By Harvinder Kaur
In the stillness of the mind, Nature’s majesty, rhythm, power and beauty proclaim God’s teaching of oneness. Text and pics by Harvinder Kaur
The experience of Nature is not just about pleasing the senses, it is about understanding Truth. We who perceive from a conditioned mind, do not experience Nature in its wholeness. Nature is a rhythm, a connected, diffused whole. Since our small fragmented minds cannot make sense of it all, we choose to accept some part and change or reject the rest. We are thrilled by birth and youth, but decay and death – we are always trying to change that!
What is Nature after all? Usually we consider all things ‘non-human’ as ‘nature’. I bet the dolphins look at us as they plunge into the blue and say, “Look what fascinating two-footed creatures! Oh! the wonders of Nature!” Why do human have this notion of Nature versus man-made? The idea of the human as a superior, more powerful entity has given force to this sense of struggle and separateness.
|I stand there with feet almost frozen, watching the magenta bougainvillea burning in the sunlight, as if waves of subtle light emanate from them. My eyes sweep over the huge trees, the ground beneath my feet suddenly seems alive with a web of root-nerves running beneath the earth, pulsating with a conscious presence – an underground energy network…|
We humans regard ourselves superior to let’s say the bat or the hedgehog, or the dog. Our cities let other creatures exist only in zoos or as pets. In the wild, the lions and tigers live with the buffaloes and deer, the predator and prey sharing the same space. Not us humans. We either dominate, eliminate or domesticate other species. A power game. We are trying to extend to the elements too, though we haven’t been totally successful, so far!
When we begin to see ourselves as a part of Nature, dropping the linear analogies with man at the top of the ladder of evolution, we begin to ‘see’ differently. In fact, we truly begin to see. With the dropping of the blinkers of the superior species notion, the presence and power of the other beings come through. Not just species as plants and animals but the elements and their power and the interconnectedness.
The power and beauty of Nature, its magic and mystery, have always enticed people on the spiritual path. Many enlightened masters have built their homes, ashrams, churches and monasteries far from the madding crowd amidst hills, forests, the sea shore, deserts, in places of breathtaking beauty. A sense of intensity and power prevails in the atmosphere in places of virgin beauty where a natural rhythm is kept alive. To truly experience beauty is to be liberated. Beauty is not just a feel-good factor. It is the stuff our soul is made of.
It is a spiritual path often taken by poets, artists and musicians. Gazing at the stars at night can be a spiritually transforming experience. Even if you don’t know the scientific facts, the magnificence and vastness of the cosmos rolls over your eyes, and calls upon our soul. Arvind Wagh, a Kalyan-based senior executive in a corporate firm, says, “To live with nature is to live with God in an indirect way, because nature reflects God in a thousand and one ways. The growing trees and the faraway call of the cuckoo and the winds in the pine trees and the rivers moving towards the ocean and the proud mountains standing in the sun and the starry night, and it is impossible not to be reminded of some invisible hands.” Growing up surrounded by Nature puts you in touch with a natural rhythm. Ireland-based Eileen Forrestal, says, “Nature is a great teacher, “Nature teaches us to be patient, attentive, observant; to listen, to see, to appreciate life unfolding according to a ‘greater’ plan than our own ‘minds’ tell us it should be.”
Some communities such as the Native Indian Americans have traditions that root them deeply in Nature. Of the people who practice Native American spiritual traditions today is Matthew Cobb, Vice President at Integral Design and Mission, Kansas, US. He says, “I am privileged to enter spirit world every time I consciously choose to be in relationship to everything.” He describes the fascinating experience of the ceremony of the ‘sun dance’ and how it gave him a transformative experience.
|The relationship with nature can truly happen when we learn to silence the mind. That relationship is transformative; it reveals to us a reality we can only imagine or intellectually conceive of.|
“Nowhere have I experienced the beauty of this relationship between nature and spirit than in the sacred ceremonial circle of the Sun Dance.” In this ceremony, dancers make a sacred circle around a beautiful tree. For four days and nights without having food or water they dance around this tree to the beat of a large communal drum, played by 8 – 12 drummers. Matthew explains, “By the end of the third day, every dancer is believed to have completely passed from this world into the spirit world. The egoic consciousness has been shed and the outer natures of the false self are dissolved. Once the dance is complete and the drum stops, the dancers slowly come back from the spirit world.”
The experience of oneness with nature is so powerful that it can reveal perspectives that make you live a different life within the same body. This has been perceived not just intellectually but in a living, experiential way by some. The Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram, (Mirra Alfasa) gave special names to about 800 flowers bringing out their spiritual significance, “by entering into contact with the nature of the flower, its inner truth”. She described an experience in her journal (April 7, 1917):
“A deep concentration seized on me, and I perceived that I was identifying myself with a single cherry-blossom, then through it with all cherry-blossoms; and as I descended deeper in the consciousness, following a stream of bluish force, I became suddenly the cherry-tree itself, stretching towards the sky like so many arms its innumerable branches laden with their sacrifice of flowers. Then I heard distinctly this sentence:
“‘Thus hast thou made thyself one with the soul of the cherry-trees and so thou canst take note that it is the Divine who makes the offering of this flower-prayer to heaven.’
“When I had written it, all was effaced; but now the blood of the cherry-tree flows in my veins and with it flows an incomparable peace and force. What difference is there between the human body and the body of a tree? “In truth, there is none: the consciousness which animates them is identically the same.”
To be able to truly understand this vast formidable force of which we are a part, one must experience it through oneness and not just a mere mental construct or projection. Nature’s reality is independent of the mind of man, yet a liberated mind can get glimpses of it. For this a deep inner silence is called for. If you are walking by the beach at dawn and thinking of the bank balance or the report to be submitted in office, you might miss the beauty spilling around you. Sit, or stand and stare for a while through the still pool of a calm mind. The philosopher J. Krishnamurti is an unparalleled example. He spent considerable time in beautiful environments rich in the bounties of nature, and wrote of the experience of ‘otherness’ coming from deep silence of the mind:
|Nature-lover and educationist, |
Harvinder Kaur is currently setting
up a holistic garden-school in
“If you ever walk by yourself high in the mountains among the pines and rocks, leaving everything in the valley far below you, when there is not a whisper among the trees and every thought has withered away, then it may come to you, the otherness. If you hold it, it will never come again; what you hold is the memory of it dead and gone. Our heart and mind are too small, they can hold only the things of thought and that is barren. Go further away from the valley, far away, leaving everything down there. You can come back and pick them up if you want to but they will have lost their weight. You will never be the same again.”
The relationship with nature can truly happen when we learn to silence the mind. That relationship is transformative; it reveals to us a reality we can only imagine or intellectually conceive of. Yet, the experience is ineffable. I find that the gifts that come from nature can be imbibed if we take time out to be there with an open heart, or better still, grow with Nature. Perhaps this is one of the greatest gifts we can give to a child, and to ourselves.
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