What is the meaning of life? The world’s most commonly asked philosophical question came alive again this week, courtesy of an eco-spirituality seminar held at Griffith University’s Nathan campus. It was all in the name of Harmony Week and Social Media Reporter Hannah Sbeghen and photographer Patrick Hodge were there to unearth what belonging is all about.
“Everyone belongs” is the message of Harmony Week, which is running at Griffith University until Harmon Day, Saturday (March 21).
It was also the guiding theme of an eco-spirituality seminar at the Nathan campus which explored the idea that, regardless of age, background or gender, we all share a common connection and sense of belonging: to the cosmos, the Earth and spirit.
While Harmony Day’s origins relate to the United Nations-sponsored International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the concept of harmony extends to include the diversity of life, culture, background and belief. At Griffith, we have a rich diversity to acknowledge and celebrate.
What’s eco-spirituality all about?
First year Business student, Shabib from Saudi Arabia, said the seminar was an opportunity to meet different people, get connected and learn more about the meaning and practice of eco-spirituality.
The seminar, conducted by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance, Wise Earth Educa On and Earthlink, began with specific instructions: feet on the ground, take deep breaths and feel grounded.
The audience obeyed and the result was, appropriately enough, harmonious.
As the sound of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings began to overwhelm the room, an accompanying video showcased a series of different environments, including images from grand oceans to portraits of Indigenous peoples. We were learning what eco-spirituality meant, individually and holistically.
The guest speaker, Professor Noel Preston of Griffith’s Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance, said the theme of eco-spirituality and belonging was deliberately chosen to coincide with Harmony Week.
“We belong to the cosmos, the Earth and spirit and we seek a connection within each other and the whole community of life,” he said.
“In evolutionary terms, we can say we are life’s ultimate enrichment. We can love, offer and receive compassion, act justly and wonder.”
Professor Preston went on the quote from a letter written by Dr Martin Luther King, saying that whatever affects one, affects all.
Will it help people?
The audience was then asked to split into smaller groups and to think of an experience encompassing the notion of cosmos, the Earth and spirit, and the meaning of that moment.
Pascas Health Clinics ambassador Jim said talking with his group was both intimate and inspiring.
“I want to incorporate eco-spirituality into our health care centres in an effort to shift drug dependency to natural based medical solutions,” he said.
Undergraduate teaching student Daniel also found the seminar and group sessions very insightful.
“I want to try and incorporate some of the ideas we have discussed into early learning in the classroom environment,” he said.
So what is the meaning of life?
Eco-spirituality is the understanding of humankind and its relation to all other life forms. It explores and explains our human relationship to the planet and our direct experiences of the natural world.
According to eco-spirituality expert, the British professor and Sufi mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, spiritual ecology is an exploration of the spiritual dimension of our current ecological crisis.
“If we are to restore the balance in our world we need to go beneath the surface to heal the split between spirit and matter,” he says.
The Harmony Week programs continue until Saturday 21 March. To learn more about these events at Griffith visit: http://www.griffith.edu.au/student-services/harmony-week
Curious about eco-spirituality? Check out http://www.earthlaws.org.au/events/exploring-ecospirituality-2014/