Nikita and the enduring power of humanity

An elderly man with thin white hair entered the garden. I looked up from my writing at the sound of the oxygen machine hanging in a sling by his side. With the oxygen tube across his face, he smiled gently to me.

He looked strangely familiar. I returned my attention to my writing, and I was aware of his voice in lively conversation with a gardener in the background.

At some point he returned near to me, and I looked at him with curiosity. He walked softly, as if on clouds. Where did I know this man from?

I said, “Hello.” He returned my hello, and bowed deeply in a most relaxed, joyful and serene way.

He was lovingly drinking in the beauty of the garden around us. Probably drinking in the oxygen rich air, among all the plants, too! I could tell this man was filled with uncommon grace.

I said, “You look familiar, but I’m not sure where I would know you from. Did you used to have long hair?”

He replied, “Yes. Do you watch TV? Maybe you know me from a series.”

I said, “No. Well, I used to.”

He said, “Did you watch Nikita?

I exclaimed, “Yes!”

And he said, “I played Walter. I was Nikita’s friend.”


I was overjoyed to hear this! In my 20’s I loved watching Nikita. Nikita was a young woman who got sucked into working for a super-spy agency. Although she was really tough, she was also unconventional. She always had a soft spot that got her into trouble with her bosses. Even in the midst of this ultra-tough work environment and the pressure to be hardened, she clung to her soft spot – her tenderness – her humanity. I really LOVED the Nikita series!

And how special to meet this actor, old, on oxygen, and obviously filled with such grace 25 years later!

I got up off my bench, reached out my hand, and said, “My name is Andrea.”

He said he was pleased to meet me, and his name was Don Francks. He told me to look him up on the internet 🙂 Which I did!

You know, we all go through harsh experiences in life sometimes. We can go along with the harshness, shut down our humanity, and live the rest of our life in the shadows. Or we can be brave, “foolish”, maybe even annoyingly insistent, and cling to our humanity and the warmth of the human heart – NO MATTER WHAT!

If this speaks to you, I would love to hear what touched you, and about your approach to holding onto being human in the midst of the downright harsh things that can happen in life. Share your comments and reflections below!

How to open space in our heart to care for the earth

How can we open the space in our over-burdened, over-worked, and over-scheduled hearts to contemplate the welfare of the earth, and even more ambitiously – how we can give back to the earth?


Last week I wrote about the healing power of laying in grass – a beautiful way to receive healing energy from the earth. This week, let’s look at how we can care for this precious earth!

The earth is worth caring for. I don’t know anyone who would argue against that! But… I know many people who are living their life with the pedal to the metal, and they feel they have too many priorities that outrank caring about the well-being of mother earth. Understanding what is happening with the earth in this age is deep and complex, and can feel overwhelming. For many, this feels like too much to take in.

So how can we open the space in our over-burdened, over-worked, and over-scheduled hearts to contemplate the welfare of the earth, and even more ambitiously – how we can give back to the earth?

I am grateful for meaningful dialog with you. After my grass email last week, I received an email from Paul, a member of this list, that was filled with wisdom and inspiration for how we can care for the earth. It was utterly uplifting!

Paul forwarded to me Drew Dellinger’s beautiful synopsis of the work of Thomas Berry, a man filled with much grace. Berry offers a way for contemporary people to fit love for the earth into our busy lives!

I am passing on Dellinger’s email to you below. I hope you will receive the blessing of Berry’s enlightening approach! You can read the article and leave your comments and reflections on the blog page for this issue.

May this INSPIRE you to love mother earth better!

Thomas Berry 101


In honor of the 101st birthday of ecological and cosmological writer,
thinker, and teacher, Thomas Berry (1914-2009), here’s a brief overview
of some of his ideas. There is much to explore in his works, such as
The Dream of the Earth (1988), The Great Work (1999), or The Sacred
Universe (2009), on Twitter at @EssentialBerry, and on the web at, but here are six insights from Berry to get you
started: Thomas Berry 101, for Tom’s 101st birthday.


For decades Thomas Berry was a tireless teacher and prophetic voice
addressing the ecological crisis, the mass extinction of species, and
the future consequences of our unrelenting and often irreversible
destruction of Earth’s biosphere. The Big News on the planet, as Berry
saw it, was that humans were terminating the Cenozoic Period,
unraveling the last 65 million years of Earth’s evolutionary
flourishing. “We are working with what is perhaps the most precious
reality in the universe–the Earth–and we are spoiling it,” he said.

When Berry spoke about the grandeur of the Earth, and the significance
of what was being lost, you felt it in your soul. At Prescott College
in 1992, he brought listeners to tears as he described the industrial
assault on the planet and nearly whispered in his wavering voice,
“Earth is precious. Species are precious… Reverence will be total or
it will not be at all.”

“The twentieth century has created a serious problem for the
twenty-first century,” Thomas said. “The next ten generations are going
to pay endlessly for what previous generations have done to the water
supply, to the soils, to the seeds that grow the food.”

In Berry’s view, to understand the destruction of the planet, and how
to build a viable future, one had to understand the cultural story of
Western society, and the power of worldview and cosmology.


Tom Berry’s favorite word was cosmology, and he was laser-focused on
the significance of worldview, story, cultural narrative, and religious
orientation in understanding the deep roots of the ecological crisis.
As early as 1978 Berry articulated the eco-social crisis of modern
Western culture by saying, “It’s all a question of story. We are in
trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between
stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how
we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new

In Tom’s view, the cosmos story and the Earth story constitute our new
revelation of the divine. “It’s enormously important for us to know the
story of the universe, and it’s the only way in which we’re going to
know who we are.” “To tell the story of anything,” he remarked, “you
have to tell the story of everything.”

For Berry, it was imperative that modern culture reinvent its
cosmology, honor Indigenous wisdom, and ecofeminist wisdom, and
transform the mechanistic, materialistic modern worldview that, with
its anthropocentrism and radical split between humans and nature, is
destroying the garden planet of the known universe.

Twenty-eight years after writing the essay, “The New Story,” when I
interviewed him in 2006, Berry was still grappling with the
significance of cosmology and worldview. “It’s not easy to describe
what cosmology is,” he told me. “It’s neither religion nor is it
science. It’s a mode of knowing.”

“The only thing that will save the twenty-first century is cosmology,”
he said as we had lunch in North Carolina on a December day. “The only
thing that will save anything is cosmology.”


To inhabit Thomas Berry’s cosmological vision is to see the whole
unfolding symphony of species as a unified bio-spiritual expression of
the Earth and universe itself, blossoming into self-awareness and
celebration through manifold forms. When the eyeball evolves, the Earth
is seeing itself. When Jimi Hendrix, Mozart, and Nina Simone reach the
heights of artistic genius, the planet is performing. This is a subtle
but powerful perceptual shift from seeing the ‘parts’ to seeing the
organic wholeness. Every phenomenon on the Earth is a manifestation of
the Earth. The cascading panoply of forms in the universe is a single,
seamless display of cosmic creativity. The Earth flies, swims, and
loves when Earthlings do; the galaxies write sonnets in the hearts of


This cosmological context can renew our sense of the human and our role
in the whole unfolding. Thomas Berry defines the human as, “that being
in whom the universe reflects on and celebrates itself, and its
numinous origin, in a special mode of conscious self-awareness.”

Our job is celebration, not war, consuming, or drudgery, but to
activate the capacities of the creativity-filled universe in human form.


When Thomas Berry spoke at Prescott College in Arizona in 1992, he
challenged universities to overcome the split between the sciences and
the humanities by unifying their curriculum within the overarching
context of the universe story. College “should be a place that
celebrates the universe,” he said, “that celebrates the deep mystery of
things, in a meaningful way.”

Presaging the current interest in “Big History,” Berry stated, “Human
history has to be put into Earth history, has to be put into universe
history, into a cosmology.”

In a 1991 dialogue, published as Befriending the Earth, Berry states,
“What is education? Education is knowing the story of the universe, how
it began, how it came to be as it is, and the human role in the story.
There is nothing else. We need to know the story, the universe story,
in all its resonances, in all its meanings. The universe story is the
divine story, the human story, the story of the trees, the story of the
rivers, of the stars, the planets, everything. It is as simple as a
kindergarten tale, yet as complex as all cosmology and all knowledge
and all history…. It gives a new context for education.”


Thomas Berry often taught that, “Ecology is functioning cosmology.”
Living responsibly in a connected, breathing cosmos requires that we
recognize the sacred rights of every being, and embody reverence and
respect as much as possible in our society. In this way, cosmology
becomes the context and foundation for our work towards ecological
healing and social and economic justice. “Every being has rights,”
Berry taught, because fundamentally, “the universe is a communion of
subjects, not a collection of objects.”

–Drew Dellinger


The healing power of laying in grass

Last week I wrote about the necessity for putting your own oxygen mask on first. In other words, attend to your own basic needs as a basis for helping others.

Over the years I have built in many layers of support for my well-being. One profound layer has been BEAM Therapy (Bio-energetic Emotional Access Method) with the founder of this method, Dr. Joan Beattie – who I affectionately call, Dr. B. She is a wise old woman, rich with knowledge about energy healing.

A couple of months ago Dr. B. was talking to me about the deep healing we can receive from direct contact with the earth. The earth is a natural source of healing energy. This energy grounds us, and cancels out the vibration of stress that we can accumulate, especially if we live in a busy city. She warned that synthetic material, like rubber soled shoes, interrupts this natural healing energy. So it is important to have direct contact, or with a natural substance in between like cotton or brick.

This earth connection practice quickly found its way into my daily routine. I begin every morning going down to the strip of grass in my co-op building’s courtyard. I lay out a 100% cotton towel, so I don’t get wet, and I do a nice full set of morning stretches. Then I lay down and bring the soles of my feet together in a diamond yoga pose. Laying there on the grass, I give myself a nice face, neck, shoulder and chest massage. (This is so wonderful!). And I complete with a loooong full body stretch from my finger tips right down to my toes.

After fully stretching, I stand up on my towel and do this sacred shamanic practice to set my intention to walk in beauty for the day:

May I walk in beauty

With beauty before me, may I walk

With beauty behind me, may I walk

With beauty above me, may I walk

With beauty below me, may I walk

With beauty all around me, may I walk

On a path of peace, may I walk

May I walk in beauty

For all my relations.

What do you do to connect with the earth? How do you feel when you do it? Let’s inspire each other to find new ways to connect with the sacred healing energy of the earth. I’d love to hear about your experiences  – you can post them below.

Put your own oxygen mask on first

There is fundamental wisdom in the Buddhist approach: Get yourself in a better place first. Then help others.

We see this wisdom reflected in the emergency instructions on an airplane. The flight attendant says, “In case of the loss of cabin pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first, before your child’s.”

Why do they instruct the mother to put her own oxygen mask on first? Are we not socialized to care for others first? Is it not selfish to put our own mask on first? Is it not more noble to put our child’s make on first? Wouldn’t it look bad to put our own mask on first? Wouldn’t we be an awful person if we did that?

These are the ways that we beat ourselves up and coerce ourselves to neglect our own basic care.

The simple, nuts-and-bolts truth is that if we fiddle with our child’s mask first, we may pass out before we get it properly fitted on her face. We could definitely pass out before we get our own mask on, and our child will  likely not be able to put our mask on for us while we’re passed out!

So it makes sense. Put your own mask on first. Oxygenate your system. Then attend to others.

The oxygen mask analogy is pertinent for the people of modern society. We keep ourselves so busy and spread ourselves so thin, that we starve the air of our spirit. At some point we feel like we are running on empty, and because of our socialization to put others first, we over extend ourselves.

It is not healthy for us. It is not healthy for others.

I encourage you to look at how you can begin to shift your own life this week. Take care of your basic needs. Get yourself into a better place, and then the next week you will have more to give to others.

May this INSPIRE you!



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