It’s Monday. I’m on some friends’ beautiful organic farm just outside of Denmark, relishing the life of this place: fresh sourdough bread; flat-leaf parsley so sweet you could almost put it on your ice-cream; the laughter, conversation and hospitality of beautiful people; a place for me to rest and strengthen up. Albany, and the Southern Terminus of the Track is only a few days’ walk away. I was actually supposed to leave this morning after already spending the weekend here at a Deep Ecology workshop facilitated by John Seed. But I’ve been a bit off-colour for a few days and today woke up with some giddyness and nausea. The body definitely wanted to stay horizontal, so I’ve been very happy to stay here quietly today, and am feeling much better this afternoon!
I’d love to share a bit about the workshop which was called ‘Wild Earth, Wild Heart, Wild Mind.’ Deep Ecology is a philosophy of nature which rests on the premise that the environmental crises we’re facing have their roots in humanity’s mistaken belief that we are separate from the ‘natural world’ and the living systems of the earth. Rather than trying to fix that by taking on ecological ‘ideas,’ it is about realising an ecological identity, or the ecological self. In other words, it’s a shift in being rather than doing.
Yeah great, so what does that mean? Well, for me what it means is remembering that I’m an animal, that my body is a mysterious make-up of the elements and energy that are constantly cycling through life. That my breath connects me to the currents of wind and to the respiration of the trees and other plants. It’s remembering that an uncountable myriad of other living beings share this place with me and us, and that their lives are valuable in their own right, and not just for how they can benefit me. It’s likewise being mindful of all the children to come and considering the kind of world I would like them to be part of, and how our actions now are creating that future for better or worse.
The weekend workshop had a lovely simplicity to it, a gentleness and a soft touch. The sessions were about having an experience of something, a connection to something, rather than learning new things or tools or strategies. One thing we did was listen to the story of the birth and history of the universe, told as our youngest member walked around a spiral of wool laid on the ground. At key points in that history candles were placed which she lit as that part of the story was told. They were moments like when Grandmother supernova exploded, many billions of years ago, and gave birth to our sun and thus solar system; when life on Earth left the soupy, weightless ocean for the first time and ventured onto land; when animals developed light-sensitive eye spots and the Earth was witnessed in sight for the first time… The jumps in time were sometimes billions of years. Sometimes millions of years. The dinosaurs had their go for 170 million years here!
I can’t describe the wonder of hearing our story like this, the spaciousness this perspective brings. How to put it? Like seeing the evolution of human beings in the context of the story of not just the earth, but the whole universe – and glimpsing that we are a blossoming branch of the Big Life that with our unique gifts of consciousness, human language, the various kinds of choice and will that are part of our lot… That we are here to bear witness to something, to reflect something of the love and fullness of what is. To be fully, wonderfully us!
So I don’t know if any of that makes sense! For me it was a wake up call to the true preciousness of this time – for all its challenges and uncertainty – and a reminder that the world was made to be free in.
If anyone’s interested in finding out more, look into the work of Joanna Macy or John Seed… Or flick me an email. There will be more workshops of this kind around Perth and WA, as well as where you are, I’m sure.