I have been thinking about ecology, which is the study of how beings interact with each other and their environment, to better understand what terms like “eco-spirituality” and “spiritual ecology” mean. Ecology seems pretty science-y, and science and spirituality are often thought of as opposites. Both spirituality and ecology are about relationships, however, and there is crossover in the way we relate to the land and the beings with whom we share the land.
I was disappointed in my religious tradition of origin and many of the others that I have explored because the concept of relationship seemed to end with humans, and often did not even extend to all humans. The land, and living on it, seemed to be something to overcome or control. I cringed ever time I read or heard about the “lesser beings” who we supposedly had dominion over. My own experience taught me differently.
I do not work with deities in my spiritual practice. The personification of divine energy does not resonate with me; instead, I see that energy expressed in every living thing and in the land itself. After struggling to even say “God,” which felt like an obstacle to an interfaith ministry, I redefined that name for myself to mean the universal divine energy.
If I am an expression of divine energy, the other animals and plants are expressions of divine energy, and the land is an expression of divine energy, where is the separation? How can we possibly have power over another life or the land if we are all, essentially, the same?
I contemplate those questions during my morning outdoor meditation time as I watch the squirrels and birds in their morning activities. That contemplation has shifted my relationship with the land I am on. Like a human family has shared genetics, the land and I are of the same stuff.
It is in this realization, I think, that spiritual ecology comes to be. I, as a human animal, interact with the land and the other beings differently when I see us as the same. My spirituality influences my understanding of ecology, and my study of ecology influences my spirituality.
And here we sit, the land and me, divinely intertwined.