A good way to start thinking about nature,
talk about it.
Rather talk to it,
talk to the rivers, talk to the lakes,
to the winds.
As to our relatives.
~ John Lame Deer
People from the beginning of time have linked their inner lives to Nature. I use the term “Nature” here, with a capital “N” to denote sacred Presence. Such has been the case for me.
As a young girl, I felt such Presence while walking in the woods or along a sandy shoreline. I heard Presence whisper through the trees and grasses; witnessed It as birds soaring in flight and in the delicate unfolding of flowers. Something holy presented itself to me through all things of land and sea. Because of this, I can easily label myself as a “nature mystic.”
In all of the spiritual traditions of which I have knowledge, nature and God have a significant relationship. Sometimes nature is perceived as a manifestation of the Creator and can serve as the focal point of worship. (The Sun God of the Aztecs, for example.) Other times, nature is a messenger that brings portents or reveals “signs” when we need them the most (as with the Native American belief in totem animals). Other traditions regard nature/Earth as the source of true healing, supplying all that we need to be healthy and whole.
When it comes to matters of spiritual health, our connection with Nature is very important. Nature’s beauty can be a gateway to awe and wonder. Its healing power can relax us, ground and center us, when we are lost to ourselves. Nature can also be the setting, both the location and the messenger, for revelation, for guidance, for how to live.
Wherever you are in the world, whichever season you find yourself in, spending time in Nature is a powerful way to connect with your soul and the Soul of the world. If you can get still enough inside yourself to truly see, to really hear, you may be surprised what Nature has to show you and what it might have to say. If you are in a place of discernment in your life, Nature can serve as a wise teacher and healer when you need guidance and support.
Consider this poem/prayer by Nancy Wood who spent her life in the American Southwest, particularly New Mexico, deeply embraced by Nature and Native peoples.
Earth teach me stillness,
as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering,
as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility,
as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring,
as the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage,
as the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation,
as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom,
as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation,
as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration,
as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself,
as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness,
as dry fields weep with rain.
~ Nancy Wood (1937 – 2013)
Ms. Wood affirms in this prayer that Nature can be an emissary of the Divine and guide us into greater healing and wholeness.
For Your Reflection:
1. What is your relationship to Nature? Has it been a teacher to you? A healer? A messenger? A grounding force? A worker of wonders? Reflect on this relationship and what role it has played in your life.
2. Spend some time in Mother Nature where you can sit and still yourself. Ask Nature to reveal a teaching/healing to you. You can ask this of Nature as a whole or from one element in particular (a mountain, a tree, a bird, the wind). Ask, “What do you have to say to me? What do I need to know for my journey right now?” Wait, listen, trust that an answer will be revealed to you. Record the answer in your journal and time to reflect on it.
You may wish to use the Affirmation below to guide you into your meditation in Nature.
Here I am.
Teach me, oh Sacred One,
who lives in the trees, on the mountain top, in the rivers and streams.
Tell me what I need to know about myself and my life.
Show me how to live in a sacred manner.
I rest in your wisdom.
Dr. Janice Lundy is a member of SDI's Coordinating Council. She is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute which provides education and certification in interfaith and interspiritual companionship. Jan is an interfaith/interspiritual guide herself, the author of several spiritual formation books including Your Truest Self and My Deepest Me, and the creator of the Pure Presence® method of compassionate listening. She is currently Visiting Professor of Spiritual Direction at The Graduate Theological Foundation. She resides in Michigan, USA.