A Field Guide to Life – Practicing Nature’s Way

by Brad on January 1, 2013

This installment of A Field Guide to Life offers some exercises you can begin right now as a way to integrate nature’s way into your own life. It challenges you to go beyond ‘knowing’ into the realm of personal experience, where true learning happens.


Practices for Personal Transformation

We rarely experience any dramatic change in life because we live largely on autopilot, unaware of our thinking, or the underlying beliefs that drive it. A practice is an exercise done repeatedly with the intention of interrupting this incessant flow of thought, creating a conscious shift in perspective. Awareness of your thinking allows you to make conscious new choices, naturally, causing new habits to replace old ones. Simple practices offer felt experience of bold, life-changing ideas. Here are a few simple practices I encourage you to make part of your life.

Observe your thoughts: As you notice your thoughts, you realize you not only have them, but have a relationship with them. The practice: Stop what you’re doing several times a day. During these moments of quiet reflection, replay in your mind thoughts you’ve had since the last time you stopped, as if a movie with you as its audience. Listen to what they tell you. Don’t try to change them. Just notice. With a regular self-observation practice, you will (1) come to know your own thoughts, (2) hear subtle messages of your inner truth, (3) see that only your thoughts determine your experience of reality, (4) separate life’s events from the interpretation of those events you created with your thinking, which releases judgment from your life, (5) see life from a far broader perspective, thereby creating a much bigger world, instantly, (6) make new choices easily and naturally (simply because you now can), (7) become an observer skilled enough to see things as they occur.

Quiet time in Nature: As multi-dimensional beings, we must care for mind, body, heart, soul, spirit, and relationships. To favor only one or two is to become out of balance. Quiet time in nature nurtures the whole self. You are part of nature. Nature renews and refreshes. Denying an experience of that deep and primordial connection is a primary cause of the societal and personal malaise, depression, stress, and loss of spirit we experience today. The practice: For an hour or so twice a week (every day if you can), just be in nature. Don’t do anything; just experience the gifts nature offers. Ideally you might find a special location, one you could think of as your own, so as you return over and over, you get to know the place in a special way. Being in nature doesn’t mean sitting under a tree and talking politics with a friend; it doesn’t mean taking the back road to the mall. It means purposeful, quiet, reflective time alone in the natural world. Connect deeply to your source.

Self-Observation in Nature: As a step toward living a life inspired by nature, you might start by listening to your environment, and see what it might teach you. The practice: Separate from the practices suggested above, sit quietly in nature, maybe the same spot as above. Direct your awareness inward instead of outward. For 20 minutes: be aware of your being; ask yourself, “who am I?” Just listen. For 20 minutes more, be aware of being part of nature as opposed to separate. Ask yourself, “in what ways am I ‘at one’ with this space in which I sit, with all that surrounds me?” For 20 minutes more, write about whatever comes up for you. Do this exercise several times a week regardless of weather. You may discover on your ownthat we are one – connected to universe, every living thing, others, inner self. You may begin to see life’s inherent uncertainty as an exciting opening to new possibility. Your experience is deeply personal; honor it for the gift that it is.  


Toward a New Way of Seeing

Our planet’s original cultures lived in harmony with nature, in a worldview, or map, that depicted everything – energy, matter, consciousness, spirit, indeed all of life, both animate and inanimate – “as one.” Over the millennia, however, pressures from cultural development, religion and science have shifted our belief system, leading us far astray from this reverent and reciprocal relationship with our world. In learning from society that what others think matters more than what we think, learning from science that life is mechanistic, and learning from religion that spirit resides “somewhere else,” we’ve given away the deepest, most authentic, part of self, the oneness that has always been the underlying and unifying source of our existence. That was the one aspect of life to which original cultures held most strongly in the face of “intruders.” It was the core of their way of life. Yet the intruders couldn’t even understand the viewpoint, say nothing of appreciate its significance. By shifting perspective in a dramatic way, however, we can now regain that which we have lost.

As is true on any new roadways, travel becomes habitual with practice. You need the roadmap only for the first several trips; soon you know your own way. Although a map to the territory of your entire life may be more complex than a map to a new workplace, the process is the same. Learning to navigate new roadways with confidence and skill creates new habits, which means they become life-long companions for your journey.   

You’re going to encounter a lot of small-minded people on the path to your greatest potential. Many will be people you know today. Taking a stand for your own authentic truth sets you apart from the crowd. Your choice to see and think in ways that diverge from the status quo represent a threat to that status quo, so you won’t gain much support from others. In fact, the more you step forward, the stronger their voices may become. Yet if the so-called prevailing wisdom were that “wise,” those same vocal people would be leading happier, more fulfilling lives right now instead of bitching at you for the courage you’re displaying to do just that. Those who spend their lives putting others down are not the ones who will be changing the world. Put your seatbelt on; the journey ahead is fun, inspiring, challenging … and extraordinary. 

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