Six Principles for Reconnecting to the Earth

Here are six principles that are so fundamental and far-reaching that they can help us to become liberated from our industrial-growth society to create a society that is more life-sustaining. Putting these principles into practice can transform our lives, and help to heal the world.

They spring from insights into the basic miracle of our existence–from Buddhist teachings and other ancient voices–that have broken upon us in the very century that has brought us to the brink of destroying our planet as a home for conscious life.

Here are the six basic principles of life-transformation for world healing:

1. This world, in which we are born and take our being, is alive.
It is not our supply house and sewer; it is our larger body. The intelligence that evolved us from star dust and interconnects us with all beings is sufficient for the healing of our Earth community, if we but align with that purpose.

2. Our true nature is far more ancient and encompassing than the separate self defined by habit and society.
We are as intrinsic to our living world as the rivers and trees, woven of the same intricate flows of matter/energy and mind. Having evolved us into self-reflexive consciousness, the world can now know itself through us, behold its own majesty, tell its own stories–and also respond to its own suffering.

3. Our experience of pain for the world springs from our interconnectedness with all beings, from which also arise our powers to act on their behalf.
When we deny or repress our pain for the world, or treat it as a private pathology, our power to take part in the healing of our world is diminished. This apatheia need not become a terminal condition. Our capacity to respond to our own and others’ suffering–that is, the feedback loops that weave us into life–can be unblocked.

4. Unblocking occurs when our pain for the world is not only intellectually validated, but experienced.
Cognitive information about the crises we face, or even about our psychological responses to them, is insufficient. We can only free ourselves from our fears of the pain–including the fear of getting permanently mired in despair or shattered by grief–when we allow ourselves to experience these feelings. Only then can we discover their fluid, dynamic character. Only then can they reveal on a visceral level our mutual belonging to the web of life.

5. When we reconnect with life, by willingly enduring our pain for it, the mind retrieves its natural clarity.
Not only do we experience our interconnectedness in the community of Earth, but also mental eagerness arises to match this experience with new paradigm thinking. Concepts which bring relatedness into focus become vivid. Significant learnings occur, for the individual system is reorganizing and reorienting, grounding itself in wider reaches of identity and self-interest.

6. The experience of reconnection with the Earth community arouses desire to act on its behalf.
As Earth’s self-healing powers take hold within us, we feel called to participate in the Great Turning. For these self-healing powers to operate effectively, they must be trusted and acted on. The steps we take can be modest undertakings, but they should involve some risk to our mental comfort, lest we remain caught in old, “safe” limits. Courage is a great teacher and bringer of joy.

Adapted from Coming Back to Life, by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown (New Society Publishers, 1998). Copyright (c) 1998 by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown. Reprinted by permission of New Society Publishers.
Adapted from Coming Back to Life, by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown (New Society Publishers, 1998).