Tag Archives: nature

Earth Day 2019

Today is Earth Day, a day in which we might reflect on our relationship, past, present, and likely into the future, with all that surrounds us. Have we treated the Earth well? What, if anything, must we do to guarantee that the essential systems of air, water, minerals, plants, animals, microorganisms, sunlight, tidal flows, and so on, will be intact for our children and our children’s children so that they can lead the lives we wish for them?

These are big questions, and like any big question, they really wrap many questions together. We are living beings whose evolution has been shaped by forces both microscopic and cosmic, and questions arise on every scale…

  • Every cell in our bodies contains molecules – sugars, fats, proteins, nuclei acids – constructed from carbon atoms. These atoms were produced by the explosion of a long dead star. How do we guarantee the chemical integrity of our bodies, and minimize the risk of exposure to chemical pollutants and toxins?
  • Our cells, our bodies, are filled with fresh water. The food we eat also requires fresh water, but this water is an increasingly scarce commodity. In a warming world of melting ice, how do we guarantee that adequate fresh water will exist to support the world’s population?
  • For every cell in our body, there are roughly 10 bacteria. While bacteria were once scorned as predatory invaders, we now recognize that many of them provide essential services – food digestion, protection from invasion by pathogens, and so on – that sustain our lives. How do we understand coexistence with the life forms around us? Do we see a “them” that competes with us, or do we see a world of connection and interdependence?

And so on, and so on. We are makers of our environment, but we are also crucially dependent on many natural systems in our environment for food, water, shelter, light, warmth, and more. We re-make these systems only at our own peril.

Meditation can bring us into a deeper appreciation of nature, a direct sense, if you will, of what nature looks, sounds, smells, and feels like. Mark Coleman, mindfulness teacher, wilderness guide, and author of A Breath of Fresh Air (Tricycle, 2005), describes 7 different meditative experiences one can practice, whether in the woods of Forest Park or in front of a window plant at home. Additional guided meditations can be found at his web site.

For more on nature and meditation, click the word nature in this web site’s word cloud.

On this fractured morning: a call to connect

I don’t know how or when you started your day. Me? I did what I nearly always do: petted the cat, reached for the remote, and waited for the weather forecast. The horrible news from Las Vegas is what I got instead.

I guess I’m lucky … I don’t think I know anyone in Las Vegas. But we’ll see … I may know someone who knows someone.

One thing that meditation has taught me: we are all connected. I sometimes think the opposite. “I’m just sitting here with the circus of my thoughts. Me. An island.” But I also notice that in my thoughts are relationships: anything or anyone that I imagine pulling closer to, and anything or anyone that I imagine pushing away from, is something or someone I am connected to. What I am imagining is, in fact, connection, and that connection comes before my ability to imagine it.

We are already connected. What makes me strong is the unconscious knowledge, built into the cells of my body and the wiring of my heart, that I am always drawing on you, the big You, the entire universe of people, animals, plants, planet and sun, to hold me up and you will never let me down. What sometimes makes me weak is the nagging conscious fear that I can’t explain how all of this works and so I never know if my ass is completely covered.

Sitting with others … just sitting … silent … just acknowledging with each breath, and each heart beat, that there is an unconscious web, beyond my ability to fathom … keeping me alive … is enough.

If you have a little time, please join me in the chapel tomorrow for meditation. If you cannot, please know that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, no matter what you think about your life, you are appreciated. This network of connection that sustains us is “love” by any other name.

You are loved.

Listening to Silence

Not all meditation practices are silent, but those that are might offer a special health benefit that is simply the silence itself.

Scientists and doctors have known for decades that loud noises are dangerous, and can cause hearing loss, both in the short- and long-term. But how about the everyday racket, the sounds of heating systems, car engines, hallway conversations, and YouTube songs; Does steady exposure to “noise” affect our health? Is there anything to be gained by lowering the volume, perhaps even spending part of the day in silence?

Here are some links to explore on this topic:

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Nature Calls

The earth is slowly waking. Crocuses are stretching towards the sky. The first daffodils have appeared. The scent of winter daphne hovers in the air between Eliot and the lawn. It’s time to get outside again. No more hibernating in my Office Cave.

But what is this urge to go outside, to get back into nature? Is it just a habit or is there something more at work?

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Worms by Carl Dennis

On this Thanksgiving, take a few moments to feel the nature of thankfulness. As thoughts arise – What am I thankful for? Whom am I indebted to? Which of the gifts I have received have been larger, which smaller? – just let the thoughts run dry. Experience gratitude just for itself, because its there, because you can.

The poem Worms, by Carl Dennis, is a sweet reminder that the opportunities to give thanks are boundless. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

WORMS by Carl Dennis

Aren’t you glad at least that the earthworms
Under the grass are ignorant, as they eat the earth,
Of the good they confer on us, that their silence
Isn’t a silent reproof for our bad manners,
Our never casting earthward a crumb of thanks
For their keeping the soil from packing so tight
That no root, however determined, could pierce it?