“I work at the intersection spirituality and ecology.”
I must have said this a hundred time at our Savannah Earth Day Festival on Saturday, where I sponsored a booth and met many wonderful people who care about our environment. I don’t think many of them came to talk about spirituality or faith or religion or God or the Divine, and many walked right past my signs saying things like “coaching for the soul.” Some looked away hastily and almost ran-walked to escape before I could speak to them.
Thinking about our inner selves is not a thing for many environmentalists. I know this, because for many years I was one. But then there was the woman who said as she signed up on my e-newsletter list, “I haven’t given my e-mail out to anyone else, but this speaks to me. This is what is important.”
I was so happy that she stopped by early, because she was my inspiration for the rest of what was a cold, blustery afternoon in Savannah. She and all the people I spoke with kept me warm from the inside out. As you might imagine, I had the most warming conversation with the rapper, Fire, who stopped by to chat about his spirit animal.
Another woman shared her story of just the day before offering hope to a woman who was afraid that the spiritual avenues she was exploring might take her far from the Christian faith she cherished. We compared notes on how contemplative prayer as a form of meditation is an integral part of our Christian heritage.
And what all of our conversations came down to is that it is impossible to do the work we are called to do on behalf of the world if we have not done the work we need to do within our own selves.
Sure, we can manage for a while to do what seem like good works, but eventually we will burn out the light inside that keeps us working for the right reasons. I call it alignment: lining up our internal motivations with our work in the world. And that’s important for at least two reasons.
The first is that a spiritually healthy person – whatever that looks like – can make better decisions for the sake of others and our earth. The second is the inverse – a spiritually unhealthy person can try to do good things, but find that the action didn’t help or even harmed the people or the planet it was intending to serve. In contemplative speak, we might say that it is far too easy to let our ego get in the way of the work we are truly called to do.
At the end of the day, I had many new contacts, a heart warmed with love, and very achy feet to take me home to ponder it all. Now that’s a good earth day celebration!
How are you celebrating or observing Earth Day this year? Did you do something over the weekend or wait until today, April 22nd, the official celebration? What does Earth Day mean to you? Is it a day to celebrate the earth? Protect it? Share your stories about it? How might your spirituality intersect with your care for the planet or another area of caring that is important to you?
Openings sponsors a book group on eco-spirituality and can bring a retreat on creation care to your spiritual group or community. We can also help you discern how to align your inner life with the work you do in the world. Contact Openings for more information.