Spirituality: A deep sense of connectedness to God through being in touch with the land and with nature
by Harriet, Editor-At-Large
The church has usually promoted the way to God as being through scripture reading, attending services and private prayer using words generally acceptable to the denomination or aspect of the tradition you come from.
However many I have spoken with including those who have participated in my health research have found their way to God through being in nature. This wasn’t what I expected at all, grounded as I was in a mix of catholic and reformed traditions; one asserted that God spoke through scripture and the other through liturgy. However as a scientist I accepted what they said and recognized that God doesn’t mind how we connect, just that we do.If we become aware of a deep connection to spirituality or God’s deep presence through becoming at one with some aspect of nature then that is easy for most of us to do. We just have to give ourselves permission to make this activity a high priority.
In my research one man had a breakthrough in awareness of the Spirit in the thunder and lightening of a wild storm while he was in the shelter of a rocky cave overlooking the sea. Another man found God when half way up a mountain. One woman, confined to bed focussed on the beauty of a very small bunch of flowers, another person meditated on the bird which arrived to see her each morning, another on a rose bud as it opened over an eight hour period while in hospital for chemotherapy. One woman became aware through actually seeing the herringbone pattern on the back leg of a cricket and another person rolling around on the grass reconnecting with the energy of the earth after weeks in hospital. Another man, a surfer, needed to sit on the beach and watch the waves for hours on end.
A miner at the end of his life needed to be taken to his outback mine, deep in the desert, surrounded by scrubby bush, with no water within miles. His daughter couldn’t understand why he wanted to be there to start with. However after half an hour of waiting for him she wandered off on her own, found a personal space under a tree and after some hours experienced a deep sense of solitude, peace and joy despite her father’s immanent death. She then understood his need to be there and when she returned to him some hours later he was ready for both going home and his final few days.
It is important though, that the choice of physical environment be that of the person themselves. While they may do with less than the ideal its no good telling the person who “needs” a mountain that they have to make do with a rose. I did wonder if I would ever be able to cope with the Australian flora and fauna as I was brought up with temperate forest and lots of green. However a small patch of green grass out the front of the house and a tiny bed of ferns on the cool side of the house has made it possible for me to adapt to the much drier climate here.
All the indigenous cultures around the world have traditions linking themselves to the land which they pass on through stories and mythological creatures. We have these too in the Christian traditions such as the two creation stories, one wet, one dry and desert like. We have lambs, doves, cycles of planting, harvesting and winter.
So how do you meet your needs to be connected to the physical environment, to nature, to the landscape, to animals?