By Niánn Emerson Chase
It has always impressed me, in my study of the life of Jesus (as found in The URANTIA Book), that he often spent time in nature, away from the energies of busy towns and bustling people. In a family of several children, as the eldest son—who (at the age of 14) took the place of a father figure when their father Joseph died in a work-related accident—Jesus often took his younger siblings out on walks in the surrounding hills, pointing out various things they came across, teaching the children not only about the scientific facts of the natural world but also bringing in practical, moral, and spiritual lessons that related to what they observed in nature.
Throughout his adulthood Jesus continued taking respite from the pressing things of life by spending large amounts of time in the natural world. He spent many hours in the hills and mountains praying, reflecting, meditating, and communing with the Universal Father, with even two separate periods of being completely alone in the wilderness—one for six weeks and another encompassing forty days.
When Jesus became more active in his public career as a spiritual teacher, he and his close associates spent more time outdoors than inside—for relaxation and recreation, for work and meetings, for speaking before large groups of people, and even living outdoors for weeks at a time. He knew that by spending quality time in nature, we humans could better learn the value of meditation and the power of intelligent reflection.
In her book The Sun Is A Compass, wildlife biologist Caroline Van Hemert describes a 4,000-mile “human-powered” journey that she and her husband took in 2012 into the Pacific Northwest wild lands—starting from Bellingham in northern Washington and ending in Kotzebue, Alaska, far above the Arctic Circle. In those months of being constantly in the natural world, away from human-created societies and environments, Dr. Van Hemert gained a broader and more attuned perspective of life, experiencing a gamut of emotions and situations as she and her husband blissed out in the majestic wonder of rose-tinted dawns, gold-laced dusks, and other peace-bringing incidences, and, paradoxically, at other times struggling in their fear and desperation to simply stay alive in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
In a recent article about one episode on this trip, Dr. Van Hemert describes how closely observing a herd of hundreds of migrating caribou for a couple of days taught her some very important life lessons, which we need in these times of the Coronapocalypse. We humans are very much like our animal counterparts in our needs and tendencies. Like the caribou, we are individuals by ourselves or with small nuclear-family units for whom we try to provide and protect, and we also have an innate need to belong with a herd in order to survive all of life’s challenges.
In her observations of the behavior of the animals in their mass migration, Dr. Van Hemert saw at times what appeared to be chaos and confusion as they encountered various challenges that blocked their rhythmic and orderly travel. However, solutions were found, often by one or two caribou, who would take the lead and the herd followed. It was as if “behind the chaos was a collective need to move” forward and so solutions naturally emerged. It was as if “each animal’s actions were driven by something larger than itself.” She never saw any shoving or pushing aside in those very crowded conditions, even in times of “frantic motion.” “It was as though a safety bubble hovered around each animal with an unspoken, absolutist rule shared among the herd: Do not harm thy neighbor.” Though at times the caribou’s movements might not have seemed synchronous, Dr. Van Hemert “could see how they were intimately and essentially connected.”
If only more of us humans would allow that innate knowing of certain universal laws of survival within divine pattern to come forth in us and learn to flow in those rhythms, then we too would deeply know “like the caribou, that community is everything.”
I was a nature child, who spent more time outdoors than indoors, roaming the vast desert lands around my home in Arizona, and through osmosis I began to “know” some of the Creator’s laws found in the natural world. In a way, it was as if Jesus (through the Spirit of Truth) was by my side, teaching me about divine pattern through nature’s lessons. And, like all peoples of all generations who try to live in harmony with the laws and lessons of the earthly ecosystems, I sensed the essence of the Universe Mother Spirit within Mother Earth (Gaia).
I too have experienced the easy-going aspects of nature as well as the more brutal parts, though to a much less extent than Dr. Van Hemert (on her 4,000 mile adventure into the wilderness) or those who are suffering great loss from the current pandemic and its domino effects on the economic, medical, educational, and other social systems of society. Nor have I yet been impacted by great personal loss from the effects of global weirding, which includes worldwide extreme-weather events that result in increased crop-killing droughts, copious snow and rain followed by ravaging floods, destructive winds (including more-than-normal tornados and hurricanes), or raging fires due to extreme heat and drought-like conditions. Neither have I personally suffered from debilitating emotional and mental illness, which in these times of anxiety is increasing.
However, deep within my being I grieve over the terrible loss Gaia (Earth) is experiencing worldwide, including diminishing and disappearing animals and plants (due to harmful human encroachment of habitats), decreasing clean water, air, and soil (due to human-behavior-caused toxicity), and entire eco-systems collapsing (due to human-generated acceleration of global weirding).
In the southwest bioregion where I live, I feel great sadness as I observe the near disappearance of Gila monsters, tarantulas, and horned toads, and I see much less of jack rabbits, the various raptors, varieties of water fowl, several species of songbirds, butterflies, bees, and so on than in the past decades.
My heart literally beats erratically to the rhythm of my awareness of the unraveling web of life on earth and of the human instigation of this tragedy. My lungs strenuously breathe in and out the tainted air particles caused by human selfishness and greed. And at the same time, my heart and lungs rejoice in all that is good and true and beautiful on this world, and there is much of that too. So I and my body reflect the paradox of joy and sorrow, but more joy, and an underpinning of a “peace that passes all understanding,” for I know that in spite of the coronapocalypse and global-warming calamities that threaten so many lives, a new world will emerge in the near future.
These current times of great upheaval have been spoken of and foretold for hundreds of years, and today they are referred to (by those with a more philosophical and positive outlook) as the Great Turning or Great Transition, both terms indicating a great change from one reality to another. Many with a scientific leaning refer to these times as the Anthropocene—“anthro” meaning man and “cene” meaning new—which is a term defining “Earth’s most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, based on global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric, and other earth system processes are now altered by humans,” and not in a good way. Elizabeth Kolbert explains these times in her 2015 Pulitzer-Prize-winning book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.
I mention just a few terms that fit the nature and description of the times we are living in, but there are many others. And though I have focused more on the degradation of the natural world and extreme climate change due to centuries’ worth of culminating human choices, those choices—based on selfish and materialistic values, outside of the Creator’s divine pattern—have also caused the degradation of societal systems. Thus we have debilitating poverty, burgeoning social inequities, soul-destroying immorality, expanding mental illnesses, dismantling of humanitarian services, and unbridled, peace-threatening militarism.
However, in spite of this dire situation, there is always the possibility for this era of the Great Turning or Great Transition to transform our violated earth and troubled societies into regenerated ecosystems and redeemed cultures, actually becoming a new, or renewed, world. I (and I am sure many others) have carried within us a knowing of a beautiful reality here on earth, coexisting with the ugliness and devastation, and also having an assurance of a better future that is based on harmonious existence with God, the Creator of everything. After all, good does eventually completely overcome and transform evil.
However, we humans must take part in this Great Turning. As is pointed out in The URANTIA Book, “The ideas, motives, and longings of a lifetime are openly revealed in a crisis.” The afflictions we suffer now can awaken us to the root of the problems troubling us and our world. We are forced to reflect deeply on the circumstances we are in and reassess our own values, choices, and behavior. As we become aware of the causes of the dismantling of that which is good, life-giving, and health-sustaining—within ourselves as well is in our social systems—then we can take action to make the changes necessary to heal ourselves and our earth.
As we recognize our fragility and mortality, realizing that there is something much larger than “us,” we begin to walk the path, the Tao, that leads to the Source of all life, all truth, all beauty, and all goodness—the Universal Creator Father/Mother. Love and goodness are of eternal value; the hateful virus of evil, in all its forms, is temporary and will eventually dissipate; its evil contagion will fade away. However, “love is truly contagious and eternally creative.”
On a lighter ending note: In “A Recipe for Difficult Times: Anxiety Soup,” Pulitzer-Prize-winner writer and poet Alice Walker gives three essential ingredients needed for “this period of emotional, psychological, ideological, and financial instability.” Her soup for these difficult times is meant to help us manage our anxiety, to lessen it, to put it into proper perspective.
“First of all, Anxiety Soup keeps growing and expanding; it is eclectic, it is self-choosing, and it is already within your reach. The main thing it assumes is that you are coming to it in your right mind: that you’ve put the liquor bottle back on the shelf, said no to drugs of all kinds, and made the manly or womanly decision not to pick fights. In fact, it assumes you consider yourself free. That being so, you are ready for ingredient number one.”
Ingredient number one is dance, and ingredient number two is sitting meditation. Ingredient number three is actual soup that “you make yourself from scratch” with a variety of vegetables and anything else healthy you might have on hand. “Soup, no matter what’s in it, always tastes good. This is part of soup’s magic; you can only go wrong if you have no sense of taste whatsoever.”
As we dance, meditate, and cook through these tough times, taking the higher way of truth and goodness, as Alice Walker says, “May we continue to be a hardy race that outlives our tormentors.” And may we no longer be tormentors ourselves.
About the author
Niánn Emerson Chase is a world-renowned spiritual leader, educator, activist, and prolific author with many articles on culture, society, spirituality, and sustainability. She is co-author of the book Teachings on Healing, From A Spiritual Perspective and co-founded Global Community Communications Alliance, a multifaceted global change nonprofit, comprised of approximately 120 change agents from five continents. She is the co-founder and Director of The University of Ascension Science & The Physics of Rebellion located in Tumacácori, Arizona. She is also a counselor.
Niánn’s website is: https://niannemersonchase.org/
Citations and References:
1. “What the Caribou Taught Me About Being Together and Apart” by Caroline Van Hemert, published in The New York Times, 4/6/2020.
2. “Coronapocalypse” became almost overnight a meme used in social and other media in reference to these times of the Covid-19 pandemic and the domino effect it is having in other areas of our lives.
3. According to Greek mythology, “Gaia” was the ancestral mother of all life, the primal Mother Earth goddess. In more recent times, Gaia is also used as a synonym for Earth.
4. Global weirding” is a term that identifies what happens as global temperatures rise and the climate changes. In these times, the acceleration of the natural cycle of climate change, which usually happens over thousands of years, has been accelerated at an alarming rate due to the human-caused greenhouse blanket around our planet, which holds in heat. This is blamed on the huge amount of carbon released by human activity, especially through machinery and industry.
5. Definition from Encyclopedia of the Earth by Erle Ellis, published in 2013. The term “Anthropocene” was popularized in the year 2000 by atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen.
6. The URANTIA Book, Paper 187, Section 2, Paragraph 4
7. Ibid. Paper 188, Section 5, Paragraph 2
8. From The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way, a collection of contemplative journaling by Alice Walker.