"Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process, heal our own."
- Wangari Maathai

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Sacred Connection to Nature

A Sacred Connection to Nature

Diana invited me to write a blog entry for a sacred experience in nature. I looked up the word sacred in the dictionary. It is defined a few ways. One of these being, “Sacred; regarded with reverence” (Merriam Webster, 2009). I am delighted by this because what I feel ‘the moment I step outside’ is reverence. This reverence is embedded in my every breath and movement. It is not the separate sacredness of the holy or divine, which are somehow beautiful but other than myself, and thus not to be integrated easily into daily life. The sacredness I know reverberates through- out the natural world and is easily available for perception and integration whenever I step outside.

Yesterday I stepped outside into the dark, quiet waiting of the night. Our deck is surrounded by whispering pines and opens onto a green space, a light filled, canyon arroyo unfolding downhill to a stream. Coast Live Oaks stud this hill and provide shady respite for the wild turkey and deer that feed on its dry grasses. The arroyo is quiet and sunny during the day. It is full of life and movement during the night.

I stepped onto the dark-sheltered ground with some trepidation. Unlike the oppossum, raccoons, fox and coyote who travel these paths in nocturnal rhythms, I do not have night vision. I do have night senses though. These senses came alive as I nestled into the nook of a fallen oak. I asked permission from this place to be here. The night and hillside answered me back with chirrups of tree frog and the scent of night creatures. I inhaled deeply and felt my spine supported by the strength of the oak at my back. This support opened my senses and I immersed in a sacred moment of being with the planet that is my home.

Breathing in and breathing out, my sense of astral time and the capacity to see far back and far forward in time awakened. I felt cradled in the origin of my planet and my species. Dr. Mike Cohen, a founding member of the field of Ecopsychology has taught me, “In the beginning of the Universe was its natural attraction for it to begin to live and grow in balance and beauty. It did. Today, each of us senses and feels that same original natural attraction as it exists in each moment of our lives. That original attraction grew in to being you and I in the present, along with the rest of the Universe” (Cohen, 2010). When Dr. Cohen speaks of this attraction he includes in his meaning the atomic attractions that create the hydrogen and carbon molecules forming the basis of life. Thus illuminating the attraction of life itself to be created as a grounded and pragmatic phenomenon. A natural phenomenon that birthed molecules still with us today which continue to create life more than thirteen billion years after their original manifestation. This is harmonious with the definition of sacred; to be regarded with reverence. If not sheer, jaw dropping awe.

The memory of this wisdom and the present moment of being both inside and transfluent through time in reverential being bonded me to the ground and sky, the wind and stars around me. I heard a male Spotted Owl call his stark and penetrating cry. A female Spotted Owl responded with her ululating, throaty trill. A whoosh of Spotted Wing flying power swept through the trees as they danced their timeless call-and-response to create more life.

Their mating call and flight was given poignancy because this species is on the endangered species list in the “near threatened category”. My reverence opened into pain. When I am in reverence with a sacred moment that includes myself, then all other life forms also become sacred. My own hunger, thirst and need to exist connect through a shared attraction of common molecules to the owls, trees, and the very landscape of my life. So when a species is endangered - and there are 1,240 endangered species on this planet, including 838 bird species, twelve percent of all existing bird species, then reverence itself and life itself is endangered. For after all, how would we as a human community deal with another species that wiped out twelve percent of our population? We would consider them monsters of insanity to be eliminated at any cost. Yet, I myself and my own species are the authors of this travesty of extinction unfolding every day.

My pain telescoped through my heart, down my arms and into my hands. Which rested on the earth and grass beside me. The solid earth beneath me reminded me of the simple transcendence of humus and compost. I remembered more of Dr. Cohen’s words. Words he uses to explain that nature does not make toxic waste, that nothing in nature goes to waste. It is all recycled and reused. Even the air and water molecules that have been with us for millions of years. I opened my heart and took a breath and inhaled this balance and rightness. I set my mind to hope that this balance, alongside the touch and communication of an awakened human endeavor based in its own attraction to life itself, might answer the call of the Spotted Owl with kindness and sustaining action.

To find out more about endangered species go to the IUCN Redlist at IUCNRedlist.org.

To read more of Dr. Cohen’s work and find out about Nature Activities, Careers and Degrees in Ecopsychology go to www.ecopsych.com

To read more about Dr. Cohen’s experience with reverence and NNIAL in nature go to http://www.ecopsych.com/coretruth.html, and, http://www.ecopsych.com/earthstories101.html.

Leslie Whitcomb, B.A./Family Counseling for Social Issues, PH.D. Candidate in Ecopsychology, Shamanic Ritual and Relational Education, has been an educator and counselor for thirty years. She teaches workshops, is a published author in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, self-help anthologies and academic texts. Leslie maintains a private teaching practice in Applied Ecopsychology in the forest near her home and, through telecounseling, all over the globe.