Question

The Ecological Self

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I connect most closely and keenly with this conversation where Stephan Harding lays out Arne Naess’s definition of the “ecological self”:

“…the ecological self is not only the human self—it is also the Self or soul of the world, the anima mundi, that awakens us to our full humanity when we know, palpably, in our very bones, that there is a selfhood far vaster than our own in which we live and have our being, and to which we are ultimately accountable. “

Stephan goes on to write:

“Experiencing our full humanity requires us to attenuate our self-centeredness by enfolding it within a much wider sense of self in which we experience genuine love and compassion for all beings, both living and non-living. There are many names for this wider, deeper self, which is our deepest level of consciousness. My preference is for Arne Naess’s term ecological self because it suggests that the wider self is not some insubstantial, ethereal intellectualization, but rather deeply rooted in the very materiality of our planet—in its teeming biodiversity, its ancient crumpled continents, its swirling atmosphere, and the depths and shallows of its lakes, rivers, and oceans.”

I would add that many people in virtually all times and cultures have been aware of the co-existence of what might be called a “subtle ecology” that nests seamlessly into and nurtures the deeply rooted “materiality of our planet.”

I believe it is possible to attune to and work with the living energies that comprise this more subtle ecological dimension. Some have conceptualized these energies as actual entities, as the Findhorn Community in Scotland famously has done, for example, seeing them as nature spirits and devas; sentient patterns of awareness and power that help maintain life on and in the land, water, and air.

My recent memoir, A Country Where All Colors Are Sacred and Alive (Lorian Press, 2012) is an account of non-ordinary, anomalous experiences which have opened my mind to the breadth of our human potential as integral aspects of the “ecological self.” Such experiences have alerted me to the possibility of consciously collaborating with nature to support and strengthen environmental harmony. Referencing scientific studies that support this possibility, and sharing related stories,poems, and songs, I echo the notion of an ecological self, and further propose that our human natures are embedded in the natural environment in material and subtle ways that render the planet more responsive to our love and partnership than we may have imagined. 

Many of us have experiences that point toward a more holistic, interconnected Reality than we normally perceive. Episodes of telepathy, spontaneous healings, confirmed intuitions, precogni­tion, attunement to nonphysical beings, the amazing precision of skilled dowsing, nonlocal awareness of a distant place which proves to be accurate, or communion with the natural world—all these can expand our understanding of what is humanly possible for us and remind us of an undivided spiritual dimension of ourselves. 

The question “What does it means to be human?” could be fruitfully paired with a question that is perhaps more fundamental, namely, “What is a human being?” What is our full scope?

My memoir describes my continuing education in subtle experiences, which can make us more aware of a dimension of interconnected oneness, and empower us to step forward into more conscious, collaborative relationships with the sentient energies of nature. I believe that these relationships can contribute to environmental harmony right now, and may help downscale our climatic predicament in days to come.

A little about the inception and writing of this book:

In 2010, I began to wonder how many non-ordinary experiences I’d had could be confirmed by subsequent events, or verified by the observations of others who were present with me,or which were otherwise not strictly subjective, but at least partially founded in tangible, external phenomena. I decided to compile a chronological memoir of such experiences, supplementing them with relevant anecdotes and reflections.

Over a period of about a year, I primed the pump of my memory and collected a journal full of such stories, to which I added a number of others about off-the-chart synchronicities and instances of what some researchers into the anomalous call “High Strangeness.” Certain vivid episodes of energies sensed in wilderness,or at ancient ceremonial and burial sites, got grandfathered in,though decidedly more subjective in character than other tales.Several unusual incidents occurred over the year which I appended to this collection, and here and there I threw in an original poem or song lyric which called for inclusion. Gradually, a kind of patchwork parapsychological-autobiographical quilt emerged.

Not all of these narratives are descriptive of communions with nature. As they accumulated, I saw that many of them are simply accounts of small moments of extrasensory insight. Taken all together, however, they paint an expansive picture of a responsive universe, one in which we synergistically “interbe” with the natural world and each other.

The book presents a vision supportive of the thesis that we can nurture the natural world through meditation, prayer, blessing, positive intention, loving presence, mindful ritual, celebration, song, dance, and other expressions of joyful creativity. In setting forth this vision, I share formative learnings from my time working at the noted Findhorn Community gardens in Scotland, and an array of other stories about cooperative communion with nature.

In the frightening face of all we read and observe about climate change, A Country Where All Colors Are Sacred and Alive offers an important and heartening message: yes, political and grassroots action is absolutely essential for the protection of our environment, but so is what American spiritual teacher and author David Spangler calls “subtle activism.”

I have addressed community health and environmental issues for thirty-five years, working as a community organizer in Georgia and Arkansas, engaged with others in anti-nuclear research and activism,and co-authoring a book about natural forms of radiation protection.  Most recently I’ve joined the growing number of people working to alert the public and public health officials to the environmental hazards of “fracking” for subterranean natural gas deposits. I’m convinced that we can help sustain and restore environmental harmony through our loving interactions with the natural world in a way that complements such necessary grassroots and political activism. 

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