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Aligning Energies

Connecting with Nature

Many in search of spiritual growth and connection with the spiritual energies of nature have embarked on great journeys and vision quests to remote and exotic locations. While these have their value and their place, my own personal bias is to emphasize the importance of connecting with the natural world just outside your front door. This is important for many reasons. Frequent encounters over time, especially daily, weekly and seasonally, allow us to better observe patterns and changes. We can connect more deeply and personally, feeling and developing belonging and attachment. We can then better experience our intimate relationship with and responsibility for the natural world, putting ourselves in right relationship. We are not just passing through in search of an experience to “consume” and then abandon.

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Walden by Henry David Thoreau, first published in 1854, reminds us of the spiritual growth available to us from living simply in connection with the natural world.  It is an absolute classic.  Read it again or for the first time.

For writing that follows very much in the tradition of Thoreau, but speaks well to us all in these times, check out the works of John Hanson Mitchell.  I’ve read nearly all of his books, starting with Ceremonial Time, One Thousand Years on One Square Mile. (1984)  "Ceremonial time is the moment when past, present and future can be perceived simultaneously.  John Mitchell traces the life in a single spot in New England from the last ice age, through years of Indians, shamans, and bears to the colonists, witches, and farmers, and now computer hackers."   Also, check out: Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard,  “A wise and poetic field guide to the lives, habits, and quirks of the natural world awaiting just beyond your doorstep.”  Mitchell’s home page can be found at: www.johnhansonmitchell.com

Vision Questing.  If you do feel that travel and adventure are  appropriate for your needs and present circumstances, check out the offerings of Sacred Passage and the Way of Nature Fellowship. I  had the good fortune of participating in a short retreat with John Milton, the founder of Sacred Passage and was very impressed with his deep understanding and wisdom.  He embodies what it means to be a modern day ecologist and spiritual teacher.  He’s been leading vision quests since way before it was fashionable.  His understanding of qigong and Taoism adds tremendously to his ability to assist others in connecting energetically with the natural world.

Ecopsychology is a new and important field for understanding our human relationship with Nature.  To learn more, check out the website of The International Community for Ecopsychology.   There you will find a great many resources including recommended reading.  Check out their very comprehensive, informative and well-organized bibliography.

One of the first books that I read in this field caught me with it’s title:  My Name is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization by Chellis Glendinning, 1994.  This author has some important things to say about the relationship between addiction and our ecological crisis.

Synchronicity.  My own relationship with nature is based heavily on a deep appreciation for the meaningfulness of what in our culture would otherwise be considered simply coincidental.  Whenever I begin each walk in a natural setting, I deliberately affirm the meaningfulness of all that is about to happen.  It is a way of choosing the reality I wish to inhabit at that time.  For more about choosing your reality, see  my article Maps and Modalities pdf.  If I have some pressing concern, I may ask Spirit to send me guidance on the issue through my experiences.  Everything that happens is then interpreted through that lens.  This approach makes a big difference in experiencing the natural world as alive, magical and responsive.  Carl Jung defined “synchronicity” as meaningful coincidences that defy conventional notions of cause and effect.  To read more about synchronicity, check out Synchronicity, Science, Myth and the Trickster, by Allan Combs and Mark Holland, 1990.

There are many levels of connection with the natural world and not everyone is ready or willing to go to all of them.   That’s just fine.  For those of you who ARE ready and willing to engage with nature in a more extraordinary way, there are teachers and leaders who can help show the way.

One early and extremely influential of these is Dorothy Maclean.  Her experiences at Findhorn, Scotland, connecting with nature spirits that she calls “deva’s” is an important story detailing her development of a truly miraculous cooperative relationship with nature.  Check out her book:  To Hear the Angels Sing:  An Odyssey of Co-Creation with the Devic Kingdom.  Here is an article from the Findhorn website telling the story of “co-creation with nature” that started with Dorothy Maclean:  Here is a March 2008 talk at Findhorn by Dorothy Maclean.

Another such spiritual trailblazer is Machaella Small Wright. who wrote  Behaving as if the God in all Life Mattered, A New Age Ecology. 1983.  Here’s a little from the book’s description - Her personal story is one of triumph, from a childhood of torment and isolation to discovery of her ability to communicate with the world of nature spirits and devas.  At "Perelandra," her 45-acre private nature research center in Virginia, Machaelle devotes her life to understanding and demonstrating a new approach to ecological balance:  the foundation and development of co-creative gardening; the ecological effects of humans;  the roles of the animal, mineral and plant kingdoms; and humankind's unrealized custodianship of Planet Earth.

Kinship with All Life, J. Allen Boone, HarperCollins, 1954 tells a first person account of extraordinary experiences and profound changes in attitude and belief about animals and the possibilities for relationship with them.  It all started with the author becoming a reluctant “dogsitter” for a very special dog.  A delightful book, very highly recommended.

Continuing in the realm of non-ordinary experiences with nature, we may find ourselves crossing into the field of shamanism.  Here we encounter people and practices involving special relationships with animal spirits and other compassionate spirits in non-ordinary reality. Read about Shamanism Sources & Resources.

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Two books by Ted Andrews really belong on this page as well as the Shamanism page.:  Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small, and Animal Wise:  The Spirit Language and Signs of Nature. These are basic references that I turn to whenever I have had a special encounter with a creature in the wild.  I find that reading about the animals I just met on my walk always enhances the meaningfulness of the experience.  Its best if I can also do my own shamanic journey to experience the animal in non-ordinary/shamanic reality and receive teachings directly after an encounter in the “ordinary.”

In addition to serving as general references for interpreting animal encounters, these books are also extremely valuable texts with chapters such as “Reading Signs and Omens in Nature,” “The Mystery and Magic of Predator and Prey,”  “Working with Bird Medicine,” and “Honoring Animal Totems,” from Animal Speak.   Animal Wise includes these chapters: “Understanding the Language of Nature,” “The Four Blessings of Every Creature,” and “The Exotic Language of the Ancients.”



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Shamanism Sources & Resources