I like to think of myself as a part of nature rather than a ruler over it. A tree is obviously a part of nature because it is rooted into the ground. But just because we can move on the earth doesn’t make us any less connected with it. Thus, I think we would do well to heed the patterns of nature:
Nature Never Struggles
Perhaps the most powerful observation of nature is how it never struggles to accomplish its purpose. All things in nature live in a state of total grace and bliss, completely connected to life itself. All things unfold with complete ease and effortlessness. As Jesus said:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29)
This is an important lesson to learn. Let go of your struggles, don’t toil or spin. Just like the flowers, your most beautiful creations will not come as the result of struggle, but from a place of easy, effortless flow.
Nature is Abundant
The lavishness of nature is amazing. Sometimes it can be overwhelmingly abundant. Nature strikes a delicate balance between having all that it can use to express itself, and yet it is never wasteful. This is a good example of how we should approach abundance.
If you pay attention to your desires for abundance, they all serve the very same purpose. You want them because they will allow your most perfect expression to come alive. Somewhere inside of you there is a perfect expression of who you really are (your Dharma, your purpose) waiting to be awakened. Finding and expressing this IS abundance.
On the surface you may desire financial abundance, but what you really desire is the freedom and opportunity that money brings. The desire for an abundance of strong relationships is really the desire for the expression of connection and love. Behind all your desires for abundance, you will find that you really desire to express the truest depths of you.
Nature will always give you what you need to do this. The flower has all that it needs to create its beautiful petals. Birds have all they need to fly. And when you allow it, you have all the abundance that you need to express whoever you choose to be.
Nature Respects Cycles
Cycles are a part of life. Daily cycles, seasonal cycles, and cycles of birth and death. Nature has an inherent understanding of these things and it offers no resistance to them. Flowers seem happy to whither away, as if they know they will nourish the soil and allow a newer one to rise up in their place.
The lesson to learn here is that nothing lasts. All things pass away. Whatever you are experiencing now is merely the precursor to what you will be experiencing next. The cold winter nights always turn into the warm spring sun… and back again. Nature allows the cycles to happen and never fights them. In fact, it understands that the cycles are what allows life to flourish. If the tides only came inward, we would all drown.
Nature is Economical
Isn’t it amazing how nature leaves no leftovers? You don’t see a lion hoarding dozens of extra zebra carcasses out of gluttony, or a tree gathering up a year’s supply of the soil’s resources. Nature is extremely efficient, it uses exactly what it needs – no more and no less.
One of the surest ways to create suffering in your life is to be wasteful, or to selfishly hoard excess. I mentioned the abundance of nature, how it always gives you what you need for your fullest expression. This lesson is the other side of that coin. Don’t take more than you need. It only serves to inflate your false sense of self, or your ego, and it always leads to suffering.
You can find so much more joy in living a life that is simple, and perfectly suited to your needs. Of course, pursue all that your truest self desires, but the 4 cars you never drive, or the house with 12 empty bedrooms, probably doesn’t jive with your most honest expression.
Nature is Stubborn
If you dropped a tiger in the middle of the ocean, it would drown. If you uprooted a tree, it would die. Nature is stubborn, and it takes no shame in refusing to cooperate until it finds the perfect environment. The rose bush knows that the consequences of being pulled out of the soil are life threatening, so it does everything it can to stay in place.
The question is, what is your natural environment? Do you even know? Your feelings are your guide to whether you are in or out of your element. If you feel bad, it is time to move into a better feeling place.
How many times have you intuitively known that something wasn’t right for you, but you did it anyways? Have the courage to be stubborn about your feelings. Find the right circumstances that make you feel best. The consequences of not doing so are just as dire as a rosebush that has been uprooted.
Nature Isn’t Boring
Nature is incredibly diverse and complex. Nowhere on this planet can you find ‘one’ piece of nature, everything is beautifully interconnected. The words nature and boring cannot coexist. Even if you look at a plain yard of grass, there are dozens (hundreds?) of things going on.
Any time you truly look at something in life, you can never be bored or uninterested. It is all about broadening your perspective and paying attention. Observe the field of grass, make it into a meditation, and you’ll see how complex, fascinating, and beautiful it really is.
In the book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Socrates and Dan are walking through a park. Soc tells Dan to empty his mind and pay attention to the things going on around him. Dan glances out at the park, concluding that “nothing is going on.” Socrates grabs him by the shoulders, supernaturally slowing down time and they see literally thousands of things happening at once in the small park. He replies, “There is never nothing going on.”
Nature Loves Stillness
While there are an endless number of things happening around you, they all take place with an undercurrent of calm stillness. All of the actions in life are built on top of the calm, timeless element of nature.
If you think about it, stillness is the canvas on which life is painted. Each noise, form, or event is simply a layer painted upon the canvas. Eventually the noise subsides and stillness always returns. This shows that stillness is the source of all these things, without stillness, there is no canvas to be painted. Stillness gives birth to noise, the formless gives birth to all the forms.
This is an excellent meditation. Look for the stillness in the gaps between noise, or even underneath the noise. If you look hard enough, you will always find it.
Nature Lives in Joy
You would be hard-pressed to find an unhappy oak tree. Nature seems to have no alternative to bliss. Look at ants, you may honor their work ethic, but they’re not getting up at the crack of dawn, pushing the snooze button, and ‘forcing’ themselves to go look for crumbs. To them, scouring the earth for a drop of honey is the most blissful thing imaginable.
It is only humans that have separated life into compartments of good/bad, or wanted/unwanted. When you get in touch with your true nature, nothing is outside the state of bliss.
Nature is Timeless
Ask the grasshopper what time it is and, after a puzzled look, she will reply “right now, I guess.” Nothing in nature, other than humans, understands the illusions of past and future.
Sure, there are a series of experiences that move from one to the next, but this is always done in the Now. It is a simple truth that you cannot escape this moment, no matter how hard you try. Like your shadow, the Now follows you everywhere you go.
The real lesson here is to surrender to this moment, knowing that you can never get away from it. That type of surrender can be one of the most powerful choices you will ever make. Try to look past the illusions of time and you can return to your natural state of excitement and aliveness.
Nature is Interdependent
Try to trace back all of the things you need for survival. Let’s just take food, for an example. In order to have a piece of bread, you need wheat. The wheat needs earth, water, sun, and air to grow. It also needs a farmer to harvest it. Then it gets to a bakery where it is processed with other ingredients, all with their own needs. Of course, the baker and farmer have needs as well.
The only conclusion is that everything is dependent on all that exists. If you look back far enough, you will have to conclude that a stalk of wheat in Nebraska is somehow dependent on a sparrow in South Africa. Nothing can be separated from anything else.
Everything you see, and many things you don’t see, are working together to help you thrive. It would be incorrect to think that nature is comprised of many trillions of different living organisms. The reality is, each of those forms are just different angles of the one thing – Nature.
Image Credit: emmett.hume