Discovering a Sense of Place

By Rev. Paul John Roach
Discovering a Sense of Place

When I was a teenager growing up in Cardiff, Wales I would often go on walks to the hills that surrounded the city. It was a beautiful area of farms, meadows and heavy woodland. One particular wood held a special significance for me because in the deep shade of its forest canopy there were three little streams that came together at a single point. I loved to visit this place of convergence and just sit and contemplate the little rivulets flowing together under their cover of ferns and woodland flowers.

What made this place so significant for me? It was long before I knew anything of meditation or even of spiritual awareness. It certainly had little to compare to the church services I had attended. And yet something in my soul responded to the quiet beauty of this ordinary place and I felt as though I were beholding a part of nature's mystery and order. Arising from my simple watchfulness, I always felt renewed and ready to go back to the world of football games, school and girlfriends with a greater sense of possibility.  

Today I would probably call those times … mystical experiences, moments of recognition where inside and outside, Spirit and matter are one. But the feeling was not high fallutin' in any way. It was simply real.

I believe that we have all experienced similar moments of connection with nature. When such a connection is made we realize that wholeness or holiness is all around us and that it interpenetrates the world we live in. So often, though, the busyness and complication of our lives takes up most of our energy and those times of connection and attunement seem like pleasant but unrealistic dreams.

… This reconnection to a deep order of things can begin quite simply with a walk. As the great naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir, wrote, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

… I strongly believe that the divine is found not only in special places of spectacular beauty but in the ordinary environments of our everyday lives.  

… Become involved with nature where you live. … No matter where we live we can observe the phases of the moon, for example.

… In the garden at the church where I minister in Fort Worth we look forward to the annual migration of the monarch butterflies and the hummingbirds. At my home I welcome the exuberant antics of the cedar waxwings in winter and the arrival of exotic bugs and beetles in summer.  

… What fascinates and inspires me is the fact that people, for literally thousands of years, have come into relationship with the water and the wind and the trees through their prayers, their presence and their offerings. Their intention has sanctified this place and so the presence of God is more keenly felt. When inside and outside are combined at the place of our focus, at the still point of our opened hearts, then miracles of healing are possible. …

Rev. Paul John Roach is the minister at Unity Church of Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas, and host of World Spirituality on Unity Online Radio. The following was previously published on his website,