Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day

"The Beauty of the Earth"
-Outside the Desert Retreat House -

Today as we celebrate “Earth Day,” it seems to me that maybe we need to make a bigger deal of this holiday, thinking of it as being at least as important as “Mothers’ Day” or “Valentine’s Day” and maybe even as important as Christmas. The more we learn to reverence and respect the earth, the greater we increase the chances of the human species surviving on this planet over the generations to come.

As I see it “Earth Day” should be treated more like a religious or spiritual holy day rather than a civic holiday. On this “Earth Day” I celebrate the wonderful sacred universal energy that pulsates throughout the universe and flows throughout the planet connecting everything and everyone together into ONE great cosmic web.

When I got up this morning and looked out into the wilderness near my house so fully alive with the fresh blossoms of Springtime in its full bloom, I was fully aware of how very much we all belong together in this intricate web of life -  all that lives and moves on the earth, in the sky, in the water, and in the air, all creatures big and small, we are all many parts of the One. We are all the very “Body of God.”

I am reminded of a story about the early European Christian missionaries who first came to America in order to convert the pagan native peoples in this strange New World. When the missionaries arrived on these shores they were none too pleased to learn that the Native “Indians” were already a very spiritual people with a keen awareness of a Holy Presence abiding in and flowing through the world of nature.

For many generations, the Native Peoples believed that the Great Spirit was intimately present in the earth, the sky, the air and in all the creatures who dwelt upon the face of the earth. So when they prayed, the “Indians” focused the gaze of their eyes downward upon Mother Earth, for herein dwelt the abiding Holy Presence.

This custom of praying to the earth infuriated the European Christian missionaries and convinced them that these native peoples were undoubtedly savages and pagans because any educated religious person knew that God lived up there in heaven seated on a throne in a far distant place to rule over what went on down here on earth. So the missionaries decreed that, from now on, all prayer was to be directed upward.

On this “Earth Day” I actually think it was the Native Peoples who had it right all along and I wonder if maybe it was the missionaries who actually needed conversion.

Gazing upon the abiding Presence of “God” flowing in and through the earth rather than looking up to a distant far away God up there seems to me to be a noble gesture and sacred practice.  

Today I think of one of my very favorite prayers passed down over the generations by the Ute Tribe of North American Indians. It is called A Prayer to the Earth – A perfect prayer for this sacred celebration of Earth Day, 2016

Earth teach me stillness, as the grasses are stilled with the light.
Earth teach me humility, as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation, as the leaves that die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration, as the seed that rises in spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself, as the melting snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness, as dry fields weep in the rain.

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