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RE-CONNECTING WITH NATURESpend time in nature each day, with the intention to be with the senses, including the natural sense of ‘attraction’.  Nature ‘works’ via natural attractions; the attraction we experience to nature is a form of love.  When we connect with the natural world, we connect with a love that neither uses nor understands verbal language and stories.

Walk around in a relaxed and open way until some place or aspect of the natural world attracts you.  Engage with this place in a respectful way, by asking its permission for you to be there.  Wait for about half a minute.  Look for adverse signals such as thorny plants or biting ants.  If the area still feels attractive, or becomes more attractive, trust that you have gained consent to stay.  Say ‘thank you’.  If this place in nature no longer feels attractive, simply keep walking until another place attracts you, and repeat the process.

In opening to this sense of attraction, you are allowing your natural intuition to strengthen.  You may feel as though you are being ‘led’ to a place.  This is simply your intuitive sense being a bit more to the foreground than you rational brain.

Once you have found ‘your place’, spend some time engaging with your senses.  You will find some guidelines on the next page.  As you do so, allow the thinking mind to slow down and recede into the background, bringing your mind fully into the present through the senses.

In the Buddha’s teachings, ‘right’ or, more accurately, ‘skillful’ understanding has its roots in our sense perceptions.  We perceive the world through our six sense doors – eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and consciousness.  Perception is like an open circuit that completes itself in things and in the world, an open circuit with no boundaries.

Perhaps you will notice that a boundary emerges when thought begins to put names and labels on things, to reach out and grab the raw experience of life and put it in a box.  The box, whether that’s ‘me’ or ‘tree’, may appear to separate and to participate with the world in a limited and fragmented manner.  Simply notice when thoughts limit perception, and when they don’t.

As you become more and more present, you may simply feel like sitting there and meditating – or simply looking around.  A friend, Jenny Taylor, who teaches meditation in centralAustralia, calls this practice “Useless Gazing”.  Simply soften your gaze and be present.  Thoughts may come, but they are likely to be softer and more transitory than the normal process of the ‘everyday mind’.

After about 20 minutes has passed – guess if you don’t want to use a watch – you may feel like journaling.  You may want to write about your experience.  You may want to write some words that speak to the place where you are.  Or you may have had insights – either during this time or during meditation practice – which you want to record.  Or you may write a poem. Or perhaps you simply start writing and see what comes.

There are more suggestions for ‘activities’ on the following pages.


 We are born of nature.  We come into the world as sensory beings; the truth of our senses is not overlaid with stories and concepts.  Our most trustable truths are our immediate sensory experiences.  The time you spend in nature during this retreat will help you return to the simplicity of the sensory ways of thinking and relating with which you were born.  Engaging with our senses in nature is a very immediate way to connect with the truth of immediate experience.

Each of our senses – and there are many more than we might imagine – are intelligences that come to us because we are also part of the natural world.  Each natural sense comes from and remembers eons of life experience.  Each is a different expression of life’s desire to exist.


Once you have found ‘your place’ sit of stand or walk around slowly in that place.  Allow your senses to fully engage with the place.

What can you feel – reach out and touch some things – do they feel soft or hard, sharp and spiky or smooth……or……?     How does you body respond to the different touches?  Is your sense of touch heightened if you close your eyes?  (Make sure it is safe to close your eyes.)

Look around – what colours can you see…..what shapes and patterns?  How does your body respond to each different thing you see?

Listen – what sounds can you hear……are they high pitched or low, far or near, rhythmic or staccato, or……?  How does your body respond to each sound?

What can you smell – how would you describe each scent?  How does your body respond to each different scent?

Is there anything in this place you can safely taste?  Be cautious – many plants are poisonous to humans – don’t taste anything unless you are quite certain it is safe to put in your mouth.  If you do taste something, what sensations are there in your mouth, where in your mouth is this particular taste strongest….how does your body respond to it?

Remember that the oxygen you are breathing in is produced by the trees and plants around you, and that the carbon dioxide you are breathing out is being breathed in by the trees and plants.  Spend some time in the mutual flow of breath exchange.

Nature offers us much joy and wisdom – when we pay attention and respond to it.


To see the world in a grain of sand

and Heaven in a wildflower.

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

and eternity in an hour

                                                                                                                 William Blake


The senses are designed, structured for relationship with nature, for participation with our environment.

One of the most profound of the Buddha’s Suttas, pointing to non-separation, to breaking down the projection of a subject/object experience, is the well-known teaching to Bahiya.  Bahiya was in such a hurry to get the teachings that he interrupted the Buddha on his alms rounds.  When Bahiya refused to come back at another time:  The Buddha said:

In that case Bahiya, here is how you should train.

In the seen, there will be just the seen;

In the heard, just the heard;

In the sensed, just the sensed;

In the known, just the known.

In this way you should train yourself.

When for you there is in the seen just the seen;

In the heard, just the heard;

In the sensed, just the sensed;

In the known, just the known;

Then you are not by that.

When you are not by that

Then you are not here.

When you are not there,

Then you are neither here nor there, nor in between the two.


This Sutta is best contemplated in nature, without engaging rational thought.   As your mind quietens and you engage with the senses, occasionally recall phrases from the teachings;  notice the moments when ‘you are not by that’, when you are not anywhere in particular – not viewing nature from this or that perspective – but simply ‘there but not there’ – another element in the play of inter-being that is the world we live in.  Don’t attempt to come to a rational understanding about this – simply experience it.


Ah, not to be cut off

not through the slightest partition

shut off from the law of the stars.

The inner,

what is it?

If not intensified sky,

hurled through with birds

and deep with the winds of homecoming.




Find a place in nature where there is a view out for some distance.  Sit or stand there and look straight ahead and let your gaze become very soft and somewhat unfocused.

Allow the edges of your vision to extend sideways, upward and downward, so that you are taking in as much of the scene around you as possible – as though you have vista-vision.  Remember to let the gaze be unfocused, the eyes soft and relaxed.

Now begin to imagine that conscious awareness is actually infusing and filling the entire area that you are seeing.  The space of pure, clear knowing has expanded in all directions to become as large as the expanse of your vision.

After holding that impression for a few minutes, begin to sense that conscious awareness is also existing behind, above and beneath you, beyond the area of your vision.  Conscious awareness is now encompassing the space all around you.  Conscious awareness has become identical with that space, receiving and knowing all objects and phenomena that appears within its expanse.

Within this space you can feel your body and breath, be aware of thoughts or sounds – all of it arising in this big space of conscious awareness.  Any movement – inside you or outside of you – any sound – inside you or outside of you – is taking place within the Big Sky of mind.



When despair for the world grows in me

And I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come to the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light.  For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

                                                                                                Wendell Berry

Playing with ‘Seeing’ / “point of view” / “perspective”

Sight is a powerful experience for humans and produces many metaphors for aspects of thinking, meditation and experience.  The visual parts of our brain are huge.

Object / Ground Reversal

  • Focus on an object at eye height, 5 to 10 meters in front of you.  A tree-trunk, or leaf etc will do fine.
  • Use a sharp focus so the object is in the foreground and other things are background.
  • Do this for a minute or two.
  • Shift focus so that the ‘background’ is the focus and the object less important.
  • Do this for a minute or so.
  • Now look around with a ‘hard focus’ honing in on specific things – as though you are ‘spotlighting’.
  • Now look round with a ‘soft focus’ getting an impression of the whole scene.

Then consider what sort of ‘gaze’ one uses most in life and in meditation.    Reflect on an experience – something that happened in your meditation.  Then consciously ask yourself, “While I was focused on one thing, what else was happening?” Or, while I was in soft focus, was there a lack of clarity about details of my experience?

Consider that when an experienced tracker is tracking an animal or plant they are mainly using soft focus.  ‘Sharp’ / ‘Hard’ focus and ‘Soft’ focus both have their place. Experiment with both so you can skillfully use both.



Who made the world?

Who made the swan and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean -

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps here wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly that a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, to fall down

into the grass, to kneel down in the grass,

is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

                                                                                                            Mary Oliver


We share the air we breathe with everything that lives.

We even share the air with those who lived in the past.  Since the oxygen content of this planet is relatively fixed and the oxygen molecules keep recombining and recycling … with your next breath you may very well be inhaling an oxygen molecule that once passed through the body of Abraham, Cleopatra, John Lennon or the Buddha himself.

A molecule in your next breath may well have gone through the body of Homo habilis, wandering around a couple of million years ago, or through one of the giant wombats that once roamed this continent.

Our breath not only connects us with other humans, but also with every other form of breathing life: fishes, trees, grasses, birds, mammals, the entire atmosphere.  Everything is breathing, trading nutrients and waste in the great gas exchange.

We are always part of earth’s breathing.  Every single day, all of the life on earth joins to take one big breath.  This happens as plants photosynthesise, creating an increase of oxygen on the daylight side of the planet and a complementary decrease of oxygen on the night side of the earth.  Think of planet earth as an abdomen that revolves rather than contracts, all of earth-life taking a full breath with each revolution.

Furthermore, every single year the earth takes a few long deep breaths with the change of seasons, as photosynthesis increases in one of the earth’s hemispheres and decreases in the other.  Just as the moons move the tides of the ocean, the sun moves the daily and annual breaths of the earth.

We could say that even the universe breathes, expanding and contracting with Big Bangs and Big Crunches.  Inhale – exhale, light – dark, warm – cold, manifestation – emptiness – it all goes on, breathing within you, without you, and through you.

If you are very attentive you might even sense the intake of what Kabir called “the breath within the breath”, the breath of spirit, the charge of conscious life emerging from the oxygen fires at the beginning of the universe.

Each time you inhale, sense the mystery.



The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.

We must take that in,

the wind that lets us live.

Breathe before it is gone.




Find a place in nature which attracts you, and where you can get a sense of the landscape.   Begin to notice movement.  At first you might notice the movement of trees, bushes and grasses in the wind.  If you are near water, you will notice the movement of the water.

Notice the changing patterns in those movements, the responsiveness to the wind, to the flow of water.

Now widen your awareness to include the shape of the landscape around you.  Notice the shape of hills, the indents of the gullies and creek beds.  They were not always this shape.  They have been moving, dancing with wind, water and sunlight for millennia – changing shapes and patterns in response to upheavals deep in the earth, to extremes of hot and cold, to the rise and fall of sea levels, to shifting weather patterns.  Probably where you are sitting now was once under water, or may have been part of a mountain range, or once covered in ice.

The shape of the land has been influencing the weather patterns and flow of water, which in turn determine where the trees will grow tallest and thickest, where the grass will be lush or sparse, where animals and humans will build their houses.

Bring your awareness back to the movement around you – the wind in the trees and grass, perhaps the flow of water.  Notice the movement of light, the shortening or lengthening of the shadows, or the changing light as clouds cross the sky.  You may also notice the movement of birds or insects or other animals.  Perhaps your clothes or hair are moving in the wind.  Notice movement inside yourself – your heartbeat, small movements of your body.

You may begin to make small deliberate movements, in response to the movements in and around you.  Perhaps you will find yourself dancing.

Perhaps you will simply continue to sit still, dancing invisibly with life.


Now we all move,

we’re moving with this earth.

The Earth is moving along,

the water is moving along,

the grass is moving,

the trees are moving,

the whole earth is moving.

So we all move along with the Earth,

keeping time with the Earth.

                                                                         Prairie Potawatomi Indian chant

When I Was The Forest

When I was the stream, when I was

the forest, when I was still the field,

when I was every hoof, foot

fin and wind, when I was the sky


no one ever asked me did have a purpose, no one ever

wondered was there anything I might need,

for there was nothing

I could not


It was when I left all we once were that

the agony began, the fear and questions came,

and I wept, I wept.  Tears

I had never known


So I returned to the river, I returned to

the mountains.  I asked for their hand in marriage again,

I begged – I begged to wed every object

and creature

and when they accepted,

God was ever present in my arms.

And She did not say,

“Where have you been?”

For then I knew my soul-every soul-

has always held


This poem is by Meister Eckhart  -  a Christian mystic who lived from 1260 to 1328 inGermany.

The Catholic Church condemned and suppressed his work and destroyed a lot of it.  After all, if one finds a direct connection with what is real, as Meister Eckhart did, then what need for religions, churches and priests!

Meister Eckhart was deeply touched by nature, which reminded him of the all encompassing space of the nature of mind – the belly of emptiness that he called ‘God’.

[By his own definition, 'God' could be neither purely masculine nor purely feminine;  so I changed 'He' to' She' in the last verse to remind us of the indivisible and all-encompassing nature of Love - Bobbi]