This chapter is a practical application from the author’s own experience of the Tao Te Ching to the practice of communing with Nature.
Nature is the manifestation of the Divine on the physical plane. There is a pervasive non-conceptual intelligence that permeates Nature and which finds expression in the billions of life-forms and intricate ecosystems that make up the biosphere of this planet.
Anyone who invests the time to know Nature is bountifully rewarded for their effort with a deep intuitive understanding of the intricate webs of connectedness and a strong sense of oneness with it all. To experience close communion with Nature is one of the greatest pleasures a person can have. All the more so because it is free, and with no strings attached.
Nature wants you to commune with it. If you extend your mind into Nature, it will extend its mind into yours, meeting and merging with you, creating common ground, revealing its astonishing beauty to your intuition.
Here is how the enlightened person can deepen their experience of the natural environment by merging their mind with the larger mind of Nature, becoming one with it.
Felt-Connectedness with All Things
Enlightenment occurs spontaneously when you create the right conditions in your life. The foundation of this mind-set is having a sense of felt connectedness with all things. You feel that you are intimately connected with everything else in the Universe, not separate as your egoic mind would lead you to believe. Enlightenment occurs when your consciousness transcends the world of separate forms, and experiences the connected reality that lies appearances.
To cultivate this awareness of connectedness, remind yourself that all entities in the Universe are temporary. They arise from the primordial source, exist for a time, and then dissolve back into the source. There are no exceptions. You and I are an expression of this underlying source and we share the same destiny as everything else.
A Physicist would say that in the Universe there is constant movement from energy to matter and back to energy. Imagine an animated Yin-Yang symbol with its spiral movement. Think of what a moving fractal looks like. These are representations of this constantly moving cycle. Our challenge is to not resist this movement. It is futile to try. We must make a virtue of necessity and embrace this movement wholeheartedly, surrendering to the flow.
Surrendering to the flow means letting go of the mental concepts that underpin your sense of identity. Let go of them willingly instead of clinging to them until they are taken away forcibly by the movement of time. These structures were never permanent, and you need not fear losing them. They are not the real you.
Consider the Taoist metaphor of being swimmers in the great river of life. We can go with or against the current. The river does not mind. Many people swim against the current as they enact their various dramas and become exhausted without making much progress, their lifeless bodies eventually floating out to sea.
The wise among us know that we are all destined to flow into the ocean at the end of our lives, so they swim peacefully with the current, enjoying the journey and arrive at the ocean knowing that this was always their destination.
You need not worry that by swimming with the current you will arrive at the sea too soon. The river mouth in this metaphor is not a fixed point. You reach the sea when you have exhausted your life force. By swimming with the current you move while conserving your energy.
Being mindful in Nature in the way described in the Every moment is the best moment chapter allows the subtle complexities of Nature to reveal themselves to you and for those impressions to be received without being distorted through judgment and the superimposition of preconceived ideas.It is a common mental habit to receive a sense perception and straight away start processing it into various categories, working on it until the conclusion bears little resemblance to external reality.
Relax and Merge
Many people in the developed world are tense and stressed. Our preoccupation with the drama of daily life creates a tension that over time becomes the baseline of our life. But look around in Nature, most of what you see is tranquil most of the time. Nature flows gently in quietly evolving cycles from one state to its opposite. Violent explosions of energy such as storms are the exception that proves the rule that Nature is tranquil most of the time.
Communing with Nature is releasing your worries and stress-producing thoughts, and, breathing deeply you synchronise your inner world with the slower, more relaxed rhythms of Nature in the here and now. Past and future do not exist in this mind-set, only the present.
You have achieved this state of merged presence when you are experiencing Nature in a fully conscious, non-conceptual way. It is heightened awareness without the mental chatter. You might recall this is the essence of meditation.
As you progress with this practice you become aware that in Nature there a vast moving river of intelligent energy all around you. This passage from Hermann Hesse’snovel Siddhartha, illustrates the point beautifully:
However, amongst the thousands (of travellers wishing to cross the river) there have been a few, four or five, to whom the river was not an obstacle. They heard its voice and listened to it, and the river has become holy to them, as it has to me. The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it.
Unconditional Love and Compassion
Aligning your inner nature with the larger Nature outside and establishing this as a habit will bring with it an increasingly powerful feeling of unconditional love for all things. This is the essential quality of Nature as it nourishes all life.
As a natural consequence of the experience of unconditional love, you are likely to have an increasing desire to help others in the spirit of compassion. This might take the form of spontaneous acts of kindness, ‘paying it forward’, or other forms of self-less action. All of these are the result of allowing the outer reality of Nature to become your inner reality. You come to realise that the non-conceptual intelligence that pervades Nature manifests itself as intuition. What could be simpler, or more beautiful, than to build that bridge between inner and outer reality? This is a natural path towards cultivating an awareness of your highest self, and creating the right conditions for spontaneous Enlightenment.
As you increasingly dwell in a mind-set of unconditional love and compassion, you intuitively sense that you have reached the threshold of a great experience, that of pure Source awareness. No words can properly describe the blissful immersion of this experience. It is Enlightenment experienced as an ecstatic home-coming.
The Source is experienced as a formless clear light that you know was never born and will never die. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Source is poetically described as the luminous splendour of the colourless light of emptiness.
You realise that at your core you are this clear light, this beatific non-conceptual intelligence that permeates the entire universe. You don’t just thinkit, you experience the knowing at a deep level. The recognition of this deep bond liberates you from the fear of death, permanently transforming the way you think about this most fearful aspect of life, the extinction of the egoic self. You become like a raindrop that falls into the ocean and becoming one with something immensely larger.
By summonsing the courage to leave what is left of your egoic self behind, and stepping across that experiential threshold you will have achieved Enlightenment. Now the challenge will be to maintain enlightenment, or source awareness and continue to dwell in an enlightened state despite the mundane world clamouring for attention.
To purchase David Tuffley’s book The Tao Te Ching, click on the link here.