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Formative Forces

Essay and Photos By Freya Secrest

I spent a day in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park this past summer. It was a brief visit, but nonetheless powerful in connecting me with the formative forces building our world.  There were geysers spewing out hot bubbling minerals not safe to be touched by human hands, powerful rivers cutting channels in the landscape and various microbial life-forms wearing down rock. My day’s experience was an amazing window into the forces that tirelessly move, meet and mold a world.

Going into the Park I recalled several National Geographic documentaries of Yellowstone which shared the beauty and the rawness of life in its mountains and valleys. But as we traveled by the mineral geysers, the Yellowstone River canyon, and a wide valley with a vista that dwarfed its resident buffalo, I was aware of the vast energies that sculpt and give shape to our planet. Those documentaries had not given me the felt sense of the power in wind and sky and molten chemicals that underlie its unique landscape of bubbling springs and delicate wild flowers. Images could point me to a tree growing close to sulphurous upwellings or a wild creature who made that world their home, but they didn’t fully capture the spirit of determination and joy evident when standing in their presence.  

On the way home to Michigan, I found myself considering my own relationship to formative forces, not looking to those powers of nature outside myself but to those powers available within my human stream of action. Standing, Partnering, and Generativity – these are not geologic forces but human-centered formative forces that I can direct— each elemental and powerful in their way.  They work with elements of creation different from the geologic forces, but they are no less potent to the life of Gaia.

Back now to my daily life, I wonder how to better focus my formative actions. I do not always see the impact of my life in the world, do not always recognize myself as a formative force. But the choices I make, the relationships I foster and the way I invite possibilities to emerge in my life help shape the wider world. My awareness of the possible impact of my actions leaves me feeling daunted. How do I know my individual actions contribute to the dance of life in a way that leads to a more whole and coherent world?

The answer that comes to me in this moment is that we don’t always get to know our impact. We cannot control the end result of our contributions in life except through Love. The understanding we bring to our actions and the choices we make from Love create a field where connection, possibility and respect enhance mutual unfoldment, where results foster wholeness and a vitality of life. As a formative force, it is my responsibility, my opportunity to step into Love as the controlling factor.

I have to admit that love has been a bit of a mystery for me, not so much in the specificity of personal love or the spaciousness of love for the Sacred in life, but in the mystery of how to bring them together. How does personal love expand to touch the universal and cosmic love reside in daily connections? How do they come together into a wholeness of love that is a life-enhancing, formative force?

What comes to me as a path into answering this question is to live with the same determination and joy as does the nature I connected with in Yellowstone Park – to stand and celebrate my life as a feast , to partner deeply, joyfully, lovingly with myself and the people and life around me, to be generative as a spring is, bubbling out the fullness of myself from wellsprings of love, a resource freely available for co-creative interaction with my world.   

After millions of years of interaction and relationship, many large and small acts of beingess, Yellowstone is a landscape manifesting a presence that touches its visitors with integrity, beauty and coherence.  It is a whole greater than the sum of its parts. No one element could alone imagine its current shape and vitality, but each element is a formative force in creating it. The same is true of each in our own lives; we are a formative force in connection with other forces and together we shape a more whole and beautiful world.


Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org.

The Shadow of the Moon

By Julie Spangler

We Americans have just passed through “The Great American Eclipse”. It was a dramatic name for a dramatic event. Like most of the country, I waited eagerly for 10:20 AM to arrive in Seattle. It was awe-inspiring.

Seeing them all lined up, the three celestial bodies which makes life possible on our planet was a moving moment to reflect on. Celestial events always lead me to consider where I stand in the universe on a small planet revolving around a small sun on the outskirts of a huge galaxy. Our beautiful earth is a miracle worthy of love.

As part of the whole experience, I then watched the televised videos of the event as the shadow of the moon moved across the land, welcomed by crowds and news reporters all across the country sharing in the experience of the totality.  I was shocked to see how suddenly darkness fell, how complete the darkness was, and then how swiftly light returned. At each location the event was welcomed with cheers and the joyful camaraderie of a community created simply to share a unique cosmic event at a moment in time. Very different from some more recent public gatherings of people in our country.

As I watched the news, they played a clip of Frank Reynolds, the ABC news anchor in 1979 when the last solar eclipse happened in the US: “So that’s it, the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century,” he said. “As I said, not until August 21, 2017, will another eclipse be visible from North America.”

“That’s 38 years from now,” he continued. “May the shadow of the moon fall on a world at peace.”

Hearing this, I found myself gripped by a grief which I still feel. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world at peace. It did not. People the world over pray for peace, march for peace, work and write for peace, yet our world continues to display war and violence. Suddenly I am in touch with the grief I have buried in the face of all of the news we are bombarded by daily of those tortured parts of our planet where people and families and communities are torn asunder by violence.      

With Frank’s words, though, I am also made aware of our collective expectation that global peace is possible. I am deeply moved by the way humans continually envision a future of peace. In the ’70’s we marched for peace with the hopeful, expectant youthful belief that we could make it happen. One war ended. Others began.

Unlike many of my fellow students who thought taking down the government would solve our problems, I believed that the only way to make such changes was for each individual to be at peace within him or herself, to seek a spiritual center which does not foster violence. Often violence comes from dark unintegrated parts of our past which can lead us to strike out. It is the task of each of us to find the courage to uncover those parts, to see them, name them and reclaim them as part of our wholeness. There are many teachings and approaches to help us do this, but first we must look at how we choose to act and take responsibility for it.

The shadow of the moon imposed an unusual darkness during the daylight, a darkness that unexpectedly brought things up to be examined. As we enter times of darkness when things go bump in the night, we may find ourselves confronting those things which hide inside us from the light of day. They may sneak up on us, taking us by surprise as I was, or they may erupt suddenly and forcefully. For me, this grief for my world in the grip of so much violence has always been there, but I manage to keep it under the bed so that I can function in my day. The eclipse and Frank Reynolds brought it back into the light of my consciousness.

We are in a time when the violence and hatred in the collective is erupting all over the world. Is there more violence than there has been in the past? Are we in a time in the cycles of the world where hidden distortions  at the heart of humanity are brought to the surface – shadows of the collective past – so that they can be seen and dealt with? Or is it simply that with the speed of communications and connections these days we are seeing the violence and hatred more clearly and more immediately, again bringing to our awareness that which isn’t normally visible? Will being made more aware of it allow us to finally address the hurt and pain in the human experience in order to bring healing to the species? In any case, we are seeing it and if we are to see a future where the next shadow of the moon can fall on a peaceful world, we must act toward that goal.

I still believe that the path to peace is a personal one. It requires us each to be attentive to those buttons which lead us to violent thoughts, words or behaviors. And it also requires us to reach out to each other with love and caring, recognizing and accepting our differences. What a boring, colorless world it would be if we were all the same.

With Frank Reynolds, I also wish for the shadow of the next eclipse to fall on a world without war. And given that the next eclipse is in 2019, I suspect that it will not. But this knowledge does not have to stop me from holding the intention for global peace, and as we are aware, subtle effects can have impact. The more people holding a vision of global peace, the closer we get to it. One day, through the efforts of us all, it will be the reality we live in.


There’s still time to join Julie Spangler for A Journey into the Sacred Fire of your Life, a six-week class exploring the sacredness at the heart of our ordinary human experiences and incarnate lives. Click here for more information and to register.

 

Strange Attractors

By Susan Beal

I have had a meditation and spiritual practice for almost 40 years. Mostly it’s been a private thing, central to my sense of self and informing my activities in the outer world, but never overt. In many ways, my experiences of the “inner” and “outer” worlds had felt like very different, if not opposing forces in my life. Two summers ago, I was ordained as Lorian Priest. I saw ordination as a way to reconcile these worlds.

I also have a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution. Although I have not been in formal practice as a mediator in some time, I still see myself as a mediator in the larger sense of seeing things from multiple perspectives and bridging differences when I can. It wasn’t until after my ordination that I realized that what drew me to ordination was the same thing that drew me into conflict resolution: a desire to be of service in the world, a longing for peace and wholeness, and the need for practical skills to that end. It was also the call to maintain a higher perspective and identify a compass point to guide and inspire me as I moved through my life.

Long before I thought to be a mediator or a priest, I was an artist. I come from a long line of artists and always thought that was the path I would follow. I went to art school to become a professional artist. When my life path took a detour, I didn’t see the common thread linking art, mediation, and, later, ordination. I just thought I was moving between different, unrelated stages of my life. But now, looking back, I see that what connects them is my fascination with what I have come to think of as the Inbetween—the place between places, a zone of high potential, of unformed possibilities, of What Could Be, but isn’t yet.

It’s the mix of excitement and anxiety I feel facing a sheet of good drawing paper, a freshly gessoed canvas, a wedge of soft clay. It’s discovering the small bud of cooperation that can blossom and grow between parents warring over custody or coworkers snarled in office politics. It’s where the friction between the material and subtle worlds can be shaped into useful warmth and illumination. It’s the call to action of the neglected garden, the cluttered house, the dispirited friend. It’s facing the question: Can I help in some way to make something new, meaningful or beautiful out of this? Will it work out? Will it fail? Am I up for this?  

For me, Incarnational Spirituality is a guide through this luminous, promising, confusing, powerful Inbetween, where outcomes are uncertain and hope is tangible. To navigate through it one needs a guiding star, which I.S. provides.

I studied General Systems Theory in college as part of learning about the relationship between conflict and cooperation. One of the most useful things I learned from it, something that helped me immensely as a mediator, was that conflict and cooperation are partners in the movement towards wholeness. It describes the transitional zone between chaos and order as a place of great power and sensitivity, where the least influence can have enormous impact and result in a domino effect for good or ill. The influence that helps a system in flux settle into a new pattern is known as a “strange attractor” or seed crystal. A seed crystal is an anchor, precipitating change in a system wavering between outcomes. The quality of that little crystal can determine the quality of the outcome.

Being a priest, a mediator, or an artist is akin to being a strange attractor, someone who strives to draw out new meaning, order, and beauty that before was only latent. Incarnational Spirituality provided a kind of strange attractor for me, a number of guiding principles and concepts that have oriented me when I come face to face with doubts about the hows, whys and whats of my life and the world.  

Most spiritual paths tell us our true power comes from spiritual sources. Most scientific perspectives insist that reality is physically based and consciousness results from that. We’re left with a gap between spirit and matter, an either/or choice that generates endless conflict. And yet physics demonstrates that all useable power is generated from opposite energies coming together. Differentials in temperature, pressure, direction and flow is what powers thunderstorms, engines, generators, turbines and heat pumps.

So I’m particularly inspired by the concept in Incarnational Spirituality of generative capacity, the power and potential that result from the act of incarnation itself, the coming together of the fiery, cosmic, unbounded nature of spirit and the dense, flesh-and-bones, finite nature of a physical body. We are beneficiaries as well as custodians of the creative light that comes from reconciling seeming opposites. Using that power wisely and well to benefit Earth and all who call her home is what I believe we are here to do. It is the essence of Incarnational Spirituality as I understand it, and it has become a guiding star for me.

The way I see it, we are all mediators, healers and artists by design. We not only have the capacity, but also the responsibility, to be seed crystals and strange attractors for greater love and wholeness on Earth. Understanding and manifesting that potential is, for me, what Incarnational Spirituality is all about.


Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org.

Reading Water

Essay and Pastels by Claire Blatchford
 
Mesmerized by a video about water I saw almost two years ago, I knew I wanted to try meeting water by way of pastels. It wasn’t so much the drawing challenge (water, clouds and faces are, for me, the ultimate challenge when drawing) because water is, as the late Theodor Schwenk, German Anthroposophist and pioneering water researcher, says in his wonderful book, Sensitive Chaos, “always on the way somewhere.”  It was the challenge of trying to feel my way into the movements — visible and invisible—of this powerful, vital, elusive and wondrous element. I’m not out to simply record what I see with my physical eyes—I could use a camera if I wanted to do that– so the results sometimes don’t make sense to viewers.
 
I think of this as my attempt to “read” into water. Put another way: a stream, for example, can be seen as an ongoing sentence or story flowing—or being “uttered”—onwards. When “reading” a stream I might catch a couple of the words passing by. Here follow seven examples of attempts to read water.
 
In this first one I saw, and read, shapes the water made in the sand over which is flowed: 
 
 
In the next one, when looking at the surface of a pond, I was amazed at how just a few inches of water could look like a view of our earth seen from a great height.  
 
In this one —another up close of a spot on a small stream near our home–I was struck by how water has fingers!
  
 
Again and again, what comes home to me in this “reading” is how water, despite the fact that it’s almost always on the move, is not without shape. And it tends to be spherical as I tried to show here (and as if evident too in the one above.)
 
  
As I see it, water is almost always reflecting things above and around it. Or one may see through it to what’s beneath it. In this “reading” other things are enhanced or brought to my attention. I’m always drawn to the moments when water moves with, into and through sunlight. 
  
 
There are also those moments when water is playful —the moments are easy to “read”! It surges, draws back, leaps forward, folds over, pops up again. I’m certain, if I stay attentive, I’ll see the water elementals, the undines, whom I saw once years ago.  
 
And so the “reading” continues…..

Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org.

A Gaian Potpourri

By Mary Reddy

“Crow” by Mary Reddy

Lorian’s first Gaianeering conference ended just over a week ago. The gathering grew into a lovely collaboration among new and old friends—both physically visible and subtly present ones. It was like an exercise in midwifery, offering wisdom, support, and sustenance as we humans labor to give birth to an emerging Gaian awareness. To sustain us through the labor pains, let’s celebrate the new.

How to appreciate Gaia, to feel the thrumming resonant life of the planet, to see the spinning globe wrapped in stars, to hear the singing in many tongues? It’s beyond words, right? Yet here I offer a collection of words that have inspired me. See between the lines and let them transport you.

Gaia—the Wild, our heart’s beating

“As I came home through the woods with my string of fish, trailing my pole, it being now quite dark, I caught a glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across my path, and felt a strange thrill of savage delight.” —Thoreau, Walden

Gaia—life within and criss-crossing cities

“Waters infinitely full of life move along the ancient aqueducts into the great city and dance in the many city squares over basins of white stone and spread out in large spacious pools and murmur by day and lift up their murmuring to the night, which is vast here and starry and soft with winds.” 

—Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Gaia—whispering through all life

“A crow 
has settled on a bare branch.
Autumn evening.” —Basho, haiku 

Gaia—love rooted in beauty

“Oh give us pleasure in the flowers today 
And give us not to think so far away …

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard …

For this is love …” —Robert Frost, A Prayer in Spring

Gaia—even in sorrow

“You mustn’t be frightened … if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over every thing you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hands.” —Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Gaia—oceanic movement distilled into miniature

“lapping of the little waves
breaking of the little waves
spreading of the little waves
idling of the little waves” —Thomas A. Clark, Coirre Fhionn Lochan

Gaia—home inside

“The house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” —Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Gaia—home outside

In the forest, I am my entire self. Everything is possible in my heart just as it is in the hiding places in ravines.” —Rene Menard, Le Livres des Arbres

Gaia—us! 

“Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me, if I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.” —Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org.

The Art and Craft of Collaborative Fields

By Freya Secrest

The subject of “collaborative fields” came up recently in a conversation I had with Mary Inglis, one of our Gaianeering presenters and a facilitator of the Game of Transformation. Mary defined a collaborative field as a particular ecology of relationship in which one consciously takes steps to foster a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. She described some of the steps they use in the Game process which helps to lead to such a field: “We always start a game with attunement – to ourselves, to each other, to our activity and purpose. We also consciously invite in the “Game Deva”, that overarching presence that works with the game process.” She further outlined that each game is guided by a stated intention that helps to focus the group effort by connecting the participants with a common purpose.

These are important group building processes, but I wondered what is the “magic” or “zing” that ignites attunement and shared purpose into a new wholeness? That seems harder to pin down. Mary used the results of her experiences in the Game to point to possibilities: “You know how sometimes you look at what you have been doing and you see it is more than you thought it was? This happens in a game when we have created a collaborative field.” She pointed to the magic that leads to a new wholeness as emerging out of the attitude each person held and brought to their participation in a game. In her work she noticed that the willingness of participants to engage all parts of themselves, energetic, physical, mental, emotion, subtle, spirit and soul made a difference. It was when each person brought their full selves forward with commitment to the ecology of the process that new “whole-making” would most often happen.

I was intrigued by the thought that I might nurture a similar collaborative field in my own daily life and activities and curious about how to foster and encourage its development. I didn’t want to just wait and hope it would “happen.” First, in considering my own experiences, I began by looking at the moments when I noticed synchronicities or connections with others or the world around. Those are my first thoughts of a collaborative energy at work. What I noticed about the synchronicities is that they can happen at a meeting or around a shared creative project, and sometimes even when I am alone in a reflective, quiet state where an answer or idea that solves some daily issue pops to mind. Upon further reflection, I realized that at those times I am in a loving state, not a head over heels “in love” but a resilient, at peace and “in tune” loving. In that state of love I generate an energy or “field” of connectedness within myself that flows out and links with the world around me.

Magic Step #1: Love is the foundation for a collaborative field.

This loving state needs a place where it can land and grow. My reflections jumped to the interaction of the Four Incarnational Principles of Identity (Standing), Boundary (Holding), Relationship (Energizing), and Emergence (Co-Creating). Each of these ideas hold a different signature or element of connection for me and together they shape a balanced place where I engage, integrate and grow through my life events. Going back to Mary’s definition of collaborative fields as attunement to ourselves, to each other, to the subtle ecology of life and to our activity and purpose, it is through being able to bring my love into the diversity of my everyday life that I bring about the possibility of new “wholeness”.

Magic step #2 : Engaging in our own life and incarnation is the place where collaborative wholeness can root and grow.

Coming to appreciate the different essences of the Four Incarnational Principles has been a process that is evolving for me. Using these principles helps me to better understand the magical wholeness that emerges out of my life. But I can’t do it only from the level of thinking or even feeling; I must embody these qualities with a physical stance or action that encapsulates their energy. Sovereignty fits with the uprightness of standing, connected through head and feet to the stars and earth, and through my skin with the world around. So I often physically stand to create a link to this element. Boundary creates a place of connection where differences meet — a lap that can hold or arms that encircle and define the space of inside and outside. When I sit or hold something I link with the energy of boundary by the very shape I take. Relationship I see as an activity of exchange where differences can meet “eye to eye” with respect and recognition of the value of self and other. When I look at someone or something I try to bring that attitude of respect into my gaze and approach to our relationship. The idea of Emergence has evolved in me to be the stance of the open hand. It requires a strong energy of standing and balance in order to hold an openness to other. It is something I try to explore through developing my capacity for invitation and welcome.

Although each principle is involved with the others, it is emergence that is particularly connected to the idea of collaborative fields for me because it is a place where we discover and are surprised by newness. What fosters emergence is that sense of loving invitation – the open hand. I imagine I am offering a treat to a shy deer and feel how still, strong and at peace I need to be in myself to give the other “room” to come forward. When this is hard, it is usually because I am turned inward, closely focused in my own life. But when I turn toward the life around me in the spirit of love, welcome and open-handedness, then my energy and imagination can begin to foster collaborative possibilities. This to me is the art and the craft of a collaborative field.


Click here to listen to Freya’s interview with Mary Inglis and recordings of other Gaineering Conference presenters. For more information about The Game of Transformation, please click here.

Four Faces of Gaia

By David Spangler*

In 1979, the British scientist James Lovelock published a book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. In it, he presented evidence that through the auto-regulatory systems of the biosphere, the Earth acted as a living organism. On the suggestion of this friend, the author William Golding, he proposed to call this organism by the Greek name for the goddess of the earth and the mother of all life, Gaia. This was the beginning of what was called the “Gaia Hypothesis,” co-formulated by Lovelock and the American microbiologist, Dr. Lyn Margulis. Although initially met with skepticism by their scientific colleagues, further research generated enough evidence in support of this hypothesis that it became accepted and graduated to becoming the “Gaia Theory.”

Since then, the term “Gaia” has come to mean not only the interactive systems of the living biosphere but also the spirit of the planet, its soul, if you wish. This is fully in line with the experience and thinking of our forebears who knew the planet as a living being and treated it as such. Gaia has become shorthand for total web of life on earth and its collective spirit.

The word Gaianeering was coined by Jeremy Berg, author of The Gathering Light and co-designer and illustrator of the Sidhe Card Deck. It means the art of thinking and acting as if we ourselves are an embodiment of this spirit of the Earth—the spirit of Gaia—and not only just our separate, human selves. As our power to affect the planet has grown exponentially over the past century, so has grown our need to become skilled and wise practitioners of this art in loving collaboration with the life of the world.

However, we are not entirely clueless. After many years of expanding ecological awareness, we do know what some of the art of Gaianeering looks like. Add to this the insights of Incarnational Spirituality and research into the subtle realms, and a preliminary overview of suggested activity and practice is possible.

THE FOUR FACES OF GAIA

Gaianeering is the art of working with Gaia in our lives. Just what this means depends on how we define “Gaia.” To clarify this ma”er, I offer four definitions, the Four Faces of Gaia, each of which can be represented by a key word. These are:

  • Gaia as self-regulating biosphere; the keyword is PARTICIPATION.
  • Gaia as a way of seeing and understanding the world; the keyword is PERCEPTION.
  • Gaia as a subtle being, the World Soul, plus the collective spirit and energy of all the lives that participate with it to form the Earth; the keyword is PARTNERSHIP.
  • Gaia as a new consciousness within individuals; the keyword is PRESENCE.

Gaianeering is the art of bringing these four perceptions or aspects of Gaia into expression as a living wholeness within us and within our world. Let’s look at these four more closely.

First, there is Gaia as proposed and explained in the Gaia Theory, initially proposed as a hypothesis by James Lovelock and later elaborated in collaboration with microbiologist Dr. Lyn Margulis. Here, Gaia is a codeword for the synergistic relationships and interconnections between the organic and inorganic parts of the planet. These relationships, developed over millennia, create systems that regulate weather, temperature, and other environmental factors to create conditions favorable to life. Taken as a whole, these self-regulating systems and their interconnections suggest the biosphere is acting as a single organism, a living planetary being: Gaia, in Lovelock’s term.

I knew both Lovelock and Margulis. In conversations with them, it was apparent that Dr. Margulis doubted Gaia was a true organism; she saw it more as an emergent “system of systems” acting in complex ways to maintain an environment that would sustain life. In a way, Gaia was a homeostatic loop of life sustaining life. If “Gaia” possessed any consciousness at all, she said to me once, it would be something equivalent to that of a single-celled organism.

Lovelock, however, championed the idea that Gaia was indeed a planetary being, a true organism, though he agreed with Margulis that if it did possess consciousness of some nature—and my impression was that he felt that it did—it would be at a rudimentary level.

What both scientists agreed on was the sensitivity of Gaia’s internal systems—the interrelationships between organisms, weather, temperature, and so on. Both agreed that human activity was coming dangerously close to disrupting some of these systems or causing them to fluctuate towards extreme and unstable behavior. Climate change and global warming were indications of this, though there were others. In their view, it was possible to “kill” Gaia by so altering environmental conditions that the homeostatic stability—the capacity of Gaia to self- regulate in favor of life—could be lost with catastrophic results.

For Lovelock and Margulis, the importance of the Gaia Theory was not that earth was itself a living organism but that whatever it was, its balanced systems could be upset by human activity. Gaia for them was a call to change how we interacted with the earth and to realize that we could not continue to act as if the planet were somehow separate from us. We were an integral part of the web of Gaian life, and if that web were destroyed, we would be lost with it.

The act of Gaianeering with respect to this “Face” of Gaia is to participate in maintaining and nurturing the many environmental systems that sustain the balance of life on earth. It is to act in a “Green” and ecological manner.


*This blog post, excerpted from the essay “Gaineering”, will be presented to attendees of our upcoming Gaineering Conference. Click here for more information.

“Hey! Tell Me Before You Tear Down My House!”

By Julie Spangler

On a lovely spring day in the early days of the Findhorn community in Northern Scotland, sometime around 1970, a visitor handy in the ways of the bulldozer was helping clear the land for the construction of the community’s new building to house their printing endeavors. It was an innocent enough task as these things go, but as this earth moving was taking place, Peter Caddy, founder of Findhorn, received an emergency phone call.  On the other end of the line was his friend and colleague Ogilvy Crombe — ROC to his friends — calling from Edinburgh where he lived. “What are you doing?!?” he asked in his soft Scottish accent. “I have an apartment full of angry nature spirits carrying suitcases saying they are leaving your community. They say that you have broken your promises of cooperation.”

Now Peter was puzzled. The work at Findhorn was all about cooperation with nature and with the subtle beings who work with tending plants among other things. As far as he was concerned, he had done nothing to offend them. Peter did mention the bulldozer, however. That was the culprit. It turns out that while it is recognized by the nature spirits that humans do at times need to clear land, it is how we do it that is important to them. ROC told Peter that clearing the land is okay as long as it is done in love and in partnership with the beings who live and work there. The bulldozer is a tool which can be used with love and do no harm. But alerting the beings who live on that land is important. Why? So those associated with the plant can begin to withdraw the energetic patterns they work with to allow the removal to be done in harmony with the land.

Working the land with love and communicating with the spirits attending it has been a key note of the work at Findhorn. In using the bulldozer, the visitor had not been instructed to inform the nature spirits that this activity was planned so it came as a shock to them when this monster came along and began tearing up their homes. To them, the bulldozer had no life and thus it was not visible to them until it began to impose itself into their domain.  

Nature clears land all of the time through storms, fires, floods, etc…. The difference is that a natural event is part of the world of these subtle beings and they can see it coming and prepare themselves; in fact they can work with it. Human tools are not visible to them and cannot be anticipated without the humans themselves being in communion with the land.

Peter apologized through ROC, promising that the humans would behave better in the future if the nature spirits would come back home. And in fact it became protocol at the community that whenever any changes were planned for the land, respect for the lives living there would be offered through communicating what was to happen, when, and why.

Human tools abound in our world. Technologies currently exist which would be considered miracles 1000 years ago. Even 100 years ago, many were unimagined. Dick Tracy’s wrist phone, once a cartoon character’s silliness is now a reality. Communications are fast and global. Robots are doing work people used to do, and artificial intelligence is becoming a reality. It seems that whatever a human can imagine we can create. We are more and more detached from the land we depend on and rarely is the intent communicated to the land or the subtle forces associated with it.

This point was brought home to me last week when I saw a video of a farmer, part of an agribusiness, plowing his vast fields by sitting in his office in front of multiple screens monitoring the work of his huge automated combines! Amazing! So much back-breaking work which used to be done by human hands is being done by these robotic semi-intelligent machines. What a labor saver! And yet, I found myself feeling chilled by the sight.

How easy it is to disconnect from the land, treating it as a tool rather than as a living partner in growing food for life. It used to be that a farmer was directly on the land, feet and hands in the soil, out in the weather, feeding the land in order to grow healthy crops. Often there was love of that land entwined with the hopes for fruitful harvest. But one doesn’t need to work the land with hand tools in order to treat it with love.

How does this relate to the farmer with the combines on screens? He could be operating those machines unconsciously, allowing them to cut and chew the land without any awareness of how cut off from the land he is. Or he could be seeing those machines as extensions of himself as he loves his land, opening the soil to receive the love with the seeds. The machines could also be seen as part of a living team with their own cooperative intelligence. People often name their machines, giving recognition to the partnership that is offered. In this way, humanity can maintain a communion with the land, with Gaia, and still create new miracles of technology, miracles of connection and participation rather than of disconnection and alienation.

To me, that is one aspect of Gaianeering. Staying in touch with the life all around us, natural or man made, and engaging in partnership through love and communication no matter what work we are doing. We can harvest plants and still be honoring them, full of gratitude for what they are giving us, for the sustenance, for the tools to create and build and for the capacity thrive on the earth. And in return we give back our love, our energy and intent, our knowledge of how to enhance the environment, how to nurture, how to consciously partner.


At our upcoming Gaineering conference, from July 28-30, we will focus on the pioneering work of forming partnerships with the multiple dimensions of Earth’s living ecologies. There’s still time to join us. Click here for more information and to register.