‘Big Earth Energy’: A New Era Of Nature Spirituality Is Here

In a darkened high-ceiling studio in Falls Church, Northern Virginia, a dozen other women in their 20s or 30s are showcased a new era of nature spirituality called ‘Big Earth Energy’.

A few months ago, Colleen Kane realized she was falling out of touch with the spiritual side of life. She felt lost. For her, reviving it meant drawing closer to the Earth.

So Kane, 28, revived practices she had started but set aside earlier in her 20s and added new ones: Checking an astrology newsletter and doing rituals outside during new and full moons. Meditating with crystals. Looking for ways to integrate with and be guided by ancestors who she believes have passed on through a mysterious energy that binds all living things.

On a recent Sunday, she lay on the floor alongside a dozen other women in their 20s or 30s in a darkened high-ceiling studio in Falls Church in Northern Virginia. It was lit only by a small corner altar adorned with tiny lights, flowers, tarot cards, dirt, seeds and images of ancient female spiritual figures — in honor of Mother’s Day. A workshop leader talked about “big Earth energy.”

The workshops and the attendees are part of what experts say is a broad wave of nature-focused spirituality and religion that’s changing both traditional religious denominations in the United States as well as the vast realm of religiously unaffiliated seekerdom.

Almost 27 percent of Americans say they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the polling firm PRRI, up from 16 percent in 2006. They now account for a larger share of the population than any faith group and make up 38 percent of those 18 to 29, PRRI’s data show. Some are also, surveys show, deeply fed up with the fusing of religion and politics. A Pew Research poll last fall found 73 percent of Americans 18 to 29 said houses of worship “should keep out of political matters.”

Many are looking for a spirituality that’s first about affinity, self-growth and healing. And while the climate crisis is feeding some of the interest in nature-based spirituality, some who practice it say they are not necessarily drawn to environmental activism.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with social activism,” said Renee Shaw, a co-organizer of Saturday’s workshop. “But here we are interested in a modality of healing, and all the natural processes of healing come from nature and from ancient practices, and doing that in community.”

Shaw practices and teaches a spiritual type of Southeast Asia kickboxing that weaves in various mystical ideas about things like tree spirits and finding enlightenment through the matrix of all living things.

Rain Manarchuck, 24, another student of Shaw’s, puts it a bit more bluntly: She’s sick of any religious or spiritual community that’s exclusive.

“This is: Get together, connect with nature. That’s it. People who work in accounting or boxing; there is no political alignment. Everyone singing together, trying to connect, just a culture of accepting and loving,” she said of the group. “It’s what religion should feel like.”

A different era of eco-spirituality

‘Big Earth energy’: A new era of nature spirituality is here

Many of the nature-based practices surging now — including astrology, crystals and shamanism — are thousands of years old. But practitioners like those at the Skin and Wellness Center Saturday reflect a new era, experts say.

Starting in 2020, for the first time, a minority of Americans told Gallup that they belong to a place of worship. And almost half of Americans who don’t go to services said a major reason was that “I prefer to worship on my own.” Gen Z-ers and Millennials, in particular, don’t see nature-based practices as rebellious or alternative.

“Like with gender, this is all so open and fluid for kids,” Shaw said, speaking of the teen and tween she raises with her ex-wife, who is Episcopalian. “To them, it’s not a struggle. It’s not like, ‘how do you incorporate it?’ It’s more like: ‘Of course we’re reincarnated. Of course we live many lives. Of course we’re Episcopalian and can believe in God.’”

Steve Jobs’ strong intuition led him to create some of the most innovative electronic products, and his spiritual journey began with his visit to India in 1974, where he developed a connection with Neem Karoli Baba and Paramhansa Yogananda.

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