Reverence: A Celebration of Life

Thai Buddhist monks meditate with candles

Photo from, by Rungroj Yongrit
Thai Buddhist monks chant during lantern lighting to celebrate Makha Bucha day at Dhammakaya Temple

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
-Henry David Thoreau

When I feel bored, anxious or disgruntled, I step outside. Nature is my cathedral. The patterns formed by the veins of leaves, the stripes of light that drill through thick forest canopy, the creatures that somehow manage to survive the elements, the smell of rain and the warmth of sun cultivate a sense of reverence. My personal definition of reverence is the combination of mystery, gratitude, love, awe and wonder.

Spiritual disciplines often nurture reverence, but naturalistic and scientific disciplines can, also. In my personal belief system, science and spirituality are two types of literature which tell roughly the same story: one’s a textbook and the other is poetry. Science and spirituality spark reverence in me because the more I learn, the more shocked I am by the scale, complexities and possibilities inherent in our universe.

To me, reverence is the feeling that there’s more. There’s so much more to the story than we generally think about during our waking moments. There’s more to be grateful for. There’s more to love and care about. We are more connected to each other, nature, animals and stars than we usually consider. When I take the time to stop and think about these things, I’m inspired to protect the earth, celebrate life, love the people around me and take care of creatures, great and small.

In Albert Schweitzer’s words, “Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.

As revealed in the photos below, reverence is universal. Perhaps it’s the reason we’re not so different when it comes to our hearts.

“Reverence,” a collection of photos:

Ifa practitioner in forest

Photo from, Photo by Margo Moritz

Ifa practitioner, Iyanifa Mahealani, in awe of nature. 

Landscape art by Nancy Parsons

Photo from, Artist: Nancy Parsons

Reverence inspires art.


Photo from Photographer unknown. Please contact us if you know the photographer.

Tibetan prayer flags are believed to enable the wind to carry prayers. At Hkakabo Razi, in the Himalayan mountains of northern Myanmar.

SPANA director feeding donkey

Photo from Photographer unknown. Please contact us if you know the photographer.

The director of SPANA, an animal welfare charity, makes it his life’s purpose to nurture work animals.

Indian woman and elephant

Photo from Image source unknown. Please contact us if you know the artist.

An Indian villager pays her respects to an elephant hit by a train.

Sufi swirler

Photo from, photo by Temmuz Arsiray

Sufi swirlers like Tanya Evanson dance as an expression of reverence.

An Indian Hindu in the grip of spiritual wonder.

Pakistani Muslims offer special prayers

Photo from, Photo by Aamir Qureshi

Pakistani Muslims offer special prayers at the grand Faisal Mosque in Islamabad on Lailat al-Qader, also known as the Night of Power, during Ramadan.

Praying with candles in church

Photo from, Please contact us if you know the photographer.

Reverence by candlelight in a Christian church. Around the world, candles, incense and statuary are used to help invoke a sense of reverence.

Lighting candles along the stairs up to Swayambhunath, Nepal.

Young woman with incense prays at the Yonghe Temple, China.

walking labyrinth at Chartres cathedral

Photo from, Image source unknown. Please contact us if you know the artist.

Walking a labyrinth is a moving meditation believed to calm the mind, allowing for an attitude of reverence to emerge. At Chartres Cathedral.

Bali sacred waters

Photo from Image source unknown. Please contact us if you know the artist.

People praying in sacred waters. In Bali, Indonesia.

Which photos are your favorites? Please tell me in the comments section below!

"Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light. Above all else, reverence thyself." - Pythagorus

By Kimbriel Dean


1. Mekila Nakeni

March 29, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Almost all of these photos were of peoples and cultures I had never been exposed to or didn’t know existed. I had never even heard of the sufi swirlers, for instance. As I looked over each photograph, it occurred to me that each one depicted a different belief system, yet the spirit was the same in all of them. I believe that whether a person is consciously aware of it or not, deep down, all of us instinctively know that there is more to the world than what we see with our eyes: that something more powerful is behind it all. Maybe every different religion contains a different puzzle piece, but they all agree on one thing – that there is a higher power that humbles each one of us.

2. curlysunset

March 29, 2013 at 5:08 PM

These are beautiful photographs that celebrate some of what nature has to offer. It reminds me that nature is kind and peaceful if you are peaceful to it. It will provide for your physical needs if you nurture it; it must be tended to consistantly. Nature is not something one can take and take from and expect returns. All humans have to tend to it and view it as a nurturing element/environment for you, your friends and families.

3. Amber

March 29, 2013 at 11:57 PM

Life is so short and everybody celabrates different and if you understand others opinions and views then you can fully appericate ours as well and new ideas to how to fully celebrate life.

4. wazayak

March 31, 2013 at 4:48 PM

Nature and Life are the modern epicenters of spiritual vigor. More and more people are moving away from the traditional religious understandings of Life's meaning and instead searching for other manifestations of higher goals in this life and on this earth. For a modern secular moral order to fully become reality, reverence for every day life and our relationship with the nature that coexists with us should be the focus for all of humanity.

5. Liz

April 5, 2013 at 5:23 AM

Very telling photos! The Indian villager paying respect to the elephant draped in red flowers was stunning. Makes me think about the human response to belief.

Yes, reverence is universal. But it is universal because worship is universal. In other words, I believe that humanity is built for worship. There are studies out there that show that human beings' brains were built for belief. Reverence is perhaps just an extension of a belief in "something". It's not just a feeling, it's solid confidence in a value. What's for sure is that we all worship something at any given time: a celebrity, a religious figure, our jobs, our kids, our facebook profile, our hobby. We perhaps revere them too. So, while these photos are beautiful indeed, we each have to watch what our belief system is, because this results in a reverence that leads some of us to worship.

The photographers who took these photos know this: they took their photos to stir something--an emotion or thought--in us; a good writer knows this too because it taps into humanity's need to believe in something. As author George R. R. Martin. said in his critique of Tolkien's Lord of the RIngs: “what Tolkien left out—there’s no priesthood, there’s no temples; nobody is worshiping anything in Rings."

But the truth is, as these photos tell, reverence leading to worship is what makes the world go around.

6. LadyBug

April 10, 2013 at 1:33 AM

The individuals who took these photos captured the spirituality of each of these cultures. I could feel the emotion that was captured as I looked at each one. Beautiful photos. I love the feeling that each was celebrating life through the existance of their core beings, drawing on their individual belief systems. It felt good.