Ecological Identity: The Naked Truth
Ecopsychology is the coalescence of the fields of psychology and ecology in which the the connection between our Self and the rest of nature is considered to be a symbiotic expression of Truth essential to our mental, and thus, ecological health (Ammel & Manning, 2009, p.14). When I speak of this “Truth,” I am referring to the non-duality intrinsic to the relationship that shapes the reciprocal sharing we have with our natural environment and all of life. In Truth, there is no separation and any aspect of Nature that is seen as separate from our own human-nature is an illusion of the mind.
For this reason, ecopsychology functions to address and, subsequently, heal the disconnection or dis-ease that we, as humans, have created in our lives through the disembodied fragments of our “belongingness” to the planet. As a field of study, ecopsychology provides insight into how we can learn from Nature and reconnect with our innate abilities to live in harmony and balance in all aspects of our existence and how to hone our innate responses (vs. reactions) to the Earth “dilemmas” that are transpiring throughout the world.
One of the most influential “dysfunctions” in our way of relating is due, entirely, on the mind. If we hold onto rigid belief systems, there is no room for expansion. Jamie Sams (1998), author of, Dancing the Dream: the seven sacred paths to human transformation, says, “We effectively limit our life experiences when we refuse to see how our belief systems have created tunnel vision. The expansion of human spirit comes from willingness to become an explorer of life.”
To me, this exploration encompasses the evolution of productivity in this world where paying respect to all that has come before, all that has transpired, and all that is manifesting and being offered for our future is embedded into the reality we have and are creating. By accepting this reality and not denying the fact that we were/are, in part, “creators” of what has transpired, we are free to move the energy into a direction or “flow” that contributes to the overall “good” of the planet and ourselves. How does this happen?
The first system or approach that comes to mind is one of necessity. What is it that drives us to connect with our environment? What is the power of the “undefined” that encourages us to merge with its divine essence? Can we define life through mirror images in Nature? How do we implement a passage of embodying Truth through all of the dis-ease that wraps around us like a wet blanket soaked with the sadness of something lost from the pure acceptance of Self?
Ecopsychology explores these questions and qualms through observation, evaluation and the essential “merging” of the transpersonal into our daily lives. There is an inherent connection that has advanced the notion of a “social synthesis” in our current life-time. Relationships and mergers have become transparent in the face of the evolutionary unfolding process. What is beyond and what is within is one and the same. Both ecopsychology and transpersonal psychology build a bridge that crosses all boundaries of understanding within our limited and subjective patterns of involvement. What, exactly, does this mean for society? This means being accountable for our actions. And our “actions,” distinctly, include our thought patterns and the need to move through the habitual patterns that have been passed down through generations before us.
So, what are the benefits associated with this movement past these limiting thought patterns and systems of belief? French paleontologist-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin argues that, “atop all the other physical spheres of our planet (the lithosphere, biosphere, stratosphere) there is the ‘noopshere’”(Roszak, 1992, p.197). It is noted that at the summit of development, all individual human minds will coalesce into “one, single hyper-complex and conscious arch-molecule coextensive with the planet itself” (1992). This theory can seem daunting to the very existence of mankind, but is it that far-fetched from the Truth that we desire and are, innately, drawn to? I think not.
The structures that have been built before us and that work to maintain our social hierarchy are in need of some serious (re)evaluation. Part of this evaluation stems from our connection to our divine biological inheritance. Amadou Hampate Ba, humanist and sage, points to the (our) feminine and masculine powers in the cosmos and Earth “belonging” as:
“Because the mother and the earth both manifest the mystery of germination, fruitfulness, and life, they are of utmost importance in the animist tradition. Although the father is considered to be the cosmic agent of contact on the level of the sacred he steps aside for the mother. He begets the child and he makes him legitimate, but it is the mother who perfects the child’s being. One could not be without a mother, though one’s father might well be unknown. …Earth is thought of as a living being” (McLuhan, 1994, pp 288).
Although I tend to lean toward the requirement of “belongingness” within the Earth to include the balancing force of the masculine to reach wholeness, it is this statement, above, that brings my own eco-identity into sync with the world in which I relate so deeply to and with. Through natural attraction, I was drawn by the biological urge to merge with another, in union, to create the synchronistic revelation of my own life-giving abilities. My daughter, Kira Rain, was born on April 29th, 2005. This “birth” signified many things in my life. First and foremost, it was a constant reminder of my natural inheritance (birthright) to bring life into this world for transformation. This transformation was much more than I had, originally, anticipated. My daughter brought a new sense of responsibility to myself, to her life and to the planet, as a whole. I felt a deep, inner, desire to protect the evolution of her involvement with the world to the point that I went back to school and also began a health regime that would affect my outlook on life and planetary systems from here on out. Part of this system of evolution and planetary involvement circulated, primarily, within my home environment.
I created an organic garden – tilling soil from days gone by and adding rich, nutrient ingredients of new topsoil, manure, and live cultures to activate the continuation of life-giving abilities and reciprocal abundance that was revealed to me before. Seeds were planted – each one with a prayer for the health and well-being of its desired growth and fruition. Lettuce, kale, broccoli, beets, carrots, onions, herbs, spinach, zucchini, squash, rhubarb, strawberries, and more were planted into the womb of the Earth and nurtured, daily, before their emergence into our lives. Kira would run between the rows, cultivating awareness with each stem that rose from the supple ground beneath it. We took turns picking strawberries and feeding the families that walked by in awe. Life was like this, for us.
But at the same time that beauty was prevalent in our actions, so was the immediate destruction and noticeable capacity of ignorance that I was, congruently, participating in. Engaging in familial disagreements and stagnant belief systems kept me locked in patterns of disillusionment with my Self, my family and the greater good of the Earth. I was constructing an idealized perception of reality based on my own limited understanding of what “bonding” meant. My search for familial “rooting” was a metaphor for my degree of separation that I had with my own intimate bond with Nature, Self, and the world, at large (to include Spirit). Truthfully, I desired an intimate communion with my inner strength, wisdom, and inherent connection to all of life – yet I was projecting my insecurities onto the shadow of my own creation. Health issues surfaced in my body as I struggled to maintain an illusion that, ultimately, did not serve my highest good. Not only was my health a reflection of the embodied dysfunction in my personal life, but there was an underlying dis-ease that was resulting from a self-prescribed notion of fear. This “fear” extended to my own relationship with Nature, itself.
In the book, Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken (2007) identifies our relationship between the immune system and the brain as inseparable and that each affects the other, right down to what we are thinking. Thus, our thoughts create our reality and permeate all levels of personal, social, environmental, global and universal synastry. I see this permeable connection as an energetic membrane that absorbs and retracts that which is needed for survival. My body was no exception. The deep, transient effects of my negative thought patterns were challenged to face the unknown through the direct application of experience in Nature. This subtle awakening within me spurred me to abandon any self-inflicted memories of suffering and to adopt a new sense of “trust” in life. It was at this moment that I made a decision to pack up and move to Colorado and be supported by the majestic structures that form the rocky mountains.
Through the acceptance and attendance of Naropa’s transpersonal and ecopsychology graduate program, I came to understand the myriad dimensions that my soul development shares with the natural alignment of all other species, systems and social relations. The most important aspect I saw through this “engagement” was the sacred vows I took on a cellular and soul-ular level to detach from the face I thought was my own and allow the mirror image of Self to emerge in all things - through the practice of mindfulness and self-awareness. To me, the inclusive fields of transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology opened a doorway to the mystery of life. In this mystery, all questions cease with the understanding that the separate-self is only an objectified persona of our authentic nature. Thus, what is natural to our innermost needs is a reflection of what is natural to the needs of the world in which we live. If we are disconnected from our roots, from the planetary movement, and from the life-giving abilities that stem from our direct “oneness” with all living things, then our body suffers – and this “suffering” reaches out to others as well as our living planet. Where is the accountability in these actions?
Eco-philosopher and eco-therapist, Joanna Macy prescribes three things to help relieve this anxiety and suffering: take some action, however small, to defend our natural environment and animal/plant siblings; begin to build a better, more sustainable society, starting at home; and be open to shifting consciousness by discovering new ways to see things cognitively (Buzzell & Chalquist, 2009, p. 53). This “relief” program seems simple yet I have discovered that it has profound healing capabilities. By shifting consciousness, we can reorganize our thought patterns from an onerous position to the inclusivity that generates sustainable action. If we see ourselves as part of the biological, environmental, and cosmic equation, then we, in turn, can see ourselves as part of the solution to the problems in which we have created.
Ecopsychology contains a multitude of possibilities that constitute seeds of change in the destructive patterns we have grown to accept and use without regard for ourselves, future generations, and the planet we reside within. Some of these “seeds” have been planted in the lives of many people hoping to shift their consciousness to encompass gifts of compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, and trust that they, too, have a heart big enough and WILL strong enough to push through the shadows of their creation and merge on the other side. This “other” side is what I refer to as living in conscious creation. When we are conscious creators, we take individual responsibility in our lives and make the changes that are necessary for the forward movement of societal and environmental accomplishment. This “accomplishment” is used in the sense of the unlimited power available through communion and interrelationships among the many. The “many” is also not to be viewed in a limited sense – it is the mass of evolution, the environmental expansion of awareness extending out further than a 4th dimensional perspective (our current sense of separation). The hologram of thought forms are migrating into an established paradigm of guided imagery – imagery that is not perceived in the mind but extracted from the heart chakra through a collective vibration that is birthing the new shift in environmental and social exchange. And with these thought forms that elude the senses, comes an understanding and integration that heightens the vibrational undertones of existence. How will we live in an omnipresent society that mirrors the divine in each of us? How will we create our reality without the need to plague our ego with suffering and instead bring breath to the dying torch inside? This torch need not go out but only light another form of receiving in the hearts that yearn to open to their illuminated Being.
This “conscious creation” will become the manifest of our desires and the shallow patterns that formed our personality behind the mask of our fears will be free of self-deception and cross borders of what recognition means between and with another. Much of what is made conscious through the intersection of transpersonal and ecopsychology is brought forth through various processes such as ecotherapy and experiential education. Ecotherapy includes (but is not limited to) nature based activities/therapeutic processes such as: ritual and rites of passages, guided wilderness excursions, horticulture therapy, art therapy (nature related), adventure therapy, etc. It takes therapy to a whole new level of relating – blending the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical implications of our authentic selves out into the world by direct experience in Nature.
I am drawn to this therapeutic discovery by the sheer motivation to see my Self in all that exists – form and formless. Spending time in Nature, knowing that I AM Nature, in all things, through all forms - and what is not formed through human perception. When I take the initiative to relate to my surroundings and know that my heart-felt longing for joy, peace, and beauty is the same longing that others have (to include the Earth) then the boundaries are no longer uncertain. The veil of illusion drops away and I see myself as the endless extension of all that is. This is the beauty of life and the meaning to the process of evolution – returning “home” to our hearts, to our birthright of creation and soul fulfillment.
The most important thing to remember, for me, is to have gratitude and acceptance of all that has come before, learning from the choices I have made and “we,” as a human family, have made to create the environment we are living in today. There is no good or bad – just Truth. And to recognize this Truth as an ever-expanding system of creation is a huge step in the direction of changing our personal and universal belief patterns.
The Earth is changing. Do we see ourselves in the changes taking place, within? Do we recognize the choices we have made that said, “YES!” to what we have created for our own soul growth and evolutionary involvement? Are we ready to take responsibility for our actions that directly reflect our own habitual thinking?
I take a vow, right here, right now to say “YES!” to my divine inheritance that I share with all living things - to co-create with awareness and bring light to the darkness within and around me. I accept my individual responsibility to care for and love my Self, unconditionally, and thus, care for and love all that is through this embodied practice. To me, there is no separation as all is divinely connected, as one. This is the Naked Truth.
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