Spiritual Living Perspective on the Environment

Spiritual Living Perspective

Reverend Elizabeth O’Day
Salt Lake Center for Spiritual Living

As a child of westerners, I was raised with an awe of the mountains, glaciers, lakes, streams and oceans that were still unpolluted in the 1950’s. My parents would pack into a high mountain wilderness, camp and fish and then trek back out with everything we had brought. We seldom encountered other campers, hikers or signs of people. It seemed the vast world of the North American west was filled with silence. The wild was a reminder of our place in the natural world, a place to praise and remember gratitude for the beauty and bounty of life.

Americans have long been inspired by the wilderness. Many of our greatest writers and philosophers like Thoreau and Emerson have found spiritual solace and validation from time alone in nature. Those ‘transcendentalists’ were inspired by Native American beliefs, Hindu scriptures like the Bhagavad-Gita and deists philosophies. Those beliefs see the eternal presence of God within all life – not just human life. They posit a universe filled with the essence of the Creator and resonating with the sacred. Every part of the natural world is informed by Spirit and communicates that essence back to us.

Science of Mind, founded by Ernest Holmes in the early 1900s, is a philosophy that promotes conscious responsibility for our thoughts, actions and impact on the world. Knowing that we are a part of the life around us, and not separate from it, we are urged to take responsible action. Contrary to what many believe, it is not enough to simply feel good thoughts for our world; we must take responsible action too. How do you know what is yours to do? If it bothers you, if it calls to you, then it is yours to care for with appropriate action. Even if in a seemingly small way you take appropriate action to care for the things that call to you, the results can be amazing.

Sometimes prayer is the most powerful action that we can take. Many of us do not turn to prayer until every other avenue has been exhausted. However, prayer is a greater help when done before action (not in the place of action) because then all that we do is inspired by the spiritual uplifting of prayer. We know who to call, what letters to write, what plans to make, what money to donate, what avenues to pursue when inspired by prayer. Our actions move with greater ease.

Prayer also can aide us when our emotions become too heightened to act appropriately. I once stopped at the side of a road overlooking a hillside of clearcut, deforested land, and wept with grief over the loss. For many weeks that hillside was in my prayers. I remember the shock and horror of seeing a favorite childhood area completely devastated by the ruin of mining and logging. Prayer can be a powerful tool in restoring hope when it seems that all is lost.

The great source of life is endlessly creating; has created out of nothing all that the universe contains. As such, life will never end, will never be extinguished – but will continue in infinitely new and wondrous ways. It would be foolish arrogance for us to think that we are the ultimate product of the universe. Regardless of our abuses and excesses as a species, life will not stop its evolution on this planet. Our choice is whether we are part of that future.

How do we ensure a future for us on this planet? What are some of the things that make human life sustainable? Finding a place of quiet and solitude, a place where we are reminded that human life is part of a greater whole – and not the only life on the planet – is essential for our sanity as a species. Every year what is left of the wild becomes more precious to us. Therefore, it behooves us to use all our resources with the care and responsibility that is driven by prayerful, conscious choice.

Reverend Elizabeth O’Day
Salt Lake Center for Spiritual Living
870 E. North Union Avenue
Midvale, UT 84047

Rev. Elizabeth O’Day was hired as the Community Spiritual Leader by the Salt Lake Center for Spiritual Living in September 2006. She was previously the minister of a congregation in Orange County California, and is ordained by the United Centers for Spiritual Living (formerly called United Church of Religious Science).

Rev. O’Day was born in 1953 in the Pacific Northwest and has since lived on every continent except South America. Her early life was spent hiking and camping in pristine North American locations. She began studying religions in her teens and joined a Vedanta convent in 1972. That led to finding the Church of Religious Science in 1981. She is married to Dr. John Mudd, a practicing Buddhist and former Zen monk. They currently live in West Valley City and enjoy hiking the canyons anytime weather permits.

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