Observing and Learning from Nature

“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.” ~St Bernard of Clairvaux.

I’ve spent the last week or so just observing nature, really taking it all in on my walks. There’s always so much going on “behind the scenes.” In our busy (mostly indoors) lives, nature often goes unnoticed, but it’s there.

I agree with St. Bernard, there’s so much experiential knowledge we can learn from nature. That’s not to dis books or teachers in any way. I’ve enjoyed learning from teachers and books and always will. I’m a serious student of life, and as such I seek out books and teachers to help explain, well, everything. But, something special occurs when I allow myself to be completely immersed in nature, especially for an extended period of time. My powers of observation strengthen and I am able to see what is truly going on behind the scenes in a meaningful, profound way. I learn the way of life and nature.

An obvious observance is the cyclicality of nature: days, weeks, months, years, seasons, stages of growth, stages of decline, and, of course, the cycle of life and death. 

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And then, the patterns within nature: ripples on a pond; colors in a rainbow; spirals in flowers, seashells, and vegetables; spots and stripes on butterflies, zebras, tigers, turtles, fish, frogs, beetles, spiders, chameleons, etc; surface patterns and texture on tree bark; sunlight and shadows; and snowflakes.

Relationships in nature: between animals, plants, fungi, water, insects, birds, soil microorganisms, and bacteria, on and on. Everything seen and unseen–the whole ecosystem–has ongoing relationships. It’s how nature thrives and survives. And it isn’t always pretty and sweet as I was reminded last week as a large crow plucked three baby wrens out of their nests as their momma and daddy squawked and fought to no avail. I even tried to fight off the crow, also to no avail. It saddened me and I learned more lessons about relationships within the natural world.

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Similar to relationships, are the connections within nature. I think of connection as the deepening of relationship, a bond, a knowing that we are in this together, a support system when one needs it most. Notice the trees in the photograph below.
Look at the way the tree on the left helped to keep aright and straighten out the tree on the right. It took years of mutual support, patience, and tenacity for the curvy tree to reach the sunlight and survive. The result of that connection and support is two trees growing strong together that further support the forest, providing shade, shelter, food, and habitat for the wildlife here. Not too mention what we all would die without: Oxygen.

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As humans, we are part of nature. We live in cycles, patterns, and relationships. We’re all connected. Our survival depends on each other. Nature really seems to get this. When will we?IMG_0728IMG_0731
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Three more pics of this adorable little guy. Talk about patterns and totally blending in!! He was the first to greet me on a recent meditation retreat at Yogaville–Satchidananda Ashram in Buckingham VA.

All photos mine: 2016. Here, there, and yonder.


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