Being in nature is where I’ve always felt most comfortable and at home. I also appreciate a snug house and a warm stove on a cold, rainy night. But if the weather is agreeable and I have the opportunity to be outside, then that would always be my first choice. Perhaps you feel the same way? Have you ever wondered why this is?
Here’s how the answer to this question was explained to me many years ago.
Shortly after I first read the Autobiography of a Yogi in about 1969, I met an American Indian named Red Eagle. He lived in a tiny shack in the forests of East Texas. A friend, knowing of my interest in Paramhansa Yogananda, suggested that I would enjoy meeting Red Eagle. My friend said that Red Eagle was a follower of Yogananda also. I had never yet met any others who knew much about Yogananda, much less followed his teachings, so I was excited to meet this man.
His home was extremely difficult to locate. We drove down many truly terrible dirt roads, deeper and deeper into the “piney-woods,” as they are called in East Texas. There were times when I doubted we’d ever find him, but finally we did. I felt we had been drawn or guided to his small clearing in the woods by some sort of mysterious force.
Red Eagle was quite a character and his living arrangements were unlike anything I had ever seen, to put it nicely. His one-room cabin, which he had built himself, had no electricity, water, or plumbing. The trees around his home were thick and close together, blocking off most of the sun. It was dark, quiet, and a bit spooky there, though very beautiful in its own way.
I explained to him, upon arrival, that I had heard he was a holy man of some sort (a shaman?) and also a follower of Paramhansa Yogananda. He happily told me stories from his extremely colorful past and how he had come to follow Yogananda’s path of Kriya Yoga. This was the very first person I had ever met who really knew about Yogananda and his teachings, and more importantly, who actually practiced them. I was thrilled and asked him questions for several hours.
Finally, probably growing tired of my questions, he asked me if I’d like to energize and meditate with him, his wife, and the friends who were with me. Naturally I agreed. This was to be my very first group meditation in this lifetime!
While energizing, he took off his shirt and showed me how he could isolate and move the individual muscles along his back during the “three-part back recharging” section of the Yogananda’s Energization Exercises. He was bald and he showed me how he could move several individual muscles in his scalp without even touching his fingers to his skull (for the scalp massaging part of the “Energizers”). Amazing! I have never seen, in all this time since I met Red Eagle, someone able to recharge and vibrate his muscles in this unusual way.
After we had meditated and it was time to leave, I asked Red Eagle why he had chosen to live so far removed from civilization. He smiled and said, “I love nature and I can meditate better here, deep in these woods. It’s very quiet and God seems closer. I think that the veils are thinner between God and me in a place like this.”
After I returned to my apartment in Houston and continued to try to meditate on my own, I often remembered his words and became convinced he was right about this. God seemed far away from me there in the city, blocked off by the concrete and the noise.
Since that time, I’ve always tried to spend as much time in natural surroundings as possible. As I write these words, my husband and I are on vacation, camping out on the Middle Fork of the Yuba River, just downstream from the Crystal Hermitage at Ananda Village. We are probably no more that ½ mile from where we live. But it seems like we are far, far away from the world. We hear only the bird songs and the beautiful sound of the river flowing over the boulders near our camping spot.
As the days go by, we grow quieter and more blissful. God seems nearer and nearer, as the veils between Divine Mother and us, as Red Eagle said to me all those years ago, seem to thin out more and more.
Why would this be so and what could it mean? Isn’t God always present within and all around us, present in everything and everyone?
Surely it is the restlessness of our thoughts, whipped up by the restlessness of the busy world around us that creates thick barriers of delusion and makes the Divine Presences grow fainter and more difficult to perceive. It is harder, though not impossible, to see God in concrete pavement, heavy traffic, and tall buildings, than in a sparkling stream or a meadow full of colorful wildflowers. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, especially for those less experienced in cutting through the veils of delusion through many years of deep meditation.
My suggestion to you is to try to be more in nature and when you are there, to feel God’s presence revealing itself to you from behind the “thinner veils.” Try meditating in nature as much as you can, or if this is not possible for you to do often because of where you live, try a walking meditation, perhaps in a nearby park or on the street where you live. Here’s one suggested by Swami Kriyananda:
Walking Alone With Divine Mother (excerpted from Awaken to Superconsciousness).
To practice interiorization of the mind…try this walking meditation. Walk alone, if possible, during this exercise, for its purpose is to interiorize the mind, not to externalize it in the company of others.
Throughout this walking meditation, make it a point to relate to God, to God through Nature, and to your own higher Self. Don’t walk vigorously. In other words, don’t hike. Walk “easefully.” Express in outward action the peace you feel in meditation.
Now be aware of the energy as it moves through your body. Feel yourself surrounded by a great, inverted vortex of cosmic energy, spinning slowly around you, and drawing you upward toward its source in infinity. Bring that energy down, after a time, into an awareness of its manifestation in your physical environment.
Listen to the birds singing: Hear the Divine Consciousness singing through them. Ask the Divine Mother if She hasn’t some special message, in their singing, for you.
Listen to the sounds in your vicinity: dogs barking, people’s voices in the distance, cars moving. Feel the Divine Mother communicating with you through all those sounds.
Gaze at the sunlight as it trembles on a leaf, at the clouds sailing overhead, at the trees, the bushes, at countless objects around you. Share those visual impressions with the Divine Mother, as if also with your higher Self.
Feel the wind on your skin, the warmth of the sunlight or the coolness of the evening air. In every thought, in every impression, make the Divine Mother a participant.
If thoughts come to you in the form of words, share them with the Divine Mother as through you were talking to Her. Don’t only think about Her in the third person. Talk to Her.
Feel yourself as the breath of divine love and joy. Walk joyfully on an earth where all beings rejoice in their unseen, heavenly origin.