Excerpt | Engaged Ecology: Seven Practices to Restore Our Harmony with Nature

by Rhonda Fabian

Excerpt from the Fall | Winter 2015 edition of Kosmos Journal

“Courage is one of the values we need so that conditions for joy and abundance can return. Our good intentions alone are not enough. Confronted with the terrible suffering in his homeland during the Vietnam War, Thích Nhất Hạnh, then a young monk, realized it was not enough to pray for peace or sit in meditation. In Saigon, he and his sangha responded quickly to render direct aid  to the injured and refugee as part of their practice of mindfulness, not separate from it. Thay called this path ‘Engaged Buddhism” and outlined fourteen principles to describe it.

A follower of these principles would quickly see how the values they contain have much in common with Deep Ecology. How we live our lives now has everything to do with how we will save ourselves and write a new story for our children and the world. We need an ‘Engaged Ecology’ that moves beyond concepts and energy-saving tips to actual deep practice—a way of being, thinking, and acting, that restores our relationship with our communities and the Earth. We need shared values, something we are often reluctant to propose. What values; whose values? Where can we possibly turn to find values so universal that anyone might embrace them?

We can look to Nature.

An Engaged Ecology is a set of values and instructions derived from Nature that can guide us back to harmony and restore our fundamental relationship with the Earth.

Other wonderful teachers walk this terrain…

The Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is an eloquent spokesperson for the Earth. He speaks of a world soul crying out to us, the very call of creation. “We will each hear this cry in our own way, as it touches our own soul, but what matters is how we respond— whether we turn away, returning to our life of distractions, or whether we dare to follow the call and sense what it is telling us.”

German scholar Andreas Weber explores a ‘poetic ecology’ and speaks of Nature as the “living medium of our emotions and mental concepts,” a mirror for expressing our inner lives. In other words, our own intelligence is already a reflection of Nature’s. What else could it be? Daniel Goleman has suggested that this kind of ecological intelligence has a place beside social and emotional intelligence and we should teach this ‘ecoliteracy’ in our schools.

The fields of permaculture and biomimicry have also turned to Nature for the inspiration and models we need to restore our most fundamental relationship. We are in chaos because we have blinded ourselves to the essential qualities and character of Nature. Nature cooperates and regenerates. Nature adapts, self-organizes, and uses energy efficiently. Biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus enumerated Nine Basic Principles of Biomimicry so that we might strive to consciously emulate Nature’s genius and use its principles and designs to solve human problems.

Thus, it is with a very deep bow of gratitude to Thay, these scholars, and others, and with great humility that I have attempted to synthesize and integrate their ideas into Seven Principles and Practices for an Engaged Ecology. Each is invited to consider, interpret, and adapt these practices according to one’s own situation, capacities, and the needs of their communities.”

Kosmos Journal subscribers have access to this complete article beginning November 4, 2015. 

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