Contemplative Motherhood Podcast

Connecting to Nature: Exploring Our Surroundings

June 20, 2021 Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple Season 1 Episode 5
Connecting to Nature: Exploring Our Surroundings
Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
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Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
Connecting to Nature: Exploring Our Surroundings
Jun 20, 2021 Season 1 Episode 5
Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple

In this episode Erin and Chelsea use their natural surroundings as a backdrop to connecting with all that the Divine has given us. Using personal examples of how their kids showed them the beauty of nature and how we can grasp this inner beauty while exploring the physical beauty of nature. They have plenty of oops moments of being a mom outdoors with kids who dare to venture more than they are comfortable with but through that vulnerability comes a realization of how connected kids are to the Spirit. 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Erin and Chelsea use their natural surroundings as a backdrop to connecting with all that the Divine has given us. Using personal examples of how their kids showed them the beauty of nature and how we can grasp this inner beauty while exploring the physical beauty of nature. They have plenty of oops moments of being a mom outdoors with kids who dare to venture more than they are comfortable with but through that vulnerability comes a realization of how connected kids are to the Spirit. 

Chelsea Whipple  0:08  

You are listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast, my name is Chelsea, I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director, and pilgrim.

Erin Thomas  0:17  

And I'm Erin, a creative homeschool educator, counselor, and spiritual seeker, listen in as we dive deeper into the contemplative lifestyle, through hearing about each of our lives.

Chelsea Whipple  0:29  

You'll hear our triumphs, failures, practices, and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background.

Erin Thomas  0:38  

So grab some coffee, tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here.

Chelsea Whipple  0:44  

Now let's get started. Thank you all for tuning in to another episode of the contemplative motherhood podcast. I am Chelsea, and I'm here with my beautiful friend and co host, Erin, and this episode we are talking about our connection to nature, and more specifically looking at how can we embrace the beautiful creation that God has gifted us with an intentional contemplative practice and how can we practically incorporate the presence of God in our natural surroundings, within the context of motherhood. Now this may be simple or grandiose depending on the set of natural surroundings that we all live in.

Erin Thomas  1:27  

Yeah, thanks Chels. I really this. I'm a little bit excited. I'm not a little bit, a lot of a bit excited about sharing how this connection to nature has really been implemented as a practice for me. I, I want to give you a little bit of context because I think that helps understand how this sort of came to be. I have very outdoorsy children, and I've shared before, that we live in coastal Georgia, and so it is significantly warm for extremely large portions of time. And despite the fact that my children are very outdoorsy, I just by genetic predisposition or whatever, hasn't always been an outdoorsy kind of girl. And so in a sense, my children have often felt like strangers to me in this area, they sincerely notice,  minimal natural elements, I mean, they just think shoes are optional, sometimes shirts are optional. Snails stay in pockets and, and they are still placed in the laundry basket, and as a result I think I've sort of learned to embrace. I guess you could say the introduction of any creation of God's green earth great or small, at any time, my home, some sometimes a little more closely than I'd prefer so there's that. And to be perfectly honest I on the other hand, particularly in the past have been more comfortable, and a screened in porch with tea and a journal, you know as artsy people, and I prefer perfect temperatures and no bugs if possible. 

And so it's important to know that. And I want to share that these practices we mentioned here on the podcast. You know they may resonate with you and and while others do not. But, um, I think it's also really important to recognize what may be an opportunity and an invitation for a beautiful growth journey. I do think it's absolutely okay to inventory your own needs and explore various practices, and find what works best for you. Now, this, in a sense, may be within the context of understanding your background and different settings and different, different processes in your journey, so make sure that you're doing that as well. 

Just wanted to share that because I think it's important to sort of put this into context if we're thinking about implementing your practice. But I want to share that despite the fact that I am not or haven't been inherently outdoorsy nature practice has been instrumental in my own practice of contemplation. But in order to be present with my children and embrace the concept of nature as a spiritual practice. There's pretty this, the focus for me, is being outdoors with an open heart and an open mind, and so I want to travel down that road a little bit with you, to sort of get you in the mindset of what this looks like, and has looked like for me in the past and sort of areas where I am growing and embracing this practice. 

So let's go down this route a little bit. So, if you're like me, walking onto a trail in a hot humid coastal Georgia summer this sort of requires some grounding of emotions. What do I mean by that. Okay, let's just flesh that out a little bit. First I check my heart's intention, in a sense, like what am I doing here, what is the purpose of this practice in ultimately for me is to embrace the natural state of God's creation to embrace this experience fully with my children. And how do I ensure I'm present. And going down that road of how do I ensure I'm present

as a Empath or a person who has a tendency to naturally absorb my environment both in that emotional state and a physical state of being. I can get really immersed in details. And this can be really challenging in nature. If this isn't sort of, for me, centralized and nature, by nature, is

just an influx of sensory experiences, right, like, I noticed too many bugs so I start itching it or I apply bug spray, or even my emotional states of being, can fluctuate, I can fixate on the details of knowing the trail and the destination, right, like we're moms, we need to know where we're going with our children. I can make sure that I have all the snacks. You know, Mom packs, always have all the snacks. Bandaids water, I can read a guide a bird law walking so I have something to talk to with my children. You know I can also think about things that might be fearful. And for me in coastal Georgia. This includes snakes, and I can sincerely go down a rabbit hole. With this, and just trust me, if you're doing a brief nature trail and coastal Georgia I really wouldn't recommend that. So these bumps or distractions are really for me I have sort of termed them roadblocks and my attempts for centering and contemplative motherhood, I think, you know, don't feel bad, I think it's important to know that these are normal and natural and okay human processes. 

We don't want to shame induce ourselves or cause guilt, because we're human beings and we don't like but that's right, but rather for me in this effort, of being a contemplative mother. These are checkpoints of where I stand with my heart and my mind and my intention, and a inventory or a notice of where my anchors lie. 

So, ultimately for me sometimes this requires an effort of redirection. It may require a stop or a long pause, some breath work. Just a realigning of my emotions with my spirit to lean into the present time period with my children. And once I take this moment of intentionality to realign my purpose with embracing the spirits of creation and nature and the creator. I began to notice. Nature treasures, and beautiful things my children bring to me and an excitement, or the moments of God's presence in the blow of the Palmetto trees. As a result, I think my Spirit begins to sort of just do an inventory of what's around me, but in a deeper sense, I start to be filled with beautiful pictures of what I'm taking in, and as a result.

The result is my emotional state then becomes one of awe and gratitude, and friends, this right here. This alignment is the contemplative connection. This is the sacred in the ordinary. And that's the easiest way I can describe it. I hope I explained it.

Chelsea Whipple  10:26  

so, Erin, I'm very interested in hearing a story of one of your nature walks with your children, and how you found the sacred in the ordinary. Would you care to share with us. 

Erin Thomas  10:38  

Sure. Um, let's see. i There are so many stories, some I will not share because I don't want to scare you away from this practice right. But, prior to living in coastal Georgia, our family lived on a homestead in Middle Tennessee to say that this was sort of a stretching time for me would be like the understatement of the century. I did not grow up in rural living, I wasn't used to rural living. I did not know anything about farming, much less caring for animals and land. But I couldn't deny that there was sort of a wildness in my heart that needed that time, and learned a lot. 

As a result of us, jumping into this experience. So one of the first weeks we were at our farm. I took the kids on a walk to explore a new property and to be honest, I was a little bit anxious. I wasn't sure if honestly what we discover is I didn't have much experience, and I felt flooded with a sense of needing to know how to protect my children and lead them in this nature journey, you know, the mother hen we all sort of feel like that. When we take our children everywhere, right, we need to be prepared. but this was new for me. 

So I found quickly that I learned that my children had sort of a natural ability to connect with nature, in a way that I had sort of missed, and they didn't need my help to embrace the beauty around them. I think that they do, I do feel like they have this inherent ability to connect with the physical world around them. As to an adult we sort of get caught up in our thoughts right and what's like right in front of us, or planning ahead. And so it was a simple walk, but along the way we discovered new plants we had never seen before. I began to smell the nature of the flowers nearby. I had never smelled flowers like that before. And as we kept walking it started to rain. Of course, and I did not prepare for that that was the one thing that I did not prepare for, I had all the snacks. All the water bottles and sippy cups and you know prepared, but I did not prepare for the rain. 

And, despite the fact that we had lightweight jackets, I was a little concerned like are we looking at a monsoon here, this is Middle Tennessee is there a tornado, and my Kansas girl went. Amen. You know, I think, rather than embrace the fear I had come to feel often in situations, this is sort of the pivotal moment for me.

I saw my son. He was probably six at the time, reach over and tear off this giant elephant year leaf, like the size of his head and he made an umbrella. And then my daughter did the same, and she couldn't have been more than, like, three and a half, four, and she's a little bit quieter in nature. And she did the same thing. And then I found myself pulling an elephant ear umbrella, and we walked with like this extra pep in our step, some delight that I had not experienced before. And it was a realization that nature had met our needs in a way that was difficult to describe in the physical sense, but I know without a doubt, it was a moment of connectedness that I sincerely will never forget.

Chelsea Whipple  14:40  

Oh, I love that story. In fact, I don't know if anybody else could smell the nectar of the flowers, because I can smell them right now. Well for me, I'm interested. I love smelling flowers. Well, for me, you know, connecting to nature is very gratifying. I would call myself an outdoors girl. Now, with the exception that I noticed as I get older, I am definitely a bit pickier on temperature. Not, not, I'm not a cold weathered person, and I can get overwhelmed like you Erin with making sure everyone is wearing the appropriate attire, has the correct amount of sunscreen if it's needed, has snacks, water, we don't want anybody to get dehydrated, you know, which honestly sometimes just stepping outdoors can lead to feeling automatically overwhelmed. So, but like Erin, it's just kind of one of those things you notice, you let go of and just feel perfectly normal about. 

So really for me, you know, I don't mind being caught up in the rain. I don't mind feeling the bugs around me. I have, I'm very proud to say even taken on a leech or two with the appropriate amount of panic, I won't say it was so smooth. God bless my mother-in-law but, you know, I will say, I'm not from the south. So I'm very limited on my snakes, alligators and all that mess so, you know, take my willingness with nature, with just a grain of salt here. Now, but I would label myself kind of as an active contemplative meaning, you know I enjoy using nature time, you know for walking meditations for allowing my senses to kind of absorb the creator and those moments, you know I love when the gradual sounds of even thunderstorms or rain pattering down kind of overwhelm me, and the smells that nectar smell, you know, keep me attuned with the Creator. 

Now I do want to be clear that, and I think all of us could probably relate to this, that enjoying nature by myself and feeling attuned to the Creator is different than enjoying nature with my kids. And the process is different, but to me, the outcome is, is so similar. And it's my kids, you know, like Erin I relate to your story so much because it's my kids who've revealed to me the true connection  with nature, the divine created for us, for all of us to enjoy. And so, you know I see nature and humans as one. And I don't think of humans as here to dominate nature, but we're a part of nature to work with nature. And it's important to establish that what we humans can do to nature unaware is devastating. So, part of my connection to nature, with the Divine is also important in kind of ecological practices. And so I tried to teach my boys, the beauty of even the smallest bug. The tiniest weeds. 

And this is one of my favorite stories that I would love to share with you all. So, my boys and I, we spend the most time in our backyard. And this small plot of land in this great big earth that I probably find the most relaxing, and we have small clovers that grow in our yard. And so one day I told my boys, it is very rare to find a four leaf clover, and if you do, it's a sign of good luck. I do have Irish blood in me. So, you know, I love my four leaf clovers. And so, that particular day that seemed enough they were determined to find a four leaf clover and I kind of laughed it off thinking like okay, good luck. And so we kind of would go outside, we'd spent days looking for four leaf clovers and when we couldn't find one, we moved on to enjoy something else, and no one really forgot about those four leaves so we still inspected them each time we came up kind of with the new crop of one, and then the day came, My oldest one.

Chelsea Whipple  0:36  

found a four leaf clover. Oh my goodness, the joy on his face was priceless. And so we picked it and showed everyone, counted all the clovers on it just to make sure took pictures. My spouse proudly proclaimed the accomplishment on social media. And I talked to him about what a blessing it is to be granted this rare gifts. And then after a while, the four leaf clover did what four leaf clovers do when you pick them, it began to die. And, oh my goodness, this sadness on their faces, even me. It was just so sad to watch this poor little four leaf clover that was so rare to kind of go through its lifecycle.

So lo and behold, not long after another was found and then another and another. So by the end of our hit our hunt every kid found a four leaf clover, I would like to say but me, and that's true I still have never found a four leaf clover in my life, but all three of my kids have. I know. Which isn't part of my story. But, so this is kind of what really connected to me with this story is when we found the four leaf clovers what we realized is that if we kept it attached we didn't pick it. So if we kept it attached to its source, then it could survive, and we could enjoy it. Anytime we wanted to going outside. And it was their idea. So it's here that my kids showed me this beautiful example of being a rare beauty that when connected to its source, it continues to live and thrive for all to enjoy. 

And that was a true connection that sacredness and the ordinary to that to nature. And I feel it the same with us, you know, growing together, kind of with the source of our being nurturing it, caring for it, giving it a nutrients, allows all to be hold the magnificent beauty that we all are, you know, and that's just a little slice of beauty from a plant that is referred to as a weed. So imagine all these other beautiful connections. There are out there. I mean from the flowers, to the trees, to the birds, to the clouds, I could go on all day, you know, what a wonderful world we live in, and an undiscovered beauty that is right in front of us.

Erin Thomas  3:27  

Oh man, Chels, I love that so much, I think, doesn't that just make you want to go on an adventure. It makes me want to go to all of the places.

Chelsea Whipple  3:43  

Just like what is out there that we have not discovered.

Erin Thomas  3:45  

And I'm curious if any of our listeners have a spot that they have just come to be profoundly impacted by please share that with us. Because I would love to see some beautiful photos and add them to my list of places to go and connect in nature. There's so much we could go on about this for days, I'm pretty sure but I hope that was a good synopsis for you all. One of the things that we like to do at the end is to invite you to practice this, if you choose.

And we say this and in a lightweight term because one of the things that is important to us is that we set the tone for if this resonates with you, then we encourage you to step out and try it. 

But first I want to share a quote, "our work as spiritual seekers and contemplative is to see all of creation as woven together and holiness, and to live this truth in this loving act, we begin to knit together, that which has been torn. We gather all that has been scattered contemplative practice is a way to bring healing presence to the world" and that is from the book, The earth is a monastery. 

And so, in light of us discussing what sort of experiences we've had with connecting with nature we want to invite you this week to try this out. We encourage you to step out and a space nearby your home. Start there start with something familiar, unless you're brave, or you're an Enneagram seven like me and you just want to go on adventure. But the goal is to find a quiet resting spot, bring a blanket. If you need to or sit down something that may make you comfortable. And as we sit down. Place your feet and the lush green grass, or the earthy, smelling, dirt, and feel it grounded beneath your feet. And for a small time period. However long you feel comfortable. I think most of us increase time increments, if you continue this practice but do what feels most right to you at that time. And close your eyes and practice using your senses to hear the sounds of nature and creation, around you. Listen for the small birds, or the blowing of the wind. Smell the nectar of the flowers. Invite your senses into a feast of your natural world around you. So we hope that you have an opportunity to connect with nature this week, and that this has resonated with you, as always, thank you for joining us on the contemplative motherhood podcast 

thank you for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast with us your host, Aaron Thomas and Chelsea Whipple,

Chelsea Whipple  7:39  

to get regular updates on our podcast, hear new episode drops, interact with us about past and future episodes, and find our show notes, Make sure to go to our website, www .contemplative

Erin Thomas  7:53  

As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and then helping us share our journey with others. So if you enjoy today's podcast, make sure to subscribe, rate, and leave us a review. This helps us to cross paths with other pilgrim mamas across the board. So until next time.

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