In Suzanne Simard’s book, Finding the Mother Tree, she writes, “There is no moment too small in this world”. This is her creed - she is writing about appreciating and embracing all aspects of nature. Children have a natural way of wondering about and connecting in the natural world. The cultural historian, scholar of world religions, and self-described geologian Thomas Berry, stated that depriving children of time in nature denies them their “inner intuitive identities”. For Berry, what is learned in nature is a kind of knowledge that is the bedrock for making meaning of our lives and appreciating beauty.
Recently, at one of our yearly siblings (and partners and children) camping trips, I took my young nieces and nephews on a forest bathing experience and invited them to ask a tree if we could approach it, touch it, and be with it. I asked them to pay attention to how the tree responds to their inquiry. After a few quiet moments passed (this was a miracle), they each said that the tree is ok with them approaching and touching it. What intuition! Without hesitating, my five-year old niece gave the tree the biggest hug (I had never seen her hug a human in the same way), while my eight-year old nephew proceeded to climb its branches. The others explored around the tree’s base collecting curiously placed bones.
A sense for Mystery begins in nature. By noticing the changes that occur outside in a day, in a season, by watching birds, interacting with insects, and engaging with trees, we build our capacity for relationships with the human and more than human world. When we build relationships in nature, we co-create spaces for belonging. With our understanding that we all belong to each other, we become compelled to look out for each other, we learn to right any wrongs that we commit, and we work to make things better. Thomas Berry remarked, “As [children] grow to understand their belonging within this larger context, their natural longing to create a better world will increase and they can learn new ways of functioning and creating within a sustainable life context.”
What are ways we can invite children to have direct experiences in nature? It begins with modeling – spending time immersed in the natural environment, prioritizing – making the decision to designate time in nature as more important than other activities, and embedding nature in daily life – building reciprocity and solidarity with nature within and outside the home.
After the experience my nieces and nephews and I had in the forest, I asked my five-year-old-tree-hugging niece a question because I had noticed how familiar she seemed with the trees: Do you prefer hugging trees rather than people? Oh yes, she said, I prefer hugging trees for sure.
~ Jeanette Banashak
At SGTI, we encourage our students to express their learning in creative ways. Today, we gladly offer this series of poems by one of our current students, Katie Spero. We are grateful for her permission to post them. Enjoy!
Estimated Time of Arrival
she starts to notice shoulders under a t-shirt in front of her
the atmosphere breathes his body out
and it expands
breathes him in and it contracts
that one too
and the woman standing
grabs a seatback as the bus jolts
the voice wants to know
how can I love myself
when I am myself
who is breathing us
who am I
I breath it in
it’s swept away
with a place to land
who is next in line to be loved
Don’t Give Away the Ending
An old couple walks onto the bus
Sit across from each other
Then next to each other
Then a few rows back
Whispering silently under the loud hum
She sips water
I am thirsty
We are all a part
Apart is the illusion
Two small boys with big hair like me
Stomp up the two stairs towards the back of the bus
They shout observations
A car with people in it
A car radio
It sure is right
It is all right
Everything is part of the poem
picks up a pen.
and I awake. I fall asleep
and it disappears.
About the poet:
Katie Spero is the Parish Life Director at Church of Saviour, an Episcopal church in Chicago. Prior to that she spent time serving and living at the Satchidananda Ashram in Buckingham, Virginia which was founded on the principle that reflects Katie’s own life journey, “truth is one, paths are many.” Katie is a trained teacher of Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Stress Management, and is a member of the COS College of Preachers. Calling on her degree in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago, it is Katie’s joy to try to put into words that which cannot be spoken to spiritually connect and serve her communities.
In the next few weeks, a new feature will appear on the SGTI website. We are excited about spotlighting our current students and alumni and have plans to do both beginning in February. We feel that our new features, "Student Spotlight" and "Alumni Spotlight," will help you get to know the Institute better, especially when it comes to the kinds of students we attract, why they take SGTI's unique training, and how they hope to serve others once their training is complete.
In the meantime, one of our current students, Matthew Whitney, has been featured as a guest on the Spiritual Directors International podcast, "SDI Encounters." Matt is usually the host of this wonderful series, but this time the tables were turned and he is interviewed about his life as a contemplative artist and a student of spiritual companionship. We hope you will take a listen!
Visit this main page for SDI podcasts:
then look for Matt's podcast:
"Art, Creativity, and Spiritual Companionship"
You can also listen here:
On Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/show/2ufeZhwf9z6WuBi5pZEeNn
On Apple Podcasts https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sdi-encounters/id1451231142?mt=2
On Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/sdi-encounters
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance-companionship across traditions.
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