Rio+20 — Gathering of Spiritual Leaders

On Tuesday morning I went to a meeting of international spiritual leaders, organised by the Global Peace Initiative of Women, held at the beautiful settlement, Nova Terra, in Rio. We were surrounded by wilderness — the presence of nature was all around us.

Some of the speakers present were: Hanne Strong, a Wisdom Keeper and President of Manitou Foundation; Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp from the Earth Charter Commission, Netherlands; Rev Richard Cizik, founder of New Evangelicals for the Common Good, USA; Ven Mae Chee Sansanee, a Buddhist leader and Director of Sathira Dhammasathan, Thailand; Michael Slaby, Manager of the Feather Project; Sri Prem Baba, spiritual teacher in Brazil. This was a session dedicated to tapping inner resources to transform the global economy.IMAG0262

I was listening to the speakers and was reminded again that over many decades we as individuals and nations have focused intensely on material development at great cost to the environment and to human beings, and while we have achieved material and technological benefits, we have also lost focus on the deeper purpose and meaning of life. We are all here in Rio because we are deeply concerned and worried about the extensive and ongoing damage to the environment.

During this dialogue one of the Buddhist teachers, Zarko Andricevic, spoke about the ecological and economic situation as being a crisis that is ultimately about our collective mind. He was addressing the root of the situation and said that if we were going to look for causes, we need to look into our own minds and address our profound sense of alienation and separation with the world.

One of the speakers that deeply touched and challenged the audience was Rev Richard Cizik. He spoke passionately about our destiny as individuals and as humanity. He said, “We need to act boldly. We must consciously change course and choose our destiny. Destiny is not a matter of chance but of choice, it is not something to wish for but something to attain.”

He talked about caring as the beginning of the road of moving towards solutions. He said, “To care more deeply is to assume the consequences of our actions. Caring is the most important spiritual principle across all cultures, religions and philosophies.”


Nova Terra

During this dialogue it became clear to me that facing the truth of where we are poised as humanity, is an essential part of finding long-term solutions. There I was with nature in its full force and beauty, and as I looked around I sat with the truth that we/I am spending nature’s capital at a faster rate than it can regenerate. I allowed this truth to breathe and have a full home in my heart — it is a truth that I have been deeply aware of for many years and have worked on transforming, but in that moment it felt deeply important to honour it once more, to let it move me. This was a profound moment.

Being here at Rio+20, at this very challenging time, it feels like a very important moment in humanity’s history. It also feels as if there are two distinct movements trying to meet and understand one another. One being the People’s Summit and the other one is all of the international negotiators and governments of the world who are in the process of drafting a document that will affect the lives of everyone, and shape humanity’s destiny.

Yesterday we had the somewhat difficult news that this emerging document is not bold enough, is too watered down. As people started to hear this news we could feel a wide range of feelings coming up, from despair, to anger, to sadness; but also hope, the courage to continue to work towards an improved and prosperous future, as well as an underlying spirit of collaboration and celebration. All these feelings and responses are part of the experience, all needing to be heard.

The thought that is most present for me now is that it is time for courage, hope and for holding in our hearts the most important currency of all — love.

With much appreciation,

Ana Rhodes Castro

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