Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Creation Spirituality’

Like a wave from the ocean

You did not come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here. – Alan Watts


A tip of the hat to GreenSpirit for bringing this quote to my attention in its newsletter. Alan Watts introduced me to meditation practice when I was a teen in the 1960’s. In one form or another, I’ve practiced it ever since.

Fire and Spirit

After officiating at a beautiful wedding on this gorgeous Spring day, I added a “Fire and Spirit” post to Temple of the Cosmos. Check it out!

‘GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness’

My friend Marian Van Eyk McCain has edited a new book, GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness.  Because the topics in it are related to my work on Temple of the Cosmos and my interest in our spiritual responses to our world, I intend to read it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.  Marian also wrote The Lilypad List: 7 Steps to the Simple Life.

8/17/10 News Flash! Marian Van Eyk McCain, editor of and contributor to GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness, will be in Chatham, NY on Sunday, September 12. 2010, 2 PM to speak about the book and about living simply. The Real Food Network Co-op, 15 Church Street, Chatham, NY. This event is sponsored by Sanctuary Without Walls.

Confessions of a Religious Naturalist

I confess.

I confess that my primary locus of concern, meaning, and spiritual experience is the world in which we live. I find my religious orientation in nature, in being part of this world. This includes not only what we typically consider to be the “natural world” apart from humans, but also the cultural forms which have emerged within nature, including our human expressions and creativity regarding ethics, aesthetics, relationships, and – yes – spiritual practices and experiences. The Universe seems to love profligate diversity: natural, cultural and religious diversity. Can our small minds wrap around that? Can our common experience of life on this Earth expand our sense of who we are and what we understand our places to be? Can we come together to share and celebrate our understandings?

That confession made, I must also say that the world-to-come also concerns me, if the term is understood to mean not some after-death realm, but rather the future of this world and its life-forms (metaphorically, the Kingdom [kindom] of God, which is present and yet to come). This concern is born of compassion, of a sense of belonging. As a religious naturalist,  I understand and take part in the beauty, mission, and yearning of other forms of religious expression, including those of the little country church I attend. At the same time, I am fascinated to see what forms of ritual and community emerge around the growing (yet deeply historical) “religious naturalist” orientation.

One reason I find Celtic spirituality so appealing is that in the early years, Christianity in the Celtic lands evolved separately from Roman Christianity, and retained a deep understanding of the world as sacred. A Celtic religious orientation is intertwined with daily activities, events, tasks, relationships. More about that in a future post.

So, I confess – yet it is an open confession, because my understanding is evolving as I learn from life. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Today is Sunday, a good day for a confession; this post will suffice as my Sunday meditation, because it’s a wild day – I’m not driving to church given the wind storm, fallen branches, and the power going off and on.

Now to post this while the power is on!

Our Ecstatic Identity

Picture this:

* a morning in early spring, crisp air with new sunshine, long-awaited respite from a fierce winter season in the North Country, near the Canadian border.

* a winter-beaten field at last free of snow, surrounded by bushes and small trees behind a white frame house, near the edge of a quiet village.

* a small girl of seven or eight, dressed in a  navy blue wool coat, matching hat and snow-pants.

She walks slowly, daydreaming, into the center of the field, idly examining and poking with the toe of her boot the swirled and crumpled patterns where the pressure of the winter’s snows flattened the tall grasses and weeds of her previous summer’s explorations and adventures. The low hummocks of grass and straw are now dry and crunchy under her boots, but give slightly under her step, as spring begins to thaw the ground beneath.

Suddenly she drops to her knees, then lies face down on the grasses, sun warming her back, and chilly air tickling her face. She closes her eyes, pressing her ear and cheek to the bleached brown stubble, sniffing the rich scent of awakening earth through the sweet smell of dried grasses. Her eyes closed, she feels the firm support of the earth beneath yet can almost sense movement, and is slowly flooded with the feeling of being held, while being one and the same with the air, the sun, the earth, boundaries dissolving.

*     *     *

The snow that has been overwhelming various parts of the country recently has reminded me of my childhood home in the “North Country,” which is how people there refer to St. Lawrence county in northern New York State. I was fortunate to grow up in a loving (yet eccentric) family, with parents who taught biological sciences at St. Lawrence University. At that time there was a Universalist theological school at St. Lawrence, where my father was sometimes asked to present the atheist position in their debates, which he did with vigor and enthusiasm. With my mother and sisters, I attended the Universalist Church.

The earliest “religious” experience in my memory did not happen in church, but in my own back yard. The great outdoors was my home during my childhood summers, and my earliest memories of spiritual awakening have to do with experiences in nature. At a conference I attended about ten years ago, the workshop leaders asked those of us in attendance questions about our formative spiritual experiences. Lo and behold, the majority of people related nature experiences.

There are powers at work not only throughout Earth and the universe, but also within every one of the cells in our bodies. We “incarnate” these powers, and when we are conscious of them, our identity expands. Most of the time we struggle to realize our shared identity with other people, never mind animals, plants, rocks, the sun, or the stars. But with the development of our cosmological imagination, our identity can be stretched, and indeed must be, in a world both torn apart and deadened by difference and alienation. Yet we are capable of living ecstatically, finding new energy and joy in life. Some traditions speak of something akin to this “incarnation” and the consequent expansion of our identity in terms like Christ consciousness, or Buddha nature.

Brian Swimme, in his book The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, has a naturalistic, yet transcendent understanding. He wrote,

“We were born out of the Earth Community and its infinite creativity and delight and adventure. Our natural state is intimacy within the encompassing community. Our natural genetic inheritance presents us with the possibility of forming deeply bonded relationships throughout all ten million species of life as well as throughout the nonliving components of the universe.” (p.34)

“We need to put our energy into inventing cultural forms for initiating ourselves into an ecstatic sense of involvement with the community of beings that is the very universe.” (p.36)

People have been doing just that. A Google search on the words Universe Story will bring up plenty of information about earthy and cosmic play and celebration. It’s one thing to read it, and quite another to experience it: in a field or forest, climbing the rocks, under the stars, at the water’s edge. Or maybe in your own back yard.

Green Spirit

On this white and snowy day, I’m sharing a springtime photo, plus a link I just added to this blog.

The people of GreenSpirit:

* celebrate all existence as deeply connected and sacred

* understand humanity as integral to the planetary landscape rather than its distinguishing feature

* find inspiration in the traditions of Earth-based peoples and Celtic spirituality

* are exploring the unfolding story of the Universe and promote common ground between people in the context of this vision

* seek to redress the balance of masculine and feminine and befriend darkness as well as light

* create ceremonies and celebrations which connect us more consciously with the cycle and seasons of the Earth

* seek a more just, sustainable and peaceful way of life in harmony with the Earth

The statements above (in italics) are from the GreenSpirit website. I learned about this organization  from my friend Marian, an active GreenSpirit member. This group in Great Britain is based on the Creation Spirituality movement. To learn more about Creation Spirituality, visit the CS website.

Meanwhile, closer to home, through Sanctuary Without Walls I am looking forward to hosting gatherings where we can explore how our place as part of the natural world and our earthly and cosmic story can offer us inspiration, healing, a sense of peace and balance, a profound feeling of belonging, and more. Posts about this and other events will appear as plans develop.