After I published my last essay On the Beauty of Us I went down to my nearby beach, reliably isolated on a grey day. The tide was low, beginning to come in, gently rippling in the nearby tide pools. I could feel these ripples continuing through the waters within my body, only the faint outline of myself remaining. Later it dawned on me how easily receptive I can be near the water. I love to merge with the vastness of the ocean. Enveloped and nourished, I am soothed in her deep embrace. Relaxing, sinking so deeply, I return to the true nature of myself.
In Becoming Animal, David Abram describes the underlying significance of our absorption in nature:
When we speak of the human animal’s spontaneous interchange with the animate landscape, we acknowledge a felt relation to the mysterious that was active long before any formal or priestly religions. The instinctive rapport with the enigmatic cosmos at once both nourishing and dangerous lies at the ancient heart of all that we have come to call ‘the sacred.’ Temporarily forgotten, paved over yet never eradicated, this old reciprocity with the breathing earth was here long before all our formal religions, and it will likely outlast all our formal religions. For it has always been operative underneath our various religions, nourishing them from below like a subterranean river.
. . . Our greatest hope for the future rests not in the triumph of any single set of beliefs, but in the acknowledgment of a felt mystery that underlies all doctrines . . . the human body’s implicit faith in the steady sustenance of the air and the renewal of light every dawn, its faith in mountains and rivers and the enduring support of the ground, in the silent germinations of the seeds and the cyclical return of the salmon.
Each of us finds our unique connection to the earth and stars, discovering what draws us closer. Mystery requires total presence, being right here in this moment – body, mind, nature – one intertwined whole. We embody aliveness and wholeness in the here and now. Submerging in natural waters, climbing majestic peaks, walking barefoot in the grass, feeling the sun on our skin, we find our own improvisational way of relating to nature. Our rapport is ours alone, and yet the quality of our listening, and the depth of our response, can transform the collective texture of the real. Here Abram underlines how our participation with the earth matters. We change the world by entering into it fully, and in turn we feel ourselves more deeply. We directly experience that we are part of a mysterious moving presence. As we deepen in this reciprocity with nature, we forge our own path born of what we love, what touches our heart. Our love for the world grows from our own body knowing, from our instinctual connection to how we feel when we play and move on the earth.
What touches our heart also draws us into the heart of nature, to our unique source connection, bypassing our thinking mind. The mystery is not something to be understood, it is a communion to be felt in the silence. Each of us then expresses our individual nature out of what mysteriously arises within us.
The elemental energies of nature nourish us in essential ways. Coming back to the fresh breezes, how we are held by the air all around us, how it moves through our nostrils and animates our lungs is a simple start. Squishing our toes into the bare ground and sunning our naked bodies work wonders. There is increasing research on how natural light affects us. Viewing the sunrise and exposing our bare eyes and skin to the morning infrared rays, for at least a half hour, is a vital reset. And the evening sunset helps attune our circadian rhythms to slowing down for the night. Taking our computers outside during the day balances the blue light they emit. Each of the elements affect our bodies and their relationship with the living land differently.
Simply walking, being with the rhythm of our walk, is yet another way to both feel ourselves inside, unite the inner and outer – and enter into the mystery. In The Listening Book, W.A. Mathieu writes of being a young boy walking home from school through deep maple and sycamore woods, playing with the rhythm of his walking, the ongoing left, right, left:
It was during this homestretch that the possibility of a world beyond my skin and greater than my ego might arise, depending on the light. I remember flickering moments when the two-step cycle and the physical joy it contained would damp down within the late shadows. Straightening up and looking around, I could see I was in a protective green dome of the nature I had come from. The woods and my walking were woven together. The left-right in my rocking body, the pulsing canopy of trees, the histories of ideas in my books, all became a single pulse, boom-chick, with many simultaneous frequencies and meanings. I was happy and overcome by a feeling of wholeness. The two-beat of my walking broke open the mystery of being alive.
There are so many ways to open to the aliveness all around us. One of my favorites is immersing myself in the soundscapes of nature. From birdsong to tweets and raucous squawking, I become aware of the many bird communities and conversations surrounding me. Or I listen to the gurgling stream flowing over the rocks, the sound of rippling waves, or the patter of the rain. All of this goes deeper into my body if I focus on the space within at the same time. As I receive the impressions of the world around me inside, I enter into a felt sense of the continuum that I am with nature.
I think back to lazing in a hammock on a summer day, lost in the gentle swishing of the leaves in the trees, the birds in the background, or the hypnotic murmur of the crowds spread out on the beach, in contrast to the crashing waves, when I was young on the Jersey shore. Hearing sound at a distance expands us, we spread out over the land reaching to take it all in, or drift in the wash of it all. Nourished and lulled, we fall into the present moment, into the fullness of nature.
Imagine how deeply attentive to the sounds and landscapes our ancestors were. We have these skills inherent within us, and I suspect they are more important to our survival now than we realize. In times of chaos, our ability to discern how our body feels inside, and the meaning of what we are hearing and seeing outside, is vital to our safety. The intelligence of nature draws us into our senses to create communion, to feel our own wholeness, and as well to discern when something is amiss. Our participation with nature is increasingly vital at this time. To be present and in relation with everything around us strengthens, protects, and keeps us healthy and whole in the midst of a technological world that pulls on our attention ever more.
I leave you with the following stunning description of the wonder and mystery that can emerge by listening and immersing oneself in the day:
Ubud, Bali, 22 March, 1989 entitled Most Perfect Music also from The Listening Book:
As the sunset begins I am writing on the balcony. Below me, flooded fields of new rice seem especially peaceful after the noisy weeks of harvesting and plowing. No herds of ducks, no tractors, no water buffalo, just curved sky and flat water. At the banjar (meeting house) two hundred meters across the fields, a drummer is playing a hollowed-out log down from a crossbeam, its end has been slit so that it produces two pitches a small minor and a third apart. The drummer is sitting cross-legged on the floor, stroking the metabolism of an evening in love, sometimes waiting long seconds between strokes, sometimes setting a stately, even pace, almost always alternating the two pitches, whose hollow tones seem to stretch between and beyond the rice terraces. Roosters crow in the villages beyond the banjar. Balinese language and a few English words rise from the long path; wind in the fronds and palms that line the riverbank. The glorious sky-blues and orange-pinks reflect up from the fields of lakes. Atmospheric harmony. Even the sounds are infused with quiet. With his carved stick, the drummer is beating in perfect rhythm, which means so in tune with the whole locale that you are never aware of him, yet the flux of his energy weaves the cloth. Within the quiet is another quiet. I can hear over the horizon into forever. I am more than myself, beyond my skin and my time.
Thank you for joining me here today! In the past five essays gathered below, I have revealed some ways I interrelate with the earth. Here’s the link to revisit: The Nature of Us
Living in our bodies, present in the here and now, embracing beauty, love, and grace, immersed in nature, my work focuses on your unique individual needs. I would love to consult/work/go deeper with you in any aspect of what I am writing in these essays. Please visit my website: sabrinapage.com – come explore more through private sessions on zoom or in person.
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The Nature of Us – Sabrina Page has an MA in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, a background in movement and dance, focused on embodiment. She has been deeply influenced by her connection with nature, shaped by playing in woods and water growing up. Sabrina’s writing explores the earth community, love, body, embodiment, interconnection, our planetary moment, music – and the creativity and possibilities inherent in being human.