The history of nature from the Big Bang to the present day shown graphically in a spiral with notable events annotated. Every billion years (Ga) is represented by 90 degrees of rotation of the spiral. The last 500 million years are represented in a 90-degree stretch for more detail on our recent history. Some of the events depicted are the emergence of cosmic structures (stars, galaxies, planets, clusters, and other structures), the emergence of the solar system, the Earth and the Moon, important geological events (gases in the atmosphere, great orogenies, glacial periods, etc.), emergence and evolution of living beings (first microbes, plants, animals, fungi), the evolution of hominid species and important events in human evolution. Image by Pablo Carlos Budassi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Learning and Honoring Our Sacred Nature

Explore the science of our sacred nature, by delving into this ecospiritual prayer for the sacred infra-natural. This practice encourages us to find deep centeredness and vast expansion of our conscious connection to everything: to the structures within us, to our ancestors and all our relations throughout the biosphere, and the wider cosmos. It is a profound journey into agaya.

Join Michelle live on Insight Timer
Tuesday, October 19th, 2:00pm PDT
/ 21:00 UTC for a deep dive into this practice

A Prayer to the Sacred Infra-Natural*

As a Work That Reconnects facilitator and a biological anthropologist, I love to add some science into my offerings, especially for the Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes and Deep Time phases of the work.

This prayer, recitation or meditation honors the sacred power that resides within Nature. The practice is an exploration of our own human location in deep time and deep space, our intimacy and dependence on the microcosmic and macrocosmic turnings of our universe. It encourages the practitioner to follow a journey of deep centered-ness and vast expansion of their conscious connection to everything. 

The specifics of the recitation, and how you envision each step you take, should be informed by the best scientific consensus available, and may therefore change as scientific understandings change. If some aspects of this recitation are unfamiliar to you, think of it as an opportunity to explore and learn more about your self, your world, and your home in the universe. Once you know about each step and what it means, you may choose to ‘skip over’ or consolidate steps that feel less vital to you, as long as you remember they are there.

Choose a beneficent wish or blessing, to hold respect and gratitude and wonder in your heart and mind as you move through your recitation.  In Novasutras circles, we use “May __________ abide in agaya and ubuntu.” (Agaya references the joy, creativity and wonder of the living world; ubuntu is a word from southern Africa that emphasizes interdependence, community and care.)  In more general settings, I often work with “May _______ be suffused with compassion and loving kindness,” for each of the sub-categories. “May _________ receive my respect and gratitude,” is another way to work.  

Feel free to vary the blessing, day by day, in ways that feel most appropriate to you and your experience.  Other options (to be used alone or in combination, perhaps just with All My Relations) include:

  • May ________ be well. May we be free from physical and mental suffering.
  • May ________ know joy. May we be free from useless fear.
  • For human levels, you might include: May we have the devotion, strength and energy to be agents of positive change.

Below you will find an outline of the journey, down into the microcosm, then back up through all our relations that make up the living Earth, then out to the macrocosm. Each of the descriptions offered is a useful example, based on current scientific understanding of the wondrous and beautiful origins and evolution of life and the universe. You may choose to rephrase these based on your understanding (or to be understood by a group sharing the practice).  

It is important to acknowledge that “Western” science is only one way of knowing, and that indigneous and other faith perspectives also hold great value and insights. You might invite a conversation about these alternative ways of understanding our relationships to Nature, or invite participants to relate their specific cultural stories about how life came to be.

As you go through the Recitation/Meditation/Prayer below, do your best to envision as many of the things within each categorical blessing as you can, while moving through them with a gentle rhythm. Do not forget to always include yourself, and think of “we” when moving through the organism-macrocosm levels.

One could go into more detail with each level in the organism-macrocosm section, referencing example organisms, if you wish a longer meditation session. For instance, at the first mammals and all their descendants, you could pause to offer specific blessings to the humpback whales, the coyotes, the pikas, the aardvarks, the koalas, and so forth. You could also only do a sub-section, or choose a few favorite milestones, when a shorter meditation time is available.

The Recitation/Meditation/Prayer to the Sacred Infra-Natural

Start with self

The complex being that is me.

Descend to the Microcosm

  • My many interacting organ systems
  • Each of my organs
  • All of my tissues
  • All of the cells that make up my body, both those with my own genes, and those symbionts that reside on and within me (I also sometimes say “those microbes who dwell with me and do me no harm”)
  • All of the networked organelles and processes within my cells
  • Each of the molecules that is currently a part of me
  • The atoms within me
  • The particles within my atoms – the familiar neutrons, protons, electrons [along with all those leptons and bosons that we’re beginning to detect and understand]
  • The quarks and quanta that make matter and energy possible
A fluorescent image of an endothelial cell. Nuclei are stained blue, mitochondria are stained red, and microfilaments are stained green. From IP69.226.103.13 via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0
A fluorescent image of an endothelial cell. Nuclei are stained blue, mitochondria are stained red, and microfilaments are stained green. From Wikimedia.org

Return to Self

You might choose an alternative blessing or offering of gratitude as you step back up the scale to the self.

  • The particles within my atoms
  • The atoms within me
  • Each of the molecules that is currently a part of me…

On up through organelles, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, to

  • The complex being that is me.

All My Relations: Ancestors and Descendants  1

  • My parents and all their descendants (you, your siblings, and your children, nieces and nephews, and all their descendants)
  • My grandparents and all their descendants (aunts, uncles, first cousins)
  • All my great-grandparents and all their descendants (second cousins)
  • All my great-great-great-great-great grandparents and all their descendants (seven generations) 2
  • The first humans and all their descendants (all humans) 3
  • The first apes and all their descendants (all apes, Hominoidea
  • The first monkeys (anthropoid primates) and all their descendants
  • The first primates and all their descendants (all Primates)
  • The first Euarchonta and all their descendants (primates + tree shrews + colugos)
  • The first placental mammals and all their descendants
  • The first mammals and all their descendants (all Mammalia)
  • The first amniotes and all their descendants (mammals + reptiles + birds)
  • The first tetrapods and all their descendants (amniotes + amphibians)
  • The first bony fishes and all their descendants (Osteichthyes)
  • The first vertebrates and all their descendants (all Vertebrata)
  • The first Bilateria and all their descendants (vertebrates + insects + spiders + tardigrades + worms + molluscs + bryozoans and other bilateral animals)
  • The first animals and all their descendants (all Animalia)
  • The first Opisthokonts and all their descendants (animals + fungi and some other small groups)
  • The first Eukaryotes and all their descendants (Opisthokonts+plants: things with nucleated cells)
  • The first Life on Earth and all their descendants (all living things on Earth: Eukaryotes, Bacteria, Archaea, and perhaps Viruses)
Eukaryotes and some examples of their diversity – clockwise from top left: Red mason bee - Osmia bicornis, mushroom of Boletus edulis, chimpanzee - Pan troglodytes, protozoan Isotricha intestinalis, Persian buttercup - Ranunculus asiaticus, and green algae species Volvox carteri From Wikimedia Commons CC-SA-2.5
Eukaryotes and some examples of their diversity – clockwise from top left: Red mason beeBoletus edulischimpanzeeIsotricha intestinalisRanunculus asiaticus, and Volvox carteri From Wikimedia.org

Expand from biosphere to macrocosm

  • Our shared biosphere 4
  • The Earth and her entire atmosphere
  • The Earth-Moon system (in its dance)
  • The inner Solar system, from its bright center, through the rocky planets, to the asteroid belt
  • The greater Solar system, out through the gas giants, the Kuiper belt and out to the heliopause
  • The sphere of our radio transmissions, nearly 115 light-years out (in October 2021) and growing each second at the speed of light 5
  • Our stellar neighborhood, of all the easily visible individual stars
  • Our arm of the great Milky Way galaxy
  • The whole spiraling system of the Milky Way galaxy, from its massive core to its associated “clouds” of stars
  • The dancing gravitational partnership of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies
  • Our local neighborhood of galaxies
  • The great Virgo supercluster of galaxies
  • The visible universe
Andromeda galaxy. Image by David (Deddy) Dayag, via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0
Andromeda galaxy. Image by David (Deddy) Dayag, via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0

Return to Biosphere

Walk back through the Virgo supercluster, local galactic neighborhood, Milky Way, spiral arm, stellar neighborhood, radio bubble, heliopause, inner Solar system, Earth-Moon system, Earth and biosphere. Again, you might choose an alternative blessing or offering of gratitude as you work your way back.

Return through Relations to Self

Walk back through all Life on Earth, all Eukaryotes, Opisthokonts, animals, Bilateria, vertebrates, Osteichthyes, tetrapods, amniotes, mammals, placental mammals, Archonta, Primates, anthropoids, apes, humans, seven generations, great grandparents, grandparents, parents. Come back to your self.

Close with gratitude

Expand with gratitude to all that is around and within you: the co-creators that have supported you and made your life possible. Rest in knowing that you are part of the unfolding co-creation of the universe.

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NOTES:

See https://www.exopermaculture.com/2016/05/10/joanna-macy-we-are-expanding-our-identity-from-ego-self-to-eco-self/ for further inspiration. Other inspirations for this work include the 1977 film Powers of Ten – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0 and the recent interactive update to that concept, Scale of the Universe – https://htwins.net/scale2/ .

1 Tree of Life (http://tolweb.org/) is a good place to get the background on this section.  Remember that “all their descendants” may extend even farther into the future than it does into the past. This entire walk goes back about 4 billion years.

2 Assuming no interbreeding, you would have had 128 such ancestors. If they had an average of over 2.3 offspring who also survived to reproduce, this would be a set of at least 350 distant cousins alive today.

3 Fossil and genetic evidence suggest the first members of our biological species, Homo sapiens, lived in Africa about 300 thousand years ago (https://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils/species/homo-sapiens). The first members of our genus Homo, probably Homo habilis, lived as long as 2.4 million years ago. Our ancestors and the ancestors of what became modern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) parted ways somewhere around 6 to 8 million years ago.

4 Considered to include not only all living and previously living matter, but also those components of the lithosphere (minerals), atmosphere (gases) and hydrosphere (water) that are actively influenced and regulated as part of the metabolic cycles of the sum of all organisms on earth.  It’s quite a lovely and complex place.

5 I based this on the December 24th,1906 broadcast by Reginald Fesseden, as perhaps strong enough to be potentially detectable (see https://www.thoughtco.com/reginald-fessenden-first-radio-broadcast-1991646 , https://www.planetary.org/articles/3390 ). By definition, the radius of this “radio bubble” grows by one light year every year.

An earlier version of this content was originally published in the September 2021 Issue of Deep Times: A Journal of the Work That Reconnects. You can find an audio version read by Dr. Michelle Merrill at this link.

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