I’ve known Bharat (Joseph Cornell) since the 1970s. We were monks together in the early days of Ananda. Even then, in the tiny cabin that was his home, he was hard at work on his first nature awareness book, Sharing Nature with Children.
We who lived nearby found ourselves included in his circle of “children,” for Bharat was passionate about nature and eagerly shared his joy in nature with us all. I still remember lying on my back, one fall day, buried in leaves, only my face uncovered, gazing upward through the tree tops at the blue sky and moving cloud formations.
Carried along by Bharat’s gentle guidance into the experience, and his magnetic joy in communing with Mother Nature, I experienced an inner stillness more profound than any I had yet known through meditation. And I could feel Bharat’s heart overflowing with love for all life on the planet.
A cherished part of every day
Almost four decades later, just this past winter and spring, I had the happy opportunity to read carefully through the manuscript of Bharat’s latest book, The Sky and the Earth Touched Me. Although my ostensible role was copy editing, I found the text so entrancing that I seized every opportunity away from my “day job” to continue immersing myself. The exercises and meditations drew me so powerfully inward that I would experience as much sitting at home reading as I would later when practicing the exercises in nearby natural settings.
Whenever I would take up the book, a wonderful calm would come upon me. All restless thoughts and worries would vanish, and my awareness of the natural world would sharpen and come into focus. Nature itself seemed to be reaching out to me in a thousand tiny ways, ways that I would have been oblivious to in my usual busy daily life. Instead of a project to be completed, working with Bharat’s book became one of the most enjoyable and cherished parts of every day.
“The peace within and the peace without are one”
Bharat’s approach to nature awareness brings to my mind Swami Kriyananda’s teachings on walking meditation, a practice Kriyananda suggests to help the meditator make a gentle transition between formal sitting meditation and outward activity: to move slowly, carefully, to feel the movement of the body, to bring peace and joy into your body as you walk, to become aware of your surroundings, one aspect at a time.
Each detail of the world around, Kriyananda explains, “I perceive in turn, and reach out to it with my peace, blessing it…., and in turn feeling as if God were conveying to me through that phenomenon some special, personal message. At last I feel that all these sights and sounds and inner movements of my body are joined in harmony to some great symphony of life, that the peace within and the peace without are one.”
As I read The Sky and the Earth Touched Me, I feel how perfectly Bharat has understood Kriyananda’s seed thoughts on walking meditation, has made them his own. And he has now offered them to the wide and growing readership of those who love nature and who can perhaps best come to meditation through their love of nature.
Subtle wonders, lovingly described
For all those seeking healing — for themselves, for others, for our planet — here in The Sky and the Earth Touched Me is the light of hope as well as a wealth of practical steps. If we are appalled at the destruction of the Earth’s environment, the solution must lie in our becoming the balance and harmony our soul’s know to be our own as well as mother nature’s true state.
I think too of those negatively affected by the steady dark stream of “news” spewed out on television and the internet, and pray that they my be inspired to take up one of Bharat’s books, go out into the world of nature, immerse themselves in any one of his inspiring practices, and so come back into their own true state inner state of peace.
I think too of my own mother, who passed her last four years at Ananda Village essentially bedridden, gazing out at the fields and forests. How I would have loved to have read her The Sky and the Earth Touched Me, bit by bit, day by day, and felt her joy as her immense power of visualization took her into the heart of nature to experience on subtle levels the wonders Bharat so lovingly describes.
Through nature, we learn to love
The Sky and the Earth Touched Me is arranged to lead the reader deeper and deeper into the experience of nature. Part One introduces nature as “the great teacher and healer” and shows the reader how to listen and learn – how to receive nature’s healing and allow it to return him to wholeness. The photographs alone lift the spirit out of busy mundane everyday reality into the sublime beauty of nature undefiled.
“During magical encounters with nature,” Bharat writes, “one is like a cell fed by osmosis — absorbing the immediate environment. During osmosis a cell not only receives from its environment but gives something of itself in return. In the case of human beings, we give back joy of communion and gratitude. Through communion with nature, we learn to love. Through love, we begin to feel ourselves connected to everything around us. Our actions toward other beings become more caring, because we understand that, in harming another, we are harming a part of ourself.”
In nature we experience our true inner being
Part Two guides the reader, now receptive and in touch with nature, into the joy of sharing with others. Every meditator follows the same evolution — from feeling the peace within to wishing to help others find that same peace in themselves.
Especially transforming is the “camera” activity in which one person acts as “photographer,” the other as “camera.” Eyes closed, the “camera” is led by the “photographer” to something special — a flower, a view of a mountain — then signaled to open and capture the image. Images so experienced can stay long in memory. But perhaps even more important is the heart connection developed between the two players — experiencing nature oneself, and helping another do the same.
Part Three leads the reader to the experience of Spirit within nature, within others — within all life. From a profound immersion in the natural world, the reader comes to the highest purpose and blessing of nature awareness — the experience of the still, joyful center of his own being.
Bharat invites us all to reconnect with the natural world, to share our connection with others, and to find in our experience our true inner being: “Imagine being able to give another person the gift of joy, serenity, and feeling of oneness… If the wellness exercises in this book have inspired you, I hope you will share them with friends and loved ones.” I certainly intend to do so!