Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nourish Your Soul with Nature

just a little note: i wrote this piece in my regular column in a magazine in its Fall-Winter on...

Typhoon Megi just left the country and there’s another one coming. It’s late October, it’s Autumn in the other side of the Earth and early evening rains are wildly pouring as I write this. There is a sudden breath of cool breeze wafting my neighbor’s early simmering supper. Times like these, I remember as a child, were times of excitement. The first rains of May, the advent of the wet season in the Asian Tropical Belt, were times of exhilaration. We’d rush out of the house, and exhaust ourselves to a game of tag under the drenching rain. And early next day, we’d “fish” for tadpoles and collect them in little clear bottles we saved from the mayonnaise mom used for the homemade hamburger, hotdog or chicken sandwiches (fast food was unheard of back then, and that’s another story). There is something extremely beautiful about the outdoors. About Nature herself...

Nature truly heals. I seem to have gained another perspective in life after my solitary silent retreat weekend in my hermitage. Solitude was a delicious mix of an unstructured string of adventures. “Meditation with Nature” began with waking up to rooster crows before daybreak. My room being beside the little chapel, affords me the opportunity to easily creep up to sit on the floor of this sacred space in quiet abandon. The call of the outdoors was completed by birds’ numerous calls and songs, which I obeyed by inner guidance as I slid slowly into the garden. Munting Bukal (the Little Spring hermitage) is home to about 10 varieties of flowering shrubs. Part of the meditation was to get to know each of them, not only by name, but by color, feel, number of petals, and smell. Then I moved on to thank the trees for their shade and fragrant sweet scent. Then I continued…smiling at the chilly air touching my face, watching a spider weave its web, enjoying freshly-cut grass from nearby, chasing butterflies (there were many!), listening to sounds of far-off neighbors’ laughter, dogs barking, children playing, and busy bees buzzing. The sun is up by this time and I thought an Oriental exercise would be perfect ending: waving hands by the lake, floating silk in the air, expanding chest on the mountain, painting the rainbow, Earth’s scent moving up, and thirteen more movements. I noticed even my exercise is indeed inspired by nature. I silently admired my Chinese ancestors. They must have been so connected to creation. Deep down inside me, I hunger for this. Which is why I make it a point to reconnect with nature regularly…

When I reached Manila, I made follow-up “quiet sittings” in a Monastery chapel east of the city (the quietest place in the Metro so far). My “quiet sitting” means just that. To sit quietly, emptying thoughts of whatever comes. To do this, I created an imagined idyllic natural scenery that I adopt. That is the same place I go back to when meditation time comes, when I need it most. It is my intimate space I claim as my own. I don’t only “go” to this “place” when in meditation, but also when I need to pause during a panicky day, or when something really irritating happens at home or in my workplace. My imagined picturesque space is a narrow river with its nurturing waters. I imagine all my thoughts like falling leaves, dropping, descending, plunging gently into the waters, flowing with the current, out…out flowing out to sea, where all rivers end.

Solitude with nature is like a gentle caress for the soul. To renew our mind, body and spirit, we need to make time to go to a solitary place where nature and me are alone and spend time to get to know each other. Sometimes we cannot do this physically and so we do it meditatively. The benefits of relating with nature and meditation are numerous. Connecting with nature opens up our sense of the sacred. We begin to be care-full. We begin to touch gently and handle creation lovingly. Neuropsychologists have discovered that meditation decreases activity in the left parietal lobe of the brain and therefore increases the practice of selflessness. “People with these selfless spiritual experiences also are more psychologically healthy, especially if they have positive beliefs...” ( Science Daily, Dec 22, 2008) In emptying our thoughts when in silence, we increase our ability to yield more to others, and be more tolerant and understanding. In a most gentle and loving way, we learn to respect Life…

A certain thought dancing through my head: this wonder-full expression of reconnecting with Nature can be traced back to the beginning of time – to the beginnings of the Universe, of life on Earth. Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry articulates it elegantly in their “The Universe Story” : The universal order that holds things together in a comprehensive embrace can be presented in mathematical equations. But it can be and consistently has been presented in mythic form. From earliest times, this vast embrace bonding all things together in the magnificence of the entire created order has been understood in the maternal metaphor of the Great Mother. It was the fecundity and the nurturing quality of the universe that so impressed the earliest humans. This principle of fecundity and this nurturing quality we can now identify with that grand curvature of the universe, for this indeed is the creative and nurturing context of all that exists.” (B. Swimme and T. Berry, 1992, The Universe Story, pp 219-220)

Romancing the stars and the waxing moon that night in my hermitage was truly revivifying. I imagined every tissue in my body regenerating. It was invigorating. I felt reconciled with my mind, my body and my spirit. I felt for most of the people out there in the night…Sometimes we come from a brokenness that just needs some space to pick up the pieces, no hurry. Sometimes we come from a fragmented, disfigured, crippled relationship. We feel shattered, battered and bruised. Sometimes we do feel like we need to find our Selves again, to revive what is weakening, and to restore some “soul” in us. Humanity is writhing in pain. All of humanity as well as Earth community. And in the midst of all this, Life continues. Growing, loving, peacemaking, giving, thanking, and above all hoping.

At this very moment, after reading this piece, do go out and touch a leaf, feel its contours, its smoothness or roughness. Or drive yourself through the more picturesque side of your route to work. Or go out in the early evening and just feel the night slowly yielding to darkness. Or place your hand in the middle of your chest and feel your heartbeat…your blood flowing…just like the river in my imagination...just like all rivers, our blood flows…for Life is Beautiful. Go gently...

(thanks to friends all over, for pictures...)


  1. Maraming salamat... ang gaganda ng mga sulat niyo. mabuhay ho kayo!

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