Sunday, May 24, 2009

World as Lover, World as Self

Our planet is in trouble. It is hard to go anywhere without being confronted by the wounding of our world, the tearing of the very fabric of life.. In the face of what is happening, how do we avoid feeling overwhelmed and just giving up, turning to the many diversions and demands of our consumer societies?.... It is essential that we develop our inner resources. We have to learn to look at things as they are, painful and overwhelming as that may be, for no healing can begin until we are fully present to our world, until we learn to sustain the gaze. (From Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self).

Last weekend I participated in a very special experience on retreat with other like minded souls. We were gathered together to focus on our spiritual relationship with our planet, the earth and all that is in the world. The process of the retreat involves facilitated sharing sessions and exercises that encouraged us to work through 4 phases of experience
  1. Gratitude - it is in giving thanks for what we have that we connect with it more personally, and therefore understand the value we place upon it.
  2. Despair Work - when we despair, we feel the pain. We are able to feel what it is that is lost or being lost. These feelings are difficult for us to experience - we will often work hard to avoid this. The facilitated sessions help participants sit with these feelings enough to know them.
  3. The Shift - During this phase we look at what role we are playing or what we could be doing, in making cultural and sustainable shifts. This is based on Deep Ecology principles from Arne Naess, who said Deep Ecology is having a profound respect for the earths interrelated natural systems and a sense of urgency about the need to make profound cultural and social changes in order to restore and sustain the long term health of the planet.
  4. Going Forth - This needs little description, but is a session when participants can discuss with others their intentions, commitments and hopes for the future.
For me, the Earthworks retreat is about refocusing and learning more about my relationship with Mother Earth and my responsibility, privilege, joy and honour to be part of this creation - to be part of her healing, and mine.

As a Christian, I value this work as it is a challenge for me to consider the creation as a whole, and I am part of that, therefore I am to be a steward of it also. The model used in Earthworks supports 3 streams of action, which allows individuals to consider a role in one or any combination of the three streams...
  • Holding Actions - Those which sustain earth supporting and caring practices - recycling, composting, op shopping, organic food production and/or consumption
  • Alternative Structures - those which practice, trial and are innovative options that encourage sustainability
  • Shifting Values - those actions that empower others to look at alternative values, options and systems..

There are many references, and links in relation to this work, and I would love to talk more about it with anyone. If you'd like more info email me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating post. I always make it a point to feel gratitude; there's so much blessing I have in my life which is completely unearned on my part. But, I have a tendency to sit too deeply in despair (especially lately with worrying about my son). That's a hard one for me to get out of, and I have to consciously lift myself out of there, because you're right: we do experience pain in despair. And, I never want to lose my hope.