“When you strengthen the life around you, perhaps you strengthen the life within you.” -Rachel Naomi Remen-
There is something fierce in my heart that wants to defend life, defend all the ecosystems of the planet. It hurts to think what we are doing to it, mainly through our consumerism. I realize that I am causing this problem by taking part in our Western lifestyle and it’s such a contradiction when you think about how I feel about nature, about life. I think that our leaders, our institutions and the companies we sustain all share responsibility for the situation we are in. We point our fingers in blame at them and rightly so. But I don’t believe that they are willing to give up their rewards for the sake of life. Not just yet. So while we are waiting for them to wise up, I think that it’s time to point our fingers inward, own up to our responsibilities as the dominant species of the planet and collectively make the necessary changes by questioning and changing our way of doing things.
Why do I feel the need to address myself as Reverend Nature? Part of the reason is that I’m very preachy, I suppose. Also, I have been ordained as a reverend, having trained at two different Interfaith seminaries: The New Seminary and One Spirit Interfaith Seminary. At the time of my ordination, my mission as a minister wasn’t entirely clear to me. However, the training was a powerful tool for personal transformation. It gave me clarity and compassion. It lit my path as a mother, daughter, wife, friend and as a teacher. Now that I am retired from my teaching career, I feel compelled to speak out on behalf of the planet. This is my ministry. I do not use the word God very often, as it holds negative cultural connotations for me. But I feel an energy, a presence, a collective consciousness, if you will. For me, this is the divine. It comforts me and guides me. It connects me to others in a way that I am not always able to connect in my daily interactions with them. It helps me to express my deepest gratitude for life, other humans and for all the beauty, comfort and sustenance I am given through the natural world.
My deepest spiritual feelings have often come from nature. It’s the feeling I get when I look up into the night sky and try to contemplate infinite time and infinite space. Feeling small and humble yet connected to everything. I find it so easy to relate with the First Nations spiritual traditions which revolve around nature. Even though I am not Native American, I have, very respectfully, often borrowed their rituals for my spiritual practices. Like so many people practicing their different faiths, these practices help me to connect to a community of beings–human beings, spirit beings– but also plant, animal, mineral and all-beingness!
I have the firm conviction that if we are to make lasting change, our hearts need to be deeply rooted in a very sacred space. A space which connects us all together. When I went through training as an interfaith minister, my teachers often stressed the importance of community. It is a combination of inner work, which is often done alone, combined with activities of a communal nature that will sustain us in bringing about change.
Time spent communing with nature, spent alone in prayer, meditation or reflection is what we need to connect to our inner voice and direction, is what will give us clarity as to what actions we need to put into motion. When I pray, I feel so much compassion for myself and for all the beings that have lived on this planet. Goodness knows that we all could use more of that.
But as important as meditation and prayer are, they are only a part of the work that needs to be done. I have found that if I feel alone in putting my convictions into action, I get discouraged quickly and resort to my old, easy habits. Time spent in community with like-minded people gives us the courage and the motivation to put into practice those convictions that are in our hearts. We have to be powerfully motivated if we are going to change our habits and lifestyles in the way that is needed to preserve nature. The work ahead of us is immense, but the joy of righteous action, in huge numbers, will change our world!
In her book “Illuminata”, Marianne Williamson explains it in this way:
“Why is meditation and prayer our greatest hope for world salvation, the vehicle for our spiritual renaissance? Because it transforms us at the level of cause. Prayer is a conduit for miracles. It addresses the problems of the world at their source. It changes people at a cellular level, and with each one who changes, others are brought miraculously closer to enlightenment. The priest or priestess, rabbi or minister, therapist or healer is a brother or sister who facilitates the journey. It is the job of spiritual companionship to verbalize and hold in consciousness the principles of spiritual truth, that the pilgrim might walk the path more easily. Spiritual practice uplifts a society because it counters the thought forms that actually threaten us most. People who still exploit each other cannot be expected to stop exploiting nature. The environmental clean-up most necessary to save us is a cleanup of all the filth in our minds.”
Here is a beautiful prayer that I’d like to share with you. Jeanne Shenandoah, a member of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee, made an English translation of this First Nations prayer, and Karen Kerney illustrated it beautifully. I discovered this prayer when I bought the poster in a gift shop. I’ve placed it in my home where I can see it often so that I am daily reminded of all I owe to the natural world. It makes me feel such deep gratitude, it is a practice that enriches my day. You can get the poster at the Syracuse Cultural Workers website.
Greetings and Thanks to the Natural World
Greetings and thanks to each other as people.
To the Earth, mother of all: greetings and thanks.
To all the waters, waterfalls and rain, rivers and oceans: greetings and thanks
To all the fish life: greetings and thanks.
The grains and greens, beans and berries, as one we send thanks to food plants.
Medicine herbs of the world and their keepers: greeting and thanks.
To all animals and their teachings: greeting and thanks.
The trees for shelter and shade, fruit and beauty: greetings and thanks
To all birds large and small: joyful greetings and thanks.
And from the four directions, the four winds, thank you for purifying the air we breathe and giving us strength: greetings.
The thunderers, our grandfathers in the sky, we hear your voices: greetings and thanks.
And now the sun, for the light of a new day and all the fires of life: greetings and thanks.
To our oldest grandmother the moon, leader of women all over the world. And the stars for their mystery, beauty and guidance: greetings and thanks.
To our teachers from all times, reminding us of how to live in harmony: greetings and thanks.
And for all the gifts of creation, for all the love around us: greetings and thanks.
And for that which is forgotten, we remember.
We end our words, now our minds are one.