Touched by a Tree

"Intention The intention of this practice is to 'read' and 'listen' to nature through the sense of touch. The sense of touch is unique. David Abram has written: 'To touch the coarse skin of a tree is thus, at the same time, to experience one's own tactility, to feel oneself touched by the tree. And to see the world is also, at the same time, to experience oneself as visible, to feel oneself seen.'

Practice We are not very good at listening to nature. Find a place in creation to which you can give a fresh reading and where you can concentrate all your senses as you 'touch' the sermon of creation in silence. Bring along something to eat.

• "As Abram reminds us, to touch something with your hand provides a dual sensation: you will feel what you are touching and feel the feeling of being touched. Try it: rub your thumb and index finger together and you will feel each finger feeling and being felt. Feel nature. If, for example, you are touching a tree, notice that as you touch and feel the bark, at the same time you sense yourself feeling the touch of the bark. Though we seldom notice, this is the case with everything we touch or feel.

• "Try noticing touch and being touched at the same time. Do you move back and forth between being aware of touch and being touched, or do you sense both simultaneously?

• "Taste is very much a tactile sense: touch is essential to taste. Take a bite of fruit or whatever you brought with you. As you taste an apple, for instance, notice how you taste the apple while at the same time you feel the apple in your mouth. Can you separate this tactile sense from the taste itself?

• "Sight, if we grant that the 'other' is also a subject and loved by God (Heb. 1:3), also sees and is seen. Look closely at something in nature. How is nature seeing you in return?

• "Find a fragrance in nature and try shutting off your other senses and concentrating on the fragrance. As you inhale the fragrance, how do you experience yourself taking in the odor? Is it a dual sense as is touch?

• "Finally, listening and hearing also lend themselves to Lopez's plea for renewed attention to the wisdom of the earth. Listen to yourself hearing nature.

• "Spend time practicing different ways to experience these dual capacities of all your senses in nature.