Caring spiritually for our human environment
Today’s contributor found that a spiritual perspective of nature brought hope for sustainable solutions to environmental issues – and also freed him from recurring pain and breathing difficulties associated with smog in his city.
From global warming to pollution to species extinction, scientists have plenty of bleak predictions about the state of our planet. But there is good news, too. People are taking small steps to protect the environment, such as driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, being more conscious of the effect of single-use plastics, and more conscientious about recycling. Companies are choosing environmentally friendly supplies and vendor services.
These are commendable and important efforts. But in my career as an engineer, and now as a Christian Science practitioner, I’ve found that what brings me the most hope for sustainable changes in human behavior, as well as for new solutions to treading lightly on our planet, is a shift in one’s viewpoint. In particular, a mental shift that starts with a spiritual model of ourselves and our universe.
I have to admit that, years ago, my initial concern for the environment was pretty self-centered. I wanted the planet to give me a pristine experience – clear views, clean beaches, and plenty of fresh fish to enjoy. But as I thought more about this, I knew that I needed to dig deeper and include the whole planet in my care for the environment.
That sounds like a big job. But I started with a fundamental idea I’d learned in my study of Christian Science: that God is divine Spirit, and His creation is not limited and material but entirely spiritual. Instead of seeing people as nothing more than tiny specks on a large planet, competing for personal shares of natural resources, I could acknowledge everyone’s true, spiritual nature – and the spiritual nature of the universe – as created and sustained by God, who is infinite. This spiritual perspective of balance and sustainability helps us approach environmental issues with discernment.
I found that embracing this broader view could start with facing up to challenges in my own backyard. For instance, when my family moved to Los Angeles some years ago, I had a hard time getting over the infamous smog that often permeates the city. Every morning, I was waking up to pain and pressure in my sinuses. I found it difficult to breathe through my nose, and my throat hurt. This discomfort would last throughout each day.
I began to pray about this situation, and my prayers included taking a more conscientious look at my environment from a spiritual perspective. After all, my wife and I had decided to move to LA to continue our public practice of Christian Science, helping others find healing through prayer. We’d come with open hearts and the intention of bringing healing to our new community. These pure thoughts, I saw, constituted our true mental environment. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote, “the true thought escapes from the inward to the outward, and this is the only right activity, that whereby we reach our higher nature” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 159).
Ultimately, my prayer was to gain a greater perspective of my “higher nature” as God’s child, whose birthright includes living in an environment that’s built on spiritual progress, beauty, continued growth, and abundance – as does everyone’s.
These ideas opened my thought to a higher, purer concept of my health, and I stopped defining it as susceptible to my physical environment. I realized that smog, which represents a strain on natural resources, couldn’t keep me from expressing my true, Godlike nature. Similarly, thinking more globally, I saw that there could be no strain on God’s infinite resources. Health, joy, and well-being are permanent, spiritual qualities of God, and they permeate the being of man and the universe.
It wasn’t long before I noticed my breathing became normal, and the smog no longer had any impact on me physically. Although I know that we’re a long way from completely eliminating smog from LA, I felt that by addressing this issue through prayer, I’d had a positive effect on the mental environment of my own community.
While I can’t begin to offer answers to all the environmental questions that millions of conscientious thinkers are asking, I do feel confident that prayer can make a difference. Fears that danger looms over humanity don’t have to haunt our thoughts. God has only good in store for His creation. As we open our thoughts to this spiritual good, we’ll become more aware of resourceful, creative, mutually beneficial ideas for sustainable solutions to world needs.
Adapted from an article published in the April 23, 2007, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.