Forest as Womb
Some of us (you know who you are) recognize that there can be no greater salve for what ails us than to have an intimate connection with nature. Despite this knowledge, sometimes as modern urbanites, our experience of nature is somewhat removed. Think of all the time spent indoors in our virtual worlds or in air-conditioned cubicles for much of our day, for example.
There is a difference between seeing nature from a window and getting up close and personal—hence the phrase, “convening with nature”. What does it mean to convene? To gather, to assemble, to unite. How appropriate! If we do some psychic excavation, we might discover that, as humans, what we really want is to learn to be still—in body and mind—in unison. Nothing teaches us that better than nature.
The reason we connect to nature is that we recognize the same forces at work in our core. It is the calm, safe feeling of “home” that we so often long for. To be sure, creativity and impermanence are part of nature’s toolkit as well.
I feel lucky to be living in San Miguel, Mexico where my connection to nature is quite vivid on a daily basis as I am outside a good part of my day. Mexican towns have a lively street life. It is one of the things, when I am asked, that is my favorite about living in Mexico. The colors, the flowers, the old stones under my feet, not to mention an architectural design penchant for opulent outdoor courtyards as extensions of living spaces, all contribute to that feeling of earthiness.
All of this “earth” allows me to feel closer to the ground there, and therefore closer to the heart. Did you know that San Miguel is located in the geographical center of the country? That would be the “heart” of Mexico.
Aside from the everyday however, I do find the need to have more concentrated time in nature in order to feel that connection more acutely. For the last 10 days, I have been in Colorado where I can sit beside the roaring Snake River and write this. I can walk through fields of wildflowers, recognizing different strains of old garden friends. I can inhale the pine forest that also provides me with a beautiful, nesty, path to glide on. I can frequently grab a handful of sage that is abundant here, and crunch it into my nose, the fresh, pungent aroma waking me up. (wading into a freezing river has much the same effect). Waking up to the elements of nature reminds us to pay more attention in our daily routines.
Thich Nhat Hanh advises us to bend down and touch the earth when we feel off center. The idea being that the earth has a healing connection that is as instant and deep as the connection we once had in the womb. I have a book, given as a gift many years ago, entitled Touch The Earth, which is a compilation of beautiful writings from Native Americans, most of which outline their reverence and respect for nature. Buddhist teachers and Native peoples understand the visceral connection to the earth that is vital to maintain but is often ignored by our modern lives.
Here in Colorado, these majestic mountains have restored my attention. Nature sustains and elevates us because we are alive, just as she is. Today I banished my monkey mind and sat for a spell simply watching the aspens sway their sprightly leaves over rushing water. And I was so grateful to touch the earth.