Nature as Teacher

The other day I asked an elder in my community: why is it that some people are so perceptive to the “knowing field” and others, no matter how much training in therapeutic and people skills still can’t see? It seems that the only lens is through theories that they have learned, or applying formulas. Those that appear to have a “gift” or special skill can see the underlying dynamics around them as they emerge, can meet each moment afresh with an authentic response. Some people may say they are “called” to do the work that they do, because of their deep intuitive skills and inherent knowledge.

The elder answered me: these people who “know” are in touch with natural law. He went on to explain how in traditional cultures, with people living closer to nature, and the passing down of wisdom from grandparent, to parent to child we stay connected to nature. I asked him how we, Western people, can learn to be connected to this way of being and he offered three options:
1) To live close to nature, eat food from the area in which we live, follow the daily cycles and seasons etc
2) Learn from elders who are still connected to this old knowledge
3) Or deep and impartial observation of nature

What really interested me was this third option, as it is something that may be accessible to those that are living in urban settings and industrialized cultures. Being alienated from nature and the natural way of things leads to alienation with ourselves and others. I was reminded of a process I had experienced of following specific steps in observation of a single plant based on Goethe’s work and started to weave plant observation into my therapeutic practice and facilitator training with remarkable results. When we learn to look without applying preconceived theories, names, ideas or analysis, we begin to really see what is, and to see something new. Now imagine a world where we can start to see things in all their richness and living process, rather than as the object and abstractions we have given them. So, a rose becomes a spiraling, unfolding, sweet-smelling, living, dying, moving being rather than a stem, petals, thorns, the symbol of love.

A person we engage with really feels seen.

We only see in the world what we already know. We can completely miss something that is blatantly obvious to the next person as it is not in our field of consciousness. The first step in this process is to stop and smell the roses. Draw the plant. Sit with the same plant. What do you see? Where did this plant come from? From seed to plant to bud to flower? Where is it going? Can you still see the plant as it is when you close your eyes? Look again, did you remember it correctly? Draw it as it will look tomorrow. And tomorrow how does it look? Most importantly however, is that you DO it, not just imagine or think about what I am suggesting, because in this way you remain ensnared in old patterns of perception.

And perhaps one day we will authentically be able to greet each other: “Sawubona” (I see you).

2 Responses to Nature as Teacher

  1. Meryl Smuts October 19, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    The way you describe of looking at the flower reminds me of mindfulness – fully observing what is in the moment, using all our senses, with absolute focus and attention. What also comes to mind, is that sometimes something we see so clearly, is not visible to the person involved at all. The challenge then is to facilitate visibility in such a way that it can be fully seen and understood by all involved, expanding the field of consciousness you speak about.

  2. Carina June 18, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Hi Tanja!
    Wow this made me realize that i have such a deep desire to become more conscious on all levels. This a beautiful article! Sawubona!

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