Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Ecology’


In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

 The Inner Life of Animals weaves the latest scientific research into how animals interact with the world with Peter Wohlleben’s personal experiences in forests and fields. Animals are different from us in ways that amaze us-and they are also much closer to us than we ever would have thought.

Nature is full of surprises: deciduous trees affect the rotation of the Earth, cranes sabotage the production of Iberian ham, and coniferous forests can make it rain. But what are the processes that drive these incredible phenomena? And why do they matter? In The Secret Wisdom of Nature, a thought-provoking exploration of the vast natural systems that make life on Earth possible. In this tour of an almost unfathomable world, Wohlleben describes the fascinating interplay between animals and plants and answers such questions as: How do they influence each other? Do lifeforms communicate across species boundaries? And what happens when this finely tuned system gets out of sync? Wohlleben shows us how to recapture our sense of awe so we can see the world around us with completely new eyes. 

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Article From The St Ethelburgas website:
In recent weeks young people around the world have taken to the streets in their thousands,
placards reading simple truths, “Planet before Profit,” “Our Earth Matters,” Their actions
and words are speaking clearly, of real concern for their future and for the Earth.
They know “There’s no Planet B.”

We are all present at a moment in our shared destiny when the Earth is crying out to us to help
Her in this time of crisis that is destroying Her ecosystem, the fragile web of life that supports
Her multihued unity. Around us are what Thich Nhat Hanh calls the “bells of mindfulness”—
we can hear them ringing in the unprecedented species depletion (such as the recent awareness of
what is called an “insect Armageddon,” with a 45-75% loss of insect biomass), the oceans filling
with plastic at a rate unfathomable a few decades ago, and accelerating climate change; all with
unforeseen consequences. And, on a different level, though just as painful, is the loss of wildness
and wonder, a diminishing sense of the sacred that nourishes our souls.

And together with the young people, many of us are responding with action and ideas, even as our
governments and corporations—with their values focused only on economic growth and materialism
are unable or unwilling to make this a real priority. This was forcefully articulated at
last year’s UN Climate Change COP24 Conference by the 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg,
who spoke truth to power when she said: “We have not come here to beg world leaders to care.
You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. You only speak of green eternal
economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving
forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing
to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like is.
Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular.
I care about climate justice and the living planet….”

This last sentence brought tears to my eyes, as my soul heard her speak about real care for
the Earth—for this living, beautiful being who has given us life, who has nourished us with
Her endless generosity, even as we have abused and desecrated Her, raped and pillaged Her
body which our culture regards greedily as just a “resource” for our endless use and abuse.
And since this talk Greta has shown the power of a single person, as she has become an icon,
a catalyst inspiring a growing mass of young people around the world, calling out for the
future of the Earth and their own future, demanding that their voices and the cries of the
Earth be heard.

But behind Greta’s phrase, “the living planet,” is a deeper truth that calls out to our
forgetfulness. As was known to the ancients and to Indigenous peoples, our Earth is a being
with a soul as well as a body, what in the West we called the anima mundi, the soul of the world,
or what the Kogi in the Sierra Nevada in Colombia call Aluna, the spiritual intelligence within
nature. Until we recognize, remember, and reconnect with the spiritual nature of the Earth,
the primal intelligence within all of life, we will be walking in the darkness of our
forgetfulness, unable to find the way to work together with Her, to start to heal and
transform the living oneness to which we all belong.

Every butterfly, every bee, every waterfall, every dream we have, is a part of this living,
spiritual being. She is ancient beyond our understanding, even as She is crying out
at this moment. The great unspoken tragedy of this time is that we have forgotten Her
living sacred presence, and this is the silent censorship that has clear-cut our consciousness.
Our industrialized world has stripped us of our natural relationship, our interbeing with
creation, and now, as the web of life is being torn apart, we do not even know how to respond.
We do not know how to access Her wisdom, how to return to being a part of the great conversation
that belongs to all of life. We remain stranded on the desolate shores of materialism,
as in a supermarket where the shelves are increasingly empty.

Spiritual Activism is an emerging field that calls for a spiritual response to our present
global crisis—to our present social divisiveness and ecological devastation, to our
self-destructive identification with an old story of separation rather than embracing
the living story of life’s interdependent wholeness. Yes, we desperately need to
reduce carbon emissions and pesticides, to stop turning rainforests into ranchland
or palm oil plantations. But there is also a call to reconnect with the sacred
within creation, with the spiritual lifeblood of the planet. Otherwise we will just be
continuing the same one-sided conversation that has caused this devastation.
We need to work together with the Earth, to include Her wonder and wisdom.
We need to reconnect with Her soul.

And this is a work that we each can do—it does not need governments or big organizations,
but individuals whose hearts are open and who have heard the cry of the Earth.
Within our own being we can make this connection, and so help to bring the sacred
alive again in our own daily life and the life of the Earth. There are many different
ways to reconnect, from walking in a sacred manner, to working with the soil with
care in our hands, to including the Earth in our prayers, or simply recognizing divine
presence in the world around us. Whatever our practice or prayer, whatever way we
reaffirm a world of reverence, this foundational work is not complicated,
but rather simply requires our attention, real mindfulness. Then whatever our
outer activities, we are connected to the true nature of the living Earth.
And it can empower us to make a real contribution to enable humanity to rejoin
the great conversation, the sacred relationship with the Earth that was part of
the Original Instructions given to our ancestors.

The Earth will continue. We are now living through the sixth mass extinction of
species in Her history. It is our shared future that is uncertain: whether we will
keep to our ancient promise to witness Her wonder and beauty, honor Her sacred ways;
or whether we will continue our present path, stumbling through an increasingly
soulless wasteland, caught in consumerism, until the sea levels rise, the air becomes too toxic,
the oceans too acidic, our souls too desolate. Again, in the words of the young activist
Greta Thunberg, “We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.” But she also said,
“Change is coming.” The real question is whether we are open to be a part of real change—for
hearts and hands to help the Earth, for our souls to reconnect with the magic and mystery of
Her living being.

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A Commitment To Give Up:



Not Speaking Out

Self Interest, Putting Me and Mine First.


Labeling and Not Listening Enough to Others and to Within.

Judging Self and Others.

Distractions and Overcomittment to the Ten Thousand Things

In the End Want to Give Up Attachment to Everything and to be Happy with What Is There.

Give Up Ingnorance About the Near Future and the Long Term Future. So I will Inform Myself,

Listen to Podcasts , Read Relevant Books and Papers and Connect with Kindred Spirits.

Give up my Fear of Loss – of Identy, My Creature Comforts ( Well I’ll May Need  a 12 Step Detox Program for This)

Give up My Fear of the Future, for My Family and Loved Ones, to Spend More Time with Them.

Wasting Water

Wasting One Scrap Of Food

Stop Buying Imported Food, Including Chocolate.

Give Up Milk

Buying Bottled Water

Buying Cheap, Unsustainable clothing, Produced Unethically.

Not to Buy Anything New Unless Absolutely No Other Choice.

(To Upcycle, Mend and Repair, Beg or Borrow and Lend.)

Buying Household Cleaning Products ( to Make them Instead)

Stop Flying.

Stop Shopping in Supermarkets.

Stop Heating the Whole House.

Stop Using Diesel

Reduce  Car Use, (Walk More and Cycle)

Refuse Single Use Plastics/ all Plastic.

Stop Automatically Putting On the Radio.

Commitment To Set Aside a Good Sum of Money to Help the Enviroment.


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Respect for the Earth and for All People.

Care for and Protecting Local Springs, Wells and Rivers, Forest, Wetlands, Hedgerows.

Knowing Our Neighbours- Our Streets – Who Is Vulnerable- Who Has Skills – Mapping Our Community.

Celebrating Local Growers. Strenghthening Our Local Food System. Shopping at the Market and

Supporting Local Producers. Not letting Any Food Go To Waste.

More Street Parties! Storytelling and Singing.

Taking the Children to the Woods to Play.

Making Sure Children Get Time Away From Screens.

Fairness and More Financial Equality. Accepting Lower Profits.

More Allotments and Veg/Hemp Growing. More People Growing Their Own Food, Keeping Chickens and the Like.

Planting Flowers For All Insects. Feeding Birds In Winter.

Healthier Lifestyles and Enviroments.

A Sence of Community. Creating Resilient Community. Support of Others Day-to- Day and Longterm.

Embodied Connection. Non- Judgemental Communication.

Public Transport Infrastructure. Traffic Free Zones. Safer Roads For Cyclists and Walkers.

My Childhood Way Of Seeing. A Sense Of Wonder.

Play and Joy In Nature. Letting Our Hearts Soar With Buzzards and Sing With Blackbirds.

Meeting the Gaze Of Others. Taking the Risk Of Speaking to Someone Who Looks Sad.

Taking  Time to Say Hello and Being Willing to Engage and to Welcome a Stranger.

Courtesy, Generocity, Curiosity, Hospitality.

Not To Be Afraid Of Looking Foolish.

Taking Time to Care, to Listen, to Share a Cup of Tea With a Neighbour, To Be Spontaneous,

To Speak Our Truth To Those In Power.

To Observe Changes In The World Around Us.

Time To Listen and Play: Scavenger Hunt, For Myths and Legends and Poems .To Go Looking For

Mushrooms. To Play Chinese Whispers.  Time For Shared Suppers, Talking Over the Garden Fence,

Playing Board Games, Going on Bug/Butterfly Hunts.

Time to Impart Much Needed Skills: Handcrafts, Making Own Clothes, Repair, Maintenance, Upcycling,

Gardening etc.

To Be Able To Name All the Animals, Birds, Trees, Wildflowers  and  Insects That Live Locally.

A Quieter More Gentle Pace of Life.

Bring Back the Lunch Hour, With Time to Eat, to Muse, to Dream.

Re- enstate One Day a Week When Everthing Is Closed and No One Works So That You Will Need To Go

Borrow Tea From Your Neighbour.

Listening To Live Music,

Reading Aloud To One Another,

Talking and Listening To Children. Pushchairs where the Child Is Facing the One Pushing.

Listening – Conversations. Writing and Sharing Poetry.

Learning To Play a Musical Instrument.

Cooking, Eating Together, Sitting Down Together As a Family or Household.

Hanging the Washing Out to Dry.

The Luxury of Doing Nothing- Just Being- Present With What Is.

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Loss Of The Earth

Fear the End of Sustainable Life. Worsening Pollution, Destruction of All of this Natural and Human World,

Desecration of Nature. Loss and Extinction of Species, Loss of Birdsong and Insect Hum.

Fear Collapse and Savagery, Brutality, Violence, Violent Dislocation and Rampant Fear Based Selfishness.

Fear Starvation. Chaos, Panic Breaking Out, Incapacitation, Death.

Fear the Strongest, Overlooking or Destroying the Weakest. Polarization and Violent Divisiveness.

Fear Aloneness. Exclusion, the Cries of the Excluded,

Fear Humanities Worst Values Ruling. For Inequality, Hate and Greed to Take Over. Harshness.

Violence of the Mob, Criminality Gone Mad.

Fear That I Too Will Behave Badly.

Fear for the Suffering of My Family, My Children, and Grandchildren and Yours.

Fear for the Pain and Suffering of Future Generations.

Fear that Family, Friends, Everyone Looses all Hope

Fear Being too Old to be of any Real Help and of Falling into Despair.

Fear Spiralling Downwards into all Pervasive Pain.

Fear Loosing the Will to Live.

Regret and Anger for All that we have Lost and Being Blamed

Loss of Compassion,

Loss of Kindness and Respect for One Another.

Loss of Forgiveness

Loss of Awareness

Loss and Extinction of Species..

Loss of Connection, Loss Of Connection with Like Minds and Souls and Hearts

Loss of Love

Loss of Faith

Fear Machines, Technolgy taking over.




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Do Not Want To Lose:

The Earth.

The love in Our  Hearts, The Divine in Us, Our Souls, Our Children, Our Grandchildren.

Our Connection with each Other, the Natural World, All Nature, the Oceans, the Trees, the Animals,

Birdsong, Sunsets and Sunrise.

Civilisation,  a Deep Sense of Community, Connection & Support, Cohesion, Peace and Trust between People,

Generosity Of Spirit, Humanity.

Connection to Love, to People Through the Hearts and the Human Qualities of Compassion, Sharing and Caring for Each Other, Kindness, Appreciaton, Empathy, Gratitude, Joy, Laughter.

Inspiration, Creativity, Inventiveness, Curiosity,

We Need:

To Love

To Love and Protect the Enviroment, Mature Trees, Animals, Birds, the Oceans

The Restoration of Nature and the More Than Human World

To Encourage the Next Generation to Trust Their Heart-Song

A Sense of Service, of Creative Partnership.

To Risk Dangerous Conversations.

To Offer Our Wisdom, Experience, Love and Support and To Care for Each Other.

Practice Reciprocity, Appreciation and Gratitude.

Prayer and Silent Witness to the Changing World.

A Capacity for Contentedness in the Midst of Change.

Honouring and Respect for Our Ancestors and Wider Family.

To Care about Celebration, Ritual, Singing, Sharing and a Sense of Belonging.

Connection with the Sacred and with the Wheel of the Year.

To Know that we Each have Gifts and Rescources,

To be Good Companions, Who Inspire and Challenge Each Other towards Creative Ideas

To Believe that We Can Make a difference.

To be Practical and Deside what is Feasible

True Resilience,  a Dynamic Response from a Place of Deep Listening

To Care for the Soul







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Shall We Stop All The Talking? Justine Huxley

Justine Huxley writes:  “I’ve just returned from four days in Oxfordshire where I had the privilege to take part in the Call of the Time programme.  Call of the Time brings professionals in areas of global influence together, to look more closely at the spiritual dimensions of transformation in relation to major issues of world concern.  This year the organisers (who include Peter Senge the dialogue pioneer) took the brave decision that instead of dialogue, the programme would be focused around 48 hours of silence.

There were twenty of us, from at least eight different spiritual traditions, and several different countries – China, Tibet, India, Europe and the US.  Our home for the weekend was a stunning two hundred year old mansion set in acres of lovingly tended gardens, meadows and woodlands.  We were fed delicious home cooked food, slept in luxurious bedrooms overlooking miles of rolling countryside, and rose before dawn to meditate, either together or alone.  We were treated to the gift of time and silence.  And our community included a nonstop chorus of birds, from dawn to dusk and through the night, whose song was made infinitely sweeter and more audible by our own wordlessness.


Silence and silent retreat are a significant part of my own practice, and have been for 20 years.  Silence feeds and informs my work as it does every aspect of my outer and inner life.  However, this was the first time I had been offered that experience in a multi-faith setting with the explicit intention of nourishing and deepening the work we all contribute to and the networks we convene.  It was also the first time I’ve shared retreat with a group of professional partners and collaborators (such as Marianne Marstrand from Global Peace Initiative of Women, Scherto Gill from Guerrard Hermes Foundation for Peace and others). The weekend marked a turning point, a response to an inner inquiry that has been with me for a while, partly influenced by our programme Re-imagining the Sacred.  My question now is how to integrate its fruits into my own work and the life of St Ethelburga’s, and this blog is a reflection on some of those thoughts.

Doing nothing

It seems to me that at this moment in time doing nothing is at least, if not more, important than doing something.  Empty space, and how we create that, might need to be much higher up the to do list.  In fact, personally, I may start an Anti-To Do List and give it equal attention.  There are so many reasons to take this seriously.  Consumerist culture has built our future on economic growth and has all but destroyed our collective relationship with what is most meaningful in life.  When we are overly busy, the chances are we have been unconsciously sucked into that paradigm.  Busyness doesn’t just hinder our sense of reverence for life, it actually contributes to the destruction of it.  Even if what we are busy with appears to be very worthwhile.

A long-term view

As the ‘moneyless man‘ Mark Boyle, pointed out to us when he came to the Centre last year, being busy can also be a way to avoid fully facing the situation we are in collectively.  Scientists have now shown us that climate change is irreversible.  Anyone who has counted extinct species, seen images of Tar Sands or the pollution of the Ganges, knows in their heart of hearts, that humanity has lost more than it knows.  We will never see those species again, and it may take longer than our own life time to clear up this mess.  It’s not easy to look that in the eye and feel the pain of it.  As Mark suggested, many of us who have given our lives to build a better future, can end up using busyness as a way to avoid sitting with the grief of it all.  Yes there is, as Charles Eisenstein says, a ‘more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’.  If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.  But whereas for the last fifteen years I’ve expected to see that world and live in it before I die, now I take a long term view, and make whatever contribution I can for the sake of future generations.

That is not a small change.   I’ve been involved in interfaith dialogue for over ten years, and have always seen it as part of a bigger work  of values shift.  I love being part of a vibrant network of change agents who seek to transform the way we think about difference.  I’ve loved engaging with diversity, collaborating across divisions, learning to see conflict as a window into systemic change, and making my small contribution to a world based on understanding our ‘interbeing‘ with each other.

But now I’m questioning my own priorities and what is really possible.  Walking in the glorious gardens and woods at Global Retreat House, listening to the poetry of larks, and nightingales and owls, made something clear to me.   In the past, I experienced the outer world of nature and the inner world we touch in prayer and meditation as full of magic and secrets and intimately inter-related.  These days, I find both those worlds depleted in painful and unexpected ways.   I am not talking about what is obvious – the absence of faith in God in mainstream life, or the road to hell that Monsanto or shale gas fracking are leading us down.  There is something else, something deeper, which seems to go largely unnoticed.  As if life’s miracle, its meaning, depth, and archetypal resonance – has been eroded while we have been either playing with our smartphones, or absorbed in increasingly desperate activism, or both at the same time.   As if the magic we are no longer supposed to believe in has given up believing in us too, and retreated into its own loneliness.  It feels important to notice that and bear witness to it  – how a whole dimension of life has been dramatically diminished, both inwardly through our denial of the unseen worlds and outwardly in our commodification and destruction of nature.

The Buddhist teachers Thich Nhat Hanh and Joanna Macy have both said that to save the Earth, we have to fall in love with Earth again. This weekend of forests and silence and birdsong, was for me part of that falling in love.  But it goes hand in hand with an infinitely painful awareness of what is gone.  Like falling in love with someone who is dying.  At the deepest moment of the retreat, a faint little melody arrived and sung itself in my head.  It took a while to realise it was Laura Cantrell’s melancholy folk song, ‘Bees’, about someone who returns to their old home and experiences a bleak, threadbare emptiness, and a longing expressed in missing the bees and the taste of their honey.  This for me is a reflection of where we are as a collective.  Missing a sweetness and meaning that used to be everywhere in life and now is increasingly hard to find.

Us humans and our words

Yesterday, with my diverse group of travelling companions, we emerged from our beautiful silence back into the world of words.  We rearranged ourselves around human language with all its wonders and pitfalls.  As a facilitator, I know how hard this can be to manage – to move from a depth of experience into the sharing of words and concepts, which so often take us into the mind – the ‘slayer of the real’.  While I was struggling with this apparent descent, a huge swarm of bees gathered immediately outside our window.  A dark little cyclone of heated buzzing amassed just a few feet from where we were sitting.  The swarm had arrived the day before and many of us had wondered at them and recognised their meaning for ‘the call of the time’.  But in that moment, the presence of the bees barely made a dent in our human dialogue.  We commented and carried straight on talking.  Somehow, very unexpectedly, that broke my heart and released a wave of grief I couldn’t explain.

This difficulty returning into a people-generated frame of thoughts and ideas led me to reflect on our place in things.  It’s easy to see how our Western conditioning has over the centuries, completely relocated the Divine and the natural world to the margins, and defined human desires and individualistic thinking as in charge, as what matters.  Society is set up like that and we are now so used to living that way, we hardly notice.  It is our human words and perspective that one way or another always dominate, rather than the much bigger picture we are woven into.

But what if it is not about us?   What if it is about existing in relation to vast unknowable mystery?  How can we as a society even begin to reclaim that way of being?  How can we step outside the paradigm of our own hubris?  What would it take for those two worlds to come together, for us to remember that this Earth does not belong to us?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  But what I learned this weekend was that it is possible for people of different traditions, with different beliefs and practices, to enter into that mystery deeply and experience it together.  And that this radical act of non-doing is infinitely more important than most of the things on my to do list.  As people of faith, as peace-makers seeking ‘reconciliation’ in the deepest sense, maybe our words, dialogues, ideas, networking, and plans for action that once seemed so vital, are now no longer the most important thing.  They may even get in the way.  Whereas simply being together, reaching into humble wordless dialogue with the Divine and with His beautiful creation, recognising what we have lost, reaching across differences and divisions of all kinds, joining hands and hearts to remember reverence for life and to protect what is most meaningful  – that, to me, is the Call of the Time.   I am hoping I can find a way, from within our particular mission and vision, to make this work more present at St Ethelburga’s.

With gratitude to the The Call of the Time and to our hosts, Global Retreat House.

 Justine Huxley’s blog

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Eradicating Ecocide

Polly Higgins
Who is a lawyer for the Earth, speaks here about Eradicating Ecocide  at a TEDx talk in Exeter,
outlining her vision for  environmental sustainability.

Video courtesy of YouTube

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Dark Mountain Project

The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers in search of new stories for troubled times. We promote and curate writing, art, music and culture rooted in place, time and nature.

‘Developing a new language, or rediscovering old ones, seems an urgent task. So does protecting what is left of nature, and working to provide spaces for nature to return, where we can. So does resisting the spread of the Machine, in thought and in deed. So does living as simply as we possibly can. I try to do all of these things, but I think I need to try harder, and on a day like this I promise myself that I will.

In the last Dark Mountain book  we published an interview I did with conservationists and activists Doug and Kris Tompkins, who are responsible for preserving and re-wilding vast areas of land in Latin America. When I talked to Doug about this dilemma, he gave a simple and powerful response:

… find an issue you are close to and which matters to you and you take a position there, on that broad front. Do what you can do. And people have different skills and different capacities and different resources. Some people are good at thinking, some people are good at running a website, some people are good at political action, some people have wealth they can use, some people have leadership capabilities, some people are writers, and they find their place along this long front, where their skills lie and where they can best contribute. Everybody finds a place and they take up their spot. You’ve got to figure out what you can do – but you’ve got get your ass in gear and do something!

I’ll drink to that. Then I’ll get on with it.’ Quote from Paul Kingsnorth’s  blog entitled Empire of the Ape  22nd May 13


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We Need Only Listen To What The Earth Is Telling Us. Thomas Berry

‘We need not a human answer to an earth problem, but an earth answer to an
earth problem. The earth will solve its problems, and possibly our own,
if we will let the earth function in its own ways.
We need only listen to what
the earth is telling us.’Thomas Berry

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