Nature, Creativity & Spirit

Art is not an end in itself. It introduces the soul to a higher spiritual order, which it expresses and in some sense explains. -Thomas Merton

What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit. ~John Updike

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein

Hummingbird Feeding on a Delicate FlowerMany years ago when I lived in Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska, a salmon fisherman I knew once turned to me and said, “you know, I think it’s impossible to spend a lot of time close to Nature and not believe in something greater than yourself.” While I thought him an unlikely source of such a revelation I was quick to agree.

I have been camping in the wild lands of the American West since I was a baby and all my time spent close to Nature had given me an intuitive, visceral sense of the Oneness of all Beings. Beyond that I have worked professionally as a biologist and naturalist and my knowledge of the plants and animals combined with my familiarity has given me a deep sense of belonging to the world.

I often play with using my imagination to talk to the trees and the birds and Mother Earth. I also work with stream of consciousness writing (aka freewriting) to get advice and wisdom not only from my Higher Self but the Earth. In the Writing in Nature trips I lead I have people ask a question of the Earth and write the answer as if it is coming from her and they always get the best advice.

Not long before he died I had the intuition to visit Irish poet, philosopher and former Catholic priest John O’Donohue’s website and discovered that he would be speaking the following week at the Dominican school just north of San Francisco, about an hour’s drive for me. I immediately booked a ticket. I had long admired O’Donohue’s weave of insights from the western philosophical traditions including Christianity with the wisdom of Earth based traditions of the Celts.

A couple of things struck me from that night. He spoke of the importance of honoring and drawing from traditions like Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism that had a depth to them. I went away with the awareness that while I hadn’t been raise in any religious tradition my father’s love of the world’s great literature including Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and W.B. Yeats offered a foundation in creative tradition of literature which can open doorways to understanding and knowing the deeper working of the world and creation. Then when I became involved in various forms of creativity including dance, photography, pottery and finally settling into writing as my primary form I became more and more aware that creativity provided an opening to understanding what it means of cocreate with Spirit.

Both my relationship to Nature and engaging creativity have enriched my life in countless ways. Consider that connecting to Nature can be as simple as paying attention to the birds out your window or saying hello to a tree as you walk by and see if it might not have something to say to you. You can just pretend and see what comes to mind.

The same is true with stretching your creativity muscles. Try doodling or drawing a mandala (a circular drawing that in this case represents for you the essence of your creative spirit). Or there is my favorite freewriting where you just write for ten minutes using as a prompt something you see out your window and just let the words flow uncensored out of the pen. Play with both connecting to Nature and your creativity and see if it doesn’t expand your life and your world.

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