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Posted: August 25, 2006

Spiritual Caregiving

Looking at 'Green' Burials and Spiritual Transformation

(Editor’s Note: Here’s a late-summer look at two beautiful, but eclectic, views of life on earth – and after – taken from the pages of S&H. We hope you enjoy the journey.)
Lasting Gifts: How Your Body Can Help Preserve an Old-Growth Forest
By Hilda J. Brucker
A visit to nature preserve Ramsey Creek is, quite literally, a walk in the woods. Wildflowers come and go with the seasons, and the native fauna finds a safe haven in this old-growth forest in Westminster, South Carolina.
But here's the surprise: Ramsey Creek is also a cemetery, the final resting place for ecology-minded souls who have used their passing to help preserve wilderness for future generations. Opened in 1996, Ramsey Creek is operated by physician Billy Campbell, who says his primary motivation was to preserve natural land by leveraging laws that protect cemeteries from development. "Through death, we're helping to heal a piece of property," he says.
While modern cemeteries bulldoze and destroy the natural landscape, Ramsey Creek is rich in biodiversity, with more than 200 native species of plants thriving there. Since no trees are removed to make room for burials, gravesites number only between 30 and 50 per acre (traditional cemeteries average about 1,000 per acre).
Unembalmed bodies can be buried in boxes made of cardboard or untreated lumber -- or no boxes at all. "We've done shroud burials and simply buried people in their street clothes," says Campbell. Even the natural stone markers used at Ramsey Creek have an ecological purpose in Campbell's eyes, creating homes and hidey-holes for reptiles and insects.
Those who have laid loved ones to rest in this setting have found comfort in knowing the body will return to the earth as the circle of life continues. "We're interested in reuniting human and natural communities," Campbell explains. "The funeral industry is out of kilter with natural processes. It only reinforces the alienated relationship between people and nature."
For more information, call (864) 647-7798 or visit the Ramsey Creek website.
Institute of Noetic Sciences: Transformations
and Health -- Take the Survey
By Marilyn Schlitz
As cures are found for many infectious diseases, the overwhelming causes of suffering -- such as addictions, violence, intolerance, inequality in distribution of resources, and damage to the environment -- are the maladaptive ways that humans view and interact with our world.
On a more positive note, the fundamental building blocks for improving the quality of life can be found in the kinds of capacities and experiences that result from spiritual transformation -- love, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, emotional balance, physical health -- overall thriving. Learning to foster this change is an urgent priority.
In Phase I of our Transformational Practices Project, a team of social scientists from the Institute of Noetic Sciences met with 40 well-known spiritual and transformative teachers and began to identify appropriate questions to ask about the nature of personal change and transformation. They conducted in-depth interviews looking for common themes and elements that precede or predict transformation and result from transformation.
In Phase II, the researchers tested a survey instrument on transformational practices on 500 people. They also formed a collaboration with Adam Cohen, Ph.D., at Philadelphia University and Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., at the University of California at Berkeley, who have been studying the emotional, cognitive, and physiological aspects of spiritually transformative experiences. Now the scientists are ready to test the survey on a larger audience, and they need your help.
We hope you'll take a few minutes to go to and complete the survey. We'll let you know the results in a future issue.
Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., is research director of the Institute for Noetic Sciences.

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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