Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.Ralph Waldo Emerson
I drew strength and found solace hiking deep in the backcountry this summer. There’s nothing better than getting lost in nature. My mom was in the last chapter of a long illness, and as I geared up to help see her through the final scenes of her life and the details of her death, I did my best to breathe in some good Idaho forest energy. My dogs and I covered a lot of ground, dunked in a lot of crisp mountain rivers and lakes and, essentially, stored up.
There is an energy about being amongst the forest and the trees. Revered for centuries and held sacred in the East in Buddhist and Shinto traditions, this elemental wisdom is being increasingly researched and substantiated by scientists.
The great outdoors is about as natural and easy a place to reflect and contemplate as anywhere.“If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound?” asks the Zen Master. It gets you thinking… and it’s naturally revitalizing to everyone who enters, which is probably why so many spiritually-inspired poets and writers pour their hearts out there. Here’s a sampling of favorites (thanks, mostly, to Mary Oliver):
“One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people—a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lilian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousands of leaves tremble! What a life is ours!” ~ Mary Oliver
“Deep in the woods, I tried walking on all fours. I did it for an hour or so, through thickets across a field, down to a cranberry bog. I don’t think anyone saw me! At the end I was exhausted and sore, but I had seen the world from the level of the grasses, the first bursting growth of trees, declivities, lumps, slopes, rivulets, gashes, open spaces. I was some old fox, wandering, breathing, hitching along, lying down finally at the edge of the bog, under the swirling rickrack of the trees. You must not ever stop being whimsical.” ~ Mary Oliver
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.” ~ Mary Oliver
“Between every two pine trees is a doorway leading to a new way of life.” ~ John Muir
My friend John’s ritual is trail running. He can run the same path five times and never have the same experience. He talks about the almost childlike curiosity with which he approaches each run. “It’s hard to put to words,” he says. “Maybe that’s the beautiful part about it.” It always puts us in a better frame of mind, that’s for sure.
Being in the forest, where all elements are present, has an energy and a peace about it. Ever heard of forest bathing? Forest medicine was introduced in Japan years ago, encouraging people to get out in the wooded countryside of Japan. (Click here to read more.)
There is timeless wisdom in the woods, meadows, and mountainsides. Maybe that’s why it’s called God’s country. Enjoy it!
Today’s practice: Be in nature, no matter how small a patch. You can encounter life, naturally, wherever you are. It’ll help restore you, which you and I need every day. Below is a short video of one man’s encounter.