I just posted an essay called Introduction to Contemplative Ecology on my website. It seemed a little long for a blog post. The other thing I want to say about it is that I am beginning to think about moving away from the terminology of “contemplative ecology.” It feels like that language is more confusing than clarifying. It requires too much explanation of things that are not essential. I first started using that term 5 or 6 years ago, simply to make the connection between the inner and the outer, which we normally hold in separate realms. But the words “ecology” and “contemplation” mean too many things to too many people, and do not always point in the direction I want them to point.
In particular, since the publication in 2012 of Douglas Christie’s Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes For a Contemplative Ecology, contemplative ecology has become associated specifically with the Christian contemplative tradition. I see contemplative ecology as fundamentally non-sectarian, relevant to anyone, anywhere, at any time. So I am trying to find some other way of referring to this thing. I have no doubt about what contemplative ecology is, but I am not sure what to call it anymore, even though my use of “contemplative ecology” predates Douglas Christie’s book. In that way, this essay is more a mark of where I have been than where I am going. But, language of naming it aside, this essay is also a pretty good summary of my perspective on what contemplative ecology is all about.
Here is an excerpt from the essay:
“Humans have unleashed a destructive force that is consuming the planet, destabilizing life systems at the deepest levels. That force is both internal and external. It is a psycho-social system…
If we exclude the internal and focus only on the external, we ignore half of the picture. If we exclude the external and focus only on the internal, we exclude the other half. If we bring them together into one interactive system, we shake the foundations of many of our most cherished beliefs and behaviors.
“The boundary of inclusion and exclusion, what we consider internal and what we consider external, is the boundary of the self. The boundary of acceptance and rejection is who we think we are. Total acceptance and total inclusion mark the end of the sense of being a separate self. Will I ever take care of something or someone if I believe I am essentially separate from them? Will I care for the Earth if I am separate from it, if I believe I will continue in a non-physical realm after the body dies? Will I care for the other animals if I think I am above them, better than them, more important than them, essentially different from them, essentially separate from them?
“Contemplative ecology, then, reunites these two domains, which are really one domain in the first place: the inner and the outer, the psychological and the social, the spirit and the body, the human and the natural, the self and the world, desire and economics, cognitive bias and politics, the way the mind works and the way all natural systems work. The ways in which mind and society and the natural world are interrelated and mutually dependent. It’s an explosive mix. Contemplative ecology includes everything, and therefore has a chance of addressing a crisis that also includes everything, but it is a threat to our sense of who we are and what we think the world is and how power operates in society. It is a threat to our belief in the true nature of our selves. Contemplative ecology therefore poses a challenge to the status quo.”