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Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast
In our April 22 "The Nature Path" service, there wasn't
enough time in the sermon to include some of the ideas - mindset
shifts and specific techniques -- for opening deeper connections
with Nature. I'm including them as this month's somewhat
lengthened column for whatever help they may be in making Nature
that much more spiritually meaningful for each of you.
I think the single most valuable thing we can do to get more
from Nature is simply, consciously, wanting it. Watch what new
activities and awarenesses start emerging in you after you
decide you want more Nature in your life. Spending more time in
it will probably come first. But a richer tapestry of
experiences will likely begin unfolding as well.
My second essential suggestion for deepening the Nature
connection is setting a mind frame that allows for "letting go"
- or "surrendering" into the experience. Techniques of deep
breathing (slow, full exhalation) - creating a meditative state
- in which you shut down left-brained thinking patterns allows
those powerful, mystical, "oneness" feelings to emerge.
And with those strategies, some specific activities and
- Like Thoreau, consider keeping a Nature journal -
observations, your feelings and impressions, and what that leads
to and means in your life and future. Wax poetic....
- Alter your Nature time and space relationships. Walk more
slowly (or rapidly); look at nature close-up (what would an ant
notice: in the miniscule are more amazing wonders).
- Cross-pollinate Nature with all your senses: cultivate
listening, smelling, touching, tasting sensations with what
- Garden. From seed to harvest, the slow progression and
satisfaction of watching earth, sun, and your labor combine to
create vegetable or flower abundance is sooo satisfying and
- Bring Nature indoors. Living plants, cut flowers, tropical
fish, etc. please the eye, soothe the soul, and reaffirm life
- Learning the science underlying Nature (usually) deepens your
connection. Beyond "such a beautiful mountain," an
understanding of geology reveals that beautiful mountain to have
been one billion year old lava, cooled and pressured into
gneiss, upthrust through earth crust's fissures during tectonic
shifts 65 million years ago. Learning names (of mushrooms,
clouds, birds, etc.) also makes each more unique, distinctive,
and yours. Note: too much left-brained knowledge can redirect
and ruin those sweet right-brained aesthetic, spiritual
connections. Decide what the right balance for you is.
- Notice color contrasts. Nature provides myriad hues of all
the earth tones . . . how do they look next to each other . . .
what does sunlight do? Looking more closely, subtleties of
colors appear - and our responses deepen.
- Explore. Check out new areas you've never been to . . .
wander . . . get off the trail when hiking. Risk a little -
allow for the unexpected.
- Enjoy the pluses of "sweat equity." Working for it always
enhances the experience. As you've probably noticed, the view
from a mountain you've hiked is so much more wonderful than when
you drove up it.
- Nature is both the soft and beautiful, but also raw, wild,
and unpredictable (that in extreme forms opens vital "survival"
challenges). Consider the benefits of connecting with its rugged
side . . . push yourself out into the elements - the rain, the
cold, the wind. You'll probably not only love that invigorating
challenge and essence of Nature's wilder side, but you'll likely
find yourself appreciating the soft inspirational side more
acutely as well.
- Give back. As Thoreau noted, it is only man's ability to
create a conscious connection with Nature that gives Nature its
meaning. Our appreciation of what it gives to us creates a two-
way street of spiritual connection and completion. Notice,
feel, and consciously express that appreciation. And: give back
directly in whatever ways you can . . . by physically helping
to preserve and improve the environment, being politically
active, and donating to wonderful Nature organizations (Sierra
Club; Nature Conservancy, etc.) and to those committed to
reducing overpopulation's impact (Planned Parenthood, NARAL,
This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader
of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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