But conversions don’t just happen because we are told to change. Sometimes they are a gradual process, sometimes a Damascus Rd. experience. But we do need to change if our planet is to survive in a way that will sustain future generations. Perhaps people of faith could offer the world a practice that would offer a way of responding positively to the crisis we find ourselves in and guide us in a process of conversion which would lead us to love our world and our place in it to the extent that we willingly make sacrifices for the sake of the whole. Three practices come to mind.
The first practice would be to honour the pain of our world. When Tich Nhat Hanh was asked, what’s the most important thing we can do to care for life on earth he replied” to hear within ourselves the sound of the earth crying”. This means having the courage to look at climate change, at pollution, at the loss of biodiversity and recognise how we humans have inflicted such wounds on other life forms to the extent that many of them can no longer sustain themselves. It is to stop, to feel remorse and regret. It is to hold this pain in our hearts and pray as the Buddhists do, ‘may you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering’. Or to hold the pain in your heart and imagine the light of love shining on it as the Quakers would do. Joanna Macey suggests that this practice could then become a gateway to a new identity and a sense of interrelatedness with all of nature.
A second practice then would be to deepen our sense of interrelatedness, to recognise that we are living cells in an amazing organism, that we are indebted to the whole process of photosynthesis to be able to breathe freely. Judy Cannato, in her book ‘Radical Amazement’ says “one of the most awe-evoking moments in Earth’s evolution came three billion years ago when a simple primitive cell mutated and began to capture light from the Sun in the process we know as photosynthesis”. And life on earth is today dependent on that evolutionary mutation. We breathe only because of the forests, trees and plants that capture solar energy and transform carbon dioxide into the oxygen which we need to live. The trees and plants which give us the gift of life are truly our brothers and sisters. To sit with this thought, to feel the sun on our skin, to be aware of the energy that it pours out upon us, an energy that enters every cell of our bodies, to be aware of how we are sustained by it and the whole infrastructure of plants and trees is surely also a practice to lead us to an appreciation of our place in the whole ecosystem as receivers of life.
Would these two practices not then lead us to gratitude, to recognise the giftedness of our life? Each of us has been called forth since the beginning of time and given birth at this point in history. The whole process of evolution has led to the moment of our birth and there is much to be grateful for. This is a moment to stop and appreciate all that comes to us as gift. It is to look around us and give thanks for what we have and who we have in our life. It is to recognise the blessings in our life and to enjoy them. A wise person once said that to enjoy what we have is to live less materialistically and simply, something the world today is crying out for. If I truly appreciate each mouthful I eat, I will eat less. If I appreciate the clothes I have I will buy less.
Three simple practices within reach of all of us which I suggest will lead us to a conversion of heart that will help us see life with new eyes and devote ourselves to the future well-being of our beautiful blue planet.