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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Soul of Nature
The Soul of Nature

Making a Morning Connection

Monday, March 4, 2024

In a talk offered in 2009, Father Richard shares his morning practice of engaging with the natural world:

On spring and summer mornings, I love to go out early with my little cup of coffee and walk through my garden with my dog Venus [DM team: Venus passed in 2017]. If I can somehow let my “roots and tendrils” reconnect me with the “givens” of life, as Bill Plotkin calls them [1]—not the ideas about life, but the natural world, what is—I experience the most extraordinary grounding, connection, healing, and even revelation. One little hopping bird can do me in!

Many of us have a sense of self or identity created by our relationship to ideas, thoughts, and words. We can spend our whole lives rattling around inside of ideas, rarely touching upon what is right in front of us, when it’s the “givens” that heal us and reconnect us to Reality. We spend a majority of our time interacting with thoughts and opinions about everything. We’re almost entirely fixated on our computers, smart phones, news feeds, email, social media, and selfies. This is, of course, an “unnatural” world of our own creation. We don’t even realize that we’ve disconnected ourselves from the only world that people lived in for most of human history. 

One of the foundational reasons for our sense of isolation and unhappiness is that we have lost our contact with nature. In the natural world, there is no theology to agree or disagree with. We don’t have to identify as Presbyterian or Lutheran, male or female, conservative or progressive. There is nothing to argue about. It is in contact with all the “givens”—that which has been available to every creature God has created since the Big Bang—that something is indeed given. I guess in the spiritual world we would call it grace

This is not some New Age idea. In Scripture we read, “What can be known about God is perfectly plain, since God has made it plain. Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and divinity, however invisible, have been there for the mind to see in the things that God has made” (Romans 1:19–20). Every day, we are given a natural way to reconnect with God and it doesn’t depend upon intelligence, education, or a religion. It depends on really being present and connecting with the soul. 

Of course, it’s not as simple as just standing in my garden. If I get my email first or start worrying and planning my day, the moment’s over. It’s done because I’m not really present. But we can preserve and protect those sacred moments before we read the news or check our email, before we look at social media or review the day’s agenda. If we can find a way to be present to the “givens,” especially the natural “givens,” I believe we can be happy.


[1] Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2008), 120. Learn more about Plotkin and his work at

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Soul, the Natural World, and What Is (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2009). Available as MP3 audio download.

“I relate tradition to habit, one of my habits brings me to my nature walks, where I see the same scenery, the same foliage, the same animals. Yet none of these are the same, they have their own unique progression.” —Benjamin Yazza, photographer

Story from Our Community:  

I am mostly “housebound,” and view nature from large windows. The sun reflects off the remaining leaves and they respond as a complement to a cerulean sky. The palliated woodpecker, feeding off the suet, brings tears and feelings of gratitude. While sometimes I wish my life were different, I am aware of this opportunity to live in quiet contemplation. —D.R.

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