A Former Monk Explains How Spending Time in Nature Can Change How You See the World

Life: It’s all around you.

Today’s lesson is simple: Step outside and learn from the ultimate teacher. Nature is our guiding light when it comes to cycles and rhythms. She functions under a perfect ebb and flow of counterbalancing principles. Heat and cold balance with light and dark. Growth and decay are fully realized in cycles of the year, as are birth and death. Nature has all the wisdom you need, packed into plain sight.

We’ve simply forgotten to look.

Today’s practice is to step outside and spend some quiet time in nature. Even if a public park or back lawn of an office park is all you can access, I am positive that there is going to be some semblance of the natural world available to you today if you open your eyes and look for it. Go there.

Sit in a comfortable spot and start to breathe deeply to your lower abdomen. Relax into your breathing and sink into the sounds all around you. Feel the wind on your face and maybe take off your shoes and wiggle your toes into the dirt. If you have the luxury to fully immerse, get into some clay or bury your body at the beach. Break down the wall and allow for nature’s majesty to touch you and surround your senses.

Trees can get to hundreds of years in age, but the pebbles below your feet are millions of years old. Where did they come from? Were they part of some large rock aeons ago? How did they get here?

Now observe the dirt under your feet. Long ago, certain fungal elements evolved to break down rock and create dirt. With the coming of bacteria, Protozoa, nematodes, and multiple other life-forms, the dirt started to become soil. This allowed for certain life-forms to take inorganic materials and make them available to the plant kingdom, which then took off and spread across the planet. Those plants adapted to drink light and create energy from the sun, trapping energy in carbohydrate bonds. This became the fuel for certain animals to eat, and fast-forward several million years, here you are.

The microscopic life under your feet created a long cascade of processes that eventually allowed you to be here as a consumer of sunlight via plants. If you eat animals, you’re capturing the sunlight they ingested via the plants they consumed.

Life: It’s all around you. You’re breathing it in right now as you’re reading this. Millions of bacteria and viruses just entered your lungs and are all over your skin. They help you interact with the natural world all around you. They help defend against invaders. They are part of the ecosystem of your body, which is part of the ecosystem of the planet. This is all going on while you go through your day, millions upon millions of life-forms living their lives, oblivious to your bills or petty dramas.

Sit outside in the symphony of nature and notice the oddity of scale. On the one hand, you’re this universe of life with bugs in you and on your skin, all interacting as an ecosystem. On the other, you’re a tiny speck on a single planet at the edge of a regular galaxy that is lightyears from the next.

Up and down it’s all amazing, and you sit in the middle of all of it. You are a focal point where infinity collides into a single point of time and space. How can you make sense of it all? The only way is to open your heart and fall into the wonder that it induces. This way, we don’t take ourselves so seriously. It helps us think about the big questions and puts in perspective where we stand in the grand scheme of things.

You only get a moment of time here as the person you think you are. What are you going to do with it?

Reprinted from The Art of Stopping Time by Pedram Shojai, OMD. Copyright (c) 2017 by Pedram Shojai, OMD. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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