Can You Pause To Say a Big Prayer for Wangari Maathai?

Via Bud Wilson
on Sep 26, 2011
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Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai has died at the age of 71.

Humanitarian, Wangari Maathi – First African Woman to Win the Nobel Peace Prize

Sudden news can awaken our hearts.  When courageous people leave us, we’re caught in a moment of reverence and reflection. Say a prayer for Wangari today and pause for a moment to reflect on your own precious life. She passed on Sunday, after battling cancer.

For me, this news is especially sad, since I was blessed to have enjoyed one of the most delightful, memorable and inspiring dinners of my life with her at the old Elk Mountain Lodge in the Ashcroft Valley near Aspen. In 1988, The Windstar Foundation gave her the “Choices for the Future  Award” to honor her tremendous commitment to the Earth. A small group of us celebrated with her in a gorgeous wilderness setting – she was glowing with gratitude and opened all of our hearts with her joyful spirit.  For those of you who met her or had the rare privilege to know her, you understand the charismatic exuberance and love of nature she embodied. Wangari Maathai is best known for her work in Kenya and Africa by founding the Green Belt Movement.

For those of you who only vaguely have heard of her, I recommend you spend a few minutes to learn more about her extraordinary life. Be inspired. It was a bit disheartening to notice that throughout the day the news of her passing slipped lower and lower on the list of “important news items” as noted in the New York Times Africa section on their web site. For a few brief moments it was listed on the home page and then disappeared. So, Elephant family, keep circulating this tribute. With any luck, it may reach some unsuspecting, innocent bystander with a spark of possibility and wonder – it might inspire a courageous step onto a path of right livelihood. Think of it as another pebble in a pond.

I’ll say it again with a twist, courageous people can touch our lives. When they leave with little warning, we grieve. Their devotion to a cause larger than all of us, grabs our hearts and jogs our minds. Suddenly our own mundane lives flash before us, at least that’s what happens to me. I take a deep breath and ask myself, just for a second or two, what could I do to make a difference?  Can I allow myself the indulgence to imagine a courageous life? I sure hope these emotions that are stirring are not envy or jealousy. (NO…the seconds get stretched a bit, as I think to myself) it’s honest admiration and deep humility. Something in my DNA gets a jolt, my empathetic juices flow and I’m filled with a combination of sadness and joy. I ponder possibilities. I stretch those seconds of reaction into minutes, and hours.

We all recognize authentic commitment. Wangari spoke truth to power at a level that most of us only dream about. Then, in an instant she’s gone, we’ve lost a magnificent role model. She’s no longer walking with us. That knowing stops us; thankfully, not for long. Many of us will be inspired to redouble our own energy and commitment to contribute to solutions. I’m immensely grateful that I was privileged to meet her in person, it was a nourishing and refreshing encounter with pure joyful exuberance for life. Send a big prayer of gratitude and appreciation to her spirit and her contributions to our world today; then, pause to reflect on your own precious life.

A smile to light up the world

Here is what she had to say in 1991 upon receiving the United Nations Prize for Leadership:

“It is not as if leaders do not understand the impact of the unjust political and economic systems which are promoting environmental degradation and promoting a non-sustainable development model. When will such business be considered unacceptable in the world community?…Africa’s challenges are being tackled at different levels, and some successes have been recorded. But not fast enough. The concepts of sustainable development, appropriate development models, and participatory development are not foreign. We are aware that our children and the future generations have a right to a world which will also need energy, should be free of pollution, should be rich with biological diversity and should have a climate which will sustain all forms of life.”

Her courage to overcome sexism, racism and the raping of our planet is already legendary – may her spirit be carried in all of our hearts. Here is Wangari, sharing the legend of the Hummingbird with us:

If these words don’t serve to awaken our passion to make a difference, I’m not sure what will.  This is what she had to say during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Norway:

“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other,” she said.

“That time is now.”

Let’s all agree to be hummingbirds in our own way.

If listening to Wangari’s words in her own resonant voice has inspired you to track with me a little longer, this link takes you to her views on Spiritual Environmentalism. It’s an excerpt from her recent book.  Experience the depth of her connection with the Earth, and the wisdom she gained through that connection. She discusses how we can heal ourselves by replenishing the Earth.  Come along, spend a few more minutes basking in her radiance.

As you know by now, I do my best to find appropriate music to add a finishing touch to my musings…  This one is dedicated to Wangari.

Onward with Courage


About Bud Wilson

As a student-athlete-activist during the tumultuous era at Harvard University Bud emerged with an interdisciplinary degree combining, child development, innovative education and urban social policy. To recover from academia, he moved to the mountains of Colorado and devoted his energy to hosting professional conferences and seminars in Snowmass Village, followed by a few years working with John Denver's Windstar Foundation. He has lots of stories to share about those formative years living in the Roaring Fork Valley. Bud continues to consult with many organizations including Newfield Network, Environmental Communications, Inc. and The Living Green Foundation, Next Culture Network, Climate Colorado, The Unified Field Corporation, Regenerative Community Development of Colorado and The Agora Projects. Bud has 25 years of experience as an awareness & Qi Gong instructor and wilderness guide for Sacred Passage and the Way of Nature. He served as Global Director of Eco-Regional Leadership for The Way of Nature, in May 2011, he co-created and coordinated the first World Nature Quest. More than 35 groups in 17 countries on 5 continents simultaneously communed with the Earth for healing and renewal. He is the Founder and Director of Deep Nature Journeys where he shares his insights and vast experience in service to others. His articles have been read by more than 70,000 Elephant Journal Readers His adult son, daughter and son-in-law are the source of great joy in his life.


12 Responses to “Can You Pause To Say a Big Prayer for Wangari Maathai?”

  1. Jill Barth says:

    Thanks for this. Powerful media here.

  2. Posted on the Elephant Green page. Thanks, Bud!

  3. […] being able to testify to them and share them with others. Often they happen because of Colette, and many others serving the less fortunate with generosity and […]

  4. Bud Wilson says:

    Thank you Jill for reading it and caring. I'll be editing a brief additional comment as I watched the news of her passing gradually slip lower and lower on the list of "important news of the day" as reported by the online New York Times web site. By tomorrow it may not show up at all. So, thanks for sharing my article with your friends.

  5. Bud Wilson says:

    Well, we might have both posted it… Thanks!

  6. Hey Bud – thanks for sharing this tribute. The Hummingbird story is very inspiring. I can definitely relate to it.

    Here's to the hummingbirds who still walk among us. May they inspire a shift in human consciousness that will usher in a new era for our planet and its inhabitants.

    Keep up the great work!

  7. Bud Wilson says:

    Thanks Brandon – Hummingbirds, Coyotes, Eagles, Lions, Tigers and Bears – we'll need them all. Not to forget Chicken Little and the Canaries – the courageous ones who fly down into the deep dark tunnels to alert us to what they see.

    As Bucky Fuller admonished us "Demonstrate, Demonstrate, Demonstrate – compelling alternatives to the status quo."

  8. Jack Weber says:


  9. Alexia Parks says:

    Passed it on. Thanks Bud for sharing the work of this exceptional woman! Love the hummingbird story too!

  10. Jill Barth says:

    Did you see Krista Tippett’s new On Being episode (NPR, for more info see the website, On Being is her program)? It’s titled: A remarkable woman for all people and places. Our farewell toWangari Maathai.

    I’m going to download it as soon as I get a moment. Great program.