I'd been saving a question for my wise teacher and decided that this was a good time to ask. "Dharma, why is it that I feel calmer and even smarter when I am out in nature?" Dharma gave me one of his famous all-knowing smiles. "Tadpole, that's because a frog's best and shortest road towards knowledge of truth is nature. Nature has everything under control and we can learn many valuable life lessons from her if we choose to pay attention." "So it's not just me? Everybody feels calmer and wiser when they spend time with Mother Nature?" "Yes, my boy, I find that to be a true statement. Nature can be if we allow her to, become one of the best mentors we'll ever have. She gives freely of her time and is available to us whenever we need her. All we need to is stop and listen to her answers." I thought about this and wanted to know more so I asked Dharma a two-part question. The first part was what lessons we frogs can learn from spending time outdoors? And the second part was can my human friends could benefit from these lessons, as well? His answer to the second part was a resounding, "Yes! Of course, humans can learn from nature." But his answer to the first half of my question was a little more complex. What follows is a summary of Dharma's lesson on nature.
1. Naturalist intelligence. "On the most basic level, nature will teach you about the actual physical environment that sustains all life on this planet. There’s a huge difference between learning about nature from a book, versus having our own real-life experiences with birds, plants, trees, and forests. But naturalist intelligence is not just about knowing things related to plants, trees, and birds. It’s also about our larger capacity to observe patterns and tune into the physical surroundings in all areas of life. You see, my boy, humans are biologically designed to be surrounded by nature. With naturalist intelligence, humans gain the skills to care for our shared environment and make life better for everyone in the process...including we critters."
2. Presence and awareness. "Nature is possibly the world’s best teacher of how to be truly present and have awareness in daily life. All we have to do is sit quietly and observe your surroundings. Many modern people lead lives that are almost entirely driven by a lack of presence and awareness. They get stuck in a loop of painful memories from the past or worrying and planning for the future. Humans seldom allow themselves space to simply sit in the present moment and observe our experience without judgment. Being immersed in nature is like the exact opposite of being driven by technology. It’s filled with so much timeless beauty that it pulls you out of the internal world of thoughts & ideas. As nature calls our senses outwards, we find ourselves being less absorbed with what’s happening in our heads and more tuned in with the daily experience of life." And that is truly a beautiful thing!
3. Using our senses. One of the biggest lessons any of us can learn from nature is that it’s possible to increase the capacity of a frog's or human's sensory awareness. Most of us dramatically underestimate the importance of basic seeing, hearing, feeling & observation skills. Try consciously practicing sensory awareness skills outside by looking at plants, trees, and listening to distant bird sounds. It will open up a whole new world of discovery that can dramatically transform your mental clarity and capacity to learn faster by watching and listening carefully.
4. Authenticity. Authenticity is one of the big secrets to success in life. Nature teaches authenticity by giving us opportunities to be alone with ourselves in a truly non-judgemental environment. Nature helps us build authentic self-awareness because it doesn’t try to change who we are or influence our decisions. Instead, it removes all the outside influences of the media, as well as the opinions of others while at the same time amplifying the quiet voice of truth that so often gets ignored. Nature doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. There’s no judgment. Just the pure freedom to be ourselves just as we are.
5. Awe and wonder. "Many adult humans these days feel like there isn't any magic in the world; that they've lost the excitement that inspires true creativity and progress. But immersing themselves in nature can offer the opportunity to regain those magical feelings of amazement and wonder. Nature is filled with so many mysteries and beautiful moments that inspire the mind. It’s also filled with the unfiltered realities of both life and death in the forest. If we spend lots of time in nature, eventually we encounter both the gift of new life, and also the realities of death. These moments of awe and wonder can help to put things into perspective. They also help to clear out the cobwebs of negativity from our minds."
"Irwin, there are many more lessons that we can learn from nature but I think that this is a good place to stop for this week. Maybe we can pick it up from here at another time." I was kind of sad to see the lesson end, but I was looking forward to learning more about the lessons that we can each learn from spending time in nature.
Dharma stayed a little longer to help me tidy up my kitchen before hopping off to see his next student. It's always a bit sad for me to see him go but I am always filled with a sense of deep gratitude for his wonderful and insightful lessons. Dharma is truly one of a kind mentor and I am so lucky to have him in my life.
If you like ancient history and archeology, I know you won't want to miss tomorrow's blog when I'll be looking at a newly discovered lost continent. Could it be, perhaps, Atlantis? Stop by tomorrow and find out! Until then, stay well and please stay safe.