IMG_3263We often speak about going off into nature as if we are somehow separate from it. But aren’t we, by necessity, part of nature? Contemporary human has lost touch with its place in the natural world. If we are separate, then the rest of the world is just material resources to be exploited.

David Hinton in Hunger Mountain reminds us of a time when humans destroyed the world around them:

“Wildlife was was virtually extinguished by unrestrained hunting; the forests were completely cleared for lumber and farmland, allowing topsoil to wash away and fill streams and rivers with silt, which in turn decimated fish populations; and what topsoil remained on farms was depleted by unsustainable farming practices.”

It’s hard to talk about this subject without buying into the duality that holds us in opposition to the natural world. We talk about going into and out of nature but nature is all and everywhere, just varying to the degree that it has been touched by human hands. It is still possible to find your true self in the concrete expanses of a city, as this quote from the film, My Dinner With Andre reminds us.

Why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to perceive one moment of reality? Is Mount Everest more real than New York? Isn’t New York real? I think, if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! Isn’t there just as much reality to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest?

Nevertheless, being in landscapes with relatively less fingerprints, does provide a window to our true selves that may not be so readily accessed elsewhere. It’s just easier but by no means guaranteed. We can still be preoccupied. To find our true selves in nature, we need to do three things:

  1. Know that it is possible
  2. Want to access it
  3. Have the capacity

I take my dogs on a brief hike each day. On this route we have the pleasure of seeing two of Vermont’s highest peaks–Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump (the closer and more spectacular view of Camel’s Hump is pictured above).

We are fortunate to have this exposure to the natural world each day. Yet, my mind can still be very noisy. Obviously, I know that quieter is possible; I also have to want to make the shift towards quiet, if I don’t go their automatically. To accomplish this, I have to have the ability to extricate myself from whatever stories are compelling me to turn my gaze to the horizon with its purple mountains.

This is why we practice because we can know and even have a strong desire and still not be able to pull it off because the counter forces are just too strong. Practice can help us to make it happen when we have the opportunities.

To get some practice and to learn some methods for accessing your true self, join me and Jaimal Yogis for  a weekend workshop at Kripalu. There is still time to register here >>

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]

Good things come in small packages especially when it is The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy edited by the poet John Brehm and published by Wisdom. Wisdom has a habit of producing beautifully crafted books, packed with, well, wisdom! By way of disclosure, two of these books are mine (108 Metaphors for Mindfulness and […]

A surfer and a shrink, sounds like the start of a joke … walk into a bar … . What do they talk about? Turns out the surfer dude is an expert on fear, has even written a book about it and the shrink is a crack snowboarder. They’ve got a lot to talk about. […]

Stephen Batchelor: Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World contains twenty-five years of his writing. You may be familiar with some of these articles from his contributions to Tricycle and I recently enjoyed reading his article arguing for a Buddhism 2.0 in a Buddhist academic journal. This book contains three new contributions, making the book […]