Take a walk with me through the forest. It’s a fine summer day, the sun is playing with the shimmering aspen leaves and the forest is cool and fragrant. Pine needles soften your steps; you hear a little stream running cheerfully over rocks in the distance and birds chirping in the trees overhead. As you amble along, your senses are wide open to take it all in. Each tree, each leaf, each rock is perfect exactly the way it is. You admire some purple wildflowers in amongst the ferns, stop to pick a few wild blueberries, silently greet a squirrel scampering up a tree.
Perfection abounds! There is so much beauty in nature, it is healing for most of us.
A walk on the beach or a hike in the mountains, a float down the river, a stroll through the Arizona desert, even a trip to the local park, it all has the same effect.
It opens us up.
We feel our oneness with nature, we accept our place in the scheme of things. Our usual defenses, our usual monkey chatter, are overridden by the sights, the smells, the sounds of Nature. Even just walking around outside my house, I see the flowers and hear the birds, see the mountains in the distance, and all of it makes me happy, in fact I count on it as part of my daily happiness.
When I catch a ground squirrel stealing bird seeds in the back yard, I laugh and wonder ” who am I” to assign the birdseed to any creature? The squirrel isn’t stealing, as far as IT knows, it’s enjoying a treat.
I am delighted at the quail, the squirrels, the rabbits…even a red-tailed hawk one amazing day…who all drink from the little birdbath on the ground out in front of my office window.
When I walk in the woods I marvel at the moss-covered rotting tree trunks nourishing the soil for new growth. Each tree, each fern, each life form is different, based on its own genetics, its own growing conditions. Is that fern over there smaller because it grows in full shadow of the large hemlock tree? That tree over there leans to the left! INTERESTING! AWESOME! I can EASILY let each one be, just as they are, and give thanks for the beauty they share.
Could I look at other people in exactly the way I look at the trees and the ferns and the squirrels?
We are all just here on the planet doing what we do, and it’s all good, even the headlines reflect nothing different than the squirrel “stealing” the bird seed when you look at it a little differently. And what if there really was enough for all and everyone could see that? (There is – and as a spiritual teacher, it is my job to assure you of that.)
When I am on a metaphorical mountaintop, it’s easy to enjoy my Oneness with the Universe, so why do I so often catch myself feeling competitive or wary or judgmental with my fellow humans? How is it that when I am around people, my defenses often come back up and my EGO crowds out my wonderment? Why does my ego suddenly proclaim “ME” and “MINE” and “YOU” and “YOURS” and “RIGHT” and “WRONG?” When I consider who we REALLY are, none of that matters.
A little aside about the bible Adam and Eve story. It was the “KNOWLEDGE” of right and wrong that threw them out of paradise (Oneness). That is, JUDGMENTS about right and wrong, mine and yours and theirs, is what keeps us out of paradise.
I had a very judgmental mother (who had a judgmental mother and so on) and I have often wrestled with the popular concept “If I can’t love me, with all my flaws, how can I love others?” I clearly could not love me because I knew about all the times I didn’t meet my own standards of right and wrong.
Today I understand that the reverse is also true: “If I can’t love others, just as they are, bent to the left or stealing the birdseed, how can I love myself?” And, cancel the “with all my flaws” and substitute “just as I am.” No judgment, no problem.
And if someone does something that hurts my feelings or depletes my store of seeds?
Can I sit here right now and love them just as they are? There’s the real test and the real spiritual work.
Enjoy the forest