Spiritual traditions are deeply rooted in nature.
The Lady of the Grove, the Shaman, the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree, the elven beings luring among the shadows of the forest, the Will-o’-the-wisp hovering over a nocturnal landscape, the Animal Spirits, the monstrous wolf Fenrir of the Norse Mythology, and the Mother Goddess making her way through the Amazonian jungle. These are just a couple of examples of the incredible power of nature, and its effect on our imagination.
Severance from nature
Staying indoors for too long is perhaps one of the greatest defects of our civilization. It’s killing our spirit. We still tend to assume that spending at least eight hours a day in the cubicle is somehow acceptable.
In reality, these are just remains of the effete industrial system of specialized production. According to research, most employees lose as much as 50% of the working day on non-productive activities. Just take a look at this data and you’ll see why the traditional office is unsuitable for productive work.
It’s really possible to get everything done in four hours, but that’s just not the way it is. This issue was brought up many years ago by Bertrand Russell in his great essay In Praise of Idleness. Then, there was The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, which forever shattered the notion of nine to five in the connected world. Yet with all that information at hand, most of the workforce still spends majority of time at the desk.
The longing for a spiritual connection with nature
During one of these cold murky mornings, while riding the subway in a company of a somnolent crowd, many of us long for some tranquility in the bosom of nature. While doing time in the office I had a chat with my dear friend who was about to visit his family house on a verdant farm out of town.
“I will stay there for two or three days. Maybe for life”.
Nature’s imprint on the mind
Not all of us are so radical in our approach, but my friend had a point. Months can go by in the office, and it’s like a long, fuzzy dream. Every day seems to be the same. And then you break free for a few days to go for that long-awaited bucket-list outdoors adventure.
There is a good chance that these will be the most memorable days of your year. You’ll come back to them again and again while keeping your nose to the grindstone, and thinking about sticking your head out of the window and yelling: ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!
During my first trip to India I took some of these over-romanticized notes:
I remember the moment at the waterfall so clearly. As I marveled over the grand vista, I finally experienced the world as a whole, without any restraint or judgement. I was there, standing like the great explorer that I always wanted to be.
The next day, we went through the “secret path” through the woods – Himalayas on our left. This feeling of aliveness and humility towards the present moment accompanied me all the way. As we journeyed through the narrow, rocky path I thought of Matsuo Basho (the famous Japanese poet) and the mysterious “Basho Way” that he gone through while composing his haiku.
another year is gone / a traveler’s shade on my head, / straw sandals at my feet
And to think that it’s only a beginning.
Seneca on nature and spirituality
Yes indeed, nature is capable of arousing great spiritual feelings. Many philosophers and artists pondered this phenomenon. Seneca probably said it best:
“When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and whose boughs are so closely interwoven that the sky cannot be seen, the stately shadows of the wood, the privacy of the place, and the awful gloom cannot but strike you, as with the presence of a deity, or when we see some cave at the foot of a mountain penetrating the rocks, not made by human hands, but hollowed out to great depths by nature; it fills the mind with a religious fear; we venerate the fountain-heads of great rivers; the sudden eruption of a vast body of water from secret places of the earth, obtains an altar: we adore likewise the springs of warm baths, and either the opaque quality or immense depths, hath made some lakes sacred”.
Experience more connection to nature in your life
You don’t have to renounce the city life to experience the transformative force of nature. Leading Walden-like existence is not in cards for many people these days, but we can still find serene moments in everyday life. Simply going to the park or woods and making friends with the vast greenness may be enough.
Besides its intricate beauty, nature also holds many secrets to spiritual development. I’m talking about the hallucinogenic compounds that have been used by humans for millennia. They’ve been demonized in XX centaury for various reasons, but now we’re seeing a true renaissance in the area of psychedelic research. Among all of the sources of spiritual inspiration mentioned in this article, there’s none more powerful than a group of carefully selected hallucinogens like DMT or Psilocybin Mushrooms.
And when in doubt, you can always to for a long walk around the ancient forest.
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