Eco Not Ego | Mark Whitwell

Waiheke Island, Aotearoa | Mark Whitwell

Last week, thousands of students in my home country of Aotearoa/New Zealand participated in the school strikes for the climate. On the front page of the news, a young woman held a sign up that read, “ECO NOT EGO.” My teacher U.G. would have called her the hope of humanity.

Ecology is a relationship. We can see now that life is about participation in the ecosystems of Mother Nature. It is not about exploitation or transcendence, but embrace and care. We know that we’ve got to clean up this planet urgently; that we have got to take dramatic action so that the way we live becomes harmonious with the ecologies that support all life.

On the other hand, ego is the denial of relationship and the presumption that we are a separate body living in a separate world. Convinced of our separation, we fail to see that we are nurtured already and think we need to hoard, consume, eat, and control resource in order to be okay. It is the mistake of ego that allows us to destroy our own nest; to deny our connection to the natural world; to abuse the animal kingdom and our fellow humans.

We have a choice now how to live: Eco or Ego?

Mark Whitwell and Rosalind Atkinson in Perth, Australia | Heart of Yoga

I was recently teaching in Perth, Australia following the dreadful bushfires which killed millions of animals and trees, as well as many people. In our small gathering the grief, numbness, pain, anger and confusion was palpable. We gathered to grieve together and to ask: what can we do? How can we respond to climate chaos?

In order to move towards a life-positive participatory culture we must begin with the simple acknowledgement that every person is the wild of Mother Nature; that every person belongs here on this planet, just as the trees in the forest, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the water so obviously do; and that nature is nothing but a nurturing, improving, caring force that is interested only in the flourishing of all species and life-forms — including us. The nurturing force of nature is what brought us into existence in the first place and presently sustains us. Nature nurtures our body and our body is nature — an unfolding, blooming effulgence of nurturing source.

This is not a spiritual or poetic statement but a simple fact. The sciences of biology and ecology clearly show that humans are part of nature. Yet, somehow, the profound beauty and mystery of this fact is absent from our culture. Scientific materialism continues to inculcate people with the idea and feeling that they are separate from life. And so we live as if we are mere observers or spectators or consumers to the intricate webs of dependence, breauty and mutuality that we see in the natural world, say in a forest for example.

It is time now to admit that we are nurtured; we are held; we are in a perfect harmony and dependence with all tangible and intangible aspects of the cosmos: the green world, air, water, sunlight, food.

Right now, consider how your body is sustained by light, literal light received by your cells from the sun. Consider how on every breath, air is kissing your lungs. Our natural state is connectedness and unity with Source. No matter what the mind or what social conditions suggest, this cannot be taken away.

Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Amid climate chaos and personal despair, it is up to us to create gatherings and speak these matters to each other. We gather in ever-expanding circles of friendship and affirm that each and every person is Mother Nature; that everyBody is connected.

The past year has shown us what is possible to change when we are forced to. Friends in China have reported seeing blue sky for the first time, the Himalayan mountain ranges are visible without smog, and wildlife is returning to the oceans and waterways near our cities.

My friend U.G. said that “It won’t be love that will bring us together but fear of extinction.” This is what we are seeing now. In the absolute fear of destruction, we are coming together en masse to express kindness and caring in local and international community.

The Yogas of participation in Reality will empower this change as we move towards the indigenous understanding that humanity is not separate from Life. A new human culture is set to emerge in which every person knows that they are connected to every other person and to all Life — Yoga is given as their direct enjoyment of the wonder and beauty of the cosmos.

The Yoga that Krishnamacharya brought forth is a perfect fit for a consciousness that is committed to healing the planet. It is not about trying to manipulate the mind in trying not to feel pain, stepping back from experience as awareness, as the witness only or some such religious nonsense. It is about perfect connection to reality in every way.

We practice ecology not egoity.

I want to thank every person out there for your commitment to Life; your commitment to looking after the nurturing ecologies of Mother Nature; your commitment to all tangible conditions of Life. This is what we do and there is a real urgency to it. Take care of the wild of your own body and then take care of the rest.

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years, and is the author of four books on Yoga. https://www.heartofyoga.com/blog/