Being, Beholding, Belonging

Being, Beholding, Belonging:

Eco-Contemplative Practices for Children and Young Adults

A Three-Part Program

Dates To Be Announced.

If you are interested in the Being, Beholding, Belonging Program, please contact

Center Director, Peggy Whalen-Levitt at

At the time I was eleven years old. My family was moving from a more settled part of a small southern town out to the edge of town where the new house was being built. The house, not yet finished, was situated on a slight incline. Down below was a small creek and there across the creek was a meadow. It was an early afternoon in late May when I first wandered down the incline, crossed the creek, and looked out over the scene. The field was covered with white lilies rising above the thick grass. A magic moment, this experience gave to my life something that seems to explain my thinking at a more profound level than almost any other experience I can remember. It was not only the lilies. It was the singing of crickets and the woodlands in the distance and the clouds in a clear sky...

~ Thomas Berry, The Great Work

In this “moment of grace,” Thomas entered an inner place of belonging where he was at one with the universe – a place that brings with it a knowing that life is meaningful and whole.

The Center's programs are designed to provide today's children and young adults with their own “Meadow Across the Creek” moments that can serve as touchstones for their lives.

Center programs are based in a threefold practice of Being, Beholding and Belonging:

       Being: bringing ourselves into stillness, quieting the chatter of our own minds

       Beholding: engaging in practices that bring us into relationship with the natural world

       Belonging: feeling a sense of oneness with the source of our own being

Through these practices, a feeling of connection to all living things arises within the children. New eyes and ears awaken. The selfhood of the child comes into being within the creative heart of the universe. Words of peace make themselves heard. Seeds of service to the world are sown.

In this three-part series, you will be introduced to the Center’s practices and will be given an opportunity to “shadow” one of the Center’s programs to experience the practices firsthand.

In Part One, we provide a context for this way of working with children based on Thomas Berry’s call for a new courtesy toward the earth. In this session, you will be introduced to the Center’s eco-contemplative practices.

In Part Two, we explore the contemplative arts and nature: nature poetry, contemplative music and contemplative visual arts that deepen a living bond of intimacy between children and the earth.

In Part Three, we provide an opportunity, on an individual basis, for you to “shadow” one of the Center’s programs to experience the practices firsthand.


Sandy Bisdee is the Director of Children’s Programs at the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World. She holds a Montessori International (AMI) Teaching Certificate and brings over thirty years of experience as an educator of children to her work at the Center.

Mel DeJesus teaches writing at Durham Tech Community College and serves as a Center Earth Guide. He holds and M.A. in American Ethnic Literature and is interested in exploring ways in which we can deepen our sense of community and identity in relationship to the natural world.

Marnie Weigel is an eco-contemplative artist who serves as a Center Earth Guide and Summer Program staff member. She received a BA in Environmental Studies from Warren Wilson College and an AAS in Professional Crafts from Haywood Community College.

Peggy Whalen-Levitt is the Director of the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World. She holds a Ph.D. in Language in Education from the University of Pennsylvania, where she co-created a graduate program in Childhood Imagination.

“The human needs to be seen as that being in whom the universe and especially the planet Earth becomes conscious of itself in a special mode of reflective self-awareness.”

~ Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts