“We are being trained to commodify our own impulses so that everything can be translated into a purchase.”Russel Brand
[preface: Full disclosure, I am a member of the REI coop. I’ve participated in Spartan races, and I’ve planned trips around athletic “adventures.” Yes, I am part of the problem. This blog post is directed to me, too.]
One source of consist restorative energy I’ve found has been nature. Even during my very limited days during recovery I would sit and watch the wind blow through the branches of trees through the window for 30 to 45 minutes and enjoy it like a movie. Better still was enjoying a meal and an audiobook outside. Usually breakfast but sometimes lunch as well. We have a covered, screened deck and it makes sitting and eating outside easy and enjoyable. I still do these activities, although the summer heat has made meals on the deck a bit less pleasurable but it’s worth it.
Taking a walk around the neighborhood or walking with my brother on the Swamp Rabbit Trail downtown have been restorative activities that take me away from screens and insert me back into life itself.
Nature is divine. Not in the sense that nature is magic. And not in a way that implies pantheism (God is nature). Rather, nature is divine in a panentheism way (the belief that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it).
It’s all been provided. It is right there, outside, ready for you to experience it. It took millions of years. There are no deadlines there. No bills. No agendas. To keep venturing out, as Cal Newport notes in chapter entitled “Spend Time Alone,” found in his book, Digital Minimalism, you may need to broaden your definition of good weather, but even rough weather can be good energy for you. Who has not looked at a dark, ominous series of thunder clouds and viewed it with an sort of eager expectation for the terrible awe it may bring?
What is it about nature?
Why did Jesus walk on water? Why did Jesus calm storms and use plant language in most of his parables? Why is Buddha’s most powerful sermon him holding up a flower? Could it be that nature is a fundamental part of our spirituality? Could it be that nature already holds the paradoxes that we are confronted with in the totality of our lives?
But instead of merely spending time in nature, our culture has commoditized it. We make nature into something to buy your way into through pricey gear, elite races, and exclusive expeditions for the sake of “health” and competition. What message does this send to the downtrodden? Those struggling to make ends meet in regards to money and time? That one needs to be “successful” (whatever that means!) to experience the divine in nature?
I think one reason Jesus, Buddha, and many other spiritual leaders gained loyal followers was a simple request asked of them. “Let’s go for a walk.”