Unplugging In, With and For Nature

Unplugging In, With and For Nature

A long time ago, in a mindset far away, I planted and served an online church in Second Life. I’ve served as the minister of digital community at the UCC denominational level and even traveled the States leading “social media bootcamps” for clergy. For about 4 years I worked as the director of digital strategy for a liberal arts college in the south. All this after I graduated from seminary with a focus in social justice, pastoral care and digital ministry. I was about as nerdy as theologically progressive gal could be. 

And then just before the world turned upside down and tuned into all things virtual (meetings, game night, karaoke and church), the universe with her delightful sense of humor, plopped Braiding Sweetgrass into my heart, shook me to the core and called me away from the screen and into the woods.

Now I am called to (and trained in) nature therapy, outdoor life coaching and eco-chaplaincy, as far removed from technology as possible. Of course I still hang out in digital spaces, the public square of our age, and even build websites for folx in helping professions. But every day I more fully inhabit my wild love for the natural world – of which we are all a part – to invite others into this (re)connection with creation of which we are all luminescent, interdependent parts.

More and more research around the world verifies the positive physiological, mental and spiritual benefits of intentional time in nature.  

But it’s not all about humans and how we can use nature for our wellbeing. When we spend more time (re)connecting with the natural world through activities such as forest bathing, nature retreats or guided nature meditations, there are positive impacts on our environmental attitudes and behavior. A spirit of reciprocity invites each of us to be in and with nature, recognizing we are of nature and to do what we can to be for nature in a world that only sees what can be consumed. A walk in and with nature is the first step to remembering we are of and for nature.

I hope to have the honor of sharing a walk with you one day.

1. Amy Novotney, “Getting Back to the Great Outdoors” American Psychological Association, (2008)

2. Dr. Qing Li, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, (2018)

3. Kyoung Sang Cho et al., “Terpenes from Forests and Human Health,” Toxicology Research, (2017)

4. Claudio D. Rosa & Silvia Collado, “Experiences in Nature and Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: Setting the Ground for Future Research,” Frontiers in Psychology (2019)

Don’t Meditate

Don’t Meditate

Meditation can be daunting. 

Perhaps, don’t meditate.

Just try being still and quiet for three minutes, maybe five. 

Don’t wait until the dishes are done or the laundry is folded or the inbox has been emptied. Just choose a quiet place and time and give yourself a few minutes.

Maybe sit at your table where you’ve gathered over the years with friends and loved ones.

Or in your favorite comfortable chair where a book or film has moved you to tears.

Or even on the foot of your bed…

Near a window is particularly nice.

Just be still and quiet for five minutes with no device, book, craft, chore or even lover at hand.

Don’t try to meditate. 

Don’t try to count your breaths. 

Don’t try to do anything. 

Just be still and quiet for mere minutes;

allowing your mind to wander any which way it will. 

Be gentle with yourself. 

Notice your noticing. Has your mind wandered to a task that needs doing? 

Thank your mind for its concern for the work of the world.

Breathe. 

Notice where you are sitting, are there sounds or sights distracting you?

Thank your senses for being alert to the world.

Breathe.

Notice how your body feels. Are your legs feeling wiggly? Does your nose itch? 

Thank your body for giving your spirit access to this world.

Breathe.

Quietly whisper “thank you” into the room.

Breathe.

Say thank you again.

Breathe.

When you are ready, welcome yourself back to movement and activity.

Next week, if you are ready, sit again, perhaps for 10 minutes.

The fog of fear

The fog of fear

March has come in like a lamb here in Holland. As is often the way on the cusp between seasons, a thick as snert soup fog was draped over the tilting houses and the cobbled streets as we cycled to work this morning. So we took our time winding through the sleepy city, being careful to not careen into a canal or other commuters making their way to through the murky dawn. As we rolled past the shrouded polders and pastures, I recalled that just yesterday I’d walked the same path and the sky was Delft blue, the landscape dotted with crystal clear livestock and resting swans.

I took a hand off my handlebars and tried to grab the fog. It is real, it is here, but I cannot grab it, I cannot hold it. And my musings about unlearning fear returned… I wondered, maybe fear is like the fog? Real and at the same time mere vapor. Yes, fog can pose real danger – to visibility, to compromised lungs, to a perfectly coiffed head of hair – but fog can also be beautiful and, as far as we know, it is always temporary. 

When fear settles on our shoulders and clings to the fabric of our being, we can forget the clear day before or be unable to imagine a potentially clear day tomorrow.  I’m not suggesting that we dismiss the fog, no quite the contrary. We have to acknowledge and move through the fog, with careful intelligence, clothed appropriately (they say here that there is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes), going slowly to observe our surroundings, adjust our trajectory and hold onto the the knowledge that the sun is still shining even if we can’t see it. 

What is deeply troubling me is that it seems like the powers that be profit from perpetually having their hands on fog machines to cloud our vision of a beautiful world. Maybe it is because we are on the cusp between seasons – between the old paradigm of greedily, violently hoarding power and a newer, more compassionate reality where all of creation can flourish in freedom.

My question is, how do we move through the fog – how do we discern what is truly dangerous to our personal and collective lives and what is merely vapor? How do we hold onto the memory and hope of a sun burning brightly?

What do you think?

Unlearning Fear

Unlearning Fear

A week or so before I was to turn 52 I was walking across the wide open fields of the Dutch countryside, alone, not another soul as far as the eye could see. As I wandered and wondered, a phrase drifted across the landscape of my mind and has lingered there ever since – unlearning fear. How have I been unlearning fear? How does anyone unlearn fear? First we have to understand how carefully constructed, how very profitable the fear is to the powers that be. So that is my exploration for the prayer, prompts, prose and practices for March…unlearning fear.

Oh Lord
We are a world
In love with fear
And afraid of love

The powerful pad their pockets
peddling fear to control the people

Be afraid, they say

And your creation
cowers behind
the great lie of scarcity

Be very afraid, they say

For those
With greedy minds
and clenched fists
shouting “Be afraid!”

I pray,
Be not afraid

For those
With terrorized hearts
And shuttered spirits
echoing “Be afraid.”

I pray,
Be not afraid

For those
with open wounds
and tear-streaked souls
crying “I am afraid.”

I pray,
Be not afraid

Gracious and loving God
free us from the myth of
fear of the other
fear of ourselves
fear of the known
fear of unknown
fear of loving
fear of losing
fear of living
fear of dying

and open us to the Truth
of abundance
of peace
of love

Amen

25 Things to Do on a Digital Detox

25 Things to Do on a Digital Detox

At this writing, I am 165 days into my year-long social media sabbatical and I still get responses that sound a lot like – WOW or That’s Intense or You Are So Brave! or That’s Amazing! – all of which seem to be significant reasons to maybe give up social media for good, don’t ya think? Stepping away from the stream or madness shouldn’t be arduous and is certainly not an act of courage.

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired of the vitriol and your own addiction to either watching the dumpster fire or participation in planning the flames? Maybe you’ve considered going on a digital detox? Good idea! But, what will you do with all of that extra time?

Here’s a random list of 25 things to do instead of scrolling and trolling…

Make and keep a junk journal made just for this occasion

Use DuoLingo to practice a new language when the urge to go go gadget gets me

Learn the names of plants, trees and birds that you see on your daily routes

Learn about the national parks in your region

Complete at least 10 things on Keri Smith’s list

Ride a bicycle somewhere you’ve never visited

​Make things with clay, paper and thread for folks you love

Craft poems, prayers for deep thoughts by Jack Handy and don’t post them on the interwebs

When you don’t know something, check out a book, consult a dictionary or ask a person, not Google

Visit the a botanical garden a few times each season

Learn everything you can about the divine feminine as understood in different traditions

Read a book written by someone well outside of your cultural context

Learn some creative hand lettering and create affirming signs for your window

Take, edit and print photos instead of sharing on Instagram

Cut up old t-shirts and learn how to quilt, starting with a pet blanket

Notice and appreciate the changes in your body without joining a “women over 50” Facebook support group

Write letters, on paper, with a pen – buy stamps and mail to people you love​ ​​

Try yoga again without complaining on Twitter about how hard it is

Build a table-top zen garden with a cairn of wee tumbled stones

Listen to a once-beloved CD all the way through without skipping a track

Fill a sketchbook with one thing you want to draw well

Sit quietly doing nothing

Look at everything​​

Think you own thoughts

Write