“I see you,” Jake says to the tall, blue-skinned, native woman, Neytiri, in the futuristic, sci-fi epic movie Avatar. The greeting implies a connection beyond seeing with only the eyes. Much like the Indian Sanskrit greeting, “Namaste” which means “I bow reverentially to you,” the phrase “I see you” is used throughout the film to communicate a deep respect for the whole being. Not only does Jake learn to truly see Neytiri, but he also learns that deep-seeing leads to revering the interconnectedness in all of life.
My favorite scene involves Jake visiting the Tree of Souls. As a former Marine who is a wheelchair user, Jake becomes more and more involved with Neytiri and the plight of her people. He receives encouragement from Grace, a scientist who works on the “Avatar” project. In the film, he is forced to choose between following corporate orders to destroy a forest or helping the native Na’vi people. At a loss for how to help, he visits the Tree of Souls in the faraway world of Pandora, seeking connection and to be seen as his true self. It’s such an uncharacteristically Marine and corporate male thing to do: Jake the hero pleads for spiritual guidance from a tree and from a strong native woman, Neytiri. I loved it!
Australia member Jack Stuart recently sent me his thoughts about the film, “In light of Marysville and Black Saturday, I found Avatar a fascinating movie that has a strong element of caring for our planet and at times calls for a contemplative approach to our living. I’m not too sure if the makers realised this. [Carl] Jung said that often we are not aware initially of the import of what we say or do.”
In spiritual direction, we listen with more than our ears. We listen with our hearts for the whole being of the people we companion. We offer the opportunity to be seen and to be heard.
What a privilege to live in a time when the ministry of spiritual direction is “being seen” by more and more people, thanks to helpful media coverage like the brand new PBS Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly television program. Like Jake, people want to learn about spirituality and be truly seen and heard. Thank you for helping people awaken to the connections among seeing, listening, and tending the sacred in all of life.
by guest author Liz Budd Ellmann, MDiv