by Mary Oliver and M.J. Slim Hooey | These prayers remind us that what we would like to see, we must help bring into being. All prayer is ultimately an act of hope. Without hope it has no substance. (Image by dae jeung kim from Pixabay )
During this time of great imbalance on planet Earth we may feel ourselves torn between the priorities of healing ourselves…..resolving our own inner spiritual or psychological problems…..and attempting to cure the social and economic ills that beset our culture. While each of us undoubtedly has much inner work to do, this attitude misses the main point of Earth Prayer. It continues to view the individual as somehow separate from the rest of the world. But if we accept that we are totally part of this living Earth, then we must recognize that isolated health is an illusion. Healing ourselves and working to resolve the contradictions in the human-Earth ecology is the same work.
All healing involves making whole again-resolving the contradictions that exist between self and other, body and spirit, mind and nature. The prayers in this section show us a pathway back to an understanding and appreciation of life. They remind us that our participation extends to the whole. Knowing that we are not encapsulated, self-enclosed entities, but rather fields of energy integrated with the environment, everything we do transforms and reshapes the world. If our actions can destroy, so can they heal. In this light there is no difference between work and prayer, no distinction between physical activity and the work of the spirit. Precisely in the restoration of this balance between body and spirit lies the path for healing the greater whole.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk all your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves……
The voices in the following passage remind us that the Earth is itself the primary healer. They speak of silence and solitude. They tell us of the comfort to be found in wild places. As Nancy Wood writes, “My help is in the mountains / Where I take myself to heal / the earthly wounds / That people give to me.”
Finally, these prayers remind us that what we would like to see, we must help bring into being. All prayer is ultimately an act of hope. Without hope it has no substance. Hope empowers our intention and gives character to our action. While our action may be turned aside from its purpose or taken over by the milieu in which it occurs, prayer, when it is genuine, cannot be taken over. It attains its goals because it is its goal.
I have come to terms with the future.
From this day onward, I will walk
easy on the earth. Plant trees. Kill
no living things. Live in harmony with
all creatures. I will restore
the earth where I am. Use no more
of its resources than I need. And listen,
listen to what it is telling me.
Mary Oliver and M.J. Slim Hooey in Earth Prayers from Around the World. 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocation for Honoring the earth edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon.