We love what we value and we value what we love. And when we talk about loving the world, we are talking about valuing the world as sacred and learning to honour, protect, and respect that sacredness. It also means being aware of our deep connectedness with the Earth and learning to be more intentional about nurturing that connection. Because when we recognise and experience how intertwined our life and the world’s is, we feel more at home on our planet and we are awakened to the Life that thrives within us and around us.
In this episode of the EvoFaith Podcast we explore how loving the world calls us to be more aware of the Earth in our spirituality. We investigate ways to embrace an earth-based spirituality, regardless of our spiritual or religious background. And we seek to connect more deeply with creation as a way to deepen our own spirituality and experience life more fully.
Over the last few years my own spiritual journey has taken an unexpected turn and led me into a deeper and more life-giving spirituality than I’ve ever known before. What I mean is that I feel more deeply connected with myself, with others, with the world, and with Spirit than I have perhaps ever before. I have also found that I am living more deliberately, more slowly and mindfully. And I feel more joy, more awe, more peace and presence than I have in a very long time. I am so grateful for this gift. And I am grateful for finding the path that led me here—which was discovering the wonder and beauty of Earth-based spirituality.
Almost two years ago now, my sister invited my wife, Debbie, and me to join her and her family for a Sabbat, an earth-based practice connected with the season of the natural world at that time. For years, as a Christian and a minister, I had struggled with the way all the Christian festivals were out of sync with the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere. I had used my creativity to make the most of it and I had found meaning in the different seasons of the Church calendar anyway. But I hadn’t realised how disconnected my spirituality was from the world in which I actually live. Now here I was engaged in a celebration that was deeply rooted in what was actually going on in the natural world around me. And for the next year I found myself becoming far more attuned to the world and its moods, to the life coming and going in my garden and my neighbourhood, and to the way these natural cycles affected me. It was like I had awoken to a whole new world while staying in exactly the same place.
I haven’t abandoned my faith in Christ. I am still shaped by the life and message of Jesus. But along with that, I have found a spiritual practice that has grounded me, liberated me, and healed me simply by connecting me more deeply with the Earth and inspiring a deeper love for the world in my heart and soul.
Too many forms of—particularly Western—spirituality disconnect us from the Earth. In the evangelical faith that I was taught in my youth, our planet was just a storehouse of resources for human consumption. And it was all going to be destroyed anyway when Christ returns, so why bother to preserve it? It was only New Agers and Pagans who ‘loved the creation more than the Creator’ who went on about saving the Earth, I was taught. What I missed in that theology was that the cosmos was all created by God and God had pronounced it all as very good. God loves the world and the Scriptures teach that the entire created realm is to be renewed, not destroyed. Of course, my view of God is now very different from my evangelical upbringing, but my faith in Christ convinces me that the Earth is sacred, it is precious, and it is to be preserved and honoured.
The earliest human religions were all connected with the Earth—they had to be for survival. They empowered human beings to understand the patterns and cycles of the Earth. They taught everything the first people needed to know to plant and harvest crops successfully, to hunt animals and to use all the parts of their kill for a purpose. The earliest spiritualities taught humans how to endure harsh weather conditions and they taught them how to enjoy times of abundance, while staying hopeful and aware in times of lack. Those spiritualities taught them to do what was needed to ensure that another time of abundance would come. These were practical, meaningful, life-affirming and life-saving practices. And they were completely intertwined with the place on Earth in which people lived.
Of course, we may not live in a primarily agrarian culture anymore, and we are far more globally connected with one another than ever before. But we still depend on the Earth and we are part of the ecosystem of our planet. We need to learn, again, to integrate our lives, our souls, our ideas, into the realities of our living Earth. And that takes awareness and intentionality, which are of course the gifts of spirituality.
What I’ve learned is that there is nothing in earth-based spirituality that needs to be seen as a threat to, or in competition with, traditional religion. Rather, earth-based spiritual practices fit beautifully into other religious and spiritual paths, enriching them and adding new meaning and depth to their traditions and practices. So with that in mind, I want to encourage you, if you aren’t doing it already, to nurture an earth-based spirituality as part of your spiritual journey.
In a moment I’ll offer some thoughts about communing with the Earth as a spiritual practice. But first here’s a quick reminder to subscribe, like, activate notifications, and share the EvoFaith podcast as widely as you can. Your support in this way makes a huge difference to me and I appreciate it so much. Thank you!
So here are some simple suggestions for nurturing an earth-based spirituality within whatever your regular spiritual path may be.
It’s helpful to begin by learning about earth-based spiritualities and how they connect us with the seasons. What I’ve learned is that there are eight seasons—or Sabbats—that help to connect us with the Earth. Some of them are based on the solstices, some on the equinoxes, that gives us four, and then the periods in between, that gives us eight—covering the main points of the seasons—Summer, Winter, Spring, and Autumn—while also noting the points of transition in between. That means that we are called back to connect with the Earth about every 6 weeks or so through the year. And we become more aware of what is actually happening in our world since the observances are shaped by the seasons in the hemisphere where you live—which is wonderful for those of us particularly living in the South.
Then, flowing out of our learning, it should almost be automatic that we make time to stop and notice what is happening during each season. It can be helpful to use an earth-based calendar with the dates of the different seasons and some information on what to watch for and observe each season, but this isn’t essential. If you prefer you can simply allow the seasons to reveal themselves to you and learn from what you observe and experience. Or you can create some other way to engage with the cycles and rhythms of the Earth. But however you choose, it is essential to stop, take note, and make time to see, to celebrate, to give thanks for, and to learn from the Earth in all its different moods and cycles.
And finally, allow your spirituality to lead you into a sacred I-Thou relationship with the Earth—to quote from Martin Buber. Learn increasingly to see and connect with the Earth not as a dead thing to use, but as a living being with whom to be in relationship; as a peer and a partner in the evolution of Life; as a lover in whose embrace we are nurtured and cherished and whom we can nurture and cherish in return. Let no place or time be without a sense of the Earth’s life, the Earth’s presence, the Earth’s love. And let your spirituality overflow into expressing love, practically, in your world at every opportunity.
Loving the world is about much more than just recycling, limiting waste, and being careful in our use of water and electricity—as valuable and important as these practices are. It is also about how we see, experience, and relate to the Earth. It’s about building a meaningful relationship with the Earth and becoming aware of the Life that flows between us and all the beings and substances that make up our planet. It’s about honouring the sacredness of creation and finding our place as part of it. And then, as our love grows, it will flow naturally into practices and actions that care for, protect, and celebrate the Earth as the sacred home that it is.
In our next episode we begin a new series where we explore the fourth pillar of an authentic spirituality—loving God. In this series we will explore what we mean by the word ‘God’ and how we can relate to and love God when we’ve deconstructed traditional ideas and experiences of God. I’m really looking forward to sharing that conversation with you.
But that’s all for now. Thank you for listening. Thank you for watching. And I’ll catch you next time!
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