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.
Given how harmful an invasive species can be, it's tempting to see them as wholly bad, the "enemy" of a healthy ecosystem that needs to be eradicated. For modern Pagans seeking to live an embodied spirituality grounded in the sacred land, invasives are powerful allies in coming to terms with our own ambivalent role in the ecosystems we inhabit, and the possibilities and choices that lie before us. Too often our modern society encourages us to see nature as fragile and untouchable, and humans as the worst intruders of all. Befriending invasives can teach us valuable lessons about how to be respectful, loving citizens of the planet that we call home.
Spring has definitely sprung here in the rainy emerald city of Seattle: the salmonberry is blooming and, believe it or not, the sun is shining! (For now, anyway.) This past weekend, Jeff and I enjoyed a somewhat belated equinox celebration — we spent all afternoon hiking through the city's largest park (while I indulged in some wildflower photography and rather clumsy bird-watching), we observed Earth Hour Saturday evening, and we visited the Seattle Aquarium for the first time, where we made the acquaintance of some very adorable, very playful sea otters. And speaking of sea otters (which happen to be a keystone species out here in the Pacific Northwest), two new articles of mine were also published this weekend, both of them exploring the role of keystones as guides and companions in earth-centered spiritual practice.
Not all of our companions will elbow their way into our lives and demand our attention. Some of them linger beyond the limits of our ordinary experiences, leaving only footprints and snapped twigs as traces of their presence. These are our guides to the depths of mystery and wilderness. They are dark wanderers who cross our paths only in the obscurity of a moonless night, whose form we seem to see only just on the periphery of our vision before it dissolves again into the tangled undergrowth of the unknown. They are the companions whose presence we sense with the thrill of uncertainty, that mixture of excitement and terror that gives rise to awe. Their breath is the sound on the edge of hearing that we catch just when we think we are alone. Lest we forget that nature is not only familiar and intimate, but deeply wild and strange. Lest we forget that some things are hidden, and will remain hidden. The bear is, for me, this kind of companion.
What is ecological polytheism? That was the question that I knew I'd eventually have to answer. There was something going on in the root-webbed dark, some new kind of way of being Pagan that was starting to take shape for me. I tried to answer this question, or at least articulate it, in a couple of posts over on No Unsacred Place, and they became two of the most popular posts on the blog. I wasn't the only one interested in asking these kinds of questions, it seemed. Lots of other people were wondering the same thing. What is natural polytheism? How does ecology inform my theology? How can I bring science and religion into conversation for a more grounded and earth-centered Paganism?
I'm thrilled to be the newest member of the SageWoman team! My first column, "Forever Maiden: Wild Dirt-Worship in the Digital Age," makes its debut with a story of seeking out those safe spaces to nurture the youthful goddess within. Plus, my contemplative essay "Goddess in the Details" is featured as the lead story for the issue. Squeeee!
My last post has generated some fantastic conversation both in the Meadowsweet Commons and elsewhere online. I'm still sweltering at my parents' house and will be traveling home again this weekend, so although I'm in the middle of composing a response exploring some of the ideas readers and commenters have shared, that post probably won't be up for another few days at least. In the meantime, I wanted to highlight some of the many insightful comments my last post has inspired. There is so much more to say on this topic, and it's one that I think lies at the very heart of not just Pagan leadership, but also Pagan spirituality in general. What do we emphasize in our rituals and spiritual work, and why? How do different forms of ritual shape our approach to these questions? How do we choose our leaders, and just as importantly, how do we support them in ways that allow them to continue to grow, explore and take risks? What are your thoughts on the relationship between sincerity, competence, and integrity?
The process of cultivating real integrity is sometimes messy and sometimes ugly. Fostering community is not about learning to be a good actor or an appreciative audience, but about learning how to take the messiness and clumsiness and ugliness in stride and discover the beauty within all the chaos. It's about learning to recognize the grace of intimacy and the power of integrity, when inner experience and outer appearance are brought into more authentic communication with each other. I can't help but wonder if this is why elders and leaders in our community are sometimes not very well respected, and why those who are sometimes choose to step down out of the spotlight. Have our leaders become so focused on the outer appearance of competence, professionalism and legitimacy that they've foregone the difficult, messy work of authenticity and integrity?
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?
They say you can't be neutral on a moving train, and if recent developments on the American political scene have demonstrated anything, it's that the Catholic Church is a train headed in a pretty distressing direction: away from equality and social justice, and set on a collision course with the wall of separation between church and state. In many ways, the Catholic Church abandoned me years before I finally woke up to the fact and left of my own accord. For years, I struggled with the feeling of being a solitary Catholic liberal crying out in the wilderness. I felt beleaguered by atheists and secularists on the one side of me, criticizing Catholicism for being a monolithic monstrosity of backwards-looking conservative patriarchy, while on the other side of me were many of my fellow Catholics striving to make the Church exactly that.