R is for Reverence

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By Rev Lauren Van Ham

Recorded by author

Isn’t it amazing how gentle Earth is with us?  She’s so patient.

A couple months ago, my husband and I were in the car at 4:30 in the morning.  We were returning to San Francisco from San Diego, and attempting to get ahead of the traffic we would encounter through Los Angeles.  I was at the wheel.  To my left was the Pacific Ocean spanning left-to-right; and shining from above?  Luna!  The full moon was reflecting a steady, kind glow saturating the water’s surface.  I was without words and Valentino, in his half-asleep state said, “Isn’t it amazing how gentle Earth is with us?  She’s so patient.” 

In his final chapter of Becoming Gaia: On the Threshold of Planetary Initiation, Sean Kelly explores what life in the End Times might look like, beyond hope, beyond despair.  Kelly’s invitation is courageous and soulful.  He mentions Edgar Morin, a French philosopher and sociologist whose work describes a “deep religion.”  Morin writes, “Such a religion would lack any providence, any shining hereafter, but would bind us together as fellows in the unknown adventures.  Such a religion would not have promises but roots: roots in our cultures… in planetary and human history; roots in life [and] the stars that have forged the atoms of which we are made; roots in the cosmos where the particles were born and out of which our atoms were made….  Such a religion would involve a belief, like all religions but, unlike other religions that repress doubt through excessive zeal, it would make room for doubt within itself.  It would look out onto the abyss.” (1)

We felt Earth’s fierce love and grounded equanimity.

Driving north that pre-dawn morning, Valentino and I were looking out onto the abyss.  As abysses go, it was a friendly one.  We were together and we were safe with no presenting threats.  But to see the moon and ocean in their untamed vastness brought us instantly out of our separateness into intimacy with Mystery.  We were sharing a moment in the unknown adventure that knows its roots, and makes room for doubt. For those few dazzling moments, we felt Earth’s fierce love and grounded equanimity. She was witnessing us as we were witnessing Her.  If you are reading the Deep Times journal, then you have known these moments, as well.   

Since reading his Deep Adaptation paper in 2018, I have been moved by Jem Bendell’s suggestion of the 4 Rs and the framework they provide.(2)  When Bendell bravely offered additional thoughts on the 4th R, Reconciliation, as a pathway for embracing uncertainty and living joyfully within the temporary nature of our one, miraculous (and terminal) life, he most definitely pointed to the religion Morin describes.   

Reverence connects us to what has been, what is, and all that will be.

Mulling this over a great deal and working with the Rs to create greater understanding with students, clergy and community leaders who, like me, see-saw between action and despair, I noticed that a 5th R was also present: Reverence.  Reverence is what we feel looking out on the abyss.  Reverence is an embodied experience that any of us knows when we are honoring the deep source of Life that is beyond us and that also dwells within us, animating our being. Reverence is what overtook Valentino and me as we bathed in the pre-dawn moon.  Reverence connects us to what has been, what is, and all that will be. It is the Everything and the No-thing. If I were to give it a location, I would call it the Soul and I would describe it as a taproot that is always there, even though we often forget and our egos have a real knack for thinking they have no use for it. 

Adding Reverence to the other 4 Rs creates dimension, depth, a home to which we can return after venturing out into acts of Relinquishment, Restoration, or Reconciliation.  Like some of you, I’ve found it useful in my work to see how the Work that Reconnects Spiral dances with the Rs. I welcome your input, and the graphic below attempts to give a visual for the way I see the two informing one other.   

Reverence is Gratitude.  We begin from this place, we return to it when life gets wobbly, and sometimes it finds us when we least expect it. Relinquishment feels kin to Honoring Our Pain.  In Relinquishment, we acknowledge our losses; we speak to the truth of our grief as well as the liberation or relief that is sometimes wrapped up in there.  Restoration and Reconciliation are both forms of Seeing with New Eyes.  Each of these Rs is active and invites us to be about resisting, persisting, and feeding what we want in the world.   

Resilience is less about where we begin and much more about what we become.

Interestingly, Resilience is usually the first R to be mentioned, but Resilience is less about where we begin and much more about what we become.  Resilience might be a choice, but it is most definitely a practice.  I choose to practice greater resiliency in my life.  I choose to create for myself, and with others, a community that embraces resilience.  Resilience, on the Work that Reconnects spiral, is Going Forth.  If I were to give it a location, I would call it Spirit and I would describe it as a vine that serpents its way omni-directionally through and around the Rs.  

Resilience visits each R and thanks to each encounter, it invites greater communication and appreciation of the others.  Energetically, Resilience and Reverence, become the Above and Below, our Spirit and Soul in relationship with the fullness of Birth, Life, Death, and Regeneration. 

Reverence asks us to unlearn the recent ways and to remember the ancient ones.

As we anticipate and feel ourselves in greater states of collapse, there is so much that feels beyond bearing.  Spending time together and using the Rs as a compass is something a few of us have been doing now, since the fall of 2018.  We call the work Project Adapt.  Always, we begin with Reverence and we remind one another to visit the 5th R often.  Reverence asks us to unlearn the recent ways and to remember the ancient ones.  From this perspective, Relinquishing, Restoring, Reconciling feels helpful, accessible, and right-sized.  When I am right-sized, I feel more resilient.  And when I feel my resiliency, I feel grateful…and so the spiral goes.

(1) Kelly, Sean. (2021) Becoming Gaia.  Integral Imprint Publishing. pp. 176-77

(2) Bendell, Jem. (2018). Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. https://jembendell.com/2019/05/15/deep-adaptation-versions/.

Born and raised beneath the big sky of the Midwest, Lauren holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Naropa University and The Chaplaincy Institute.  Following her ordination in 1999, Lauren served as an interfaith chaplain in both healthcare (adolescent psychiatry and palliative care), and corporate settings (organizational development and employee wellness). Lauren’s passion for spirituality, art and Earth’s teachings have supported her specialization in eco-ministry, grief & loss, and sacred activism.  Her essay, “Way of the Eco-Chaplain,” appears in the collection, Ways of the Spirit: Voices of Women; and her work with Green Sangha is featured in Renewal, a documentary celebrating the efforts of religious environmental activists from diverse faith traditions across America. Currently, Lauren tends her private spiritual direction and eco-chaplaincy consulting practice; and serves as Climate Action Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative (URI).  She is guest faculty for several schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and a founding member of Project Adapt, a group using the 5Rs to support everyone in our current moment.

Biography recorded by Rebecca Selove

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