Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Particles

I am fascinated with astrophysics. And I am probably just skilled enough to be dangerously inept! One thing that just makes my heart flutter is the idea that all matter is already created! We can neither destroy or create matter. (Except that we can, according to the Higgs Boson discovery – but that will be for another discussion!)

In general terms, matter is neither destroyed or created so that essentially the particles we immerse ourselves in are the same particles that have been around forever and ever. The Oxygen molecule I breathe in was perhaps breathed in by some semi-ancient ancestor. Who would I choose to share breath with? Maybe I would connect to some fabulously wonderful pioneering women such as Christine de Pizan or Joan of Arc. Or maybe with some substantial spiritual leaders like Jesus of Nazareth, Gautama Siddartha, or Mary of Magdala. I could be breathing their particles!

I am also breathing the particles that were created at the moment of birth of the cosmos. That rapid expansion of the universe when it really did somehow go from nothing to something. Pushed outward in a violent burst of matter, light, and waves. Culminating in this moment. This time. At least for us. This moment is the culmination. Until the next moment, that is!

So, I was thinking cosmologically in this way and I stumbled across a book called, The Tree. It is a children’s book written by a Pacific Northwest author. I imagined the particularity of matter as residing in the tree. And then I read the story of how this book came about. The author received this story while sitting underneath a Douglas Fir in the Pacific Northwest. He received it as a song, not as a story. He sang it often for various events. Half-heartedly claiming that the tree wrote it.

Later, he was invited to a celebration to celebrate the return of the Madrona Point burial ground to the Lummi people. The tribal chief wanted to hear his song. He sang it. And then offered the story of the song’s origins with the additional wondering, “Did it really come from that ancient Douglas Fir?”

The tribal chief said, “It did. I recognize the tune.” He went on. “It is known in our tradition that each tree has its own song. Our music comes from them. We show our respect for the great trees by singing their songs and playing them on the flute. We must all work to save the ancient groves in our territory.”

Hmm. That is really quite beautiful.

And so, for this offering in the quest towards finding sacred space, I invite you to connect with the particles of the cosmos, the particles of the tree, and to sit back and enter into the story of The Tree.

Shalom and Amen,


© 2013, post and video, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at,, and  To reach her for conversation, send a note to


I am a monk disguised as a passionate prophet. My true loves are God, family, and the creative arts. And maybe just a little bit of politics too. (PS My photo is by Eric Lyons Photography).

18 thoughts on “Sacred Space in Particles

  1. Next time I have a moment to sit under a tree – not difficult, because we have several in our garden – I shall remember this and try to listen. Thank you Terri.

    Speaking of the particle physics of the Higgs Boson, I share your fascination with the subject, Terri, but I’m not sure that it has been absolutely confirmed that they found the Higgs Boson yet. I first came across it three years ago and actually wrote a poem, which I must dust off and consider giving a it another visit …


  2. Really enjoyed this. I, too, am fascinated with particle physics but the math is simply beyond me. But i love the concepts and have followed the science leading up to the discovery of the Higgs-Boson with bated breath. I knew they would find it, sooner or later. 🙂 As for trees, I have and always will be a life-long tree hugger and friend of trees. I believe they speak if one knows how to listen. 😉


    1. Yeah, I can only take the math up to a point and then my head explodes. One of my favorite books from a Christian perspective of all of this is “Radical Amazement” by Jane Vennard. And when I did my Reiki I training, the finish of our class was doing Reiki at the park with the trees. It was amazing! I fell in love that day. 🙂


  3. Terri, this gave me the chills…I have had a “relationship” with a tree, different ones throughout the years. When in a guided meditation and the leader asks us to go to a safe spot, it is almost always, no, it is always up in the branches of an ancient pepper tree at my early childhood home. A few years ago I drove my mom to see the places of her history. In that home, on the top of a hill, in the same spot, we found a huge pepper tree–no doubt the offspring of “my” tree. My current tree (actually there are several) outside the window of my bedroom and my office was the subject of my most recent post at Thank you for this beautiful and thought-provoking post.


    1. I went to your site and my computer is telling me it is “marked private.”

      Thanks! The book is lovely. I will be adding it to my meditation stack of books (a bunch of kid books, poetry books, and hymnals).


  4. I thought at first that you were referring to “Tree: A Life Story” by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady. Also about the 500 year old life story of a Douglas fir, it goes into rich detail about cellular activity…rather scientific, but fascinating meditation.


  5. First, I know you are on your way out for vacation, Terri. Thank you so much for putting up your post before leaving … and what a post this is! Absoltuely poetic. The story is remarkable. John Muir would totally agree with the appreciation of trees being just this alive and conscious and having messages to share. Let us be conscous of our unity with the particles and psalms sung by trees …

    Still for a moment the church bells
    pealing the old canonical hours.
    Still the lyric call of the muezzin.
    Silence the shachar, minha, arivit.
    Stay the wheels and the flying flags.
    Let the Universal music resound,
    unfettered prayers of primeval trees.
    (c) 2011, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

    Happy travels, Terri! … and Bravo!


    1. Thanks, Jamie! You are my biggest fan, I think.

      I love being in the forest hearing the creaking of the trees. It is pretty amazing. They write their own song. Sometimes loudly! At other times, softly.


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