Professor Mary Gomes
December 9, 2011
Nature Experience Paper
Nature Experience: A Discovery of Self through Silence
Silence is the sustenance of life. It is that luxurious space of textured absence that invariably connects all things. It is what philosopher William Penn calls “the true rest of the mind”, but from that “rest” has come some of the greatest universal truths and deepest wisdom ever known to man. The seers, the saints, the shamans and sages have all been sustained through nature’s silence; it’s presence being their greatest companion, their divine nourishment and perfect refreshment. In this essay, I will be reflecting on my own experience of going to nature and meditating in silence. For seven days I engaged in a practice of visiting one spot, letting go, and just being open to whatever transpired. It was an exercise I took on with a tenacious vigor, and although it was by no means “easy”, this experience taught me how to systematically divest from my immediate social reality, tune into the natural world, and just be present to the voice within. During this exercise, there were times when I felt I could remain silent and connected to nature forever; other times it took every bit of my energy to refrain from plugging in and joining the social world. All things considered, I walked away from each “nature pause” with a renewed sense of groundedness, clarity, connection, and insight.
Seven Days of Nature: Stop, Sit, and Be
As per instruction, for the week of November 28th to December 4th, I chose one spot to visit for thirty minutes each day. The spot I selected is on the campus of Sonoma State University, located directly across from the gymnasium, on the outer edges of the native plant garden. My spot was completely surrounded by redwood trees and was at the top of a small, sloped hill. It felt relatively private and consisted of four wooden benches arranged in a circle. During the middle of the semester, I happened upon this area and immediately fell in love. I remember just laying down on one of the benches, looking up at the densely packed trees, and simply knowing that this was to be my nature spot.
At first I assumed that a practice of silent mediation would be quite easy. Personally, I’ve spent quite a lot of time enveloped in stillness and have always found such experiences to be rejuvenating, uplifting, and cleansing. I’ve always felt that silence was the gateway to the depths of my heart, but this time around, it wasn’t so simple. Like most deep experiences in life, greatness travels first through adversity. Indeed, my first day of having a nature pause was profound in the sense of how challenging it was. I believe this was due to the fact that this assignment required the deliberate intention to go into nature, as opposed to just finding myself there. In attempts to reconcile the difficult task of “checking in by checking out”, I decided that during each nature pause I would pose a question to the elements. Whatever was troubling my body, mind, or spirit was going to be explored and my goal was to truly face my most pressing concerns. One day I simply tuned into my body and then into nature to see if I could reach a deep state of inner balance, another day I contemplated my future as a SSU student and what that really meant to me, and the last day I was exploding with the emotions of personal heartache and decided to engage in an active dialogue with all the sounds, smells, and sights around me. No matter what questions were thrown out to my nature spot—or how ambiguous the response—each session seemed to achieve the goal of providing me with both insight and clarity, and ultimately left me feeling more at ease. Day One—Question One:
How can I be more centered?
As a student, it is easy to get lost in the demands of social, academic, and even work life. Without fail, every semester I experience burnout due to this very process. Not...