“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
Many years ago, I took a drawing class and one of the first assignments given by the professor was to just start paying attention to nature. There was an upcoming project which required us to draw a tree. At the time, I thought this was something I was strictly doing for the sake of art in order to help me develop my drawing technique. What I came to understand was that paying attention to nature provided a deeper level of understanding and wisdom to my life in general.
This particular class was conducted in autumn while the leaves were changing colors and the days were getting shorter. I began to notice the beauty of the trees and how no two trees were exactly alike. Their branches reached outward and upward, and grew in a pattern that was unique to each one. Because it was autumn, it was also evident that the leaves were changing colors and beginning to fall to the ground.
As the weeks moved forward, I found myself not only paying attention to the trees, but nature in general. I watched the clouds roll in and out as the day progressed. There were days of beautiful sunshine and days in which the sun was masked by the clouds. The rain would move in and sometimes there were violent storms; the wind would whip through, but eventually dissipate. I noticed that the weather constantly changed and we were not always given advance notice as to when or how it would happen. I reflected on the fact that we did not have control over the weather, but we accepted what came our way; we did not allow it to prevent us from moving forward in our lives. We just had to allow nature to take its natural course, pass through our physical world, and process the effects of it once it passed.
As I was paying attention to nature, I began to notice that nature reflected my own life, and how I could take my cues from nature. I noticed that just as hail storms can move through and create physical damage to our homes and cars, so can our anger move through us and create emotional and physical damage.
Nature reflects the cycles of birth and death. There are waves of storms and of calmness, sunshine and gloom. Our emotions roll in and wash through us, just as the clouds roll in and out. Just as the seasons change and transform, we do too. When we resist those changes, we resist our natural evolution of growth and development. When we push against nature, we are refusing our own cycle of change and development, and this creates our suffering. Making judgments about the cycle of change we experience is what causes us to suffer.
As William Shakespeare so insightfully pointed out in his play Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Thinking that one cycle is better or worse than the other is what fuels our resistance and fear.
Our external situations are always changing, as does our physical form and energy. Our bodies age and degenerate. Our physical energy patterns also reflect the cycles of nature. Maintaining maximum energy levels all the time is not possible. Each of us experiences times of high and low energy. There are times when it is necessary to rest for large amounts of time. Just as bears hibernate in the winter, we too can require larger amounts sleep, and there are times when we require very little sleep at all.
The cycles of nature are reflected in all areas of our lives. There will be periods of success and failure. Success is equated with growth and this is usually considered positive, but sustained growth cannot last forever. Just as plants wither and die, so do the chapters in our lives which no longer serve us. Releasing thought patterns and behaviors which stunt our growth, require dissolution in order to allow a new perspective or creative force to emerge and bloom anew.
With this one class assignment which was geared toward art, I learned a tremendous life lesson. I learned that resisting the cycles of nature and change is like grasping at the wind. The wind is fleeting and impermanent. It slips through our hands if we try to hold onto it. Everything is temporary and surrendering to the cycles of change is honoring our true nature. If we take our cures from nature we will learn to become present with what life presents to us and embrace its beautiful illustration of infinite possibilities.