When everyone feels settled, I transition us into more ceremonial space by inviting a time of listening. It’s not really silence, though, because the land is alive with activity. It’s more like inviting our own inner silence. We are here to listen to the conversation already going on in this dry chaparral terrain. As in any conversation, silence is necessary to listen to the voices of the others with all of our senses: to feel the prickly thistles digging into our legs; to observe the gnats circling this interesting warm-blooded new life in their space; to watch the wind waltzing with the leaves; to smell the oak-infused sage growing near us; to hear the distant laughter of kids playing in the houses nearby. And to open our imagination to listen in on the underground mycelium that whispers between the trees. I say words that go something like this:

“Listen to your breath. Listen to the wind. We are connected through the breath of God. Slowly allow yourself to relax into this welcoming place. You belong here with this oak tree and the stones and the flies and scrub jays and poison oak. Listen for the water, arteries of life flowing throughout the planet mirroring the arteries of blood flowing through your own body. You are a welcome part of this ecosystem. They welcome us because they have not forgotten that we are related, that we come from the same dust and return to the same dust. Take another deep breath of gratitude to acknowledge that our lives are fully dependent on the healthy functioning of this particular bio-system.”

I invite us to take deep, grateful breaths, with an awareness that the presence of God is often described as the ruach — the wind, the breath — and how our own breath is literally dependent on the breath of the tree.

Victoria Loorz in Church of the Wild