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Deep Ecology & Re-earthing ~ Q & A

"...our DNA not only connects us to every plant and animal alive today, but to every single thing that has ever lived"
Prof.Brian Cox - The Wonders of Life


What is Re-earthing?

Re-earthing is a process in which we gradually identify more & more closely with the earth. The experiences which assist the process vary widely according to the individual. While there are workshops & manuals designed to assist with the process in a formalised way, my personal feeling is that they are best used after a period of simple practice, followed up later by some exposure to the ideas & values which underlie Deep Ecology.

What practices?

Start spending a short time - be realistic! - each day in contemplation, allowing your senses & thoughts to rest gently upon some natural object or scene in your normal environment. Do it regularly - ten minutes daily works better than 30 mins 2 or 3 times a week. Use the same object or scene. It should be real - not a picture or photograph. A patch of dirt by an iron fence where weeds grow is just as good, probably better, than a glorious rose bush. Or just contemplate the sky through a particular window. But make it a habit!


Spend a while each day in physical contact with the earth. Again, be realistic about the amount of time you have available. Regular contact is the important thing. You could simply walk barefoot on grass or dirt, sit or lie on it. You could plant seeds or seedlings, pull out weeds, gently, by hand, rub crumbs of soil between your fingers, stroke the leaves of plants & chat or sing softly to them. If you have nothing else, a pot plant will not only help you to re-earth, but will benefit immeasurably from your regular attention.

Engage at least once daily in deliberate mindfulness. Trace the connections between the earth & some action or object e.g. taking off your shoes - (?Skins from animals, rubber from trees, materials used in weaving or knitting fabric & laces, the people who made them, the energy sources used in their manufacture etc.) Be aware that some connections are unnecessarily damaging to the environment, while others may simply involve a sensible use of resources.


Perform some kind of ritual or symbolic act connected with the earth every day. This could be as simple as silently giving thanks before a meal, or engaging in the Yogic practice of 'Salute to the Sun' when you rise in the morning. Again, the important thing is to do this daily.

Don't do these things all at the same time - spread them out over your waking hours. The process need take only a total of 20 - 25 minutes a day, & can be carried out quietly, without fuss or drawing attention to yourself. After 4 or 5 weeks of regular practice, you will want to spend more time extending your connections with the earth in these ways, & others. But don't be in a hurry! You'll probably find that first few weeks harder than you think.

How does this kind of contemplation differ from my usual meditation? And should I do it as well, or instead?

I can't know exactly how you meditate. But the kind of contemplation suggested is broadly focused & inclusive, whereas most forms of meditation are focused inward, & exclude anything outside the self. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, this is misleading, as the processes are quite different. Both are valuable. In contemplation you are not attempting to clear or empty the mind, but to open the heart through the senses - to really pay attention. The process awakens you to the connections between yourself & the object of contemplation. In time, it ceases to be an 'object' & you cease to be the 'subject' or observer. You & the object of contemplation become one, & for a short time you may experience the world differently, as a fusion of the natural 'object' & yourself. For example, instead of 'you' contemplating a 'tree', you become 'treeness'.


What is Deep Ecology?

Not easily defined, but basically a state of heart in which all life-forms have equal value, & all life/death processes are equally respected. This state of being is at once joyous & deeply painful, & changes to the way of life are brought about by the passionate desire to live in harmony with all beings.
Some in-depth reading can be found on a number of sites, but I recommend you begin with the very honest and comprehensive:

What is your response to the well-known conservationist who refers to Deep Ecologists as 'Human-hating?'

This is an extreme reaction, resulting from an incomplete understanding of Deep Ecology, & almost certainly prompted by fear.
Deep Ecologists respect & reverence the life-force manifested in their own species, but do not stop there - the respect & reverence is extended to all life-forms. In doing this, they are not down-grading human life, but simply putting the human species into context. Deep Ecologists work to restore the cyclical balance of nature, which is not a static state, but one of dynamic stability, incorporating constant change.


What is the difference between 'Re-earthing' & 'Greening?'

'Greening' could be said to include any environmentally focussed action or attitude, & is a valuable concept. It may have a wide range of motivations, many psychologically & emotionally unsustainable. This can result in a high rate of burn-out among those involved in 'Greening'. Some actions may be counter-productive, because of incomplete understanding of a situation, particularly if it is based on a human-centred worldview.
'Re-earthing' is a process which aims to underpin 'Greening' with sustainable motivation, emotional support, & wise action. Because Re-earthing connects the heart & body, as well as the mind & spirit, with the earth, it sustains 'Greening', puts it into a broader context, & encourages deeper consideration of the effects of any proposed action.

Re-earthing makes 'Greening' more meaningful, it does not devalue it...............

'Before enlightenment, chopping wood, drawing water; after enlightenment, chopping wood, drawing water!'


What is the relationship between Permaculture, Deep Ecology, & Re-earthing?

Permaculture is a design system, based on the ethic of caring for the earth, caring for people, & returning all surplus to the natural cycle. While basically human-centred, it is readily adaptable to the practical expression of the philosophies of Deep Ecology. 'Permaculture is about protracted & thoughtful observation, rather than.....protracted & thoughtless action....' It designs systems which have the diversity & stability of natural eco-systems, encourages bio-diversity, & draws its practical principles from the close observation of natural systems.
Deep Ecology expresses ethics & principles which go beyond the boundaries of human need, & many committed Permaculturalists looking for greater meaning in their lives find Deep Ecology addresses their spiritual aspirations.
Re-earthing is a process of re-connecting with the earth, using every possible means which works for the individual or for the group, to bring oneself back into context with the whole of the natural world. It dissolves the boundaries between self & other - other being everything in the universe which is not human. Such processes often form a bridge between Permaculture & Deep Ecology & vice versa. Some people begin with a philosophy or ideology, & need to work towards its practical expression; some begin with the practice, & need to develop the philosophy & spiritual depth to underpin their actions.

Group Re-earthing Practices

A group of experienced re-earthers attending any public gathering connected with environmental renewal
can have enormous impact simply by their quiet presence.

They act as an 'earth' & a filter for the complicated energies generated by large numbers of people.

More formal group activities can include simple rituals on sites that need healing.......
Visits to sacred sites - every city is built on or around such ancient sites.......
Circle Dancing.......
One of many other ways of using dance for Earth Healing may be found on Joanna Macy's website at ELM DANCE
Blessing, healing & ritually cleansing the waterways,.......




Some links which combine various spiritual practices with ecological awareness:
THE WORLD PANTHEISM WEBSITE - a site devoted to 'Scientific Pantheism'
Since Paganism is an earth religion, it's worth an internet search.

A site dedicated to Spiritual Ecology -
" The Wilderness within awaits.....Bringing the spirit of the wilderness to the urban dweller"
Anthroposophical connections.
Anthroposophy is name given to the work of Rudolph Steiner,
originator of Biodynamic Agriculture, and the Waldorf Schools.

An ecumenical Christian websiteThe WEB OF CREATION explores eco-justice issues & advocacy.
In September 2005 a Liturgical 3-year CYCLE OF CREATION commenced, and is continuing.

A welcome innovation - The Scots Uniting Church in Adelaide, South Australia
has instituted an Eco-Ministry.

If you are more comfortable with the Roman Catholic tradition, visit the CATHOLIC EARTHCARE AUSTRALIA

helps religious communities around the world care for the environment.
NB - Their home page downloads fine on level 3 browsers, but some other pages have very long scripts, which can cause problems.

The transcript of an Ecumenical discussion on 'Ecotheology' can be found on the ABC's website - HERE


And please visit
now morphing into an e-book

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