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The Urgency of Rest

By Payton Hoegh

Bee flying on a background of green.

“We are finite resources.”

I had been living out of a backpack and crisscrossing the Eastern seaboard for four weeks. As I listened to John Pavlovitz's talk at the Wild Goose Festival on harnessing empathy to serve our communities, these words struck a chord in my soul.

For much of the past month, I’ve had the good fortune to both present during and participate in festivals and retreats with environmental advocates, faith-based organizers, and folks intimately familiar with the weight and severity of the ecological crisis. I’ve been left awed and inspired by the remarkable work being done to build resilience and orchestrate meaningful responses to the climate chaos which so many recognize as the defining issue of our time. As if to underline the gravity of these efforts and emphasize the profound urgency of this moment, my time on the East Coast was punctuated with haze and smoke from unprecedented wildfires in Canada and concluded in weathering Earth’s hottest days on record.

Even as I celebrated the wild hearts and wonderful work of those I met in Maine, Maryland, and North Carolina, one refrain accompanied our shared acknowledgment of the acute necessity of climate action and environmental care: deep and abiding grief and weariness.

Pavlovitz's simple words ring so sharp because so many of us feel that finitude even as we keep pouring from increasingly empty cups.

As advocates, we are often comfortable expressing our anger. We harness and direct it at powerful entities slow to respond to the cries of the Earth and those most profoundly impacted by the climate crisis. Similarly, we speak eloquently of our fear of dire consequences if we fail to act with haste. Yet, our fatigue, anxiety, and grief—if acknowledged at all—are all too often stifled with clenched-teeth expressions of resolve.

While perhaps this grit is admirable, where does that distinct sense of sorrow in a changing world go if we continually bury it under busyness? How can we expect to creatively address impending disaster if our exhaustion is tended to with little more than sheer will and desperation?

We exist in a culture that celebrates hyperactive immediacy—a reality part and parcel of the climate crisis. Under such terms, the resolve to slow down, to reject the impulse of tangible productivity, to embrace embodied presence, purposeful attention, intentional practice, and the peace of a quiet mind is itself an act of resistance.

A bee sleeps in a flower

In the natural patterns and progressions of the seasons, the movements of production and rest, activity and dormancy, migration and stasis, the natural world offers ceaseless invitation to embrace the wisdom of renewal.

As Indian scholar and environmental activist Vandana Shiva notes, “You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.”

Spirituality in nature acknowledges that we ourselves require refreshment. The natural world invites us to slow our hearts and be attentive to fleeting moments, to unearth our mourning, and to note with purpose our joy in chorus with the whole Earth.

This is the message I carried as I traveled this summer and explored with friends new and old how we might Ignite the Advocate's Heart in these frightful times.

This is the message that I forget so often when the world feels heavy and the concerns are great and the data is daunting and the odds are stacked against a future of harmony and balance and mutual flourishing.

This is the message I was reminded of sitting on the porch of a rented room at the edge of a wooded creek in North Carolina as I felt the first drops of rain from a summer storm. The water washed away the afternoon’s heat and the exhaustion of too many days away from home. The building breeze demanded I close my eyes and my darkened sight left me open to the sweet smell of a newly wet world alive and moving in ways my eyes always fail to fully notice.

In this moment I felt the spark I’d been speaking of. Rekindled by an instance of grounded connection and spiritual spaciousness, it occurred to me that: Even as we feel as such, we are not finite resources.

A ladybug hangs on a stem with raindrops.

We are renewable and in need of renewal.

In this season, what is offering you the

energy, inspiration, rest, and refreshment that you need?

What wisdom have you received in your time of practice in the natural world that sparks hope in your soul and kindles your imagination?

If you’re seeking opportunities for connection with community and renewal in, with, and alongside nature, consider joining us for our guided exploration of The Spiritual Wisdom of Trees starting in September.

These are urgent times. Don’t forget to slow down.


Note: If you’re curious about the ways contemplative practice and spirituality in nature can energize, inspire, and equip environmental advocates, keep an eye out for a new program on Igniting the Advocate's Heart in the months ahead or contact us about a custom program.


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