It is a hard truth that most of our human experience is spent in a state of perpetual fragmentation and separateness. It seems our built-in survival mechanism is to split reality and create dualistic categories for safety and control. Our lived experience is a private island, convinced that we ourselves are “separate” and out there is “otherness.”
How often do we fully surrender to the sacredness of nature? What could nature teach us about the illusion of separation? Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) Living School student and spiritual director in training Dan Darezzo reflects on the powerlessness he felt during a storm while at sea.
“Our lord showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut… I looked at it thoughtfully and wondered, “What is this?” And the answer came, “It is all that is made.”
— Julian of Norwich
Yet we do experience realities beyond this. Somewhere along the path we are graced with momentary glimpses and openings. When pure light breaks in, often shining through in the simplest and overlooked details of reality, we see everything.
I believe this is what the English mystic Julian of Norwich saw when she gazed at that hazelnut — a doorway into all that is, a sneak peek into the fullness and completeness of Love.
As for me, nature has forever been my great teacher and initiator, a portal into this larger unifying story — not only in the small, subtle, and tranquil, but also in the vast mystery and chaos of the wild spaces we inhabit.
“When pure light breaks in, often shining through in the simplest and overlooked details of reality, we see everything.”
Some years ago, during a tumultuous storm at sea, I found myself being pulled beneath the torrents of crashing waves. As my body pummeled helplessly toward the ocean floor, powerless to stay afloat in the chaos of the undertow, I had no choice but to surrender. And then, in a flash, amid this dark abyss came a peace, a joy. All I could name as a warming sense of being — beautifully and perfectly in relationship with all that is. Everything was in its right place, everything belonging.
What I experienced beneath the ocean was not only a connection with ocean tides, barnacles, and sea creatures, but somehow also every landscape and environment, stars, galaxies, and all sentient beings across space and time. I was not a separate observer, but part of the ecosystem. I was part of a web of sacred interconnection — what Franciscan theologian John Duns Scotus often referred to as the “Univocity of Being.” I belonged to it, and it belonged to me.
Nature serves as a liminal space where the veil thins between worlds. In one breath it is barren, silent, empty, and serene. In the next, it is wild, violent, unstable, and deeply mysterious. We are truly flowing together in this one loving cosmic body of God.
Nature serves as a liminal space where the veil thins between worlds. In one breath it is barren, silent, empty, and serene. In the next, it is wild, violent, unstable, and deeply mysterious. It is brimming with cycles of birth, death, and resurrection, hidden in plain sight all around us. Yet, when we are still and become present enough, our natural world can reveal the hidden mysterious patterns of our unfolding story and our very being. We are truly flowing together in this one loving cosmic body of God.
Though often in less dramatic ways, the natural world has never ceased revealing and opening these depths of reality to me. It has shaped the greater part of my life and become the very heart of my spirituality. Deeply moved by nature’s transforming power, I became inspired to form my own practices and rituals around these sacred awakenings. Gradually, a like-minded community began to form around this collaborative vision of cultivating the contemplative soul in the natural environment.
Inspired by the vast and rugged landscapes of coastal New England that I call home, Wood + Wave was created as a nature-based community for sacred retreats and pilgrimages into natural refuge to awaken, restore, and ultimately rediscover what has and will always be our deepest reality — our sacred union with God and all things.
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How can you invite a deeper union with nature in your daily life? Share your reflection with us.
Dan Darezzo leads contemplative community groups and facilitates nature-based retreats in remote natural spaces to help cultivate sacred embodied practices. He’s a current student in the Living School, practitioner of centering prayer, spiritual director in training, and a postulant to the Secular order of Franciscans. Dan lives in Rhode Island and is a proud husband and father of two wild little boys. He’s a surfer, hiker, trail runner, fly fisher, van lifer, and, when not changing diapers, enjoys reading old books, listening to records, whittling spoons, or playing the banjo.
We Conspire is a series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month.