Listening as Spiritual Practice
Every day we are inundated with information. Through words, images, conversations, screens, media, people, and life…it can be hard to keep track of what is most important in the deluge of noise and “news.” This year, the ministers at ERUUF are offering a series of classes to help all of us ground and center in the midst of all that life brings. In the first class of the series (Healing the Earth) I was moved by the engaged presence of participants, both online and in person, who embraced the primary invitation of the class—to pause, slow down, and listen.
Based on the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, we explored our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world, our sense of interconnectedness with the Earth, and what it may take to write a new future for a sustainable world for all. Dr Kimmerer offers that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the Earth and learn to give our own gifts in return.
Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved, and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us. Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But, when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.
The book is full of stories that encourage us to pay attention to how we are in relationship with one another, the Earth, and the elements of nature. Following the lead of the book, the class focused on listening to one another share stories of our own experience of the natural world. Each week, there was a homework assignment, that we then shared in the next class.
For week 1, the assignment was to find a tree that you can connect with for at least 5 minutes a day for a week. You could sit by the tree or connect to one outside your window. Notice. Listen. Feel. After your daily tree time, jot down a few notes about the experience.
For week 2, the assignment was to find a body of water that to connect with—stream, river, pond, lake, ocean. Spend 1 hour in quiet reflection with the water. No phones, no reading, no journaling. Just be present. Notice. Listen. Feel.
For week 3, the assignment was to plant a tree or shrub this fall outdoors. Native species, not invasive. Give yourself the gift of planting in the Earth as a way of embodying the principal of reciprocity in the book and growing a new connection with the land.
How can we heal the Earth?
In this class I felt a part of a small group of people that care deeply about the world and are willing to find a way to create a hopeful future. When we remember the power of listening as a spiritual practice, it opens doors of awareness and connection that can lead us into new and renewed relationships with one another and with the Earth. Listening invites the cultivation of a reciprocal and respectful relationship with the world.
When we practice mindful living, listen deeply to all that is, and awaken to the understanding that we are part of the Earth, and the Earth is part of us, addressing the climate crisis becomes grounded in a spiritual knowing of the inherent oneness of creation. Then the questions we ask, the actions we take, will emerge from a perspective of connection and compassion. This approach is fundamentally different than if we see the Earth, and each other, as separate, other, out there…not my problem.
This shift is one step forward in helping to heal the planet.
Photo Credit: J-Photos on Unsplash
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