I spent yesterday in the church of Nature. I drove out past Silverton, Oregon to Shellburg Falls and hiked 1.5 miles through towering canopies of vine maples to waterfalls of purification and renewal.
Connection. I felt supremely connected to all of it. My breath changed. My thoughts changed. My heart expanded. I drank it in.
I was reminded of the Pando, the largest living organism, a connection of 47,000 Aspen trees in Utah. Separate trunks, separate branches, separate leaves, but all connected.
I marveled at the new trees growing from the decay of the old. What an amazing example of how new life, new understanding can grow out of old, dead, limiting beliefs.
As I walked through a meadow, I passed cows, some black, some white, and reflected on the role that Nature has to play in our necessary revolution to overcome racism.
Racism stems from the fundamental delusion that we are separate individuals. Yes, we have our own unique existence, our own different lives, our own responsibilities, but here is the truth commonly avoided:
We are animated from the same universal Source.
Nature offers us the opportunity to realize our underlying connection with everything and everyone. Spend enough time in Nature and you begin to see, feel, and sense the underlying connection between all living things. One of my favorite practices is to pick one tree and try to feel its life as I relate from my center to theirs.
And what I’ve learned to do with Nature, I practice with humans, with varying success.
Years ago I witnessed a very wise man, Swami Kriyananda, giving stern direction to a friend of mine who was in outer conflict with others. Speaking from his own realization, Swami Kriyananda said “You need to realize that you are as much in them as you are in yourself.”
I’m not sure my friend was ever able to fully understand those words. At that moment, I couldn’t say that I could either. But over the years, I’ve had the experience of inspired performance to deepen that realization.
In addition to Nature, inspired performance naturally brings that experience of unified connection. You know this if you’ve ever had the privilege of performing with others of high attunement—when unspoken communication happens without words, when messages are felt and understood intuitively. You can’t have that experience while maintaining a consciousness of separate, of “better-than”.
Understanding Others, Understanding Self
In my (admittedly limited) experience, I’ve noticed that there is an inverse relationship between racist attitudes and the genuine experience of Self-awareness (I use capital S for the higher Self experienced in inspired music and spiritual practice). If we take the inner journey to understand ourselves more deeply, we naturally begin to understand and relate to the realities of others. The more we avoid looking within, the more we remain stuck with bundles of limiting definitions of ourselves and others.
By courageously going within, we find connections without. Our sense of “different”, of “other” begins to dissolve.
And vice versa, a day spent out in Nature can deepen our own inner awareness. By experiencing deep communion with unbiased, unprejudiced Nature, we get a glimpse of our own potential for connection and understanding.
Walking back to my car, I passed others coming in who looked different, had different political views, different life experiences, different desires. Yet I could see the awe that only nature brings softening their faces. As I passed, I said a silent prayer for their awareness to be expanded, their sympathies broadened, their understanding deepened.
Find your connections. Feel your new growth. Expand into deeper understanding.