I had the distinct privilege last month of sharing some of my ideas about the intersection of wilderness and spirituality with a class of folk who are training to be interfaith chaplains. A couple weeks ago I walked through the Paria Canyon with five individuals thirsty for the ways that wilderness deepens the heart. On Monday this week I visited a college class of environmental students to share about the model of Renewal in the Wilderness.
In each of these contexts, and among many other audiences over the past three years, I try to spark thought and conversation about what it means to develop a robust relationship with wilderness, not for it’s own sake, but for the way that it informs and influences who and how we are in the world. How does being wild help us to sustain our efforts to contribute to the shared project of bettering the world?
How does exploring the idea of wilderness soften rigid world-views and open our posture to one of embrace and reciprocity, rather than fear and consumption?
How does experiencing instances of wilderness sharpen our awareness and sensitize us to the earth and relationships that sustain us?
How does engaging daily practices of wildness - like welcoming the gust of wind on your cheek as a gift of breath, like gratitude for the spark that somewhere makes possible illumination when you flip a switch, like pausing for a moment of curiosity when you make eye-contact with the pigeon huddled for warmth on the cobblestone sidewalk on your way to work - how do these practices and intentions shape who and how we are in the world?
On my recent Paria Canyon trek when someone said something particularly profound during our circle times we would all pound our chests in sync with our beating hearts, like the finger snaps of beat poets, only bigger and thumpier. A muscular reminder of the bass notes that serenade our movements throughout the wild world.
Renewal in the Wilderness founder, John Lionberger, started guiding worn-out clergy on canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area back in 2001, aiming to provide them ample opportunity in the spaciousness of place and time that wilderness provides, to connect with their spiritual bass notes. Today, 18 years later, we’re still eagerly inviting worn-out do-gooders to connect with wildness in ways that give them a bit of respite from doing so that they can hunker down into the grounding practice of being.
I suspect that there are as many spiritual bass notes among us as there are sets of eyes scanning this post. And countless more wild moments to be experienced before the sun next sets on your horizon. I hope that, as you go about today, your heart beats in sync with the stuff that sustains you. I hope you find encouragement in the elements and relationships that enfold you.