Simple Settings for Spiritual Growth – Part 1: Nature & Ritual

This is part 1 of 4! Click here for Part 2, here for Part 3, here for Part 4!

Over the years I’ve identified at least 8 everyday settings in which almost everyone is already attuning to the Sacred, as well as Soul and Spirit, and may want more support. I often find clients want to focus on these topics in our sessions together, as a way of bringing interaction with Spirit, Soul, and the Sacred from the conceptual down to the concrete:

  • Nature: our magnificent, shared spiritual home (urban or wild)

  • Ritual: spiritually-enriching practices (like journaling) and ceremonies (like marking a life transition)

  • Story: our own stories and any others we find meaningful

  • Relationships: where we meet the Divine face-to-face

  • Grief: the gateway to our own deepest depths and wisdom

  • Calling/Vocation: our gifts, our work for a better world

  • Creativity: the art of letting Divine inspiration flow through us

  • Mystery: the edge of our consciousness (like dreams, imagination, and archetypes)

In each of these settings, let’s look at starting places for spiritual growth.


peering into treetops from forest floor - Crescent Lake, Olympic Peninsula

NATURE

Nature will always be humanity’s true home. It’s only been a fraction of our history that we’ve experienced any degree of separation from non-human organisms and the elements. Our bodies and minds are still made of – and expertly adapted to be in– the Natural world.

roaming through rugged sagebrush toward canyon - Sun Lakes Dry Falls, Washington, USA

If we get outside and away from devices long enough, we remember what emerging science reminds us: we’re both at greatest peace and at peak stimulation, in deepest calm and brightest clarity when we’re in the wild world. We’re spiritual animals, capable of learning from the wisdom inherent in our environments and fellow inhabitants, capable of seeing them and us as mirrors of each other, and kin. In no other context do we feel so fully immersed in Spirt, Soul, and the Sacred.


This is why I encourage every person to take time for wanderings and wonderings, or simply wa/onderings, in Nature.


Rather than stay inside, go out. Rather than hike to a destination, meander there, treating everything along the way as a destination too. Rather than let yourself be distracted by screens or tasks or people, let yourself be distracted by the bewildering colors, shapes, sounds, and sensations of the Natural world. If it seems like nothing is happening, try waiting, or zooming your senses in or out. Try pondering deeper how's and why's of phenomena: why that plant is shaped that particular way; why that animal travels here and not there; how the geography affects the wind, water, or light.


Follow your thoughts and emotions, or don’t. Bring a journal, or don’t. Bring an intention or question or prayer, or don’t. Treat everything you encounter as Sacred, because it is. Just be and observe, and let Nature be with you and observe you. See what comes up for you. Talk to someone about it, or don’t.

concrete staircase amidst flowering meadow - Magnuson Park, Seattle

Some folks find the relative discomfort or lack of safety in the remote wilderness too distracting for a centered, spiritual experience. Fortunately, there’s urban wildness too. If the urban environment doesn’t seem to offer the solitude you want right away, go off the beaten path until you find “your spot.” If the urban environment strikes you as more boring than alternatives, try practicing being bored – it’s actually good for your health, and your imagination will ensure it never lasts long – or bring a book. Or bring any of the other simple settings into the Natural one


RITUAL

When I use the word rituals, people often imagine I’m talking about something I’d actually specify as ceremonies, which are momentous, infrequent, and performative acts marking a special occasion. I’m actually including ceremonies under a larger category of ritual, which also includes practices.

bright candle held in the darkness

Spiritual practices are more routine, everyday ways of nourishing a sense of connection to the Divine, like the infinite kinds of praying, meditation, journaling, movement, and play we can engage in. Maybe you practice being open to Divine love, or offering whispers of thanks. Maybe you dedicate attention to your breath or emotions. Maybe you do yoga or go for walks. Maybe you treat eating or music or running as a spiritual act. Maybe you simply light a candle, sit in stillness and quiet for a spare moment. Whatever it is, hopefully you can do it regularly, truly making it a practice.


dinner table set for candlelight meal

Ceremonies – again, momentous, infrequent, and performative acts marking a special occasion – take a little more forethought. Fortunately, we already have some helpful schemas for these in our lives: graduations, weddings, funerals, etc. What if we took just a little of the same energy we apply to these events and applied it to more frequent events in our lives? Beyond giving gifts on someone’s birthday, we could give them a verbal blessing for the gifts they give us. On a holiday, we could take the time to ask people around us what the day means to them. We could find a poem to read or song to play that fits an anniversary, a change in the seasons, or a career or housing transition.