Today has been cold and rainy and now that I am settled for the evening, in front of a warm fire, I find myself in the mood for a little philosophising.
“This walk on Bindon Hill brings to the fore three important themes of landscape reading: everything changes, everything is connected, and everything has multiple causes.” Patrick Whitefield – Permaculture teacher.
For the last few years I have felt a convergence between many of the different facets of my life and an awareness of the subtle threads that run through my various perspectives. What is interesting to me is that these things are all based on experience and observation of the world around me, though they may be presented within different philosophies, ideas or world views.
Two such things which are fundamental to both my experience of nature and my love of Buddhist teachings for example, are the truth of connection and flow – or Interbeing, and the truth of change. I may call myself a ‘buddhist’, ‘nature lover’, ‘permaculturist’ or any other number of labels, but ultimately these are just concepts that help give structure to the actual experience of living in the world.
Two of the key principles of Buddhism are that all phenomena are impermanent and that they have no inherent self. This is what I see reflected in the natural world at all times, these simple truths of change and interbeing which underpin our entire existence. As humans we tend to want things to be solid, linear, permanent and unchanging as all these qualities make life easier for the mind to conceptualise and create pattern, formula and theory from. But if we look closely we can see that nothing exists without dependence on numerous other factors in a delicate balance which allows for continuous change and transformation. Ultimately, these two truths are really one because when everything is seen to be in a state of change and flow, there cannot be said to be any independent or inherently existing self, only a kind of beautiful dance and the awareness thereof.
‘When we take a step on the green earth, we are aware that we are made of air, sunshine, minerals and water, that we are a child of earth and sky, linked to all other beings, both animate and inanimate. This is the practice of non-self.’ Thich Nhat Hanh – Buddhist monk, teacher and peace activist.
It seems to me that the perceived tension between the natural world and modern Western society is a reflection of the tension between our own true nature and ego or independent identity.
Where as the natural world can be clearly seen to be inter-dependant, constantly changing, selfless, connected and whole, the world of modern man is an attempt to build something lasting, stable, individual and solid. It is an attempt to shut out what, in our deepest hearts we know ourselves to be and instead create more and more strands to weave into the web that is the illusion of a separately existing self.
The current scientific culture provides a similar example. Nothing can be considered logical or ‘true’ unless the mind can create a theory from it. Again we can see the attempt to make definitive ‘laws’ of the universe as an attempt to create something unchanging, ‘real’, and solid in order to pacify this egoic state of delusion that we are all subject to at some point. The thing that is often overlooked however is that theories themselves are continually changing. One idea of the universe is disproved and gives way to another and another and yet at each stage of development, we hang on to these theories as if they were a lifeline and desperately try to stamp on anyone whose ideas are conflicting. And it is a lifeline – a lifeline for the ego which will destroy everything in its attempt to keep hold of the fallacy that it is a separate, unique and independently existing entity.
Many of us experience a pull to nature, just as underneath the cultural obsessions with shopping, celebrity and the mundane details of life there is always a pull into own own hearts. This conflict is written through our landscapes and our lives, even though the resolution lies closer than our own breath. The clues are everywhere; in how each wave is unique but is really just part of the ocean, in how the clouds arise and pass but do not obscure the sky, how the seasons in the forest are ever changing and how the cells of our bodies die and are renewed so many times in our lifespan.
If we can open our eyes and open our hearts to look around us, we see the whole world is whispering this most plain, yet most secret of truths, and it is saying ‘we have not forgotten who we are, we have not forgotten who we are.’