Nature is a powerful classroom and place of worship. Taking time as a family can help us understand the divine and seek truth.
Seeking out the “Divine Image”
In exploring the idea of life’s meaning and purpose, we come to the need to explore our origins. Whatever word that we might use: Ultimate Reality, the Absolute Being, the Transcendent, Brahman, Creator, etc., when we root our origins in the idea of a Creator, we then become grounded in the idea that we have a purpose and in order to know that purpose, we need to know then, the Creator God. The idea is generally to the point that there is a Being that is responsible for our creation as well as the entire cosmos. Different traditions may know this Being by different names but for our purposes, we use the term God to represent something that is ineffable and could never be fully expressed in words.
The best thinkers of all time have debated and discussed the nature and existence of God and thus far we haven’t been able to find a response that would suit all people. So rather than running ourselves into circles, we want to instead become investigators. Confucius, the esteemed scholar and sage taught that the first step we need to take to the cultivation of our mind and spirit is the “investigation of things.”
Through attuning ourselves to look for spiritual truths, we hope to become ever-more conscious of how we need to live our daily lives. To become spiritually conscious means to become more and more attuned to the spiritual laws and nature of life and then to align ourselves accordingly. When we acquire knowledge without practicing that knowledge, it is only half acquired and the truth of it may become lost. We see that pattern many times – where truths are preached and contemplated but not carried out. That truth becomes then only conceptual and we might even become numb to the life-giving nature of that truth.
Creating Healthy Family Habits: Seeking the Divine Image
The steps to this activity are really very simple.
- First, plan out a time for your family to take some time in nature. The setting doesn’t matter so long as it is in nature – the forest, a beach, a field – somewhere you can ‘study’ nature. The purpose of this time is one in which we seek out reflections of the “Divine Image” in nature.
- Take something for each person to take personal notes, questions, sketches, etc. While it’s fine to talk as you go along, you want to make sure that you don’t lose focus on the activity of investigating.
- Some general themes to observe:
- What does nature need to grow?
- What limits growth?
- What are the different stages of growth?
- What is the general dynamic of life in an ecosystem?
- Did you observe important roles each species plays in the ecosystem?
- Did you observe instances where the energy did not flow (air, water) – what did that look like?
- If or when you observe “invasive species” – what are the qualities that make them invasive in that ecosystem?
- Then, to wrap up you want to take some time to share with one another your observations and questions. What patterns did you see?
This activity can also be used for younger children when teaching universal principles.
This might be a bit awkward in the beginning and we encourage you to try it in different ways until it starts to feel more natural. For some people, it is like training a muscle and we need time and consistency to see or feel results.
It will also take time to be able to draw lines of connection between observations made about nature and the laws that govern nature and the laws that govern the human world. These types of shared experiences together as a family are important as they set a basis for which to later explain lessons from the natural world to our spiritual lives. The more we engage and learn to share and explore with one another about life, universal laws, growth and nature the easier it becomes to share on anything and everything else. We encourage you to treasure these moments and make efforts to make it a central part of your lives together as a family.
For all these reasons and more, this is an activity that can be repeated without end. In fact, all of the activities we include in this book is of that nature. And every time the activity is done, a new layer of knowledge, consciousness, skill, etc. is added – we ourselves have become different. In that way, every time we do an activity, in some sense we are different people from those who did the activity before!
For an approach for younger kids, click here.