[Peter’s introductory remarks] Anne describes herself as a “humanist / animist”, drawing her spiritual sustenance from both the natural world and humanistic principles. A transpersonal psychologist with an interest in consciousness and a longtime meditative practice, she has traveled the world to learn from shamans, healers, and indigenous cultures the sense of spirit and of peace that Nature provides.
Thank you, Peter, for your kind introduction. I’m happy to be included in this deeply meaningful event as we explore together the concept of Peace from so many spiritual perspectives.
Every morning at sunrise, I go to the beach for meditation. There, I find a source of strength and clarity, a sense of connectedness with the universe and all its components that erases the false boundaries which otherwise would separate me from this world. “I” cease to exist. I am the water and its waves, the mountains and trees at my back, the sand and rock beneath my feet. I am the cool breeze from the sea, the fire of the rising sun, the bird that soars overhead. I am the fish in the water, the insect that buzzes past my face, the small dog that greets me there each day. I am the scent in the air — of sea-breeze, of rotting seaweeds and stagnant pools, of sweet jasmine in bloom. I am the Eternal Blue Sky that the Mongolians and Tibetans call god. I am the 10,000 spirits that speak to and through the Korean mudang, who looks to the mountains for her guidance. And I am the deep waters of Lake Baikal in which gods of the Siberian shaman reside.
I am everything — and nothing. And I am every human, unable to distinguish myself from others, from the beginning to the end of time and back again. Time itself no longer holds meaning.
My ancestors were called stillen im lande … the quiet people of the earth. Amish and Mennonite, emerging from the mountains of Switzerland, they were pacifists of christian origin who tilled the soil, lived simply and in community, and saw god in one another…and in the earth, the sun, the fresh water, the vegetables in the garden, the pig in the sty. Just as a child who plays in the forest or meadow naturally knows that Spirit resides in the land, so too did my ancestors.
Jane Goodall, the well-known British anthropologist who lived for more than four decades in the jungles of Tanzania to study primates, was asked in an interview about her visibly and profoundly peaceful demeanor. Her reply: “I have taken the forest within me.” Jane is now a UN Messenger of Peace and heads an international organization called “Roots and Shoots,” teaching children about deep ecology. Incidentally, she’ll be in Hong Kong this August for a youth leadership summit based on this premise.
Psychology tells us that those who have regular contact with Nature are mentally and emotionally healthier than their counterparts; biomedicine tells us the same about physical health and longevity. When we feel a sense of connectedness with the natural world, of which other humans are surely a component — when we can’t distinguish ourselves from this world, and receive from it our spiritual sustenance — we are naturally inclined toward peace. We’re rendered incapable of destruction — of conflict with others, or of damage to the environment — when we are profoundly aware of our interconnectedness, and of Spirit permeating Nature in all aspects.
Let’s explore this together. Please settle comfortably into your chair, close your eyes, and breathe slowly and deeply …. Picture in your mind your favorite place in Nature, whether the seashore, or the mountain, the forest, or meadow — whatever resonates for you. Explore this scene: look around it, see as much of the detail as you can, its colors and textures, the light and shadows, its plants and creatures. Now, add the sounds – of the surf, or birdsong, the crackling of dried leaves, the scuffling of small animals…what do you hear? Add the odors: what can you smell in this place? How complex is it? And now: what’s palpable? What can you feel? Are you sitting, and is the surface beneath you cold or warm, hard or soft? Are you touching the rough bark of a tree, caressing the soft petals of a flower, letting grains of sand sift between your fingers, sensing cool moss beneath your toes? Can you feel sunlight, a breeze, or gentle rain on your face?
Breathe deeply. And become aware of Spirit, or god, in this natural place … whatever your interpretation.
Breathe deeply. Breathe in all of this, your personal sacred space; allow it to reside deep within you. And know that you carry this with you at all times. You are Nature … and Nature is you.
Every morning I go to the beach at sunrise. And there I know Peace. And there: Spirit resides.