This summer, I have tried to get into nature with my kids each week. We’ve sought out more than just our neighborhood walks or time at the park, we’ve looked for places a little more remote, places we might have to give up the luxury (or attachment) of our cell service.
In this area, you don’t have to go far. A couple of hours, and you can easily be somewhere out of the fray of day to day life. Mountains, ocean, forests, lakes and rivers abound around us. In the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky to have even little pockets of pristine nature right here in our cities.
I have been thinking about how I feel when I am in a forest, or at a beach, or a river’s edge, or even lying on the grass in my backyard, my back on the ground, looking up at the light glinting through the transparency of the leaves of the maple tree above me. Things start to slow down, my breath is a little fuller, there is a relaxing of the stresses of the day to day. As difficult and chaotic the world we are in is right now, time connecting to the nature around us provides nourishment and nurturing.
Early in the Pandemic, I went for a walk at Point Defiance Park. I found myself on the far western ridge above the sound, in the area where you can see the Bridges and across the Narrows – a spectacular spot all on its own. As I was standing on the edge observing the sparkling water and the view of the Olympic Mountain Range beyond, up from below the ridge of the cliff face swooped a Bald Eagle. It flew straight up, breathtakingly close to the edge that I was standing on, tumbled into the sky above me and then glided off above the forest.
I felt chills through my whole body and a fullness in my chest swell, tears even sprung to my eyes. It was so sudden and stunning, if felt somehow meant for me to see it and experience it, to be a part of.
As I walked back through the forest to my car, still moved by the experience of seeing the eagle. I thought “no matter what’s going on that feels so big, nature keeps on happening. Nature keeps being itself.”
Even though we forget, we are no different. Our thinking mind certainly can get caught in a variety of stresses, planning, figuring out, strategizing, worrying. Our emotions can hijack us into our own dramas. That doesn’t change the fact that we are a part of nature. That nature is us, that we are nature.
When I remember to connect with the ground beneath and around me – the earth, the trees, the breeze on my skin – when I let my senses wake me up to my connection to my body and to the natural world around me, I feel supported. I feel an aliveness, a grounding, and a feeling of being held. Not having to do things on my own. Not feeling so solitary. When we lose our direct connection to the natural world, and to ourselves as a part of it, this is when we begin to feel disconnected and alone.
This is a difficult and chaotic time we are living in.
In the story of the enlightenment of the Buddha, Siddhartha (his name before his awakening) was visited by the demon Mara, a representation of desire, hatred, and delusion. Mara tempts him with his daughters, with worldly power, with the threat of death and destruction, and finally confronts him with doubt – who does he think he is to take that seat – to try to attain enlightenment? Who would bear witness to his right to be there?
In the telling of the story, Siddhartha reaches down and touches the earth with his fingertips, indicating “the earth is my witness.” In this moment, the earth shakes, and the demon Mara and his armies disappear. He sits in peace until early in the morning when he attains an awakened state.
The Buddha is no different from you or me. We all can wake up to our true nature, to the truth that we are nature, a part of this earth. No different from the wind and the sky and the trees and the grasses, the eagles and the tiniest hummingbird and the streams and the mammals and insects, all creatures great and small. We are a part of this beautiful world.
Our world keeps changing, this is still true. Nature keeps happening. No matter our politics or our fights or our anger or our challenges.
Let’s put our fingers on the earth and remember.
Erin Joosse (she/her)
PS: Join us this fall and connect to your true nature through our online classes, series and workshops. Find out more here: https://sourceyogaonline.com/workshops-series-training/upcoming-workshops/