From 21- 25 March 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change Retreat for Young Ecologists from North America here in Costa Rica. This retreat was organized by the Global Peace Initiative for Women (GPIW) in partnership with the Earth Charter International and funded by the Kalliopeia Foundation with the intention to foster dialogue about climate change and to awaken our consciousness of our relationship with Mother Earth.
This retreat was one of many regional ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreats, which have gathered young ecologists and spiritual mentors to examine the deeper causes and solutions to climate change. The retreat gathered 28 young ecologists from the US, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia. The programme began with a visit to the Earth Charter Center to introduce the history of the Earth Charter and how it can be used as an important tool in spiritual dialogue.
We had the special honor of receiving one of the youth indigenous members, Pacha K’anchay, from the Kogi tribe in Colombia. Pacha led a ceremony at the Peace Park where he blessed the land and gave a Message for our Time from the Natural World.
We then headed for Puerta a la Vida, an eco-lodge located in Puntarenas, where we spent the rest of the days in dialogue, reflection, and discovery. The spiritual mentors facilitated the dialogue sessions. Sessions included understanding the full scope of the crisis, finding the deeper roots of the present crisis, the spiritual dimensions of the crisis, reviewing our personal activism and strategies, and finally consolidating a US movement around climate change and care for the Earth.
Mentors Dena Merriam, Hanne Marstrand Strong, Swami Atmarupananda, Sraddhalu Ranade, and Mindahi Muñoz shared wisdom from their various traditions and experiences. Mentor Sraddhalu Ranade from India spoke first about the bigger underlying issues we are facing today in order to understand how to communicate these issues to others. It was very evident from the beginning of these dialogues that many of the US participants are facing severe hardships in their communities back home and the mentors’ dialogues needed to adapt to this. The concept of a safe place was very important to clarify from the very beginning, making everyone feel welcome and safe to express themselves as they wish.
The sessions continued, Sraddhalu later went into memes which are tautologies, ideas, or seed thoughts. One of the most interesting memes we touched on was the meme, “evolution happened by chance.” According to Sraddhalu, the conclusion of this mentality is that there is no other life in the universe.
“Everything in life is not by chance, do not look at things as a product of chance but look at them as a way or a purpose of expressing itself.” – Sraddhalu Ranade
Flowers do not bloom by chance; they bloom because they want to express themselves. This conversation gave me much inspiration and enlightenment for how to address conversations with people who feel disconnected from a higher being or from our Mother Earth.
On Day 2, we focused on the spiritual dimensions of our current crisis. Here, we heard from Mentor Mindahi Muñoz about how we can learn from nature to solve our current crisis. If we are able to connect more to our rivers, trees, soils, rocks, and all landscapes we can hear what these living beings are trying to tell us. Mindahi reinforced the importance of being open to a spiritual connection with nature. Later we had a productive World Café session which helped the participants get to know each other more and connect on a more personal level.
On Day 3, the agenda had been adapted to the needs of the participants. We desired more interactive activities within groups. One activity led by a participant is called Corbett from Joanna Macy’s book “Coming back to life.” We all sat in groups of 4-5 under the large Vida Tree, a beautiful Higueron tree at the eco-center. Each person has a different role, one person states their intention they would like to focus on after leaving the retreat. The others in the group are different voices in your life. One is the voice of doubt, the other is the voice of your ancestors, the other is the voice of your future generations, and the last the voice of Mother Earth. Then you rotate and change roles. I was extremely touched and moved during this activity, it was one of the most impactful moments for me during the entire retreat. Each person considers and advises your intention from their own perspective. When you have the chance to change between large group and small group settings it really helps the flow of the emotions and feelings. Many people feel more comfortable speaking and opening up in small group settings. I noticed a strong sense of community and oneness between everyone after this activity took place.
Being a part of this retreat as the youth coordinator for the Earth Charter was special to me. I was able to connect on a deep level with many of the participants; I built relationships and memories that I will cherish forever. Many people saw the value and importance of using the Earth Charter as a part of these spirituality dialogues. Especially when there is tension and discord. The most important message I took away from this retreat is the importance of listening, respecting all opinions and thoughts, and communicating how you are feeling. It is ok if we all don’t agree, but the only way we will ever advance towards peace, harmony, and a sustainable world is if we listen and talk to one another.
“To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.” –Preamble, Earth Charter
Written by: Earth Charter Youth Projects Coordinator, Christine Lacayo