Our Planet Needs Our Love
Listening to the natural world
Photo provided by the author
My sister Sue and her husband, Allan, live and work in South Africa on a huge swath of conservation land they call Towerland Wilderness Center. They also have a teaching and consulting business inspired by a Goethean practice of deep listening to inner and outer landscapes, as well as by Rudolf Steiner’s teachings.
Sue and Allan suggest that more depends on being awake and present than we could possibly imagine. They teach that our own stories are entwined in every shift or reversal that is manifested in the world. Committed to social and environmental change, activism, and stewardship, they bring exquisite awareness of the environment and the social world to groups and individuals.
One of their primary orientations for being present and awake is immersion in and reflecting upon the pristine wilderness of the natural world. Their land, mountainous and vast, is home to a large range of wildlife, including various antelope, porcupines, baboons, many varieties of birds, reptiles, otters, bush pigs, aardvark, many kinds of wild cats, tortoises, foxes, hares, bush pig, honey badger, and other mammals. Towerland is a water catchment blessed by pure, alive water in perennial rivers and streams.
My husband, also named Alan, and I visited Towerland on one of our trips to the country of our birth. We were awestruck by the aliveness of the landscape, the sounds of life all around, and the absolute commandment to pay attention to the natural world.
Sue and I joke about how she is in love with the land, while my thing is people. We are both also awakened to the hidden world through each other’s spiritual passions. Whenever we speak, she talks of her reverence for the earth. The light that illuminates the early morning rivers. The kingfisher that flies by her window. The baboons barking in the hills.
When South Africa suffers from drought, as it often does, Sue feels this in her body. When she shares her heartache about climate change as the planet suffers natural disasters, she opens my eyes and heart even more to the sacredness of the earth, plants, animal life, and the sky.
I asked my sister recently if she knew of dadirri, an Australian Aboriginal practice of inner, deep listening and quiet tuning in with the specific aim of coming to a deeper understanding of the beauty of nature. She does and has worked with a dadirri practitioner.
Dadirri recognizes the inner spirit that calls us to reflect on and contemplate the wonders of creation. In living a spiritual life, we learn to listen. We ask of the landscape in which we find ourselves, “What do You want of me now, in this very moment? How can I help heal our land?” Deep listening almost always requires stillness and waiting. If we pay attention to the natural world each day and listen to the language of the land, we are inspired to treat the earth with love. If we can learn to move through our days with more consciousness and reverence for the land, we bless and serve the planet.
Even as you read these words, the forever ongoing act of creation is occurring. Mysticism helps us understand this truth, as well as how life is non-dualistic. All of us, as well as all life’s opposites, like life and death, light and dark, up and down, belong equally in this unity.
Alan and I have been on safari several times. In the bush, also called the veld, there are no judgments of good and bad—just the ongoing thrust of creation. The cheetah needs to feed her cubs. She stalks a herd of gazelles until, close enough, she springs, overtakes, and kills a small antelope. Food for the family. While the cheetahs are eating, hyenas arrive, keeping a careful distance, awaiting their turn. Vultures circle. Several are atop tall trees, watching, waiting. When, after a long time, all have eaten and then drunk from one of the rivers, lakes, or swamps, they rest. A variety of animals, flora, and fauna exist on the same landscape. Some peaceably, others not.
It is difficult to always hold the truth that we are in heaven here and now, that how we see the world around us and what we do makes a difference. But when we take the time to reflect on life as it is being breathed, we cannot but have our attention drawn to the sacred. Everything is sacred. The bush is always burning. It simply takes awareness to see this.