Earth Prayer is a resource for eco-spirituality and a loosely-knit interfaith community of supportive friends, organized as self-supervising Teams of Two, seeking to live the ideals of reverence for Life and Earth as a spiritual path and Earth/Universe kinship/citizenship (what many writers have called eco-spirituality, the “Great Turning” and “Creation Spirituality,” the journey from isolation to interwovenness). Taken together, all the materials on this site point toward eco-spirituality as an interfaith green dharma, a deep green awakening, a vision of caring for the web of life of which we ourselves are an expression.
In every age, the crises of the world become the crises of the self, crises of both personal sanity and of community life. The unprecedented outward challenges of our time now include such processes as global warming, extreme racial and economic injustice, perpetual war, nuclear weapons/waste/accidents, and accelerating global species extinction. These outward challenges are also deep inward challenges to our sense of identity and integrity: Will I collude with the oppressive/destructive forces at work on Planet Earth? Will I withdraw from life as a way of coping? Or will I find creative and life-affirming ways to resist, rebuild, and become kinder and wiser along the way?
As global mentors such as Einstein, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and (more recently) Joanna Macy have each expressed in different ways, our extreme circumstances challenge us:
The development of these transformational strengths and friendships is the universal work that the Earth Prayer mutual support network encourages each person to embrace. This is a work we gladly share with many similar movements, from whom we learn and with whom we share through the Creative Commons all that we have learned.
We invite and encourage everyone to live reverence for life more radiantly, and to explore and create new meditation, prayer, blessing and transformation practices that express and celebrate that reverence for life, which one might think of as a beautiful mixture of awe, respect, gratitude, devotion and the desire to serve and protect. The two PDF mandala series shown below express this new approach to the eco-spiritual life. We offer these to everyone free of charge, as our way of participating in the healing of the world. (Click image for PDF. To view PDF directly in Google Chrome, installation of a PDF viewer is required.)
The Spiral Journey Path of Eco-Spirituality
(Click image below for PDF.)
Five Wings of the Heart
Prayers/Affirmations/Celebrations of Life Unfolding Within Me and Between us
We see the exploration and cultivation of Reverence for Life as an important part of finding the deeper inner strength that will allow us to nurture the Web of Life and Earth, work strongly and lovingly for a more life-friendly world, and resist the growing current momentum toward perpetual war, addiction to violence and inequality, out-of-control industrialization, and the resulting processes of climate disruption and global species extinction. In the midst of responding to these various crises, many of which will last far beyond our own lifetimes, we aspire to grow in our ability to nurture and sustain one another in our journeys through the seasons of life. (“Sustainability,” in our vision, includes sustaining our own web of personal relatedness, the life that lives between us as evolving persons.)
We draw inspiration from many of the ecological, psychological and spiritual teachers of the past and present, from Buddha, Jesus, Saint Francis, Hildegarde of Bingen and Meister Eckhart to Albert Schweitzer, Joanna Macy, Thomas Berry, Vandana Shiva, the Dalai Lama, Black Elk, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Donella Meadows, Matthew Fox, Rachel Carson, Julia Butterfly Hill, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Gregory Bateson, to name only a few. The workshops, retreats, books and lectures of eco-philosopher, anti-nuclear activist and grandmother, Joanna Macy, are especially important to us as we seek to extend the spirit of her Work That Reconnects into the world of everyday ecological action, everyday spiritual practice, and ongoing creative partnerships and friendships.
We are also inspired by the Bodhisattva ideal in Buddhism, the Christian Sermon on the Mount, the Native American tradition of Mitakuye Oyasin (Lakota Sioux for “All My Relations”), and the infinite interwovenness explored by living systems theory, among many sources of spiritual inspiration. These are all resources for an eco-spirituality that makes sense in our pluralisitc present time. (We invite you to visit our online Interfaith Cathedral.) Because each person is unique, and because evolution thrives through variety rather than through conformity, we encourage each person to create their own unique mandala (a sort of spiritual back pack) of resources and exemplars in support of their communion with and celebration of the Web of Life and their actions on behalf of the Web of Life. (These two universal aspects of love will be familiar to many as the polarity of Mary and Martha in the New Testament.) Our primary forms of organization are self-organizing, self-supervising Teams-of-Two (creative partnerships of two people) and self-supervising study/action groups (composed primarily of several Teams-of-Two). “Teams of Two” is an ancient idea, with a long history in Buddhism (kalyana mitra), Judaism (havruta), Christianity and Celtic spirituality, and, of course, in marriage and in the parenting processes of many living species. We hope to renew and extend this way of organizing cooperative effort in the context of serving the Web of Life in Her hour of great need.
An Open-Ended List
of Possible Organizing Principles
- Awakening to interwovenness is the root of the compassionate life. As long as we imagine that we are separate from other people and the Web of Life and Earth, acting compassionately will seem like a special burden or a special virtue. The central message of ecology is the interwovenness of all natural systems. Our human lives are also deeply interwoven with, and inseparable from, the lives of other people and the Web of Life. In order to nurture my life, I must nurture yours. This insight invites us to rethink all our ideas about self-interest and altruism, because our well-being overlaps greatly with the well-being of all other people, creatures, lands and seas. In Native American culture the entire world is named as “All My Relations.” In African culture our inter-being with others, and our imperative of kindness toward others, is named as Ubuntu, “A person is a person through other people.”
- Beauty and gratitude. The deeper the ugliness we intend to confront and mend in the world, the deeper the gratitude and beauty (in the Navajo and Sufi sense) we will need to cultivate in the world of our own hearts.
- Mutual support. The greater the task we set before another person, the deeper the support we need to offer that person, that the task might be accomplished. A Jewish way of expressing this might be to say that G-d gave us two hands so that we could mend the world with one and nurture the person next to us with the other. The Teams-of-Two way of organizing is an effort to weave personal support into the heart of ecological, climate change and social justice organizing.
- Universal empowerment. By virtue of being in the Creative Commons, and by virtue of having been drawn from many sources (including Sufi, Navajo, Christian and Buddhist), the approaches to reverence for life expressed in our Seven Mandalas Exploring Reverence for Life, and Four Prayers of Opening belong to everyone, are distributed free of charge as PDF files, and can be practiced and taught by everyone. Furthermore, you have infinite permission from Life Herself, 3.6 billion years of evolution, and your own sixty trillion cells, to nurture and protect the Web of Life and Earth with increasing skill, compassion and awareness.
- We are already all teachers of reverence for life and eco-spirituality, whether consciously or not. By virtue of being alive, you are not automatically a teacher of guitar or calculus. But by virtue of the way you live, and how much or how little you love life, you automatically teach all those around you your particular approach to loving life. Most other fields require long preparation before a person becomes a teacher, but one of the great paradoxes of life is that in relation to the most important topics of human life (love, gratitude, creativity, forgiveness, truthfulness) we begin teaching the moment we are born, and teach every moment of our lives. So we may as well rise to the occasion and become more conscious and inspiring teachers.
- Follow your greatest love. The multiple crises of a self-destructing culture can leave us paralyzed by the question of where to put our efforts. Spiritual advisers from Saint Augustine to Teresa of Avila to Howard Thurman recommend that we take up the work that stirs us to the greatest love. As Thurman put it, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Frederick Buechner expresses this as “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
- Make a place in your heart for both joy and sorrow. Early gaps in our emotional development can leave us with the feeling that when we are successful, God and/or the whole world loves us, and when we fail, God and/or the whole world hates us. This is deeply unrealistic and counterproductive, given that trial and error are normal parts of the human learning process. And as we face the giant mistakes of industrialization run amok, we are bound to suffer many disappointments that we will need to learn from. Honoring our sorrows and frustrations as expressions of our love for the world, as taught by Joanna Macy, leaves us more able to stay engaged in work that will stretch beyond our own lifetimes. This means growing beyond the simple binary “it’s all bad” or “it’s all good” attitudes we learned in early childhood, whether applied to ourselves or to the world. As Judith Viorst observed in her book, Necessary Losses, all the significant steps forward in our development as persons are accompanied by the experience of loss. Tribal peoples use the cycle of the seasons as a way of understanding and accepting the inevitability of life including both joys and sorrows, successes and disappointments.
- Create an ongoing Sabbath from money. Fund-raising and money making accomplish many good ends in the world (along with all the problematic ones), but fund-raising and money making have a way of taking over nonprofit organizations, community service endeavors, religious congregations, and people’s lives. There is considerable pressure in capitalist societies to monetize all human interactions. Because tens of thousands of of nonprofit organizations around the world are already exploring the many good things that might be accomplished with money, we are drawn to focus on the now-neglected area of non-monetary relationships such as spiritual friendships and mutual support for the cause of Life and Earth. Just as the goal of resting on the Sabbath day is not to abolish human work, but to explore forms of experience beyond the mindset of work, it is not our intention to abolish money, but to explore relationships and forms of eco-spirituality that lie beyond the reach of money, to keep from being emotionally suffocated by it. We want to create refuges (such as our Interfaith Cathedral, and our Team-of-Two partnerships) where people can be as free as possible, for at least a while, from the continual pressures of needing money and needing to think about money.