“If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how people would marvel and stare!” Ralph Waldo Emerson I once had an extraordinary experience from watching the passing of an ordinary day. This came about because I signed up for a silent meditation retreat weekend at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, not knowing what I was getting myself into. The day began early, long before the sun came up and ended after dark with breaks only for meals and sleep. And they weren’t joking about the silent part. Participants weren’t even supposed to make eye contact with anyone else, since that is a form of communication, even during mealtime.
New to the practice of meditation, I was not good at it; I struggled to clear my mind at the beginning of each new hour and maybe lasted 10 minutes, if that. The rest of the time I was saved by one thing. The room where we sat to meditate was all windows looking out towards the valley and mountains. Since I had to stay on my mat and be still like all those around me, I began paying attention to the details of the passing of the day. I watched the sun come up and cast a golden hue over everything. It seemed like the heat of the day went on for a full eternity before the shadows lengthened and gradually the night closed in. There was a beautiful tree in my view that I came to know intimately since we shared the same occupation of staying in one spot. To be a witness to the passing of a day was a spiritual experience and I never doubted that I was in the presence of the Holy.
I think humans in general, have a biological urge to be close to nature. Nature has a power to bring balance and harmony into our fragmented and chaotic modern lives. In our family vacationing means camping and now that my kids are older I can see how they have benefitted from their relationship with the great outdoors and will pass that along to their own children. Author Sarah Breathnach says, “Therapists who specialize in ‘ecopsychology’ believe that deepening our emotional ties to nature is as vital to our well-being as the close personal bonds we pursue with family and friends. We might not consciously understand it but we need to reinforce our strand in the web of life. When we honor this ‘holy hunger’ by getting in tune with nature we experience personal harmony.”
This summer my daughter and I spent our last morning in Hawaii playing in the ocean waves instead of going to church with the rest of our group. My daughter commented, “We are at church mom,” and I happily agreed. I look forward to our Full Church Camp at the end of August where all of us will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauties of nature and the beauties of love and friendship at the same time. It was a wonderful experience last year for everyone who was able to attend and I felt blessed to be part of it.
Janen Wright, Director of Faith Formation