Ecology of the Spirit - Contemplative Journal

Ecology of the Spirit

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Ecology of the Spirit

The sun rises. The sun sets. In between, we tend the garden of our spirit. Each word uttered, thought formed, and action initiated impact the ground of our being. Through connections with our self, others, creation, and the sacred, we form the ecology of our spirit. With every life giving act our ecology flourishes and we deepen our connections in the world.

The ecology of our spirit can be a verdant garden or an arid desert. Mostly it manifests some where in between the two. Its condition depends upon our awareness and our ability to be mindful. When we focus on past regrets or hurts, we often starve our connection to others. We lose touch with our self.  The same is true when we are forward focused on worries and dreams. By living in the past or reaching for the future, we neglect to cultivate relationships in the here and now. Instead of being a place that flourishes, the ecology of our spirit fills with blighted areas. Through awareness, our blighted areas become fertile.

When we are aware, we are energized to find ways for the ground of our being to flourish. Instead of trudging through the mundane, we perceive the world through the lenses of the extraordinary. We act with mindful compassion. The blighted areas in our life heal. We move into a state of hyperawareness where colors appear richer, sounds clearer, texture more discernible. Living in the moment, we are alive in ways that nudge us to live in connection. The more we practice being in the moment, the easier it is for us to maintain a mindful stance.

In a stance of hyperawareness we notice connections and see life patterns. For example, we may have feelings of unease when we are with someone. It may only be after the interaction that we an “aha moment” in which we recognize the root of our unease. We might be surprised to discover it has nothing to do with the other person and every thing to do with our woundedness. Once aware, we can prune the blight and nurture our garden in ways that heal our wounds.

Epiphanies are interpretations of messages relayed when in a state of hyperawareness. We gain understanding of our self and our world. This understanding shapes a truer personal reality. We identify our illusions and recognize how we project them onto onto the world. For example, we may hold the illusion that we are unloveable. Believing our self to be unloveable may be projected on our interactions with others. This creates a loveless blight in our garden. When we no longer hold this as truth, the fertile replaces the blight.

Even if we are unable to rid all illusions from the ecology of our spirit, through awareness of this falseness we experience the world in very different ways. Instead of accepting all illusions as true — like believing that we are unloveable — we are diligent for the triggers that strengthen this belief. Noticing the catalysts, we dig deeply into the authentic core of our being each time we choose not to accept these falsehoods.

Identifying the fears at the illusion’s root gives us power of choice. We can continue to believe the illusion or we can look for the truth hidden behind it. Accepting the truth, we are able to rescript our responses. Each time we reframe our experiences, our worldview becomes more authentic. With increased authenticity, those things we hold sacred become more noticeable.

We recognize the sacred as existing in those things that we hold in deep reverence. Through this recognition, we view the world as extraordinary. Our life reflects the wonder and awe of creation. The ecology of our spirit becomes vibrant, intentional, interdependent. No longer separate, we seek ways to be in deepening relationships with our self, others, the sacred, and all of creation.

Many spiritual masters create windows through which we peer in to the extraordinary. Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, shared his famous epiphany on the Corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, Kentucky. He saw that everyone was “shining like the sun.” But, this is not the only epiphany that Thomas Merton shares. Like many spiritual masters, he provides rolling epiphanies within his written words. Merton’s perceptions in New Seeds of Contemplation invite us into a world of the extraordinary.

Much of our life we spend unaware. This does not mean that we do not have epiphanies. Rather, we are not alert to those aha moments. Even when we are consciously unable to identify the insights nested in our epiphanies, we do not always miss these moments. In fact, we may respond to these gems of inner wisdom unconsciously.

Each time we respond, our ecology of the spirit flourishes. We may notice the beauty of a sunrise, but, only later during reflection, do we recognize the message inherent in its beauty. The sunrise may sow the seeds of hope in our life. All of our interaction with others over the course of the day may be reflections of that hope.

Understanding that we are interdependent leads to a greater awareness of the state of our ecology of the spirit. When we understand that our life is meant to be spent in community, we more easily recognize the intent behind each of our connections. Then, using a tool of awareness, reflection, we identify how our connections contribute to the flourishing or the blight of our spirit’s ecology. We own the ways we create a blight in the ground of our being and, with clarity, remove these it. Illusions gone, our actions consciously identify the sacred in our garden. Our ecology of the spirit becomes a reflection of our authentic self.

Through this intentional gardening, we create a fertile space for growth within the four aspects of our self: our body, mind, spirit, and emotions. No longer content to live with even a small blighted plot, our chosen actions and words better reflect who we are. Through awareness, we prevent inauthentic words, actions, and thoughts. We integrate information received through our rolling epiphanies into our present moment. As we celebrate the many ways the sacred presents in our life, the ecology of our spirit flourishes.

Vanessa Hurst
Vanessa Hurst

Vanessa Hurst is author of the book Engaging Compassion Through Intent & Action. She is a member of the Coordinating Circle for the Partnership for a Compassionate Louisville and coordinates its awareness campaign. A practicing contemplative for over 21 years, the natural rhythm of her life is to intentionally share compassion with herself, others, and all of creation. Vanessa holds a master’s degree in Natural Health. In her practice as an intuitive healer and spiritual mentor, Vanessa understands living contemplatively and compassionately as the roots of healing. For her, compassion is a lived experience, one she hopes will touch all her relationships but most profoundly her relationship with her son, Merlin. She hopes to inspire many to engage compassion through intent and action. Her new book, "A Constellation of Connections: Contemplative Relationships," is now available on Amazon.