In recent weeks, and more than ever before, I’ve taken to meditating outside in Nature. As someone who has meditated daily for almost two years now (usually indoors, in warmth and dryness – more recently in a room that I’ve set up for the purpose), this wasn’t a premeditated step but something that unfolded very naturally. It started one day when I was walking listening to music through headphones and the mantra ‘om mani padme hum‘ generated a moment of such intensity as I witnessed the sun bursting through clouds that I was arrested in my usually brisk pace and reduced to brief but intense tears of joy and a sense of a deeper understanding enveloping me.
The music-meditations, often with music that has a gentle mantra running through it, have become something I look forward to doing some – not all – mornings and I always know when this kind of morning walk is calling to me and what I long to listen to. Some of the experiences these walks generate for me are impossible to describe to another but what I have also noticed is that Nature comes alive at these times, it resonates with a whole new layer of perceptible energy that I had only ever been partially, and very superficially (or fleetingly), aware of before.
Out of that, I have moved on to listening to guided meditations as I walk – those in the series “Changing The Paradigm” from the excellent Jeddah Mali, to which I already listen on a regular basis, particularly resonate when I’m outdoors, as well as anything from Deepak Chopra. As I listen to gentle words on subjects such as “Holding Consciousness” or “Balance”, whilst walking eyes-wide-open through shafts of early morning sunlight through trees that form radiant tunnels of intersecting light-geometry as though drawn using a cosmic ruler, my grasp of, or sense of re-membering, what is being said seems to go far deeper than ever before. It was no surprise to find myself claiming a clearing in the woods where I sit on a tree stump once, twice, maybe three-times a week to complete my meditation with the sun on my eyelids or, as last week, with howling winds bending the trees and causing the last of the autumn leaves to rain down on me in dense showers of yellow against the blackening sky – and, all the time, aware that I hold a stillness within me that knows itself far better for all the turbulence taking place around me!
As my week takes shape, I like to walk in many and various places with my doggie-companion, there is no strict routine to any of my days, but the woods with the favourite clearing have become the ones where I particularly go to meditate as I can generally walk for long stretches without meeting other people – yet if I do, there’s no problem with that; I just allow whatever takes shape to happen and, in fact, have found that coming from this place of absolute peace and harmony has generated some wonderful interactions with others that have left everybody smiling. So regular have my visits to ‘our’ particular clearing become that my dog routinely leaves my side and skips ahead to the tree stump where I like to sit, standing to attention until I take my place. To my amusement, he did this manoeuver with even greater finesse the other day, running directly to “our spot” through thick undergrowth as soon as we were anywhere near so that I found him already waiting in the clearing when I got there, standing with his front paw poised on the tree stump – as though half-pointing, half-reserving my seat-in-nature, or perhaps to make sure I wouldn’t forget to take the few minutes of my day that he has come to love as much as I do. Its like he knows, he can feel something different in my vibration when I connect with Nature in this way – and he routinely rests his head on my lap as I take my place there so that we ‘connect’ with each other at the same time as connecting with the very ground that becomes our resting place. There is something of ‘plugging in’, of re-establishing a link with source and of grounding with the Earth to be found in the act of sitting on the woodland floor and there is all the more power behind what is essentially this simplest (if oft-forgotten) of actions when combined with meditation.
On that note, I have another anecdote to share. My walk to and from the woods takes me past an old horse in a field – one to whom my heart has long gone-out because I can feel his loneliness and weariness with life as tangibly as if he had told me himself, although he usually stands far from the fence, head hung, coat grimy and with no will left in him to come and see who is walking by. Except…returning from a particularly tremendous walking-meditation one day and veritably buzzing with a feeling of connectivity to all things, I walked past the horse – who was standing about as far away as he could, head hung and facing away from me – and he surprised me by lifting his head and turning to look straight at me, then making a bee-line for where I was standing and (without a word being passed from me to him) proceeding to nuzzle and press his head firmly against my chest and into the nook beneath my arm.In fact, he couldn’t get close enough to me (my dog became intensely jealous and had to be asked to sit and wait to prevent him from trying to clamber between the horses legs) and we stood like that for almost twenty minutes, in a connection of some sort that was palpable to me and through which I sent him all the love and solace I could muster. The same has happened again a few times since (with the same horse that always ignored me, indeed as he seems to ignore all passers-by, for many months beforehand) – though not always, and never if I have been in too much of a rush to meditate – so that whether or not the horse feels my presence and comes over has almost become a measure of how meditative my walk has been. For the record, my dog has now come to love this part of the walk - skipping ahead to the fence and visibly disappointed when the horse shows no inclination to come over – which only goes to show that, with petty competition pushed aside, we are all really rather more contented when we are connected than when we are not!
And that is what I have learned through this whole meditation-within-life (as opposed to separate-from-life) experience; that meditation does not take us out of life and into something else, another zone, to somewhere ‘spiritual’ and detached (which is how so many people have come to regard it – a reason they give for not having the time or indeed the requirement for it in their busy lives). In point of fact, meditation takes us deeper into the life that is already there – it is the same life as we would already be living but with the layers peeled away so that we can perceive how things really are without all the limitations imposed by our habitual way of seeing things (bearing in mind that this is nearly always a learned response and the combined product of our up-bring, culture and a world picture determined by the socio-norms and expectations of the many others amongst whom we live). Meditation dissolves all of that and is like seeing the glorious content of our world after somebody has turned on all the flood lights and following a lifetime of fumbling and feeling around that same environment in semi-darkness with only a torch to light your way; forever feeling like there is something important that you are trying to find in the shadows (something you suspect you used to have and which, if you could only find it again, would gain you entry through an all-important door, rather like a set of keys dropped into the darkness on the doorstep) yet never knowing quite where to look or whether you are actually getting any closer to finding it. Only once the lights are fully turned on do you realise that, although you may have been accustomed to stumbling upon many beautiful or inspiring things in that badly-lit room, maybe you even talked about them, painted them and thought they were the very best things that life has to offer, you had never really ‘got’ the big picture or perceived how it was all connected (or, in fact, that there is no door, no wall, no limitation of any kind…and that the only key you ever needed was already in your hand)!
One of the fundamental things that ‘comes to light’ as that light switch is flipped is that all things, all of us, are ‘one’. I suspect the horse already knows that – and perhaps it is his sense that I now know that too that draws him over to me in the way that “like” always and inevitably attracts “like”.
Imagine if we could all come to know that….if we all took the time in our daily practice of living (because life IS something that we practice in a certain way; we already choose the activities to which we give our priority) to get to a place where it is quite obvious that we are all one – how we would all, inevitably, draw together into an understanding with one another that required no words, no explanation…
For me, walking in Nature in a state of meditation is nothing strange, nothing that takes me off into other-worldliness or even the realm of the bizarre. Now that I do it regularly, I can see that I was already doing it intermittently in any case. It was during those times that I hit upon the inspiration to paint what I had seen, when I was almost swept over with the urge to pour my words out in my blog or my paint out onto a canvas; it was at those times that I would often find myself grasping something universal or receive those moments of insight that seem to come from nowhere and which would ‘tie it all together’ for me, allowing me to glimpse the bigger picture and resulting in my very best moments of creativity.
Walking in meditation and with a camera the other morning is what resulted in these photographs – these were not staged shots, the result of postulating with lens and tripod or waiting for something to happen; I simply photographed the simplest moments of beauty that presented themselves to me, as they were and whenever they caught my attention – and given I was meditating at the time, there were very many of them!