by Adam Davenport
“Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world.”
-Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
I've noticed that the most spiritual times for me happen in natural places that I have grown to know. Places that I have visited, been drawn back to, and built relationship with. Within this ‘getting to know’ practice, I can only describe the feeling of deep contentment and relationship as falling in love with that place — further falling in love with the greater world.
I noticed this one day on the Noqouchoke (Westport) River where I'm blessed and privileged to live beside. I had been living by the riverside for almost a year at that point. I always enjoyed its presence but never on the level I felt on one early morning. On this morning I sat in our garden overlooking the river as the sun rose. It was springtime and I was enjoying the warm sunny sensations of winters end. All of a sudden I felt the river wake up — flocks of birds gliding gracefully down the rivers length; deep horn bellows of heron squawking as they glided to their next river post; buzzing of bumblebees in the flowers behind me; beautiful melodies of song birds close and distant creating a symphony-like atmosphere, schools of minnows breaking the river with a shimmer, dancing on the surface. In this moment, I was all consumed by the river, not just a tidal flow of water, but a body of life that beautifully represented everything about the world that was good. I was swept away by a feeling that I can only describe as falling in love with the Noqouchoke. I felt as I was part of it all.
Though — with the harsh pace of life and stresses in the modern world — I do not wake up to this feeling every day as I sit by the river, but I alway remember that moment. That moment of falling in love with this particular place lit a pilot in me that will never blow out. It also deepens my relationship with other places, as the patterns of nature always repeat themselves.
This relationship deepens my desire to do good for the river. What can I do to help the life of this river better express itself? What can I do to help future generations experience this, fall in love with the river even deeper and extend this to the many living beings that fill a niche in the ‘natural spaces’? This falling in love opens the opportunity for me to clearly see what my work and role in this world can be.
This process of accessing my spirituality has been a relationship building process with myself. It has awakened the more foundational and strong aspects of ‘me.’ It has opened up a learning mind, and humbled me to both the complexities and the beauty in the world. It has brought me patience to sit and listen to others that I most definitely do not agree with, and try to find some sort of bridge between us. It has allowed me to see the potential if we can bridge our differences.
This is an ever growing spiritual practice in my life that at times is distracted or torn away, but the experience described above always works as a solid foundation to bring me back to my spirituality, my connection to others, to nature, and to God, the Great Spirit, the Oneness that I see us all as expressions of.
I am excited about what Kinship offers -- a great opportunity to connect this deeper foundation of spirituality and interconnectedness to the environmental movement. Often the environmental movement becomes one about numbers, statistics, and mechanical/science based arguments. In order to see the maturity of this I believe we need to address peoples hearts and connections with the world through experience. This can be integrated into almost every facet of life, and becomes a foundation for decision making when accessed!
Some related readings that have also inspired me:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body Love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sound and the clear pebbles of the rain Are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to you imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
Mary Oliver, Wild Geese __
Speak to us of prayer. And he answered saying:
You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.
For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether? And if it if for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.
And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing.
When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour, and home save in prayer you may not meet.
Therefore let your visit to that temple invisible be for naught but ecstasy and sweet communion.
For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive: And if you should enter into it to humble yourself you shall not be lifted:
Or even if you should enter into it to beg for the good of others you shall not be heard. It is enough that you enter the temple invisible.
I cannot teach you how to pray in words.
God listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through your lips.
And I cannot teach you the prayer of the seas and the forests and the mountains.
But you who are born of the mountains and the forests and the seas can find their prayer in your heart,
And if you but listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence, “Our God, who art our winged self, it is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights, which are thine, into days which are thine also.
We cannot ask thee for aught, for thou knows our need before they are horn in us: Though are our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou gives us all.
- Khalil Gibran - on prayer, The Prophet ___
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
.... Always you have been told that work is a curse a labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfill a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life, and to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.
... And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God. ... Work is love made visible.
- Khalil Gibran - on work, The Prophet