(Also published in OmTimes.com)
When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things…
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free
We spend all our time accomplishing things, checking stuff off our to-do list and staring at the computer and our cell phone. We are so task-driven that we leave no time for sitting near a tree and watching the wind riffle through the branches. It might be hard to get enough nature-time into our schedules, but nature might be the key to our spiritual health.
When we’re cranky or depressed we figure it’s because of the job, the husband, the kids, the house. And those are no doubt legitimate reasons, but with a little experimentation, we might discover that those problems are actually symptoms of the lack of time spent in nature.
Richard Louv, author of the Nature Principle…coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder in his book Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin Books 2006). Nature deficit disorder was then defined as the “growing gap between children and nature.” Since then, we recognize that this isn’t a problem just for kids. In a nutshell, this is a problem created by to not spending enough quality time in nature and affects all of us.
Nature is restorative. In nature, we relax, we feel in tune with our surroundings again, and if we’re lucky, we are at peace. Maybe not for long, but long enough to recognize that peace is created from belonging to something greater. And once recognized, we know, on a spiritual level, how to find peace again.
If terms such as peace, calm, relaxation sound like spirituality too―good. It’s time to bring nature and spirit back together!
Let’s try this Sacred Intention ritual.
Choose a quiet spot outdoors where you can be alone, comfortable and safe. We can start by visualizing a circle. We might then offer a prayer, Reiki symbols, gifts to the elements, or some other sacred object. Some people offer a candle to the fire elemental, a handful of soil to Earth, a feather to wind, and a cup for water. Some put stones at north, south, east, west of their circle. Stones can be incredibly grounding. Leave them there when closing the circle or take them back to your personal alter.
Meditate. Follow your breath, bringing it into your belly slowly, then slowly let it out and feel your energy building an impermeable circle of magic around you that grows stronger with each inhale and exhale. Let this magic circle expand to encompass the entire ritual space.
Sniff the air―pull in a deep breath. What information can we gather from the scents in the air? Flowers blooming? A recently mowed lawn?
Can you taste the air in the back of your throat? What does it taste like?
How does the air feel on your skin? A light brush of wind? The warmth of the sun? A tiny insect walking on your arm?
What do you hear? A deer is moving in the brush? A grasshopper bounces an unpredictable rhythm in the grass? A hummingbird buzzes near your ear?
What are the eyes seeing? Focus on a plant and its tiny parts. Now focus on the tree top across the way. Bring all your senses together!
Our sacred circle is now ready for our intention.
Ask, what is sacred to you? Do you spend your time and energies working toward those things that are sacred to you? If not, why not? Is there something blocking you, such as “If I spend more time being spiritual, my husband will laugh at me.” (Blocks can be people or things, events. here’s a good place to dig deeper!).
Now that we’ve done some self-discovery, we can ask how we’d like to make changes (action steps) to get us where we’d like to be (our goal! Yay!). Small changes are best, and just trying them out for a week is a terrific start. Studies find that people will stick to a change if they aren’t making a huge commitment and creating upheaval in their lives (and maybe the lives of their loved ones).
Once our goal is in mind and we’ve got a couple simple steps to start us on our path, we can close our sacred intention circle. We can now thank the elements and the tree that watched over us, the black bird that sat near, and we can speak our hearts. We can close our ritual using any other sacred ritual that seems right. Pray. Journal.
Now, together, let’s hug that tree!