First published in The Huffington Post
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
There are so many different ways to pray; in Rumi's words, "There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground." Recently I wrote about being drawn into silent inner prayer, but there is another form of prayer that meets me early each morning.
Walking beside the wetlands I see an egret's wings rise brilliant white from the water. It flies and settles further off in the grey early light, and I am awakened in a quite different way than from my first cup of hot tea. After its white, white wings I see the world more distinctly, the wild roses more brilliant and pink as they spill over a fence. I sense, smell, hear and see in a different way: I am more present.
I have always loved and needed to walk in the early morning. After waking up, first meditation and hot tea, then going outside, feeling, sensing the world before the day's demands begin. Even when I lived in the city I would run or cycle in the early morning, needing this connection, this seeing the world around before life's business too often drowned out any quiet. For the last 20 years I have lived amid nature—an unexpected blessing—and taking the same walk every morning, each day would be different, the light, the call of the birds, the way a leaf moved in the wind. Recently we moved, not far, but my early walk is different, beside a wetland rather than amidst the trees, and so the landscape of this morning meeting is very different. And yet the essence of this early prayer is the same: this meeting with the sacred around me.
While meditation takes me inward into an essential inner silence and emptiness, this early morning walking is a prayer. In prayer there is a meeting: I meet and bow before the One in Its many colors, sounds and smells. Of course, many mornings I forget, and take my own thoughts with me on my walk. But then I am reminded, like today when the egret's wings flashed white, and I awake from myself and see more clearly—the colors, the sounds, the beauty, the divine. Once more I am attuned to how "the world is charged with the grandeur of God."
Any prayer in which there is a real meeting, a real relationship with the divine, is always changing. Just as each day is different, sometimes fog (we live beside the ocean), sometimes the sun breaking through, sometimes bright light, so the states of prayer change. Sometimes this meeting in the morning is more intimate, my heart sings, I feel a deep oneness with what is around me. More recently I have felt a calling, as if the earth needs me, needs my attention. It wants to draw me into deeper awareness: to meet it not just on the surface, amidst the brilliance of its colors and sounds, but in its interior soul, in the depths of its sacred self.
In these moments there is a sense that my morning walking prayer is not just for me, but also mysteriously for something within nature: that this meeting in prayer is needed by the earth. These early mornings are for me a deep remembrance of the sacred in creation, in the world around. It is a very private time—no one else is around—I try not to allow the thought-forms or demands of the day in. But there has come a deepening sense that this remembrance is also needed by the earth—that it is calling for my awareness of its divine nature—that it needs my prayer.
We always think that our prayer is about us, our need for the divine. And of course this is true: prayer is born from need. Each morning under the need to remember, to reconnect with a wonder that is around me there is also a deeper truth, that the divine needs our remembrance. In so many ways the divine calls out to us—throughout our day, throughout our life. And our prayer is a response to Its call. As Rumi says, "I never knew that God too desires us."
And now the earth is calling. I can sense it in the early morning, in the white flashing of the egret's wings, in the fragrance of the wild roses. The earth needs us to remember its divine nature: it needs our prayers. Something sacred in the world is dying and needs our attention. How long can it survive our culture's desecration, our pillage and pollution, our deep neglect of its divine nature? Just as the world helps me to awaken every morning, we are needed to help the world awaken from this nightmare we call materialism. The soul of the world is calling to us. Our prayers for the earth are needed.
Watch a recent short video: Cry of the Earth