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At a very young age, I discovered a love of nature that has in the ensuing years of my life profoundly affected me. Simply stated, nature feeds my spirit in a unique and special way.
In this age of mega-cities that distract us technologically and materially, immersing ourselves in nature connects us to our authentic humanity – to our true inner self. When we experience creation, we grow closer to the Creator. The Baha’i teachings, speaking in this case from the perspective of the Creator, say:
Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 142.
My introduction to nature began when, as a teenager, I hiked 10 miles a day through the breathtaking natural wonders in Utah. The hikes led us through rivers, into caves, over hills, and inside waterfalls. At the end of the day we would sleep outdoors under the stars. For 90 days – really – we hiked and literally lived off the land. We washed in rivers or lakes, and prepared our meals like 19th century pioneers. Without electricity or bathroom conveniences during those rigorous days, we learned to make do carefully from nature’s great out-of-door facilities. For most of this time we were nowhere near any cities or towns. I will never forget what I learned about myself during this formative time, and how I came to feel spiritually nurtured by nature. Of course, when you hike 10 miles a day, you also come to develop great physical endurance.
While I love being in nature and what it brings to my spirit, being rooted in the world of cities with all that congestion, technology, and aggravation has some advantages as well. The lure of entertaining pastimes can seduce us, and the comforts of a cozy home and fine dining are alluring, too. Modern travel to other countries and cultures can be exciting. Moreover, great apps facilitate tasking, social media platforms bring people closer together, and instantaneous messaging from friends in other parts of the world remind us that we are one people occupying the planet Earth.
On the flip side, though, social media can engender a certain falsity that some construe as reality. Texting becomes a substitute for personal companionship. Apps can hypnotically disconnect users from their true selves, and travel can delay problem-solving.
We also live in an age of constant distractions. The battle of life involves many people in struggles to make ends meet, in sifting through intrusive advertising, in keeping abreast of bureaucratic mandates, in defending against solicitors or embezzlers, and in pushing back against anxiety-producing notices, news and pressures.
Such stresses do not nurture our spirits. We start to realize, as the Baha’i teachings point out, that the city is the abode of bodies whereas the country is the dwelling of spirit:
Urban life can cause disconnection from ourselves and from others. Under such circumstances, our connections with others often become awkward and inattentive. Phobic about relating, “how are you” generally results in “I’m fine” rather than some fuller explanation. “Let’s get together sometime” really means almost never. Attempts to chat unveil staccato and truncated sentences. But the company of the spiritually-nurtured produces joy, because they have the sensitivity and patience to listen respectfully and respond meaningfully.
Stepping out of the cities and back into nature to take a leisurely walk, hike, camp, swim, or climb a mountain re-connects you to the spirit of yourself and to the spirit of the world. You realize the problems you have aren’t so big after all. Nature uplifts the soul in a meditative and palliative way; bringing a release from the bondage of negative emotions and thoughts.
Most of my friends and family know that when we hang out, they may well have to go on a hike or at least a walk with me. In knowing me, they may discover that getting back to nature is a great way to expunge one’s self of distractions while reconnecting. Because nature feeds the spirit in a way that seems lost in this world of gaming, texting, DMing, emailing, and social media, the exhilaration that sets in also helps the physical body to heal in many ways. Did you know that sunlight directly stimulates Vitamin D production, which everyone needs to survive? While walking or hiking, we breathe in clean air, stimulate muscle contractions and experience a sense of freedom.
Nature feeds the human spirit by helping us to quiet and focus the mind, to let go of distractions and to reconnect with our inner self.