In this moment, I’m especially grateful for All My Relations who provide for me in many ways. I’m sitting at my beautiful cedar desk, made for me with love by my husband, and my belly is full of tasty food and warm tea. I feel loved and well nourished, none of which would be possible without having taken from other living things on this beautiful blue planet. My gratitude is only but a small token of my appreciation for what I receive and the understanding of my responsibility to give back. In large part, this awareness and the immense love I have for this planet and all who inhabit it, inform who I am and what happens through me.

Humans are not separate from nature. Francis Weller, in his book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief writes that the debate about sustainability is intimately connected with an evolutionary understanding of life. That if one does not recognize the interconnectedness and the fragility of life, one’s moral framework will likely lack a commitment to sustainability. There is a tangible connection between our ethical life and our felt sense of connection with the wider surround of Bear, Tree, Eagle, and River. To lose the chance for conviviality with the “beautiful and strange otherness” (a term that Paul Shepard uses) is to diminish our inner lives as well as the outer world. We die a little every time we close off the heart and shut out the living world from our attention. The wild within and the wild without are kin, the one enlivening the other in a beautiful tango.

My contemplative time in nature has changed the way I experience myself through an ever-widening process of identification. This, in turn, has resulted in the development of a personal ecological ethic – a set of principles that guide who I am and what I do; a sense of what is right for my soul. This will be different for each of us. It is our internal compass that guides us toward authenticity, regardless of external pressures. In nature, there are no straight lines. The path toward embodying a genuine and congruent ecological ethic is an ever-evolving dance, and it is one that we can navigate according to context and need.

An ecological ethic begins within each of us, in our minds, our hearts, our souls, and our bodies. Each of us has a deep and timeless kinship with all life; past, present, and future. I invite you to spend time thinking about everything this implies. When I do, I feel awe and inspiration, grief and joy, strength and humility. This is what helps me to stay awake and act from a place of consideration and respect for All My Relations. What is it that helps you to stay awake? What are the values that are at the core of your ecological ethic? How does this inform your way of being in the world?