A yogi told me this story: “I was walking in the jungle with a companion when I tripped and accidentally gashed my leg very badly. Although we knew it would be dangerous to stay the night, I was unable to walk, and the situation looked bad. My companion, who had been trained as a healer, raised his hands and slowly began to turn in a circle. After some time he went to a tree, picked some leaves, and made a poultice. As soon as he applied it the bleeding stopped, and we were able to continue. He explained that he was unfamiliar with the herbs in that area and was asking the plants for help. The tree had offered its leaves and, if needed, would also have transferred its life-force to me.” The yogi (Swami Gyanananda) concluded by showing me a faint scar that looked as if it were many years old, although only two weeks had passed.
This story is both true and a metaphor for our relationship with nature. Our lives depend upon the other inhabitants of our planet. They give us the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, and the medicines with which we heal. There are more microbes in a single teaspoon of soil than there are humans on the earth. Scientists have discovered that even our bodies are not only our own: they contain a microbiome with ten times as many cells from microbes as from human cells. Life is not possible without this symbiotic relationship.
There is also, beyond the merely physical, a connection of consciousness, which we can deepen if we choose. The great American botanist, George Washington Carver, said, “Everything in nature will speak to you, if you love it enough.” Among many others, J.C. Bose, the great Indian scientist, has demonstrated that awareness continues not only into the animal and plant worlds, but into the mineral as well. These subtle and profound connections form a great web of consciousness.
Studies show that hospital patients heal more quickly and need less medication if they have a window that looks out on nature. Even a photo or painting of a tree can ease pain, lower blood pressure, and quicken healing. Sociologists have shown also that increasing the number of trees in a city results in a lowering of crime. When we cooperate with nature, it cooperates with us. But too often nature is subjugated or destroyed due to man’s indifference or greed, and, in our isolation from the natural world, we end up breeding disease and unhappiness.
There is also a more spiritual dimension: When we feel a loving connection with the nonverbal world of plants, animals, and minerals, we open hidden recesses in our own consciousness. Communication with nature is best done in quietness of body and mind, through feelings or word pictures. This type of nonverbal stillness is also needed for deep meditation. Inner stillness comes when we calm the body and mind through the techniques of yoga or by withdrawing the life-force through pranayama. Only then, when we move beyond our incessant mental chatter and restlessness, can we become aware of the unmoving presence of God. Then we will know that we are part of all that is.
In divine friendship,