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Your Ecological Self - Learning from Deep Ecology

Written by Megan Hudson - 24th November 2022

The ecological crisis is teaching us a fundamental truth, that we are in need of a new story. A new story of our earth, our own identities and how we see ourselves in relation to the natural world. The climate crisis is also a crisis of connection and culture and the earth is guiding us in this moment to re-imagine our relational story to her, to rewrite the tales of separated individuals and to weave the intricate webs of connections that touch every aspect of ourselves with our near and far environments. An interwoven story of how we relate to our natural world and how we see ourselves as beings of the earth.

RENEGOTIATING OUR SACRED RELATIONSHIP TO NATURE

In this time we are bringing focus to Sacred Activism, leaning into our truth to activate each unique and powerful voice. Activism - to activate - is a process of stepping into our power of 'doing', but equally into our power of 'being'. Being, embodying and integrating the wisdom of an ecological self and symbiotic relationship to the earth into all the layers of ourselves, spilling over into our actions, hearts, breath and systems.

This crisis of culture and connection is an invitation to re-imagine a new world and recreate a self which is reflective of the harmonious magic embedded in the essence of mother earth. Creating 'solutions' within the same system which is exacerbating the ecological crisis requires questioning. Often referred to by deep ecologists as ‘shallow ecology’, these conversations strive for environmental solutions without incorporating the fundamental way humans engage with ecosystems, nor human nature itself. There is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to take the ecological conversation deeper, questioning the foundation of our structures, our world-views and what we are as humans, to embody the wisdom of the earth in our hearts, bodies and being. Asking questions such as: How can we relate to nature in a new way founded in reciprocity? And how can we embody a world-view founded in the understanding that we are part of nature not distinct from the natural world? Deep ecology is philosophy and social movement stemming from the 70s from Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. It decenters the human perspective on the earth and posits humans should see themselves as nature and integral to their ecosystems,  not dissociated from it. Deep ecology holds much wisdom to guide us in this new conception of who we are as humans, paving a path forward to seeing our beautiful earth with awakened hearts.

The process of renegotiating our sacred relationship to nature, moving from concepts into embodiment, making this new truth as a part of our very being is underway. Answering this call from the earth to remember, to envelop ourselves in the deepest layers of connection available to us and enshroud ourselves in the magic of the natural world - to become re-enchanted in stepping into sacred relationship with ourselves in mirroring the wisdom of the earth. Nurturing this crystal core in reciprocity and stepping into honouring and serving the land.

'This new story of symbiosis and interwovenness is one which remembers ourselves as nature, not distinct from it, and one which works in harmony with our environment, to offer honouring and service to mother earth'

 

REWRITING THE STORY - A SHIFT OF WORLD-VIEWS

Our collective story is one that needs re-imagining. Fragmentation marks the nature of the world we have inherited, from individuals inhabiting distinct islands, to polarised life-worlds and social structures - breaking down what is ‘whole’ into many separated shards of reality. Our current story is one in which there is a disconnection between the micro and macro, an incoherence between the human, earth and celestial bodies - between how we live life and construct our identity, and the larger truth of reciprocity of the interconnected webs of the earth. Our society and structures function along the principles of linearity and extraction from nature, whilst the biosphere functions through interconnectedness, reciprocity and circularity. This new story which is being remembered addresses how we fundamentally engage with all life - human and non-human life - and washes away a deep-seeded sense of distinction between them. From the water, to the trees and the birds to the microbes and mycelium, they are equal cohabitors of the spaces and ecosystems we inhabit. 

Equally, the stories that are spun around who we are a collective and as individuals are in need of rewriting. As humans we are inherently relational beings, creating the stories of our identities from the web of connection we are embedded within, who we think we are - a reflection of the story we have learned to reproduce. Humans are master craftspeople of story, seeing patterns in madness and chaos. Our power lies in which patterns we highlight, becoming creators of reality ourselves when we consciously craft our stories - and come home to nature in weaving ourselves once more as part of her, the plants, leaves and bushes as beings we share sacred life with. This is the super power we are currently activating, to consciously craft a new story, moving into deep ecology and co-creating a new paradigm with the living world. This is a story of shifting paradigms, which are world-views, a set of foundational perspectives, values and principles by which we see ourselves and our reality, and how we interpret our experiences. Paradigms have shifted many times through-out human history, fundamentally altering how humans experience not only their reality but also the ‘self’ as part of human ‘nature.’

The question is brought to all of us of how we want to embody and step into the invitation of the earth to reweave ourselves back into her earthly magic. How do we bring alignment from our hearts into the earthly existence and let this trickle into our doings and activations? Bringing the deepest intimate experiences of the ‘self’ into dialogue with a truth much larger than ourselves, and constructing a symbiotic relationship between self and nature. This way of being, of symbiosis and interwovenness is one which recognises ourselves as part of nature, not distinct from it, and where manifestations are formed from this foundational understanding. It births a self which works in harmony with our environment, to offer honouring and service to mother earth, feeling her as part of ourselves.

DEEP ECOLOGY - THE ECOLOGICAL SELF

Within deep ecology, this perspective of a human centric view is referred to as anthropocentric. Through this paradigm nature is regarded through a utilitarian perspective of how it can best serve the needs of people. The philosophical and social movement stewards a shift towards an ecocentric perspective, placing ecology at the centre where nature has inherent value, human and non-human life being equally valued within the biosphere. The biosphere refers to the thin layer of the earth and atmosphere which contains living forms of life, enveloped in an ecosystem. This focus on the biosphere instead of cities or villages for example, shifts the gaze and organising power of how we conceptualise space from one which is human focused to an area which encompasses all forms of life, effectively breaking down a hierarchical perspective of space and value distributed amongst the inhabiting life forms. Deep ecology teaches to dismantle the hierarchical value system of life forms. Perhaps in school you were shown a pyramid containing a man at the top, followed by the animals, plants etc., an example of the value of life forms through a human-centred perspective. Deep ecology recognises the philosophical, spiritual and metaphysical properties of the natural world alongside the scientific, advocating for a core essence in all life forms which has inherent value, whether recognised by the human meaning making processes of an area or not. Alongside this shift of value-making processes, Arne Naess himself believed that a foundational shift of human nature and how human self was experienced needs transforming. It advocates for a cultural and foundational shift through which humans see ourselves as part of nature, not as distinct from it. This understanding flowing into our actions and care for our environments, embodied in the understanding of an ‘ecological self.’

 

An invitation stands before each one of us to embody our ecological self, to surrender to the longing to honour cyclical wisdom and weave ourselves into the body of the earth, finding a deep sense of belonging in her embrace and in this becoming pillars of resistance in our embodied way of being. Deep ecology invites us to let ourselves be enveloped in a sense of magic becoming re-enchanted by the webs of interconnections, the intimate self a magical reflection of the whole with the collective, earth and cosmos.

CULTIVATING YOUR ECOLOGICAL SELF

Philosophy of deep ecology can seem complicated, but in the end stepping into a sacred relationship with nature and embodying this sense of intimate connection is a very simple process which comes naturally to us as beings of the earth. We don’t need to read every book or travel across the world, we can do small exercises that allow us to remember this state of being. Here are two small exercises to cultivate your ecological self - one based in mindfulness and the second a practice of somatically experiencing nature through the senses.

Building a connection to the plants on our balcony or the tree we pass everyday, greeting the birds which are always flying above us can be powerful practices in developing our ecological selves. Speaking lovingly or even sending healing energy, such as Reiki, to the plants and animals that we cohabit space with. Or greeting the spirits of the natural world in our direct environment, if it's through touching a tree, introducing ourselves and allowing ourselves to feel its roots grounding us into the earth, recharging us. You can practise ‘earthing’ which is the simple practice of placing our bare feet on the earth, this simple activity having health benefits for the body and connecting in a direct way to mother earth. 

A small meditation for somatic experiencing in nature - Engaging the Senses

We can connect by expanding our awareness of nature, using senses we don’t usually engage with. Sitting somewhere in nature, where we feel connection and feel safe. You can begin to become aware of your breath, bringing your attention to five things that you can see around you - from tiny details to larger landscapes. You can close your eyes and begin to focus on 5 things you can hear, isolating each noise as best as you can before zoning into the general soundscape without distinguishing between noises. What are 5 things that you can feel? The earth beneath your body, a tickling of a grass blade or the wind on your skin? Enjoy this state of connection, see what your body is communicating to you and if you can tap into the messages that nature is always whispering to us. 

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