Most of the present approach to environmental crisis is scientific, technological and external. In this article, the author argues that the root cause of the problem is within us; it lies in the separation of our mind and heart and disconnect from our body which has a direct intuitive contact with the universal energies of physical Nature. So, lasting remedy to the crisis can come only through a process of inner healing.
The Root Cause of the Crisis: Inner Discord
Certainly the rapid degradation of our environment is forcing us to look within ourselves to find the root causes of our environmental problems. As we dare to look within, we realize that our connection to the Earth is deeper than we think. In fact, this connection has nothing to do with thinking, for it’s only when we stop thinking that we can begin to experience our relationship to the Earth and the larger family of life.
We are taught to think about and evaluate everything but rarely are we encouraged to feel the feelings arising in our bodies or listen to our inner bodily knowing. This intuition or inner knowing arising from the body is closely connected to the energies of the natural world. But the body also is where we experience emotions – both positive and negative. In order to protect ourselves from feeling the painful emotions we sometimes create a separation between the mind and the body so we don’t feel the pain. We literally disassociate our hearts from our minds.
The consequences of this self-protecting strategy are enormous. Once we can’t feel the painful emotions we also can’t feel the positive ones. We simply can’t feel and are no longer in touch with the innate wisdom of the body. Once we’ve disconnected from our body we are also disconnected from the Earth because our body is our direct connection to the non-verbal energies of nature.
Then we begin to mistakenly believe that we are separate from the natural world and that we can and should control nature. We can then abuse and overuse environmental resources for our own gratification and never feel the pain of our destructive actions. This separation of our intellect from our emotions – our hearts from our minds – has allowed us to make the decisions that have resulted in the acid-induced mortality of the forests, the expansion of deserts, the unprecedented disappearance of species, the plummeting water tables, and targeting whales with LFA sonar. The separation of our hearts from our minds has created the environmental crisis – we have created the crisis from the inside out.
Once we have lost our attunement to our bodies and the cycles of Nature, a sense of exile grows within our souls. We feel alienated and empty and often act out various forms of violence and abuse against ourselves, each other and the Earth. Cutting down acres of irreplaceable virgin forest is a violent act but we can no longer consciously feel the effects of our violence.
We want to remove our suffering and anxiety from our awareness and try to fill up the emptiness with substances and experiences including material goods, relationships and power. These things can temporarily distract us but are not a lasting solution.
The power principle is out of balance on the planet. The need for power leads to the greed and domination that contributes to the environmental crisis. Our drive for power must be brought back into balance with the more right brain qualities of compassion and nurturance. As we rebalance these two forces within ourselves, creative solutions to environmental problems will naturally arise from the depths of our being and these energies will be rebalanced on the planet.
As we consciously make the decision to heal the separation between our hearts and our minds and release the blocked energies in our bodies we are returning our souls to our bodies. We will then be able to feel the harmony and natural laws of the Universe in the very marrow of our bones. We will no longer abuse ourselves, each other or the environment. We will remember our intimate connection to the intricate web of life.
Healing from Within
We can’t use technology to clean up the mess technology has created. The solution must come from a deeper source. Years ago Rachel Carson said, “We have to love nature before we can protect it.” We can begin to reconnect our minds with our bodies – our intellect with our heart – by consciously coming out of denial, by admitting there’s a problem and by going deeply inside. We can begin to trust our inner world. We can allow ourselves to become fully human working with our bodies to release the blocked energies and feel the full range of human emotions.
We can feel our anxiety, grief and rage about the deteriorating state of the natural world. We can feel our love for Nature. We can remember rituals that help us connect our inner and outer experiences and feel our rootedness in the natural world. Rituals help us quiet our busy minds and gets us into a state where we can sense and feel things usually overridden by the verbal chatter of the dominant left brain. Then we can hear the voices of Nature. We can engage in contemplation and spend time in Nature alone or in groups reconnecting with the natural world.
My research on the impact of human marine activities on endangered whales has taught me many things. By being in the company of whales I have learned how we can live in harmony with other creatures on this planet. Listening to their haunting songs helps us remember our connection to the larger family of life. They remind us of the magic of Nature.
Humpback whales in the North Pacific all sing the same song and it is the most complex song on Earth. Their song is constantly changing in the same way in whales separated by thousands of miles of ocean. Scientists cannot explain how this happens – it is one of the great mysteries of Nature. Their effortless combining of immense strength and power with gentleness and grace reminds me that it is possible to balance the active, goal-oriented energies with the compassionate, nurturing energies within each of us.
Certainly it is important to work on a specific environmental problem such as stopping the destruction of the rainforest or protecting endangered species. But in order to successfully address the environmental crisis it is essential to transform ourselves internally.
Need For Inner Transformation
As we heal the separation between our hearts and our minds we will find new images and balanced energies within that nourish us and value life. We will become protectors of the Earth and all her creatures. Our goal is to reawaken the innate sense of our relatedness and reciprocity with natural law – to heal the alienation between ourselves and the natural environment – to co-create a partnership with the natural world rather than imposing our will. We can look at the natural world as the source of all sustenance and satisfaction instead of thinking of it merely as the background for our human activity. Only if we are willing to transform ourselves will we be able to successfully address the most pressing set of problems ever to confront humanity.
Marsha L. Green, Ph.D., Ocean Mammal Institute.
Marsha L. Green, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology/ Psychobiology at Albright College where she founded the Psychobiology and Environmental Psychobiology programs. She is the founder and President of the Ocean Mammal Institute (OMI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to doing ecologically sensitive research on marine mammals and their interactions with humans.