by Jojo Gabuya
George Floyd cried, “I can’t breathe,” when three police officers knelt on his neck and pinned him down to the ground, which caused his death. His heartbreaking cry propelled thousands of people to protest and rally against police brutality that killed Floyd. Hundreds of families in Northern California also exclaimed that they can’t breathe when the wildfires destroyed their houses and farms. My fellow Climate Reality Leaders around the world and I expressed that we can’t breathe because of the low air quality in most states in this country.
The police brutality and systemic racism that Floyd suffered, the wildfires in Northern California, and the low air quality in this country are just some of the harsh impacts of the climate crisis that have affected the planet even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This climate crisis illustrates our disconnection from our Self, from Nature, and from the planet Earth. Regarding this, we must foster our relationship with our Self, Nature, and the Earth, where both living and non-living things co-exist. We can begin our journey through Selena Fox’s Nature Ritual:
“Journey into Nature. Journey into Self. Journey into Divine Interconnectedness.
Find a place in Nature that you feel special — the woods, a meadow, a lakeshore, a babbling brook, the ocean, a mountain, a hilltop, a rock shelter. Find a place where you can be with plants, animals, and the Elements, yet away from human company.
Journey there to commune with Nature. Journey there to shift your focus from being human-centric to being Nature aware. Journey there to remind yourself that you are part of the whole of Nature. Journey there to nurture your inner Spirit and strengthen your relationships with other life forms and the biosphere.
Arrive at the chosen place and then be still. Be seated. Relax in the area. Take deep, slow breaths to aid in your relaxation. Then become aware of yourself resting on this place on the planet. Experience the planet as Mother Earth holding you lovingly to Her. Feel the Sky caressing you. Feel the Earth and Sky energizing each other. Express appreciation for the Planet and the Cosmos for nurturing you and other life forms. Drink of Nature’s life energy that surrounds you and let it bring into greater awareness within you. This is Divine Communion.
Become aware of the plants around you and their aliveness. Focus your awareness on a particular tree or herb near you. Do not just look at it — instead, merge with it, touch it, become it. Imagine you are that plant. Imagine experiencing the world as it experiences the world. Then, as you focus on yourself being in your human form again, give thanks to the plant you have worked with as a friend, a teacher, a relative. Reflect for a time on your experience.
Now, breathe deeply and shift your awareness from the specific plant to the general perception of the environment in which you currently are. Experience yourself as being part of this tapestry of Nature. You are one of many forms on this Nature scene tapestry. Increase your awareness of this tapestry.
Pay attention to Sound. Listen to the Wind, to the Birds, to other sounds of Nature.
Pay attention to the Sights. See the Beauty of Nature in the shapes, colors, and patterns of the life forms around you.
Feel Nature’s rhythms. Smell, Taste, Touch Nature. As you expand your awareness of your physical senses, allow yourself to experience this place with your sixth sense and intuition, where there is neither space nor time, only Being.
Open your mouth and let a sacred sound vibration flow through you. Let the sound be borne from deep within your being, not only from your throat but also from your diaphragm, heart, and whole body. Flow with your sound. Become the sound, and then move with it.
Rise up and dance ecstatically with Nature. As you move, celebrate. Celebrate Nature. Celebrate Living. Celebrate the spiraling Circle of Change and Transformation — Release and Rebirth.
Then be quiet and still again. Take the time you sense you need to reflect upon and assimilate your experience. Then, before departing, give thanks to this place and the Divine that flows through you and Nature.
Doing this rite lets you connect with Wisdom — the Wisdom that is within you and around you in all of Nature. You connect with Spirit that is part of Self and more than Self. You connect with Nature Spirituality.”
Continue this connection by inviting your congregation and friends to do “Scavenging and Sculpturing,” that Caroline S. Fairless suggests in her book, The Space Between Church and Not-Church: A Sacramental Vision for the Healing of our Planet:
“Bring to the gathering a tangible item/object that represents the plight of the planet and a reflection about their particular contribution to it. Some examples are a bottle filled with dirt or water, plastic wrap from food and others, cigarette butts, plastic water bottle, can of tuna, can of motor oil, bullet, gun, and other symbols of war.
Each person can tell the story of their item/object—what it represents, how their particular engagement with it has had a negative impact within the earth community, and what behavioral adaptations and service to the Earth they commit to creating/developing. At the end of their stories, encourage them to lead a confession prayer in unison, which includes the sentence, “We repent of the wrongdoing that enslaves us, and the damage we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” Do this process of repentance several times before you move on.
Create a semi-permanent sculpture depending on where you hold this gathering and requisite permissions. The sculpture will be composed of all the items that people have brought for this gathering. Invite each person/group to add their piece as they see fit. This sculpture will reveal evidence of shocking behavior to the wind, which can carry any confession throughout the cosmos. The Earth must be vibrating, pulsating with joy when we recognize all the harm we have inflicted her. Let the group/participants pour water over the sculpture, as a cleansing ritual, to free regret and remorse through the rivers, streams, oceans, and rain. Then, encourage the group/participants to think of these as the waters that carry all life’s good and the bad hopes, joys, deaths, and births. The entire system then takes the insult and the way forward.
In the second part of the ritual, invite participants to know themselves as belonging naturally to the planet, essential to all creation’s 14-billion-year story. When you see your sculpture, regardless of its form and shape—you will remember. You will remember the damage you have done to your own home and the people around you. You will remember your promise of service to right the wrong.”
We are nearing the autumnal equinox on September 22, when the Sun will cross the celestial equator from north to south. Call the musicians, the poets, and other group artists, especially the Asian, Latinx, queers, transgender persons, and those with disabilities (both visible and invisible).
Let the reconnections with your Self, with Nature, and with planet Earth continue.
Jojo received their M.Div from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Before coming to California in 2016, they worked with the United Nations Development Programmes, as Regional Coordinator for its Bottom-up Budgeting Project in Mindanao, Philippines. Prior to this, they worked as VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) Volunteer, as Results-based Management Advisor for the Ministry of Gender in Zambia, Southern Africa.
Jojo is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort, and their writing focuses on how Jesus would respond to the racism, xenophobia, microaggressions, and gender.