Existence is relational - everything is connected.

Man is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in space and time. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as separated from everything else - a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. This illusion is a kind of prison for us, which limits us to our own preferences and to our affection for the few people close to us. Our goal must be to free ourselves from this prison by expanding the horizon of our compassion until it encompasses all living beings and all of nature in all its beauty.

Albert Einstein (1879–1955)


In the face of current global isolationist tendencies, conflicts, pandemics, global warming and the extinction of species, this holistic perspective of compassion postulated by Albert Einstein seems more necessary than ever before.

And yet we do not see ourselves as part of nature, but as a separate part that stands above nature. This separation leads to a feeling of alienation from ourselves, others and nature.

The soul of nature falls victim to productivity: In mass enterprises, where profit is the only benchmark and therefore more and more "output" must be achieved at ever lower prices, there is no room for emotions, spirit or soul.

To a certain extent, science has also contributed to our modern view of nature: by analyzing and dividing down to the smallest particle, we often lose touch with the big picture, with the whole. Above all, however, nature, unlike other people, is not ascribed animation, it is reified. Accordingly, nature is treated without respect.

The dichotomous separation of inside and outside, of spirit and nature is a problem. How can we remove this dualism and bring the soul back to nature and nature back to the soul?

Without a spiritual attitude that regards all life as valuable, it seems to me almost impossible to cope with the ecological challenges ahead.

In order to learn more about how we can relate to our environment and to ourselves in a different way, I therefore went on a spiritual journey over the last few months.

One topic that I unexpectedly came across again and again is self-love - or rather a lack of self-love. By this I do not mean self-centred selfishness, but compassion, understanding and acceptance of ourselves - something that many people seem to struggle with. Self-care has negative connotations in our achievement-oriented society - as a result, we often do not grant ourselves what we grant to every other person. We are our fiercest enemy and critic.

But only when we are at peace with ourselves and accept ourselves as we are in every moment, can we open our heart to our environment, widen our circle of compassion and can we really feel the interconnectedness of everything with everything.

In a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Mexico I was able to experience this directly: After an evening meditation session of several hours I stepped out of the temple and went down to the sea. The soft light of the moon gave the sky a mystical aura and was reflected in the sea. The immediate beauty of the waves and their glittering crests of foam touched something in my deepest inner being and tears welled up in my eyes. The wild waves seemed to invite me to play. All boundaries dissolved, I was one with the waves, the ocean, the sky. As I slowly stepped into the ocean, I saw the world with new eyes, saw the playfulness of the universe, the strange and beautiful magic that always surrounds us, but which we so rarely manage to perceive.

My heart was filled with love and lightness and magic. Although I had often heard about the concept of oneness, I was never able to really understand it until I experienced it myself.

Everything was suddenly perfectly clear. I felt compassion for my self-destructive tendencies, understood that I didn't know any better in the past, my senses were clouded and therefore I could not see clearly. At the same time I felt compassion and love for everything and everyone in the world and realized that it is not malice but a distorted view and ignorance that makes people hurt their environment and their fellow human beings.

What does this have to do with our ecological crisis? Everything to me! After this spiritual experience I perceived my whole environment differently and treated it accordingly with more understanding and respect. However, the most obvious work still lies ahead of me: not to lock myself up again in the familiar darkness for fear of the unknown. To remember this feeling of unity, to cultivate it and to act from this place of open heart.

A technique that helps me to cultivate this feeling of an open heart is the Metta Meditation (Loving Kindness Meditation), which originates in the Buddhist tradition. Here, a loved one is first visualized, to whom one wishes satisfaction, health and compassion. This procedure is repeated with a neutral person, a person to whom one has negative feelings and also towards oneself. The last step is to extend the positive wishes and feelings are to all persons, all living beings and the whole universe, in alignment with Albert Einstein´s vision.

In my master's thesis I found out that this practice not only leads to an increase in subjective and affective well-being, but also to a more environmentally friendly attitude - a change from anthropocentric to ecocentric values.

Developing a sense of how all phenomena reflect each other, intertwine and only arise in contact with each other, radically dissolves our habitual dualistic, mentally isolated feeling for the world.

Existence is relational - everything is connected. And through my experiences of compassion I can guess what Einstein meant by "liberation from the optical illusion of consciousness".

Comment: Original publication in the journal for psychosynthesis of the nawo publishing house..