- How did we come to experience ourselves as separate from, alienated from, and above the world that birthed and nurtured us? ~ Craig Chalquist, PhD
I was blessed to have studied with some of the most inspiring and pioneering educators during my graduate coursework at John F. Kennedy University. It was here where my life was turned inside out, and where I found my calling and a reawakened love for the Earth.
Professor Craig Chalquist was instrumental in my transformation, and remains a beloved and supportive mentor to so many wherever he teaches. As a prolific writer, passionate crusader for the Earth’s sustainability, deep educator of mythology, psychology, terrapsychology, and philosophy, I am certain that he will leave an indelible legacy. His inspired work and impassioned voice give me hope for our planet.
As a visionary leader and fellow lover of beauty, I am honored to share his thoughts on the sacred virtue of reverence.
Briefly, what are your thoughts on reverence as it pertains to the world today?
Reverence seems to me like imagination in that too often we lose it as we age, in large part because of the cynicism and self-numbing we think we need to survive in a chaotic and over-industrialized world. It requires an open heart, and that requires the courage to have feelings about what’s going on around us.
The etymology of “reverence” is revealing: it means “awe” and “to be aware of.”
To revere is to be beside oneself with awe, to swim in wonder, to lose some self-importance long enough to be transformed by someone or something we revere. How many of us are strong enough for that? To revere an Earth that’s hurting? To fall in love with where we live, or be captivated by someone we admire and care for?
To the extent we protect ourselves from such transports we miss a lot of what makes living worthwhile.
What are one or two ways that you practice reverence regularly?
Every night when I’m not working, I go for long walks at sunset and take in the beauty all around me. I usually do this in places where I can find some nature: an aquatic park, a beach, a hillside. I let my eyes absorb the shapes and colors around me, and I tune my ears to the sounds of the world: rustling leaves, the whisper of a breeze, animal movements. By doing this I appreciate Earth’s generosity; I suspect our world enjoys being attended to.
Also, I sometimes ask the places around me–my city, the Bay Area, California, even Earth–for dreams. It’s my way of checking in. I want to know what the land is thinking about.
What advice can you give my humble readers for becoming more reverent?
In addition to these practices, it can be worthwhile to recall an event in which awe and love reached the point at which time stopped for you. A moment of total appreciation. I’ve been fortunate enough to have many. I recall, for instance, looking with my maternal grandmother through a book she had given me that contained large pictures of Earth photographed from space. How beautiful our home still is.
Also, try doing an inventory in response to this question: “What numbs or blocks my heart?” There you have a list of anti-reverence items that need attention.
Too, we are often taught that “it is better to give than to receive”; for many of us, giving is safe, but receiving is risky because it means letting something into the heart.
Try receiving things: compliments, good health, a nourishing meal, an inspiration, a loved one’s appreciative glance. Let these in, and perhaps you’ll reach a point at which the heart of the world comes in too.
Craig Chalquist, PhD, is core faculty and department chair of East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He is also adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute and John F. Kennedy University, where he founded the world’s first Certificate in Ecotherapy. He is the author of several books, including Terrapsychology: Reengaging the Soul of Place, and is on the Board of Directors for Holos Institute, an Earth-friendly psychotherapy nonprofit in the Bay Area. Connections welcome on Facebook.