1. This World – An Organic Unity
The most fundamental step, if we want to face the ecological challenge in a practical and effective way, is to recognize the fact that the whole earth has to be seen as an organism, an organic unity. Just as we understand the body of a human being as an organic unity in which each cell is connected to every other cell in the body, there exists also an interconnectedness, the reality of which we are starting to experience now more and more, predominantly through its negative manifestations.
2. Individual Initiatives And Global Measures
We need to understand this situation and recognize that individually we do have some possibilities, and also responsibilities. The initiative has to come through the recognition of the individual’s part and this will also bring about changes in the outer world. In fact it can run parallel with the globally organized efforts from outside, because it is not really separate. Now, when I use the terms “individual”, the “root part” and the “peripheral part” they may give the impression that the inside and the outside are two different things. It is simply that the root needs a certain kind of treatment and the leaves need another kind. The leaves will reflect what is done to the roots. One can also do certain things in the organizational and structural areas of the outer world and it is good to consider these steps too.
Therefore “Esoecology” indicates this organic unity and approaches this situation in which we find ourselves from the understanding of having to deal with the roots and the leaves of the same tree. Eso represents the essential, the fundamental, the inner basis in us. The question is what steps can the individual take and what are the measures which need to be taken on a global, organizational level? It is important to consider both these aspects at the same time. Let us consider first some of the organizational aspects.
3. Water, Air And Other Important Resources For Life On This Planet Under The Administration Of The UNO
To start with the understanding that the whole earth with its resources of water, air and other aspects of nature is part of the heritage of all human beings will be of tremendous value. This global oneness, when understood and recognized as the basis, enables us to take steps which can bring about a healthy balance.
Therefore all countries could empower the United Nations to become a body which coordinates and oversees the usage of the natural resources together with the national governments, and in this way the problems can be more effectivly dealt with.
It could suggest a taxation formula so that all the expenses connected with these measures could be taken care of globally. For the use of air and water, and for directly or indirectly polluting it, the industrial complexes need to pay a certain amount of taxation. These funds can be distributed globally and help maintain balance of these resources.
4. A Part Of The Military Personnell To Be Further Trained To Function For Environmental Care And International Developmenthelp With The UNO As Coordinator.
Another significant aspect is: As more and more countries recognize that they do not need such huge armed forces, there is much apprehension about how to make the necessary changes. One of the biggest fears is that the soldiers will become unemployed, but that can be counteracted by incorporating these energetic, trained people in the peaceful and creative challenges of global caretaking.
All those people serving in the military and other security forces can play a very valuable role in bringing about a healthy ecological balance. If this is coordinated by the United Nations, with consultations between the nations, then many of those soldiers and officers can bring the understanding and discipline which they have gained through their experience in the armed forces, to support the helping and caring activities throughout the world. These persons could work for peace, by using their understanding and their experience from their military background and applying it to help to create a healthy environment all over the world in which humanity can survive the challenge of these catastrophic situations. (*)
This also would present an opportunity for an exchange through which people from all different parts of the world could meet, interact and understand each other more directly.
5. Helping Industries To Switch Over To Environmental-Friedly Products
Yet another valuable step can be taken when national governments under the coordination of the United Nations help with alternative perspectives those factories which have been involved in the production of arms and other military products as well as certain other firms which are involved in the production of polluting and hazardous materials. They ought to be helped to switch over to products needed for ecological and other peaceful purposes with scientific know-how and generous financial support out of the former military budgets. In such cases also those persons who may become unemployed can be incorporated in regional and global environmental and social projects.
One of the most important and fundamental requirements in all of this is to go about it in a loving and creative way.
Another important factor in this context is that the industrial nations which, after all, have been the initiators of most of the strong changes leading to the ecological imbalance also take the initiative and take definite steps to redeem the situation and re-estabish the balance. They have, on the one side, the capacity with all the scientific know-how, the qualified personnel, as well as the necessary wealth to do this; on the other side they have a great responsibility, because they see the situation and understand the implications more clearly than anyone else.
Industry needs help and support to find new ways of functioning within their framework. This delicate and careful issue can only be realized by a loving persuasion and a heartful approach. So, all who are involved have a great responsibility first to consider new possibilities and then to implement them in their own areas, on whatever level they are working. The implementation of these tasks can be successful only when it is undertaken in a very sensitive, intelligent and sympathetic way. Otherwise there is the danger that any idea, any concept, when it is handled blindly, in a `heady’ way, can become inhuman, violent, and incapable of really bringing about true understanding, and thus lose its sense.
6. Overpopulation, Poverty And Their Interconnectedness
Another very significant factor and a great challenge is the increase in population. Overpopulation and poverty are closely interconnected. It is significant to see how they are also interconnected directly or indirectly with the destruction of the environment and the ecological imbalance.
In most areas of the world where there is an over-proportional increase of population, religious and traditional ideas play a very important role along with poverty and ignorance. Without the necessary understanding about birth control or the means to implement it, being entangled in traditional and religious concepts and guilt feelings, and being under the pressure of many unnatural and inhuman situations, most of these people have no other way of enjoying life than concentrating their search for pleasure in sex. In such a state of poverty the problems multiply with each new birth.
This is where another very important factor comes in: the attitude of religious leaders towards population growth and birth control. It is a very sensitive area where the religions need to reconsider their responsibilities.
In such situations of poverty and extreme pressure, when people find ways to make a little money by doing something or other, they often do it without considering if it is a sensitive step for the ecological balance or for the needs of nature, and without even considering how it will affect themselves in the long run. When the population is exploding rapidly and there is the pressure of hunger and poverty, people have little concern for nature. If they feel that by burning the forest they will be able to plant their crops and fill their bellies, they will burn the forest. If one cannot offer any feasible alternatives to people in such an endangered situation, it is difficult to accuse them when they destroy the rain forests or cultivate drug producing plants for their bare subsistence.
So, the religious leaders need to meet and go about this very carefully, looking at the actual situation courageously to see what is really healthy, what is really sensible, what is truly loving, what is of fundamental value now, and what is actually in service of the life process! What many religions are doing now – probably out of some misunderstanding – is that they continue burdening people with feelings of fear and guilt.
Instead of creating a sensitivity for life by developing their consciousness, many religious leaders try to control people through rules, laws and political influence. Even if it may not have been intended that way, the result very often is inwardly torn and unhappy human beings. It is important to help people to be free from guilt feelings and fear of punishment and help them to forgive themselves and others for their mistakes in order to live creatively and joyously.
For example, currently in many countries there is a controversy about abortion. This is a very important and delicate issue. If the religions and those people who consider themselves religious make it a question of rules, of law and punishment, then they are making it an issue which is dealt with only on a superficial level. The religious people have to take the initiative to introduce a new consciousness, so that people can act differently out of their own understanding and not because they are afraid of being punished, nor because they feel guilty, nor because they have been forced to keep their mouths shut by some apparently clever arguments.
These areas have to be dealt with in a very conscious and responsible way. In some cases, for example, it may be sensible for a woman not to have any more children when the parents are not able to feed and take care of the child, or due to some other reasons they are not in a position to raise a child. It would be wise to consider deeply before giving birth to an unwanted child or exposing it to unbearable living conditions.
When poverty and distress are on the rise, when there is no hope and life itself is in danger, more and more people are drawn to the rich countries. In this way the problems of poverty and the population explosion become problems for the wealthy nations as well. Then the people of these wealthy nations have the choice of either closing their frontiers and staying hard and insensitive towards human tragedy and pain, or to deal with this situation in a humane, loving and intelligent way. If these well-to-do people react in an insensitive and hard manner, it will surely result in an emotional hardness and personal insensitivity, affecting themselves and others near to them negatively in many unforeseen ways.
There are enough resources to fulfill the basic needs of all human beings who are on the earth now. The question is simply how we are prepared to handle these resources, how we distribute them and with what means we propose to heal the damages we have inflicted on the environment. It is more a question of allowing our hearts to have a say in decisions on these issues.
Here the United Nations, in close participation with all countries, could commit itself towards creating all over the world a ‘subsistence minimum’ concerning the basic necessities for healthy human living and comfort in accordance with the particular standards and values of the country in question.
7. Ambassadors Of Life And Friendship ( ALFs )
These persons from the military and other available sources after the necessary further training can bring about their understanding and the personal capacities peacefully for the benefit for the environment and in helping the human beeings in need, and thereby support in overcoming the catastrophical situation of the planet.
These Ambassadors of Life and Friendship (ALFs) could help in implementing the decisions of the United Nations in a loving and creative way, since the know-how and trained personnel to apply it are unavailable in many countries.
In the countries of the so-called `third world’, where there is a lack of knowledge and understanding in certain very basic areas of organization and technical matters – the kind of knowledge which is taken for granted in the industrialized countries – these ‘ALFs’ could work for peace as counsellors and helpers and stay there for six or nine months or longer if needed. They also could opt for a longer stay in countries where nature is very much polluted and where there is an urgent need for the ecological balance to be re-established.
In this way the military personnel can find new ways to use their energy, and the understanding and capabilities gained during their military life can be put into service for peaceful coexistence and the survival of humanity. In thus taking up these challenges and developing their abilities they can become a very creative force and a real hope for humanity by using all these energies in the service of peace.
8. Significance And Responsibility Of The Individual Human Being
Now we come to the essential aspect of the individual.
All the above steps and all areas where further steps are necessary can become possible only when there is more and more initiative coming from those who understand these matters and who are approaching it in a sensible way. It is not that we don’t have the know-how and the means to do it. There are perhaps more than sufficient knowledge and ideas. But, all these can really become effective only when we are in touch with our own part in it, our own individual state of being, and by seeing our unconscious entanglement in many areas of our lives which prevents us from living our real potential.
So, in a way an individual initiative for ecology and survival has nessecarily also to do with consciousness. It is a sign of maturity when a human being starts to recognize that it is not the quantity of wealth, power, or prestige, but the quality of understanding and insight which is more important in living a fulfilling life.
The political leaders are mostly bound by those who vote for them. When they feel that a majority of the people are pulling in one direction, they feel afraid to take any step which is going in a direction contrary to popular opinion. So, opinion among the majority of the people is somehow the factor to which the politicians are orienting themselves. If we expect that politicians will really take effective steps, we have to ensure that there is a new consciousness growing on the individual level.
Also, in another view, the individual’s initiative can be seen as a very important aspect. Many of our entanglements in life have to do with certain set patterns of living which we have acquired. To see this clearly we need only to watch someone who has become addicted to something – for example, someone who is caught in the habit of smoking, or in the habit of drinking, or in the habit of eating too much…. In a similar way we are holding on to certain attitudes towards life, certain mental patterns and certain habitual ways of obtaining comfort and pleasure to such an extent that we ignore our real needs and are left in the end without any real joy and pleasure in living. Very often we get settled in many of our patterns of conditioning so much that any step to get out of them seems to be very difficult.
It is important to recognize that the individual exists as a significant part of the whole, like each cell somehow has the understanding that it is part of the organic unity of the body. Then each action of the individual cell stays in tune with the whole body. But, when the cell loses touch with its reality and starts acting on its own, without considering the reality of the whole body, it becomes a cancer cell. A cancer cell destroys the whole balance of the body and thus destroys itself too in the long run.
The individual needs to see that he exists as part of the whole natural cycle of life – but this can be a lasting understanding only when the remembrance is kept alive by one`s own initiative in the process of living. That is one of the central points in the understanding of Esoecology. In this way it will not just remain a program somewhere in the head, it will become an understanding which goes into our blood, into our marrow, which goes into our hearts, which goes into our very guts. Only such an initiative gives strength to our roots and that is what makes us really alive.
9. Individual Initiative In Practice
It is beautiful to observe that whenever someone starts taking the initiative this person becomes more wakeful, more alive, more open to life and starts intensely to participate in life. Even if no one else seems to take the initiative, those who begin start benefiting because naturally they are starting to move deeper into life and feel more healthy and more joyous.
For example, before starting the day, one could take a little time to feel and sense one’s inner state. Not thinking about oneself, but more a feeling of oneself and being one with the wholeness of nature – just like a cell is one with the whole body! It is a small step, perhaps taking a few minutes, and in the beginning it may appear a little difficult because we are more often accustomed to engage ourselves with some kind of activity or other and remain outwardly oriented without turning our attention also inwardly.
It may be a little hard for many people to start with this, and that is why we need to take the time and the initiative to feel ourselves deeply. We begin by feeling our bodies, we feel our connection to the surrounding nature, we feel our breath. When we are breathing in, we are breathing in the oxygen which the trees have produced through their leaves. We feel life nourishing us with necessary energy and we feel ourselves a part of the cycle of nature.
The air we are breathing out is taken in and absorbed by the leaves and they give out fresh oxygen again. From the point of view of the human being, the plants and their leaves are functioning like an extension of our body itself, since without such functioning of the plants the human being cannot live on this planet. So, we feel ourselves with our bodies and with our energy, and remain with the moment without any effort, simply being with what is.
Those who find it difficult to sit and get in touch with themselves can take certain active steps. One interesting possibility is the Vital Life-Flow practice. It supports physical well-being and inner harmony and is a simple way of coming in touch with our nature as well as an important factor in becoming conscious of our reality.
With every breath, fresh air and fresh energy are coming in. Breathing in is like a new life, a small new birth process for the body. With the inhalation we feel this freshness, this new birth. In breathing out we experience a letting go which happens naturally. It is not something which we have `to do’, but it is an involuntary happening by itself with each cycle of breath. In breathing out, in this letting go, we experience also a small death. In each cycle of breath there is a small birth and a small death. When we begin to observe life, staying aware of this process, we may begin to recognize that what we call life is like a river which is flowing between the two shores of birth and death.
Birth and death function as two polarities and create the life process. One can not drop one or the other of these polarities; they both play an important role. With the breathing in we remember and feel this aspect of birth and with the breathing out we feel the aspect of death.
Breathing in while standing or sitting we raise the arms and keep the eyes open. This raising of the arms is also a sign from our side to be open to the indefinable reality of nature and to be receptive. With the breathing out we bend forward and inwardly allow a conscious, deep letting go. We allow our forehead to touch the ground and remain like that till the inhalation happens naturally. While breathing in again we lift ourselves up, open the eyes and continue with this cycle of breathing. For those who are not able to do these steps or do not feel like doing the body movements, they may just stay with the breath cycle – remembering and feeling birth and death as well as opening and closing the eyes. It is a very supportive and helpful possibility.
The important factor is that through this exercise we come in touch with the natural cycle, basically with nature itself, and allow nature to bring about harmony. Generally, it is good to do the active part of this practice for about half an hour and then sit quietly for another half hour. To begin with, one may also do the active part for only a quarter of an hour and be quiet for another quarter hour. During the second period of quietness the eyes are kept closed. It is good, after these quiet states to celebrate these moments with some music and dance. In celebrating, singing, dancing, laughing, there is a `yes!’ to life and this is a beautiful beginning for the day.
Another possibility is to go for a walk in nature. One can go for a walk without occupying oneself with anything else and feel one with nature. We can be with the trees, with the forest and the fields, and feel ourselves as part of the air, as part of the light and relax as a part of the whole process of life around us and feel it from inside.
In order to relax and to feel and to connect with the moment, it is possible to begin with various other steps like dancing, swimming, jogging, or doing certain other sports. That way one can come in touch with an intense feeling of energy, a feeling of the body, a feeling of the whole organism – and then be still and feel ourselves and just stay with what we actually are in the present.
That we are a part of the whole of reality is not something which we have to persuade ourselves to believe in or to convince ourselves of logically, because it is simply a fact, and all we need to do is to feel, to sense and to recognize what really is. When one relaxes deeply, one starts feeling this connection oneself. It is not something which is artificially managed. We only need to take steps to disentangel ourselves from our mechanical lifestyles again and be with the reality of “now”.
In the beginning it is helpful to choose an exercise and experiment with it for seven weeks to get a taste of it. Then you can incorporate it, according to your own experiences, into the life process.
There is also another interesting practice called `Psycho-Emotional Block-Busting’ (PEBB). Here there is only one thing to be remembered: when we feel inwardly emotionally hurt, sad, frustrated, or are entangled in some negative feelings, we can approach this in a different way than we commonly do. We can look more deeply into the roots of these feelings in us and observe which role or image, which ideal or expectations we are clinging to, and deliberately, consciously let them go. We need only to take some time for ourselves to stay in touch with these areas and then be inwardly ready to let this cleaning up process happen.
I came in touch with these helpful observations while I was studying in school and did some experiments after I read about certain insights of a wise person. He said that our inner sufferings are connected to our clinging to our wishes. I considered it as a possibility and started looking into it. Always when I was sad, or upset, or feeling unhappy, I started looking inside to see if it really was connected to my clinging to some wish. It was amazing to recognize that it was really so. That gave me a feeling of freedom and joy, and also a certain responsibility to recognize that it is my decision to cling to the negative feelings or to let them go and allow the natural joy in me to arise. In order that others may also benefit from these observations I have called this approach ‘Psycho-Emotional Block-Busting’ (PEBB). One can try it out for oneself, to clear emotional blocks and bring clarity into his/her life.
We need to take from our religious and cultural backgrounds whatever is helpful and relevant for our present situation and we can bring all those possibilities into our lives which contribute towards the unfolding of our consciousness and love.
It may be said that the original significance of various religions was in helping human beings to find their place and their connection to the wholeness of reality. Misunderstandings about and within religions have led to dogmatism, fanaticism and destructivity.
Once a friend asked me how he could come to a realization of living the environmental cons-ciousness. I replied: “Begin by feeling and staying awake to the reality which is hiding behind the idea and image of the concept ‘I’. When you say ‘I’, do you mean the body, or the mind with all its conditioning, or the whole inner strength you feel? What is the root of the so-called ‘I’?!!!”
In this ongoing encounter with the dimensions of the ‘I’, consciousness flowers – and that opens up one of the greatest avenues of understanding and sensitivity which continues to enrich the quality of our lives.
10. The Important Step For Survival: A Jump From One-Dimensionality To Multi-Dimensionality.
Real help for the environment can not be confined just to following rules or programs; it is in living a life of care and initiative with joy and playfulness as well as a committed participation.
It is of the utmost importance that everyone seeks for ways to get closer to himself. A certain personal decision to work with an inner discipline can be a crucial factor in gaining experience, growing roots and flowering in life.
It is of even more fundamental help for our environment – though it may not be directly visible at first – when someone takes the responsibility for using his/her energy and strength so that one does not get entangled in hatred, revenge or similar negative feelings, thoughts and actions, which are poisoning his/her own emotional life and emotional environment.
Consciousness enables us to act according to the needs of the situation in a flexible and intelligent way – without having to suppress or cover up the negative. For that purpose each person has to take up the initiative in his own way and avail himself of all conceivable help.
It is even more significant when we learn to distance ourselves from all our identifications and to look at reality without immediately putting it into some sort of category. In this way we are able to obtain new perspectives and insights and find a deeper connection to life.
It can be very helpful and have a mutually supporting and encouraging effect when several people come together with this aim. So, together with friends, acquaintances, and anyone who is interested, one can create a sort of center giving helpful impulses for individual initiatives. With this possibility we are also working in Freiburg.
Such individual initiative centers can arise all over and provide inspiring possibilities for many people to bring about a new quality into their lives.
If we meet these challenges in a human, open and playful manner, then it may perhaps become clear to everyone that this planet of ours, as well as this body we are living in and with which we are identifying, are presents of nature. We should not and cannot afford to take them for granted.
Only a jump out of the mechanical one-dimensionality to a flexible multi-dimensionality will help us to respond creatively to this situation and to survive. We need to learn to use the mind with all its different possibilities consciously, like we may use a computer, rather than our being used by it. Consciousness and the love which blossoms along with it can be the basis to realize this multi-dimensionality.
There is a tremendous urgency at this point to slip out of fixed roles and automatic reaction patterns, to recognize the emergency of the present and be flexible to allow the whole of the human potential to unfold in each of us. Only thus can we act in a loving and intelligent way, respond to the actual needs, and survive this crisis. This crisis, this challenge offers a tremendous, unparalleled opportunity, a possibility for a more human and more beautiful way of living together on this planet.
Author note: As some readers of the first version of this text seem to have misunderstood the role of the military, I would like to clarify here that soldiers are not there to impose some concepts through power, but as civilians, fellow human beings going peacefully in friendship.