Mending the Web
Meeting your Deep Ecological Self
“…Our anthropocentric society has not yet learned that the prevailing ‘separate and not equal’ worldview is killing the planet and us along with it.” (Jim Nollman quoted by Cecile Pineda in her book: Apology to a Whale – Words to Mend a World.)
Deep Ecology, as a philosophical point-of-view and embodied way of living, heals that ‘separate but equal” worldview. According to Australian John Seed, back in 2001,
“(D)eep Ecology (describes) our relationship to the Earth (as) that of a leaf to a tree. We have no independent existence – the pain of the Earth is our own pain and the fate of the Earth is our fate also. No tree – no leaf.
The sap in the leaf comes from the tree and returns to the tree.
Our much-vaunted human intelligence is but a tiny fragment of the intelligence of the Earth and there is a constant exchange of water, soil and breath between the Earth and ourselves. Our psyche too is Earth-made and we may therefore be guided and informed by Earth wisdom if we but ask. Indeed we MUST be so guided if our deeply embedded ‘unconscious’ concepts of separation, isolation and arrogant superiority are to be healed.
We then, are like a leaf believing itself to be separate from the tree on which it grows. This MUST be an illusion…or we would wither and die ( try holding your breath…if in doubt of this ). However the power of this illusion backed up by thousands of years of tradition is such, that we destroy the Earth and we cut ourselves off from Her wisdom and nourishment. Healing this mistake is vital for the sake of both person and planet.”
When I first heard the words, Deep Ecology and Ecopsychology, I knew they described me. As a practicing psychotherapist in the 1980’s I had quickly identified symptoms common to many types and ages of people, including kids: loneliness, addiction, depression, rage, fear and insecurity – the worry that I am not good enough almost ubiquitous – a profound disconnection between the head and the heart, the mind and the belly, even outright disregard for the needs of the body and a devotion to materialism as the main source of happiness. These behaviors and perspectives mounted to a pervasive modern malaise among urbanized humans in the northern hemisphere which boiled down to this:
We suffer unneccessarily because we have sundered ourselves from the ground of being.
So I took clients outside to “work” by the river or in a mountain meadow. I invited them to befriend their feelings by drawing, moving, singing, praying, making masks and writing poetry. I honored their dreaming, encouraged their remembering ancestral allies, helped them find significance in the animals who showed up in their lives and the cycles of the seasons, wind/rain, the sun/moon, supported their soul’s yearning. All of this often set the stage for ecstatic experience with the Great Mystery of being alive.
As people made changes and began to engage with living in a more authentic way, they simultaneously reacquainted themselves with imagination, intuition and awe, all of which lead to humility and gratitude. And no surprise to me, their addictive and heart-rending symptoms diminished.
I wondered how it was possible for me to recognize this cultural malaise of alienation and not succumb to it myself. Though I was mildly depressed and extremely insecure for the first forty years of my life, growing up on the East coast of North America and in an era before women’s lib, many factors contributed to saving me from the depth and breadth of this dis-ease, for which I am deeply grateful. Here are three:
*the beingness with which I was born. Each of us is born with bone deep inclinations and cellular memory,
*the era in which my toddlerhood unfolded. Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the “wounded” battleship Normandy… which cried out to me from the NYC harbor, air raids, rationing, and the horrified, empathetic conversations between my parents on which I endlessly eavesdropped.
*the family circumstances in which I was born. An only child of intellectual, bitter, and argumentative parents – without extended family- we moved to the Philadelphia suburbs when I was three. I saved my soul by retreating to the backyard and the companionship of my dog. The wood beyond the gate of my Philadelphia suburban yard became my sanctuary where I found beauty, mystery and amazement, as well as devastating grief when I was thirteen. Then, with no warning, the wood was clear cut for building the first ticky-tacky neighborhood.
My story, though different from yours, probably also has some common threads. When we were young, our senses keen, imaginations active and commonsense wisdom still present, we knew to seek solace both inside ourselves where creativity lives and in the natural world around us. So when I first heard the terms Ecopsychology and Deep Ecology I realized they related to my fundamental nature – yours too – and helped me understand why I had been drawn to work with clients in the ways I did.
Now, I invite you to join me, and a small team of others, for a day spent healing the rupture between us and everything else.
Be enriched and delighted by exploring your deep ecological self.
Saturday, September 30th, 2017
Grace Church, 8595 NE Day Rd, Bainbridge Island
10 am – 5 pm
Fee: donation to local organizations
“When one thinks like a mountain,
one thinks also like the black bear,
so that honey dribbles down your fur
as you catch the bus to work.”
Robert Aitken Roshi, Zen Buddhist teacher (from Thinking Like a Mountain- Towards a Council of All Beings by Joanna Macy, John Seed, Pat Fleming and Arne Naess –
In this time of planetary need, we are being asked to mature as a species
by developing our deep ecological awareness,
or what theologian Thomas Berry calls, our “shamanic personality.”
This requires healing our relations with all other beings,
dispelling the illusion that we are separate from the rest of God’s creation,
healing the splits within ourselves, and
making a commitment to preserve diversity, natural systems and beauty,
not out of moral duty,
but because it is our fundamental nature as humans
to honor and hold sacred the world that makes our lives possible
To mend the web, ( both inner and outer ) we will make masks of non-human beings,
examples would be rock, river, grasshopper, giraffe, dandelion or bear,
and then sit in council speaking from their perspectives, witnessing as caring humans and learning from the other in often surprising ways.
* deepen our appreciation of the evolutionary path that has brought us to this moment and explore the significance of the term “Gaia”,
* inspire our imaginations and honor intuition,
* experience the power of the natural world to help us connect with a non-human,
*make a mask to represent that other being,
*sit in council as we speak from the other’s perspective while learning to listen from the heart of the human.
*Probable outcomes: Receiving insight, deepening wisdom, experiencing the sacredness of all life and, supported by compassionate community, expanding our sense of a more whole and authentic Self-hood,
strengthening our personal capacity to think like a mountain
and live in reverent relationship to the miracle of life.
All this contributes to our ability to re-story our current culture,
mending the web as we do.
.Contact Deborah Milton to register and for more information. firstname.lastname@example.org 206-780-9714
List of what to bring:
*Cash or check to contribute to one of these organizations. Suggested minimum donation is $20: West Sound Wildlife Shelter
Bainbridge Island Land Trust
Friends of the Farm
*sack lunch and/or finger foods to share
*Please bring items to share such as these: beads, yarn, string, ribbon, feathers, small pebbles/shells, glue gun if you have one and/or glue stick, sticky tape, scissors, markers, crayons, other stuff.
We will provide stuff too AND the paper and basic shape templates. However, we will keep the mask making a simple process. No worries here, ok.
*journal and pen
*wear comfortable old clothing and something appropriate for spending a bit of time outside.
For more information, the following links are chock full:
*The Council of All Beings – an excellent six page essay by Joanna Macy taken from her book written with Molly Young Brown titled: Coming Back to Life.
Forward by Mathew Fox
*Brief description by John Seed of a Council of All Beings:
*Complete text of the book: Thinking Like a Mountain available here:
I also have a few paperback copies of the book for sale for a $20.00 donation which will go back to Adult Faith Formation at Grace Church, Bainbridge Island, WA.
Bibliography of relevant books and DVDs
relevant to Deep Ecology and Changing Human Consciousness
Wild Earth, Wild Soul: A Manual for an Ecstatic Culture – Bill Pfeiffer
Wild Hunger – Primal Roots of Modern Addiction – Bruce Wiltshire
Joanna Macy – anything and everything
Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age – Clark Strand
Voices of the First Day – Robert Lawler
The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality – Jason Kirkey
Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism and the Birth of a New Myth – Theodore Richards
Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology – David Abram
Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home – Pope Francis
The Two Million Year Old Self – Anthony Stevens
Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore us to Wholeness – Mary Reynolds Thompson
Where to Invade Next From the Ashes
Scared Sacred The Universe Story
Chasing Ice Inconvenient Sequel – Truth to Power
Earth from Space