Spring, Life and Spirituality

Spring, Life and Spirituality April 10, 2024

Author Benjamin Raven Pressley
Original photo of and by Benjamin Raven Pressley

Have you ever thought about nature having a spiritual side? I know all too well the power of the Creator and the creation. To think that creation, nature and the great outdoors are just something to enjoy as leisure and recreation is to miss out on a whole dimension of what it truly is.

Here in North America as well as in other parts of the world the Earth is tilting closer to the sun’s exposure and giving us what is the year’s most beloved season, Spring. Spring is a time of things coming back to life from a long winter’s sleep. Trees are budding, flowers are showing their blossoms, and animals are coming out of hibernation. It is a wonderful time of year, especially for those of us who love to enjoy the outdoors.

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Throughout history and prehistory, people have recognized the four seasons and often celebrated what they called Solstices. Summer and Winter solstices marked important times of the year. Solstices were times of celebration and marked the sacred circle of life as well as a time for planting, harvesting and preparing for the less abundant seasons. In a time where there were no clocks nature became the sacred clock of all creatures great and small.

Have you ever thought about nature having a spiritual side? I know all too well the power of the Creator and the creation. To think that creation, nature and the great outdoors are just something to enjoy as leisure and recreation is to miss out on a whole dimension of what it truly is. I am saddened that the world we live in bottles up our very life and essence in artificial environments and structures created by human beings for in bottling ourselves up we miss out on touching the divine.

I remember having to move back and forth from Chicago to Charlotte for most of my childhood. I remember even when we lived in the city I always felt drawn to a patch of grass and a tree to lean against where I would take my pencil and sketch pad and sketch whatever I saw. Camping as a child and even as a boy scout I remember the leaders having us carry what felt like the whole camping store on our backs just for a couple days of camping and thinking the pioneers, explorers and those of my Cherokee heritage probably didn’t carry all this stuff, and I realized early on that the more you knew, the less stuff you needed. This led me to learn to take less stuff camping with me and live more off of the land until I became knowledgeable enough to go into the woods and only live off of what nature provided. This eventually led me to be knowledgeable enough to even teach outdoor survival skills.

Original Photo of and by Benjamin Raven Pressley
Original Photo of and by Benjamin Raven Pressley

It was as if every time I went into the woods I encountered a power, a presence of something greater than I or this tree or that plant. I found solitude. I found roots for myself, meaning and purpose. I realized all things are connected with a mysterious thread, something of intelligence. Sure, I heard the teaching on evolution in school and even into adulthood but it never made sense to me. It just wasn’t logical that such complex ecosystems could just ‘evolve’. No, what I saw early on was a product of the design of an incredible artist and creator. And it was this creator I wanted to know more about. I also realized this creator was more than what the church said he was. So, here was one side that wanted to deny his existence and another who wanted to confine him to four walls and harness him up to rule the masses with guilt for their sins. No, something greater than either of these two sides was at work here.

So, I read the trails and I read the Bible. I read about Jesus Christ and the example he showed that the creator whom he knew so well he called him Father and led his disciples and pointed them to the creator of all things and did so without a church building. He taught about a creator who wanted to inhabit our hearts not as a religious leader but as a vine we could be connected to. When Jesus needed to speak to his father he didn’t seek out a church or synagogue but retreated into nature. He spoke of the foxes having holes and birds having nests but how he preferred to make the earth beneath him his bed and probably rolled up some garment for a pillow. He taught those who would listen with examples and parables from creation that would connect them to the creator he called Father.

Author Benjamin Raven Pressley
Original Photo of and by Author Benjamin Raven Pressley

Jesus’ message was a message of freedom and relationship and salvation. Yet over time, people built his message into a system of religion and control and division one from another. Wars were fought and even called crusades of truth, Jihads, holy wars to force their religion on even those who were free. Then the message was bottled up and taken across the ocean to a people now vaguely referred to as Native Americans. These ‘Native Americans’ were vibrant people who knew how to live in harmony with nature and the creator and respected him with names such as ‘Great Spirit’ and ‘Grandfather’. They prayed with every step and honored even the incense, campfire and pipe smoke as a prayer swirling upward to the great creator of all things. Sure, there were some misguided tribes who created all kinds of gods to worship rather than worship the one and only one worthy to be called God but there were also those who knew the one true creator. Enter the European missionary who should have directed them back to the one and only creator God who sent his son but instead, they presented the religious god they created that demanded they cut their hair, dress like the Europeans, forsake their very native tongue and names in order to fit them into this box they called Christianity, this religion they had created god into their own image. Jesus never taught Christianity as a religion, he taught an escape from religion and how to have a relationship with his father. I believe that the missionary was supposed to learn something from these ‘Native Americans’ about freedom and a creator that was present in all things and that could not be contained in a box called religion. They were supposed to learn from one another but instead, the missionary used his superior technology and firepower to take away everything beautiful the natives knew and forced them to conform to the god they controlled. And so, history continued on and through abuse, genocide and slavery and molded this once beautiful continent we now call North America, into a civilization that worships comfort, religion, control and lawlessness. Asphalt replaced the fields of flowers and the forests full of trees. Buildings pumped full of artificial air and light replaced the open lodges of the native people. Sickness and addictions followed. Processed foods replaced the abundance of whole-natural food that was available in abundance.

And here we are in a world with more sickness, division, hate, wars, and poverty than ever before. Sex is placed on a throne that even precious innocent children are sacrificed to. Is there hope? Not as long as you buy into this system of selfishness, lust and greed. But hope is like that annoying sliver of light you just can’t close out or get rid of when you are trying to sleep in a totally dark room. Annoying to most, but it can never be extinguished, try as this wicked system may. There is always hope and though its voice has been reduced to a whisper with all of civilization’s screaming billboards and technology it still speaks. Hope’s voice is truth and peace. They still live where you may least expect. They exist and speak in solitude, in our heart of hearts. One need only find a place away from the noise and seek its voice. And though it may speak anywhere I hear it more clearly when I escape the noise of civilization and the noise in my own head that tries to make me worry and fear. I hear its voice most clearly when I am on a wooded trail. I hear its voice most clearly in the crackling of a fire. I hear it most clearly in the babble of a brook. I hear it most clearly when my feet travel down a wooded trail. I hear it most clearly when I breathe in the fresh air of the wild. And when its voice speaks it teaches me the ways of the Creator, the way of peace and tranquility, the ways of hope and truth. I hope that as you journey with me you too will hear its voice. I am looking forward to connecting you hopefully to a spiritual dimension and practice over the next couple of articles. I will be illustrating this connection by sharing the spiritual lessons that can be learned from what some people consider the four sacred elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Are you ready to get outside and just breathe as well as connect with the life that flows through all living things?

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