I was recently reading again a book by Ralph Waldo Emerson and his words "Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience" resonated so much with me and with what I think we still have to achieve today as a society.
He wrote Nature in 1836. The problem he lays out and attempts to solve in his essay is: "humans do not fully accept nature's beauty. People are distracted by the demands of the world, whereas nature gives but humans fail to reciprocate".
It seems we haven't made much progress since 1836, making things rather worse. We have been taking so much from nature based on two uncanny assumptions:
1) nature automatically reproduces herself
2) we humans are a separate entity from her
Emerson explains that to experience the wholeness with nature, we must be separate from the flaws and distractions imposed on us by society. He says "To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars."
He believed that solitude is the single mechanism through which we can be fully engaged in the world of nature. When a person experiences true solitude in nature, it "takes him away". Society, he says, destroys wholeness, whereas "Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapour to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man."
Emerson defines a spiritual relationship. In nature a person finds its spirit and accepts it as the Universal Being.
Why I'm a writing about this today? For two main reasons:
because I deeply believe in what he believes and I know how experiencing that wholeness with nature is vital, nurturing, satisfying. Nature has the power to give you the most difficult answers you have been desperately searching for years
naturally I've always been drawn to nature rather than to society. The years when I was pushing and forcing myself to fit into the rhythm and into those fixed paths of our society, my physical and mental health started to show clear signs of intolerance, both through allergies and through a deep sense of sadness and "missing my own half". I'm so glad to have an internal strong instinctual voice that puts me on alerts whenever I'm on the wrong route. This second aspect is what brought me 14 years ago to leave a life made of rushing, working in offices for big companies, commuting, eating badly, sleeping not enough, adjusting my natural biorhythm to the service of others, detaching my natural being from myself, not having enough time to be within nature and so on.
as an artist I feel the relationship with nature is vital for many aspects. Nature is an artist herself. Looking at her pace and seasons makes me think a lot about what we call "ups and downs", those are not "ups and downs". Those are simply our own cycles of creation.
What kills us and what makes us feel more and more depressed or unsatisfied is speed and the constant productivity.
Because of this society we are convinced that if we don't produce something there is something wrong within us. We want to achieve things in no time. We think that working on something for a month is enough or too much. We want to feel that sense of instant gratification without going through all the steps needed. We begin something, then we want success straight away, without passing through the full necessary process of creation or if we do, we think that the process should only takes a short amount of time.
I see this even when teaching art, with the majority of people wanting to achieve a professionally looking result already during the first two hours. To paint a tree takes time, we should observe the tree first (and believe me, there is so much to observe!), learn its structure, learn the whys behind its shape before jumping into any desired visual result.
Process is the best part of everything we do. It's the only real opportunity that allows us to learn and to understand. We should dive into the process with a growth mindset. We should stop living our life based on nonsense deadlines, or at the least we shouldn't apply strict deadlines when we are doing things for ourselves. We should rediscover the power of patience and natural cycles.
In nature there are seasons. Not all seasons are productive. And yet they are all indispensable to the existence of one another. We don't expect nature to skip winter. We shouldn't expect us not to be low in energy, not to have a creative block, not to have a pensive time, not to let go like the autumn leaves.
The worst advice in fact I usually I've heard when in the human fall or winter season (I mean when not be able to create at the usual pace, or feeling a bit down) is "don't stop, make something, even only a small painting, it will trigger immediately the creativity energy back in place".
Mhhh. Well, who says that stopping is bad and negative? Maybe that moment of rest is necessary for our soul. She needs to be dormant like a tree in winter in order to bloom again. We are not machines. I believe that the "constant high productivity rhythm" of this society is truly were the problem lies.
Talking about trees, I have a tree outside my bedroom facing the garden. A wonderful cherry tree. I call him 'my guru'. (I wrote about the importance of my guru in another blog post ) He has given me more answers than many teachers I have ever had, and many books on spirituality, psychology, wellbeing I have ever read. That tree alone has thought me:
the importance of patience
the importance of being humble
the importance of accepting all our moods and all our seasons
the importance of listening to our own body
the importance of letting go
the importance of understanding that everything is interconnected
the importance of being aware that we cannot control everything
the importance of being in solitude in nature in order to feel our personal connection
the importance of stopping and looking around us carefully
the importance of looking at the tiny things and discovering how gorgeous they are
the importance of understanding that each of us, looked from the top and from afar is only a tiny dot. An invisible dot that makes sense only if it's part of the rest that surrounds us.
Slow down. Discover your own pace. Be aware of your own seasons. Be kind and patient with yourself and others. And most of all learn from Nature!