By Kuya Minogue, resident teacher at Sakura-ji, Creston’s zendo
It’s not difficult to find stories of intelligence in nature. Take the Amazon Rainforest, for example. How does a rainforest exist 1,000 miles away from any ocean? It doesn’t make sense to my limited human understanding. Most rainforests are coastal.
Stephen Harding, resident ecologist at Schumacher College of Ecological Studies, says the rainforest has intelligence. It produces chemicals that seed clouds, which drop rain, which lowers air pressure, which draws in more water-laden air from the ocean so the chemicals can seed more clouds. Brilliant! Some ocean algae do the same thing. Isn’t that amazing?
This same intelligence shows up in recent studies of how trees communicate through underground mycelium networks to nourish and protect each other. How is it possible that we humans, who are composed of all the same elements, do not share in this mysterious intelligence? We do. We see it in our bodies. When I’m too hot, my parts work together to help me sweat so the air can cool me off. When I’m cold, my parts work together to make me shiver so I can produce heat by rapidly burning fuel. I can do these things without even trying. So, it’s clear to me that at some level, I am not apart from nature’s intelligence; I’m a part of it.
But it’s not an intelligence that comes from a super-being sitting at the controls giving instructions. There is something here called “distributed intelligence”, or “collective intelligence”, and it happens through seamless co-operation among several individual parts. On the one hand, the leaves, the cloud-seeding chemicals, air pressure changes bringing inflows of moist air; on the other hand, my brain, neurons, blood, muscles and skin. This is a shared intelligence that goes way beyond my limited thinking, wishing, and controlling capacities. It’s an intelligence that is much more powerful. It is an interactive intelligence.
Sadly, it seems that over the last few centuries, many humans, especially heads of governments and corporations, have lost touch with that intelligence. It’s not intelligent to continue activity that heats the Earth beyond our capacity to cool off. In the Amazon, due to deforestation and fires, temperature increases cause water to vapourize before the ocean air reaches the forest. Here in British Columbia, old growth forests that contain and protect delicate planet-cooling ecosystems are being logged. This is clearly not intelligent. Why would we do that to ourselves? It just doesn’t make sense.
I’ve been reading on Facebook some reports of the impacts of heat on Creston Valley food growers. Some have run out of water, many are close to that. Local cabbages have gooey brown centres, and I’ve heard fears of an unimaginable, until now, squash failure. Is this excessive heat threatening our food supply?
It seems to me that it’s time to remember how to listen to the Earth. Each day, I dedicate a bit of time to simply listening. I have a special spot where I sit still, quiet my mind and listen. I listen to the birds, the wind song, the voices on the street, the cars on Northwest Boulevard. I deeply listen to the sounds that are coming to me, as well as to the wisdom that whispers within me. Listening helps to slow my constant stream of busy thoughts, so I can tune into that still small voice of guidance.
And it doesn’t take a mystical experience to hear the Earth’s cry for help, or to hear her imploring humans to slow down activities that cause dramatic increases in temperature. The Earth needs us to interrupt fossil fuel extraction and stop slashing away her trees, our shared lungs.
If you can, take some time to just sit and listen to the earth and to the voice of your inner wisdom. Ask yourself, “How can I be a trigger that gently nudges me to take a small step towards having governments and corporations hear and respond to the intelligence of the earth. Or maybe you have already taken that step, and now you can play a role in sustaining and maintaining the changes you’ve begun.
– From the teachings of Active Hope Training