teachers that would meet at the Aspen Institute. “What is your agenda and what outcome do you hope for?” he asked with serious and kind eyes. “Well…, we have no agenda and we have no idea what will be the outcome.” I imagined by his expression that he was thinking we were very naive. “Ah, I see. You will leave space for divine spirit to enter the room,” he replied. “Then I will come!”
Reb Zalman had lived a spiritual life with a gusto and love for people and their beliefs that is uncommon in even the most open of religious leaders. He believed that the many streams of worship were each a unique flavor belonging to a “region” of the world, to the soil and the people that inhabit a specific place. For Reb Zalman, spiritual life was anything but boring. He could recite Sufi poetry without a halt or a stutter, and was even initiated into a Sufi lineage. He chanted with Hindus in Sanskrit. He knew history and politics, ways of indigenous peoples and sweat lodges, the beliefs of the Buddhists, Christians, and the Muslims. From the way he lived, it was clear that he cared, with all the patience of a loving grandfather.
He longed for the day when we would tell our religious stories a little differently, not in a triumphalist way, but each finding a cosmology and way to understand reality that our “Mother the Earth” would want us to have, a story that would see to the needs of the Earth as more important than the growth of our business. He compared each tradition to a vital organ of one body. If we want to contribute to the healing of the planet, each tradition had to make sure they were healthy in order to heal the Earth.
When he was young and waiting for his “papa” to come eat at the table, he tells, he would observe the tiny droplets of schmaltz that floated on top of his chicken soup. With his spoon, he would pull them together into one big circle of glistening fat. “The only way we are going to get it together, is together,” was his expression.
Last year, at a gathering at Naropa University, he spoke to a room of spiritual teachers: a colorful variety of characters that could only be found in America. We did not know that we had come to listen to parting words of this wisdom-keeper, who was now almost 90. Serious meditators, we listened with ears wide open, hoping for secrets of “truth,” or at least, a few reassuring words from this honored elder. “Our mother the Earth is calling to us. The spiritual tank upon which she was nourished is empty, it’s running on fumes,” he said. This tank was once fed by our songs and chants, the rituals and prayers that marked our day, that we have forgotten as we speed through life. These particular words stirred the room. He had difficulty breathing, but whatever the air was that sustained him, it was pure. It was the oxygen of another atmosphere, a unified ground of being where there is so much love.
This post was originally published by Creator at We Work June 2015
Earth, our old and wise mother, is most beautiful.
Life, of which together with Gaia we are part and expression, is most beautiful.
We are immersed in a treasure ineffable and of a mystery so transparent that we almost can’t see it.
For almost five billion years the Earth has welcomed and enabled the living systems that make life possible.
Ancient and beautiful Gaia is the oldest living organism, a vital and powerful force far beyond what we can see or understand with mere human perception. Wherever we are on the planet, each day brings us into direct relationship with her, and from her we are embraced and nourished. Even our ancestors — all were born and fed by Gaia’s generosity and by the light of the sun.
Through this ancient line of human evolution we are naturally connected to the body of the Earth and her heart, just as we are connected to all beings — the many other species which she hosts. Since time immemorial she has transmitted her wisdom to all living creatures just as the mothers do with children, generation after generation. Among all the species that exist we are the last to arrive, and like children we are still unable to appreciate Gaia’s sweeping simultaneous expression of inclusivity that is in benefit to the whole.
Despite the thousands of years of human presence on Earth, our juvenile behavior causes a great deal of trouble and brings suffering not only to ourselves, but to other species and the planet. We don’t even have the ability to live together in harmony yet. Selfishly we seek to control and exploit everything to our advantage; the life of plants, the water, animals of every kind, from insects to fish and mammals and even other human beings, believing we are separate and independent from it all. Within this illusion of separation we are blinded by ignorance and greed.
In our immaturity, although we know that we all breathe the same air and drink the same waters, are fed of the same soil, of an Earth that is round not flat, a sphere in an ancestral dance through an interdependent and infinite cosmos. Yet believing ourselves all powerful we claim the right to own and manage everything in nature. Audaciously we claim the place of a more evolved species. Full of desire for power, enslaved by our emotions, we find ourselves anchored to selfishness, asserting control of everything even if the damage we do is evident all around.
When we are confronted with the reality of the facts and information on the state of the planet that circulates the globe at great speed, shouldn’t our understanding be that we must wake up? Realize that the time to mature has come and that time is now and the place is right here, where each of us breathe moment by moment.
Even so, despite this collective spiritual underdevelopment, we find we are in a great momentum of positive change and there are enough individuals whose spiritual maturity is such that they can offer support at this time — in this evolutionary wave in which we find ourselves. But still that does not give us enough skill or wisdom to embody the next evolutionary step of the future — no longer as Homo Sapiens but as Homo Spiritualis.
So how do we abandon the old to make room for the new, both in nature and in ourselves?
How do we befriend ourselves in a deeper way, for I believe, it is in this profound state where we find the space and opening to sincerely befriend others, where we can step into service for all. This is the ancient teaching of Gaia.
And at just the right moment, to leave behind what has outlived its time, and in this space recognize the new. This dynamic is not always easy but it is essential and will lead us to grow spiritually and will give us a vision with a depth of transparency to reflect the mystery of which we are a part and should honor.
For this, time is needed, and often in solitude, because the intensity of this highly creative process requires utmost care and a state of total surrender.
Feeding bird at Bandas. Gallmann Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya. Photo by Alice Kohler
It’s painful to realize that we are slow to evolve as a human community knowing that the fundamental changes that are necessary are needed immediately. We have what it takes but still we are lacking in the capability.
Personally I feel tremendous pain, a sorrow that can border on outrage – that we are not yet able to recognize and respect the beauty of life. How sad to note that we are incapable of equanimity or respect for life in its innumerable and myriad forms. Respect for our human brothers and sisters, for our relatives the animals, our relatives the seeds, respect for our home and Mother Earth. How is it that we are so immature? My pain turns to despair when I see the limits of what I can do to help. What can a tiny grain of sand do in the midst of an ocean? Why can’t we free ourselves from our greed and just live in peace?
In these difficult times it’s easy for people to become depressed. It takes strength to act in a positive way in this time of despair and grief – holding firm to the human values of trust, goodness, common sense in the midst of so much suffering so that we don’t lose hope. I have found myself wishing to withdraw from society, my spirit calling me into silence. I remember as a child being attracted to a way of living that would be willing give up something if it allowed for an opening of the heart.
More and more I am longing to live for the spirit, with fewer possessions and distractions, free myself from the madness I see around the world today. Tears flow warm while my words have no more power and somehow I know that we must still offer our help, accepting that the present is not the time to retreat, but to remain engaged and offer oneself in service to life. There is a goodness in dedicating ourselves with humility and gratitude. Each of us bring gifts and possibilities, qualities within that can come to fruition. Not expecting reward we can act trusting in the grace and the fortuitous randomness of life, for we are all vehicles for Life.
As I rise each morning I am grateful for the deep love that blesses each of us, day after day. I try to remain in a silence that directs me to see each tiny leaf, every cloud, the song of the bird, the raindrops, the highest mountain peaks down to the depths of the sea. The light of the moon. The cosmos takes care of all, including me and my incapacity. All that remains is the spiritual beauty of Gaia and of every being, this transparent silence revealing what cannot be explained.
“We are called to return to the root of our being where the sacred is born. Then, standing in both the inner and outer worlds, we will find our self to be part of the momentous synchronicity of life giving birth to itself.”
In listening to each other’s experiences we recognize that we are all different. We perceive the worlds through different colors while truth shines through the veils of every single experience and yet is beyond them – it just is. There is subjectivity and a relativity to all experiences, those of the outer worlds as well as those of the inner worlds, the visible and invisible. And still there is much more than we can ever imagine that we can listen to, that speaks to us. I share here a fragment of a personal experience. May it serve to fill in a little piece in this great kaleidoscope.
As I write down these reflections it’s been forty days since a group of nearly 20 people – spiritual teachers, young leaders, and contemplatives from different spiritual traditions and regions of the world came to Paris. As a delegation of the Global Peace Initiative of Women we joined many NGOs and civil society leaders from around the world at COP 21, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
We gathered to share and discuss spiritual perspectives on climate change and give attention to its inner dimension. This included an afternoon event at the Climate Generations Area with a panel of faith leaders, contemplatives and young activists.
Unlike the outer events that were well documented, I would like to share some of my inner experiences from our time in Paris – experiences perceived by the heart.
We all have these experiences, but, as we all know too well, the inner worlds that are invisible to our outer eyes have become covered and obscured from our human perception in today’s world. It is difficult to even speak of the inner world as it has been so neglected and is no longer valued in our culture. And as feeling is not valued as much as thinking, and as we define ourselves more through doing rather than being, by sharing inner experiences we are always taking a certain risk of being misunderstood or – depending on the audience – even risk a response of doubt or disrespect. Perhaps one of the reasons we rarely dare share them.
Yet as it was important to us as a group to offer a unique contribution to this event, an emphasis on the inner dimensions of climate change, approaching the question as to the roots as well as solutions from an inner perspective, so I feel that speaking about inner experiences along with what we were outwardly engaged in might round off the picture.
During my first morning in Paris, several hours before we were to sit at a Tibetan temple to pray for the Earth, I strolled with my husband in the Jardin du Luxembourg, situated close to our hotel. We walked among trees, flowerbeds and statues, among people enjoying their Sunday morning sports and families who were out to walk like us. I wanted to greet the place, the Earth here, which I always do, silently, when I travel and my feet first touch the ground of a new place. It is similar to showing our respect when we enter the house of a friend we visit, like taking off our shoes and thanking our host for being welcomed as a guest. And as we came to Paris for a climate conference, I felt a particular need to feel the Earth in Paris, not only in the beauty of her buildings and cathedrals, but first in a spot of nature.
Sometimes, in an initial greeting, there is a response, in the form of a feeling or a sense of the spirit of the place. I can feel being welcomed by the Earth through a particular fragrance in the air or a special tree that draws my attention. This Sunday morning in Paris it was a sudden cry that cut into my thoughts and abruptly took me straight into a different realm of perception. It woke me up. I was drawn into a deeper awareness and immediately knew this was a response and it was a call at the same time.
Instinctively I turned and looked up toward the treetops, high above where the cry had come from. I spotted an exotic and colourful bird, definitely not native to Europe. Perched on a branch it cried out three times, first a cry to draw my attention, then two more times, a strange and piercing call before it flew off. I wondered if it was a formerly caged bird from a far off continent that had escaped its cage, and now lost was searching for a place to stay in this unknown and chilly winter landscape. No one else seemed to notice it, though this cry was very loud and unusual.
A tremendous feeling of someone lost filled my heart. A bird is a symbol of the soul – that inherent part of each of us that has wings to fly and is not bound by gravity or limitations. It is free and belongs to the infinite sky. I felt the soul of the world, of which we are all a part, like a bird that is lost, estranged in a cold environment and unable to find its way. It felt an urgent call, the Earth was signalling for my attention. I could sense it in the cry of the bird calling us to relate to the Earth as a soul, as a sacred being whose divine essence and origin we have almost forgotten — a soul astray calling to us to include this relationship, this love and remembrance in all that we were here to do at this conference. This experience, with a language other than words and explanations used the symbolic world which can take us effortlessly into the realm of divine presence. I was thankfully made more present and attentive than I had been before.
As I followed the reports and watched what was taking place at the conference I realized that most participants, sincere and willing to make a difference to contribute to change for the planet with great effort, were nevertheless mostly concerned about themselves, about humanity. It seemed so much to be about what we as humans are doing, what we are thinking, what concepts we develop, how we are acting, and how we could be rescued. But what about the Earth herself? Was the Earth really present, even though there was much talk and action related to the planet? Did we feel the Earth as a being, with her anguish, her yearning to be related to? As a being that is made of light like us, that connects us all, that nourishes us, that we are a part of? Did we listen?
From a political perspective, the final outcome was a success —also due to much engagement of indigenous and environmental groups who gave a foundational energy to it — so much so that eventually they came to an agreement that all nations could sign. This process called for a tremendous amount of energy, and the many who worked and put their heart into this deserve our great respect. One could argue that — although the agreements on the necessary outer actions to be taken are far from sufficient — but since an agreement of all parties was a first priority aim, there was little or no space left for other concerns such as inviting in the presence of the Earth. To come to this consensus was work enough. However, if we look deeper things do not work in this way and are not as linear as we are accustomed to thinking. Could it not be the other way around? Is it that our approach is mainly from our human perspective, human centred, focusing on our own limited goals, and because it excludes the “presence” of the Earth that we need so much energy for agreements, so much effort to overcome our greed and competitiveness and antagonistic demands. I am convinced that if we had included the Earth, to which we are all interrelated and connected, and allowed her to be present in us, felt her suffering, acknowledged the light that we share with her, we would have spared much energy that we put into negotiations about our human needs and could have seen results far more easily.
The Earth was present. But she was not much present in the perception of the people–not present in a relationship. Shortly after returning home from the gathering I wrote to a friend, ” All the time in Paris my focus partly was on feeling the Earth, staying in close contact, listening to her soul – underneath the asphalt and the concrete, underneath the ceaseless talking and speeches and chatting, within the walls, the stones, the dirt, the numberless cars and traffic jams, and under the hopes and the dispair, the busyness, the talks and negotiations, the agitation and rage and the suffering. And she was there. She was waiting. She gave her love. I felt the Earth communicating her presence to me, her longing, her waiting. This was very touching”.
There was one experience in particular of this presence that left a deep imprint in my heart. It was when we walked with a small group of friends through the “ Climate Generations Area,” the space for civil society and NGOs that had been set up in a huge airplane hangar, where we were scheduled to have our panel discussion the next day. It was a crowded place with many events going on at the same time, noisy, chaotic, filled not only with exhibitions, talk and exclamations, but with the countless thoughts, emotions and the sorrows of people. It was like a big fair. Places like this are often difficult for me, and usually I am completely focused on coping with the overstimulation. But here in the midst of this noise and chaos there was suddenly a great silence in me. I turned my attention inwards and there was the Earth. She was here in this place, even though no one noticed. I listened. She conveyed not through words but again more through a feeling, how much she loves us – despite everything. In this place of so much action, of thinking, of outer engagement, far away from stillness was the depth and silence of the Earth’s love. It was as if she said, “I am here, I am so much waiting for you. Where are you? ” She was waiting for us to relate to her.
A second time when I felt the love of the Earth so fully was when our group went to pay respects at the memorial site for the victims of the Paris shootings. At Place de la République we prayed silently while some offered moving chants from the Lakota, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian traditions. Even from across the street as we approached the memorial I could feel waves of love flowing through me and everything surrounding me, through all people, through stone and concrete, through a stray cat as well as the mild breeze of the early evening. The memorial site welcomed us as a place of sadness, of tears— and as a place of tremendous love. The grief of so many before us had been transformed into love, and this could be felt easily, but there was more to this love. I had the physical sensation of a love that rose from beneath my feet from the depths of the ground through the Earth flowing warmly to my heart.
Also here I felt the love of the Earth.
In this place where I sensed a violent rupture in the fabric of life, a deep wound that caused much grief and suffering, not only here but also in many other places of the world, I felt a tremendous love at the same time. The intensity of this love came from the Earth herself. I felt it in the cells of my body. I thought that it must be heart breaking and heart opening at the same time for many people who come here. In the midst of this great sadness I was left in awe at the wonder of this limitless love that is just present, prepared to transform and heal if we really opened to it.
The search for solutions to the crisis of our planet, and to climate change, is in large part based on suffering and deep wounds. It is not only we humans who suffer; it is the planet who suffers. Our planet Earth is being attacked every day, the Earth is being raped and plundered, violated and depleted on a daily basis. Humanity has forgotten the Earth is sacred, long forgotten this sacred relationship. The Earth suffers at this loss of relationship, and more and more, I hear people who tell me they hear the cries of the Earth.
To acknowledge this suffering is a first step in transforming it into love — a first step to access the tremendous love that is there waiting for us.
How can we do this? We can allow for space, listen to the Earth, relate to her and allow her to relate to us— and to feel. Feeling belongs to love. Without feeling, without acknowledging the pain, without feeling the grief, there is no love. When we allow for it, the suffering can be transformed, and then the love can flow into it.
At that moment when I felt the suffering as well as the love, the clarity and simplicity of what we all know but so often forget was deeply affirmed: there are no real solutions without love. No negotiations will be possible, will be fruitful and lasting if love is not present; not only love for our human fellow beings, but love for the Earth.
We all know that we need love and need to love. Great teachers of all traditions have stressed the importance of love and of relating to the Earth. We like to hear this, it gives comfort to the heart, we can agree so easily. And yet, while these teachings guide us and point us in the direction of where we need to go we must, in the end, go on our own two feet. We need to live the love, live it in our beating heart, coursing through our blood, pulsating in our cells. We must feel the pain and the joy and the heartbreak that comes with love and relationship. And sometimes it is also helpful to listen to each other so we don’t only understand it in an abstract way, but experience the love with the Earth concretely, how it speaks to us, how it touches us, what it feels like when the suffering is included. I am always moved listening to someone who experienced this relationship, this love. It reconnects us.
In beautiful and manifold ways all the friends on our panel stressed, explicit or implicit, from their different perspectives and traditions how important and crucial love is, when we are referring to the inner dimension of climate change. With gratitude I listened to the presentation holding the spark of hope in my heart and a prayer that the energy of love in these messages may spread everywhere, to the Earth and to those who were sitting day and night in the midst of negotiations for an agreement by the nations of this earth.
It is sad to realize that many of the decisions, politically as well as personally, are made out of fear. The need for action as a response to climate change is often emphasized through arguments of threat: “We are in danger. We are threatened to not survive.” We fear weather catastrophes, we fear the climate refugees, we fear hunger or those who are hungry. We act out of fear and fear divides and separates. What might happen if we were motivated not by fear but by love, not by separation or division, but by a sense of oneness?
Of course it would have been naive to expect all decision makers to fall in love with the Earth immediately or motivations changed instantly. But it is not naive to hope – acknowledging the oneness and interconnectedness of life – that by activating the feeling quality in our hearts of love for and from the Earth, recognizing Earth as a living and sacred being, could have added something to the whole and the whole of the process. By connecting with her light from the light within us could become an interwoven part of the way we work as humans, now and in the future and may bring about effect.
Which kind of effect—that of course, we will never know, as it is not in our hands, as it is not about us. Life remains a great mystery that we cannot plan for nor limit or define. We leave our prayers and experiences to that which goes far beyond ourselves. We leave it to love. We leave it to the great mystery of love. We offer it to God.