Jean of Earthfire and Red the wolf, who’s carrying whom?
— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
In the book Savage Grace, authors Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker suggest dedicating one day to taking a personal inventory of ways in which we are disconnected from ourselves, others, and the Earth. I like this. The focus on our disconnections, which we all have and even more so in these rushed, stressed, complicated times, is really important. We can’t make good personal or environmental decisions from a disconnected state. Or even enjoy life to its fullest.
Then what is the next step? I get dozens of self-help offers on-line on a regular basis from multiple different experts but that is not where help lies. Help lies within ourselves. Yet most of us are frail beings and have a hard time with will-power, not to mention all the distractions and pulls on our time. How do we do this?
One suggestion from those self-help gurus is to make a plan for each week of the year, 50 now that two weeks of January are gone, as a guide for action. I have to admit to an immediate sense of annoyance at the thought but that does not mean it is not a good idea – just that it is too ambitious for me. I offer it because it might be a helpful frame for some of the more organized among us. Maybe one a month? Perhaps one manageable project is to think each week how to simplify our lives, for our own sakes and so we consume less and thus take less from the Earth. This is a loving thing to do.To consciously leave more for others, both human and non- human; more for the Earth, and more for the systems that sustain us. There is a wonderful book on this called Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin.
Another part of the answer lies in community, each of us supporting the other rather than top-down expert advice. Earthfire offers our online Conservation Conversations as a community of support but there are other, very practical guides, as well. One of these is The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval,* Part One is “Understanding Our Predicament,” Part II is “Gathering the Needed Tools,” and Part III is “Community Resilience in Action.” This section includes developing a community-owned clean energy economy; community water systems; alternative food systems; resilience education- helping communities learn their way to resilience; sustainable consumption, resilient communities within cities, and where to start. It would be great reading for a book club; good to put in the local library; good to write an article for the local paper; to discuss it in schools…
In the end, we must find our own way to be our best selves and give back to the Earth. But no matter the way we decide, we must find it. As Rumi said, “ Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
* The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval, edited by Daniel Lerch, published by Island Press in 2017.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.