Contemplative Ecology in About 100 Tweets

Contemplative ecology is a nonviolent revolution: inner and outer, psychological and societal, spiritual and material.


What Contemplative Ecology Is Not


Contemplative ecology is not a plan or a program or a practice or a path or a story or a system of ideas or concepts or beliefs.

Contemplative ecology is not a prescription for something that has to be done or achieved.

Contemplative ecology is not an attempt to bring about psychological or social change, but it can effect change at the deepest levels.

What Contemplative Ecology Is


Contemplative ecology is a nonviolent revolution: inner and outer, psychological and societal, spiritual and material.

Contemplative ecology is a change of perspective, in which nothing has to change for everything to change.

Contemplative ecology is radical, which means going to the root of what we think we are and how we view the world.

Contemplative ecology challenges the dominant social, political and economic orders by ceasing all activity that is not essential to life and erasing the false divisions erected by the mind.

Contemplative ecology demonstrates the lie that we need all the stuff we are incessantly commanded to buy.

Contemplative ecology reminds us that our essential nature is the whole movement of life: plants, animals, water, air, soil, sun, everything in relationship.

Contemplative ecology asserts the value of every living being for its own sake, not as a resource or commodity to be bought and sold to serve our ends.

Contemplative ecology is founded upon the reality of two great mysteries: emptiness and the whole movement of everything.

Commitment to the Unknowable


Contemplative ecology is a commitment to reality, inner and outer, the shallows and the depths, the known and the unknowable.

Contemplative ecology includes a commitment to the unknowable. What does that mean?

So much is happening beneath the surface where our senses live: the unconscious mind, the animals, the plants, the soil, the oceans.

The whole universe lives outside of our awareness, yet we act as if the world we know is everything.

Being still allows these other realms to speak to us and inform us in their own ways.

Realizing how little we know of the living world, we give it room to be what it is.

We don't try to force reality - the living world - into the confines of our understanding.

Undivided Attention


Contemplative ecology means honoring the world with undivided attention, although it is also much more than that.

Pay attention and see things as they are, no matter how uncomfortable that might be.

You can never know reality in its fullness, but you can't begin to think or act clearly if you aren't paying attention to what is going on.



Life is based on reciprocal, interactive, interdependent, creative relationships.

Everything taken for the sustenance of an individual or a community is returned in a form that supports the whole movement of life.

When we take more than we need for our sustenance it is because we believe we are separate selves.

The illusion of the separate self must be revealed.

The Diagnosis: The Separate Self Is The Problem


We are out of balance with the natural world because we are devoted to the illusory self instead of being devoted to reality.

All we ever know is a fragmentary image in the mind, the dead past. What we are is the whole living present. Always.

Yet we live in devotion to the known, dead image and we constantly attempt to flee from unknowable, living reality.

The Self


The self is hollow, an empty shell, a mask without a face.

The self is a story that the mind tells itself about itself in relation to the world.


The self begins in early childhood as a complex of survival behaviors to get attention and to conform to social expectations.

The self is conditioned by social rewards and punishments.

At some point a kind of optical illusion forms. This complex of thought and behavior patterns appears to us to be a coherent entity.

We are taught that the "self" defines us, tells us what the world really is and who we really are and separates "me" from "it."

We think our "self" is separate from the body and the physical world, separate from the plants and animals, detached from everything.


We pay more attention to the self - our thoughts and opinions and beliefs - than we do to the living world.

When the self comes into conflict with reality, we prefer the self.

We fight to the death to preserve the self, our self-image, our world-image.

Through this we create conflict, in ourselves and in our world, and we create deep division out of that which is essentially whole.

How The Self Consumes The World


The capitalistic demand for infinite growth is directly related to the demand of the "self" for satisfaction of infinite desires.

We are caught in an unending cycle of trying to satisfy the desires of an entity that has no real existence.

It is like a dream character trying to fill its belly. It doesn't work. We eat and eat and eat and never get full.

Believing in the reality of the self leads me to behave as if I am free to take whatever benefits "me."

Believing in the reality of the self leads me to behave as if I am free to destroy or manipulate whatever does not benefit "me."

The human economy has turned everything into a commodity to be manipulated, bought and sold to serve the infinite demands of the self.

Contemplative ecology reasserts the value of all living beings in and for themselves.

Everything is sacred, except the idea that anything is not sacred, can be abused without consequences, or is separate from everything else.

Is Essential Change Possible?


Is it possible for contemplative ecology to jolt the whole human enterprise out of its delusions and into reality?

The force of devotion to the unreal, half-baked stories of the mind - devotion to the self - is strong... strong that it can take a shock or a crisis to divert attention back to reality, even for a moment. Even for an individual.

Can the whole of humanity change direction?

What wolf or whale will look us in the eye and show us how wrong we are about them, about ourselves, about everything?

What will put a stick in the spokes of the industrial juggernaut, without creating a violent backlash?

The Solution: A Spiritual Revolution


We need a spiritual revolution...

"Spiritual" in this case means our most fundamental sense of who and what we are, our foundational self-images and world-images.

We need to change the fundamental direction of our life energy, toward the wellbeing of the whole movement of life.

We are incapable of bringing about such a complete revolution ourselves, so we need the help of the living world.

The Earth must intervene in our lives, to disrupt the destructive normalcy of civilization and our patterns of thought and behavior.

Emptiness Is the Key


Social revolution without inner transformation is inadequate. We need to encounter the essential emptiness of the self.

Anyone who says "we need a better story, a more compelling narrative" is giving more power to the story than it actually has.

Conscious experiences and stories are crumbs from the table of life. The source of the trouble lies much, much deeper than that.

Any solution to the eco-crisis must operate at the deepest, unconscious layers of the mind where our conscious stories do not penetrate.

Encountering the essential non-existence of any separate, enduring entity, any self, is what penetrates to the core.

The encounter with emptiness, the hollowness of the self, is the deep revolution.

Explanations don't do it justice. Emptiness is revolutionary. Emptiness changes everything.

Emptiness is the immeasureable.

Touched by the infinitely unknowable, nothing can ever be the same. Life is so much more than this petty little mind.



Emptiness is not an experience or a state of mind or a special state of being. You can't attain emptiness or experience emptiness.

"Emptiness" is a description of this essential aspect of reality: nothing exists in and of itself. Nothing exists except that everything exists.

Emptiness is the loss of everything we think we can possess: things and identities and experiences and states of mind.

This loss of autonomy, control, comfort, security, possessions, has always been part of contemplative spirituality.

The renunciation of self and possessions has been part of the spiritual traditions of every culture for millennia.

We must lose what we think we are, to find out what we really are.

Loss is central to physical life as well. Life is not possible without loss. Greed is deadly, the exaltation of illusion.

We do not like to lose anything. Modern human society is founded on infinite growth, the belief in individual will and ownership of everything.

The contrast between contemplative spirituality and contemporary human society could not be more stark.

The Contrast Between Self and Emptiness


The self defines itself by drawing a line through reality; the boundary of exclusion is the frame of the self.

Emptiness is the absence of a fixed identity. Emptiness is the inclusion of everything.


The self is ephemeral and fragile. It requires constant maintenance.

Emptiness is the whole movement of everything: visible and invisible; audible and inaudible; shallows and depths. It takes care of itself.


The self is a mental model, formed in infancy, shaped by social expectations, constrained by the senses and limited by consciousness.

Emptiness is the understanding that belief is fragmentary. Mental models are exclusive and divisive and essentially unreal.


The self is sure it knows who it is and how the world works.

Emptiness is the realization that this incredible life going on within us, through us, all around us, and without us, can't be known, can't be captured, can't be tamed, can't be owned.


When the self collapses, emptiness-wholeness remains. Emptiness is the presence of everything.

Emptiness-wholeness is unfathomable, but it has social, political, and ecological consequences.



Social revolution without inner transformation is inadequate. But so is inner transformation without changing social relationships.

Contemplative ecology applies directly to our relationships with the other animals and other people.

We carry beliefs about others; we prejudge them. We assume we know who they are. So we don't pay attention to them.

If they contradict our expectations, we mangle what we see and hear to keep our beliefs intact.

So pay attention to the other animals, the plants, the soil. Listen to them. Foster reciprocal relationships with them. Learn their ways.

Become well acquainted with the other creatures' intelligence and creativity. We can learn much from them. They can help us.


Because the wild animals are free of our ideas about them, they can shock us out of our assumptions and tell us about the world they know.

The other animals help us by challenging our sense of superiority, by upsetting the stories we tell about them.

They help us because they are gifted with senses we lack. They tell us things about the world we cannot know on our own.

If we are still and listening, other lives can speak to us in their own ways, which are not our ways.



We can't have a relationship with the natural world by having a storehouse of ideas or beliefs about the natural world.

Foster reciprocal relationships with the other creatures. Give back to them in equal measure to what you take from them.


The plants and animals are living beings with their own lives and their own reasons for being.

They are not products, commodities or resources put here solely for our use.

When we treat them like commodities, we miss the delight of knowing them as living beings with personality and individuality.

We also miss the opportunity to collaborate and cooperate with them in fostering the vitality and abundance of the living world.

The Whole Movement


Delusion is exclusive devotion to the products of the mind. Reality is the whole movement of life.

Everything lives within, and belongs to, and contributes to, and derives its essential existence from a system of interrelated systems.

Nothing exists outside of its context, outside of its relationships, outside of its interdependencies. Nothing stands alone.

What if we shed our devotion to our ideas about the world, and devote our lives to the living world that is right at hand?


When we stop living in devotion to the hollow self, we enter with candor into the reality of now, the living world.

Ideas Divide; Reality Is Whole


The human mind incessantly spins webs of illusion and calls those illusions reality.

The human mind prefers its illusions to the truth.

Emptiness-wholeness challenges social, ethnic, gender, even species boundaries, which is not to be confused with having bad boundaries.

The collapse of the self into everything is very different from the expansion of the self to dominate everything!

Those who overemphasize "oneness" tend to want to impose their will on everyone else. So do those who overemphasize separateness.

Reality is more complex than the idea of oneness or separateness. Reality is humbling. It subverts any attempt to impose one's will.

Accepting Material Loss


Will we accept loss and limits and reduction of power and comfort and status? The ecological crisis requires this.

Do we really need anything but biological sustenance: food, water, warmth, air, and fellowship with life?

Americans must reduce our material and energy consumption by at least 95%. Others similarly. Contemporary civilization is unsustainable.

The planet might be able to support 8 billion bodies, but not 8 billion selves.

Earth might be able to support our biological needs, but not our infinite desires.



"Pay attention" is my primary message.

"Allow reality to unmake you" is the second.

"Give back to life everything you take," is the third.

Pay attention. Slow down. Stop shopping. Stop traveling. Stop over-thinking. Be still.

Do less. Be less.

Belong to the place you inhabit. Support it as it supports you.

Listen to the animals. Establish mutual, respectful relationships with them. Learn from them. Give them space to live their lives.

None of this is possible if we are self-driven. See through the illusion of the separate self.

"You" cannot bring about these radical changes because "you" are the problem. See through the illusion of "you."

Then, alert to the illusion of "you," naturally devote your attention and your life energy to whole movement of life.


Be unmade and remade, over and over, in concert with the whole movement of life.

The embrace of the real leaves us with nothing we can possess, and nothing we need to possess, living in unfathomable abundance.

Life itself is that abundance. What more do we need?