Thursday, December 12, 2013

NATURE’S A MIRROR – Why Shining Our Light Enlightens Us

I started my book, Under the Wild Ginger, as a collection of essays about noticing and exploring the world around us. As I considered which pieces to include, a friend with whom I’d been sharing some of my ideas pointed out how much more interesting the collection would be if it included an appreciation of the wonders within us.

As I considered his suggestion, what really convinced me was my belief that
what we see—or, perhaps more accurately, what we choose to see—is, in fact, a reflection of who we are.

One can’t be moved by Nature’s splendor without letting oneself be moved. And this is by no means a given. Take a walk in the woods, and even those of us who see ourselves as Nature lovers often have a hard time noticing the incredible details right in front of our noses. We appreciate being there…but we’re not all there.

    What we so often fail to realize is that Nature 
    can heal many of those hurts if we let her.

It’s not for lack of the right tools; most of us have reasonably well-developed senses. It’s because we’re so used to having our whole world revolve around “bigger” concepts. Business people looking for the next big thing; consultants promoting a new paradigm; friends simply distracted by their own commitments, conquests or simply coping. Whatever it is within us that hungers for a connection with things more universal, more timeless, it’s just not able to find its way out.

For others, the problem may be more than just being too busy. Too often, there’s genuine pain, from injury, loss or disappointment. It’s hard to put yourself out there when you hurt. And in a way that’s even more of a shame, because what we so often fail to realize is that Nature can heal many of those hurts if we let her.

I don’t consider myself a religious person, yet I’m quite spiritual. I believe
that everything and everyone is an embodiment of what I call God, an incomprehensibly vast and powerful force of beauty, goodness and love.

We are all, somewhere at our cores, sweet, innocent children. Problem is, our parents, our culture, our circumstances and, in some cases, a genetic or chemical roll of the dice has stifled that pure goodness, heaping layer upon layer of muck
on top of it: ambition, expectation, responsibility and guilt, to name a few.

And technology, like a delicious dish or drink best consumed in moderation, only goes so far before it becomes presence’s undoing. For too many of us, it’s discrediting every last excuse we have for not being
able to do everything, for anyone, all the time.

So truly connecting with Nature and wonder is about removing some of those layers. Rather than following the workaday world’s mantra of making things happen, this is about slowing down, quieting the voices that drive us, restoring healthy boundaries and letting things happen—things that, as it turns out, were there all the time.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, just as we learn to let Nature’s little hidden wonders find us, we would all devote the time and attention it takes to peel back some of our innermost layers and find ourselves? It might be a dirty, smelly job, but chances are what we’d find is something very good indeed. In fact, this innate, inner goodness is the one essential gift which, no matter what our condition in life—rich or poor, educated or self-taught, able-bodied or hobbled—we have to share with the world.

               Unlike more tangible gifts, 
               this one, if not given, is lost.

One of my favorite spirituality thinkers and writers, Marianne Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, wrote about that essential good, that inner light that shines within each of us:

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Every day, I try to let these brilliant words hold sway over all the lessons of modesty and self-denial I was taught growing up. I remind myself that every single person I pass that day represents my chance to shine my light. Whether it’s by helping them, listening to them or simply greeting them with a smile and a kind word, that’s the gift I have to share. And, unlike more tangible gifts, this one, if not given, is lost.

If only it were as easy extending this blessing to God’s other creations. Too often, even if we’re successful in uncovering our inner, curious child, our understanding of Nature is superficial. We take her for granted, assuming that, because we so long to be with her, she’ll always be there and will always welcome us.

But that assumption fails to understand her sheer frailty, the damage we’ve already inflicted on her, and her urgent need for the same kind of understanding and care we’d give a vulnerable friend or a child.

By loving Nature superficially—wanting what she gives but failing to understand what she needs—we end up loving her to death. And in Nature we mustn’t forget that, as powerful as that image of shining one’s light may be, it’s only half the picture.

Remember the premise I started with: what we see reflects who we are? The other half of the picture is letting our light shine back into us. For it is that energy—which, as Williamson says, also kindles it in others—that recharges our own ability to shine in the first place. Whether it’s in Nature or with other human beings, only by giving that energy—the energy I call seeing generously—can we receive it.

Shine on, my friends!


Anonymous said...

What I notice within my world view is that when I change my knowledge, or when I loosen a stance... or when I get over something... jump a hurdle.... the world that seems to be outside rearranges its self to accommodate what I have collected within... which creates a filtering system which seems to activate what we see or pixalate and highlight what we focus in on within the so-called outer world. Its like opening up a door and entering a new universe as if what seemed solid was able to unravel and morph into a new form... showing to me that we are actually living in a dream. And so the more we change within, the more the outer world then reflects our change or viewing angle. This then collaborates the story of witnessing miracles. When a block is overcome... when something is resolved, when something is let go of or forgiven... a whole new world opens up to reflect our newest projections. This then excites the senses... and we feel alive and say we have been touched by god.... when we become one with god. ... and so it is this ongoing change ... which does not have to be linear... and if it is linear.... the dream goes unnoticed... but when we can just drop who we think we are... which is just imagined.... the ego identity we have created... and put on momentarily a new costume... a new perspective.... we become multi-dimensional... shifting how perceive reality and fit into the whole. Its like scrambling your frequency range and entering into a new channel... where each channel is a new mask to look through... a new lens of opportunity... a new outlook on life. With each costume change... the players that were here before... then too change in how they react to the new perceived you... showing again... that the world moves and changes its rhythm as we change the dance we are waltzing to.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bern. Obviously, you've thought a good deal about this idea of projected and reflected reality. I suppose you had many opportunities to see it in action on your recent PCT trek!

Vishnu said...

Hi Jeff - loved this post and insights you shared by Marianne Williamson. We (or may of us and I'm using the collective 'we') spend 0 percentage of our time on ourselves and our connections with nature. Instead we are trying to build in the external world. We are building up layers instead of tearing them down.

I and some of the people I know are refusing to play by the games and rules society has set up for us which rewards us for achievements and accomplishments and doesn't value us for simply being. I can't wait for the day that society as a whole becomes more conscious - I presume it starts with each one of us.

Happy holidays!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Many thanks for your thoughtful comments, Vishnu. This fits so well with your latest post at Vishnu's Virtues about self-criticism -- definitely a mucky, awareness-miring, happiness-clogging layer over our true selves!
I had just been thinking about my hopes for a world of greater consciousness and agree that it starts with you and me.

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