We all come from nature and are a part of nature. In fact, we are nature. Even as you sit and have a cup of tea, you are taking nourishment and comfort from leaves grown perhaps thousands of miles away or picked from your own back garden. Nature offers us so many reminders about how life is precious, it makes us receptive, and it cultivates our senses. When we think sometimes that life is just horrible, if we walk with nature for a little while, we are often able to broaden our view and see life in a different, better light.
There is a lot to learn from nature. Nature doesn’t worry about the past or race to the future. The sun rises and sets, the day simply becomes night and then day again, everything stays connected and evolving at the same time. Even in our urban environments, taking time to look around and enjoy the journey from one place to the next will often result in noticing things that surprise and delight us. Taking in the scenery of life as we go along is all part of our appreciation. And the more we look around, the more we begin to get to know what inspires us, what we really like and what we are really like! Nature also has a way of bringing us into the moment and into our body, sometimes to help us contemplate and often to help us let go of our worries and get back to the basics.
Sometimes people ask, ‘Why do you like to organize or encourage your friends and students to do difficult physical practice?’ I normally just smile. People ask many questions. Centuries ago, we never had all the modern machines that make our life so convenient, but what has this convenience done to us? Physically, we seem to be better off. Whenever we see old photos of people walking on dirt roads or doing very hard jobs, like washing clothes with their hands, we feel that we are very fortunate. But are we better off inside? We are more restless, our minds are like wild beings that cannot sit still, we cannot be peaceful.
Modern technology and communication mean that we now spend so much time in the virtual world that it is easy to lose our connection with nature. I myself end up looking at the computer for hours, and yet often little is achieved and it is a true challenge to one’s powers of attention. We cannot simply sit still and quiet in our surroundings without pulling out our phone or sending another email. This is far from calming or comforting; our minds whirr away, just like our gadgets, on permanent alert, flitting from one thing to the other. It becomes difficult to focus on just one thing, just this moment, what we are doing or who we are with right here in the present.
The term ‘virtual’ is the perfect description, because this modern world of technology is so illusionary, it isn’t real. Some people I know even plant virtual trees or have virtual pets, which sounds cute but I think there is a bit of a dangerous side to this too so it is good to be aware. I know people who have thousands of ‘friends’ they have never even met. Technology is wondrous and it is doing incredible things to our material life, even our virtual lives, but the real life is here and now, enveloped by nature that has remained unchanging, and changing for ever.
Nature is often called Mother. Hence the term Mother Nature. It sustains life, and all that exists. We are part of it, due to it and we will always be within it. Even death is part of nature. Nature demands regeneration. It manages cycles of life and death, it manages the dynamics between the new and the old, the healthy and the infirm, the positive and the negative, the good and the bad. Nature is a complex mechanism—so complex, all of mankind and science is involved almost full time for centuries in unravelling its mystical ways and how it works.
Once we understand that nature is our only real friend; once we make amends for our growing distance with nature, and once we realise that the key is to return to roots, we will be back on the path of bliss that was envisioned for each of us. So just walk slow, take in the scenery and contemplate.
The author is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas