Meditation is usually done by “shutting out” interference from the world around us in order to concentrate on and see what is within us. But to discover and have this same effect even in contact with other people and nature is incredible!
For me, nature isn’t an impersonal thing, that we can use and abuse as we like with no consequences. Nature too is sensitive, and capable of being “hurt, molested, invaded and trespassed.”
In some ways we could project our human experience onto nature, saying that nature “thinks and feels” like us, which I don’t think it does. However, I think we have a natural empathy towards nature that allows us to relate our states of being with nature’s states of being. This empathy, I believe, is naturally occurring. Our thoughts and feelings are part of nature, so when we say “this landscape is suffering”, it is, albeit through us and our sense of suffering. This is an important connection that occurs naturally in us.
There’s a place for “unpleasant” feelings. They tell us if something is not good for us, or when we’ve had enough of something. They tell us our limits. In my aikido training, I’m not forced into anything I don’t want to do or don’t feel like doing. Some falls and rolls I won’t do because I am scared and don’t know if I can do it (and if I do them wrong, I may injure myself). Or if I do something that hurts me, I know I’ve gone over my limits. There are times when I need to go over these limits, not because they are natural, but because they have been conditioned into me.
My own experience is that there is pain-fear that tells me something is bad for me. Another that stops me from developing my potential. My work is to distinguish between the two. Usually, one comes from the body’s own sensations, the other, from the “stories” that I have inherited from my culture and social conditioning. In this way, I can “overcome my fear” and transcend my limits with denying my natural sense of danger.
There’s a whole lot of connections here: connections between people and responsible relationships, between the person and nature, between consciousness (i.e. what we know) and the potential deep within us, and that through these connections we may find peace and wellbeing. This is something that resonates a lot with my experience of nature.
The personal level is brought into contact with nature again; it is not separated from it. Moreover, it allows us to get into contact with parts within us that as adults we are accustomed to putting aside. There’s no judgement in nature, so the “childish” curiosity and playfulness we have within us are given space to express themselves. For me, contact with nature doesn’t just mean healing the estrangement between me and nature, but also with the parts within me that don’t have space to express themselves in other circumstances.
If we don’t have a personal interest in the state of the world, we won’t feel motivated to do anything about it. Impersonal facts and figures can be useful in understanding the world around us, but they don’t necessarily motivate us. The state of the world and how I feel about the natural world have always been strong influences as I grew up, and have had a great effect in my personal and professional choices.
It can be disheartening when you can’t share your loves, interests and passions with like-minded people, to have someone that will understand you and give an echo to your experiences and thoughts. Even more importantly, it’s good to have people to collaborate with and that can walk in the same direction as you.