The natural physical world including plants and animals and landscapes etc.

Have you ever been for a walk along a rugged coastline, or a walk through woodland forests or mountains? With no music players to distract you, or people constantly talking? If you have, you may know what I mean when I describe the feeling as “being in one’s natural state.” If you haven’t, let me delve a little deeper.

If I could explain it, I would say I felt connected to the earth whilst out in nature. Lots of you actually know this feeling when you go on holiday somewhere beautiful (I’m not talking about the latest five star beach resort!), I mean that there’s something about the place in its natural state, which makes you feel as though you are in a different world. And in fact you are!

A place where there are no buildings, no cars, no artificial noise; just natural sounds, like the wind in the trees, a trickling stream, or the rush of the ocean. And you don’t need to go to the corners of the earth to find this; most of us have places in our own countries where we can experience it. Even a stone wall seems to fit in. But let’s explore this together.

Why do we feel calm here? Why do we say: “Wow! This place is amazing?” Because we know, that deep down, this is us. We are nature and nature is us. But most of us live in areas full of artificial noise and concrete – both unnatural. If you are ever in the countryside and you hear a chainsaw, or you are standing by the ocean, and you hear a jet ski, you will know what I mean. The mechanical sounds grate on our nerve endings, and we feel tense, as the sounds do not fit in with the surroundings. The same way as a concrete wall in a mountain range not only looks out of place but also feels out of place.

But how relaxed do we feel when we sit by the ocean, just listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore? It is intense, magnificent. A place where we feel calm, where we feel free to daydream, where hours can pass without needing to rush home and watch tv, or go to the pub for a beer. A place where all our troubles melt away with every wave.

Yet we surround ourselves with artificial noise all the time. Television. Walking with an mp3 music player. Playing computer games. Going to pubs and clubs where the music is so deafening, we cannot hear ourselves think. And that is the key – that we cannot hear ourselves think. You see, most of us don’t want to spend time with ourselves, without noise, that’s why people put the tv or music on when they are alone, “just to keep them company.”

We live in such a noisy world now that we feel anxious and nervous when there is silence. We do not want to be alone with our thoughts any longer than is necessary. We need to keep busy, to always be doing something, to always have noise in our brain. Because we don’t really want to hear what’s going on in our head, do we? That would be much too frightening. So we use excuses like “I’m watching an interesting program,” or “I love music.”

How many people could say they have ever come home from a hard day at work and sat there in silence? It wouldn’t be very comfortable, would it? But nature is different, because nature is never silent.

How many of you love to hear the fierce wind in the trees whilst in bed at night, or love to hear the rain against your windows whilst watching and listening to the faint crackle of the wood fire? I’m sure most people do.

The ancients believed that the universe was made up of four elements, wind, fire, water, and earth, so don’t you find it interesting that these elements are also what relax us the most? Music created for relaxation in the home uses the same principles.

The sound of the wind
Watching and hearing a fire crackle
Watching and listening to the sound of a stream or the ocean
Walking on the earth

As humans, the most intelligent advanced beings on the planet, we view nature as something to be looked at, not something we are part of, and it is in this fundamental mistake that we have lost our connection to the earth. We create artificial environments to live in, sometimes hundreds of feet in the sky, we live in communities where no one knows anyone, and we don’t work in harmony with nature, we try to control it.

We also treat it as an inexhaustible supplier of goods. You see, since the beginning, nature has always been a supplier who happily balances the books every year, with each customer taking and receiving what he needs for survival. Until we came along. Nature didn’t count on us ordering more than we were prepared to give back, and come to think of it, since the industrial revolution, we have just been takers.
In our never ending race to make our lives ridiculously comfortable, seeking anything to make us happier, we have been on a non-stop mission to effectively alter the balance once and for all; by raiding nature of all its resources, something that a lion or tiger hasn’t done in a million years.

We dig, and we dig, looking for coal to fuel our power stations; we raid the oil in the earth to fuel our cars and make plastics; we mine for precious gems to become wealthy and powerful; we make chemicals to spray on our vegetables to make them grow bigger; we pour millions of tons of waste into the seas. We dig and we keep digging. We alter the landscape permanently to create new homes, and we can’t stop. We just can’t stop. Where will this end?

Well, one day, the earth will have no more resources, and we’ll have to move. But let’s face it, you and I won’t be around then, so it’s no good thinking about. But what I want to understand is why we continue to damage the planet we are on, when there is no obvious replacement earth within the nearest x million light years, and indeed, even if there were, how would we get there?

We are as much a part of nature as the seed that grows into a tree, the egg which becomes a bird, or the bee that pollinates the flower. We’ve just forgotten how.

In our super fast evolution to become homo sapiens (which you remember is characterized by superior intelligence, articulate speech, and erect carriage), we somehow developed the idea that we were better than nature, as opposed to part of it. Whilst we continually find ways to control and contain nature, it is happily existing, forever changing, never complaining, just getting on with it.

Looking back over the years, the natural world has done a pretty good job of looking after the planet; constantly balancing the books, with floods, droughts, extinction, renewal, rebirth. The problem is, this looking after the planet business is pretty complex stuff; something our brains do not really have the capacity to understand as yet, and maybe never will.

Think back to when you take a walk in the woods, the large animals, the fungi, the micro-organisms, the trees and the plants, all here to perform a specific task in the business of keeping the world in balance. Do you ever think about the purpose of seemingly useless (or even annoying) living things on the earth?

In the summer, we all wonder about wasps, whose only purpose in our minds, is to ruin our barbecues and sting us. In the warmer countries, we wonder about mosquitoes, who only come out at night while we are sleeping to bite us! Or how about the common house fly or spider we chase round the house, trying to kill with a rolled up piece of newspaper?

Let’s face it, we just don’t understand nature, and to be honest we don’t want to. We want to keep it at bay; to look at it through the glass window of an aquarium or the bars of a bird cage. We don’t know how to interact with nature, we’re scared of it, because unlike the animals in the woodland or the big lions in africa, we don’t quite know our purpose; how we fit in.

We don’t know our role, except we are told we are the supreme predator – due to our supreme intelligence and tool making ability. We only know we are in a position of power, that we are better than the fish, the animals and the trees, and rightly so! After all, who has heard a tree discuss philosophy, an ant build a suspension bridge, or a parrot build a skyscraper? Anyone who suggested such a thing could be possible would be dismissed as crazy!

We are the most intelligent beings on the planet. We have a consciousness. We are aware of ourselves. We have the power of complex language. We have the capacity to learn new things every day. We have the power to create beautiful things; but we also have the power to destroy. Imagine coming head to head with a lion, tiger, or even a bull, and try to kill it with your bare hands! Wouldn’t be much of a contest would it? I think we all know who would be voted the ultimate predator. But the thing is, even these animals who could tear us to pieces, with their teeth, or their horns, haven’t really got the slightest bit of interest in us, unless we threaten them. They aren’t interested in eating us. Why? Because we’re not on their menu.
Every animal eats specific things in order to do what’s best for their system, and assist nature retain balance, even if they are not consciously aware of that fact. Look at some of the biggest animals in the world, what do they eat? Grass! Look at whales, what do they eat? Microscopic plankton! Everything on this earth is doing something for a reason, and that reason is to keep the world in balance. A bull might not be aware of why he is eating grass, but even if he were, he would keep eating it, as his system is finally tuned to process the nutrients out of it, something we could never eat, as our system could not digest it.

All in all, we’re a bit lost really. Having lost our place in the natural world as a contributor, we have started using our complex minds for different ends, namely, for enjoyment and acquiring wealth. We have become greedy. We want everything, and we will do anything to get it. We won’t let anyone get in our way. This is not about need; humans could live happily, if they had a garden full of vegetables, fresh running water, and a nice warm place to sleep.

This is about organising ourselves in such a way so that we can acquire wealth. That is the main goal of humans now, not living as part of the natural world as a contributor. We live in places where it is impossible to grow your own vegetables, where the most important thing is to be close to where you work, the place where you earn money. And of course, close to where you can spend your money.

Food production is no longer in your hands, as you are too busy earning money to worry about that. Huge companies have been created to grow food for you, raise and kill animals for you, and pre-make your food so you only have to heat it. You can even have food that is grown in different countries brought to you by the miracle of modern transportation.

Who are you now, ultimate predator
As you walk along the supermarket aisles with your fine clothes on, selecting choicest meats, and succulent tropical fruits, perusing dairy products packaged for you, oh, so nicely.

Delicately smelling and selecting.
The only requirement is money.

“Progress!” I hear you shouting. “This is progress! We don’t live in mud huts anymore, hunting and gathering, growing vegetables, storing rain water. This is the modern world! We must progress! We cannot go backwards!” But in some countries people do live like this!

Some people live simply, growing their own food or raising their own livestock to provide their family with food. They may not have “progressed,” as we know it. But there is one thing I’d like to ask you: Who do you think is more connected with nature? Us, the modern city dweller, who buys his food in nice packages that have been shipped across the globe, or the man who plants a seed and waters it, nurtures it watching it grow, tending it throughout the season, and when finally it is ready, harvests it and eats it?

In our modern life, we still need food, water, and shelter, we just pay someone else to provide it for us. You see, the acquisition of money has changed the way we connect with nature. We are no longer at one with the world. We are outside, looking in. We now fear nature. We fear coming into close contact with wild animals and fish. We feel scared if we are in a wood alone. We fear for our very existence. We think that the wildlife want to harm us, when in fact most of them are more scared of us than we are of them. We need to control nature, to tame it, to domesticate it, so we feel comfortable living in the world. Surely this is not what progress is about?

As we don’t understand the delicate balance that has been achieved over millions of years, we never realise that changing nature (like the damming of rivers and the felling of ancient forests), can cause environmental catastrophes. For us, nature is a means to an end. A means to live comfortably, to acquire money and enable us to live in isolation, surrounded only by other humans, where we feel safe in the knowledge that no wild animal will be able to get into our city, our house or apartment! But think on this. More humans are harmed every year by other humans than ever by wild animals, but still we are afraid.

Connection to the earth can only come through letting nature back into our lives. This is perhaps the reason that when we are walking by the ocean watching the sunset or looking out over mountain ranges that the place feels special to us. A place where we have not tried to change nature, a place where we exist in harmony with the earth. Just being, not trying to control, not trying to overcome. Just listening and understanding.

In this place we are not bored, we do not complain, we marvel at the beauty of the world and we do not want to leave. At the end of our short lives, we return to the earth. It’s the living we have to work on. The time when – instead of defeating nature – we become its partner.


Do you feel part of nature now?

Probably not. You see, as humans, we’ve spent a long time trying to get out of nature, so there’s no reason you should feel different after reading four or five pages! But if you feel like something’s missing, if your life feels somewhat empty, starting to reconnect with nature is a good start. It doesn’t mean you have to dress differently, hug a tree, or go and live in a wood. Just start to look around you more, start to be more aware of yourself and how you interact with your surroundings.

When you are shopping in your supermarket, remember the animal who gave his life for your fillet steak in the nice plastic wrapper, or the tomato plant that grew from a small seed to become a filler for your sandwich. Look at your urban landscape, think of the material your homes and your offices are made from. See your cars polluting your air with noise, the smoke coming from industry. Listen to the sounds of the city. Try to watch yourselves, as you sit bored, watching tv or dvd’s. Think about the cattle who provide the milk, when you complain about the price of cheese. Remember the forest that took longer to grow than you have lived when you toss away the piece of paper.

Now think back to a time when you experienced nature in its entirety.

Visualise the mountains with their snowy peaks, the stream running through the hills, the ocean waves pounding the shore. The peaceful walk through the forest covered with leaves and birds in song.

Visualise the first time you saw a creature in its natural habitat. The rabbit bounding across the field, not in its cage, the birds flying freely high in the sky, not behind bars.

Now think of your city, think of the fun, the bars, the nightclubs, getting drunk, spending your money. The cinema, going bowling, spending a night at the arts.

Now remember the peace, the calmness and the stillness. Remember the wild beauty of nature.

Now back to your wide screen plasma tv, your surround sound, your king size bed, your car, your job. Your problems, your lack of money, the boredom of it all.

Now camping in nature, looking at the stars, the quiet knowledge you exist in a place surrounded by billions of other worlds, and yet have no idea where you are. The hoot of the owl, the night creatures stirring, all ready to contribute to keeping nature in balance.

Let me ask you, which one of the above is your natural state? I know where mine is.

With the pace of modern life, we only “go into nature” as a treat, a holiday, or a break from earning money. It is seen as something we have earned the right to do – to go camping for two weeks in the hills. Yes, it relaxes us. We are in awe of the beautiful scenery, but at the end of the two weeks we sadly pack up our tent and return to the city where for the first week we hate being back in. Give it a week and you’re back in your modern life, with all thoughts of nature placed firmly on hold until next years holiday.

“So apart from giving up my urban life and moving to the country, where I live self-sufficiently with my ten chickens, one cow, and a vegetable plot, what can I realistically do to reconnect with nature?”

Well, you all come up with your own ideas, but here is one I would like you think about. Grow something. I don’t mean buying a plant from a garden centre and watering it every day. I’m talking about something you can ultimately eat. I am talking about taking a seed and nurturing it, watching it grow, feeding it with water and sunlight, until it is ready for harvest then enjoying it. It truly is a rewarding experience. This is something you don’t need a huge garden for, you can grow it in an apartment, or on a balcony.

Take the seed and plant it (tomatoes for example), water it, and look after it. You are responsible for the life of the plant. If you leave it, it will die, but given love and care, it will grow into a plant and provide for you.

When it is ready, harvest it gently, and take time to savour its taste. You have given life to the plant, and in return it will reward you with the nutrients your body needs to sustain life. Try it. You may be surprised how you feel.

By alan macmillan orr

“The Natural Mind- waking up”



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