Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Eight months ago I was on a silent meditation retreat for four days when the teacher said to the group “let nature be your ally on this retreat.” It struck a chord with me because I’ve always loved being outside in nature, or viewing nature from my living room window but never questioned why or really thought about how nature supports me. I’ve just always found comfort in fresh air, beauty, the sun, the moon, wildlife, the quiet, the winds and I just take it for granted.
On that retreat where we meditated, sitting or walking, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in 45 minute segments we all encountered periods of being uncomfortable. It was different for each person. Some were struggling with the physical practice of sitting so much, another person was exhausted from months of caring for a sick spouse, someone else was recovering from cancer and another person was struggling with relationships in their workplace.
We all struggle at times in our lives and the practice of meditation teaches us how to see what is going on with compassion and kindness and then respond with the best conduct we can. This teacher was telling us that during the retreat, when we were struggling, we could go outside and let nature support us. Look at the trees, feel the warm sun and listen to the birds. It might help calm you. In Japan, they practise “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku and the idea is that nature can have a calming effect on us.
We don’t need to be doing anything in particular when in nature, just quietly listening and sensing and being. Sometimes we feel a sense of awe or a feeling of being connected to all of life. Somehow the air, the beauty and the simplicity of nature softens us. Maybe it gives us perspective. It will be different for every person.
What I learned on that meditation retreat was that nature is an ally and to recognize that I use it in my everyday life when I am struggling or being challenged. It is always there and available. Nature is a tool I have to support me. My 87-year-old dad fell and broke his hip last week and is in the hospital recovering. He has a big window he looks out every day and the view connects him to something he loves. The hospital has a beautiful outside court where I go when I need to recharge. Maybe nature is a form of medicine for the soul.
On a final note of this week’s article, I want to congratulate Jack and Willie Cox. My husband, Jim, and I ran into them on Oct. 6 at Baked and Battered. They were all dressed up and looked like they were going somewhere special for the day. We learned it was their 60th wedding anniversary and they were out on a breakfast date. And we could see the love in their eyes! And that was a gift to us. Enjoy these beautiful October days and get outside, or look outside, as much as you can.