SP 2685 Discernment: Systems and Nature
Pre-Class Assignment (I)
To prepare for our experience of discernment in the context of the natural world, I ask that you engage in three one-hour prayer exercises prior to arriving in January (plan early in order to avoid unpleasant weather!)
Before you enter the prayer, please read Job 29-31 and 38:1-42:6 and the articles by Lane, McFague, Newsom, and Robert Russell (the five essays listed in the section on Discernment in Nature on the reading list). Please set aside an hour for each of the contemplative times in nature, plus additional time to journal afterward.
Begin by dedicating your experience to being with God. In terms of the form of the prayer, the only specification is that you spend the hour outside. You might find yourself drawn to gaze at a single flower or ant hill; or you may be taken in by a whole forest or mountain range or breath-taking view. You may be called to be with a natural act of violence such as a vulture scavenging a meal or a spider wrapping a fly. You may find yourself held by a human violence manifest in the natural world such as air pollution or erosion due to invasive plowing. Just spend time with whatever it is in the non-human creation that occupies you. Be with whatever it is as you would a directee, having along, loving look at the real of it. Allow its presence to be with you. Listen.
After your time in nature, please take time to journal the things you noticed. Pay special attention to what you noticed about your natural companion, about yourself, and about the Mystery we call God. You may not have any noticings about one or more of these the first time. That is fine; just take that awareness of absence into your next prayer experience in nature. Do not force yourself to notice.
Please bring these noticings in your journal with you to our January Opening Retreat where we can listen to one another for the presence of God in nature.
Elizabeth Liebert (with thanks to Nancy Wiens)