Willa’s Story – Spiralling

willa_spiralSeveral years ago, I participated in a retreat on ecospirituality hosted by a community of Catholic Sisters.  At the retreat, we experienced Joanna Macy’s ritual, “The Council of all Beings,” in which I represented the bee.  I remember how I felt the suffering of the bee.  In another ritual, “The Cosmic Walk,” we walked a spiral path that symbolized the emergence of the universe over billions of years and the unfolding of time, space and matter on planet Earth.  With these rituals, the facilitator showed us how to engage with nature in a “mutually enhancing relationship,” – a way of being interconnected that recognizes the sacredness of All.

The Sisters introduced me to contemplative centering prayer, a practice, which opens another door to nondualism.  It is another piece of the puzzle that totally fits.  It is unity consciousness that moves away from dualistic and hierarchical thinking.  The Sisters mentored me as I explored this larger story and in exchange, I volunteered to edit their e-newsletter.

I attended a conference where I heard Vandana Shiva speak passionately about the ecology of water.  Satish Kumar spoke about how seeds and biodiversity are threatened by GMOs.  I asked myself:  “What can I doHow can I act on this new knowledge instead of being paralyzed by despair?”

When you get involved with women…my goodness!  A decade earlier, when I was in my 40s, I joined a group of Catholic feminists in Ottawa who met regularly to discuss women’s spirituality.  Writers on theology led me to explore creation as a source of revelation. When you understand God as immanent and transcendent in all things, it is easier to recognize that nature is not ours to exploit simply for gain or profit.  Thomas Berry asks us to accept science and quantum physics as congruent with a nondual worldview in which nature is sacred; he calls our attention to the ‘maternal’ aspect of this world that has nourished us into existence.

My learning was deepened by watching videos, including Brian Swimme’s “The Journey of the Universe”.  Participating in a sweat lodge ceremony gave me valuable insights into Aboriginal eco-spirituality.  I continue to grow in my understanding of interconnectedness, that ‘All is One.’

The garden is one of my teachers; we enjoy a mutually enhancing relationship.  The bees work at pollinating and I work at choosing plants that are rich in pollens so that we can work in mutually enhancing ways.  The bees are attracted to the flowering spikes on a Blue African Basil in a pot on my patio.  In the morning, I sit mindfully near the plant, knowing the bees will not sting me, because we are together in this.  Food security — for both bee and humans — is the by-product of the interconnection between the bees and gardeners.  Bees don’t work ‘for’ humans, but there is a mutual benefit in working together.  As a gardener, I participate in the cycle of life.  Composting is another example of a mutual exchange with nature.  I try to be receptive – to listen and observe.  When I am present in the moment, I experience a generosity of Time.

willa_beeLike bees in a hive, many small people can have a large impact.  I exercise my voice as a member of Seeds of Diversity Canada, which organizes Seedy Saturdays across Canada.  I am convinced that seed saving is critical to food security and resisting Monsanto.  As a member of Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, I support biodiversity. I harvest rain using barrels in order to act on my concerns for water ecology.  I advocate horticultural practices that use alternatives to chemical herbicides.  I write letters to politicians to advocate for food security and a healthy environment.

My journey toward ecocentrism has intersected with my faith journey.  It seems that spiritual communities that take a vow of poverty experience a life of sharing and have much to teach us.  The community of sharing experiences how the earth shares.  A spiral is a symbol of my journey with nature.  In a spiral I may circle round to a similar location, but it is never the same place, because each circle opens up a lesson to a greater depth and interaction.

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