The word ‘Nature’ is an abstraction. In fact, there’s no nature apart from natural beings—butterflies, earthworms, women and men. We are nature, and our intelligence is the intelligence of nature—both the intelligence of our minds and the intelligence of our bodies.
Our cultural tradition sees humans as being above nature. The Zen tradition does not agree:
It appreciates and values the inherent intelligence of nature,
Our much-vaunted verbal type of human intelligence does not impress it.
Our spiritual traditions have considered the body as inferior to the mind and the ‘spirit’, and preferred to identify with the latter. ‘I think, therefore I am,’ said Descartes. I would suggest that so long as we insist on making declarations of that sort, ‘I breathe, therefore I am’ might be more appropriate. Still, both statements share a weakness: they personalize nature. It is nature rather than ‘me’ that breathes and thinks.
Yes, we do focus our thinking part of the time, pass exams, and decide which way to go when we get to a fork in the road. Yet, according to Statistics Canada, in 2018, 43 % of Canadians reported having some mental health issues. That means to me that they had involuntary and undesired thoughts such as stressful, anxious, depressive, or compulsive thoughts. During the same year, 282,890 Canadians stopped breathing; I assume many of them did so unwillingly.
The mindfulness mantra “BREATHE!” is an invitation to connect with the one who is breathing.
“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness,” wrote Thich Nhat Hanh.
“I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars,” wrote Eihei Dogen.
Much of our current ecological discourse is based on fear and anxiety. Let us change that focus to love for the Earth our mother, and kindness for her creatures. Acts based on positive feelings are more likely to bring positive results.
We give our mother a haircut when we mow the lawn, and it is her beauty we admire when we look at a flower. Even our love for our life partner or for our children is in part love for the Earth—we are all made of the same elements as the Earth. Let us be Earth-centred in our thinking and in our behaviour—being “Earth-centred” is already a plan of action.
In the car, consider starting a trip by singing “Row, row, row your boat” to these words:
Roll, roll, roll along, gently down the street,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, this drive is a treat.
Drive down each street, flowing like a stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
Lightly, like a kite, let your spirits lift,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, each day is a gift,
Through the neighbourhood gently make your way,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, have a pleasant day.
And consider driving moderately in order to use less gas.
We can show love for our children by leaving them a less polluted world.
Let’s wash dishes lovingly and with care, with as little soap and water as possible.
Most of the pollution that threatens to ruin our planet comes not from things that truly add to our quality of life, but from our lack of mindfulness and love.