I was reading the thoughts of an American Sufi mystic and writer Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in his article in the Parabola journal, Living the Moment of Love. He speaks about practicing spirituality in this time of the “Great Forgetting”, the times of global environmental and climate catastrophe which threaten to undermine, if not upend civilisation as we have known it. He discusses the need to experience love for the Earth and our need to bring this into our daily lives as a way of healing us and the Earth.
As someone who cares deeply about nature and actively seeks life meaning, who has spent many years as an environmental professional, enjoying natural places and environmental activism, nature connection has become my spiritual practice. With respect to this practice and its potential to heal and comfort those seeking respite from inner turmoil and pain, I want to share a few of Llewellyn’s thoughts and my reflections on those.
In his 2019 on-line article, he writes:
“A simple and essential spiritual truth teaches that only being awake in the moment is real. ….. It is a moment “in and out of time,” which we usually glimpse only for an instant before the thoughts and the patterns of our consciousness cloud over our eyes.”
“Spiritual practices—meditation, mindfulness—can help give us access to these moments. But is it enough just to live them in their innocence, or do we need to bring an awareness of the changing story that surrounds them, a story of the Earth abused and exploited, species depleted, waters made toxic? And how can we reconcile the wonder of the moment with our responsibility and love for the Earth that gives us these moments? What does it really mean to live in the now?”
The sentiment of balancing living in the moment with global degradation has haunted me many times as I have gone about my spiritual practice. I have often tasted the bitter taste of bad environmental news as I have commenced my mindfulness practice. As I begin the releasing stage, I often struggle to let go of my busy mind, including thoughts about the ecological devastation across our global home. Mindfulness requires that I enter into a state of consciousness in which my observer self stays present to immediate experience, to let go of what is not present and, in a way in each moment to become innocent of devastation elsewhere.
But after more than thirty years of being an environmentalist, I am no longer innocent or polly-annish about the future of this abused Earth. My experiences have inevitably changed me, my perspectives, with the knowledge of the on-going sullying of the beauty and harmony of too many natural places at the hand of human needs and greeds. I do let go of these thoughts and enter into child-like engagement with the beauty and spacious presence of the natural setting I am engaging. But it often requires a concerted effort of focused mindful attention – to breathing, walking, listening – to let go of this conflicted awareness and become fully engaged with each present moment.
Llewellyn offers this advice: “The Earth has been wounded by our greed and exploitation, and by our forgetfulness of its sacred nature. It needs us to remember and reconnect, to once again recognize that we are not separate but a part of this living being. And love is the simplest key to this reconnection, because the nature of love is oneness. Love is the most ordinary, simplest, and most direct way to uncover what is real—the innermost secrets of life and its primal unity. It is at the root of all that exists, as well as in every bud breaking open at springtime, every fruit ripening in fall.”
This experience of love is a gift from a mindful, loving full engagement with the forest around me, a gift that opens me up one petal at a time to the flow of bliss. I often experience what it might feel like to be that “bud breaking open at springtime”, the sense of immense vitality and joy of myself bursting forth into the nourishing spaces I am immersed within. Within this love I am silenced and filled with an ebullient Divine presence. This joyful love, as I view it, becomes the gift to a world that needs us, more of us, to love the world unconditionally, human and non-human beings. Love is the glue that binds everything together into a Divine image and I become an essential part of this collage held together within loves embrace.
As I walk along a forest track, each step becomes an act of loving mindfulness. Released of angst about the outside world, I observe the flow of experience through the mental prism of total acceptance of what is and heart-felt gratitude for life, for nature, for being me in this moment of timeless presence. It is through gratitude and within the spacious inner silence that the bud of love opens up within me, that the forest embraces me into its bosom, and frees me from myself and its mental and emotional hubris, including my awareness of the worlds plight.
Within the loving space of an unfolding and enveloping sense of oneness, of communion, outside of time, I am freed to become more of me that lies within and beyond this physical carriage. This liberation is the nectar that feeds my trust in the Divine, sustains me in this stormy climate of change. Through my spiritual practice, I can fully engage and love life in a way that extends beyond time into the infinite spaces of a loving sacred presence. In some small way, in these private moments of deep connectedness, I am being the change I yearn to see in the world, bringing and spreading the healing power of love to a world desperately needing it, unglued and confused in its Great Forgetting. So if love is the answer, what is the question, your most private question?