Have you ever been surprised by something that magically appeared in nature? Has your attention been momentarily captured by a deer that crosses your path? A cotton-tailed rabbit that pops out of a garden? A squirrel whose muk-muk chatter seems to communicate with you?
According to Steven Chase in his book, Nature as Spiritual Practice, we can experience these direct encounters with nature in one of three ways:
“Yeah. Whatever,” we might say as we rush on to the next item on our perpetual to-do list.
Cling to it.
“I must have that!” we might demand as we grab wildflowers to stuff in a vase or try to capture the experience on our I-Phone cameras.
Receive it as gift.
We can instead be awed by the unveiling of nature’s surprising beauty, receive it as a gift from the Creator, and lift it up with gratitude. In those moments, we might stop, listen, and ponder, “Is the Creator imparting wisdom to me through these landscapes and creatures?”
Standing in Your Own Power
The other day I was driving home from work. As I traveled down the road, I noticed a slender fawn dotted with reddish brown spots stoically standing alone in my neighbor’s yard. My eyes burst wide as her frailty and innocence captured my attention.
She represents new life and the courage to stand tall in this world, I thought to myself. She carries the message of patience, trust, standing in your own power, and the amazing grace of simple beauty.
Far from being ordinary, the fawn became a metaphor, a moment in time that spoke to my heart.
How Do I Know If Nature’s Speaking to Me?
Belden Lane, in his book, Landscapes of the Sacred, says our experiences in nature are filled with inspiration and wisdom when we become open to seeing them as sacred moments. Nature molds our personalities, anchors us in our human existence, and is the “connector of our soul with Being.” Lane and many others believe the Divine communicates with us in and through our relationship with nature.
Lane suggests there are four characteristics that determine if God is speaking to us through nature. I’ve paraphrased them here:
It Finds Us. We Don’t Find ItOur unique encounters with trees, birds, animals, and other parts of creation choose us. We don’t choose them. They typically arise when we aren’t expecting or looking for something sacred. It simply appears. It might startle us like the fawn did on my drive home.
In short, God chooses to reveal wisdom to us through creation when and where he discerns we are ready.
The Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary
One person, upon encountering a deer, may dismiss the sight as plain and uneventful. But others see the same ordinary experience with deeper insight and recognize that what seemed unremarkable has somehow become holy. They sense God’s Divine Presence.
Those willing to look deeper realize messages unfold through the ritual of silence, listening, and waiting. In those moments of pondering, what seems ordinary becomes extraordinary—sacred.
The Message is Transforming
When we gain clarity about what the Creator is saying to us through our experiences in nature, those wisdom moments shape and mold us. They become mile-markers on our life’s journey.
And if we embrace them as Divine Inspiration, we change on the inside.
The Wisdom Is Personal and Universal
When I saw the fawn, I was at a crossroads in life, moving from a long career as a lawyer into my encore career as a writer. It was and is a new beginning, one filled with possibilities and uncertainty.
The fawn’s message to stand in my own power—to claim the gifts God has given me and use them in life-giving ways for myself and others—was the message I needed to hear that day. It was life-giving.
The same message—standing in our own power—applies to all of us. Can we dig deep, claim the gifts with which we’ve been blessed, and use them to spill droplets of love into the world?
Three Gifts of Nature
When we’re open to receiving the insight and inspiration nature wishes to offer us, God graces us with these three gifts:
Quiet Minds. Present Moment
When we stay still and listen for what some call the “wisdom of wilderness,” our monkey-minds become quiet. We ground ourselves in the present moment.
In those sacred moments surprised by nature, our minds sink into our hearts. The gentle whisper of awe centers us in the quiet gift of the present moment.
The world is filled with negativity. We often develop a “negative bias,” a self-defense mechanism that focuses on what’s wrong with us and those we encounter.
Through nature, God reminds us the world is still a mystical place. In those moments when we experience the transformation of a monarch butterfly, the unconditional love of our pets, or the wisdom of an owl hoot-hooting in the night, the extravagant beauty of nature refocuses our thoughts on the goodness of creation. As we experience those moments, our hearts join a heavenly chorus, and we are ready to proclaim: “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies show that his hands created them” (Psalm 19:1).
Every animal has a unique spirit or virtue, according to Native American tradition. The Creator has assigned each creature the task of teaching humans how to integrate its virtue into our lives.
When an animal crosses our path, they become our teachers—if we’re open to listening and receiving the “good medicine” the Creator offers us through them.
Jamie Sams, in her book, Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, writes:
“Our fellow creatures, the animals, exhibit habit patterns that will relay these messages of healing to anyone astute enough to observe their lessons on how to live. The precious gifts of true medicine [i.e., anything that connects us to the Great Mystery and is healing to the body, mind, and spirit, or that brings personal power, strength, and understanding] are free. Each lesson is based on one major idea or concept, and, for the sake of simplicity, each animal has been assigned one of these lessons . . . . When you call upon the power of an animal, you are asking to be drawn into complete harmony with the strength of that creature’s essence.”
What’s Your Totem?
Inspired by Sams—who invites us to discover each animal’s spirit—their “totem,” as she calls it—when a particular animal crosses my path or I experience them in a dream, I grab my smart phone and Google the animal, asking, “What’s its spirit? What’s the animal’s totem?”
I then ponder how God is inviting me to integrate into my life that animal’s unique virtue.
It’s become a fun practice—another way to experience how God communicates wisdom to us through creation.
Let Nature Find You
As a spiritual practice this week, set aside some time to be alone in nature. Wander through the woods, walk along a beach, or take your lunch to a favorite park. Open your heart and ask the Creator to send you a spirit animal, tree, flower, or other part of nature to speak to you.
Then let nature find you.
When it does, sit and ask, “What wisdom does God wish to speak to me through the spirit of this part of nature? How does it speak to my soul?”
Have fun. Bask in creation’s beauty. Let God speak wisdom to you through the wonder of nature.
—brian j plachta
Want to Dive Deeper Into Nature?
Join me for our August Zoom Webinar
Our August Zoom Webinar will on Tuesday, August 31:
HOW DOES GOD SPEAK TO US THROUGH NATURE?
-nature as spiritual practice
A Finding Flow—Simple
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
7:00 pm – 8:45 pm (Eastern US Time)
- How is nature medicine for our souls?
- What Wisdom does the Creator wish to reveal to us through our experiences in nature?
- How can we learn to understand what nature desires to teach us?
Join me for this free Zoom Webinar to explore these questions and others.
During the webinar you’ll discover:
- How to become aware of Nature’s divine presence in your life
- What makes an ordinary experience in nature extraordinary
- How you can listen and understand the language of Nature
- Spiritual practices that can help you hear God’s Wisdom revealing itself to you through nature
Click the link below to learn more and register.