The other day, I was feeling a bit off, nothing big just a tad angsty perhaps stemming from a bit of empath overload worrying about family members or self-perceived lack of love and understanding from my husband. So, I did what I usually do when I need to get right with myself and with God, I headed to the forest. I am blessed to have a stretch of woods in the back of my neighborhood mostly all to myself, except for the forest creatures. I have been forest bathing long before the word became popular and no, I do not need a guide, just God!
So, as I ambled, I immediately felt better as I took in the sights and sounds of the forest and the fresh air. I have had many faith epiphanies and conversations with God in the woods. A thought arose which inspired this blog. I pondered that the simplicity and beauty of nature naturally fills one with wonder, awe, and gratitude which honestly can be an antidote to all disharmony. But why is this so?
One reason, being in nature helps us to feel better emotionally is that it helps us to literally see a broader perspective. Often, we can get a bit of myopic vision or as I sometimes like to say enamored with the “I maker”, ourselves and our so-called problems. Simply looking at the sky or the vastness of the landscape around us can help us see how small we are, and this can include our perceived problems.
I think this is why I have always loved the song Look up Child by Lauren Daigle. Here is the opening verse, “When darkness seems to win? Where are You now? When the world is crumbling? Oh I, I-I-I, I hear You say. I hear You say, Look up child, ayy.”
So beautiful. Look up my child, God seems to say. I am here. Look at this beautiful world I created, this beauty and peace also lies within you and within others. When we get out of our own way, we have a clearer vision and can see God’s creation which he describes as very good, all of it.
I appreciate the Passion translation’s version of Romans 1:20: Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.
To me, this points to the basic tenets of yoga philosophy and faith! When we focus too much on the unchanging qualities of life we suffer. This is discussed in the yoga philosophy concept of Prakriti and Purusha. Prakriti is that which is changing, Purusha is that which stays the same or remains pure. Humans seem to focus more on Prakriti, the changing qualities such as our youth, the devotion of a beloved, or our children for example, and we suffer when things change. It can be difficult to identify with the unchanging.
As Christians, we can surely identify God as the unchanging, and yes, invisible. God is the pure and constant presence that underlies all things and all of our moments if we choose to commune with Him. We can also find evidence of Him and this unchanging quality in all that He has made. As Paul suggests in the verse above, he has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, we can sense the invisible, God’s presence and character, in the visible, in all that He has created.
The bible is full of references to nature, these parallels are easy for us to identify with. Of course, God’s people in biblical times literally lived much more intimately with the natural world as opposed to modern-day folks that sometimes do not get outside or truly see and interact with nature around them, sometimes ever! I think this is in part a contributor to the rise in anxiety and depression.
Nowadays we tend to soothe our weary souls with things of the world, including our phones, devices, and other distractions rather than turning to God. This verse from Job points again to God’s hand in nature. Job, the righteous man who trusted God in suffering, wrote: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you, or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10). I like to define righteousness as getting right with self and God. Job suffered, and who hasn’t? But he gets right with God by trusting Him and Him alone more than what the world and his friends and family try to tell him about his suffering. He also sees the hand of God in all things. In every breath.
Time in nature and on our yoga mats can give us the time to open our vision, open our hearts, and commune with wonder and awe at everything that has been created, including ourselves. So, we turn outward and also inward to see this beauty and wonder, the workings of the Father. For you [Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) The Psalmist alludes to our wonder-working God and how he created us! Many of us have an easier time considering all the problems with our bodies, even feeling shame or self-loathing.
Our yoga practice and perhaps time in nature can help us to make peace with our bodies and perhaps praise them for their complexity and truly divine origins. Small amounts of gratitude, sprinkled with wonder and awe at the miraculous ways our bodies can move. In the movement, we calm our busy minds and connect to what is true, what is eternal, our connection to God.
This ability to see the world and all that is in it including ourselves with wonder and awe was freely given to us. But we must open our eyes and hearts to see, to choose to see Him everywhere. Let us choose to look up to God’s creation and seek Him in all that he has created. Thank you, God. I see you in all your creation, in me, and radiating around me in this beautiful world. Your presence transforms my weary soul.