Thoreau, Hildegard, and green wisdom.


The other day I visited Walden Pond with my family.

My little one, Adrian, ran right onto the beach and set to the important kid-business of making something up.

We recently moved back to the very wonderful state of Massachusetts, close to the very wonderful town of Concord where Henry David Thoreau lived in his small cabin in Walden Woods.

As I walked through the little museum, watched the movie, browsed the shop, walked on the beach, and smelled the piney scent of the woods, I had an epiphany:

Thoreau’s experience is living viriditas!

Defined by Hildegard von Bingen, “viriditas” is a quality of greenness, or what I call “sacred aliveness.” It has various shades of meaning, but in general is a kind of fecundity of mind and spirit. It is an inherent knowing that, like all of creation, we (you and me in real life) are part of Nature, reflecting the Divine in our very essence of being alive.

And that being alive is Good.

I love this passage from Walden. Thoreau says:

“This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself.”

Sacred aliveness, indeed. 

In order to cultivate this living greenness in our own lives, we needn’t build a cabin in the woods. Or run away from the trappings of society, our daily routines, or responsibilities.  

(Not that those couldn’t use some favorable improvement!)

But I believe that sacred aliveness is derived by our acknowledging that we are nature. In fact, our nature is Nature.

The trick is to integrate the Stuff We Do with our Nature.
Not the other way around.

Nature is alive. It is unpredictable yet constant. It’s wildly powerful. It moves in cycles. It is always growing then dying away then growing back again. It was created by a divine finger, and is always, at every single moment, evolving in consciousness.

Thoreau’s contentedness is through oneness. We witness his surrender of mind to attaining a communal presence with that which was around him: the pulse of life in the water, wind, trees, and other plants, as well as the congenial visits of neighbors and friends.

I call it Earthliness. A knowing that we are part of this larger ecosystem, and that our desires for our life (and what literally happens in our actual, daily lives) are not separate from that.

In fact, I believe that Earthliness is one of the primary ways in which we can support our creativity. It is through this reunification with Nature that we are reminded in our subtler self and body that we are in harmony with the world around us, and indeed all of creation.

What is most important is to recall, reenergize, and reveal the oneness.

You don’t even have to walk outside: you are already on the planet and officially earthbound!

You just have to remember it by allowing yourself to soften into the non-verbal aspect of your being. It’s as easy as taking a breath.

Being alive is being part of the oneness. We simply have to remember to come back down to earth.

That is what I call green medicine.

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