Your Self-Nature (the world you find within) is on the same continuum as nature (the world you find without)!

And it is hot in Japan in August! We have been sandwiched between three different typhoon over the last week. The television is filled with images of fires all over the planet – 500 locations n Europe alone. The smoke from fires on the American west coast has made the air difficult to breathe from North Dakota to Boston.

What can we do?

For one thing, we take take care of ourselves, take care of our loved ones, be kind to all, and take care of our planet. The era has begun where we are transitioning out of a Christian (nature was given to us by God to be used by humans in any way we see fit), patriarchal (I brought you into this world so I can take you out) based modality of thinking/feeling. We are moving instead toward respecting the natural world (for this is where the pure presence and the creator is found) and toward co-creativity (let’s work on this together).

In other words, your self-nature (the world you find within) is on the same continuum as nature (the world you find without). The old paradigm had us believing these were separate entities – often at war with one another. The new paradigm sees these two perspectives as interconnected aspects of one whole unified being.

The nature of the planet is helping us to realise these changes. Old modalities are no longer working. We now realise that without caring for nature, nature can no longer care for us. Without an earth whose health is revealed in timely rains, sunshine, and liveable temperatures, we lose future generations.

The imbalance within ourselves (on the inside) is intimately connected to the pain and disruption in nature (on the outside). This interconnectivity – and the cultivation of this interconnectivity – is what Nature’s Narrative is all about.

If you have a friend, or a loved one enduring pain and distress wouldn’t your reasonable response be to make an effort to alleviate their pain and suffering?

This ‘taking care’ of your fellow human beings (as well as yourself and the planet you call home) is not something to add to your to-do list. Taking care – when considered deeply and with your whole heart – is a natural means of coming home. Home is where you joyfully (and often with a great deal of humour) care for yourself and others as they are.

This place I am calling home is where there are no fires. This ‘home’ is where we tend to any and all feelings that arise within us – all those destructive flames that we call fear, hatred, jealously, frustration. Home is also where there are meadows and streams – of love, joy, and satisfaction.

Tolerating these feelings – no matter how complex or challenging – involves understanding how and why these feelings arise (there is always a reason grounded in survival). We then tend to the areas within us where these feelings are calling for our attention. This tending is valuable work and is akin to the work of firefighters risking their lives on the frontlines to manage fires occurring all over the planet.

This attitude of care (patience and tending) toward ourselves is what underlies our joy in the company of others and extends to the joy we feel in our care of animals, plants, rivers, and forests. I venture to suggest that if you are not finding joy in your care for nature you are not finding joy in your care for yourself.

Patience and toleration (of fear, and heat both inside and outside) are what enable fires to be contained. No longer raging out of control – these fires will naturally burn out.

I cannot stress this enough. We can and we must practice toleration, and we must extend that tolerance – through patience and acceptance – to ourselves as well as others.

The era has come upon us when the well-being of our planet must be included and addressed within our most intimate circles: conversations with children (generations), conversations with partners (lifestyle choices) and as well as within ourselves (intention).

The earth is on fire. She is screaming for our help and we ignore her at our peril. To ignore her is to ignore the deepest, most intimate aspects of ourselves.

One way to help put out the flames is to open up the space within ourselves and our communities to manage ourselves and our lifestyles in such a way that we are aware of the impact we are having on others (kind or unkind words, attitudes, prejudices) as well as on the planet (throwing garbage out of a car window, vs. picking up garbage that someone else has thrown out that window).

These are such simple acts. We can Do these small, simple acts without a lot of fanfare. No big deal.

At the very least, let us practice how to BE aware of the impact of our thoughts, feeling and emotions on ourselves (self nature), our communities and on the nature of our planet.

We are all members of one undivided continuum: black, gay, white, yellow, transgendered, disabled – in all of our manifestations. How you treat yourself is reflected in how you treat others. It is no accident that issues of trauma are writ large in American culture today. If you are constantly beating yourself up, if others were constantly beating you up, you will do the same to others and you will treat nature in the same way you treat yourself.

This image above is from my veranda in Utsunomiya and overlooks a Shinto Shrine. There is greenery that joins the inside (my veranda) with the outside (the shrine grounds). This is an aesthetic practice in Japan called 借景 (shakkei) and means ‘borrowed scenery’.

The practice is used in working with nature to bring two separate and very different perspectives together into one seamless continuum. The ‘outside’ (shrine grounds) appear to be a part of the inside (my veranda) and the inside (my veranda) appears to be a part of a much greater expanse that lies beyond (shrine grounds).

We may be wholly focused on one or the other. We miss the interconnectivity and the dynamic that occurs when we put these two perspectives in relation to each other. This dynamic interconnectivity occurs in nature. It is also something we can create.

Born in America and living in a world based wholly on individualism was what sent me abroad in my 20’s. I understood on some level that there had to be other ways of relating to ourselves and others that went beyond the emphasis on individualism that I perceived to be so profoundly short-sighted. My search took me to Japan.

In Japanese the word for ‘human’ is ’人間’. The first character means ‘person’ and the second character means ‘interval’ as in the spaces between. A human in this sense is understood as a person who is made up of the relations between people. This perspective strikes me as a good place to begin to understand who we are are and why we are here. We thrive and learn in relation with others – whether they are alive or dead. ‘My’ veranda is actually a part of something bigger and is all the more beautiful on account of it.

During the month of August Japan celebrates Obon. Obon is a three day holiday when family members (who are alive) return to their homes (often in the country) to spend time together with their ancestors (who are dead). There are foods prepared and visits to gravesites (お墓前り: ohakamaeri) – all are occaisons for the dead and the living to commune together.

Monday was a day I devoted to communing with my mother, Tuesday with my father (who fought in WWII), Wednesday with my brother, and Thursday with one of my aunts on my father’s side. Today I am remembering one of my aunts on my mothers side.

The relationships we cultivate with people who are no longer alive can be another means of joining the short view (my life, my veranda) with the greater view (shrine grounds, the afterlife). In mindfulness practice we often use imagery to call to mind loved ones to help us travel into deeper regions of ourselves and to access the love (or the challenges!) that enable us to be more fully who we are.

Cultivating our relations with the unseen and the seen enables us to be more fully human. And when we are more fully human we are more fully ourselves. This authenticity – this living from what we know to be true in the deepest reaches of our being – is what enables us to care for a planet we often cannot ‘see’ even though she is there in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the very ground on which we stand, sit, love and laugh.

Simply put, it is a matter of awareness. Where do you choose to place your attention? What is your intention?

Call this field of awareness a mandala if you will – for joy and expression. Extend that mandala into its three dimensional form and you have the sphere of our planet.

Dearly beloved. She is in great pain.

Please allow yourselves to feel this pain with a measure of kindness and understanding. Do not push her away. Just being with her in kindness and understanding is enough. The rest will follow.

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