At the Creation Spirituality Symposium held at the Carmelite Centre in May Jan Morgan and Graeme Garrett introduced us to a practice of prayer they have been developing, in a session they called ‘Learning to Pray in the Anthropocene’.
Find a place where you feel a sense of being in the presence of Nature. This may be by the ocean, in the desert, on a cliff top, in the mountains or the bush, in grasslands or wetlands, by a river, creek or pond. Chose somewhere you can go regularly, somewhere that calls to you, however faintly.
For city-dwellers find a place that is as near to a ‘natural’ wild order, as relatively intact an ecosystem, as you can find. For example, a tract of bush remaining in parkland, or the re-vegetated edge of a local creek or pond. But it may be your own created garden, or even simply a single tree or a plant in a pot.
Our circumstances differ, and change through time. The point is to find some connection with the wider living world of which we are part.
You might imagine this as returning to the Garden, as an act of re-membering ourselves as part of Creation, or simply as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and feeling the life-world of which we are part, the Ground of our Being from which we have been separated.
We suggest you commit yourself to keeping the practice for 3 months. Like a growing plant this work is slow, organic, unfolding quietly. A half hour each day or even twice or once a week would be a way to start. If you already have a spiritual practice – meditation, contemplation, prayer, yoga, you will already know the value of a regular commitment. Consider re-allocating some of the time you already set aside. If a practice is a new idea, you may need just to plunge in. You may already be in love with the natural world, and spend time hiking, canoeing, surfing or walking or gardening. This is a different way to attend.
The practice is done alone, but you might find a friend who would like to join you, either at the same place and time or separately. You could then agree to meet once a week and share stories and/or journals (see below).
You also need to think about what we call ‘the weather’. Do you need to take a hat, sunscreen, rain jacket, umbrella, gloves etc?
Other people may walk by. Decide ahead simply to attend to the practice. They have their life (and probably dog), you have yours.
You might like to meditate on certain Bible verses in preparation. The following are useful: Psalms 8, 19, 65, 95, 104 or 148. Jeremiah 4; Job 38-41; Genesis 1-2; Matthew 6:25-30; John 1:1-5; Colossians 1:15-20
Beginning the practice
Once you have chosen a place consider how you will get there. Approach matters. Build in as much silence as you can. If you need to drive, turn off the radio or take some meditative music to play. Perhaps park some distance away so that you can walk in to the spot. If you do the practice in your own garden, consider a walk around the neighbourhood as preparation, and ensure that any other people in the house know not to disturb you (pray the baby stays asleep!). If you are in hospital, tell the nurses what you need.
Greeting the place
Having arrived, decide where to stand (listen to what is calling you).
Take time to notice what you are hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling, smelling.
Turn to honour each of the four directions (E, N, W, S), and feel the energy of the sun pouring down, and the energy of the earth rising beneath your feet.
Dedicate the practice to the flourishing of all beings.
Standing (or sitting if necessary)
Push upwards from the top of your head.
At the same time, relax the rest of your body, feeling the weight of your muscles dropping downwards, almost as if you ‘let the flesh fall off your bones’. In particular, relax your stomach muscles and your
jaw, place the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth, unlock your knees.
Keep your eyes open. Soften your gaze – about a 45 degree angle is good.
Empty your mind. Gently let distracting thoughts pass by as clouds across the sky, and return again to the practice.
The occasional use of a prayer mantra (e.g., Maranatha; Lord have mercy) can be helpful.
You may like to put some questions to the Earth. The first is a matter of courtesy in approach:
Are you willing to communicate with me?
Wait in a receptive state for an answer, then if it seems right quietly ask . . .
Is there a message?
Is there a lesson?
Is there an offering?
Taking leave (when the half hour is up)
Make an offering sending the energy of the practice back out into the world.
Walk/drive home silently.
Write about your experience (e.g. half a page). Keep these pages in a folder – you will be amazed at what you find when you read them later.
We gratefully acknowledge teachings from a range of sacred traditions, in particular Taoist and Native American.
Jan Morgan and Graeme Garrett