Look Up!

Essay Awe

Look Up!

Slowly, making my way along the rutted dirt path, I reached the top of the mesa, set down my backpack, leaned against a nearby log, and looked up at the sky and clouds. In that moment, everything changed.

Arriving at that moment took a very long time, and here’s why.

I grew up in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn, far away from the grandeur of the natural world. At that time, Brooklyn wasn’t the swanky place it is today. There were no yoga studios or latte shops. Growing up low-income and locked in the inner city, I wanted to escape Brooklyn, and everything I thought it represented. So, I did a lot of running from Brooklyn to undergraduate school, graduate school, law school, and to ‘The Big & Important Job’ as a lawyer-lobbyist. The only problem with the ‘Job’ was that it was killing my spirit and my soul.

Like many people in a high-pressure, high-stress, burnout job, I decided to take a vacation to the desert and mountains, far away from the daily grind. That day, when I reached the mesa top and looked up, I was awestruck. I noticed the sky and the clouds, perhaps for the very first time. I stayed looking up long enough to watch the clouds drift slowly through the sky. Clouds move! Exhaling, the moment felt timeless. The tension I carried in my body up the mesa evaporated as I felt myself becoming ‘cloud-like’—light and free.

I had spent so much time running from Brooklyn, trying to ‘be successful’ that I had forgotten to look up, to look at the natural world that surrounded me, to be grateful for my eyes and sight. I was alienated not only from the natural world; I was alienated from myself. That was a wake-up call.

Today, as a retreat leader, executive coach, writer, and Dharma teacher, I work with people who are seeking to create their most genuine and authentic self and service in the world, to live in greater harmony with the living Earth, and to cultivate compassionate relationships.

My mesa top experience was one of awe. Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world. Dacher Keltner and other researchers at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley have linked feelings of awe not only to grand moments like my mesa top experience, but also to the mundane. Keltner and colleagues say that awe as an emotional response is an evolutionary adaptation. “Awe binds us to social collectives and enables us to act in more collaborative ways that enable strong groups, thus improving our odds for survival. Other studies have found awe-altruism link: being in the presence of vast things calls forth a more modest, less narcissistic self, which enables greater kindness toward others.” Even brief experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective and orient our actions toward the interests of others. These momentary experiences of awe stimulate wonder and curiosity, and studies show that this is good for our immune systems.

These findings come at a time when our society is awe-deprived. Too many of us have a near addictive relationship with our devices, which means looking down at screens, significantly deteriorating relationships. We spend way too much time working and too little time in the beauty of the natural world. And, even children have little unstructured leisure time to cultivate curiosity and wonder.

Looking up is good for our bodies, our relationships, and our experience of the world around us. Looking up is the power to change perspective, to appreciate our lives, whether that is the streets of Brooklyn or mesa topped deserts. Looking up at clouds is now one of my daily spiritual practices, and my mantra is “Clouds move,” reminding me, that life is brief, always changing, and that beauty is as close as re-orienting my vision. Looking up takes very little time and yet feels timeless. Looking up restores kindness for ourselves, each other, and our relationship with this living Earth.

About Valerie Brown

Valerie Brown is a leadership coach and an international retreat leader. Her commitment and passion is rooted in her belief that mindful awareness is the foundation for happiness and understanding, supporting more resilient leaders, peaceful schools, and healthier workplaces. A Quaker, Valerie also has been ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Read more


Rejoining the Great Conversation

Essay Anima Mundi

Rejoining the Great Conversation

We are 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. All 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. 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 the recent UN Climate Change COP24 Conference by the 15-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 it 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.” -Greta Thunberg”

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.

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 greatest 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. When the early Christians violently banished paganism, they burned the books that understood Her magical nature. 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 oneness. 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 help bring the sacred alive again in our own daily life and the life of the Earth. There are many different ways to reconnect. In a recent book, Spiritual Ecology: 10 Practices to Reawaken the Sacred in Everyday Life, I outline a number of simple spiritual practices, from walking in a sacred manner to cooking with love and cleaning with awareness. Whatever our practice, this foundational work is not complicated, but rather simply requires our attention—real mindfulness. 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 our hearts and hands to help the Earth, for our souls to reconnect with the magic and mystery of Her living being.

About Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi teacher and author. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness (see www.workingwithoneness.org). He has also specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. Llewellyn is the founder of The Golden Sufi Center (www.goldensufi.org). He has written several books, including Working With Oneness and Light of Oneness.

Read more


Consciousness and the Combustion Engine

Conversation Voices | CCC19

Consciousness and the Combustion Engine


Featured Image | by Zach Street

This article is possible through a collaboration with CCC19Climate Change and Consciousness: Our Legacy for the Earth, at the Findhorn Foundation, North Scotland, April 20–26, 2019. The event will feature some of the clearest and most passionate voices for the Earth ever gathered together in one place. Kosmos is an official hub for CCC19.

Introduction

Getting to zero emissions by 2050, as the IPCC Report demands, requires a collective detox from our addiction to oil. We are in the midst of a global overdose. We need to enter a universal treatment center with consciousness as the lead therapist.

Environmental Attorney Robert Yuhnke, who is developing the transportation policy position for the U.S. Climate Action Network, and Stephanie Mines, a neuroscientist and the convener of CCC19, have a conversation about how to come clean from our addiction.

What We Know About How Humans Are Changing the Climate

Robert | Thirty years ago, scientists warned that adding CO2 and other heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere would warm the planet and disrupt the stable climate system that has supported the development of agriculture and the evolution of human civilization for the last 8000 years. Now, those changes predicted a generation ago are happening: more massive floods; more powerful hurricanes; expanded tornado zones; hotter and longer droughts that cause crop desiccation, forest die-off, and unstoppable firestorms; ocean warming that has bleached more than one-third of the coral reefs; and ocean acidification that threatens the survival of all shell-dwelling critters, thereby putting the entire marine web of life at risk.

Stephanie | Thirty years ago, I was pregnant with my second child. Less than a year prior, I had completed my doctorate. I felt like I was starting all over again with a new career and a baby on the way. Climate change never crossed my mind and, as far as I could tell, none of my friends, family, or clients were thinking about it. Jumping into my car whenever I had to go anywhere was a sign of my freedom. I was close enough to town to walk there for meetings and errands, but time was always tight with a bustling practice and children. I and the people in my world chose to be completely unconscious of how we had been manipulated into believing that each one of us had to have our own vehicle, and that we needed it to do everything quickly in our important, busy, and individually-focused lives. We could afford it, so why not?

Robert | Climate change consequences arrived sooner, and are more severe, than scientists anticipated two decades ago. An ice-free Arctic Ocean was not expected for another generation, but likely will occur this summer. Massive melting of Antarctic glaciers was not expected for a half-century or more, but is happening now. Damage from climate-related events in the U.S. alone exceeded $300 billion in 2017. The Climate Assessment released by 13 U.S. agencies in December 2018, reports that damages from climate disasters soon will routinely exceed $500 billion annually, contributing to a significant contraction in the national economy.

Many of these effects were not expected to occur until after the global temperature had warmed at least 2 degrees (C), but, to date, the global average has climbed only 1.1 C since the beginning of the industrial age. Heeding warnings that  a rise of 2 C might result in a runaway climate catastrophe beyond human intervention, global leaders at the 2015 Paris Conference asked the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to determine what must be done to limit the increase to 1.5 C.

Stephanie | Now that daughter, who I was carrying in my body thirty years ago, has launched a career and is entering the relationship that may be her soul partnership. Her life is blossoming, but due to my ignorance and blindness, climate change is disappearing her future. While I tried to keep her clean and well fed, and educate her and prepare her for life, I was completely ignoring the devastation that I was contributing to as I chauffeured her from one event to another, from one class to another, to and from play dates and lessons and swim meets and overnights. I was raising my children and counseling my clients in total ignorance of what we were doing to our world. Like a blindfolded captive, I was erasing the future.

What Must Be Done to Stop a Runaway Climate Catastrophe?

Robert | In October, 2018, IPCC reported that because no notable progress had been made in reversing greenhouse gas emissions, it might be too late to avoid exceeding a rise of 1.5 C. But if some of the unknowns work out in our favor, it might be possible. If CO2 emissions are cut to net zero by 2050, with half of those reductions achieved by 2030, AND if a large portion of the land surface currently dedicated to raising beef and other domestic animals is reforested to grow the planet’s capacity to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, we might not cross that threshold. To achieve these emission targets, almost all energy uses that rely on the combustion of fossil carbon must be stopped or converted to zero emission technologies by 2050. Half of those reductions must be achieved within the next 11 years to avoid total atmospheric loadings that will drive temperatures above the 1.5 C target over the next 1000 years while we wait for forests and phytoplankton in the oceans to restore stability to the climate by extracting CO2 from the air.

Stephanie | What qualifies as an addiction? It is insistent, obsessive repetition that is hardwired into the brain. Pain is experienced if the satisfaction center that is the goal of that repetition is not reached. Other options for satisfaction are nullified. In all cases, the original impulse for satisfaction was innocent, but having been completely defeated, it has been forgotten. It takes considerable effort to remind the brain of what it wanted originally: love, connection, peace, and joy. Neuroplasticity is fueled by the potential to replace the compensatory satisfaction with something real. Then it is possible to live past the pain and remember what it feels like to make another choice. This is a change in consciousness. It is synonymous with coming out of addiction.

Transport As an Example of the Challenge We Face

Robert | Worldwide, over one billion cars and trucks, tens of thousands of aircraft, and many thousand ships at sea and railroad locomotives together combust roughly 50 million barrels of the 100 million barrels of petroleum extracted from the Earth EVERY DAY. The petroleum burned to provide the motive power to move people and goods accounts for nearly one-quarter of all CO2 emitted daily into the atmosphere. In the U.S., where coal burned to generate electric power was once the largest source of CO2, emissions from power generation have been reduced during the last decade by switching to natural gas, wind, and solar. Now, transport—a sector of the economy where emissions are growing—is the largest source of CO2, at 35 percent. The IPCC global emission targets cannot be achieved without reducing transport emissions to net zero by 2050.

The climate crisis demands that the use of fossil fuels in the transport sector must end. This calls for the accelerated replacement of fossil fueled (FF) internal combustion engines (ICEs) throughout the transport sector. Electric and hydrogen powered vehicles emit no greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from the vehicles themselves. And, zero emissions are achieved if the electricity or hydrogen is generated using renewable sources of energy.

Recently developed battery technology is resulting in commercially available zero emission vehicles (ZEVs)—passenger vehicles, vans, transit and school busses, and passenger and freight rail. New electric pick-up truck and 18 wheeler models were commercially introduced in 2018, and Tesla anticipates releasing a long-haul truck by 2020. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles also are in use in California, Europe, and Asia. The challenge is to deploy these technologies quickly enough to replace one billion ICEs by 2050.

Currently, more than 60 million new passenger vehicles and a few million new trucks are sold annually worldwide. In the next 20 years, 1.5 billion new vehicles will be produced—both to replace the existing global fleet and to add vehicles to meet growing demand. As of 2018, less than one percent of global new vehicle sales are ZEVs. But to meet the IPCC’s zero emission target and replace all ICEs by 2050, 100 percent of sales must be ZEVs within a few years.

This could be accomplished if every new car buyer insisted on buying a ZEV. Public demand, if consciously guided by the choice needed to protect our planetary home, could transform the world’s vehicle population by 2050. But that is not happening here, either because people are not making conscious choices or their choices are not guided by planetary consciousness.  

We should look to Norway where 30 percent of new vehicle sales are ZEVs, and 40 percent of miles driven are in ZEVs. How has Norway created broad public demand for ZEVs? It’s investing in a ubiquitous electric vehicle (EV) charging network where power is often free; creating tax benefits that offset the incremental purchase price of a new EV; and setting 2025 as the deadline for ending the sale of new ICEs. Clearly, the public will respond if the price signals are set.

Capital costs of new EVs are dropping rapidly as advances in battery technology reduce their cost and weight. Bloomberg estimates the cost of battery EVs will be comparable to new ICEs by 2023–2025; California estimates comparable costs by 2030. Soon, special tax incentives may not be needed to make EVs price competitive. But competitive pricing will shift only some market demand; not 100 percent. To achieve the IPCC targets, the sale of all new ICEs must end within the next few years. Can this change in attitudes be accomplished in our democracy soon enough to save the planet?

Stephanie | The brain never stops evolving. My entire focus in life has been on the human experience of the resolution of shock and trauma, individually and in community. I have seen over and over again the enormous human capacity to change. Just recently I was asked to help resolve the conflict between the head of an organization and a staff member who felt abused by him. For hours, the CEO defended himself saying that the charges of abuse were impossible. The incidents had never occurred. He was convinced that the staff member was fabricating the events. Then, in the last 15 minutes of our meeting, it dawned on him that he had been blind to the impact of his words. He had been culturally insensitive. He had failed to see how he had put a roadblock on someone’s path by not paying attention; by being self-serving. In that moment he woke up.

Like this CEO, we can still wake up while there is just enough time. A big shift can happen in just a few moments when we reroute our attention and open to new ways of reaching satisfaction. I can face the truth of what I contributed to our painful reality and make a new choice now. If everyone reading this becomes a vehicle of change by only driving electric cars, inspiring someone else to do the same, and demanding that governments act to require automakers to meet the needs of a planetary system in crisis, we will be many steps closer to thriving in a climate-changing world.

About Stephanie Mines

Dr. Stephanie Mines is a neuropsychologist whose unique understanding comes from extensive research as well as decades of fieldwork. Her stories of personal transformation have led many listeners to become deeply committed to the healing journey. Dr. Mines understands shock from every conceivable perspective. She has investigated it as a survivor, a professional, a healthcare provider, and as a trainer of staffs of institutions and agencies. She is devoted to the living experience of healing trauma in community that she believes is essential for us to thrive in a climate changing world.

Read more

About Robert E. Yuhnke

Robert E. Yuhnke served as an Assistant Attorney General who provided legal counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources regarding regulations and litigation strategies for cleaning up air pollution from the steel industry. Later he created the clean air program at Environmental Defense Fund with primary focus on stopping the acidification of forests and watersheds from acid rain caused by sulfur pollution emitted from coal fired power plants and copper smelters. He also created the transportation program at EDF and played a major role working with key members of Congress in drafting or negotiating provisions of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

Read more


The Earth is Doing Her Best

Introduction Editorial

The Earth is Doing Her Best

image | Diane Barker, A rainbow over Dong Tsang Ritro Retreat Center in Nangchen | See more in Gallery 3

Welcome to Kosmos Spring Edition, 2019 | Climate, Consciousness, and Community

Spring is truly the season of hope. Fresh beauty budding-up on trees and bursting through hard ground, emerging against all odds. Irrepressible life. Renewal. A balm to our winter-weary hearts, and maybe an antidote to the despair that catches our breath away in unguarded moments.

Maybe it catches us walking in a woods bereft of birdsong, or hearing about another deadly tornado or wildfire, or imagining our children’s lives after we are gone—this sadness arising. At such times, it helps to look up at the sky or a beautiful flower, to return to slow conscious breathing, and to feel the Earth, above, below, and within us – striving to live. Tender gratitude wells up for all the Earth has given us and those we love. The Earth is always doing the best she can, but it’s getting harder.

I remember, as a child, riding in a car and noticing the fascinating variety of insects whose lives came to an abrupt halt on our windshield. When we stopped for gas, the attendant had to clean the bug splatter off the glass with a squeegee. Today, I can drive for hours on the highway and the windshield remains spotless. Where are the bugs? I learn that the total biomass of insects is decreasing by about 2.5% per year. At this rate, there will be hardly any left in my children’s lifetime. As the insects go, so too the birds, and pollination of flowers and crops. We know this. 

When did you first feel ‘at one’ with nature’s penetrating presence and mystery? Were you a child, enmeshed in the strange drone of cicadas on a warm summer day? Was it the first time you witnessed the glittering ocean or the arc of a shooting star? That expansion that suddenly bloomed in your chest revealed your true nature as an essential note in the symphony of creation—not just a drop of water in the ocean, but ocean-water itself.

This stuff of creation we are made from requires something from us now. Animals of the world, trees and flowers, minerals deep in the Earth, already know their true nature, how to be. We have forgotten. The species with the most gifts, the most to give, has forgotten its place in the order of things, has forgotten about stewardship, awe, and grace.

This April 20-23, the time of Passover, Easter, and Earth Day, we gather together as a family in a small town in Pennsylvania, to remember our gifts. The Kosmos Climate, Consciousness, and Community Summit is our opportunity to look into each other’s eyes and recognize our true nature, to share what we have learned, and to carry precious seeds of hope and resilience back to the places we come from.

We will not be alone. Our brothers and sisters at Findhorn Community in Scotland will be sharing the journey in tandem, and streaming to other hubs like ours, clarion voices: Charles Eisenstein, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, and many more. And we will be convening with dear friends in the thriving Transition Town community of Media, PA.

This edition of Kosmos Quarterly touches the themes of these important gatherings: Oneness, grief and loss, gratefulness, hope, preparedness, stewardship, resilience. This collection of works is less about what we ‘know’ about climate, than what we feel, and less about what to ‘do’, than how to be. For, until we remember our at-one-ment with the Earth and all beings, our actions will have little restorative impact.

We thank Findhorn’s Climate Change and Consciousness (CCC19) planners, especially Convener, Stephanie Mines, for contributing to this edition of Kosmos Quarterly. Read Stephanie’s Keynote and see how gifts can flow through us when we open our hearts to the call of the Earth.

Let these stories, essays, poems, and works of art be signposts, reminders to our children that many of us woke-up and started to face the consequences of our actions, that we began, at last, to remember why we are here, and to slowly repair the Earth in thousands of small places, and that maybe—if their own children someday read these words—we did it in time.

In Gratitude,
Rhonda Fabian, Kosmos Editor

May the day be well and the night be well. May the midday hour bring happiness, too.
In every minute and every second, may the day and night be well.
By the blessing of the Triple Gem, may all things be protected and safe.
May all beings born in each of the four ways live in a land of purity.
– Buddhist chant

About Rhonda Fabian

Rhonda Fabian is Editor of Kosmos Quarterly. She is also partner in Immediacy Learning, an educational media company for 28 years and active in the Transition Town movement. Ms. Fabian is ordained in the monastic tradition of her teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, with the dharma name, True Awakening River.

Read more


Gallery 3 | Guardians of the Sacred in Tibet

Young nomad siblings bringing the family herd of Dri (female Yak) home for evening milking, Mamo Thang, Sershul nomadic area, Kham. The red prayer flags on the left will have been placed there on the inspiration of a high Lama to indicate that this is a holy place. Opposite, below the road level, is a cave used for meditation by the great Tibetan master and teacher Patrul Rinpoche.

Gallery Deep Ecology

Gallery 3 | Guardians of the Sacred in Tibet


 

This center of heaven,
This core of earth,
This heart of the world,
Fenced round with snow,
The headland of all rivers,
Where the mountains are high and
The Land is pure.
A country so good
Where men are born as sages and heroes
And act according to good laws.
A land of horses ever more speedy.

Anonymous Tibetan poet, 8th to 9th century

 


 Women with traditional hair decorations

of coral and turquoise at a Lama Dance Festival.

Manigango, Kham.


The Sacred Land

Tibet is a sacred land. Its people are an expression of that sacredness. For 17,000 years, before the arrival of Buddhism, the nomads and farmers of Tibet practised Bon Shamanism which revered the land and related to it as a spiritual being. The sky, mountains, rivers, and lakes were seen to be animated by gods, demons or nature spirits, all of whom demanded careful ritual propitiation in order to create a balance between the natural and supernatural.

The establishment of Buddhism in Tibet in the 7th century transformed the country. Buddhism absorbed many Bon practices and created a culture of tremendous depth and richness – such as a devotion to the sanctity and power of natural places, studious monasticism, compassion for all living beings, and a belief in the interdependence of all beings – that the animate and inanimate are all parts of a whole. This rich culture sees the outer world as a reflection of the inner world and knows how to connect the two so that the two worlds can nourish each other.

Sacred sites throughout Tibet are revered as places where these worlds meet, where the separation between inner and outer, spiritual and material, is especially thin. Mountains such as Kawa Karpo in Kham and Amnye Machen in Amdo, springs, lakes, relics, forbidden areas, places associated with spiritual figures (such as Guru Rinpoche,) and pilgrimage routes are respected as sacred. Hanging prayer flags, burning incense (usually Juniper branches), and saying prayers are just some of the traditional ways of honouring sacred sites. These practices protect the areas and their special deities; benefit the nomads, their grazing land, and their livestock.

Prayer flags surround a sacred spring near Rongpatsa, Kham.


Wisdom rediscovered

How is the worldview of Tibetan nomads (and other indigenous peoples) so relevant for the world today?

“Nomads believe that a person’s life force is connected with a locality and the spirits that dwell there and that a deterioration of this bond can have negative repercussions.”
(From Drokpa: Nomads of the Tibetan Plateau and Himalaya by Daniel J Miller)

The Tibetan nomad’s understanding of the sacred landscape brings reverence, care, and respect to the land, which is the basis of the conservation and environmental protection that the earth so badly needs today.

Once, when travelling with my Tibetan friend we arrived at her village. Local nomads came to see us as they were worried that the five springs at the foot of a local mountain, used by local people for their water supply, were drying up. These springs were considered the gift of the protector deity of the mountain, but the local authorities had turned one spring into a bathing area and another healing hot spring was full of rubbish.

The nomads were concerned that the village people no longer circumambulated the mountain that provided their water or made smoke offerings to the local goddess. It was clear from the rubbish-filled hot spring that they had forgotten the sacredness of the landscape around them. With the help of the nomads we cleaned out the spring and arranged that the nomads would make offerings to the mountain goddess.

The drying up of the springs was symbolic of a dwindling lack of respect for the environment. As the inner springs of spiritual awareness become dry, the outer springs do as well.

Environmental scientists have recently acknowledged that this traditional approach can make significant contributions to protecting endangered species and conserving biodiversity. Recognizing the value of sacred sites in contemporary conservation systems is now advocated by numerous scholars in the west and in China, and is beginning to receive increasing attention in recent times. What is needed now is not just a return to respecting the land but respect for the knowledge, skills and wisdom of those who have done so for millennia.

One of Sonam Wangbo’s sons in the spring pastures, the sacred Dahu Valley, Kham.


Spiritual Ecology

The nomads and other Tibetans hold a reverence for the natural world, which ensures that they remain stewards of the land they have lived with for thousands of years. Small pockets of awareness of the land’s magic, its sacredness, its deep inner value, still remain.

A few years ago I was travelling in Dzongsar/Meshu area, in Kham, with a friend. We stopped in Horlung Nor, a beautiful and remote nomad valley, to conduct a small prayer ceremony for Hogan, the local male protector deity who lives on the mountaintop above. This deity was also considered to be the protector of my friend’s family, and she felt it was important to make an offering to it.

Some old local nomad men came to help us, gathering Juniper for the smoke purification ritual, hanging prayer flags, and joining the simple ceremony. Afterwards, one of the nomads told us that this mountain god had appeared to him when, as a teenager, he was hunting in the forest on the mountainside. He was so surprised and terrified that he threw down his gun and fled home—never to hunt again.

One of the other nomads added: “He is lucky to be alive. My cousin saw the god when he was young and afterwards, he sickened and died.” Another one agreed: “Yes, I have heard of people who have seen the god and they generally don’t survive!”

I was amazed by the conversation, moved that a people and a place still exist where the magical and the numinous are treated as topics to chat about and where people still had such reverence for their local landscape. In the West, my experience is that people either treat this kind of topic with incredible (and depressing) cynicism or see it as a myth, an ancient story that happened somewhere else.

The land is threatened as modern culture, with its materialistic values, encroaches and as more and more nomads are settled into villages. It is not just the threat to the land one sees—the trees and lakes, the mist and grasses—but also to the inner land, enlivened with spiritual essence. As the World wakes up to the effects of environmental degradation and begins to turn back to traditional spiritual values, I hope there is a revival of appreciation for ancient Tibet’s Spiritual Ecology. As Gebchak Wangdrak Rinpoche says:

The nomad who had seen the local protector deity Hogan when out hunting as a boy. He told us that he had thrown down his gun and fled, never to hunt again. His friends said he was lucky to be alive. Horlung Nor, Kham.

“If we have a good relationship with the earth and a good relationship with the feminine, there will be peace and balance in the world. Diseases, famine, epidemics, fighting… there isn’t peace in the world now because the earth elements are disrupted and the earth goddesses displeased. They mainly come about due to this imbalance, don’t they?

In Tibet we believe in female spirits like dakinis, earth goddesses and so forth. We believe  that if we’ve disturbed or aggravated them, we must confess and do purification ceremonies to appease them. We perform confession and feast offerings, and when the dakinis are pleased the environment is peaceful. Prayers that we make to the dakinis have a special power to come true. The dakinis have also made prophecies about these things in their symbolic language.”

Gebchak Wangdrak Rinpoche

More by Diane Barker


About Diane Barker

Diane Barker is a photographer and artist based in Worcestershire, England. Born in what was historically a pub, Diane’s “nomadic” roots trace back to the 70s as a hippie living in a camper van in America. It was also during that time her first encounter with the Tibetan lamas transpired in Wales. During the 1990s, a Buddhist boyfriend lured her into a voyage to India, which eventually led to her encounter with the Tibetan nomads in Changthang in Ladakh. Ever since, the nomads became her obsession and the subject of her heart. During one of her journeys, a compelling incident within the communities instigated the Heart of Asia project, an NGO founded by Diane and her friends. Its objective is to bring healthcare, health education, and essential aid to remote communities in rural Eastern Tibet. For those wishing to donate to the organization, please visit: www.heartofasia.org/donate.php

Read more


Dancing with Gaia

Keynote Convening CCC19

Dancing with Gaia


Editors’s Note | CLIMATE CHANGE & CONSCIOUSNESS: OUR LEGACY FOR THE EARTH, at the Findhorn Foundation, in North Scotland, April 20-26, 2019, will be a unique conference about surviving and thriving in a climate changing world and post-carbon economy. The event will feature some of the clearest and most passionate voices for the Earth ever gathered together in one place. Kosmos is an official hub for CCC19.

 

It may be difficult for organizers and strategists, planners, activists, and environmentalists to comprehend how an event as broad in scale and as detailed as the upcoming gathering, Climate Change & Consciousness: Our Legacy for the Earth, was delivered completely through spiritual guidance. But it was.

I am a neuroscientist, a clinician, a researcher, an author, and an educator. I am a mother and a grandmother, and I am married to an environmental attorney who tests my ideas through the lens of his critical thinking about how things work. While I have cultivated spiritual awareness my entire life, I have also trained extensively in somatics and make every effort to be grounded and anchored as I must be to meet all my responsibilities.

Yet on the night of November 8th, 2016, as I was heading in the direction of enormous despair by what was happening in my country, I was lifted up by the delivery into my physical body—starting at the crown of my head and descending in increments to my toes—of a clear plan. This was a structure for gathering together a diverse assembly of humans at a place known for its profound relationship to nature so that they could awaken to, celebrate, and act on the power of human resilience and evolution to meet the climate crisis and alchemize it through action.

The skeletal design, the central players (indigenous leaders, youth, environmental scientists, activists, artists, permaculturists, diversity farmers, neuroscientists, community organizers, physicians, social entrepreneurs, architects, transportation and urban planners, businessmen and women of all ages and from all over the globe) would come together and, in collaboration with the unseen realms and the creatures of the earth, pool their innate brilliance to rally humanity practically and effectively in the name of the children of the future.

Many of the speakers were named to me along with the location for the gathering. The instructions were logical and direct, but the manner of their transmission was completely revolutionary. It was an outline for action, and it was given with such clarity and insistence that there was no resistance possible. And it all downloaded in less than fifteen minutes. I have never turned back from this assignment, though it transformed my life completely in virtually every regard from that moment forward.

What has impressed me the most since that stunning moment two years ago is the neuroresilience that has accompanied it. I have moved into thought realms and collaborative relationships that are unlike anything I would have chosen for myself. The joys I experience from living brazenly on these new creative frontiers bring with them a unique neurochemistry that I did not even know was possible. This speaks to my conversation with environmentalist Bob Yuhnke elsewhere in this journal about ending habituation as the path of consciousness in a climate-changing world. It is letting go of the very ways in which we identify and value ourselves that we enter the neuroplasticity required of this new era.

I am sharing all this with you right now in order to encourage you to step into activism and leadership not as a duty but as a love affair. Nothing promotes radical transformation as much as love. And who is the affair with? It is with life itself: with Gaia, with the natural world, with the promise of a future. It is also a love affair with your own highest potential. The art of love is the art of surrender. As someone who always thought she would be an artist (meaning a poet or a dancer) I never would have considered social leadership as an art form, but that is exactly what it is. We are dancing with the forces of fate and the subtle realms—listening to the music of an evolutionary symphony that oscillates between discordant and rhapsodic. This is what Climate Change & Consciousness means to me: the dance of life, the art of love.

Images by Zach Street

Zach Street is an Artist/Activist/Educator living in Hilo, Hawai’i, and shares his island home with the ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua featured here. Endemic to the island, these iconic trees are symbolic of love, dance, and the spirit of Nature. Currently under threat from human introduced diseases, the ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua are inspiring the local community to act for the future of the forests of Hawai’i. MORE

Yes, we are living on the brink of utter disaster. Yes, species are being lost and the grief is unbearable. We do not know if there will be a future worth inhabiting for our children or our children’s children. Yet, at the same time, the symphony of miraculous, impossible change is being composed for us. Please listen. As someone who has survived and thrived despite overwhelming trauma, I know the paradox of hopelessness conjoined with limitless possibility. This juxtaposition is what I am looking at now as I survey a world in crisis. I do not deny the despair that comes over me, but it is always alchemized into faith by astounding neural connections that are built as I evolve through and with this crisis.

While I study the science of climate change, I also study the human nervous system. I have become more focused and clearer about their interaction. From a physiological standpoint, we have every capacity to innovate ourselves and to shift behavior, speech, and thinking in unforeseen directions. Foremost among the health consequences of climate change is the loss, panic, and stress that is virtually everywhere and that will accelerate. There is nothing more important for us to do than to step courageously into the role of leadership in this regard—whether we think we are qualified or not—by modeling a pioneering response to challenge. I invite you to embrace the crucible of our climate-changing world as you would welcome a lover or unique friend—someone so unpredictable and provocative that they wake you up to the present. This reality we are moving into has many hidden twists and turns. It is full of surprises. Dare to enjoy the growth it ignites and embody how that translates into activism. We are all newcomers to what Thomas Berry called the Ecozoic Era when humans would recover their creative orientation to the world.

In the process of healing from early trauma, I have reclaimed some of the childhood that I lost because of it. This imparts a capacity to be incredibly curious, like a child coming into a room for the first time and noticing all the energies that are there: the colors, the shapes, the nuances, the sensations. This sensory experience of discovery is a key aspect of moving into the unprecedented qualities of this historical moment. Paradoxically, I see the world as if for both the last and the first time. I am made anew by the guidance that is available to flow through me and direct my words, my gestures, even my very steps. Every action we take is programmed in the somatosensory cortex, the behavioral hard drive of the brain. Addictions are sustained by addictive gestures, down to the simplest ones like lighting a smoke, ordering a burger, or turning on the ignition of a car and expecting to hear the engine turn over. When we break an addiction, these behaviors no longer engage. Instead, new neuronal connections are sparked. That is what I experience as I step into leadership. It is a cellular regenerative high that no drug can replicate. It is sustainable and sustaining. It is available for you, free of charge, if you are willing to dance with your beloved Gaia. She is waiting expectantly for you, her hands outstretched.

Learn more about CCC19.

Attend the parallel Kosmos Event | Climate, Consciousness, and Community Summit | April 20-23

About Stephanie Mines

Dr. Stephanie Mines is a neuropsychologist whose unique understanding comes from extensive research as well as decades of fieldwork. Her stories of personal transformation have led many listeners to become deeply committed to the healing journey. Dr. Mines understands shock from every conceivable perspective. She has investigated it as a survivor, a professional, a healthcare provider, and as a trainer of staffs of institutions and agencies. She is devoted to the living experience of healing trauma in community that she believes is essential for us to thrive in a climate changing world.

Read more


Book | Trees of Power

Article Abundance

Book | Trees of Power


The following excerpts are from Akiva Silver’s book Trees of Power: Ten Essential Arboreal Allies (Chelsea Green Publishing, March 2019) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.


From The Preface

“We can and do influence the ecosystems around us more than any other species. That influence can come through reckless destruction, blind abandonment, or conscious intent. Because we have chain saws and bulldozers at our disposal, and because trees cannot run, hide, or fight back, they can be thought of as weak, defenseless organisms. The truth is that trees are resilient beings that have been around for hundreds of millions of years, enduring shifts in climate, being chewed on and trampled by everything from voles to elephants.

They have come from the mysteries of the deep past. When I look at the sky, what I see there is not simply blue. There’s a radiance, an energy, a power. It is from this power that trees feed. Literally building their bodies out of the radiant sky, trees of power are strong beings to ally ourselves with. Their wisdom and abilities are very different from our own. They are mysterious organisms that naturally fit into a symbiosis with us if we can learn to work with them.


From the Chapter, Life Fountains

These fountains of life are incredible beings that perform so many services for free and indefinitely. They have the ability to reproduce themselves, run on sun and rain, build wood out of carbon in the sky, create flavors, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, medicine, and vitamins. We are just tiny animals scampering beneath them, picking up their gifts as fast as we can, because there is not enough time to keep up with the rain of presents. The feel of autumn in the wind pushes us to gather faster, filling bucket after bucket. The harvest looks staggering. It fills trucks and porches. Where will we put it all? and How will we have time to process all this? are some of the thoughts we have, and still there is so much more lying on the ground. Millions of pounds in my county alone.

“Mind if I gather nuts off your lawn?” They are waste to my culture; it’s a chore to rake them up off the grass. The gifts of the trees, of the Universe, are largely ignored. It is a strange world indeed. I can’t explain the physical joy I feel filling buckets with nuts.

Crawling around on my hands and knees surrounded by a staggering abundance, I sometimes laugh out loud like a madman and look around to see if anyone heard me. Sometimes a guy on a bicycle stares at me. But I have no time to worry about that. It is the harvest season and I am flying high. I need to keep reminding myself to stay calm.

The heart of the gatherer is one of gratitude and amazement. I have been astounded so many times harvesting. As I start to pick up the first bushels of wild pears, I realize just how much is there. I sell wild pears to a cidery that presses them into perry (pear wine, which is a very excellent drink with a long history in Europe). Last fall my family and a friend gathered over 3,000 pounds of wild pears from a handful of trees in two days.…It is good work, work our bodies and minds were built for. At night we see pears when we close our eyes. We have a connection to those trees. We care what happens to them. To us, it seems like a good idea to plant more of them. The highest level of appreciation comes through participation.

The trees in my book—Chestnut, Apple, Beech, Black Locust, Hazelnut, Hickory, Mulberry, Poplar, Ash, and Elderberry—are some of the most enjoyable beings on Earth to work with. If you watch for them, they will overwhelm you sometimes. It will seem like they are merely offering you thousands of pounds of food and seed for free, but they have their own interests at heart. By taking from them, you will be helping them. You will be partnered. Your work on this world does not have to be drudgery or bad for the planet. By working with trees we can find abundance and spread it.

Life circles around trees; it is drawn in like a magnet. One crab apple tree in the middle of winter will pull in birds, possums, mice, deer, raccoons, wild children, and countless other forms of life. Animals and people will travel for miles to gather persimmons and chestnuts. Songbirds will flock to mulberries. These are magnetic trees, fountains of life that shower the Earth with abundant gifts. When we become aware of these trees, we can begin to work with them and elevate the level of abundance in our world to staggering heights.

Humans can have a positive influence on nature. We can enhance ecosystems to the benefit of ourselves and wildlife at the same time. I see a world filled with endless opportunity. There are gifts falling down all around us. Many folks don’t see them at all, even while they are taking the time to pick up these presents and throw them away. This book is a guide and a catalyst. I hope that it helps you realize there is good work to do everywhere and that you can be a positive force for nature and for yourself. You can harvest food and medicine, make money, breathe gratitude, and leave beauty in your wake by working with trees. They are filled with power, and that power is freely offered to us. Partnering with trees is as natural as breathing. We inhale their exhalations and they inhale ours. We are designed to work with each other.


To the Environmentalist

For lots of reasons, the environmental movement has become fairly unpopular today. The movement is generally viewed as a bunch of whiny liberals disconnected from where their food, cars, and lifestyle come from. Environmentalists are associated with holding up signs saying no to everything. Opposition comes in hard and heavy because environmentalists are thought to be trying to stop industry and slow our precious economy. Fear of losing out on any profits has become justification for stomping out environmental justice. Like many topics, it has become polarized.

There is a better path forward. As environmentalists, we can view the whole movement completely differently. Right now, the movement is focused on reducing fossil fuels, creating buffer zones for wildlife, and saving endangered species. I get it. It’s outrageous how our culture treats nature with no respect, no reverence. It’s disgusting to watch millions of acres gobbled up by bucket wheel excavators on the tar sands. It’s utterly depressing to hear about another million-barrel oil spill in the ocean.

It’s hard to take when we see the trajectory of climate change. There is a saying in the environmental movement: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

I understand that completely. I have chained myself to government facilities and gone to jail; I’ve screamed my head off at dozens of organized protests. I understand the frustration and the need to stop the destruction. I also now understand that anger is a very ineffective tool.

When you show someone anger, they will instantly become defensive and then, often, offensive. You won’t convince anyone of anything by yelling at them.

The best way to create change is to create alternative options that are so much more appealing than the status quo. For example, let’s say you are concerned about palm oil plantations destroying rain forests in Southeast Asia. You could tell everyone you can to stop buying palm oil; you can make a video about it, write a book describing the horrors of deforestation and the loss of orangutans. You can shout and shout about it, but at the end of the day, people are often going to buy what is on the shelf at the store. If you wanted to get people to buy less palm oil, then at some point you have to offer an alternative, and it should be better than palm oil. Telling people all about the hazelnuts you grow and process into oil is a lot more inspiring than trying to make them feel guilty about buying palm oil. You will get a lot more traction by offering something new or creating positive choices for folks to make. If you just say no all the time, then you are actually a negative force. To create positive change, we have to be a creative, positive force. It is much harder than traditional protests. It takes a lot of energy, knowledge, inspiration, and faith. That faith comes from understanding our sphere of influence.


Plants Are Sentient Beings

Scientists are proving that plants are cognizant, sentient beings. Monica Gagliano has conducted incredible experiments showing that plants have a sense of hearing and memory. She is one of the leaders in the newly developing field of plant cognition. In one experiment a plant is grown in a pot shaped like an upside-down Y. The roots can grow in either direction of the Y. Without any inputs, they grow in both directions equally. However, when a tape recorder of rushing water is placed next to one side, most of the roots grow to that side. That is a tape recorder, not actual water. They are sensing the vibrations of sound and responding. I can define sensing vibrations of sound as hearing.

…Personally, I don’t need to prove it; I already know that plants are creatures just as I am. If you don’t know it, that’s okay. Your perspectives are your choice. Whatever thoughts you choose are chosen by other thoughts. You have no idea where any of your thoughts come from. They rise from a dark and mysterious space. They come into your mind and say things. Maybe you believe them, maybe you don’t, but who is the one doing the believing or disbelieving? Just more thoughts. Your mind will say untrue things. How can you believe every thought? You are just guessing at which ones are true. If you listen close enough, your thoughts will contradict one another. You don’t have to believe anything. Reality is stranger than any scientist could handle. The Universe is infinite and weird. We are deep inside a dream, far inside. As you exist, breathe deep and appreciate the wondrous world around you, all the while feeling your existence. Do not shy away from the awareness within your own body. It is a constant place for you to come back to whenever things get crazy. You can always find the center if you let everything go for a moment and feel your actual center. Don’t think about it; just feel what’s deep in there. Then look out: You can walk around knowing that there is a presence inside you. A presence that is strong and unwavering. Once you find this presence inside your body, you can always find it again, whenever you remember. It’s there; if your mind would stop talking, you could notice it.

We all have the ability to breathe deep and be quiet. Just be quiet and listen. Plants are created by soil, sunlight, and water. Nobody really knows what those things are. They are ancient forces beyond the scope of thoughts in your human language. Plants eat sunlight and stretch themselves toward the stars. They are here because creation wants them here. They have their own ways of expressing life, of communicating with creation. Listening to plants will enliven your senses. It requires patience, silence, and openness.


Twisted Tree Farm Tour

Chestnut Trees

Gallery


Created in the early 19th century, these botanical illustrations are the works of three artists Pierre Joseph Redouté, Pancrace Bessa, and Thomas S. Sinclair. Botanical illustration is focused on scientific accuracy, requires observation of the plant specimen, and frequently these illustrations are created in watercolor. The images in this gallery come from the books “Traité des arbres et arbustes que l’on cultive en France en pleine terre” and “The North American sylva, Vol 1, Vol2, Vol3, and Vol5”.

About Akiva Silver

Akiva Silver owns and operates Twisted Tree Farm, a homestead, nut orchard, and nursery near the Finger Lakes Region of New York. There he grows around 20,000 trees per year that are raised naturally without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. He is the author of Trees of Power (Chelsea Green Publishing, March 2019).

Read more


The Community Awaiting Us

Article Great Turning

The Community Awaiting Us

To help us meet the challenge of climate chaos—the biggest challenge humans have ever faced—we have the science now, the telecommunications, and vast amounts of information. What we need more than anything is our natural strength and legacy of being in community. We are meant for community, we’re enlivened by community, we are nurtured by community.

I doubt that we have a clear idea of how we have all been misshapen, stunted, even imprisoned by the hyper-individualism of the last five centuries and what it has done to our experience of our self. It has shrunken that self. It has weakened it. It has made us feel separated and isolated.

As we discover in the Work That Reconnects, our grief is natural and wholesome, and so is our outrage. In community, our collective common sense can defy the notion that our distress for the world is a sign of weakness. In our culture, there is a fixation on being the captain of our fate and the master of our soul—a delusion which psychologist James Hillman called the “lonely cowboy ego.” We have been taught to compete and made prey to fear.

It is time to remember that we belong to each other. We’re made for each other. We cannot do it alone. We come out of our world, just like a tree comes out of the soil and the rays of the sun. Gratitude is a swift way to come back to our sanity and rediscover our inter-being. It’s an antidote to the wounded and fearful self. That is why in the Work That Reconnects the first step on the path together is gratitude. It’s so easy; once we are given the chance, the countless things that we love about being alive in Earth come pouring out—and it’s hard not to fall in love with each other while that is happening. For the native people in America, on Turtle Island, giving thanks is their first step: “the words that come before all else.” What we discover again and again is that gratitude grounds us.

In the consumer society, gratitude is subversive. To be thankful for something is a revolutionary act. The simple and liberating message of gratitude is, “I am not that needy.” That’s empowering; it gives us the strength to face what is hard. When we are alone, unsupported by community, it is easy to let our acute distress for the world be pathologized. After all, we have Big Pharma to take care of our pain for the world, and, for that matter, our grief and outrage and dread, whereas the suffering we are carrying for our planet today is natural, wholesome, and probably necessary. Through the exercises and rituals of the Work that Reconnects, we have learned to honor these feelings as being a natural and powerful expression of our love.

I doubt we can even imagine what can pour through us when we feel our true kinship with each other. We’ve been lonely, scared, and isolated at a deep level, as well as set on competing and outdoing each other. I wonder if we are able to envision how beautiful it will be, and what will come through our hearts, our hands, our voices when we hold each other’s backs.

The time for the loneliness, fear, and cowering so that nobody will see how inadequate we are, is over now. It is over because we’re going to move forward in the kind of community that we know is possible. That will not be done by the protests and marches. It’s done by living and working together. It’s done in late-night meetings, song circles, and teams we can count on.  Perhaps, most urgently right now, community means growing food. As we do this, we will be learning from each other and getting our hands dirty together, and we’ll be kissing each other’s lips while there’s still dirt from the soil on them. With each other, we will come home.

Let us celebrate that whatever happens, we have choice. In Tibetan Buddhist practice, that’s what you begin with: you give thanks for having a human life, not because humans are better than any other beings, but because this big brain is too complex and highly differentiated to rely on instinct or trial and error. That is to say, we have self-reflexive consciousness and can choose. Often we choose stupidly, forgetting, as the native people say, “our original instructions.” The other animals stay splendid in their true nature. We can forget, but we can choose. We can choose where we put our mind.

We can choose the story we want to get behind for our world, and it seems that there are three basic ones. There’s Business as Usual, which is the version of reality we hear the most. From the politicians, the corporations, the military, and the media, we hear that everything will be fine as soon as we get back to growing our economy.

The next version of reality that more and more people are pointing to is that we are wrecking our world. There is a Great Unraveling going on, and people are even talking more and more about “collapse.”

But the third story is evident when you choose to see all the ways that our new culture is beginning to grow and sprout, like green shoots coming up through the rubble of a dysfunctional civilization. We see new ways of growing food, new ways of holding the land, new ways of resolving conflict, new ways of generating energy. We see that we are in transition to a life-sustaining culture and society. Many of us call this the Great Turning. Most people who are involved in it don’t even know the phrase. It doesn’t matter. But it matters to pay attention because the corporate-controlled media don’t report it. So, community becomes the way that we can put our ear to the ground, and become ever-more aware of what’s really happening.

It’s not about which story is going to win, the Business as Usual or the Great Unraveling or the Great Turning. The question is, what do you want to give your one wild and beautiful life to? That’s been a great help to many of us as we face the fact that we do not know how the story will end, as we live with uncertainty about the very future of complex life forms on our planet.

As we envisage the Great Turning, it would be nice to be bathed in confidence and assurance that all will work out. But I don’t think it’s all that helpful, because there is something more precious than confidence or even hope. And that is an unconditional readiness and freedom to be here, simply glad to be on hand.

We are given this incredible razor’s edge of possibility, where we’re totally in the moment together, not distracted by wondering whether we’ll fail or transform the world. I’m not going to ask for that kind of assurance. The strength of uncertainty is to be fully present. When you are distracted by how much to hope, you are only conditionally here.

In this present moment, facing this unrepeatable challenge of climate chaos, we can feel we are being joined by both those who have gone before and those who will come after. Our ancestors have brought us to the Great Turning, and future generations are here as well by virtue of their utter dependence upon our response. Their presence expands the community that opens to us now and invites us into deep time. It’s the sweetest thing that we don’t even have to know how all the gifts—seeded by our ancestors and evoked by the future ones—can pour through us. These gifts are not our personal property, nor meant for the separate self. They come through now for the sake of Life itself.

This article is possible through a collaboration with CCC19: Climate Change and Consciousness: Our Legacy for the Earth, at the Findhorn Foundation, North Scotland, April 20-26, 2019The event will feature some of the clearest and most passionate voices for the Earth ever gathered together in one place. Kosmos is an official hub for CCC19

About Joanna Macy

Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy PhD, is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a ground-breaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application.

Read more


Emergent Universe Oratorio

Music Cosmology

Emergent Universe Oratorio


SAMUEL GUARNACCIA composer | PAULA GUARNACCIA producer | CAMERON DAVIS visual artist

The Emergent Universe Oratorio (EUO) is an hour-and-a-half long choral and orchestral composition which often is co-presented with a series of dynamic paintings created by the visual artist, Cameron Davis. It was conceived in response to the current scientific cosmology as presented in the 2011 documentary Journey of the Universe.

The EUO was deeply inspired by the work Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, and Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim from the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University. These seminal thinkers have endeavored to lead us to a new understanding of the place of humans in the Universe. The film, Journey of the Universe, inspired this artistic musical expression built on the themes of the documentary—to provide a way to enter in, and directly experience, this new cosmology, deepening our evolving understanding of and response to the ‘new story’.

“The great discovery of contemporary science is that the universe is not simply a place, but a story—a story in which we are immersed, to which we belong, and out of which we arose.” (Swimme/Tucker)

The EUO music and lyrics express this new story, endeavoring to evoke reverence and  responsibility. The EUO also is a call to inspire humanity to participate in Earth’s transition toward a mutually enhancing Earth-human relationship. The work includes lyrics and texts of visionary poets, scientists, writers—Thomas Berry, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendell Berry, Brian Swimme, John Elder, and Mary Evelyn Tucker.

The EUO’s intent is to provide a pathway through art and music to a “total commitment to (all) life” (Thomas Berry), which arises from the deep awareness, awe, and reverence for our absolute unity with the Universe.

Interview with Sam and Paula Guarnaccia 

Kari | Sam and Paula, what prompted you to interweave science, music, words, spirituality, philosophy, and billions of years of history into this beautiful narrative that tells the story of everyone and everything?

Sam | Well, the simplest answer is the insatiable curiosity that drives all inquiry—and that is that everything is connected. Something came to me in thinking about that—music is like water flowing beneath that bridge that is—being. Music has a way of expressing the inexpressible. It HAD to be a great interweaving of all the ways of knowing that are possible for humans.

Paula | With that being said, we wanted this also to be scientifically valid, so we had a number of scientists read through it and they did make some very substantive changes. Obviously it’s evolving all the time, but right now, the scientists have said it’s valid.

Sam | Absolutely. At the Philadelphia concert introduction, Ursula Goodenough, a phenomenally important cell biologist (who was one of the people who reviewed the libretto and made some changes), declared it “scientifically flawless,” which was very, very gratifying to us. She also very succinctly and powerfully talked about how humans really process everything through stories.



Paula | We are really standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants who have thought through these concepts so beautifully and we’re just giving the latest voice to this wonderful story that is not just ours; it’s everyone’s story. We don’t claim it, we just are expressing it.

Kari | Why did you choose to tell the story in the form of an oratorio when you could have maybe chosen to do a series of songs, a concept album, one long Guinness World Record track, an opera, a soundtrack that could include a filmography, or images, or dance? Why an oratorio?

Sam | I love that question. It’s not one that I’ve ever been asked before. I guess one answer is the oratorio has a great history. It’s a story form in music that goes way, way back, before opera. Probably the world’s best known oratorio is Handel’s Messiah. It was important to me, and then to all of us as we went forward, to think—what form could stand up to the test of time and hopefully become an important contribution to mainstream art and cultural expression? My hope was that this would have enough substance and be good enough to be able to do that.

Paula | In terms of your question about images, we always felt that the visual was an important component of the performance. That’s why we collaborated very closely over several years with visual artist, Cameron Davis. Cami created 12 beautiful, very large paintings for the first performance, and they’ve been present for all of the performances in one way or another. They formed the set, a visual representation that carried so much of the emotional content as well. We’ve always felt that was extremely important.

Sam | And then another important part of my answer to this wonderful question is—the real dream that we have for this project is, at some point, to have the resources to collaborate with a passionate and highly skilled documentary filmmaker. The oratorio would be essentially the soundtrack source for a really beautiful documentary that contained all of the music, but most of the words transformed to beautiful visuals, maybe with some underlying text.

Kari | Oh, I think it would lend itself to that! Hopefully, somebody comes forward that you could collaborate with. I also wanted to comment on how well it integrates science with beauty and things that we ‘know’ about the universe. Then there are things that we ‘can’t know’. How does this tension inform your work?

Sam | Well again, I love this question—so insightful when you put the first ‘know’ in quotes, the ‘knowing’ of facts—the great science story—the lists of truly astounding things that we now know. Then there is the knowing of personal relationship. One thing this question prompted in me was thinking of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme’s original The Universe Story book of the early ’90s; they talk about, “How does the universe work?” In the language of Thomas Berry, there is a cosmological principle that has three elements: diversification, interiority/subjectivity, and communion.

Once you get these different identities, then they can enter into relationships. The title is Emergent Universe Oratorio, and emergence is not a new concept, but it is relatively new. It is the appearance of unpredictable, unexpected, unforeseeable dynamics and structures from elements that exist at lower/simpler levels. Everything in the universe is emerging through this process of what is called cosmogenesis. It’s the constant becoming of everything. Another way of saying it: the Universe is astonishingly creative.

Paula | It’s one of the concepts … or the takeaways for an audience, and it starts right in the title, Emergent Universe Oratorio … emergent … this idea that things are evolving or changing, that things are going to be revealed, that there’s an unfolding in life and the great humility that comes from knowing that. So the world we ‘know’, and I love the quotation marks too, because we know something but it’s not complete. Is it ever complete? We’re in an evolving world.

Kari | Let’s move onto the idea of Rising Earth Awareness, the theme of this edition, which is sort of related to ‘emergence’. How does the oratorio speak to that? And do you think the Earth is becoming more aware of us too?

Paula | Oh yes. As a matter fact, there is an Emergent Universe Oratorio phase two project that’s going to be earthbound. Sam can tell you about that.

Sam | If you are familiar with Robin Wall Kimmerer’s work, she is a Native American and a brilliant scientist. She is probably the leading authority in the world on mosses, which are among the first plants, and which are responsible for you and me being able to have this conversation.

LINK | Turtles Among Us, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, in this edition of Kosmos Quarterly

Paula | Robin’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass, is tremendous. We’re beginning a  collaboration on a piece that, hopefully, will be reflecting earth awareness, so it’s going from the cosmos down into the world of mosses and lichens—very earthbound. One way to say this in terms of rising earth awareness is that once you take on board the story of the universe and you understand where we came from and the factors that have led to the development of the Earth, then you can begin to understand where we are, and perhaps where we’re going.

Sam | Your question also suggests Lynn Margulis’ and James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis—that the Earth is a sentient being, a self-organizing system that is actually experiencing a fever and is responding with an immune response to that fever, and that immune response is this conversation we’re having. There are hundreds of thousands of little NGOs, individuals, and groups like Kosmos, Emergence Magazine, Bill McKibben’s 350.org, and so forth, all contributing to a global immune response to the planetary threat.

Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, said, “The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.”   

Freeman Dyson is, I would say, one of the most skeptical scientists on Earth. For him to say that is a powerful affirmation that the Earth is becoming more aware of us too.

Kari | I wanted to talk a little bit about the film, Journey of the Universe, by Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme, and how that film acted as a catalyst for the libretto that accompanies your oratorio.

Paula | Well, I can start that. When we met Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim in June of 2011, we were already working with Cami Davis. All three of us were working together on a piece that was Earth-based at that point. We had the concept of an oratorio, a libretto and we were working toward it. There was a little bit of music written, just the beginning of things. When we met Mary Evelyn and John—they came to dinner at our house—and it was like a lightning bolt quite frankly. We saw the film, and thought “What other story is there to tell? I mean this is THE story.” We worked with Mary Evelyn, John, and Brian Swimme to vet the libretto. They have been tremendous supporters of this work. There’s a deep connection there.

Sam | Yes, the way the chapters are arranged in the book and in the film—the sequences of scenes in the Journey of the Universe documentary—when you have a chance to see it, you will for sure recognize the flow.

Kari | They are some of the giants that you’re standing on the shoulders of.

Sam | Yes, they are. They’re just really remarkable. They started the Forum for Religion and Ecology at Yale. Yale has arguably the best environmental school—the Yale School of Forestry—and the Yale Divinity School is renowned. They have bridged those two things, bringing religion and ecology together. There’s great power and great insight in all of that work.

Kari | In the same vein as the ideas of crossing domains and integrating everything and everybody, you involved children in reading the Lament, and it struck me as a very powerful and very timely addition because we have so many young voices now as leaders of movements. Was the decision to include young voices a deliberate one or was it arbitrary? Do you feel it’s important that they’re included?

Paula | Oh yes, and it was not arbitrary at all. We had this idea to do a narrative of lost species, ecosystem loss, and just loss. We worked first with Amy Seidl (biologist at the University of Vermont), who did the initial writing, and we were searching for a young person to read with her. We settled on her daughter Helen, who auditioned and was just great. So it started off being a mother-daughter conversation first. Then, when we went to Cleveland, we thought, “We don’t have a mother-daughter, but why not two young people?” We had connections to some charter schools in Cleveland. We auditioned a bunch of young people and two of them, Niko and Anaria, did the reading there. 

In Philadelphia, we changed the format again. We thought, “What about having the young person speak to the adult?” We ended up with the narrator—again a young person—with the adult reflecting the species losses back to her. All of these losses—like the 9/11 memorials when they recite all of the names—the naming is so powerful.

Kari | I got the sense that it was very deliberate, but you just highlighted exactly how deliberate, what a process that was, which I think is so beautiful, powerful, and a really great idea.

Paula | Well, it did evolve. Each one is a little different. We tweaked them a little bit, too, by looking at the list of what’s currently endangered or extinct, and asked if there was some new species on the list? There is this huge list you can find online and you can just pull from it and there’s so much to choose from. Those lists are enormous. It’s absolutely terrifying. We share the Lament part—yes, very, very deliberate, evolving and powerful—right in the middle of the oratorio.

 


 The Cascade – Lament involves children naming endangered and extinct species. This video shows the different ways that children made their statements in each of the three performances.


Endless Spring | The Art of Cameron Davis


The Emergent Universe Oratorio project represents a three-year collaboration between composer Sam Guarnaccia; his wife and executive producer, Paula Guarnaccia; and myself, a visual artist.

We immersed ourselves in the insights of readings addressing climate disruption, ecological collapse, and frameworks of courage for moving forward, trusting that there is a place for the arts to contribute. We came upon the insights of deep time thinking and evolutionary processes revealed in the book, Journey of the Universe, by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker. We realized that was the content to frame our project, and began a period of consultation with Mary Evelyn Tucker and her husband, John Grim, co-producers of the film, Journey of the Universe.

I created a body of 12 major paintings that I titled Endless Spring to accompany the oratorio premier.

The series began with imagery informed by ecological issues: Tar Sands Tonglen, Prayer for the Monarchs, The Meter of Eternity, a glacier elegy (Ursula Le Guin). Then, during late winter of 2013, snowdrop flowers became a personal metaphor for loss and renewal and the last half of the paintings included those images. Snowdrops emerge at the edge of retreating snow in Vermont’s early spring. They seemed like the perfect form to reflect both my despair of ecological collapse, and a notion of resilience. Endless Spring is also one of the many Buddhist terms for awakening. We need nothing less if we humans are to continue. In this way, I see the paintings as an invitation to celebrate our awakened belonging to Earth and the Cosmos. – Cameron Davis

Kari | When you encounter people who may not be as open-minded as children, or think as deeply about our future, or are unable to think in transformative terms, what would you say to someone who asks you how you define success with your project? How do you explain this project to people who wonder what’s in it for you?

Sam | These are such provoking and thoughtful questions that say so much about you and about the Kosmos community! Success with the project has been just being able to have the time to think and probe one’s insides, one’s heart, one’s emotions, and to express these things. Just the reward of being able to have the freedom, the choice, the privilege of being able to reach for something like this, to delve in and to try to evoke as much beauty as possible in a creative work, that is a huge success all by itself.                    

Kari | That addresses my next question. What do you hope the audience or listeners take with them after they experience your oratorio? So, we can consider that as one answer!

Paula | We always made sure that every program included the full libretto so that people could take it home. With one hearing, it does take a while to have things really enter and anchor inside. For people to have it in hand was really important—something that they could actually hold and take with them.

Link to Download Libretto

Kari | What does the future hold for the Emergent Universe Oratorio? I think the trip that you took to India recently might have something to do with that, too. Do you want to tell us what you were there to do?

Sam | We were invited by the International Big History Association organizers for their 2020 World Conference in India to create something like the oratorio for a South Asian-centered event. We were trying to integrate it with South Asian text and instrumental sounds to find a way to bring those together with Western music traditions as kind of a celebratory part of the conference, but also to have a portion of a piece—the movement of a larger piece is now what it seems to be—then go out and through India and maybe through the world as a cross-cultural or an intercultural expression of this great story.

Paula | The trip was really an orientation for us. It was really for us to learn about India; to meet musicians, scientists, educators, and writers; to figure out what can be done; and, if we were the right people, how it would fit together. We began to have a little inkling of an understanding about India.

Sam | As for the Emergent Universe Oratorio, there are additional explorations of further places and people to engage this piece with the possibility that one of those occasions might yield that really high-level recording that would be sufficient to become a soundtrack for a film. So there are opportunities … New York, possibly Nashville, California, Puerto Rico, and possibly even Cuba. So those are tentative feelers that are out for further performances of the oratorio.

Before we go, I would love to respond a little bit more deeply to your previous question, “What do you hope the audience/ listeners take with them after they experience the piece?”

Kari | Please do!

Sam | That raises the question we get asked the most, which is “How do we save ourselves? What is it going to take?” This is something that was being wrestled with at a conference we were invited to attend in Southern India, just a week ago. I was asked that question in Princeton, too, a few months ago. What is it going to take to turn the tide of human presence on the Earth so that we become—as a global society—caretakers, and not exploiters, of the planet? How to end war and create a just society that works for everybody? We’ve never had that. “What is it going to take?” and I said this:

To be present to, and to act in your world to what is in front of you; to inspire, educate, and exemplify a new way of being not just environmentally but in every mode of being; and to train your mind, heart, and body to fall in love, to fall in love deeply with every being, structure, and living system around you, to envision and feel the Earth as your child, as if she were your child, your beloved for whom you will and would do anything.

I honestly think that if we can look at each other and other living things and the Earth itself with the kind of love that we have for our children, our husbands, our loved ones, our parents for whom we would do anything … it all does come down to love. Of course, one has to really outline how that love gets shown; what is love really, but living for the other? That glimmer of a feeling, that spark of realizing that we have a living relationship of love, of interdependence and inter-being with the entire planet Earth and with all other humans and all other living things.

Kari |  That was beautiful. I’m so glad you read that. Thank you Sam and Paula!

Sam and Paula | You are so welcome.

Companion Book List

1. Swimme, Brian Thomas and Mary Evelyn Tucker. Journey of the Universe (book and/or documentary film). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

2. Hathaway, Mark and Leonardo Boff. The TAO of Liberation, Exploring the Ecology of Transformation. New York: Orbis Books, 2009. (This book is amazing—leaves nothing out!)

3. Jourdain, Robert. Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy. New York: AVON Books, 1997.

4. Berry, Thomas. The Great Work or Dream of the Earth. New York: Three Rivers Press, Random House, 1999.

5. Wall Kimmerer, Robin. Braiding Sweetgrass. Minneapolis, Milkweed Editions, 2013.

Links

www.samguarnaccia.com

Journey of the Universe site: https://www.journeyoftheuniverse.org/news/emergent-universe-oratorio-2018

American Teilhard Association:

Forum On Religion and Ecology, Yale

The Forum on Religion and Ecology Event  http://fore.yale.edu/calendar/item/emergent-universe-oratorio/

About Kari Auerbach

Kari Auerbach is Music Editor at Kosmos Quarterly. She grew up all over the world learning about music and working as a jewelry designer. Currently living in New York City, she is social media director for several recording artists and a jewelry instructor for the New York Institute of Art and Design. She enjoys her many roles as a teacher, artist, mother, mentor, as well as advocating for artists, children, and a better, cleaner world.

Read more

About Sam Guarnaccia

Sam Guarnaccia is a composer, classical guitarist, scholar, and founder/director of Sam Guarnaccia Music (SGM) www.samguarnaccia.com. He studied privately and at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, received a Master of Fine Arts in Guitar performance from the California Institute of the Arts. He created and, for ten years, taught and directed the guitar program of the University of Denver’s renowned Lamont School of Music. He has also taught and instituted programs at Middlebury College and the University of Vermont, as Spanish scholar, player/performer, and composer with deep ties to the history, struggle, traditions, art and spirituality of ancient and contemporary Indigenous peoples. His cycle of nine Peace songs has been incorporated into Peace education curriculum for young children.

Photo | Maria Theresa Stadtmueller

Read more


Council of the Wild Gods

Essay Ecosystem

Council of the Wild Gods

images | courtesy Yellowstone National Park

Bison grunted and rolled amidst sagebrush, stirring clouds of dust. I made a wide arc around the herd. A coyote sprung straight up and landed, like a cartoon, snout buried. Sandhill cranes gargled, wings outstretched for landing. I had been walking for hours, offering wild prayers to the land, creatures, snowy peaks sharp against the western sky. If I had another life, I’d forgotten it.

The bison began to cluster until individuals disappeared into a mass of brown fur wearing half-moon horns. Flowing over the undulating land, the herd seemed a single being. Cowbirds flew in concert with bison. Sandhill wings fanned in a synchronized dance. Grassy green fur emerged on the flanks of hills.

Hoofprints of bison impressed the ground. Boots protected my winter-soft, human feet and reminded me that I would walk home, sit at a desk, go to the market, cook on a stove, see a film, sleep in a bed—so unlike the Others whose lives pressed into my awareness that afternoon, whose wilder psyches entwined with, and tugged at, my own.

I had an amateur ecologist’s understanding of the moods and rhythms of rivers and peaks, creature migrations, sagebrush plains, raptors and voles. But on that day, the land presented itself as a body. The features and creatures revealed themselves as cells. The cells morphed into species; species and landforms shapeshifted into organs of Earth’s body—organs with unique perceptions, original expressions. Together, forming a larger body, an immense intelligence, an enormous, breathing, wild organism.

In that entanglement of bison and coyotes, Sandhill cranes and emerging grass, questions bellowed forth. It seemed the wild Earth asked, “What is necessary about human beings? What do humans offer to the community of life?”  

Especially now—amidst massive floods, fires, glacier melt, the diminishment of Earth’s life support systems, and the spectacularly corrupt race to amass billions at the expense of everything dear—what do human people offer?

I lived, for a long spell, amidst a complex organism called the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The land beckoned and seduced me; I was helpless to resist the allure of elk and grizzlies, big rivers and granite peaks, hot springs and mycelium. It did not occur to me until years later that the land may have had its own intentions in the seduction. It did not occur to me until later that the land’s own longings might be transmitted to a human being through the water, shared air, flesh of morels and berries.

When the wolves were returned to Greater Yellowstone, the wild gods sat in council once again. I’ve been privileged to press my ear against Earth, hoping to eavesdrop on that council of furred, finned, feathered, and rooted ones.

It may not be possible to erase a long encounter with the wild gods from the body; even a determined human being might not successfully return to the agreed-upon scramble for money and recognition of modern life without self-harm. An immersion in Earth’s wild psyche is not quite the same as an amazing vacation at Old Faithful. Once one wanders for a distance off-trail, into the habitat of predators and horned mammals, everything is in question. Imagination can run unchecked in all directions. Big questions might paw out unexpectedly from the shadows.

Many years ago, in a wide-ranging conversation with environmental education students, I asked if the human species might have a particular purpose in the planetary ecosystem. The students puzzled for a few moments before one advised me that human beings have no purpose in the community of life. No purpose. Take a moment here. Could we feel the enormity of such pointless existence without debilitating anguish? If we offer no meaningful contribution, how do we bear the existential angst of our species?

But I also wonder: is it possible that the intelligent Earth and cosmos from which we emerged made such a mistake in that our own kind, unlike any of the Others, has no contribution, no role, no niche in the ecosystem called Earth? If the Others inhabit niches that express their unique abilities, what about us? What is our unique capacity in relationship with the Others? What do they long for from us? Are these their voices I hear, troubling me with questions?

If the ecological niches occupied by the Others are specific to their unique abilities and communities, would it not be so for human beings? Thomas Berry writes, “The humans articulate [the universe] story in a particular human way, the whales do it in their way, the birds do it in their way, the worms in the Earth do it in their way, the insects do it in their way.” [1]

As far as we know, no other creature has the human capacity of visionary, forward-seeing imagination. We know that our companion animals dream and have memory, but we do not witness them making radical changes to their circumstances. Beavers, for example, exercise their always-growing teeth by cutting trees for dams, but as far as we can tell, beavers are not trying to fashion a Hoover dam, not trying to light Las Vegas.

All of the stunning and troubling creations brought forth by human beings—Shakespeare, nuclear weapons, internal combustion, fracking, strip mines, Zen Buddhism, Large Hadron Collider, Hubble telescope, skin kayaks, iPhone, pipe organs, poison arrows—have a common origin: imagination.

Consciously or not, the human imagination has brought us to the threshold of peril and possibility.

With vanishing glaciers, insect extinctions, mass human migrations, and so many other disturbances, we’ve arrived in a terrain we’ve hardly mapped and don’t know how to read. Our accustomed tools are failing us. Our common future likely won’t be salvaged by our institutions, by another app or conventional “progress.” Perhaps what is being asked of us now is a different way of being human, an exploration of our capacity to envision and bring forth alternate futures, including impossible worlds that may be (impossibly) self-generating already in the fertile terrain of the imaginal. In a radical act of wild imagination, we might encounter the terrestrial intelligence of Earth; we might eavesdrop on the Council of the Wild Gods—as listeners, not dominators, receptive to the invitation extended to our own species to occupy a vital, imaginative, enriching niche in the community of life.

[1] Berry and Tucker, Evening Thoughts, 31.

About Geneen Marie Haugen

Geneen Marie Haugen, PhD, grew up as a free-range wildish kid with a run amok imagination. She is a guide to the experiential, intertwined mysteries of nature and psyche with the Animas Valley Institute, and is on the faculty of the Esalen Institute, Schumacher College, and the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality. Her writing has appeared in many journals and books, including Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth; Thomas Berry: Dreamer of the Earth; Parabola Journal; Ecopsychology Journal; DailyGood.org; High Country News; and others.

Read more