Some of my most profound moments have occurred while wandering in forests. I notice a peaceful stillness inhabiting all activity. Nature is the best decorator and everything moves with grace. There is no rush, yet all tasks are accomplished. I enjoy laying down underneath big trees and gazing up to the sky. I watch green leaves dancing with the invisible breeze. Sometimes I close my eyes...my mind drifts off, then returns to the singing birds. The little creatures with magnificent voices celebrate existence. I imagine my body is transparent and allow their joyful tones to pass straight through me. Time disappears and I sense I've arrived home. Forests can teach us how to live in harmony and offer much life inspiration:
1) They speak about generosity
Plants communicate via a vast interconnected underground root system, sometimes referred to as "the wood wide web". The forest generously shares nutrients and environmental information through a variety of symbiotic relationships. If one tree is struggling to survive, a neighboring tree might supply it with water and nutrients. It does not even have to be the same species of tree! A struggling tree may relinquish its individual life to provide nutrients to the whole forest.
A forest could not exist without the relationship between fungi and trees. Fungi are living organisms more closely related to animals than plants. A friendly trade agreement exists where trees provide fungi with sugar, and fungi provide trees with minerals. A tree could not grow large without the help from fungi. In another symbiotic relationship two different organisms merge together to form a moss like structure. For example, fungi join with algae to create lichens. The fungi provide structure, water and sun protection while the algae use photosynthesis to provide food. These relationships show how everything is interconnected. Independence and loneliness are therefore illusions.
2) Forests remind us we belong to the earth
Without trees we would not exist. The forest represents our external lungs and provides oxygen for our survival. Could it be that we simply evolved to help trees and plants spread their seeds? If humble, we see this could be a possibility. Sometimes busy city living disconnects us from nature. Trees are grounded to the earth yet gracefully move up to the sky. Unlike plants we are not permanently connected to the ground by roots. Our feet wander, so there’s a forgetting of belonging and a feeling of separation. The ego may convince us that we are superior or separate, disconnecting us from the whole, causing disharmony. Harmony arises when organisms work peacefully together for the success of the whole community. In an atmosphere of generosity and kindness both the individual and the whole system flourish. We can benefit from having faith and sensing a belonging to something much larger than our individual selves. Observing the forest can inspire us to cultivate less selfish and more harmonious relationships with each other and the entire universe.
3) They inspire meditation
This 20 minute forest meditation was inspired while spending time in Yosemite National Park. It’s tailored to establish harmony and connection. Everything is interconnected, however sometimes we forget and this leads to a false sense of isolation and loneliness. The more you practice this meditation, the more at home you will feel in your body and on earth.We will begin with breath and body awareness, then I guide you in a beautiful forest visualization ending in silence. Anything I suggest is never an order just an invitation; do whatever is effortless. Simply set the intention to return back to my voice in between any thoughts. It’s natural for the mind to wander, so there’s no need to be concerned about the amount or the content of the thoughts. Allow the thoughts to come and to go in their own time, and you will gradually slide into deep stillness.
If you would prefer non-guided meditation I recommend learning Transcendental Meditation www.tm.org
By Aruna Shields (CHP, MBCT) Therapist, Meditation Teacher & Mentor