In early evening after a cold spring rain in Zuccotti Park in New York City (a year and a half after the end of the Occupy Wall encampment), I meditate with others and find deep peace. Yet my discoveries of spirituality in nature begin years before, perhaps in childhood on Illinois’ suburban prairies the first time I feel immense stillness after a fierce windstorm. Even now, I discover spirituality in nature’s furious glory—the wild riot of spring’s first blooms after a long winter, or the tempered calm of blue skies after a hurricane. I learn from these impermanent contradictions, for they offer hope in healing from unspeakable catastrophe. As I discover compassion for others and learn to embrace self-compassion in difficult times and diffident places, such hope guides me to find transformational possibilities in everyday life. I work to keep dreaming of a world in which we can all find an end to suffering, no matter our religious beliefs or spiritual practices. I begin, again and again, in returning to nature.
Susan Naomi Bernstein teaches writing and writes a blog, Beyond the Basics, on writing processes and educational equity, for Bedford Bits.