Today is the first Sunday of the month when we share guest posts from people living and teaching the Contemplative and/or Celtic Christian way around the world. One of the beautiful things about the internet is that people doing amazing things in isolated parts of the world can learn from one another and grow together. We hope this article inspires you to dive a little deeper into what it means to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors while looking forward to what kind of world we will leave for our grandchildren.
This article is written by Lita Quimson-Feliciano who is a spiritual director and retreat leader living in the Philippines. She reflects on what we can learn from trees and the practice of eco divina, using our senses to connect our soul to the creation around us. This is very reminiscent of the teachings of Hildegard, which you can learn more about in another article You are a Tree. I hope you enjoy her article as much as I did!
You, tree, have so much to teach, you have so much for me to understand. A huge tree that caught my attention during my pilgrimage in Ethiopia
Eco Divina is praying with nature. It is a creative way of connecting with God especially when we are in a beautiful landscape—along the sea, in a park, or in the woods. Often our prayer becomes dry because we do not connect to God in creative ways. Eco Divina is another way of practicing awareness of God’s presence or seeing God in all things. If in Lectio Divina we pay attention to words and phrases that stand out as we read a scripture passage, in Eco Divina we heighten our senses to take in nature and meet God.
1. Sense of sight. We observe every flickering of the leaves, the ripples and waves, the grandeur of mountains. We savor God’s enormity, capacity, and generosity.
2. Sense of hearing. We hear the birds chirping, the wind whistling, the cockrels in our midst.
3. Sense of smell. We notice the odors around us like the smell of the earth, the smell of a flower, the smell of freshly cut grass.
4. Sense of touch. When you are awake you feel the water as you dip into the sea or river. Feel the freshness and softness. Allow this sensation to refresh your tired body. Immerse in the water and allow it to take your weight.
5. Sense of taste. This sense generally has to do with food. Allow your palate to speak to you. Some say that certain food can give you ecstasy as you savor the different flavors. This can be a form of soul care.
The practice of Eco Divina as a creative way of praying involves two essential disciplines: openness and capacity to be with nature. All our senses are awakened to an openness that we are able to receive God.
Let me take you to my experience during my 30-day silent retreat where I sat and observed a huge old tree. The splendor of that tree spoke to me about several things:
- I observed how stable it looked. The tree was telling me that as it grew and aged, it became more grounded in its knowledge of itself. He was sure he would bear fruit without striving or struggling, that he would just do it naturally. Its huge trunk told me it was sturdy and would remain strong through the storms. It gave me a sense of security, that I could lean on it and depend on it no matter what.
- The tree told me that it would change its leaves as seasons pass. Its leaves and branches would know when it was time and the shedding was essential to sustain life.
- The leaves and branches provided shade. There was a space where I could hide and be covered from the heat of the sun. Its branches spanned 20 meters and gave me the sense of being embraced. I remembered how the branches provide a safe space for birds to build their nests.
- The branches reminded me of the generations of humans on this earth. I suddenly remembered that we come from one couple. As this couple, the trunk, produced children and they, in turn, had their own children, the branches multiplied. They spread in all directions yet remained connected to the same trunk. I began to realize how the image of family trees make a lot of sense.
- The roots intrigued me most because while some of them were visible, I could not help but imagine the network of roots, the depth of its reach, and how it had grown entrenched in the soil. The roots gave me a clue on how stable the tree was. It reminded me of my own sense of being. Unlike that very strong tree whose roots are deep and wide, my own roots never got the chance to develop the same way. I would easily get toppled down. However, because of my spiritual practices, I learned to avoid abusive situations. I knew how to do soul care and how to put boundaries where necessary. I learned about mindfulness and self awareness helping me to continuously grow my roots deeper and wider. Now I would fall for shorter periods because I learned to process my shortcomings. I became more conscious of not letting myself carry other people’s burden.
Praying with nature is never boring. I would say it is spicy because it surprises, amazes, tingles, and gives us a sensation of being recreated, made fresh and new.
A little more about Lita Quimson-Feliciano
Fully alive and wild at heart, Lita has been designing programs for retreats and courses since the ministry started eight years ago. She prepares sacred landscapes and is a believer and encourager of connecting with God through the surroundings. Lita also uses expressive arts in various forms to encourage her retreatants to know God and themselves more deeply. Lita is an experienced spiritual director trained in various local and international institutions. She holds a master’s degree in ministry major in spiritual formation and certificates in spiritual direction and formation. Lita is the Founder and Executive Director of the ecumenical ministry for spiritual formation, On the Third Day Renewal and Formation Center, and a farm for silence and solitude, Cherimoya Eco-Spirituality and Retreat Center, both in Calamba, Laguna. You can contact Lita on her website.
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