“I am grateful for the opportunity to share these reflections with you each month and have already learned something quite valuable: The order of science and then reflection was daunting and made the blog too long. This month the blog starts with the reflection and at the end simply has a link to the science information. I hope this makes it more engaging!” -Sr. Pat Connick
(This guided meditation invites you to create an image of an ecosystem in your mind and heart. You may wish to have someone read it to you, or record it so you can listen without reading it at the same time.)
Picture a stage from the most marvelous theatre you’ve ever visited, on which a great performance will be held continuously. Imagine on this stage, a place in nature you have visited, that has made already a deep impression on you. A place perhaps from your childhood; a place in which you’ve spent precious moments with a good friend, partner, or spouse; or a place you like to escape to find peace and harmony.
Note it has boundaries, yes, but also points of entry to and exit from the stage. Also, take notice that it contains not only props and sets, non-living members of the stage which set the scene and provide context, but also characters, living members who move among the props and sets.
Now place yourself on the stage:
- Feel the earth under your feet.
- If there is water, listen to its gentle motion and/or watch its great serenity.
- Enjoy the air you breathe in and the exhale that follows.
- Experience the breeze if there is one, or rain if you would enjoy that.
Soak in the green of nature: the grass, the plants and the trees with their leaves. These are the part of the ecosystem capable of connecting and embracing energy from our sun by the process of photosynthesis to make oxygen and food for the rest of the ecosystem. Note their beautiful variation in green color and the ones whose fruit perhaps you might enjoy when it are ready. My favorite are black raspberries associated with childhood memories of picking them during August in Ohio.
Perhaps there are animals, maybe even human beings, who rely on the green things of nature or other animals for their food. Is there peacefulness about the acquisition of food or competition for it? Both are natural. Notice that life is sustained by how each animal not only accepts the gift of life in the community, but how each brings a gift to the ecosystem as well. Take note of this pattern in as many animals as you wish before moving on.
Yes, among the creatures are many interactions. Some benefit both parties; some benefit even if the other is unaffected. And in some cases, one benefits and the other suffers or even dies! Each is part of the rhythm of life in the ecosystem, the stage of life. Take a good, long look all around your ecosystem, noticing its patterns of life. How would you describe its story?
But, where do all the used up and deceased things go? Thank God for the effects of macro- and micro-organisms that feed on what we would consider “gross” or unattractive, because one would not long want to ponder the effect of their absence on the place!
There is a beautiful story unfolding on the stage, one filled with peace and harmony, yes…and one where interdependence is the key to its vibrancy. The system has a point of balance, and when stress is present, and it always will be, this tests the ability of the system to return to the previous balance or to find a new one. Yet, an ecosystem that has been stretched by stress to build its resilience may be more robust that one that has never experienced stress in the first place!
Now say good-bye to the ecosystem. In your imagination, when you have seen the curtain come down on the stage, did it signal only the end of its story to you today, or was it the ecosystem’s end itself?
It does raise the possibility that ecosystems have a finite lifetime as do the organisms of which it is comprised. If it did end, my questions to you are these:
- Did the end arise out of a natural disturbance as part of a wider sense of nature itself such as through a forest fire, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption or tsunami, a tornado or hurricane, an ice storm or heat wave?
- Or was the end because of choices made by a singular species (humanity) because of our urban or farming developments; air, water or land pollution; the clear-cutting of forests; or the removal of mountaintops to mine minerals for ourselves?
If it is the latter, I raise the same question as our Dominican brother Montesino about the abuse of the native peoples of the Americas in the early 16th century by their Spanish conquerors, “¿con que derecho y con que justicia?” (By what right and by what justice is this done?)
Bless the Lord, all you ecosystems,
All you producers, bless the Lord,
All you consumers, bless the Lord,
All you who decompose, bless the Lord
Praise and exult God forever!
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
- Do I periodically reflect upon the rhythm of life in my ecosystem?
- What gifts from my ecosystem support my life? What gifts do I bring to my ecosystem?
- Did you notice that except for human beings each animal takes only what it needs to survive and thrive? How does this make you feel?
- When stressed, how do I return to a point of balance, or find a new one in my life?
Please click here for the science behind this blog.