Faith, Hope, and Natural Disasters

This week in the Healing Earth, Healing Self Forum, Tracie Nichols shares her sense of connection to the Earth, then helps us explore the aspects of our relationship with nature that are uncomfortable.  How can we go forward in healing connection if we’ve experienced something distressing in the natural world?  Tracie focuses on natural disasters, yet for those of us who suffer as we witness Earth’s ecological struggles, Tracie’s recommendations are just as meaningful.



This extraordinary planet is both home and family, to me. My very personal relationship with her (my gender bias) challenges the human-centric focus of this western culture in which I was raised. It’s a relationship grounded in my everyday practicalities (food, shelter, safety) while also being a source of deep spiritual nourishment.

So, when a natural disaster happens and people, animals, plants are hurt or killed, my faith in the earth as a safe home and loving family member is tested.

What do you do when the planet who gives you life, takes lives away? How do you reconcile yourself with that?

I remember after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti my obviously uneasy youngest child asked me, “Are there earthquakes here?” In his own quiet way, he was voicing the core fear that natural disasters can spark. He was asking if he could trust that the earth was a safe home. He wanted to know if he could still trust his nature family.

Questions like these are oceanic in scope; vast, complex and hiding unknowns in their depths. They ask us to live into the complexities a bit before settling into a conclusion.

They ask us to take into account that when we’re in a fully realized relationship with our earth kin, our senses are awake to empathetic and intuitive communication flowing in from people and the wild world. We may feel what they feel.

During and after events like earthquakes, I experience the grief, confusion, anger, and disbelief happening in the hearts of people, animals, plant beings, even the very stone-bones of the planet. In the case of earthquakes, especially the stones. Do you? It can be intense.

Natural disasters can be somewhat of a special circumstance for people who are deeply connected with the earth. They can raise uncomfortable questions, even spark a spiritual crisis. Mindful presence and self-love become especially important practices so we can stay present with those, human and more-than-human, who need our help.

For me, bearing such intimate witness to the anguish of both humans and wild nature is a sacred gift. Not an easy one to accept, but a gift all the same. So, as people of heart who choose to stand witness with the beings effected by natural disasters, it helps to remember these things…

Our Earth is alive. She is a thriving, living system, and like all living beings she grows and changes constantly. Because it happens on such a large scale, some of that growth can look like destruction when seen from a human perspective.

Bring wise compassion and presence to the situation, without needing to judge or assign blame.

Stay curious and be spacious enough to hold what may feel like opposing ideas. For example, “The earth both creates and destroys.”

Tending to our own hearts keeps us resilient so we can reach out the next time somebeing needs us. Thinking of ourselves is not selfish. We are entirely capable of acknowledging our own grief and confusion while we are responding in constructive ways to a crisis.


It’s a gift of our humanness to be able to be present with our global family’s experience. To stand in solidarity with them as they live through life-changing events, and to be fundamentally changed through that witnessing.


tracie_june_2015_scaled (2)


Tracie Nichols is facilitator of Transformative Learning, nurturing a quietly wild revolution. A teacher who steadfastly blazes a trail for you to come home to the sacred confluence where your human nature and wild nature form a deep foundation of presence and power. A wise woman skilled in helping you make change happen, whether in your own life or out there in the world. You can find more of her writings at


Comments 2

  1. Terri

    Having recently been through a natural disaster in the form of a tropical storm that devastated much of the country where I live, this article definitely speaks to me. I feel strongly connected to the Earth and when this happens it can be hard to make sense of it all. It was scary and I still feel shaken and have a greater uncertainty about life than before. However I also try to use this in a positive way to not assume or take things for granted, to be present to the moment and fully appreciative of it with the awareness that nothing of the Earth is promised forever. We live in a very volcanic island and I can not answer my children with a definite answer that an explosion will not happen close to home. And yet we work to align ourselves with the natural processes of our land and life; to understand and be in tune with nature and ready to respond to change as it happens.

    1. Post

      I hear you, Terri. You and your community members have been through a lot this year. I respect the questions you’re asking and your ongoing commitment to align yourself with nature’s ways–which are beautiful, healing, and inspiring, even though they also can be fierce and damaging.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twelve + six =