It is all too common for people to mistake the familiar for the normal. I have along the way. I remember when I was a very young child, looking around me into the world. I saw adults taking out these little white cylinders of paper and putting a match to them and then breathing in all the smoke. It disturbed me, and I wondered, what is that all about? It left a bit of an odour in the air, and was certainly not something that was enjoyable for me, so naturally I wondered how it could possibly be enjoyable for other people.
Later on, as an older child, I started going to the movies, and there I saw all these heroes, all these cool dudes that I looked up to, and nearly all of them were smoking, and everyone apparently thought they were so cool in doing it. I thought to myself, I want to be cool like that. So I lit up, joined the crowd and felt very cool in posturing with my cigarette and blowing the smoke out in a particular way.
How crazy this is! With the wisdom of hindsight, I can look back into my life and see that there was something that was taking up space in my consciousness at that young, impressionable age, where there should have been an awareness of what is true and what is genuinely normal. In other words, my consciousness was beginning to be filled up with all kinds of limiting beliefs and assumptions about how things were and how things should be—how things were modelled to me by my seniors, even by my parents—instead of being filled with a sense of the true potential for my life.
I came across a saying recently that goes like this: “The belief that leaves no room for doubt is not a belief, it’s a superstition.” How much of what we see as “normal” in the world doesn’t leave room for the reality that things could be some other way? How much does our culture scream out to us, at the top of its lungs, that the familiar is the way life should be, leaving no room for doubt? The problem is that the familiar culture is not sustainable for humanity or for the planet as a whole.
In an article entitled “Spiritual Ecology: The Solution to Our Climate Change Crisis” Sufi teacher and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee wrote these words, particularly related to the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico:
Spiritual Ecology is an exploration of the spiritual dimension of our present ecological crisis. At the core of Spiritual Ecology is an understanding that our present outer ecological crisis is a reflection of an inner spiritual crisis. Recently many people have been made aware that we are at the “eleventh hour,” or even a few minutes before midnight, of a global ecological situation that could result in catastrophic climate change or other irreversible global situations. However, we are less aware of the inner spiritual crisis that underlies this outer crisis—that a lack of awareness of the sacred within ourselves and within all of life has created an inner wasteland as real as any outer landscape.
Those of us who have been given a knowing of the sacred within ourselves and within the world have a responsibility at this time. We may ask ourselves, “What can I do?” but the inner world primarily requires consciousness rather than action. It is the lack of an awareness of the sacred that is at the root of this crisis. Therefore we first need to bring the light of our spiritual awareness into the present predicament.
There is much in these words that resonates strongly in me. I have a growing love for sustainability and ecology, but not merely as a survival strategy. It’s easy to think, “We’ve got to do something, because otherwise everything goes down the tubes.” But true spiritual stewardship has to come from an inner space of centring in the sacred, from the reality of who I am as a creator-being. We each have the inherent ability to bring this true spiritual stewardship into all of our decisions and actions, and as we activate this gift in our daily living a life-giving pattern is brought into our human culture and to the ecology of the natural world around us.
Another way of looking at this is that there is a substantial harvest constantly coming to us that we have the responsibility of gratefully receiving and blessing. That harvest includes people—people’s hearts, people’s response, people’s questions, people’s ideas, people’s desire to collaborate, to co-create. There is a wealth waiting to be welcomed and received. I love the phrase that is used in some of the Eastern philosophies, which speaks about a field of infinite possibilities. What is possible to us depends on the vision we hold, and with a large enough vision, it’s all available.
Even a cursory examination of the human condition on the planet right now should convince us that there are serious limitations to the vision that can be held in a self-preoccupied consciousness. Thank God for that, because imagine the destruction that would be wrought if self-preoccupied function had free access to an infinite field of possibilities! It does a pretty good job of causing havoc with what is available to it in its present state. I don’t think that it needs to be given any more power than it already has. On the other hand, a consciousness that is yielded in humility to divine Source—which is in reality at the core of that consciousness and actually created it in the first place—can hold an expansive vision and can generate the energy of love that will allow that vision to manifest on Earth.
I discovered a quote the other day from Arnold Toynbee, a British historian who lived in the early 20th century. He said: “Material power that is not counterbalanced by adequate spiritual power, that is, by love and wisdom, is a curse.” Spiritual power brought into the world by those who know in humility that it’s theirs to bring and who have the wisdom to balance the material power that’s already present can allow a shift to occur in the way humanity relates to that power.
The invitation to connect with and release this power has to be extended broadly into the world for a truly life-giving culture to replace the myriad cultures of corruption and conflict before the latter totally engulf the planet and seal its doom. This creative invitation was powerfully extended in the recent Creative Field Conference in Cape Town South Africa. Something wonderful was born as the conferees embraced the theme: “South Africa, Your Destiny Is Calling.” The formal sessions and the poignant Destiny Concert strongly conveyed the message: “World, your destiny is calling. Humanity your destiny is calling.” Who will join in extending this invitation? We who have some awareness of what’s going on and why we’re here are the ones. And we are ready and eager to welcome whatever might come back to us in response to this call.