Earlier this week I returned from 3 days in Florida with my family. After a number of childhood and young adult visits to Florida, this time I finally realized my dream of seeing manatees. For many years I have felt drawn to these gentle, ponderous, plant-eating water creatures. It was pure joy to watch them swimming in an inlet in the Everglades. We saw pods of female family members caring for babies and some solitary males. As I negotiate a busy life stage and wonder where my work and service are headed next, I’m learning from manatees’ quiet ability to float peacefully without struggle or striving.
Where are you on your Mutual Flourishing journey? I find myself still in an intense and deep period of reflection and inner exploration. As I continue to understand the new stage I’m in personally and spiritually and how it will influence my Mutual Flourishing offerings, what feels right today is to let you in on how the Mutual Flourishing work is unfolding for me right now and share some resources that can bring joy and insight to your path.
As you may be doing, I continue to negotiate the demands of caring for self, family, and the Earth, and of balancing the practical needs of daily life with idealism and spiritual values. One aspect of this for me is that since last September I’ve been once again teaching full-time. I teach undergraduate courses focused on sustainable agriculture and on the history of the human-Earth relationship from prehistoric times through the 21st century. Much on my mind are the big questions about how we’ve interacted with our planet in past millennia and recent centuries, and how we can reflect now on what has worked, what hasn’t, and how to live wisely on the Earth in the 21st century. It’s an honor to spend my days guiding college students to ask these questions for themselves.
I’m getting ready to lead a panel presentation at Harvard’s upcoming conference, “The Spirit of Sustainable Agriculture,” and participate in the closing plenary discussion. The panel I’m presenting with colleagues is called “Practical Reverence: Sacred Reciprocity in the Context of Sustainable Agriculture” and explores how sustainable agriculture can be a sacred process of restoring the Earth and our relationship to it. As I prepare, I’m reflecting on what is needed now to support students’ deep holistic learning, and also on how we can continue to place science and spirituality into conversation as we seek balanced ways to live on the Earth as our whole, mind-body-spirit selves.
If you’re looking for a novel that explores these topics, I’m loving Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, which is a lush and entrancing exploration of how we live on the Earth. Kingsolver asks whether we can be ‘natural’ people, how to negotiate the tug of war between our intellects and our hearts when it comes to our treatment of nature and one another, and how our human relationships affect how we treat the natural world. I’m also reading British ecologist Stephan Harding’s brilliant book, Animate Earth. Harding says that our ecological “crisis is at root one of perception; we no longer see the cosmos as alive, nor do we any longer recognize that we are inseparable from the whole of nature, and from our Earth as a living being.” Harding’s contribution is to help develop a new approach he calls “holistic science,” which places rational and spiritual ways of knowing into dialogue with each other. If you want a look at a revolutionary new way of scientific thinking that honors our whole mind-body-spirit self and its relationships to the Earth, you’ll love Harding’s book.
Do you know anyone who would like to explore Mutual Flourishing for Self and Earth in Italian? I’m excited to announce that the Mutual Flourishing course is now available in Italian! It has been translated by Italian ecopsychologist Pamela D’Alisa and you can share information about it via this link or by searching at http://www.giardinaggiointeriore.net As is usual with the Mutual Flourishing course, part of the proceeds will be donated to TreeSisters.
So much is happening in our world right now. Each of us is endeavoring to live her or his best life. Countless new developments and projects, from new renewable energy technologies to new understandings of sustainable agriculture, are putting us more on track with Mutual Flourishing. My hope for you is that you see your own path of learning and contribution unfolding more and more all the time. If I can support you, just ask.
I’ll leave you with these insights from Steven C. Rockefeller’s essay, “Faith and Community in an Ecological Age:”
“A holistic and relational view of the human self suggests that in a real sense the whole earth is a person’s extended body and the consciousness of the individual is a focal point of the earth’s emerging self-consciousness. Such an awareness creates the possibility of transforming egocentricity and anthropocentrism into environmentalism.”
To your flourishing and the Earth’s,