The Natural World: Week 2 Summary — Center for Action and Contemplation

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The Natural World: Week 2 Summary

The Natural World: Week 2

Summary: Sunday, March 11-Friday, March 16, 2018

Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things. —Pope Francis (Sunday)

Hildegard lived inside an entire cosmology, a universe where the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner, where the individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. (Monday)

Irenaeus taught that the whole of creation flows from the very “substance” of God. All things carry within them the essence of the One. —John Philip Newell (Tuesday)

Now, in our time, these three rivers—anguish for our world, scientific breakthroughs and ancestral teachings—flow together. From the confluence of these rivers we drink. We awaken to what we once knew: we are alive in a living Earth, the source of all we are and can achieve. —Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown (Wednesday)

The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars. —Joanna Macy (Thursday)

Our inner spiritual world cannot be activated without experience of the outer world of wonder for the mind, beauty for the imagination, and intimacy for the emotions. —Thomas Berry (Friday)


Practice: Wandering in Nature

Psychologist and wilderness guide, Bill Plotkin, believes—and I agree—that to “save our souls” we need to reconnect with nature. To rediscover who we truly are—and who our brothers and sisters are—we must become intimate with our natural surroundings. The wisdom of nature can’t be understood with our thinking mind. We have to experience it with our being and let it speak to us through all our senses.

Plotkin’s own mindful walks support his insights:

Wandering in nature is perhaps the most essential soulcraft practice for contemporary Westerners who have wandered so far from nature. . . .

The Wanderer allows plenty of time to roam in wild nature, and roam alone. Maybe you start out on a trail, but if the landscape allows, it won’t be long before you wander off the beaten track. Because you are stalking a surprise, you attend to the world of hunches and feelings and images as much as you do to the landscape.

. . . You will get good at wandering, good at allowing your initial agenda to fall away as you pick up new tracks, scents, and possibilities. You will smile softly to yourself over the months and years of wanderings as you notice how you have changed, how you have slowed down inside.

Through your wanderings, you cultivate a sensibility of wonder and surprise, rekindling the innocence that got buried in your adolescent rush to become somebody in particular. Now you seek to become nobody for a while, to disappear into the woods so that the person you really are might find you. [1]

And so, I encourage each of you: Go to a place in nature where you can walk freely and alone.

If you can, find some place where human impact is minimal. But if you’re not able to travel to wilderness, visit a neighborhood park or tree-lined street where you can walk safely. Tell someone where you will be and how long you expect to be there. Take adequate water and clothing for the conditions. (If you are unable to walk, sit in a place where you can gaze at nature and move within your imagination, your inner vision.)

Begin your wandering by finding a threshold (perhaps an arched branch overhead or a narrow passage between rocks). Here offer a voiced prayer of your intention and desire for this time. Step across the threshold quite deliberately and, on this side of your sacred boundary, speak no words, but watch and listen for God’s presence.

Let the land, plants, and creatures lead your feet and eyes. Let yourself be drawn, rather than walking with a destination or purpose in mind. If you are called to a particular place or thing, stop and be still, letting yourself be known and know, through silent communion with the Other. Before you leave, offer some gesture or token of gratitude for the gift nature has given you.

When it is time to return to the human world, find your threshold again and cross over—and now you have learned to watch for God in all things.

[1] Bill Plotkin, “Stalking a Surprise,” “Wandering in Wild Places, Part 2,” Friday, September 8, 2017. Pronouns edited by CAC; see for original text.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: Daily Meditations (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2016), 64-65.


For Further Study:
Thomas Berry, Selected Writings on the Earth Community, ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (Orbis Books: 2014)

Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects (New Society Publishers: 2014)

Joanna Macy, Richard Rohr, and others, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, ed. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (The Golden Sufi Center: 2013)

John Philip Newell, A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul (Jossey-Bass: 2011)

Richard Rohr, A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), CDMP3 download

Image credit: Starry Night Over the Rhône (detail), Vincent van Gogh, September 1888 (Arles), Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars. —Joanna Macy
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