06/18/2013 11:45 am ET Updated Aug 18, 2013

Green Spirituality

It's hard to find a meaningful spiritual practice in a world gone mad. A perfect storm of challenges and crises -- most of our own making -- converge on us. How to make sense of it all and find a way not only to admit our part in the escalating destruction but also to participate in healing the damage while still taking joy in life?

The new field of green spirituality or ecospirituality is struggling with this question. Inspired by the latest insights of cutting-edge science and ecology plus the wisdom of many nature-centered indigenous traditions, thinkers like cosmologist Brian Swimme, ecotheologian Thomas Berry, creation spirituality expert and priest Matthew Fox, Buddhist ecophilosopher Joanna Macy, mystic Andrew Harvey and others have struggled to find a way to honor the sacred mystery of our universe without shrinking from the current challenges of life on Earth. And many traditional religions now also have active movements related to improved Earth care.

But do humans really need spirituality at all, especially in a scientific era (albeit an era when runaway technology and corporatist ethics are destroying life all over the planet)?

Perhaps it's wise to take the long view of human culture on this question. Since earliest prehistory people have felt the need for ways to connect with something larger than ourselves, something of the sacred and ineffable. Every culture we know of has had its rites, rituals and prayers. Even our own culture has its sometimes unrecognized gods -- money and technology being perhaps the most obvious. And yes, over time too many spiritualities have hardened into religions that can be limited, compromised and, sadly, at times highly destructive to people and planet.

As external environmental conditions worsen, the economic, social and political systems that depend on a healthy relationship with those underlying planetary systems also degrade. The need for some kind of inner balance and resilience to deal with these challenges becomes acute and leads many of us to search for a way to both stay in constructive action while also maintaining an engaged and joyful heart.

My own search for a daily spiritual practice that doesn't shrink from reality but offers a link to the best in life and spirit has led me to create a simple prayer to center my days:

I admit my ongoing part in the escalating degradation of the earth's life support systems and commit myself today to doing what I can to participate in the healing of our planet and the land, water, people, animals and plants that are my dearest relatives. I take joy in living a simpler, richer life full of kindness, reverence, courage and gratitude for all the blessings and beauty of life on Earth.

May you find your own path through the challenging but exciting times we live in.

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