By Louisa Feiter
The silky smoothness of water gliding over limbs; the prickliness of sun-dried grass underfoot; the cool caress of a breeze on a hot summer’s day; the warmth of a balmy night; the tickle of an ant crawling over a foot; the sturdiness of a tree leaned against; the wetness of a snout nudging for attention; the smoothness of a pebble picked out of a stream.
When have you last paid attention to these sensations? To immerse yourself in these is to immerse yourself in Creation and break down the barriers between us and the surroundings that we all too often set up.
All the times that I have taken the time and allowed myself to revel in the feeling of grass against my skin, the ground between my fingers or the sun on my face, I have also felt an enormous awe for the cosmos we live in and a spiritual connection to everything around me. These experiences made me feel completely connected to the web of life, a feeling which often gets lost in our everyday lives.
Our skin is the biggest organ of the body and the one that allows us to experience our surroundings in the most visceral way. It is not surprising then that touch is vital to our well-being and growth. Like a baby who needs human touch for a healthy development, one could say that we need to experience nature through touch to build and sustain a healthy, spiritual relationship with Creation and our Creator.
Matthew Zylstra, from Wildlands Studies and EarthCollective, was interested in the link between how humanity connects to nature and how this impacts environmentally responsible behaviour and wrote his dissertation on meaningful connection with nature and the transformation this can have on our actions towards the environment.
One of the ways we can meaningfully reconnect, he writes, is through sensory awareness of our surroundings, which in turn can elicit an emotional response, like amazement or joy. Through allowing ourselves to become immersed in our surroundings – feeling the ground under our bare feet, being aware of a breeze brushing by, feeling the softness of the petals of a flower – we can experience interrelatedness with nature and develop our ecological conscience.
But more than feeling connected to our environment and growing our ecological consciousness, sensing the world around us in this way will hopefully awaken, re-awaken or strengthen a love for Creation and all that is in it.
SAFCEI’s Earth Keeper movement, drawing from all our sacred books, speaks to this love and to honour this, we are celebrating Earth Keeper Day next year in February. This will be a day of love for Creation, of opening our hearts and connecting spiritually with nature, and we invite everyone to celebrate the miracle that is our Earth through prayer, meditation, song, poetry, art or dance.
Earth Keeper day will be celebrated over the weekend of the 12th – 14th February 2016 and we invite you and your faith community to choose one of these days to celebrate this special occasion. You can sign up your community here and we will support you with inspiration and ideas so that you can unite in prayer with faith communities across Southern Africa.
SAFCEI will also be hosting an event for Earth Keeper Day in Cape Town, which we hope you will be able to join. More information will follow in the new year, but we can promise you now already, it will be lots of fun.
So in anticipation of Earth Keeper Day, we hope that you will take your family outdoors during this festive season for a barefoot walk or a refreshing swim, taking the time to feel the elements against your skin, the earth’s sturdiness underfoot and the many other thrilling sensations that surround us.