What does nature mean to me? Why is it important?

I was ever a child of nature, integrally connected with the rhythm of the seasons and with a strong link between external and internal realities.

Nature’s place in my life is as a sweet familiar melody running through my living,
it speaks the language of my soul;

it connects my roots to the beating heart of Mother earth
and it centers me in ‘now’ and ‘am’;

it lifts me out of the mire of day to day concerns;
gifting me moments of deep knowing and insight;

even in my darkest days, it anchors me to wonder and joy,
lighting my way back home to my best self;

it roots me in awareness of the constancy of change, unafraid,
and threads the cycles of dying and rebirth within my being;

it enfolds me in a living silence, rich in mystery,
opens the door to realms of myth and magic;

it inspires me to watch, to note, to listen,
sating my senses;

it draws from me a life-affirming reverence,
a deep resounding ‘yes’!


Nature - a rhapsody in blue - jay and lake


I’m very excited to be embarking on an exploration into Nature’s Poetry. Even this afternoon’s first foray into the preparatory work for Session 1, beginning to look at my personal connection with nature, has been richly nourishing.

I have, over the last couple of years, felt the pull back to my writing roots, which started with poems before I could even put pen to paper (I was three years old). So this online course speaks both to my deep sense of return and re-connection to nature in living rurally and to rediscovering a mode of expression that faltered as I focused on career and family.

What a delicious luxury it is to be invited down a path along which poetry, both in the reading and the writing, can illuminate one’s inner landscape! 

I intend to do my best to follow Mary Oliver‘s instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.


Compassion and non-attachment (2)

Compassion implies ‘being with’ someone else in their experience of pain or misfortune, of standing alongside them in suffering. It seems to me it is a quality of being rather than of doing.

I question whether charitable giving can really be classed as compassion. I don’t wish to detract from the response to give alms in the context of natural or human disaster. But I am not sure that this is a situation where we truly ‘suffer with’ those affected. More we respond to the tragedy in a general way.

I rather like the following:

Compassion therefore is a quality that brings people together. It is in effect “divine respect”. There is no greater emotion than to feel and absorb the pain of someone else to help ease their burden  . . . compassion is helping other humans in the present moment . . . (UCADIA article on compassion)

However, there is something missing for me here. Surely the truest tests of compassion come when faced with people or situations that run contrary to one’s own values or when faced with behaviours that may be difficult of even dangerous? Again, the generalised response to victims of disaster or war is very different from the personal ability to stand beside an addict in their pain, with the hope but no expectation that they will find a better way forward. That presence without expectation, accepting someone as they are, is a true gift.

Interestingly, the UCADIA article places compassion very firmly in the present moment, alongside respect, honesty, consistency, enthusiasm and cheerfulness, describing these as the six key present moment emotions. The point is well-made that most negative emotions are rooted in the past or future.

Passion and non-attachment

Passion and non-attachment are often seen as mutually exclusive.

I think this is a false assumption; indeed, without passion, we come back to ‘detachment’ rather than non-attachment.

Passion is often viewed as fire. But could it be that this is only the youthful manifestation of passion, that passion also also resides in the still waters of a deep pool?

Mindfulness, being fully present in the moment seem to be fundamental to both passion and joy. Yet these are also an essential part of non-attachment. I aspire to living this moment utterly and with integrity, yet to be unattached to the outcome. And only by being unattached to the outcome can I inhabit this moment, for otherwise there is always at least some part of me projecting into the future and the ‘what ifs’.

The place of passion (2)

Passion, meaning, engagement, flow, now . . .

These were some of the themes I highlighted in my last post. I wonder if all or any of these are part of the essential stuff of joy?

Passion – I think there must be a kind of passion inherent in joy; that sense of intensity, what else can we call it? But I also sense that, with age, perhaps we develop an awareness of different shadings of passion.

In the context of loving partnerships we draw a distinction between the initial fire of romantic love and the deeper rootedness of enduring love. Some class only the first as ‘passion’. It seems to me limiting to see only ‘fire’ as passion.  There is just as much intensity in the depths of a still pool. Joy is inherent in both.

If I define passion in this way, then I believe it is indeed an ingredient in the experience of joy. However, I am not at this point clear whether the relationship is as cause or effect.

Meaning – It seems to me that those experiences that people cite as bringing them joy invariably carry a deep personal significance.  These include the great ‘human’ events, such as falling in love, marriage, birth. They include specific relationships – with partners, with children, with friends, with pets. Then there is the response to nature and natural beauty, to the arts, or to religious experience

We respond to those things we find ‘meaning-full’ in some way. However, when I look at all of these, what strikes me is that what underlies our joyful response is a sense of connection beyond ourselves to another being – human, animal or divine – or to nature and/or the universe.

So my question her is, is what is important connection and does our perception of meaning first require a sense of connection? In a world that is, superficially, increasingly connected yet in which at a deeper level there is anomie and rootlessness, this would explain the lack of a clear sense of and capacity for joy.

Engagement, flow and ‘nowness’ – I think it is almost impossible to experience joy unless you are fully present. Therefore it this trio seem increasingly to be pre-conditions for cultivating a capacity for joy.

The place of passion

Should we ‘follow our passion’? Should we ‘bring passion’ to everything we do?  Where does this idea of passion fit into our experience of and creation of joy?

I find myself caught between these two positions, not sure which is the truer path or whether there is a middle way.

My experience and observation suggest that, in ‘following our passion’, there can be great satisfaction, richness and intensity; however, this may also be seductive. That very intensity can become one more addictive ‘high’, increasingly compulsive and often ego-driven.

Instead of leading us to fulfilment, our talents and passions may thus easily become our curse. I know that sometimes, when I face in this direction, I become caught up in a sense of being ‘driven’ to achieve an end.  I am not convinced that this ultimately leads me towards peace or joy. Perhaps there is a fine line between passion and obsession.  One’s passions can bring one utterly into the moment, yet they can also become the stuff of illusion, drawing us to some elusive ‘goal’ that deflects us from experiencing the now.

Maybe it really is the case that it’s not what you do but the way that you do it that matters. I am beginning to realise that I find it much simpler to remain grounded and non-attached when I am not over-invested in what I do. Instead, if I try to bring my passion for life and sense of joy to the task in hand, whatever it may be, to imbue it with all the dimensions that my experience allows me to bring to it, I seem to find a rich vein of transformation. The focus is not on the doing, but on the ‘being within the doing’. Flow and engagement are essentially qualities of being, not of achievement.

Perhaps passion, in this context, is essentially a quality of authenticity, which itself must be built on a clarity as to one’s sense of meaning or higher purpose.

[to be continued]