Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mother Earth

"Earth's Crammed With Heaven"
- At the Desert Retreat House -


Amid all the dark and gloomy news of the past few weeks, some very good news made its way onto the world-stage yesterday as 195 nations from all over the globe signed onto a landmark accord that commits every country to a dedicated and concerted effort to rescue the planet from the devastating effects of climate change.

While I strongly applaud these important, albeit initial, efforts to save Planet Earth from ultimate destruction, I am also very aware that most of the time, ecological plans like the one we saw yesterday are usually motivated by the very human-centric idea that we need to save the earth so that the world of nature will continue to support human beings. This motive betrays an underlying assumption that human beings own the earth and that nature exists to serve us.

But I think we have it all wrong, and maybe this is why we are in such serious danger of an eventual environmental collapse.  Nature doesn’t belong to us, we belong to nature. Earth is not our slave, earth is our mother, and we are infants in her womb - all of us intimately joined to the mother, upon whom we are dependent for life and wellbeing.

Perhaps the real problem here is that, in Western civilizations we continue to suffer from our falsely discrete and dualistic way of looking at the world. We think of each person as an isolated individual who exists apart from other isolated individuals, and we presume that the world of nature is also isolated - out there apart from us all. We even imagine that “God” is somehow a separated super-being out there, up there.  

But once we move away from this illusory, dualistic way of thinking and are able to understand a deeper wisdom that everything and everyone is all one dynamically interconnected web of being, our vision quickly changes;  and only then do we realize that whatever happens in any part happens to all parts.

The Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once put it this way:

We need to realize that earth is not just our environment.
The Earth is not something outside of us.
Our consciousness is the consciousness of the Earth.

When you look around you what you see is not your environment, it is you!
When you realize that Earth is not so much your environment,
you’ll be moved to treat her in the same way as you would treat yourself.
The future of the planet depends on it.

In his latest teaching about the environment, Pope Francis offered a remarkable piece of wisdom that went well beyond the traditional Western Christian view of the world when he said that you cannot love God UNLESS you love your neighbor and you cannot love God UNLESS you love Mother Earth. What we do to one another, we do to God and what we do to the earth, we do to God.

As I see it, the future of the planet does indeed depend on this type of thinking and regardless of how many new environmental regulations the nations may agree to, we are all in jeopardy until we realize this.

On a day of good news when the nations of the world have taken an important first-step toward dealing with a global climate crisis, I call to mind this beautiful “Prayer to Mother Earth” that I came across a few years ago. It comes out of the tradition of a North American Indian tribe, and it seems a most appropriate prayer for any of us to recite on this day regardless of what path we may be on:

Mother Earth teach me stillness, as the grasses are stilled with the light.
Mother Earth, teach me humility, as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Mother Earth, teach me freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Mother Earth, teach me resignation, as the leaves which die in the fall.
Mother Earth, teach me regeneration, as the seed which rises in the spring.
Mother Earth, teach me to forget myself, as the melted snow forgets its life.
Mother Earth, teach me to remember kindness, as dry fields weep in the rain.

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