“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
-Gary Snyder, poet
It all began to fall apart when we decided as a species that it was a good idea to separate ourselves from nature.
This was our penultimate step of disassociation before we created organized religion, theoretical science, modern art, and everything that characterizes our modern culture.
And really, what characterizes our modern culture more than anything is a highly refined universal psychological complex that insists upon our absolute separation from nature.
Except that we are nature.
We are nature, working.
Though it might seem laughable, even our iPhones are created from the same matrix of nature that we are.
“It occurred to me that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft itself were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me.”
-Edgar Mitchell, astronaut
Even our thoughts, the neural networks that reside within our heads, are the same as the fungal connections of mushroom mycelium that spread out across the forest floor. Our ideas like mushrooms sprouting after a rainstorm.
The inner landscape of a human being reflects exactly the great wide universe that lays before us.
Life is embodied ecstatic connection, and all beings go through a life journey seeking reunion with the source.
But we do so now with a fundamental flaw in our programming, and that is this: We think that the answer lie outside of our selves.
In other words, we think that we must go out to nature in order to find ourselves, when in fact the crux of nature lies within.
“Wherever you are, enlightenment is there. And if you stand upright where you are, that is enlightenment. It means ‘accepting things as it is’, accepting yourself as you are.”
-Shunryu Suzuki, zen priest
Our true nature is nature, and nature is the Buddha, which means awakening. All things are constantly awakening in the dance of life and death.
But instead, our modern world has decided that we are neither our own Buddha nature nor are we Nature.
Instead, we began to separate the universe into tiny pieces, and place immense importance on each piece, and none on the whole. This we call science, rationality, and progress.
Each piece of the universe stands alone in our modern culture and no piece has any inherent meaning, because this type of reductive understanding leads to the elimination of connections.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
-John Muir, naturalist
Many people are looking for meaning outside of themselves. They are really looking for connection.
When we do that, we go to nature to find something that is missing inside of us.
But then we find out that whatever it is that is missing inside of us does not allow us to experience nature fully.
It does not allow us to feel, or to live deeply in the moment.
This is simply because we need to integrate all of our own disparate parts into a whole before we can begin to feel that wholeness that resides effortlessly within the universe.
We need to go deep down inside of our selves and process our own life experiences in order to be able to experience the unity of the cosmos.
Simply put, if our minds, bodies, or spirits are fragmented, we cannot experience the ecstasy of being alive in the present.
We will always be chasing some lost part of ourselves that we can’t seem to find “out there”.
That is because we need to deal directly with the beautiful mess inside of us first.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
-Carl Jung, psychoanalyst
Truly our home is in nature, and our nature is within us.
If we find our home within ourselves we find our home within the world.
It is as simple as that.
We can follow numerous wisdom traditions, like Yoga, Shamanism, Buddhism, Christianity, Wicca, Hinduism, or even new traditions such as Existentialism or Atheism, but still feel that hole where pieces of our soul should be.
That is because all of these traditions, while they do have the potential to help us reintegrate all of our disparate parts into a whole, can only do so if we choose to do the real work our selves.
The heavy lifting is up to us.
No one else can do the work for us.
None of these traditions are a mechanism that works without our own endless and ecstatic efforts.
If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
-Dogen Zenji, zen master
So we always find ourselves right back where we started because the circle of life and death is a never-ending circle.
Life and death are not points on a line.
To forgo life in pursuit of some outside happiness is folly.
To indulge in life at the expense of inner enlightenment is folly.
But we are all fools, until we take that first step toward wisdom.