One of the wonderful aspects of becoming immersed in nature, whether that is a more conscious activity such as a NatureConnect session or simply a wander through a forest or along a beach, is its capacity to welcome you into the freedom to be, a quiet fascination of subjects and energies. We spend too much of our lives abstracting ourselves away from our body, our relationships, even our direct experience of living. We tend to abstract our identity into little boxes, as we compartmentalise our lives and others, never realising that we are imprisoned within the doing, abstracting world of external focus. The ‘right’ approach to entering nature with reverence and surrender can provide the way to break free to be, to wonder into Oneness.
Yes I’m sure that you have experienced in nature liberation from the mindsets of daily life. But did you know that the way you pay attention to the natural world, and your inner world can have a profound effect on your identity, that embodied and abstracted sense of self that looks out through the invisible veil of consciousness? You can change your sense of self by simply being attentive to the outer and inner landscapes of your experience. Paying attention with the inner and outer senses opens us up to not just liberation from domestic mindsets but that constricted identity we attach our slumbering minds to.
So while this paying attention is a core requirement for contemplative practice and indeed all activities in life, we often neglect or forget its power to shift our perspectives, including how we view our sense of self. This is the basis for the NatureConnect program, the practice of paying focused attention with a clear and specific intention to let go of the usual focus of attention on ‘other’ and the constructs of our identity. In the step by step process of paying attention to each moment, each breath, each step, each perceptual engagement, you may let go of not just the mental and emotional baggage, at least in the moments of practice but that sense of self that is attached to all of the contents of consciousness that flows constantly across your awareness.
When you experience this letting go, in nature or elsewhere it is liberating and a deeply connecting experience – you discover that ‘you’ are not what you took for granted to be you, your sense of self has changed. Not only changed with the liberation from attachment to ‘other’, to the constant flow of those associated contents but aligned with a deeper, interconnected, expansive sense of self. You realise that you had fooled yourself before this experience, thinking you were anything BUT the smallest doll in the proverbial Russian doll jigsaw.
A mindful meander through quiet, natural places creates the presenced mind to integrate your usual embodied and biographical sense of self with that which appears to be ‘others’. This process of entering a mindful state through unwavering attentiveness and clear intention can be viewed as a kind of cognitive frontier state. It is an altered mental state where the surface and deeper or mysterious aspects of identity can meet and intermingle. It is also the frontier between what you think of as your identity and what you think is not you. Quite solitude in nature can allow us to encounter and recognise this frontier state that previous busy minds were blind to.
Instead of undue wariness and guardedness at this interface between the familiar and the mystery, you are best equipped with presence, trust and openness to the possibilities of renewal. This approach to renewal cultivates not just a graceful surrender of self but a state of innocence that can open you to the wonder and unconditional embrace of nature’s sentient subjects. The explorer of this frontier requires the clear intention to surrender the contents of mind and patterned energies of body. You must during this process of letting go and letting come exert an unmitigated trust and perseverance to maintain your attentiveness to each unfolding moment. It is within this mindful journey taken with love and gratitude that the presencing may create the Oneness experience at the frontier of your identity. For we are always whole, always within Oneness, it is just that we sleepwalk away from the frontier, fearful to step beyond our accepted identity, choosing to attach to that identity that serves the outer worlds calling for acceptability and limitation. Encountering the frontier state within natural spaces offers a pathway through the dense undergrowth of our lives.