WEEK 1: Connect with Nature

“… I love the first part of the last part of the day, when things begin to close.”       Jon Troast

I have to admit that when I saw “Connect With Nature” was going to be the first way for me to start raising my consciousness, I was thrilled. I am very lucky to live in a place that is steps away from a beautiful land preserve, so walking in the woods has been a big part of my life. Or rather, was a big part until our dog became too old to go with me anymore. Sadly, I have found in the last few months that I rarely take the time to venture down there on my own very often…so I was excited that this would be just the incentive I needed to get me back out there.

But then I started thinking about my Project Guidelines (#2 to be precise which is to ‘Push my Limits’), and worried that because walking in the woods was such an easy thing for me to do that perhaps it wasn’t really enough for me to gain any real new insights. And since insight is what I’m after here, I decided to give it a little more thought.

I recently listened to a cd by Gregg Braden, a scientist turned author, who is trying to bridge the gap between science and spirituality. I will probably talk about him a lot over the span of this project because I think he makes so much sense. Anyway, in the cd, Speaking the Lost Language of God, Gregg talks about a belief of the ancient indigenous people which struck me as something quite beautiful:

“…they believed that the moment when the sun goes down is the most powerful time of the day. It reveals a crack between the worlds, the space in-between, and in that moment, when it’s neither night nor day, we have the power to choose what will happen tomorrow, as well as give thanks for the day just passed.”

It occurred to me when I heard this that I rarely take the time to notice when the sun is setting (or rising for that matter). Sure, maybe once in a while when it is a particularly beautiful evening I will pause to watch the sun set, but in general those are two moments in my day that go by largely unnoticed. And if what the ancient indigenous people believed is true, then taking the time to pause and acknowledge the beginning and the end of the day might be something worth doing. So I decided that for Week 1 of my project I would “connect with nature” by doing just that…I would watch the sun rise and set every day and see if I could catch a glimpse of the “crack between the worlds.”

The first thing I realized, however, is that it would take an enormous amount of discipline on my part to even remember to look outside at the right time of day. I am at a stage of life where my short-term brain cells seem to come and go at will, and I am pretty easily distracted, which makes it hard to remember to do anything.  So I looked up the exact times of sunrise and sunset for the week, wrote them down on a post-it, and stuck it on my computer screen. I figured if I looked at it several times during the day maybe the information would plant itself in my sub-conscious and it would help me remember to go outside. Why don’t I just set my cell phone alarm? Well, unfortunately, even with my new android, I am forever leaving it in my car…it drives my family crazy!  Anyway, for the most part I was successful, although I found it way easier to remember sunrise than sunset. It was also easier to sit and enjoy the sun rise and reflect on what I hoped the day would bring. I found myself a bit impatient in the evening for the sun to go down, which I am sure is why it is considered the ‘most powerful time of the day’…it takes a lot more effort to pause and reflect when there’s dinner to be cooked and NY Ranger games to be watched. But the truth is that the couple of times I was actually able to tune out all the chatter going on in my mind and sit and watch the sun go down, were the times I noticed a couple of things that I may have missed otherwise.

For example, I realized that the expression ‘the space in-between‘ is something I’ve read or heard about quite often:

Dr. Wayne Dyer, the inspirational speaker/author, talks a lot about finding the ‘space between thoughts‘ when he is describing his Japa meditation practice. He refers to this space as ‘the gap’, the silent place between one thought and another in which we can find true peace. I tried it a few times when I first heard about it and found it pretty hard…but there were a couple of times where I did actually find myself ‘in the gap’ and  it was an incredibly relaxing place to be, even if it was just for a second or two.

There is also the ancient Zen observation; “It’s the silence between the notes that makes the music.” Even though I am not a musician I have always loved this idea…that silence can be more powerful than all the words in the world.

And, of course, there is Dave Matthew’s oh-so moving song called The Space Between. I love the line; “The space between your heart and mine is the space we’ll fill with time.”  For me, the image of filling the space between two hearts with anything…be it time, or love, or hope, or honesty…is just so beautiful.

The second thing I realized was that there is a big difference between pausing to reflect on something (i.e the sunset) and meditating. I naively thought at the beginning of the week that I might be able to kill two birds with one stone and get a jump start on #3 on the list (Simple Meditation). It didn’t take me long to figure out, though, that in order to really connect with nature you have to be very conscious of what is going on around you. And it was very interesting to sit quietly, watching the sky darken, and allow my thoughts to take me where they wanted, which is pretty much the opposite of meditating. And what was even better was how, once I was settled and the energy surrounding my presence had quieted down, the sounds of nature became so loud. There is definitely a silence in the dusk that makes the birds sound clearer, and the rustle in the tree branches more perceptible. It’s as though the world itself is settling down to sleep, and just as we are more inclined to say our prayers at bedtime, I felt as though the world was waiting to hear mine. It made it easy to be grateful for the day just passed, and hopeful for the day to come.

This realization lead me to thinking about how these two times of the day are something that we, as human beings on this earth, all share. Whether we live in tsunami devastated  Japan, the war-torn Middle East, or right here in suburban Connecticut, the sun rises and sets every day, no matter what. And just imagine if we all agreed to pause in that most powerful moment of the day, in that ‘space in-between’, maybe, just maybe, we would find ourselves together in the ‘crack between the worlds’ where we are all the same – no matter what ‘world’ on this earth we are living in – and with our combined power choose peace for the day to come.

I can imagine it. Can you?

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