It's been two weeks since my piece "Gods Like Mountains, Gods Like Mists" set off a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion about anthropocentrism in polytheist ritual and theology. In case you were wondering — yes, I've been busy reading, thinking, digesting and working on a follow-up post (or six!) of my own that I'll be sharing here soon. In the meantime, I wanted to point out some amazing writing elsewhere in the blogosphere. Featuring posts by Sara Amis, Joanna van der Hoeven, Heather Mingo and more!
Between research and writing, there is a lacuna in which almost anything can happen. The hush is nearly unbearable. In my mental landscape, ideas rustle and nudge towards one another through the tall prairie grasses, their haunches twitching with tension, ready to flee. Eros is thick in the air. Ecology rubs up against ritual theory, playing with the hem of her skirt. Bruce Lincoln is making eyes at Lewis Hyde. The deer of my dreams raise their heads to listen hard for the hunter. The salmon of wisdom are working their way home. Any moment, I'm going to start writing. Any moment...
When we see nature itself as a constantly-unfolding story about the deepest, most sacred truths of life and death, we can adapt the practice of Lectio Divina as a creative approach to meditation that can strengthen our relationship with the earth. Here are just a few ideas about how to use the practice of Lectio Divina to engage with the stories of nature. Although we can approach each of the four stages of Lectio Divina as distinct activities that we can do one at a time on their own, we experience the most benefit from this kind of spiritual work when we bring them together into a single coherent, continuous practice.
I haven't meditated in nearly a year. The other day, I sat down to renew my work, and my brain, that chattering monkey mind, wouldn't shut up for one second. Plan, plan, plan. Row, row, row. Enamored with its own frenetic activity. I made meditation just one more task on my to-do list, one more way that I would prove myself the better person, force myself into the mold of accomplishment and success that I had made for myself. It didn't work. So what's a slacker contemplative to do?
I've lived so long among ghosts, / the puffed up shells, / watery husks / shimmering transparent skins / that shiver in the wind. / Like so much sea foam, / they shrink away / from the outstretched hand, / fall back into their emptiness.
I look up from my work at the computer and notice for the first time the gray curtain of rain outside my window. That sacred presence that crept upon the land so slowly, opening itself up into a downpour over this city of steep hills and huge rivers with such unrelenting patience that it's easy to believe the rain could go on forever, pounding over the black slate rooftops and gathering into the gutters. And it does. I turn off the air conditioner and open the windows to let the breeze and noise-song of the storm in. The smell of summer is delicious and sweet and warm in my lungs. The red brick of our neighbor's house darkens to a deeper, mottled red across the narrow span of the alley. Our tiny garden nods and nods...
A match is struck — the flare in the darkness, the smell of sulfur, the quiet roar and hiss that is the first whispered melody of the cosmic dance. Energy and matter, process and emptiness, fire and water, the dance of relationship. Each sacred rite begins this way. The match is struck. The world begins again. I light the small white candle floating in the deep blue bowl. What was before this? Nothing and void, pure potential. The flame licks and eats the air, the waters beneath swirl and turn, the soft wax of the candle hangs suspended in between. The wax melts, shining and dripping into the waters. The wax evaporates, lifting in invisible currents into the air. The fire stretches and curls, its edges sharp against the darkness, its movements as fluid as blood or rain. The waters grow still, a hard surface like the mirror reflection of some greater night, infinite as space and full of stars. The Three Realms unfold, dynamic in their spiraling dance of self-giving and welcome. Land, Sea and Sky created and re-created again, the cosmos reborn with every prayer.