Monday, January 24, 2011

Blessings of nature

Today was Tu b'Shevat, the "new year for the trees."  We experienced an expanded consciousness and special attunement to the natural world, and we now have the opportunity to extend this awareness past the end of the holiday and to invite it into our everyday consciousness.
How do we do this practically? And how do we do this Jewishly? Here's one way, laid out in a simple two-step process.

The first step is to become aware of nature.  The next time you find yourself outside, take a moment and look at the trees--feel the wind--gaze at the flowers.  Really open your eyes, and make a conscious choice to become aware of what you see.  Have a direct experience with the mysterious beauty of nature.  This first step of direct experience is essential.

The second step is to acknowledge what you are experiencing.  Give yourself permission to say, "Wow, this is beautiful," or whatever your experience may bring to mind.  Many Jews have taken up the practice of making a special bracha (blessing) while immersed in the wonders of nature, which connects our feelings of awe and gratitude and directs them back to the holy Source of nature.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, עֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha-olam, Oseih maaseih v’reisheet.
"Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, Maker of the work of creation."

I know someone who makes this a daily practice, finding at least one thing in nature each day and saying this bracha.  There is so much wonder in nature, we could literally spend the rest of lives in awe and gratitude--if we only gave a few moments of awareness to each plant, we would run out of time before we ran out of plants!  Given that, surely we can find at least one nature experience today (and every day) worthy of our awareness and acknowledgement.  May these experiences enrich our lives, awaken our spirits, and lead us toward a caring and responsible relationship with the natural environment and each another.

With blessings of peace and love,
Andrew Shaw

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, Andrew. I wrote down the basics on a card in my wallet to remind me.