On this Earth Day, I am thinking about what nature can teach us about spiritual community. This month is full of days sacred not only to the Abrahamic traditions (Easter, Passover & Ramadan) but to other world wisdom traditions as well. Since the start of so-called civilization, dominant cultures have tended to take a triumphalist perspective which is akin to agri-business. Plant one thing (idea) only and consider everything else a weed or pest which has to be killed, while nourishing that one thing with artificial fertilizers (human invented religious dogmas) until the earth itself can no longer sustain it; devolving into desertification (or religious wounding).
We live in a time when it seems we have lost our sense of common good and shared humanity. We don’t even share common beliefs within our own families, let alone feel a connection to the religions of our youth. Trauma and divisiveness are having the same effects on humanity as climate change and pollution has on our planet – neither ecosystem is sustainable in such toxicity.
Where do we see healthy eco-systems? In old growth forests and new permaculture food forests, where many different species grow together, feeding each other in symbiotic relationships through the mycelial network, in vibrant living soil. Both climate science and earth science are learning that when we make space for relational growth, everyone in that ecosystem thrives.
Earlier this month, (for the first time in 3 years) I had the delight of sharing spiritual space with my clergy colleagues in retreat. The Chaplaincy Institute, where I was trained and where I now serve as a member of the faculty, is an interfaith seminary, so when we come together, we come as seekers from different traditions and no tradition; religious and spiritual but not religious. We come together in our spiritual diversity, much like a healthy eco-system.
That experience affirmed for me, a vision which has been coming into clarity for a while now. What could a localized spiritual ecosystem look like, based on shared spiritual practices rather than shared religious dogmas? When we engage in spiritual practices which bring our breath and hearts into harmony, we stop being “Other” and create space for compassion. After over 2 years of isolation, pandemic, economic and political upheaval, social awakening and social entrenchment, we are all living with trauma. Like many a pesticide, trauma stunts us; it locks us into our primitive amygdala brain where we can only fight, flee, freeze or fawn for survival. In that space we cannot access our loving, compassionate and wise prefrontal cortex.
I envision spiritual community based in an exploration of embodied spiritual practices, celebrations about the common wisdom and unique beauty found in each of the traditions while stepping into brave space to examine where we have judged and dismissed others; leaving space for discovering what new growth is trying to happen when we come into relationships that value diversity in unity. A spiritual space where I (as a Jewish and interfaith cis white bi female minister) can learn from/with others who are of different origins, theologies, genders, orientations and beliefs, sharing the stories which are sacred to each of us including the stories of our own lived experience. I envision honoring our common humanity and our common home, Mother Earth, as being integral and holy. I envision a spiritual and diverse ecosystem which fosters compassion, healing, and hope.
And I’d take the vision even further, to imagine that many such spiritual communities could form, like nodes of nourishment in the mycelial network of seekers, envisioning together a healed planet, healed society, healed families and healed individuals in all of our rich diversity with all of Creation.
If you would like to explore what this might look like, let’s talk. If you want to see some of the offerings Shelter for the Spirit has coming up, check out the upcoming events page at www.shelterforthespirit.com. If your vision wants to grow with mine, let this Earth Day be the beginning of a new paradigm for honoring Spirit and Earth.