The Healing of Our Planet Earth — And Why We Need Our Hearts to Find a Way Through

By Steve Ray, HBI Advisor and Senior Associate of the Groupwork Centre. Steve is also an Open Heart instructor with Natural Way of Living, facilitator and writer. He lives in Melbourne Australia.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

From Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”

It’s a bleak picture that Cohen evokes in his song, and yet there is something that touches a deep chord when it comes to seeing where we are on the planet right now and understanding how we got here. One thing is very clear: more than ever in this fragmented world, we need to rely on our heart and its key connection to the True Source of Love within each of us if we are to find our way. Cohen’s words also herald the promise that a global waking-up is underway which is revealing our problems and wrong-doings in a way that can now be tackled with open hearts.

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Norman Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death, and romantic relationships.

We are in a time that has been described as the Anthropocene – the period of time during which human activities have had such an environmental impact on the Earth that it constitutes a distinct geological age.  The geological epochs and eras going back millions of years are marked bands in the “fossil record”  – so named because the fossils and other substances present in the layers of the earth that are created over time. For example, the presence or absence of certain species of plants and animals can tell us a great deal about climate, the types of ecosystems present, and some of the events that have shaped the planet over the 3.5 billion years since life began on Earth. 

The Anthropocene has been named as such because, without question, the fossil record will reflect the presence of humans as the dominant influence shaping the planet by what is both missing and present in the layers of the earth.  Missing will be species that are going extinct in the 6th mass extinction that is occurring right now during our lifetime.  This extinction episode is being caused by human activities like climate change from fossil fuels and biodiversity destruction through habitat loss, overconsumption of resources and pollution.  Present in the record will be plastics and other human-made substances that don’t break down as all organic substances do in the natural cycles of the planet. The scale of disruption is truly massive and the ultimate impacts on life on the planet, unknown.  There have never been more human beings depleting more of the earth’s resources, at a faster rate than right now. 

In his epic last documentary A Life on Our Planet, David Attenborough chronicles the changes that have occurred through his own life.  He provides what he calls a “witness statement” based on his extensive travels all over the globe, for more than 60 years.  More than anyone on the planet he has seen the change all over, and that change is undeniable: we humans are relentlessly removing the very life support systems that we need to survive.  Unless we make rapid changes, the results will be catastrophic. 

I sometimes wonder, “How did we get here?  How is it possible that we have overseen the destruction of the planet as if we have been asleep?”  Being alive is a precious thing and humans are capable of creating so much beauty in our expressions of appreciation for being alive: in the built form, through music, performance, and the arts generally and through our personal connections with each other.  How is it then that at the same time we have lived our lives in a way that turned our back on our responsibility to all that beauty and what we know to be so precious?

This to me is where our connection to the heart – our centre of feeling – is fundamental to our way forward and the reasons behind how we got here.  All that is beautiful and precious can only be appreciated because we have a feeling (non-physical) heart centre.  American author and educator Helen Keller, who became both deaf and blind before she was two, famously quoted that “the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart”.   The loss of two of her 5 physical senses helped her to realise that it is only through the heart that we find the ultimate depths of life and what it truly means to be alive.

Everything we see and experience in the world is a reflection of our connection to our heart because we are in an interactive dynamic with life.  What we think, act and do shapes our reality.  A broken world comes from a broken foundation within all of us.  The natural connection we are supposed to have with our hearts has been lost.  Without it, our decisions will lack the key piece that is needed: connection. 

So here is the conundrum:  As we see our world in trouble, we go out into that world to do something about it.  But we often go out there with hearts that are disconnected from ourselves – our true essence – and therefore life itself.  We are therefore disconnected from each other, as well as the Earth.  From this place, our greater priority is self-protection and self-interest.  From this place, we are unconsciously driven from a survival-first mentality.  We are motivated from a place of fear, not connection.  The idea of looking after each other of course makes sense, but first (we tell ourselves), we need to make sure WE are OK. 

But fear is a funny thing.  It also keeps telling us we don’t have enough, an idea that is now supercharged by a society that is gripped by the need for more.  Affluenza – the social condition that arises from the desire to be more wealthy or successful can also be defined (according to one definition) “as the inability of an individual to understand the consequences of their actions because of their social status or economic privilege”.  Our willingness to reach out to others, to find real and lasting solutions to the existential problems that WE have created is being thwarted by our inability to see that WE need to change first.  Solutions that have any chance of getting us out of the disconnected mess we find ourselves in, must be heart-centred.  That has to be our foundationThe healing of ourselves needs to be the pathway of our journey if we are to successfully heal the Earth.

This might at first seem like a huge overclaim, but let’s take a moment to realise the depth of the heart.  We have a brain that is currently what we consider to be “our consciousness”  but science tells us already that we have awareness centres in other places like our gut (gut instinct or intuition).  This has been shown to be true in countless experiments[1] although we may still not trust or be tuned into these centres. 

Our non-physical “heart” – our feeling centre – is probably the epicentre of our consciousness alongside our physical brain and intuition.  However, because it is non-physical and we live in a physical world – where proof of anything must first be demonstrated by the physical existence of that thing – the heart has been hugely discounted, consigned mostly to romantic or whimsical notions.  Although we hear that “Love is blind” it may be more true to say “we are blind to Love”.  Though we have an idea of Love, the reality of what it means and what we are capable of when we prioritise the unconditional Love that flows naturally into an open heart is truly unknown because it has yet to be tested. 

In just one example, an experiment conducted in America by Heart Based Institute with independent scientists sought to discover the impacts on cancer when a group of Open Heart Practitioners let their hearts open in a True Source of Love Meditation.  In each of the four experiments, the one-time remote 15-minute True Source of Love Meditation consistently and significantly reduced the spread of the cancer cells in vitro cultures between 35 and 44% compared to control groups[2]. The idea that our heart connection, through a single meditation, could have healing impacts of this kind is still on the very margins of mainstream thinking because it so challenges our concepts of how the world works.  And yet, this experiment showed significant results consistently.

To be heart-centred is to be both kind and compassionate while also willing to be bold enough to speak up, take risks and share ideas when needed. To get there, we have to make choices constantly that strengthen our hearts, by valuing other people while also standing by what we feel to be true and important.  We need to listen to our hearts – our inner response to situations, people and our own choices.  An inner contraction is a clear sign we risk turning away from our heart and following our own fear which can look like defensiveness or attack.  Speaking with strong emotion can trigger the fight/flight reaction in others.  This breaks the connection and reinforces separation and yet it’s so common, we fail to see the problem and the need to act differently. 

If we are triggered we need to pause before we speak – breathe out and consciously turn to our heart by smiling inwardly to activate the feelings of peace/calm and avoid disconnecting.  As we do this deliberately, we will build new “connecting muscles” which will lead to more productive conversations and outcomes.  On the other end of the spectrum, when we feel an expansion or opening of our heart in other situations, we are being given a clue about a choice in front of us, that could strengthen our heart and build relationships with others. Getting to know our hearts takes time because some responses are going to be quite counter-intuitive.  For example, being open and willing to take a risk may be a red flag for those parts of us that are trying to protect us from danger.  But we discover that as our heart opens and grows stronger, we are protected in a very different way, anchored to a deeper Source of Love within and beyond us.

We are still on the edges of our understanding of what is possible when we choose to make the heart a central part of the way we live and act in the world.  In a previous post, I mentioned that Albert Einstein famously said that “we cannot solve the world’s problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.  We have arrived at a place where we can feel that something is fundamentally not right.  We can feel the desperation of these times, and yet there is a vacuum in the action department.  Going back to Leonard Cohen’s words, we are living in a world where the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The dice do seem loaded, with the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer.  The status quo is not moving because we are still trying to solve the world’s problems without the critical input of the heart – we are still using the same consciousness that created the problems in the first place.

When I googled the proverb above (“the more things change…”) this was what came up: “Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo. A change of heart must accompany experience before lasting change occurs”.

Somehow we know about the heart, but we have been ignoring it, distracted by an over-active and distressed mind.  Einstein’s new ‘thinking’ puts the heart In the centre of decision-making, creativity and connection.  When our heart is connected, a better version of us can arise and influence and help shape the world through our thoughts, words and actions.  With connected hearts, we can access deep wisdom beyond our individual self, which helps us to sit in paradox and hear across profound differences. Suddenly these differences are not the things that separate us, but the things that help us see and experience a bigger more interconnected picture.

Perhaps our whole life has been preparing our heart?  We have been touched countless times by the beauty and joy of life’s experiences but without realising it, we have thought the source of that beauty and joy was “out there” when in fact, life’s experiences could be seen as vital reminders of the beauty and joy that are found within.  Now, it seems the tables have turned.  The Earth needs us to remember our heart so that we can live in ways that return her to the vibrant living life-support system she was designed to be for all life. 

The beautiful reality is that the healing of the Earth will be a reflection of our own healing.

[1] Dr. Gabor Mate conducted a show of hands experiment at a conference asking more than a thousand people if they had ever had a gut feeling to do something that they didn’t follow and later regretted it.  Almost the entire audience raised their hands.  See

[2] See here for full results