CGIE interns just finished training on a unit learning about nature and spiritual metaphors in nature. The activities included arts and a walk in the backyard and talk about our walk filled with enthusiasm, joy, and many profound reflections by the student interns and the junior youth.
Integrated education has a very important role in the interaction of the learners with nature and reverence for and close relationship with nature. One of the goals of training mentors and working with inner city kids is to enable children and junior youth to reconnect with nature. There are many benefits to an active outdoor lifestyle. Nature is the place of the soul while the city is the dwelling of the body. A walk in the natural surroundings of the countryside provides one with opportunities for better insight into emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. When children and youth build loving relations with nature and its many gifts, they become the stewards of nature as a divine gift to be cherished, wisely used as well as replenished. Conservation becomes easy and part of daily routine.
CGIE sees the natural world as a necessary extension of the learning environment. The confinement of the classroom is only a small part of the well-designed integrated education process and curriculum. The heart of children must be connected to the many attributes of nature such as beauty, grandeur, might, mercy, justice, etc. Interaction with nature provides many opportunities for integrated education that uplifts the heart, fortifies the body and illumines the soul, and connects our hearts with our little blue planet earth and its delicate ecosystem.
I was looking for a statement on nature that agrees with the view of integrated education practiced by CGIE. I came across the Baha’i STATEMENT ON NATURE published on October 1987 as one of the major religions joining the Network on Conservation and Religion launched by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 1986. The statement shares many of the views respected by CGIE and I like to share some parts of it with our supporters.
CGIE believes that “The grandeur and diversity of the natural world are purposeful reflections of the majesty and bounty of God. CGIE teaches the kids that, nature is to be respected and protected, as a divine trust for which we are answerable.
- All the world’s major religions make this fundamental connection between the Creator and His creation.
- The whole of nature is threatened by man-made perils ranging from the wholesale destruction of the world’s rain forests to the final nightmare of nuclear annihilation.
- “The well-being of mankind, its peace, and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established,” Bahá’u’lláh wrote. “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”
- The issue of economic justice is an example of the need for a holistic approach to the preservation of nature. In many regions of the world, the assault on rainforests and endangered species comes as the poor, legitimately seeking a fair share of the world’s wealth, fell trees to create fields. They are unaware that, over the long term and as members of a world community that they know little about, they may be irretrievably damaging rather than improving their children’s chances for a better life. Any attempt to protect nature, must, therefore, also address the fundamental inequities between the world’s rich and poor.
- The uplifting of women to full equality with men can help the environmental cause by bringing a new spirit of feminine values into decision-making about natural resources. The scriptures of the Bahá’í Faith note that: “. . . man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with feminine ideals . . . .”
- Education, especially an education that emphasizes Bahá’í principles of human interdependence, is another prerequisite to the building of a global conservation consciousness. The Faith’s theology of unity and interdependence relates specifically to environmental issues. Again, to quote Bahá’í sacred writings:
- “By nature is meant those inherent properties and necessary relations derived from the realities of things. And these realities of things, though in the utmost diversity, are yet intimately connected one with the other . . . Liken the world of existence to the temple of man. All the organs of the human body assist one another, therefore life continues . . . Likewise among the parts of existence there is a wonderful connection and interchange of forces which is the cause of the life of the world and the continuation of these countless phenomena.”
- The very fact that such principles should come with the authority of religions and not merely from human sources, is yet another piece of the overall solution to our environmental troubles. The impulse behind the Assisi declarations on nature is testimony to this idea.
- There is perhaps no more powerful impetus for social change than religion. Bahá’u’lláh said: “Religion is the greatest of all means for the establishment of order in the world and for the peaceful contentment of all that dwell therein.”
- In attempting to build a new ecological ethic, the teachings of all religious traditions can play a role in helping to inspire their followers.
- On the subject of protection of animals Baha’u’llah says; “Look not upon the creatures of God except with the eye of kindliness and of mercy, for Our loving providence hath pervaded all created things, and Our grace encompassed the earth and the heavens.”
- From a Baha’i perspective, the goal of existence is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. Such a civilization can only be built on an earth that can sustain itself.
- Baha’u’llah Himself expressed a keen love and appreciation for nature, furthering the connection between the environment and the spiritual world in Bahá’í theology. “The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies,” Bahá’u’lláh said.
This dichotomy between spirituality and materialism is a key to understanding the plight of humankind today. In the Bahá’í view, the major threats to our world environment such as the threat of nuclear annihilation, are manifestations of a world-encompassing sickness of the human spirit, a sickness that is marked by an overemphasis on material things and self-centeredness that inhibits our ability to work together as a global community. The Bahá’í Faith seeks above all else to revitalize the human spirit and break down the barriers that limit fruitful and harmonious cooperation among men and women, whatever their national, racial, or religious background.
The hikes are a time to learn about different plants, flora, and fauna and their unique properties such as smell, culinary, medicinal, and metaphoric use, in native American and global cultural cuisine, to build friendships with others, enjoy the beautiful landscape, reflect and meditate on subjects of importance and seek answers to difficult questions, talk about the spiritual metaphors that are implicit in nature waiting to be discovered. I remember children mentioning the many metaphoric pairings we had studied in our backyard. They looked up and saw the mountains and said it reminded them of spiritual attributes of power, inner strength, might, beauty, perseverance, resilience, holding our head up high, offering refuge to those who need it, reaching up high to the sun, reflecting the light, high aspirations and lofty goals.
Last night we were visiting with a few of the junior youth who have been with us for a number of years and some of them are by now in high school. They were still talking about their trip to Huntington Gardens with CGIE Pomona College intern Kathy Pirnack three years ago. They remembered the plant that is exposed to constant mild to moderate wind in its natural habitat and how this exposure and endurance help build its resilience in the face of stronger winds. This reminded them of their own selves and delighted them that their lives has somehow accustomed them to hardship and helped them to become resilient, understand the meaning of perseverance and know how to conquer themselves to succeed. CGIE interns are training themselves as junior youth animators and simultaneously working with the junior youth incorporating many activities that involve nature.
This coming Sunday, we will all visit the Pomona College Organic Farm and learn about the process and importance of conservation. my many thanks to CGIE interns from Pomona College Jessica Stern and Gabriel Dayley for initiating the visit and arranging the activity.
Keyvan Geula is a licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist; LMFT. She received her Master of Science in Marriage, family, and Child Therapy from the University of La Verne, in La Verne, California. She employs the latest research in behavioral sciences, neuroscience, and the Baha’i principle of the oneness of all humanity to serve the well-being of her clients.
She offers her services as a clinician, lecturer, trainer, and supervisor to a global set of clients in person and online. In her clinical work, she incorporates the wisdom of the Baha’i Writings, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research, Mindfulness meditation, and consultation skills, as well as knowledge of the spiritual self.
She is an adjunct professor of Behavioral Sciences at Citrus Community College, faculty of continued education at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches psychology online to students at Baha’i Institute of Higher Education.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of Center for Global Integrated Education (CGIE), a non-profit Baha’i-inspired educational organization, which explores oneness of all humanity, and teaches the integrated mind-body-spirit approach in education.
She has served for two years as the producer and host of a two-hour weekly live radio show for the Persian community in Sothern, California focusing on the role of the psychology of spirituality in personal and social transformation, creativity, emotional and social intelligence, and a greater sense of harmony in a global society. She also has been the host and producer of TV series called Transforming Human Consciousness for eight years. She regularly writes and blogs on www.cgie.org/blog on topics related to integrated education, the oneness of humanity, the powers of the human spirit in the betterment of global society, elimination of all prejudice, equality of women and men, and education reform. Some of her shows are posted on her; Keyvan Geula YouTube Channel.
Mrs. Geula has served in several Baha’i institutions since her youth in Iran and USA.