So far we have looked at how our relationship with nature may be in need of some attention, what a healthy relationship might look like and the values that can tell us if we are on the right track. You may have gathered that how that healthy relationship is defined is entirely up to you – or at least half up to you! This course has some pointers to help you, but each of us has a unique set of values with different priorities assigned to them.
If you have ever been in a dispute with someone, you may be familiar with that point in the debate where you realise that you might be in some way at fault, but are being somewhat defensive so as not to look or feel bad. Until we stop defending our position, there is no chance of changing tack. So it is important to be kind to ourselves and forgive any past mistakes. All the time we are still under attack (even from ourselves), it is likely that some part of us is still invested in trying to defend our position rather than simply acknowledging the mistake and making a course correction.
So Foundation Stone 6 is forgiveness. This may include forgiving yourself, it might include forgiving companies involved in damaging the environment, parents, governments or even nature. Why would you want to forgive companies that damage the planet? In short, the reason is because they also have a position to defend, they also (at some point) probably did not realise the consequences of their actions and have been equally stuck in a mindset that says that bad things will happen if they do not continue to grow, make money or whatever else. They probably will not change unless they are allowed to – forgiveness and cooperation can make this possible. Fighting and punishment almost certainly do not. That is not to say that we should not be mindful of whether we are making genuine progress or just paying lip service to the principles of making meaningful changes.
I have found it really useful to journal about forgiveness. I wrote lists of what I needed to forgive myself for and what I was angry with others about. Then I looked for ways I could see how things might be caused by honest mistakes. Sometimes it requires us to dig through plenty of layers. For example, we might be angry because people knowingly polluted or littered etc. The act of polluting or littering may not simply be an honest mistake. However, the thinking that led to it could well be. To a certain extent people are unaware of the full impact of their actions, they do not value whatever is damaged by it or they feel it is too difficult to behave any differently. Even if it seems impossible to find a root cause that makes it easier to forgive, I find that it helps me to recognise that harming others is also an act of self-harm, that people who do this need compassion and that if they are happy and have all they need, then they will probably not be inclined to harm others. So I wish them well and hope for healing.
This is tricky work. What we are really aiming for is inner healing. Carrying anger towards ourselves or others is toxic and stands in the way of healthy relationships and our own wellbeing. This brings me to the next foundation stone.
Until we can challenge some of our underlying beliefs, it is extremely hard to change some of these habitual patterns. My excessive consumption came about because I had a belief that I was not good enough, that I was broken and needed to be fixed. The next Foundation Stone is Self-healing. We have to do a bit of inner work to bring about positive outer change.
Self-healing can take many paths. If you look at your values, you may get some clues from the places where you do not always act according to your values. For example, I recognised that my excessive shopping conflicted with my strong value to help the planet so here was an area that I really needed to work on. At its core, I think the healing is associated with our disconnected concept of self – we tend to see ourselves as a mind with eyes. We listen to our thoughts as though they define us. There is far more to this than can be included within this course, but mindfulness and nature connection can help us to explore it. I also find books such as those by Eckhart Tolle very useful.
Activity: You as Nature
There is another, more fundamental reason why you (and everyone else) is worthy of forgiveness. Underneath all the conditioning and ideas about who you might be lies a living, breathing being – the same being that you were on the day that you were born. You are nature. In connecting with nature, I have found that I start to connect with this part of myself. In the same way that trees are exactly, unquestioningly as they were created – “imperfections” and all – so are we. I am not sure beings from any other species questions whether they should improve themselves – I have yet to find one. Human beings seem to have this huge capacity to believe that we should be like someone else!
So this activity involves focusing on your hands (you can choose any other part of your body too). Observing really closely your unique fingerprints, the way your fingers move, any lines or markings – all part of nature and determined by your DNA. This is just one small example of how you are uniquely perfect exactly as you are. However your hands are formed is exactly as they are meant to be. Try noticing all the things they can do without you even having to give it much thought.
Remember – please do share your experiences in the Facebook group
If you enjoyed today’s session of the course, please do consider donating to Friends of the Earth if you have not already. This course is free and it is important that everyone who wants to can access it, so there is absolutely no pressure if you cannot afford to donate.
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