With all of the emphasis these days on the economic turmoil, cost of living, wars and presidential elections, it is all too easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of fear, anger, polarity and reactivity. Sure, there is plenty of blame to go around, from the greed of large corporations, to government deregulation and to consumers who have been out of control in their spending habits.
But outside of the once in a while editorial or for those of us who are spiritually inclined, how many people are willing to reflect on the tremendous cost we, countries, and the world have paid because of the disconnect to our essence, that of our souls?
Yes, I know. What I’m saying may sound hokey and New Age, I admit. But in truth, there is no other way of saying it. Unless enough individual in a grass roots/tipping point sort of way can ‘pass on the word’ to others that the connection to the the essence and the best of who we are is critical, then as a culture, we will continue to spiral down and live lives of craziness.
What does all of this have to do with nature? Plenty. As far back as primitive civilizations, humankind was deeply connected to nature and depended on the forces of it for survival. All of the fall celebrations were in thanks for the great bounties reaped from harvests. There was a deep appreciation and respect for the power of nature. Humans worked hand in hand with nature, in some sort of partnership to sustain and enrich their lives. They were in sync with nature and in no way felt that they had the power to control it.
Fast forward to where we are today as a culture: depleting our natural resources at accelerated rates. We are living lives of illusion thinking that being successful and having lota of things is going to make us happy: when, in fact, they can only momentarily fill the void we feel in the pits of our stomach. Before we give ourselves time to reflect, pause and ask ourselves: ‘Why, why are we living this way, we are on to the next goal, to acquire more and become more successful.
How often do we remember our readings of Thoreau or Emerson, both of whom extolled the virtues of nature? As Emerson wrote in Emerson’s Essays,
“These roses under my window make no reference to formers roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full blown flower there is no more; in the leafless rose there is no less. Its nature is satisfied and it satisfies nature in all moments alike. There is no time to it. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eyes laments the past, or heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”
And so it is. Until each individual connects and embraces nature, we will remained lost, angry and a people with no access to our hearts. We will continue to think that we are superior and that our brains can solve all the problems and that we can work our way out of this mess. We will continue to live as if ‘we can never have enough’: without any realization that in reality, we have way too much. What we are starving for is love, kindness and compassion towards ourselves and each other. We will continue to feel helpless and as if who we are and what we do can’t make a difference. We will continue to live with the belief that ‘this is just the way it is’.
If only we paused and stopped running on our treadmills, metaphorically as well as literally, and took time to appreciate nature, whether it be taking a walk, sitting under a tree on a lunch break, gazing at birds and butterflies twittering about flowers, marveling at sunsets, snowflakes or rainbows, or put our hands in the soil and garden, how our perceptions of what is important in life could change. Once we made a commitment to doing this, even for 5 miniutes a day, how different life could be!
Eventually, the potential to make a significant shift in our inner compass would exist. The beauty of the trees, the dirt, stones on a pathway and shells on beaches could bring out an appreciation of the essence of life that was always deep inside of each one of us but that had not been accessed. That is the still small voice that was never extinguished: it just needed to rub up against something to help its flame burn more brightly.
And once this inner flame begins to burn with consistency, our outlook on life could change. Over time, the sense of our control over nature would become minimal and eventually vanish. Kindness towards other human beings would no longer be a rarity. Rather than honking our cars impatiently or not holding doors for others, we would slow down, greet others with a deep smile and implicity appreciate the uniqueness of all individuals. We would know that we are all in this together and that each of our actions, every moment of every day, could make a difference. Rather than using water unconsciously, we would begin to take shorter showers and only water our trees and shrubs during a major drought. We wouldn’t be turning on sprinklers to drench our lawns every morning. We would no longer use toxic pesticides that are poisoning our environment, humans, animal and plants. Kindess and compassion would become the lexicon of our cultures. Greed and the belief that materialism and success are what constitutes a meaningful life would be of the past. We would become conscious human beings rather than living our lives in ‘vertical coffins’.
Tell me, how did Americans come together during World War II and plant Victory Gardens to sustain themselves when there was a lack of food? With all of Jefferson’s many accomplishments, why did he want to be remembered as a man who tilled the soil? And Beethoven who wrote some of the most magnificent music of all times, why did he feel the need to spend quiet time in nature in order to create his music?
Appreciating and connecting with nature is a profound way to vanquish the poverty of our souls. It can change our lives and significantly help transform our collective unconscious and the meaning of life on this earth, not only for ourselves, but for others.