By Harshada David Wagner
Meditating on images of nature can bring us in touch with attributes within our own selves.
I’m in my office in New York City. My radio broadcasts news about the world’s most recent disaster. Through my open window I can hear traffic, buses, sirens – the various sounds of the city. And then, there, beneath the man-made sounds, I hear a bird singing. I look out of my window and see the small tree that lives there. It’s not remarkable – just a small city tree, but the morning sun is glinting on its leaves; the breeze is blowing through and making every leaf shimmer and dance. As I watch, I feel my own spirit moving in me – shimmering, dancing. I find myself passing into an open-eyed meditation.
Nature is a great teacher for any student of enlightenment. The siddhas and sages of yoga explain that the secret to enlightenment is simply to be – to live in harmony with our true ‘nature’. This is the lesson that Mother Nature has to teach us. Unlike us, the elements of nature do not have ego. They go about whatever their dharma is without thinking about it, without making up a whole mental drama about it. The bird sings, the wind blows, the sun rises, the dog dies, just like that. An elephant is probably not walking around wondering how it should be or wishing that its body were a different shape. The waterfall does not have to choose to be beautiful, it just is.
As seekers, it behooves us to spend time in nature. We can take any natural element and meditate upon it. Gazing at stars, watching the sun set, walking in a patch of forest… Those of us living in urban settings may have to work a little harder to find spots of nature to spend time with, but if we do, it’s well worth it. Any plant, animal, body of water – even a stone can be there for us and model how to be at perfect ease with itself. By observing them in their true nature, it allows us to relax into our own nature.
We can use images of nature as dharanas – centering techniques – for our meditation practice. We can envision the attributes of natural elements and allow them to bring us into contact with the great attributes that are inside us already. The beauty and simplicity of the bird’s song can bring us into communion with our own beauty and simplicity. The brilliance and serenity of the setting sun can awaken our own inner brilliance and peace.
The following are a number of meditations based on elements of nature. Try these out and afterwards create meditations of your own.
Consider a pure, clean, unsullied river – the sun sparkling on its surface, its waters winding gently along the earth. The waters of the river flow on and on nourishing, watering, giving life to all.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a river flowing. Feel your inner being as liquid, flowing freely. Enjoy the gentle sensation of flowing. You’re always moving, attached to nothing.
Sit like this for some time and then imagine that in the distance you can feel the presence of the ocean-vast, deep, and infinite. You can feel the ocean drawing you nearer, calling you towards it. Imagine yourself as a river flowing into the sea – imagine your river-ness merging into the sea – your small waters blending and becoming one with the vast waters of the ocean.
Consider the mountain – broad, gigantic, majestic; rising up to the heavens, catching the first light of the morning on its peak.
Close your eyes and imagine that you are a mountain. You are giant, solid, immovable. Imagine your power extending before you, behind you; imagine your power extending outwards on all sides. Take time to feel the steadiness in your peak, on your surface. Imagine plumbing the depths of your steadiness – going deep inside the body of the mountain. Meditate as a mountain of steadiness and power.
Consider the miracle of a tree. From a tiny seed, a sprout erupts and grows until it becomes an exquisite tree; a source of fruit, a source of beauty and shade and shelter. The tree is strong and flexible at the same time.
With your eyes closed, imagine yourself as a beautiful living tree. Feel your roots extending deep into the rich and fertile soil of the earth. Imagine your roots drawing healing waters and nutrients up into your trunk. Breathe and feel your life-force flowing upward through your trunk into your branches. Imagine your branches reaching upwards and outwards in all directions, your leaves reaching outward for the light of the sun. As you meditate, breathe and imagine your breath coming in and out through millions of tiny tender leaves.
Consider the sky – vast and infinite; a dome with no support. It’s always there above us filled with the sun and blue and clouds in the day, filled with the moon and the stars at night.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a vast daytime sky. Imagine your spacious, infinite blue body. Wind moves through you, clouds pass, birds fly in you. You hold everything but nothing holds you. You are free – expansive and vast.
Imagine now that you’re the nighttime sky; cool, blue-black, stretching in every direction. Your infinite body is filled with shimmering stars.
Now consider the earth; massive, the supporter, the fertile mother of all.
Close your eyes and imagine that you are the earth. Feel your solidity, your slowly turning mass. Deep in your core there is fire – a sea of molten lava. On your surface, you are teeming with life. Infinite plants and animals derive their life from you. You hold the mountains, rivers, and forests in your arms. The oceans are your living garments.
Meditate as the earth – the giver, the holder of life.
David Harshada Wagner is the founding director of Banyan Education, a New York-based firm with the mission to teach the art of sitting meditation and help people to cultivate inner life. Harshada is a student of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. You can contact Harshada through his website: www.banyaneducation.com
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