The Fountain of Youth is the Forest – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I see the ocean a sort of childlike wonder is instantly brought to life inside. For me, when I am lost inside the trance of the ocean’s mist, I dance like a wild woman on the shores of the white crystal sand jumping back and forth dipping my feet in and out of the crest and curves of the ocean water.
The ocean It isn’t unlike the mountains, for their majesty is something that evokes a deep longing, reverence for the grandeur of time expanded upon the thick rock which has eroded amongst decades of time.
But in the ocean, there is a deep awareness which brings to light the wonder of all things in the everyday extraordinary.
When you close your eyes and dip your head beneath the water, you can see little specks of light, which from your perception touch the tip of your forehead like particles of dust sprinkled in a vacant chamber that is void of a construct, time or meaning. Floating in the ocean is a deeply meditative experience that brings you back to the center of your body while accepting the lack of power you have over the ocean’s waves which could swallow you whole.
Floating in the ocean, reminds me to give up power and control, and to find appreciation and gratitude for the everyday extraordinary.
In Buddhism, we understand that changeability is one of the perennial principles of nature. Everything formed is in the constant and dynamic process of changing (sabbe sankhara anicca). This simple insight is the basis for much of what the Buddhist philosophy is formed off of and the root of its principles is found in appreciating the everyday extraordinary while accepting your relationship and non-relationship with it.
The moral consciousness of nature is one that is in constant evolution and the natural ecosystem of our chaotic, miraculous and expansive ocean waters is the perfect example of deep interconnected truth of the earth’s song – Of the earth’s cry. I believe when I hear the cry of the earth, I am speaking to God.
Believing in the whisper of the trees is not unfound in the principles of Buddhist or Christian nature for it is in the stillness of the night gazing beneath the moon held like a pearl, within the clouds on the beach, with your toes tucked tight within the sand that God really speaks to you.
And when I am connected to the ground of the earth my heart cries out in these songs with this simple mantra for the everyday extraordinary, in which I chant,
“ take my heart
Take my soul
Take my mind and I will
Give my thoughts
Give my all
Give my life to follow to you
Take my hands
Take my breath
Take my dreams and I will
Lift my eyes
Lift my faith
Lift my voice and worship you” – (Hillsong United, Life, Wonder 2017)
I find the chance to experience the call of the wild and the ability to connect authentically to the power of God humbling.
Nature is Medicine
It is my belief that many mental health disorders are not only biological manifestations of a stress-induced society but they’re implications of a society who has forgotten to listen to the call of the earth.
While it is important to understand that treatment for mental health issues and inflammatory disorders involves a complex multilayered etiologically that focuses on the practices of Western Medicine.
It is my personal belief that we as a human species operate on a bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework, spiritual being a facet of psychology we rarely incorporate within a medical model, and that our connection to nature or the voice of God (higher consciousness/ soul / psyche ) could potentially represent a stress-reducing prevention strategy used during, before and after the onset of stress-induced disorders.
It is well known that belief is a large motivator in helping move someone towards faith and saliency in maintaining their own health and sanity but a larger universal connection and spiritual practice concerning the earth could bring about states of higher self-reflection, analysis and support individuals as they cope with trauma and psychiatric conditions.
For it was not Plato who believed that the origin of mental illness was really immorality to the soul. While modern-day neuroscience and neuropsychology can prove that the complexity of psychiatric issues are multilateral connective impairments in the brain’s neural circuitry and dominant genes in our DNA. It also begs the question of whether our brains health has diminished over time due to our need for solitude and communion with the earth/ god/ soul? And whether or not the earth/ universe is a conscious system. In 1984, Edward O. Wilson, frequent forest bather and evolutionary biologist, published a book, Biophilia, about the urge for humans to interact and develop fellowship with primordial archetypes like mother earth and how even though ‘tree healing’ is a phenomenon that cannot be measured biologically it holds substantial relevance in its ability to elicit hope in individuals.
More so, research is proving the health benefits of nature for organic neurocognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimers and has seen strides in helping reduce symptoms of anxiety, worry, and depression. Researchers believe this may be due to the way our nervous system processes sensory experiences through the body, i.e., memory making, meaning-making and experience making while being stimulated through touch, taste, and smell.
All I know is, when I listen to the call of the wild, to God, I know that I am listening to the call of my body, to my mind and my soul.