Begin the Ecospiritual Path

Practice of the Week
Begin the Ecospiritual Path

Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.

Awakening is a challenging path. We who live in the industrialized West may find it uncomfortable to face the painful reality of the damage our culture has inflicted upon other people and the Earth itself, as well as dysfunctional aspects of our culture such as consumerism. We may even feel guilty and ashamed. Nevertheless, it is critical that we walk this path since its truth is often glossed over and ignored in favor of business as usual. To continue with things as they are is a recipe for global suffering, destruction and death. Sooner or later, our culture will change. The only question is whether we will change voluntarily and preserve a livable Earth for future generations, or keep our blinders firmly in place and ensure catastrophic ecological collapse in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.

In his masterwork, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell describes the hero's journey as a process of leaving the normal world behind, journeying into a symbolic wilderness or underworld, confronting the demons or monsters that reside there, and then returning victorious with wisdom to share with others. You are embarking on such a journey. The monsters you will confront are real. Facing the reality of the state of the natural world is daunting. Leaving behind the mindless consumerism that passes for genuine culture in our day and age, you may feel as though you are quite alone in the wilderness without ever leaving home. You will be transformed and changed in ways you might not be able to imagine here at the beginning.

You will also find joy in unexpected places, and discover that you are a member of Earth's family in ways you might never have realized. You will find that you are a part of a larger community of heroes who dare to imagine and create a different sort of world. You will claim your birthright as a being who embodies the consciousness of the planet, and embrace your part in healing the Earth.

The Ecospiritual path roughly parallels Campbell's concept of a hero's journey:
  1. We separate ourselves from the paradigms of the everyday world, and confront the hidden realities of business as usual.
  2. We shed the dysfunctional mindsets that keep us trapped. Like the ancient Babylonian goddess Inanna, who shed the trappings of her power and status as she journeyed to the underworld, we too will let go of the illusory ideas that keep us bound to an unsustainable cultural paradigm. We move to the depths, and in so doing we break free.
  3. We face a turning point. We have confronted the demons and lived to tell the tale. We find ourselves on the cusp of transformation, ripe for rebirth, and begin to ground ourselves in the deep wisdom of the Earth.
  4. Finally, we emerge with a new vision, ready to recreate our culture from the inside out.
Now it's time to begin. These first exercises are designed to create a little psychological space for the inward journey to come. They are ways to honor your own process and bless your own story. Choose one or more of these practices and make a beginning. You are embarking on a her's journey of the spirit. Give yourself a hero's sendoff. Huzzah!


1. Start a Journal. Start a new one. The Ecospiritual Path will offer you many journaling prompts and questions for reflection. When you're ready, make your first entry by taking a look at your world at this moment in time. Go outside. Make a note of the date and time. Observe the world around you. What is the weather like? What flowers are in bloom? From which direction is the wind blowing? Do you see any birds? Insects? Write it all down. Sketch a little if you're so inclined. Capture this moment, right here and right now, at the beginning. Check in with yourself, and reflect on your feelings about the path ahead.

2. A Mindful Walk. Step outside your front door. Take a deep breath. Now go. Walk at least fifteen minutes away, and then back again. This is not an exercise walk. Don't go at a fast clip. Don't disconnect by listening to music. Take the world as it is. Meander. Walk at a sow to moderate pace, and actively observe the world around you. What do you see? What do you hear? How much of what you sense is natural, and how much is human-made? Do you like all you see? If you could change part of it, what would you change? Think, observe, and walk. When you arrive home again, take another deep breath and come back into your normal world.

3. An Opening Ceremony. Mark this beginning in some small but significant way by creating a meaningful and unique ceremony. Offer a prayer. Recite a poem aloud. Make a small offering out in the world. A handful of birdseed laid at the foot of a tree could represent a gift to the Earth. A small bouquet of flowers tossed into a stream could symbolize the beginning of your spiritual journey. What resonates with your soul? Keep it simple, and make it personal. Perhaps write about it when you're done.

Group Activity

Get 3 or more people together. Grab some trash bags and head out to a public area that could use a little TLC. Maybe it's a neighborhood in your town with abandoned houses. Maybe it's a park that's seen better days. Don't make a big deal of it; just go. Pick up litter for an hour, and then come back to your meeting place and have some refreshments and group reflection:
  • What does the word "environmentalism" mean to you? Does it have positive or negative connotations? Or both? How about the word "Earth"? Doe the meanings vary a lot among the group members?
  • When in your life have you experienced an opening ceremony of any sort? What was it like? How does this compare to your previous experience?
  • Offer a prayer or a wish for a healed and restored Earth. Each participant can share her own wish such as, "I wish the oceans overflowed with fish again," or "I wish more trees would be planted for those that have been cut down." Don't force participation from shy members; just keep the prayers or wishes flowing. 
  • Wrap it all up with one big group wish or closing blessing.
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Next Ecospiritual Practice: Face Ecological Reality

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