August 19, 2010

Clark Strand's "Green" Spirituality

If you haven't been following Clark Strand's columns about Green Bodhisattvas on tricycle.com, you should be. It is fascinating and inspiring to watch Strand flesh out this idea that all ancient wisdom traditions share some type of eco-spiritual roots. His belief is that humanity has fallen out of touch with its intimate connections to Nature, and that we need to reestablish that connection urgently. Ever since his feature piece “Turn Out the Lights” appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of the magazine, Tricycle has been helping provide a forum for Strand to articulate this worldview. Through his online retreat on Green Meditation, this series of Green Koans, his upcoming “Green Bodhissatva” column in the magazine, and his teachings at the Green Meditation Society, Strand is building a framework around his idea that we need to become reacquainted with the “green” teachings of our ancestors.

Initially, I had my reservations about endorsing Green Meditation (and to be honest, I still haven’t tried it), because it didn’t seem to be rooted in anything that I was familiar with. Great, I thought, a spiritual teacher cashing in on a modern buzzword by claiming it has ancient roots. But then I had a couple of realizations: 1) “green” is a modern buzzword because we didn’t have environmental problems like this in ancient times and 2) we can learn things about how to handle modern environmental problems from ancient spiritual teachings—because they didn’t have these problems for a reason. What Strand’s “green” spirituality idea lacks in historical precedent, it makes up for with its intuitive draw. The world is facing some mind-numbingly serious environmental problems. Perhaps Strand's collection of and teachings on the "green" wisdom from ancient traditions can help alleviate some of those problems—or at least help to cleanse polluted spirits.

Green Koan #8: Basho's Last Words

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Alan's picture

I'm with Luke - the ancients (and not-so-ancients) had their environmental catastrophes. A wonderful book called "A Forest Journey" documents how deforestation near ancient cities changed local landscapes, sometimes filling estuaries and harbors with silt and runoff, and eventually leading to the city's decline. "Catastrophe" tells similar stories. The deforestation of Easter Island should be taught in all schools. But an environmental catastrophe doesn't need to be man-made. Ice ages? Mt. Vesuvius' eruption?

'Green' thinking is something for all of us to investigate and incorporate, but maybe not as a new way to cling to life.

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[...] Tricycle » Clark Strand’s “Green” Spirituality tricycle.com/blog/?p=2201 – view page – cached If you haven’t been following Clark Strand’s columns about Green Bodhisattvas on tricycle.com, you should be. It is fascinating and inspiring to watch Strand flesh out this idea that all ancient wisdom traditions share some type of eco-spiritual roots. His belief is that humanity has fallen out of touch with its intimate connections to Nature, and that we need to reestablish that... Read moreIf you haven’t been following Clark Strand’s columns about Green Bodhisattvas on tricycle.com, you should be. It is fascinating and inspiring to watch Strand flesh out this idea that all ancient wisdom traditions share some type of eco-spiritual roots. His belief is that humanity has fallen out of touch with its intimate connections to Nature, and that we need to reestablish that connection urgently. Ever since his feature piece “Turn Out the Lights” appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of the magazine, Tricycle has been helping provide a forum for Strand to articulate this worldview. View page Tweets about this link [...]

Luke Devlin's picture

Actually, in 'ancient times' there certainly were environmental catastrophes: the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest works of literature in the world, is an account of a great flood and how people dealt with it. Not to mention the Biblical accounts of the flood, and Noah's response to it. There are several others from ancient cultures around the world, and I think we can learn a lot from our ancient ancestors from how to face the major climatic changes we are likely to have to deal with.

You're right, though, in that conceiving it as 'green' is a modern conception, and we need to develop new practices and resiliences building on our traditions. 'Green Spirituality' is certainly one way, although there are many others.