We normally think of our hearts as “belonging” to us. And yes, our heart is undeniably part of our physical body, as a muscle ceaselessly pumping our blood around, and literally keeping us alive.
On the emotional level, we are told early and often that our hearts “belong” to romantic love.
This begins as the simple, adolescent love of infatuation, which, ideally, matures into more nuanced, balanced love for a partner and for families and friends.
Our hearts shelter an inborn love for non-human creatures as well, but this love is systematically suppressed by the human-created world we live in. A good thing too, from the human-centered perspective, as otherwise who would consent to factory farming, clearcutting, and strip-mining?
So, within the human-centered realm, humans aren’t left with many authentic ways to express their love for other forms of life. True, many people have room in their hearts for cute, endangered wild animals like sea otters and koalas. They also care about individual animals, like a whale trapped in a harbor and needing human help to escape. Our hearts just can’t resist feeling love for these creatures, even while it is our own human-created world that imperils them.
The primary, everyday way that humans lovingly interact with other species is with their pets, especially their dogs. This love, however—since it is one of the very few kinds of inter-species love supported by the modern world—can easily become distorted. Thus we have the notoriously familiar scenario of the uncontrollable dog running around everywhere, and the owner becoming outraged when asked to leash the animal, or place any limits on it whatsoever.
Many fewer humans have hearts that know how to organically, effortlessly, fearlessly connect with all of Nature. This requires us to step out of our identification with human supremacy and to remember ourselves as belonging to the Earth. When we do so, we begin to find our place within the multitudes of physical and spiritual beings living in balance with one another, on land and in the sea, all governed by Gaia’s rhythms and cycles.
Our hearts are made for participating in the natural world. They have never forgotten that they belong to Gaia. At some deep level, we modern humans are in a perpetual state of heartbreak about the Earth’s ongoing destruction at our hands. Even while the human-created world does its best to mute this heartbreak, a dark pool of shame, regret and sorrow is the background of everyone’s life on earth. Every injustice, every crime, every war, every racist or misogynistic impulse, every addiction, every depression or bipolar diagnosis, sprouts from the toxic soil of humanity’s perverse, self-annihilating separation from our basic nature as members of the lifeweb.
How can we give our hearts back to Gaia?
Remembering that we belong to Gaia, and coming to truly know this in our entire being, is the crucial work for all humans living in the modern world today. The first step in this remembering is simply for us to accept that this journey back to Gaia is our lifelong spiritual task.
We’ve all been grievously damaged by the human-created world. Even those of us fortunate enough to have relatively secure, benign, abundant lives—in contrast to the billions of human and non-human beings who don’t—find ourselves yearning for something more. We seek, not feel-good sentimentality, but a true belonging, as our full, true selves. Following this yearning for authenticity and communion with all life is our central practice—a practice in which the more-than-human world joyfully participates when invited.
This remembering is also a return. We’ve been ancestral, Earth-centered people for many thousands of generations, up to a mere few thousand years ago. We are now returning to who we were, circling back around Gaia’s spiral, finding our place anew in Gaia’s web. This act of returning is also one of re-tuning with Gaia’s indwelling cycles, which also re-tunes our own green hearts.
For now, let’s focus on this very first, essential step: surrendering, again and again, to knowing that our hearts belong to Gaia, first, last and always.