The basic theme running through this book of brief spiritual texts and prayers is that God has infused nature with his presence, just as he is present within each one of us. In his introductory chapter, Hamma writes:
So while the assertion that nature reveals God is not surprising, the claim that nature is a sacred presence in itself may be. To say this is to say that nature does not merely point to God or reveal God the way a painting reveals the artist; it is to claim even more. Mystics in the great religious traditions, from Christianity to Buddhism, have often made the assertion that we in our humanity participate in a real way in the life of God. If we may dare to claim some participation in the life of God, some presence of divinity within us, can we not also say that nature too participates in divinity and that God is present in it? “If you wish to know the divine,” the Buddha said, “feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand.”
Each of the chapters 2 through 6 take its inspiration from a different type of landscape: shore, forest, desert, river, mountain. Each chapter follows the a fourfold pattern modeled after lectio divina (Latin for divine reading). Traditionally, lectio‘s four steps are lectio (reading – usually scripture but it could be other spiritual texts), meditatio (meditating on the text), oratio (praying as a response to the text), and contemplatio (contemplating in silence on God’s presence). The four steps have also been called reading, ruminating, responding, resting. Hamma chooses to call them paying attention, pondering, responding, and surrendering. The paying attention section is a short text by a selected author on that chapter’s landscape. The pondering and responding sections are reflective texts by Hamma, the latter in poetic form. The surrendering section is a brief aphorism by another author that “speaks to each passage [the paying attention text] and provides a thought to carry us through the day.”
Here, for example, is the first reading in the the forest chapter. It’s by Thomas Berry.
The world of life, of spontaneity, the world of dawn and sunset and starlight, the world of soil and sunshine, of meadow and woodland, of hickory and oak and maple and hemlock and pineland forests, of wildlife dwelling around us, of the river and its well-being — all of this some of us are discovering for the first time as the integral community in which we live. Here we experience the reality and the values that evoke in us our deepest moments of reflection, our revelatory experience of the ultimate mystery of things. Here . . . we receive those larger intuitions that lead us to dance and sing, intuitions that activate our imaginative powers in their most creative functions.
The surrendering aphorism is from the medieval mystic Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): “The trees and stone will teach you what you never learn from the masters.”