Does this picture make you smile?
Well I certainly smiled when I came across this scene on the small beach near my home. Someone had been playing with shells and stones, finding different ways to place them all over the pohutukawa tree that sprawled down to the water’s edge.
When I saw the sun shining through the scallop shell, I felt a sense of wonder at nature’s beauty. In fact I was so captivated that it’s only now, as I look again at the photo, that I’ve noticed the broken limb.
In my last newsletter I spoke of how I took ‘wonder in nature’ as my January theme, with almost daily postings on my Facebook page. These posts were very well received, and many people added their own thoughts (thank you; you know who you are).
Of all these posts, there was one that stood out. It received a huge number of responses.
Can you guess which it was from this selection?:—flax pods gleaming, a punga grove, rain & refreshment, night falling, waves breaking, nikau pods falling, the voices of a stream, leaves in sunlight, tide ebbing & flowing, the colour blue, seedlings growing.
The most popular subject
It was about the tides. This is what I wrote:
‘I thought of the way tides mark the rhythm of our lives, rising to fullness, then ebbing to emptiness.
The tides remind us how our own low ebbs will not last, that there will be a turning. And they remind us how our own fullness will also turn, and we will be emptied out again as we release what is no longer needed.’
Nature is full of teachings, and my guess is that the teaching was what people responded to.
It is the same with the seasons: there is much to learn from the movement of the sun cycle throughout the year. And the movement of the moon cycles.
Nature’s rhythms are wondrous. They express a great mystery of unfoldment and change.
Isn’t all this an indulgence if you are struggling?
Many people think that cultivating a sense of wonder and spiritual connection is ‘just the icing on the cake.’
But in fact it is an essential part of the cake. It’s the yeast that makes the cake rise. Without it, the cake is dense and flat.
It’s the life force, moving through matter, that transforms matter.
This is why I emphasise the return to wonder, connection with the life spirit in all things, joy, inspiration and life energy. Some will find this in spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, contemplation and chanting. Others will find it in creativity, loving relationships, singing, and other forms of music.
There is another way as well.
How nature provides
This is the way of nature connection. As a child you may have been very open to the spirit of nature. You may have memories of special places—beside a tree, a stream, a hill, or a garden perhaps.
I vividly remember sitting under the runner bean trellis when I was about three years old. There I found a dried-up pod, which I opened to discover fat purple and black seeds, snuggling in their furry hollows. The unexpected sight was pure magic!
Being one with nature
A Zen master of a large community in Europe said,
‘I remembered as a child having experiences of wonder and identity with the world. I felt an identity with the hills, seeing them dance, and the rivers in between.’
As he grew up many distractions took him away from such experiences. Then one evening he went to a talk at a university. An Indian swami spoke about the world of nature and mystery, and wept as he did so. The future Zen master was deeply affected by what he heard and saw. He said:
‘and I began to remember again that innocent connection to my childhood. When you realise how much you’ve lost, you have to go looking again for those moments when your spirit first came alive.’ *
‘Those moments when your spirit first came alive.’
This is why I begin my Sacred Earth course with a powerful ‘self-planting’ meditation that takes participants back to those moments. From this reawakening something is activated that flows through into a person’s life.
The rhythms of the seasons take me back to those moments, with the perpetual wonder I’ve felt since childhood at the movement of life through summer, autumn, winter and spring, year by year.
Going back to those moments is what took me on a quest to Taranaki a decade ago to be on my maunga—mountain—rediscover my Maori teacher, and sit again by my sacred river where I spent many hours as a child. That connection filled my soul and helped me to deal with the harsher side of life in a small rural school where bullying was the norm. **
When you are connected with spirit, all relationships improve, new possibilities open up, and the hardships of life are leavened.
Essential to life
Connecting with spirit and a sense of wonder is essential to life. It is the breath in the body, the voice of the waters, the sparkle of the stars and the bubbling yeast that opens up your life and shows you new possibilities.
It is not the icing on the cake, it is the yeast that rises the cake and makes it melt in your mouth.
* The story of the Zen master comes from Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.
** I’ve written about this in my childhood memoir, Touching Snow
This post is an extract from the Seasons Newsletter. To receive the newsletter by email, you may sign up on the home page of this website and receive a free audio meditation.