“These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs.”
~ Anton Chekhov
- Everything Changes – All The Time
As the wheel of the year keeps turning, and with it the seasons, no two days are the same. The clouds in the sky will never look the same way twice. Never ever. In this way nature embodies beautifully the ancient Persian wisdom “this too shall pass”. Just like a bitter winter storm moves on and dissolves eventually, so can a beautiful sunset never be observed in the same way twice. Of course there will be more seasons, clouds, sunsets and storms to come, but these will all be slightly different and in their own way unique. It’s a good reminder that nothing is permanent in life and hoping for permanency is futile. Success isn’t permanent, but neither is failure. No matter what happens in life, there will always be a new day another a new opportunity for me to change and grow. Every sunrise reminds me to not get lost in the hard times in life, and the rising moon tells me to not take the good times for granted. Both will set and both will rise again and again.
- Death Is Life
When walking in the forest, the green leaves on trees and rustling of little animals in the undergrowth are just some of the many apparent signs of life all around me. However, there is death also, decomposing matter on the forest floor which in turn gives energy to life anew. A dead animal might even be a sad sight that reminds me of my own mortality. I firmly believe that a lot of suffering can come from seeing “life” as referring only to the living part of our existence. In reality, death is as much a part of life as living itself, and the gift of death is gratitude. Everything is more beautiful because I know that I won’t be able to enjoy it forever.
- The Reality Of The Present Moment
Sometimes, all I have to do is breathe. An acorn, a blackbird, a leaf, a stone – none of them worry about what has been and what will be. Yes, mindfulness is the buzzword of well-being warriors the world over. Various spiritual paths have known it for millennia, but nature has lived it forever. I find that spending time in nature is by default experiential and although I could spend that time simply lost in my thoughts (and I do love a good daydream), it is easy to join into the present awareness when the world around me embodies this. This moment, right now, is the only time that is real in my life. Right now, the past and the future only exist in my thoughts. The other inhabitant with whom we share this planet clearly possess this knowledge.
- Everything Is Connected
As I breathe, I exchange air with the trees. As I sweat and weep, water runs out of me into a system from which I will drink it again. Literally, I am made of stardust. The atoms in my body, and your body, and all the world around us were formed in the explosion of stars all over the universe. When I die, everything that is solid in my body will be returned to the earth. I remember seeing a video not long ago about the remarkable impact that the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park had on the ecosystems all around them. The reintroduction of wolves to the park triggered a series of events which before long led to changing even the course of rivers. Truly everything is connected. I am but a strand in this web of life, which reminds me that everything matters, but nothing matters much. The key point here, I believe, is balance: feeling empowered to know that I can change the world, while remaining humble and aware of those around me.
- Magic Is Real (And Depends On Perspective)
There is so, so much we don’t yet understand about life and love and the colours of a sunset. Scientific advances have increased our understanding of the world around us for millennia. Once upon a time, fire was magic; magic which these days anyone armed with a lighter can wield. Our scientific understanding will continue to grow (and I for one am excited to keep learning new things!), but with it our awareness of the things we simply don’t understand. Each answer will raise more questions, and the unknowable will always remain and morph into something new. What, then, is magic? Will it always be the unknown and indescribable? Personally, I would call the way I feel when catching a glimpse of sunlight reflecting off frost on a crisp winter’s day or gazing into the vastness of the night sky truly magical – as far as I’m aware, nobody has been able to fully explain it yet.
How about you? What have you learned from or in nature?