"My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earths loveliness" Michelangelo
Before there were any cultures, societies, or religions, before even languages or the first word spoken, there was the holy, sacred, and divine. This force lives in the stars, waters, sky, earth, trees, animals, and all creation. As nature is a creative force like the feminine, we consider nature a mother to all. Nature is also looms tall and strong as in great trees and mountains, so can be considered masculine as well.
It starts as a gift, and we are wise to embrace that gift wholeheartedly. Nature is our own heart and saving grace, and we consider nature God's true cathedral, church, temple, and sanctuary in many ways. In nature we often feel our most joyful, peaceful, and at home. In this rushed, complicated, and stressful civilized world we now live we need that feeling on a regular basis.
The great naturalist John Muir said "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." Unfortunately he also said that those who need nature the most are the least likely to pursue it. Ouch!
Many of us were fortunate enough to grow up in natural surroundings or have family and friends that took us out to nature's wilds for hiking, camping, and recreation, so learned a love for nature that is an important part of us. Yet these days many people have grown up isolated in cities far from anything natural. Also many people spend huge amounts of time gazing at television, computer, phone, or other screens rather than in true relationship and intimacy with nature or others.
A 2017 survey of 12,000 adults and children in the United States has shown that many people have lost a close connection with nature. The Nature of Americans National Report found that more than half of adults reported spending five hours or less in nature each week. Parents of children 8 to 12 years old said that their children spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside.
According to the report: "The findings from an unprecedented national study of Americans’ relationship to nature reveal an alarming disconnection, but also widespread opportunities for reconnecting. The results are prompting nature conservation, environmental education, and outdoor recreation leaders to rethink how they work to connect people with nature. The core premise of these recommendations is that connection to nature is not a dispensable amenity, but rather is essential to the health, economic prosperity, quality of life, and social well-being of all Americans,”
As we get older our love for nature and all things natural has only expanded, strengthened, and matured. One can describe dysfunctional life as claustrophobic: trapped, lost, and alone, but in nature we feel free, connected, and at home. Life and nature are so incredibly abundant, tenacious, diverse, and amazing that the love, peace and beauty are a joy to behold. Each of us has various aspects of our personal nature that are part of the bigger and greater nature of all creation and life.
We like to run through the different aspects of nature as a gratitude practice from before the birth of creation up until the evolution of the great intelligence and wisdom of mankind in the present. We start with the void of space, although nearly empty still holding the infinite intelligence of the universe, and to this benevolent womb of all that is to come we say hello and rest awhile in the dark, quiet vastness.
The sun is the center of our solar system and similarly a central figure in our experience of life, as without the suns, light, warmth, and energy we certainly wouldn't be here now.The sun is so massive, powerful and life giving, it also makes a great analogy for Higher Power, as it lights up everything from the smallest spaces to the most vast, and it's warmth and energy are absolutely necessary for us to exist and thrive.
Many of the elements that make up creation were born in the furnace of stars hearts and their fiery explosive deaths so we are the children of the stars just as we are children of God. Although the sun is vitally important for us it is likely most of us feel a deeper bond and love for our dear Mother Earth, for although we are ultimately made up of "stardust", it was in the womb of the ocean that life began and then emerged to land and sky to cover the planet in every possible form and environment in great diversity, complexity, tenacity, abundance, and beauty.
Next, we consider the vast variety of plant life in trees, grasses, ferns, flowering plants, and so on. Yes, these are our earliest ancestors, so also a huge and important branch on our family tree. Should we lose our amazing powers of reasoning, mobility, and awareness, it is said we return to this "vegetative state", yet even plants do in fact possess great powers of discernment as evidenced in this post: Do Plants, Insects, Reptiles, and Fish Think?
Following plants are the early "lower" life forms such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, and arthropods (insects/spiders/crustaceans). These creatures are cold blooded as evidenced in their nature as they are usually more solitary, combative rather than cooperative, often don't care for their young, and sometimes eat them! This is where consciousness took a major leap forward as evidenced in the ancient brain of the basil ganglia (brain stem) often called the reptilian or lizard brain due to it's basic functioning.
The next level is that of a Higher Power (please see Higher Power Sanity File) imagined at the gut level of intuition and our center and source. All of the power, presence, and wisdom of the universe finds a home here, and radiates out to all life and creation described above, as well as to the mammalian and human levels of child, adult, parent, leader, and champion described below.
The following level is a another major step forward with appearance of mammals and the limbic system or mammalian brain, as mammals take a much greater part in protecting, nurturing, and teaching offspring and others, and are very social creatures. Humans are a good example of this as we are protected, guided, and cared for by our parents and others for many years as a child and through-out our lives if we are fortunate. For many the tables eventually turn and we take care of parents and others when they reach old age.
This is also the beginnings of human nature with the child, and in adults as the inner child. This is perhaps the most loving, joyful, enthusiastic, authentic, and adventuresome part of us. Many of us had difficult childhoods, so our inner child has been locked away for years or decades. Consequently, it is also here where we have a great opportunity for healing. Unfortunately the child stages of development may be arrested in youth and hinder us through-out our lives unless, we find help and healing. For more on this please see the Inner Child and Twelve Step Sanity Files.
The next level of our nature is at the level of the reasoning, rational, and mature mind of the adult. This is also another level of brain development as evidenced by the vast intelligence of the frontal cortex. Mature adults enjoy self confidence, autonomy, decisiveness, and are generally practical, purposeful, and experienced. (see Adult State Sanity File). This position seems like the best place to be but can be woefully shortsighted without the joyful, creative, and authentic inner child, and the caring, nurturing influence of the inner parent/leader as well as the wise influences of nature and our Higher Power.
The upper level of human nature is that of parent, but also leaders such as teachers, bosses, managers, supervisors, and (wise) politicians. We also like to add less common, but no less important leaders such as warriors, super-heroes, and kings and queens. Please see Inner Parent Sanity File, and for the inner hero see Hero's Journey Sanity File.
Growing up we yielded to family, cultural, and other influences that sometimes walled us off from these important parts of ourselves and a false self arose to try and protect us and cope with our world . This false self has often been running our lives for years or decades in a useless attempt to keep us safe and secure in a cocoon of denial and isolation. Our wholistic and greatest nature is the True Self. This is our deepest and most important nature as it encompasses all of the universe, all life forms, our Higher Power, and our humanity. For more, please see the True Self Sanity File.
Another aspect of our nature is called the Triune Brain. This post explores how it can be said we have a three part personality of the reptilian brain (brain stem), mammalian brain (limbic system), and intellectual brain (neocortex). This dynamic was mentioned above, but this post goes into greater detail and shows how our intelligence and compassion can be lost when we feel threatened or hurt.
If our fight or flight response is triggered our primal instincts take over and our body, heart, and mind are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol like a fire raging through a forest. When that happens pain may lead to anger, and hurt to hate and violence. Over the long run our whole body suffers and sickens leading to many kinds of illness and disease. Awareness is the key to understanding, wisdom, and transformation so we don't lose our heads or hearts.
Our intention is to lead with the heart and use our intelligence and instincts to support us. This way dangerous and destructive emotions and chemicals give way to beneficial ones such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, and feelings of love, caring, and kindness. Plato saw these three parts of our nature as a charioteer with two wild horses. Much like our modern lives, he describes the journey as difficult and troublesome, but necessary to guide the soul to truth.
Why do we consider understanding of all our various aspects of our nature as necessary, even indispensable? Because these are our very essence, and so essential to intentionally include in our day to day experience of life. These are all YOU. and to know you is to love you. Otherwise parts of your beautiful, wonderful, and divine Self will stay lost in the shadows. You are worth it! all of you! Worth all the loving kindness, caring, and protection you can provide.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely said that " We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree, but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul. We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles, Meantime within man is the soul of the whole: the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is related; the Eternal One."
We offer a link to a very surprising post to help you feel the awe and wonder that is an intrinsic part of the natural world called Sacred Geometry The post shows how not just naturalists, but scientists of all sorts are finding evidence of a great intelligence and wisdom through-out creation. The "finger prints of God" they have found are truly amazing and inspiring.
Unfortunately our dear Mother/Father Nature is being assailed on many fronts and faces a number of dire emergencies. As we are intimately connected with nature in a myriad of ways, this is a wake up call for humanity as well, hopefully before it is too late. For information on pollution, overpopulation, dwindling resources, and other pressing issues we need to address click here.
We hope you will be inspired to do what you can to help all life and nature thrive out of the deep sense of love and appreciation that we feel. We want to finish on a positive note with wise words of our favorite naturalist John Muir, a video series of Lee Stetson's inspiring portrayal of John Muir here, and images of Nature in all it's beautiful and majestic glory.
Here are links to some of the favorite places we enjoy in the Southern California: A Day In Yosemite June Lake Palm Springs Santa Barbara San Diego Monterey Big Bear Lake Sequoia Park Mammoth Lakes