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Spiritual Practices as a Guide for Climate Wellness

The world's religions have long regarded nature as a reservoir of spiritual meaning. For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the Earth reflects the glories of God. For Buddhists, Hindus, and Taoists, nature reveals important truths about life. And for aboriginal peoples, the land and all its creatures are spiritual teachers that should be listened to and respected.

For each video in our "Living in a Warmer World" series, we offer one spiritual practice that can help us express our gratitude and wonder, yield to the mystery and the beauty of it all, and ultimately demonstrate kindness and courtesy toward our planet and each other.



Week one. "Climate Change as a Chronic Condition"

Being Present. Annie Dillard has written: "My God, what a world. There is no accounting for one second of it." Get personal with one small piece of the Earth. Sit in the dirt in your backyard. Play in the sand at the beach. Roll in the grass. Stand under a waterfall. Sense the Earth as an animal senses it. Be really present with your planetary host. (excerpted from Spirituality and Practice)

Week two. "Small Changes, Big Impacts"

Paying Attention. Whatever we're looking for in the world is what we tend to see. It's all a matter of focus. Here's a chance to explore how your intention can affect your view of the world:

Go outside and pay attention to your surroundings. Look up at the sky. Do you feel a breeze on your skin? How many different sounds can you hear? Is the light casting shadows in some places, and highlighting others? If you can, take a walk, being mindful about your focus and attention. Consider making this a daily practice, and keeping a journal about your experiences and insights.

Week three. "Working Together, Locally and Globally"

Walking Meditation. Go for a walk—outside if you can, but inside will do, too. As you walk, recite a short verse or prayer that is meaningful to you, and repeat it as you walk. Or use the following, from a Navajo prayer:

“In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk.

It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.”

Week four. "Climate Change Tipping Points"

Personal Tipping Points. In a moment of quiet - perhaps outdoors, perhaps while meditating, or maybe while journaling - consider: have you experienced a tipping point in your life? A moment when suddenly, it felt as though the ground shifted beneath you and your perspective shifted?

Sometimes in our personal journeys, tipping points can be positive developments, opportunities to leap into new growth and possibilities. Are there any personal tipping points on your horizon?

Week five. "Know Your Sources"

Discernment Two-Step. When you are evaluating new information or perspectives, or trying to make a decision, how do you know what’s true? How do you decide?

Many traditions offer practices that begin with a quieting of the mind: meditation, prayer, journaling, listening. Many traditions, too, encourage receiving guidance from a community: consulting the teachings of one’s tradition, talking with a religious leader, getting feedback from others in the community. If you are in the process of discerning, try this two-step process: first, quiet your mind and listen; then evaluate with the help of others in community.

Week six. "Preserving Diversity"

Stages of Climate Grief. In 2007, Nobel Laureate Steve W. Running suggested that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief could be applied to our feelings about climate change. His five stages are: 1. Denial; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; and 5. Acceptance. In 2012, Daphne Wysham wrote this blog post about those five stages and added a sixth: Doing the Work.

Read about these stages and consider: where are you? In your personal response to climate change, are you angry? Depressed? What steps can you take to move closer to taking action and “doing the work”?

Now think about others in your community: your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and members of your religious community. Where are they? Are there things you could do to gently move them closer to acceptance and action? Spend some time in prayerful reflection, carefully considering our shared climate grief.