April 22, 2014

Earth Day in Auckland, New Zealand

'It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.' (Jeremiah 51:15)

Earth Day in Aotearoa, the 'Land of the Long White Cloud'. The name Aotearoa includes the Earth made by God’s power and the clouds in heavens…

The indigenous in New Zealand, the Maori believe that all life is connected. Therefore, so-called kaitiaki (guardians) are chosen to protect the environment. Landscapes may be named after a part of a chief’s body and consequently made sacred.

The kaitiaki were watching over the balance between communities and nature. If the nature is treated well, the people would be healthy. This is the key to 'Kaitiakitanga' – a word which means guarding, caring for, being interconnected. Spiritual power (mana), spiritual restriction (tapu) and life force (mauri) go hand in hand.

The importance of wholesome wellbeing has been known since ancient times. The Greek philosopher Plato said more than 2000 years ago that 'The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.'

Body and soul go together within the environment. This wisdom has been part of cultures for millenniums and yet is jeopardised once the meaning behind traditions is forgotten. In the Scriptural tradition there has always been the notion of Sabbath and rest time. Many people today forget about the rest, the time to recharge one’s batteries.
Lives that are lived fast, don’t have space for the care that is needed. No time for exercising body and mind? No time for separating the rubbish? No time for making compost? No time for cooking meals from ingredients from the garden? No time for collecting water? No time…?

At Mercy Spirituality Centre in Epsom we offer courses, seminars, meditations, workshops, talks and much more. Our focus is the whole wellbeing: spirit, soul, body – in a healthy environment.

We are situated in the heart of Auckland and yet our buildings are surrounded with gardens and a view to the well-known One-Tree-Hill. People who come here for the first time, often stand in our gardens and just enjoy the peace in this oasis.

Our Maori name ‘Te Ngakau Waiora’ expresses our focus on the living water (waiora) to which the heart (ngakau) responds. It is a place where the spirit can grow.

We have mainly native New Zealand trees including kauri, karaka, puriri, pohutukawa, rimu and totara. The indigenous ferns and ground cover make our gardens special.

These plants are not here by accident. They were deliberately purchased and planted where the ground needed them. This is part of our commitment to a healthy environment. The appreciation of creation and respect for the Earth is fostered through the eco-friendly gardening practices and products used, educational opportunities such as with booklets and tours, and through library resources, programmes and retreats.

We are aware of our interconnectedness within creation. For example, at our Mercy Spirituality Centre the grounds are extensive and the gardens require much water. Thanks to an 8500 l tank that was installed to collect run off from the Centre building, the water is collected and used for the toilets and watering the plants.
Large wooden compost bins and successful worm farms produce potent nutrients which are then fed back into the soil. The produce from the garden is used in catering for our guests.

Water, soil, nutrients – three basic elements for our environment. It is this environment that our visitors enjoy – wandering around, meditating, contemplating trees, flowers or the vegetable garden, watching the butterflies and listening to the birds.

A beautiful surrounding is the first step to have peace of mind and, as Mother Teresa said, 'if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.'

We do belong to each other – to our brothers and sisters and to all parts of God’s creation.

The strong connection with the environment is basic to all indigenous cultures. The further we develop and introduce technology, the more we are likely to lose this connection.

However, it is a blessing to live in a country where the Maori culture constantly reminds us of our connection to Mother Earth, Papatuanuku. In every Maori welcome ceremony, the greetings of the speaker go first to God and then to Mother Earth. We are not to take them for granted. By greeting them first ahead of any other person, we are showing a sign of respect and recognition of their mighty power.

Messages to: Beate Matthies - Manager Mercy Spirituality Centre Epsom

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