we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

The Journey (to Find a Pathway to Global Climate and Conservation Responsibility) Step 3 of 8 – Love Deepens

This is the third in what will be a series of twice-weekly posts in which I’ll question the possibility, explore the difficulty, and argue for the mobilisation potential, of understanding the systems of Nature on a personal level. Please use the links at the top of the page to read the earlier ‘steps’.

Thus, when you practice just sitting and continuously give up all thoughts and views, the way becomes more and more intimate. So attaining the way means attaining it completely with the whole body. With this awareness you should sit wholeheartedly. — Eihei Dogen [1]

In the last two posts I argued that, if ‘Love of Nature’ is to save us from our ongoing extractivist disease, which is now threatening both ecosystem and societal collapse, we should immediately put all our effort into arousing this love in as many human beings as possible, even though over half of us now live in cites. But also, if love is to motivate us to action, it must be ‘personal’, and so I argued that the body must be the architecture for love in all its categories, and awareness of the body must be the engine for the love of all discrete beings, for what makes love personal is that the ‘self’ can only be transcended and enlarged by including ‘others’ within it. Then I hinted that, while this may be less obvious with philosophical ‘love of ideas’, awareness of the body might also be necessary for transposing personal love to Natural ‘systems’.

Rather than take the logical ‘next step’, which will start to address the question of how or whether ‘personal’ love of Natural systems is even possible, I’m going to step back a little and try to reinforce the realisation of ‘bodymind’ as the whole geography and architecture of understanding. (Notice here the mind is ‘stepping’, and knowledge is under-‘standing’. Why are body metaphors so instinctive?) The following is a selection from a cycle of meditations I wrote down, at the end of each day, during the summer and fall of 2007. I hope they will give the reader an idea of where I’m coming from ‘in practice’ and, with the last entry anyway, impart a ‘feeling’ for where we might go next.

Sun. July 8/07 One From the Start
The only way
I can possibly know
What’s in your heart
Is to look very deeply,
And for a very long time,
Into my own.
You and I are one,
Not from long acquaintance
With each other,
But from acquaintance with
Being one from the start.
Sun. Aug. 13/07 Washed by the Breathing
The breeze and I, 
And the four-lane traffic,
And even the ventilating fans,
Are breathing.
Cricket songs float
On our breath.
The howl of transport wheels
Rises in the north, 
And drops steadily to the south.
The breather
Is washed smooth and transparent
By the breathing.
Sun. Aug. 19/07 The Understanding
The windows are closed tonight.
Sounds outside and sounds inside
Have different characters:
Muffled, or intimate.
The house is an extension
Of this human body.
I built it myself,
The house, not this body:
This was given for a little while
Unto my care,
With the understanding I would know when
To open the windows.
Thur. Aug. 23/07 Today I Must Swim Deep
The current in my body
Surges like the sea;
Waves, and spray, sweep through all day.
Tomorrow’s weather
Might be calm,
Or shroud my mind
In the body’s mist.
Today I must swim deep
To find the place
That’s always still.
Tues. Sept. 4/07 Meat Without End
 We are intelligent meat.
 Or, at least, 
 It’s the meat that under-stands best:
 It’s the part we feel our way with,
 We don’t really know the rest.
 And we hold on to it tight,
 Afraid to let go
 Into death’s emptiness.
 Without feeling?
 Just light?
 When all movement stops,
 And the bloody pulp
 Becomes quiet,
 Will we see what it’s all about?
 I don’t buy it.
 It’s about 
 The adventures of meat! 
 By meat penned!

 In space that is measured,
 In time that is treasured,
 By meat!
 Without end. [2] 
Wed. Sept. 12/07 Shrinking Fires
Colder now.
Everything pierces:
A drip from the eave,
Sour smell of berries,
Branch in the sun.
When it’s warm
The body is filled
With its own flame.
But when the body’s fire
Retreats from the skin
Other senses awake:
Hearing the water pipes shrink,
And following deeper the cold window’s thirst
For my shrinking fires.
Wed. Sept. 19/07 For a Blazing Instant
I don’t need
To feel the ‘stress’
Of a long day’s work,
Or the ‘insult’
Of your silent judgement.
I don’t need to feel this,
But I do,
For a blazing instant:
So feeling, un-needed,
Can return.
Thur. Sept. 27/07 But Look!
I forget how to work
In the planning of work.
How was that again?
The measuring? And cutting?
Were my hands the blades of the executioner?
My eyes, the slaves of pencil and paper?
But look at this pinewood board,
It’s fibres so tight!
The sweet nail of resin
Driven by sun
Into the plans
In my brain!
Yes, make your plans;
follow your book!
But look!
Fri. Oct. 26/07 The Sea Inside
The sea bellies up, and wells down;
Great and ancient swells
That still move
In my lungs and heart.
My skin, and my inner ears,
Tingle and sing
Like the hissing spray
Of some ancient sea.
Close your eyes and listen.
Can you feel the timeless rhythm?
Thurs. July 26/07 Ageless and Tireless
The heat drains.
The cold braces.
Our bodies know what to do.
In what distant places
And what special climes,
Over what vast times
Have they learned this?

The knowing body
That rises each morning
And sleeps every night
Is ageless
And tireless.


  1. Dogen, Eihei [1200-1253] 2013. Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levit. The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master.
    Boulder Colo.: Shamballa Publications, Inc. 2013. p. 107.
  2. The Meat without End poem is not quite right, but I include it for that very reason. None of this is ‘quite right’ and I want a reader to understand that I too, and even Master Dogen, are knowingly flawed. Always. If this were not so our understanding would be quite impossible.

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