A very spiritually oriented colleague recently asked me what I love to do. She had shared that she loved her work particularly as it related to being the container which held other peoples’ emotions. I replied that while I derived satisfaction from my work, the things I LOVED to do were: singing and dancing to the Orishas (the divinities we worship in the Yoruba faith), hiking along the river with my dog; gardening, and listening to the birds sing at my little retreat in Upstate New York. She pointed out that the things I loved to do involved nature in some way to which I replied: that is the way we Yoruba connect to the divine.
Ours in a nature-based religion. Most of the divinities we worship have their designations and earthly homes in nature. For example, the Orisha Yemonja is the mother of all waters. Sango is the Orisha of thunder and lightning. From my limited understanding, the Native American traditions are also grounded in nature as are probably many other faiths and traditions of which I am unaware.
So I asked myself what is it about nature that brings us closer to the divine?
I believe a connection to the natural world inspires us to connect to all of our senses. We smell, see, hear, touch the world around us and can stand back and admire its beauty, complexity and power. We can take time to pay attention to the details. We can marvel and feel in a very visceral way the presence of elements greater than ourselves. We can see interconnectedness in examples of how the birds feed on the insects and the larger birds feed on the smaller ones. We can feel our own powerlessness before the forces of nature when we watch a hurricane or tornado.
That sense of connection to the natural world would explain in part why much of the country and possibly even the world are grieving over the Gulf oil spill. It would explain our gut-wrenching sadness and anger when we watch sea creatures and birds covered with oil slick, lying dead on the shore. We feel as though we have been violated and indeed we have. We can connect in a deep way with those creatures and our helplessness to save them. A part of us is covered in oil slick as well.
One of the underlying principles of the Yoruba tradition is respect for nature. It is something we can all do, regardless of our religious affiliations and/or spiritual paths. Life provides us with many opportunities to do so. We can conserve energy, recycle our trash, plant things that grow not only for the pleasure they bring us but because we support the cycle of nature. We can take time to honor the ancestors that lived on the land on which we walk. We can thank the universe for allowing us to temporarily occupy the place we live. We can show our respect in a myriad of ways.
I recall reading recently how gardening for example is good for our health. We get some exercise and support the life cycle. Plus the birds and bees love it (as well as the deer depending upon what you plant). A really knowledgeable gardener knows about soil and exposure and growing zones, all of which are one way of understanding the world around us. Those for whom the actual gardening is not possible can walk in a local park, visit a community garden or go to the botanical gardens.
So just for today, make a point of noticing the natural world around you and give thanks.
Whatever the venue or activity, connecting to the natural world brings us closer to the divine and that is something worth doing.
© Copyright 2010 by Kalila Borghini, LCSW. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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