The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature. – Joseph Campbell
Placing ourselves in the environments around us can be a spiritual practice that nurtures our own spiritual growth and development. This weeks focus is using nature to assist in our spiritual development.
Spiritual practices are all about opening our hearts to find the Spirit and listening to what is going on in that moment. Sometimes it quiets our mind, other times it helps us become aware of the answers we have for the million questions in our life. Nature has a profound way of opening us up to find our deep spiritual roots. The lessons we can learn are countless if we just pay attention to the environment around us. This motivational speech about nature is a great way to start off our focus.
Attuning To Nature
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. – Aristotle
Dr. Roger Gottlieb, who is internationally known as an analyst of religious environmentalism, used to give his students an intriguing assignment every semester. He required they choose one tree on campus, visit it three to four times a week, and keep a record about the tree. He didn't care what you wrote it, you just had to do it.
What he found was after a few weeks the thoughts of his students toward the tree would develop. The students would notice differences to the tree causing them to wonder why changes were occurring and if it had to do with the environment. Sometimes the trees would even be given names. Dr. Gottlieb associates this change to humans having the ability to connect and attune with sacred energies that are around an within us by using our imaginations. You can check out Dr. Gottlieb talking about the spiritual practice of nature by clicking here.
Using nature as a spiritual practice shifts are mind to understanding there is a sacredness in creation. The same spirit in me is also in the environment around me. Suddenly the leaves become so much more than just a leaf. The changing seasons give way to a deeper understanding of preparation. Giving our attention and focus to nature helps us attune ourselves to our spiritual nature.
Ways To Use Nature As A Spiritual Practice
Nature is the art of God. – Dante Alighieri
How do we use nature to enhance our spiritually and meet with God? In what ways can I connect with the beauty of the environment? Here are a few ways to get you started.
1. Create Time Alone In Nature - It's great talking with others but sometimes we just need to be alone in nature. The silence we receive by taking just a short time can be centering. Listen to your internal thoughts, quiet them, and find the spirit around you. Focus on your senses to notice what you hear, smell and see? How has that part of nature been transformed? What questions do you have about it?
2. Connect With Nature - Pick out a tree or other natural object you find amazing. What is it about it that you like? Is there a view from a spot that really makes you think about life? Experience swimming in water, the grass under your feet, or the smell of evergreens. Really take the time to feel it and be thankful for it. Allow gratitude for this environment to lead your heart and open you to a deeper connection. Find God in the midst of where you are.
3. Find Your Place - It can be really helpful to find a place where you can go in nature to call your own. Your thinking spot, or place in which you can connect with what's around you. Attune yourself with the environment, notice the changes, and identify what speaks to you.
4. Bring Nature Indoors - Decorate your living area with plants and flowers to make the space come alive. Sometimes just a little greenery in a space can enhance the vibes and relax the room.
5. Try A New Outdoor Activity - Sometimes we struggle to go outdoors. But trying and learning new activities may be just the thing. The more we are outside the more opportunities we have to connect with the beauty around us.
6. Experience It With Others - If you can't stand being alone take someone with you. Enjoy the outdoors and use it to invite others to join you. Take the time to build relationships with others while using nature.
For additional insights of how to use nature you can also check out Community of Christ's Spiritual Practice: Nature Gazing and Praising.
In whatever way you decide to be in nature please just get out there and try it. See with new eyes, be thankful for what is there, and reflect on how it makes you feel afterwards. Remember the divine is present with you! Being in nature may be just the thing for you.
Thank you for taking care of nature!
This week get up and go outside! Thank the divine for something you notice.
Recently my wife and I took a trip to the country of Iceland for our ten year anniversary. It was an amazing trip with awesome views, wonderful people, and great food. We loved learning about their culture and country.
One interesting thing is Iceland has eliminated the use of plastic bags. Every supermarket required you take your own bags in or just take the groceries to the car. When I researched this I found the supermarkets in Iceland vowed in 2018 to eliminate all plastic bags by 2023. Check out the article here. It appeared to me they are already very close to reaching that goal. The people we talked to had positive things to say about removing plastic bags from their country. It was apparent that it happened very quickly and people just adapted.
So why is plastic so bad for the world?
1. Plastic doesn't biodegrade so it photo degrades to small pieces covering the ocean. Marine animals mistake it for plankton because there is 6 times as much, which ends up killing animals when they eat it.
2. 10% of the plastic we use each year ends up in the ocean. The rest of it becomes waste we cannot get rid of. FYI the world uses somewhere between 500 billion to 1 trillion bags in one year.
3. The production of plastic uses about 8% of our oil resource.
4. Toxic chemicals leak out of plastics affecting people's health, groundwater, and environments.
(Facts from The World Counts)
For more information you can also check out this video by Discovery Channel talking about the impact of plastic on our world. It tells you what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch really is.
In the US plastic is everywhere. It's almost a habit of all retail workers to automatically put items in a plastic bag for the consumer. Tons of products are encased in plastic bottles or plastic wrappers. So how do we reduce our use of plastic to make a healthier world and why?
It seems if we are to really hold the principle of Sacredness of Creation we have to understand how what we do impacts the world. If marine life are significantly affected by something we produce than do we embody this principle? If our children's world is significantly unhealthier because of the choices we make today are we lifting this principle up?
Let's explore this topic of Sacredness of Creation and why caring about our world is good for our spirituality.
Enduring Principle Sacredness Of Creation
In a past post "Sacredness of Creation" we highlighted the churches definition of the enduring principle. This definition tells us a lot about ourselves and the world. Defining it gives us ways to measure and understand what we are looking for as a principle.
I have to wonder if sometimes we stop God from creating by doing things in this world that are harmful to it. When we negatively impact the earth does it limit creation?
It seems greed is at the heart of much of the world's consumption. We are always wanting things bigger, better, and more convenient. And people are wanting to make more no matter the cost to the environment. I'm not going to lie I am a sucker for convience. It's so easy to throw away something thats broken instead of taking the time to fix it. But that may not be the best stewardship of our world. If our mindset is constantly thinking about the bottom line instead of the extraneous factors of how a product impacts people or the environment than are we doing an injustice to our world? But where is the line between hopeful desire and greed?
For instance I enjoy going on adventures and exploring new things. I think one of the greatest things we can do it is explore and experience others cultures. However does the consumption of resources for this to happen become greed at some point? Should we be happy and at ease with what we have? I'm not sure there is a correct answer for this but something each of us have to figure out for ourselves. What do you think?
Caring About Our World
When we feel apart of the world or creation around us our spirituality is enhanced. We realize its not just me but we! We are in this together and we all are parts of the whole. Our spirituality can actually be connected to the environment. Jocelyn Mercado talks about this some in her article "The Spiritual Side of Environmentalism." Dr. Roger Gottlieb also discusses this in the article "Why Spirituality and the Environmentalism Need Each Other."
It seems when we work towards positive solutions for the earth we are also deepening our spirituality. What does it mean to be spiritual? Is it not also being connected to our environment? I find caring for the earth and trying to conserve what I can, enhances my spiritual life. Its what we do as a society which shapes the culture we live in. If we choose to be more environmental friendly than there is a better chance others will too.
Ways To Care For The World
Here are just a few ways we can care for our world in our everyday lives.
1. Eliminate plastic straws from your life - Straws get stuck in marine animals noses. Check it out on youtube. You can buy reusable metal straws instead!
2. Ride your bike to work or carpool - Stops from submitting extra gases into the environment and gives you a great exercise. Just be sure to pack deodorant!
3. Shut off the water when you brush your teeth - Look down and notice the water running why you hum ABC. Shut it off and conserve the water!
4. Start Composting - Composting breaks down banana peels and other items creating very rich soil which can be used for gardening. It eliminates it from sitting in a trash bag for years.
5. Use Reusable Bags - Of course I couldn't leave this one out. Be like our Icelandic friends!
6. Avoid Printing - Get digital receipts, make notes on iPhone or ipad, and if you do print reuse the paper. I love reading actual books but digital books and audio books are excellent ways to save paper.
7. Do Not Use Styrofoam - Avoid cost saving efforts and get something that is able to be recycled. It's not that much more and is much better for the environment.
8. Use Real Coffee Cups - There is nothing more stylish than a good looking coffee mug! Find one you like and use it. I'm sure people will say something about it!
9. Eat Your Leftovers - I can't believe I have to even write this! I love leftovers but not everyone does. Leftovers stop us from using more materials for no reason. If you really can't go give them to someone who can.
10. Fix Things - Fixing things yourself does two things. It prevents other material from having to be used and you feel self accomplished.
I'm so glad you all care so much about God's creation! Thanks for following along.
This week take up one of these or some other way to care for the world!
Happy One Year Anniversary! It has been one year since we started this blog with the post "Let's Explore Together." I want to thank everyone who has visited our site and followed us throughout the journey no matter when you started. I also want to give a big thanks to Jim Fairchild who manages our website and all of our social media posts. A lot of our success is on his constant dedication of caring about others through social media. Thanks Jim!
When I was younger I went on a backpack trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. On the trek, we planned to cover 85 miles in ten days. The first two were with a guide before we were cut loose on our own.
After leaving base camp we hiked a short two miles in before stopping at our first campsite. We scheduled to take it easy the first day before getting into more difficult hiking. It was beautiful outside, perfect weather for hiking. Tents were pitched, gear was laid out, and most of us laid down to take an afternoon nap.
A few hours later I woke up to a loud pounding on my tent. I opened my eyes and noticed my breath rising. As I followed my breath, the tent ceiling came into sight where I saw indention's being made from something hard hitting it. My body shivered from the cold air. I rolled over to look out the window. And to my amazement the ground was covered in white. It was hailing quarter to golf ball size hail everywhere.
The storm persisted for a few more hours requiring us to cook dinner under a tarp. I remember laying in my bed that night thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?" The significant change in weather was unexpected and caught me off guard. However I also thought how the covered white ground was also beautiful in its own way. Luckily the rest of our journey had fairly good weather; sun with bouts of rain. We were able to skirt away from any bear encounters and hike up the ranges highest mountain, Mt. Baldy.
The trip was an awesome example of persistence and the welcoming power of nature. Even in the midst of terrible weather God meets us there. Everywhere we look throughout nature God is present asking us to welcome the beauty around us. Our spiritual journey's will be filled with obstacles and tough questions that may make us fall. When we begin to welcome all that life brings we will truly understand the love present in our God.
How do we welcome the unpleasant happenstances in our lives? How do we let go of our own desires and bask in God's presence? Let's explore together to find answers about welcoming all moments.
Welcoming Unpleasant Situations
No one wants to experience the difficult situations and circumstances life brings. From a red light making us late for work to a loved one dying we all encounter them. Our response is typically to become upset, sad or frustrated in the moment thinking only of the negative. What we don't realize is these unpleasant situations also shape who we are. Our response is critically important for who we are to become. And many times accepting them is a process.
So how do we live a life in which we welcome what life brings? You are probably thinking, Craig you are crazy, why would I ever welcome the bad things life gives. Well when we focus on welcoming all the aspects and dimensions of life we come to accept the emotions, thoughts, and situations we have as opportunities to experience and learn. I too many times get angered, say a few choice words, and become upset over situations and events missing the opportunity to see the beauty present. Welcoming what comes simmers our emotions, removes our expectations, and makes us see the situation for what it is.
As I said this is extremely difficult because our emotions are strong and hold us captive in those moments. I also know there are situations in life that are extremely awful and should not happen in a just world. For these situations using the term "welcoming" is difficult and almost not suitable. Accepting or moving forward from them is a long, tumultuous process. Can we ever use the term welcome with those experiences? Is there something from them we can learn and use? Where is God in the midst of these?
"The Welcoming Prayer" created by Father Thomas Keating is a powerful prayer about are attitude toward what life brings. This youtube video by PeaceLutheranC shows great imagery while going through the prayer. Enjoy!
Adversity Brings Reevaluation
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
The mission of the Seventy
“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Luke 10:1-3 NRSV
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting.
They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation.
They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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