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Friday, April 20, 2012

Meet the Buddha in Nature.

We all love the stunning beauty of the great Buddhist temples and shrines that stir the heart spiritually. However, I have found just as much spiritual inspiration in the forests and mountains as any ancient holy site. Perhaps that's because since I was a small boy, here in the mountains of Colorado, I have spent countless hours communing with the whispering pines and listening to the profound babbling of the meandering streams. Stood with rapture and awe atop the highest mountain-tops, as well as meditated in fields of wildflowers whose perfumes were every bit as relaxing as temple incense.

All of these wonders and shines in nature sooth even the most anxious mind into a state of pure relaxation and total awareness. For who can't stand in mindful wonder when gazing upon a misty, shrouded peak, or a dazzling stream? Is it any wonder than that many of the Buddhist holy shrines are built atop mountains and deep within forests? The Buddha was a nature lover himself.

The cities were too chaotic for a mind seeking rest, and so Buddha gave himself to nature. Fasting, he meditated under a sturdy tree, pondering the meaning of life. At night the twinkling stars would keep watch and give him encouragement toward realizing the world-changing revelations that his deep meditation would bring us. It was in nature that he came to the profound conclusion of Buddhism--balance. He found that fasting, or starving himself did not take away his suffering. But, he also knew his former princely life of gluttony wasn't satisfying either. For him, it was only on a balanced, middle-path that mental freedom could be found. He saw in nature that one plant or animal can not exist or survive without other plants and animals. This harmony and balance of a middle path between extremes would come to settle his mind to where the Dharma would pour from his newly balanced mind.

It is our calling as Buddhists today to return to Mother Nature, meditate within and work to protect it for future generations. If you have trouble feeling mindful, aware or present when meditating, try doing it out in nature. Only, don't close your eyes...leave them wide open but otherwise meditate as usual and I bet you that you will have an easier time centering into that present moment in nature than almost anywhere else. If you live in a city with no real nature to go into then try a public park, a backyard or a bike path where there are often benches. You can just sit there quietly and look ahead at the nature--the life unfolding right in front of you and sync it with your deep breathing. It will empty you of stress and rejuvenate your body better than a pot of coffee. And, to those passing by on the path they just see you sitting with your eyes open, smiling perhaps and enjoying the park/bike path/open space. They won't have any idea that you are deeply meditating. For this reason, it's a nice way to meditate in public without drawing unwanted attention.

PHOTO: I took this picture of the gurgling stream above Miller Falls near Tracy City, Tennessee in 2011.

---i bow to all beings known and unknown~

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