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Go to the woods it will teach you more than books
24. June 2018 at 19:35
Every day can be a working day to learn from nature. Nature is a store house of wisdom and the lessons she teaches us are powerful. Great philosophers in the world have been students of, learning from nature. The style of learning is by observation and the process can be really interesting.
St. Bernard of Clair Vaux said “Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters”. What we see, what we hear, what we touch, what we smell-everything around us is a gift from nature. Nature is the world around us, except for human-made phenomena.

The 21st century is often remarked as an ‘epochal time’ in the life of humans. On the one hand they stand mesmerized by the developments in almost every sphere of their life and on the other, stand perplexed almost in a state of dilemma with all the debacle and debris around them with the onset of a postmodern and a globalized world. At this juncture one realizes the significance of being flexible, tolerant and inclusive in the multi-faceted and pluralistic world marked by malice, strife and dehumanization. While technology makes us more effective and sharper, new theories of leadership emphasize the importance of trust and establishing long-term relationships. In this multi-cultural and multi-religious world, one needs the courage to take risks, inspire and motivate, and build new strategic partnerships to address global challenges for better todays and tomorrows and this can be done by learning from nature.

In this developed world, where we live in concrete jungles, it is high time to think whether this is the right path to make developments, ignoring the Mother Nature and destroying the natural settings to make ourselves safe is digging our own grave. Paintings which used to sketched village sceneries with greenery have now been replaced by the truths of concrete jungles.

“Water, water everywhere but not a single drop of water to drink”, is a famous saying, but, it has become a truth today. God created this universe and it is out of our senses to think of the wonderful form of his creation, as we can only gaze in this magical creation of God where even minute faculties were taken care. Human was created not to destroy it but preserve it. He was made the crown of creation so that they could be a steward of Gods beautiful work. Some of the gems that we can learn from Nature are:

Love the language of nature
Love is the stamp mark of nature. Nature has showed it love and care in different forms to us. How the species love their offspring, how kittens are fed by their mother, protect them everywhere, dogs being loyal to its master and how the flowers looks romantic, the rains, the swans in the lake etc., love has an omnipotent characteristic. Affection, friendliness and kind-heartedness make life beautiful. Love is the gravitational force which binds human beings together. Love rise above all barriers. Love is a very important part of life. It gives connotation to life. Deprived of love, life has no meaning and it is losing something very important. Sometimes, nature gives us that happiness which, as a human we can’t give others.

Things we cannot control
Nature demonstrates this very well. During heavy pouring rains or a hurricane, everything is shattered. But later, nature restores itself as though nothing occurred. We have seen volcanic eruptions; tidal waves destroying everything but nature herself have the power to calm back. The Mother Nature has the power to give and take its gift and this teaches us to make understand that there are some things we can’t control. We must receive life as it comes and not worry about the things we cannot regulate or change. Have you ever heard your elders telling you to stop worrying and crying over spilt milk. Yes, there are some things that are beyond our control in life. We must learn to let go and move on peacefully. There is no point harping about it.

Survival of the fittest
Nature teaches us to be elastic and to be fit. It teaches to be flexible. A very important lesson, if you want to successful in life. We may not be on a plane topography all the time. We must learn to swim in any water, known or unknown, shallow or deep! Thousands of species succeed in surviving in extreme as well as in favourable conditions. They teach us not to give up, under any given circumstance. The phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ was coined during Darwin’s famous study of progression. During those days, many genetic transfigurations took place and finally, only the kinds that were fit, survived. Briefly, Nature teaches us to live-to be fruitful in life, by fine-tuning with every situation we are in.

Importance of small things
The environmental cycle is truly amazing, where all the species depend on one another. There is not a single species which is useless or insignificant. Each of them forms an essential part of the ecology, however microscopic. They are all interdependent, forming a closely linked chain. The survival of one is dependent on another and hence, everything needs to be in place. This is true of human life as well as we are all interdependent on each other. No one is inferior or of no worth. All of us live in a close network. Also, the tiny things in life are equally important, just as the big ones. Attention to detail is an important aspect.

Keep growing
From the time the seed is sown, it does not stop growing till it reaches its zenith! It reaches out to the sky, with its spirit soaring. Nothing deters it. It grows every day, little by little, steadily. Nature achieves everything she wants, at her pace. This is how we should approach our aims in life. With steadiness and poise. And we should never stop growing. Positive growth should always be there. Nothing should hamper our motivation to grow and develop.

Self-offering and uninhibition
We see trees in full bloom and trees offering fruits. What does it imply? Have we thought of that? Are they not offering us with what they have, that too, voluntarily? Nature is a very selfless, compassionate giver. Nature is very generous and abundant. There is absolutely no dearth of anything. What we can learn from this is, giving and offering are great qualities. We can always offer to help someone. It spreads happiness and warmth. Nature is generally uninhibited. Whatever it is, it’s always in its best form, unless it is tampered with. It does not shy away. The bold colours speak for themselves, don’t they? Similarly, we ought to be bold and uninhibited, for it brings out the best in us! Have you ever seen the Hippos jumping in smooth and calm flowing water? This is the good in water’s nature that lets the others interrupt its flow just to refresh them. Wildlife owes a lot to water for the greatness of its heart. Water never minds this though they lessen the purity of it. Rather than getting annoyed it passes on smiling. Silently does it make itself clean just to be attractive enough and to be interrupted one more time and hence the cycle goes on. What a splendid quality this is! This way it delivers the idea of self-offering- -the kind of sacrifice.

Let’s compare this behaviour of water with that of humans. Disappointment is the natural corollary of this comparison for humans do not offer themselves to others and even if they do per chance, they do it in a mean way by seeking self-interest. Self-offering and self-interest are two things contradictory in nature. They can’t co-exist for the presence of one eliminates the other naturally. Precisely putting, as oil and water can’t live together, these two can’t also. Now, give a look to flowers that blossom to spread the fragrance and beauty or perhaps to be plucked by someone just to wither away. Who can defeat flowers in this particular habit of theirs? Man? No! Be just to decide!

Nature is very versatile. It has so many facets to it. Just look all around you. You will see a bewildering mix of things! Countless number of species forms the rich biodiversity. From Siberia to the Thar Desert, from the Amazon rainforests to the grasslands of Australia, there’s so much of variety! Our lives are a mix of many things too. We play so many roles in our lives: a student, a parent, a child, a friend etc. We have to manage each relationship well. The journey of life has so many twists and turns, all of which make it one big, beautiful thing.

Beauty in simplicity
It is rightly said that simplicity is beauty. There is an inexplicable aura about subtlety, grace and poise. Nature is the best example for this. God’s creation is such; it speaks volumes, even though it is not extravagant! It is not gaudy. It is just as it should be. We ought to be simple and modest too. Arrogance and pomp and show will not fetch us anything. We should be rooted and down to earth! Humble and simple.

Peace and Harmony
Every tiny part of nature harmoniously co-exists with every other part. There is unity in harmony. It is magical, like music! Nature taught us music. We need harmony in our lives too. The frequency has got to be rhythmic and harmonious, to take proper shape.
Peace! There is peace all around, in nature. In the stillness of the lakes, atop the lofty mountains and deep within the sea. There is great power in peace and inner calm. Peace is wanted, on our part. Haste and violence is futile!

Springing back from sorrow
The quote by Percy B Shelley, “If spring comes, can winter be far behind?” is legendary! It has so much truth in it. It very closely relates nature and human life and brings out the close lines of parallelism. After sorrow comes happiness. Everything is a recurring cycle. Nothing stays forever. It will all pass. What goes around eventually comes around. After autumn comes spring, and this oscillates back and forth. Life follows a pattern too. Momentary sorrow and regret should not bog us down. Good things will happen, in due course of time.

Life is all about timing-the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable becomes available, the unattainable become attainable. Nature shows us to have patience -to wait. She doesn’t expect snows in summer but waits for the winter to come. Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters. In relations, examinations-everything has its own time. As nature has the patience to wait, to suffer the pain and move on, it leads us to do so. Also not to waste the time we have. Many changes are periodic. The position of bodies constituting a given system undergo changes relative to one another in such a way that the configurations of the bodies a successfully repeated. Planets orbit the sun; earth rotates on its axis; pendulum swing; clockworks tick tock; tuning forks vibrate; heartbeats. In each of these occurrences, nature shows us the example of its timing

Nature has its own wisdom, helping one discover hidden thoughts and feelings. And sometimes, in the face of billion year old rocks and 300 mile long canyons, nature teaches a lesson in humility.

Renewing and Restorative Powers
The healing powers of nature can be very profound. The experience of calm, peace, or awe no doubt contributes to the neurochemical changes in the brain that reduce anxiety and depression, as well as helping us cope better with stress. Over time nature has caused damage and destruction in many ways. These include storms, tornadoes, cyclones, floods, bush fires, earthquakes, droughts, landslides, blizzards, etc. Most of these cause immense damage which we, as humans, are unable to hinder. As a result, many people usually lose valuable possessions and, sometimes, loved ones during these times. The ocean in which fishes live is fully saltish, if we pull out a fish and check if the saltiness has entered into the fish the result would be negative. This has a serious implication to human life also; situations surrounding them may be corrupt so it does not mean we have to be corrupt. Be good without considering the circumstances.

A lotus plant originates budding at the bottom of a mud-covered, murky pool, and gradually develops toward the outward, bursting out of the water into a beautiful flower. During the night-time the lotus sinks under the water, and emerges again with the sunshine of a new day. Its stalk is flexible but does not break. As the lotus flower emerges from the mud, and up toward the surface it is completely unblemished. Lotus in the mud symbolizes the hardships and difficulties of life, or a challenging time we have faced or are facing. As with the stem growing toward the surface, we also grow through our experiences, through our difficulties, learning lessons along the way, removing obstacles and overcoming our adversities. As the petals unfold, we too unfold, and become like a lotus rising from the murky waters and flowering into something beautiful. Its open blossom stands for enlightenment. It also gives the idea of grow where you are planted, as a lotus can blossom only if its roots are buried underneath the marshy soil. Life may be not that we are born with golden spoon, but all have an opportunity to show growth progress and be successful. How many of us take a walk outside and spend time with nature every day? Probably very few! Thanks to our busy schedules and the ultra-fast paced life that most of us live! Also, being in cities, we see very little of nature in its pristine form.

If we would like to be happy and healthy forever we should always strive our best to avoid wasting our planet and its stunning nature by stopping our foolish and egoistic activities. So as to keep ecosystem in balance we should not cut trees, destroy forests, observe energy and water conservation and lots more. Ultimately we are the important user of the nature thus we should always extremely take care of it.

Once again, thanks to urbanization and pollution! It is sad that man has devastated nature and all we see is concrete, plastic and bellows of smoke! In a bid to enjoy the by-products of the technological advancements, we have forgotten to enjoy something even bigger, Mother Nature. Yes, nature is our most precious gift and the most invaluable resource. It is thus important that we use it judiciously.

Just imagine the days of yore! Breathing fresh, unpolluted air, drinking the pristine drops of mountain water and waking up to the birds’ chirps during dawn. So fantastic! What can beat this? Nature’s beauty apart, have you ever wondered what we can learn from nature? It is man’s first teacher. Nature teaches us so many simple, yet invaluable lessons of life, which would improve the quality of human life. Every day, we can learn something from it. The lessons it teaches are unfathomable and never-ending. Nature is an abode of learning and a treasure trove of wisdom. All great philosophers in the world have been students of Mother Nature. It does not take a very wise man to learn from nature. All it takes is some amount of time and observation. And believe me, you will not regret it!

When human beings consider themselves to be the masters of the earth and have dominion over it they are more likely to abuse it and exploit it. Much of our conventional education is learning “about” nature. We study nature as something separate from us and as an object which is useful to us. We seem to consider ourselves either masters of nature or, if more enlightened, then stewards of nature. We study nature because we wish to know our servant or our protectorate in order to make best use of nature for a prolonged period.

When human beings consider themselves to be the masters of the earth and have dominion over it they are more likely to abuse it and exploit it. Therefore, the environmentalists take a step in the right direction by considering themselves as stewards of the earth. Stewardship entails responsibility. In such a view of the environment people are more likely to conserve and care. However, both these views are anthropocentric. From both these points of view human beings are a superior species, having a higher status. Norwegian philosopher Arnie Naess has named such a human centred relationship with the natural environment as “Shallow ecology”.

According to Arne Naess human beings are a part and parcel of the natural world as any other species. No doubt human beings have their own outstanding faculties and qualities. They have their own highly developed senses, intelligence, consciousness and ability to communicate. But then other species too have their own particular, specific and unique qualities, which humans do not possess. Each and every species upon this earth, humans and other than humans, contribute in their own specific way, for the totality of existence, which evolves, unfolds and maintains its continuity. Therefore, all life, human and non-human, irrespective of their particular qualification, have intrinsic value. As all humans are born equal, irrespective of their class, status, education and wealth and as they have the right to life irrespective of their usefulness to society; in the same way all species have intrinsic value irrespective of their usefulness to humankind. Arnie Naess calls it “Deep ecology”.

From this perspective human beings are not masters or stewards of nature but they are friends of nature The word friendship can be used in two ways; firstly, we consider those whom we know, as friends because we are acquainted with them, we go out with them, we spend some time together and support each other in time of need. But then there is another meaning of friendship; when we feel unconditional empathy and offer our affection without expecting anything in return, then we are in a state of friendship. In this second meaning of the word friendship is a sense of mutuality and reciprocity. When we are able to identify ourselves with the other, without any sense of superiority or inferiority, then we create a condition of friendship. That was the vision of the founders of the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth.

Friendship is the purest and noblest kind of relationship. In Buddhist language it is called metta. The Buddha throughout his life advocated his disciples to practice metta, i.e. friendship, with all sentient beings. The Buddha himself was called Maitreya which means Friend; not master, not prophet, not guru, just Friend. Friendship is the foundation upon which Buddhism is built. Friendship underpins the notion of non-violence and compassion. We will never harm or exploit or damage or denigrate someone who is our friend. We will receive the gifts given to us by our friends with thanks and gratitude. We will return our own gifts to our friends. Everything we receive from nature is a gift; whether it is food, water, sunshine or anything else; everything is a gift. This is the symbiotic relationship which equips us with humility, wonder and reverence. Nature is not there to be plundered or exploited rather it is there to be cherished and celebrated. I call it “Reverential Ecology”.

The moment we accept that all life has intrinsic value we begin to experience a profound feeling of reverence towards all life and begin to experience the beauty, the integrity, the exuberance, the generosity and the economy which holds the entire web of life together. In place of controlling, owning or possessing we begin to participate in the process of the intricately woven web of life. We are no longer masters or stewards of the earth rather we are participants and co-creators of the earth. Of course, humans have their special place in the scheme of the universe, but so do the flowers, fruit, fungi, worms, butterflies, oceans, mountains and all micro and macro organisms. When we view existence with such an expanded consciousness then it is possible to open our eyes and learn “from” nature rather than learn “about” nature. Nature is the greatest teacher. The Buddha learnt the reality of interdependence from a tree. While sitting under a tree and observing how everything was dependent upon everything else he was enlightened. Fruit came from flower, flower from branches, branches and leaves grow from the trunk, the trunk from the soil, the soil is nourished by the rain, the rain is held by the clouds, clouds are formed out of the sea, the sea receives the waters of the rivers and is held by the earth, the sea nourishes the earth and earth the sea and so it goes on. The Buddha’s realisation of interdependence was perhaps the beginning of deep ecology and reverential ecology.

We don’t need to go very far to learn from Mother Nature. Wherever we look with open eyes and a generous heart we will find nature as teacher. Look at the honeybee; we can learn the lessons of transformation from the humble bee. It takes a little nectar from here, a little nectar from there, but never too much from anywhere. Never ever has a flower complained that a honeybee has taken too much nectar away. In fact the flowers are grateful to the bee for helping them to pollinate. When the bee has taken nectar it does not waste; it transforms the nectar into sweet, delicious, healing honey. If human beings learnt to design their systems on the lines of the honeybee there would be no depletion, no waste and no pollution.

Science writer, Janine Benyus, calls it “biomimicary”; having observed the beauty, resilience and intricacy of spider silk and seashells she says, “Why don’t we humans observe nature and design our technology and tools like nature does?” If we follow the patterns of nature there would be neither shortage, nor scarcity of anything, rather there will always be abundance. How wonderful it is to observe that the nature designed seed has so much potential. From a tiny apple pip comes the seedling; from the seedling the plant, from the plant the tree, from the tree the apple fruit with many more pips within to produce many more trees for many more years. The leaves of the tree fall on the ground decompose and become the nutrient to the tree and to the soil. Abundance all around. Nature knows no scarcity, because it knows no waste.

Such deep observation and deep experience is essential in order to get deep insights in the workings of nature. Here great science, great art and great spirituality converge. Scientists, artists, poets and mystics have found deep inspiration from close identification with nature. Nature identification is possible only when we are able to let go of our separation. To learn from nature we need to be in nature. "Learn the lessons from Nature". Even the calmness in Nature, small hums made by birds or animals - if we tune ourselves - can be quite exciting. A seed grows with no sound but a tree falls with huge noise, destruction has noise but creation is Silent.

Although climate change is a burning issue of the time, some seem to be still unaware of this reality and are safe in their cocoons. This would make life very difficult
5 R’S for saving our earth are:
• Refuse
• Reduce
• Reuse
• Recycle
• Restart
“Earth needs care or she will tear and we will have to bear”

Cite This Article As: Nithin Valsamma Rajan. "Go to the woods it will teach you more than books." International Youth Journal, 24. June 2018.

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