An excerpt from Weave the Heart of the Universe into Your Life
Your body “knows” connection with nature when you hike, garden, watch the moon rise, or collect stones and shells. Your heart remembers your own and your children’s joy in climbing trees, swimming in creeks, catching polliwogs.
Yet, you’ve mostly forgotten how to sustain your relations with mountains and trees from day to day. You may be culturally hesitant, being drawn to indigenous people, but not fully believing you are a relative of Earth and sky, deer and snake, mosquito and fish.
Even when you love the Earth, your personal and cultural separation from nature can be a major source of dissonance and alienation. Yet, there’s hope. When you work with intent and focus to strengthen your connections and repair what’s broken — just as in any relationship — you will become empowered and energized.
In developing a relationship with a specific creature, plant, or place in nature — using your experience and direct perception rather than your ideas about something — you experience the world differently, with deepening intimacy. You nurture your sense of wonder, becoming re-enchanted with nature. In building a relationship over time, you open yourself to deep conversation. The aliveness of the land engages with you. Your compassion, empathy, and heart connections expand. Blending nature (the physical) and spirit (the mystical) together, you develop filaments of connection that weave into your life in mysterious ways.
When you develop relationships in nature, you start with where you are. You might start with a single tree in the neighborhood, a city park, a creek or a boulder, a hill or a prairie. It might be a place in your imagination, one you’ve visited or wish you could visit.
The point is to learn how to connect and exchange energy with the other living beings who have inhabited this planet for 3.5 billion years: who else has this track record of wisdom and survival?
You spend every day of your life on the Earth; she’s always with you. When you develop a relationship with the Earth and her creatures, you are never alone.
Opening to the Earth
When you touch Earth, the Earth touches you. Your intent to connect paves the way.
Mother Earth, as she is called around the world, supports our feet, our cars, our homes, our water supply. You spend every day of your life with her; she’s always with you! Shifting from taking her for granted to calling on her and connecting with her is simple; the energy you can draw upon to do this is profound. Indigenous peoples take in energy from the Earth; you can too. What I have discovered is that the more I connect to the Earth, the less alone, isolated, and disconnected I feel.
When you are tired after a long meeting, three hours of conference calls, or running around after some 5 year olds, you can use the practices in this book to release the fatigue and draw in energy from the Earth, opening to her support and power. When you do this regularly, you will notice a stronger and stronger connection developing, along with a changed sense of self and ego.
You are nature
You have to spend time outside — observing, listening, being — to sense the environment as your extended body. Being outside with a specific tree gives you a “perceptual” or experiential sense of the feeling of its bark, leaves, and shape. Being outside offers you direct experience of the smell of wet earth, the feel of the wind, and the shifting colors of your favorite lake. The more you are outside, deeply filling yourself with such sensations, the more you become an embodied part of the whole.
Imagine you are walking through a forest. Your habit is to look at the trees and enjoy the views. Maybe you identify the birds or native plants; possibly you notice the relationships of a particular species to the environment. Maybe you can even name most plant, animal, insect and reptile species in the ecosystem. All these skills and habits come from information about the forest; they come from the mind.
What if, when noticing a bobcat, you slowly, very slowly, approach it? What if the bobcat stops and watches you? Suddenly you are paying attention to sound, movement, breath and footfall; you are shifting out of mind. What if the bobcat lets you approach? Your heart hammers, and your body becomes very still. What if the bobcat lets you sit and share the forest, even lets you sing to him? Now you are in your body, your senses; now you are feeling the connection with the bobcat. You have moved from looking at to being with. You’ve opened your resonant heart to engage with the living energy of this other being.
Deepening your relationship
Establishing a relationship with the natural world is like nurturing one with a human: it takes care, time, intent, and mutual exchange.
I read about a man in Arizona who took the same hike in the mountains around Tucson every day for 10 years. His deep familiarity let him know the seasons, the effects of drought on the creatures and plants, and changes over time. Many cultures have practices like this: a Zen Buddhist monk is assigned a nine-year, daily cycle of circumambulation; a young Masai warrior is instructed, as part of his initiation, to go into the bush with nothing but his spear until he kills a lion. Luckily, lion killing is not part of our culture, and there are other ways to practice deepening by establishing your relationship with place.
Return to one place — a single tree, a lake, a stream, a mountain, a trail near where you live, a corner of the park — regularly. Experience it with all your senses — feel the breeze on your face, taste the warmth of the sun on your skin, let the sounds vibrate into your cells, and notice when the energy changes. The more you know it, the more you deepen and expand your awareness of who lives there, how the seasons change, what plant beings thrive there. With this understanding, your perception grows and grows, as does your connection. Out of connection flows reciprocity.