The silent way of nature
MANILA, Philippines - Always, I awake to the trill of birdsongs.
I am invariably reminded of a slice of life of Francis and Clare of Assisi, whose mornings were perhaps also greeted by monastic quiet amid the gentle chirrup of birds, moving them towards a deeper love and respect for the sacred in nature.
It is in moments like this that I marvel at the fact that birds still flock to our house which is perched on top of a hill — not in Assisi but in Antipolo, Rizal. It is a province at the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains, known as a sanctuary for religious communities, poets, artists, and the indigenous Aeta communities.
While my mother used to remind me how I was quiet as a child (compared to a boisterous, cheery sister), I could say now how my love for silence was heightened by the solicitude I experienced from nature. Nature was the setting for our summer games, visits to the river, climbs on rooftops and trees, and those simple moments of just sitting — watching nature's unassuming beauty.
Silence is the setting for any attentive observer's mind, and it is in spending quiet moments simply witnessing how nature works in this lush, hilly village that I have had enlarged experiences of the numinous, the unseen thread that connects each being to another in an invisible web of relationships, often beyond human control.
Once, my mother asked the helper to uproot the grass in our front lawn, leaving it nearly shaven down to the ground, until there was only the brown soil: barren, misshapen, dry. Seeing this, I complained to my mom on how she could have all the lovely greens uprooted. She simply replied, “Don't worry, they will all grow back, dear.” I did not believe her.
But when the monsoon came, her words "magically" came true. The grass grew back, filling the entire lawn once again with verdant charm. I learned that nature has its own wisdom, that no one can kill its life fully when its roots are deeply moored in soil. And the people who understood her laws, as my mother self-effacingly did, can work better with them.
Yet nature is not just the world of flora and fauna out there. In experiencing illness over time, I realized that nature also includes the ecology of our own physical bodies, and the more subtle ecology of our own consciousness and thoughts.
Diagnosed with a persistent medical condition some years ago, my good doctor advised that the best way for my body to heal is to live close to nature. She knew I meditated, so she just reminded me that I can heighten that practice to restore the energy I wished to regain.
Despite my resistance to accept the message that I have to slow down and live away from the city that I have come to love, this is the year that I finally, fully accept that the illness is really nothing but a beneficent friend nudging me to stop "merely surviving" in the urban jungle and its short-lived luster.
I'm finally hearing my body's message: the precious spirit it cradles cannot anymore take the subtle and gross forms of competition which our hyper-globalized city life has come to embody to the hilt.
Any form of external gratification cannot anymore fulfill me, not the sugar-high speed and the adrenal-pumping rush of making it out there. I learned how everything in fact is already given to each one of us, but only if we realized that nature has already provided us to begin with, bountifully at that.
Just look at, for example, how in losing sight of nature's munifecence, we have converted nourishment into gobbling down fast, instant junk food laced with MSG, TBHQ, and every other name for preservative invented by man. We have learned to feed our bodies with "quick meals" but we are also led to increased obesity, short attention spans, and a growing addiction for "more" of the same empty stuff.
We have become oblivious to the fact that we have simply acquired this unnatural "taste" for foods denatured, processed, un-nourishing, inorganic, genetically-modified. Equally, in keeping with the climate of over-consumption, we have made company of the habits of thinking that are wasteful, negative, draining, speed-driven, mindless.
Settling down in the suburbs has taught me one of the simplest and healthiest routes to live: to naturally pay attention to the speed of my thinking so that they do not grow into weeds of mindlessness. And practically, to grow the food that are best for the body's ecology: organic kamote leaves, malunggay, alugbati, saluyot. Not to mention the santol, star fruit, and mango trees planted decades back by our folks, trees so prolific in producing fruits.
I have seen how nature provides simply because it is free of superfluous needs, moving in its own gradual rhythm of growth, decay and rebirth, trusting how the law of life will bring its own renewal. In caring for her and minding her laws, I see how contentment and simplicity are the ground virtues behind nature's state of renewal and well-being.
If we just learned how to watch her in the quiet of our minds, we can learn how to support nature and re-learn her ways; for her state is really just a mirror of our own state of being. It is because human nature was originally generous, loving, simple, and peaceful that nature too was that.
It was when the counter-values stepped in — of greed, attachment, profit — that a wasteful culture based on neediness, excess, and an impoverished mentality gripped the human race, making our natural environment the victim of our own ignorance and abuses.
And when nature hits back, as many calamities have shown, she hits hard. Now is the time to take responsibility for our misjudgments that have caused us to misuse the resources that nature, like a loving mother, has given so abundantly.
One of the habits I have developed — which I enjoin anyone who wants to care for the ecology of the Self and of our natural world — is to awaken in the morning with moments of purposeful quiet. Pick one virtue that you resonate with, or wish to experience more: I am a peaceful being. I am compassionate. I am love-filled.
Experience one of these qualities for at least 5 minutes until you feel its energy radiating light into every cell of your body. Allow this virtue to light up a smile through your eyes. Make that quality come alive as you breathe, speak, eat, and move through the day to greet the natural world.
Watch the world return with gratitude for your gentle presence.
When you remember and reclaim any of your original qualities of goodness, trust that nature herself will automatically benefit and heal. In silence, activate your positive and best qualities through the power of your concentrated thoughts.
Whatever you think about deeply will be the moving force that you invest in your life, and ultimately becomes your inestimable gift back to nature.
And as with any investment, it will blossom as trees and flowers often do, especially when nurtured daily with thoughts and acts filled with love, and no less than the gift of our mindful attention. - Rappler.com
(Rina Angela Corpus is an assistant professor of Art Studies at the College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines. She survived Sandy while on special detail in New York in October 2012. She practices the healing arts of shibashi-chigong and Raja Yoga meditation. Her poems have been featured in Mad Swirl, Philippine Collegian, Philippines Free Press, and Tayo Literary Magazine.)