For some people, nature is a spiritual path. That is why retreat centers are often built in beautiful locations. Nature frequently lifts our spirits and provides inspiration, renewal and experiences of awe.
For some people, being in nature is a spiritual reward in itself. John Muir, the American naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, wrote, “Going to the woods is going home.” Being in nature was relaxing, peaceful and rejuvenating. Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet, wrote, “In the woods to, a man (woman) casts off his (her) years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods is perpetual youth.” He saw the earth with the eyes of a child, full of excitement and wonder, as if seeing things for the first time. Both Muir and Emerson were clearly inspired by nature’s beauty.
For others, the experience of being in nature leads them to One who created nature. Anne Lamott, a northern California author of several New York Times best selling books, wrote Help Thanks Wow, the Three Essential Prayers. For her, experiences in nature fall into the Wow prayer category, where you may see an awesome scene, like a green flash at sunset, and “Wow” is all you can say. That’s one of the three essential prayers she describes. It is like the poem of Gerard Manly Hopkins:
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”
One is moved with the experience of awe and wonder. That experience of awe may be an experience of the Creator.
Think for a moment, about a time when you were somewhere in nature and experienced a time of awe, of wonder, perhaps of “Wow.” Picture that place in your mind’s eye, as you close your eyes. What colors and textures do you see? What is the weather like? How does the temperature or wind or sun feel on your skin? What sounds of nature do you hear? Rest in that place a moment…Remember that you can return to this place, in your mind’s eye, whenever you like today. When you are stressed, you can pause for a few moments and repeat this meditation.
May you be refreshed by the beauty of nature – where you have been and where you will go. May your spirit be always open to wonder and awe. May it be so.