'Re-membering' who we are, before it's too late
By Linda Chapman
September 7 2018We have forgotten who we are, and our place in creation, and contemplative prayer and meditation can help us to ‘re-member’, reflects Linda Chapman.
The ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis of humanity as we are living in a way that degrades our environment. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ addresses this urgent need to confront the reality that social and ecological justices are increasingly linked.
This reflection explores a possible way of recovering a sense of our human vocation as creatures gifted with life. It recognises the need for contemplative prayer or meditation such that we might grow in our consciousness of the earth and all of life within the cosmic community.
The human vocation as keepers of the space means that we are meant to live as part of the whole earth community in a way that secures spaces for both human and other-than-human life to flourish. The Judeo-Christian ‘dreaming’ or creation story of Genesis is a story of God opening these spaces for life. All creatures are given habitat. The human being is born into this Garden of Life but we are now encroaching on the space of others and are causing serious harm. Contemplative practice is a way of hope as it opens the space of cosmic consciousness such that we might recognise our identity as creatures interdependent with all creation and in need of balance.
Meditation enables a way of life that restores harmony and balance; the balance necessary for all to live. Much of our contemporary culture is about growing the ‘space’ of the economy. The Genesis narrative tells us that the oikos, the household of God, from which the word economy is derived, is about the balancing of ecology and economy. When our focus is heavily weighted on economy we become split and unbalanced. We veer in the direction of harm, rather than securing space for life to flourish.
The understanding that the human vocation is to ‘keep the space’ derives from the earliest activity of the Creator in the Genesis story, who opened the various spaces for particular creatures to enjoy their particular habitats. God opened the spaces of night and day, of the waters that would teem with living things; the sky with every winged bird according to its kind, and the dry ground; the space where vegetation could come forth. And God saw that all was good and desired an abundance of the various life forms within their spaces.
And then the human being, the Adam, was formed from the same elements as the earth, the Adamah. And God saw that it was all very good and on the seventh day rested. Our vocation according to the creation story is to be keepers of the spaces and the whole space of the earth community. And the direction of creation is to come to the wholeness of God’s indwelling, to be a resting place, to rest with God. This is peace.
This peace is significantly challenged in our environment by our current ecological crises. It’s a spiritual crisis; a crisis of human identity. We have forgotten who we are. And when we forget who we are we forget how to live. Yet in this age it may be that we are waking up to that consciousness that ‘re-members’ creation. We are realising our co-creative vocation. Our original gifting with the responsibility to be keepers of the space sees the need for us to collaborate with the whole earth community through the vivifying activity of the Spirit.
A contemplative way can inform our action for justice. Meditation provides the basis for action which is contemplative. It reminds us of who we are and how to live in a way that may preserve the interconnected community of creation. It heals our aggression and exploitative tendencies. It is a contemplative practice of deep listening and it bears the fruit of real humility.
The truth of humility is that we are humans, grounded and embodied beings whose habitat is within the sheltering space of the earth. We don’t live on the earth but rather we are part of earth. Humility is the knowledge and experience of who we are and where we fit in the order of things. The depth of our listening will be according to the extent of our relationship with the other. Indigenous woman Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann from Daly River in the Northern Territory describes such relational listening as dadirri, which she says is like our understanding of contemplation. Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. “When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again.” Miriam Rose says that dadirri is the gift that Australia is thirsting for and she encourages us to adopt silence so that we can engage in deep listening to the earth.
I suggest that the healing of our spiritual crisis is the opportunity to grow through the practice of silence such that the focus of our attention shifts from self-referential to the other. The other includes the other-than-human with whom we are meant to live in relationship.
The practice of meditation is a path of self- knowledge. Through it we understand ourselves as spiritual beings in need of more than material wealth to live fully. In some forms of Christian meditation we begin by saying a mantra and eventually we listen to it. Our practice becomes one of listening in the space that the mantra keeps us in. We keep the space of consciousness through our practice and it keeps us grounded in Reality and rooted in the Love that keeps all space. Over time we re-member who we are as our fragmented self becomes integrated in the Self who holds us in being.
The ‘household of God’, the created reality, is one space consisting of a diversity of life. The over-emphasis on the economy, measured in material wealth, denies the space of the various ecologies that make up the whole earth system. Meditation can be a bridge between economy and ecology. Through regular practice our consciousness becomes healed of the split. We come to realize that economy and ecology must exist together in harmony derived as they are from the one Source.
Meditation reminds us that our prosperity is to be found in the spiritual capital of knowing who we really are and how we might live in balance for the whole earth community. As we become more conscious, so we live out our human vocation as keepers of the space. Ultimately, we become that space in which God finds rest as we rest in God who sees all creation as very good.
The Revd Linda Chapman is Rector of the Anglican Parish of Moruya.
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This reflection was recently given as part of a workshop at Jamberoo Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Jamberoo, NSW. See www.jamberooabbey.org.au
For information about Christian meditation see: https://wccmaustralia.org.au/
Laudato Si’ can be found at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html