Environmental Spirituality and Bioenergetics
Most people are unlikely to immediately see a strong connection between bioenergetics and the term, "environmental spirituality." However, Alexander (Al) Lowen, wrote about spirituality as related to the body ( e.g., the relationship between spiritual grace and being graceful), and both he and his wife, Leslie Lowen were well attuned to the environment around their home. Al loved his vegetable gardens and flowers, as well as sailing, swimming, and fishing at their summer cottage on Long Island Sound in Connecticut . Leslie loved and cared for animals, plants, and many people. Maintaining small flocks of ducks, geese, and chickens, she provided "Bed and Breakfast" for thousands of migrating Canada Geese for many years and she supported many groups that care for wildlife.
Throughout his writings, Al touched on and acknowledged the importance of the environment, though not an "environmentalist" per se. But his writings illustrate his great awareness and sensitivity to the environment—and the tremendous respect for the interrelationships of all things living, and nature.
There are many ways to understand spirituality, many of which are focused on the supernatural and some even deny the reality of the body and recommend its harsh mistreatment to obtain some otherworldly goals, such as so-called transcendence or enlightenment. Other approaches to spirituality focus on immanence, the sacredness that infuses nature, including human nature.
Bioenergetics respects our interconnection with the natural environment, physically, emotionally, and energetically. Sensitivity to the ever-changing rhythms of nature, its harmonies and disharmonies, is part of experiencing the body and its resonating harmonies and disharmonies. Along with the importance of the body for health is the need to recognize that we are nurtured by our environment, broadly including both the natural and built ( e.g., houses, offices, cars, etc.) physical environments we inhabit, and the relationships with the animals, plants, and other people that share the environment as well.
This website, Environmental Spirituality, explores this interconnection between people and their environment(s). Through this exploration, we hope to discover ways to enable people to live more gently (sustainably) in their environment, as they increase their aliveness and sensitivity. We hope to explore ways to encourage and enhance our collective respect for the value of our environment, natural and otherwise.
Al's writings suggest that the denial of the environment parallels the denial of the reality of the body.
Technological advances in conjunction with the "emotional plague" that Wilhelm Reich discussed in the 1930s has worsened to the point that people are now collectively destroying the very basis of life on our planet. Only unfeeling people, cut off from the natural grace in their bodies, disassociated and obsessed by power and money, could be so insane as to continue on such a path.
Our usual approach to our problems is characterized by the media providing charming, intelligent, and rational-seeming "talking heads" to hash out fair, just, equitable, financially responsible, market friendly and politically palatable solutions that maintain the status quo by keeping things as they are for the benefit of those who already benefit. Talking heads whose bodies and lives are often emotional and physical "train wrecks," presiding over an environment that is visibly losing its beauty, diversity, vibrancy, and order.
The Foundation will offer "tools" to help enable individuals to understand this and live more gently, more sensitively, and more vibrantly, in our environment. While we will eventually offer education and "how-to" advice, or links to such, the Foundation's focus is to enhance people's individual and collective value of the environment by helping them deepen the experience of their own body. Vibrantly living in the environment enhances sensitivity and the feeling of interconnectedness with all, thus "Environmental Spirituality."
Traditional approaches to environmental problems involve financial or legal incentives, and more recently "market solutions," to motivate people externally to be concerned about the environment, with paid incentives to do the right thing ( e.g., tax breaks for hybrid cars, solar, etc). However, part of the solution has to help people develop greater feelings for their interconnections with the environment and other people.
External incentives and education play an important positive role, and there are many governmental and non-governmental organizations devoted to such approaches; but there are few approaches that meaningfully awaken people to their inextricable relationship with their environment as Bioenergetics does.
History offers many examples of individuals and cultures that have defied or ignored their environment with destructive consequences. Conversely, some cultures have persisted and thrived for tens of thousands of years by living more harmoniously with their environment. The Kalahari people of Africa is an example of one such people whose lifestyle has not damaged the environment for millennia. Modern Western culture, however, is not headed down the path of sustainability, but rather, parallels the path of the South Pacific natives of Easter Island who denuded the natural resources of their island paradise, leaving nothing more than giant carved stone statues to themselves.
The United States is the wealthiest and most developed nation in world history, as it has been for over 60 years, yet with only 5% of the global population, the US consumes 25% of the global energy supply and emits 25% of global greenhouse gases implicated in global climate change, not to mention the many other wasteful ways of our consumer exploited economy. As the undeveloped countries increasingly adopt Western lifestyles, not only the 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians, but most of Asia, South and Central America, East Europe and Russia as well, the natural and environmental resources of our planet will simply be insufficient—and, as a species and as a planet, we will become increasingly stressed, possibly to the point of destruction.
For those in touch with the feelings in their bodies, and sensitive to the environment, recognition of this reality can only be painful. Instead of running from our pain in denial, which leads to deadness, Al always encouraged people to face their issues and problems with integrity and courage. We have to do this with these great environmental problems, and not dissociate ourselves from the environment and nature in an arrogant manner. We must recognize that we are not gods, but rather people, and that we cannot fully control the forces of nature—nor the unconscious forces within us. Rather we have to harmonize with the natural forces , internal and external, or pay the high cost. Sensitive and reasonable people are increasingly seeing this as the crisis of our age.
Bioenergetics offers a potent avenue to address these concerns by helping people literally feel better and become better stewards of our planet.