I have been thinking about how to call upon our ancient wisdom traditions to encourage our cultures to be more sustainable. Most of these traditions seek balance between body, mind and spirit in order to create inner harmony and outer peace. Very often, these traditions focused on the individual, on bringing mind, body and spirit into awareness and connection in order to create inner peace and wellness. Indeed, this is something that we have the power to do in our lives, while focusing on other people often brings us conflict and turmoil.
Yet, we do not withdraw from our families, communities and nations in order to focus just on ourselves. We are inextricably inter-twined with the world around us, so with our in-breath we focus on inner peace and with our outbreath, we focus on bringing peace to the rest of the world.
All to often, we fail to see the full breath of spirituality. It is important to find tranquility when the world is in danger and turmoil, but with the in-breath there must be an out-breath.
So it is that sustainability requires self-care that maintains a healthy balance between individual and community, between humans and the natural world. We can not achieve this simply by cultivating our own tranquility any more than we can by satisfying our own greed. Integrating body, mind, spirit, emotion, community and nature is the larger goal. We must not accept the current sense of human beings as a population of individuals disconnected from each other and from the natural world. This simply does not work.
"Divine Primates," my book project, is a call for the global re-integration of body, mind, spirit, emotion and community. Our current cultures divide the world up in ways that prevent us from relating to our fellow humans and to nature in ways that are sustainable. Mind has been elevated at the expense of body, spirit, emotion and community. Instead, our cultures need to make a large shift from honing the skills to manipulate and exploit nature and mankind to focusing more on the skills to live within the constraints of economy, nature and geopolitics. These can all be gradually accomplished, but not without new cultural images and values that celebrate humanity and human nature as part of the natural world rather than as perfectable beings destined to live as gods. Nature does not allow for the survival of any species that refuses to adapt to change, us included.
It is one thing to bring back functioning spiritual systems into our lives. But, at the same time, we must reconnect our minds and bodies with our emotions and create a new sense of belonging to this planet and to the larger community of humanity. Science and technology have changed us. Global economics have changed us. The world has shrunk and old cultural patterns have changed, but the human race is still adjusting to our growing interdependence and need for cooperation in economics, science, culture, politics and spirituality. Without evolution in these directions, we can not create sustainable, peaceful relationships with each other and with our planet.
On a personal level, many of us are familiar with the quest to integrate the various aspects of our lives and consciousness - body, mind, spirit, emotion and community. This process allows us to live in more tranquil and productive ways and makes us more effective as people. This integrated awareness is inherent in our ancient spiritual traditions, whether they are Judeo-Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, American Indian, Shamanic, etc., but our dominant cultures have become imbalanced. In addition, the same universal principles that apply to individuals also apply to national and global relationships. Their application to our collective global awareness can help us to repair our short-circuited and distorted cultures focused on narrow-minded greed and manipulation. With the integration of body, mind, spirit, emotion and community, we can create new cultural tools for sustainable human living.
"Divine Primates" is a journey, not a blueprint. We need to avoid our tendency to settle on quick-fixes and "perfect solutions." The journey is for our long-term survival and we will need all of our intelligence and discerning to avoid painting ourselves into more corners. Culture is the most powerful tool we have in this process, and yet it is diffuse and anarchic, tending towards fads and fancies rather than wisdom. If culture remains in the hands of Madison Avenue or Wall Street, we are in terrible trouble.