Return to the Sacred Earth:

Unless we could make much more profound changes deep in those parts of our beings where values change and behaviors change, we weren’t going to change the institutions of society. We weren’t just going to be able to think our way out of this. And so Joanna Macy and I developed a series of rituals designed for modern people where we would reclaim ceremonies. And what we discovered was that, even people like I who had lived in cities all our lives, very quickly could have a profound and authentic experience of connectedness sufficient to empower us in our work on behalf of nature.

The secret of the success of these processes is that the world is not just a dead, inert resource for us. The world is alive. The world is intelligent. Our own intelligence is just the tiniest fragment of that larger intelligence that gave rise to us in the context of co-evolving in harmony with all of these millions of other species. When we make a gesture from our psyche, which itself is part of the earth, when our psyche reaches out to end that sense of separation, there’s always a connection that gets made. . .

One of the things that we need to do is develop practices that enable us to actually live a life of sustainability. The sheer momentum of the industrial juggernaut that bombards us with advertising images and ideas is so great that it takes a tremendous amount of strength and focus to be able to hitch our wagon to a different star. So what are the sorts of practices that we can do?

Arne Naess said that we need to develop community therapies in order to develop our ecological self. He said that ecological ideas weren’t enough, that they just wouldn’t have the power to make the changes that are going to be needed. We needed an ecological identity. I find that the Council of All Beings and honoring solstices, and equinoxes and full moons help us find that identity. This was how our ancestors remembered who they were and how the human family was harmonized with the rest of the earth family.

On a more daily basis, there are many, many small moments that we can grab in order to remember who we really are, to remember that we are part of the web of life, that we’re not the master there. The different cycles of air and water and food are great ways of remembering who we are. Say, for example, if we just hold our breath for a while, while considering the atmosphere as being separate from ourselves, very quickly—within a couple of minutes--we have this profound realization that the atmosphere is not out there at all, that it’s constantly cycling trough us.

The hydrological cycle has been going on for millions of years. The sun evaporates and transpires the water up into the atmosphere, and then it falls as rain, lubricating everything in its path, including ourselves. Our bodies are more than 90 percent composed of this water, and when we take a drink, we can be conscious that we’re part of that cycle. If, placing water on our lips, we actually acknowledge that cycle and pray for the well-being of that cycle, it’s a tremendously powerful corrective.

When we eat, when we place the food in our mouth, we could just consider that this grew out of the earth. We’re placing it inside our bodies in some incredible spiritual communion, and it’s going to become part of our bodies, and our bodies are going to become part of the earth again later on. To add our consciousness to those cycles, I think, completes the cycles.

--Edited from “The Human in Nature: Return to the Sacred Earth” from Deep Ecology for the 21st Century by New Dimensions Radio, 1998