BLESSING THE SEA – ISSUE 11, November 2021 “Walking Sticks”

Strawberry Valley, California © Lane Igoudin, 2019

“Walk! Who would have ever thought that walking would one day be a revolutionary activity?”

— Bob Barzan “Simple Exercises in Spirituality

Fall is a prime time for being outside in California, so it’s time to take out my walking sticks – and take this issue outdoors. I’ve done a good deal of hiking, much of it with Sierra Club: on Kaua’i, Maui, here in California in the San Jacintos, the Eastern Sierras, Yosemite, and numerous spots along the coast. Every turn of the trail has been an invitation to encounter something new – plant, animal, bird, view, or scent – but also a chance to reconnect with something bigger, much bigger than the real, physical world around me.

My most recent Applied Jewish Spirituality blog post draws an analogy between the powerful blessings of nature in the Jewish tradition, including the one after which this newsletter is named, with the Buddhist view of nature.

The Zen eye notices how natural sites are never the same, always changing in their features. Each time you see them, you see them for the first time. . .
There is a wonderful Jewish blessing that fits this combination of awe and appreciation every time we see an extraordinary natural landmark. It is also proscribed in the Mishna as the benediction to be recited “upon seeing mountains and hills and seas and rivers and deserts” [. . .]

How do we treat nature? I sympathize with the recent Eco-Kosher movement which proposes to extend Jewish dietary laws to include modern environmental, social, and ethical issues, and promote sustainability.

“What if we both draw on the ancient meaning of “kosher” and go beyond it? What if by “eco-kosher” we mean a broader sense of “good practice” in everyday life that draws on the deep well-springs of Jewish wisdom and tradition about the relationships between human beings and the earth?” Rabbi Arthur Wascow [. . . ]

Walking the Earth: here’s a shortlist of spiritually inspired pilgrimage trails.

El Camino de Santiago in the northwest of Spain

Shikoku Ohenro: A loop of 88 Buddhist temples in Japan

And now the new Sanhendrin Trail in Israel (7-min. video). History, religion, and nature combine on this 75-mile trail, passing through the ancient sites in Lower Galilee associated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical council which kept Judaism alive after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70CE.

When will I get to walk one of these routes? Soon, I hope. But I’ll be sure to bring with me a copy of Joy Harjo’s “For Calling the Spirit Back…” It’s so true and refreshing.

“Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.
Open the door, then close it behind you.

Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel
the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.
Give back with gratitude.”

Are you ready to walk, to experience, to take a breath, and to bless?


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