by Elle Harrigan
Nature surrounds us with infinite beauty and ancient wisdom. By immersing ourselves in the wild and deepening our awareness, we awaken to the voice of our soul.
What is it that wakes you up in the morning? An alarm clock with a snooze button that you hit for an extra five or ten minutes? A rousing blast of Bohemian Rhapsody from your mobile device? The smell of coffee?
For me, it’s one of two possible scenarios: The soft light of daybreak filtering through my curtains or the cat persistently pouncing on my head, demanding to be fed.
In either case, I’m up, but not truly awake until I’ve showered, dressed, had breakfast, driven to work, and — after a few blessed moments of solitude — flick on the computer and settle myself at my work desk.
Being “awakened” in the spiritual sense is often like this: it may take several soft nudges, thundering reminders, or inescapable shoves for a lightbulb to go on that tells us that things need to change in our lives. Sudden loss or illness, relationship break-ups, financial catastrophe, or a global crisis like a pandemic, all shake us out of our walking slumber like a giant hand on our shoulder demanding that we “wake the f*ck up!”
Do we? Let’s be honest. Knowing that change is needed, that there’s more within us that we’re simply not tapping into, doesn’t shift us into action mode until we commit to THE WORK.
But, uggghh, the thought of working towards some kind of enlightenment dampens our enthusiasm. Meditate? No time. Therapy? Don’t want to dig up the past. Prayer? Not religious. Excuses. Excuses.
I want to invite you to do this one thing: walk to a window that looks out on natural scenery. If this doesn’t exist where you live, then take a drive. Find a meadow, a wooded glen, a quiet pond. Without any intrusion (a partner, your earbuds, your fur baby), simply focus on what is around you. Really look at your surroundings.
How many different colors do you see? If it’s mid-summer, and everything is green, try to identify the shades, tones, and gradations. Think of the 100 count box of crayons you craved as a child, and all the colors of green it contained: pale chartreuse, bright lime, crisp apple, deep evergreen.
Now shift your visual lens from wide angle to macro so that you’re able to examine the minute details of what’s directly in front of you. How many different textures do you see? The more intently you look, the more nature’s canvas explodes into multitudes of tactile details: rough bark, smooth stones, brittle pinecones, soft dandelion fluff, silky flower petals. The number is only limited by your vocabulary to describe them. There’s so much to take in, you’re suddenly aware that a minute has stretched into an hour.
Are you losing yourself in this exercise? The answer should be, “Yes.” What you’re losing is your Ego Mind’s attachment to planning (what do I have to do today?), worrying, stressing, regretting, dwelling. In essence, you’re fully present in the quiet space between thoughts.
Psychologist Christophe André, who wrote a lovely little book titled, Looking at Mindfulness, calls this “immersive awareness.” We immerse ourselves so deeply in deliberate awareness that we can’t be anywhere else but HERE. NOW. And nature generously offers us its majesty, its divinity, its sacredness as a cathedral that invites contemplation.
Over the past three years, I’ve nurtured this practice by foraging in the wild to create what my fellow makers call earth and land art. It’s not unusual for symbolic shapes to emerge as we craft our artworks: spirals, circles, yin and yang, and mandalas. These symbols are embedded in the human psyche like guideposts that point to the spiritual journey from outer to inner consciousness. They are universal in meaning and rise up like a whisper from the depths of our being when we are acutely present.
I call my practice kinesthetic meditationbecause you enter a contemplative state through your senses. It’s meditative because when you’re captivated by nature, you drift into mindfulness that activates your intuition, revealing your true self and desires. You hear the voice of your soul.
Awakening your inner senses can be as simple and life-changing as opening your eyes to the wild.
“The whole secret of the study of nature lies in learning how to use one’s eyes.” — George Sand