Cultivating Spirit with the Natural World: A Bridge Retreat

This past Saturday, we had the pleasure of attending a nature retreat entitled, “Cultivating Spirit With The Natural World” hosted by The Bridge and led by Dr. Karen Mutter and University of Tampa’s Susan Taylor Lennon. It was a day-long intensive, and when it was over, we had thoroughly honored the Autumn Equinox through dance, guided meditation, a delicious community meal and a vision quest.

To guide us on our journey, we pulled an animal spirit card. Mine featured four birds (an owl, a crow, a hawk and a hummingbird) oriented to the four compass points. The card also contained the words “Life Lessons,” “Victory,” and “Courage” as well as the number 23. What follows are the photos we took while exploring the beautiful Northwood property, and the journal entry that I scribbled down as we were called back to the circle and were asked to share what we had learned.

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It has been said that the map is not the territory.

But in navigating our world – morally, geographically – we depend on the correct tools to stay the course. Magnetic north is only so because of the weight of the cosmos pulling at itself. We continually rely on signs, quadrants, polarities, spectrums, orientation and others to define ourselves, our position and our direction in this world.

And since the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere, these orienting energies and drives allow us as individuals to interface like a lens and open like a portal between worlds – aligning interiors with exteriors, the miscrocosm with the macrocosm, individuals in relation to collectives, wholes in relation to parts, the biosphere in relation to the noösphere, sometimes all while plugged into the technosphere.

Since our own face is the face of God, and since our own mind is the mind of God, every time we set our eyes (or even our thoughts) on this world, we face God, staring back at ourselves.

We are of the world. We are in the world. We create and destroy the world, and we only change the world by living in it.

Today, as the sunlight came from behind a tree, warmed my chest, stopped me in my tracks and opened my heart, I asked God, “What would you have me do?” And, God (my own mind) answered. Just as it did years ago when I was instructed to “be the needle” on the record player that is the universe – starting me on a two decade-long journey in the art of channeling melody and lyric and song, a journey and a celebration of the art of music.

Today, God answered, “be the compass,” and I am prepared to look forward to yet another two decade-long journey. This time in the art of leading by example.

The art of acknowledging and creating meaning in every moment.

The art of capture, and also of release.

The art of taking a machete to my insides every season and clearing that field for new growth.

The art of weaving a sustainable web.

The art of loving the world as I love myself.

The art of living.

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About Joran Slane Oppelt

Author, Musician, Interfaith Minister, Chaplain, Public Speaker, Event Producer, Marketing Professional, Husband, Father - Not necessarily in that order. Follow me on Twitter @joranslane. View all posts by Joran Slane Oppelt

One response to “Cultivating Spirit with the Natural World: A Bridge Retreat

  • Michele Young

    Joran,

    I am so glad I waited for this past week to transpire before reading your lovely rendition, and revisiting the visual memories, of our experience at Northwood. Thank you for these gifts you shared, including your beautiful family members. It was a very special and needed time to reconnect with my self as a component of Nature . I am grateful for all that were attracted to join us and the unique role each played. It left me wanting more. As I have often signed off with Let Joy be Your Compass in Life…this still holds true for your “answer” of Be The Compass.

    In Lak’ech,
    Michele and un-footed friends…Hawk, Yellow Butterfly and Dragonfly

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