Encounters in nature, part 2: Three eyes on nature

View from tree of Tamarack Lake

A tree’s-eye view

photo by B. T. Newberg

Encounters in Nature: An Open-air Dialogue in the North Woods

with Celtic polytheist Drew Jacob, Vodou priest Urban Haas, and Humanistic Pagan B. T. Newberg

Part 2: Three Eyes on Nature

Recorded with a Blue Yeti microphone on a Macbook

In today’s segment, the second in a 5-part series, we explore the importance of nature in each of our paths.

Drew explains how everyone is hard-wired to respond to nature, B. T. points out that humans too are a part of nature, and Urban reveals why Vodou is a “full contact religion.”

All this and a crackling fire today on Encounters in Nature.

And now a question for you:

What role does nature play in your spiritual path?

Note: Should you experience troubles with the Flash player, you can also get the show free on iTunes Store.
B. T. Newberg sits on a cliff side

B. T. Newberg takes in the view from a cliff top.

photo by B. T. Newberg (taken by Drew Jacob)
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10 Comments on “Encounters in nature, part 2: Three eyes on nature

  1. I’m with Drew here… nature is hard-wired into each of us. Personally, having grown in a heavily urbanized setting and knowing it intimately, I can say that there is nothing that is beyond nature. We build walls, pipes, roofs, and floors to push it back and hide it, but it creeps back on us, because we carry it inside us.
    I’ve also left the city and embraced the wilderness, and experienced first-hand the alienation that comes from living behind those walls. The insight I came to from the contrast is that ultimately, the connection with oneself (meditation is VERY important) is what makes oneness with nature possible regardless of where one is, physically.
    My spiritual path (which doesn’t really have a name, but the moniker “shamanistic Daoism” comes to mind just as I’m writing this, LOL) has taken me to interesting places, and the thing I keep finding is that there is no separation. Connection with nature is a reality — realizing that it is there is a choice.

  2. >The insight I came to from the contrast is that ultimately, the connection with oneself (meditation is VERY important) is what makes oneness with nature possible regardless of where one is, physically.

    Excellent point, indeed. Being grounded and centered, in tune with one’s own sense experiences, and self-aware enough to distinguish feelings from surroundings are all vital to connecting with nature.

  3. Pingback: Episode 2 – Three eyes on nature « Encounters in Nature

  4. I’ve finally been able to hunker down and get to listening to these gems of interviews. I had been looking forward to doing so and am not disappointed.

    I really enjoyed the topic of Nature, what it means to you? I was involved in a discussion a while ago on this very topic on the comment board of Star Foster’s Blog Pantheon. The discussion was more directly, “can you connect with Nature outside a ‘natural setting’ i.e. in an urban environment or within a building?” (it later went on to discuss casting circles as separating you from nature, which is fascinating but will quickly get off topic [http://www.patheos.com/community/paganportal/2011/08/29/is-wicca-a-christian-heresy/]) I argued that, yes you can connect with Nature in a building and urban environment. And this directly relates to the topic here on what Nature is and means.

    First, I would like to point out that we all seem to perceive that Nature is something different from human lives. Why? We are a part of Nature and so what we do to it doesn’t make it any less natural. No different than a beaver building a lodge or dam. Therefore there is nothing unnatural about an urban environment. As such an environment is completely constructed out of materials that are naturally around us.

    Second, what is spirituality? I see spirituality as any activity concerning the spirit. What is spirit? I view it as the mind: perceptions, emotions, the way our views affect us physically (i.e. stress). That is how I define spirit. Therefore spirituality is something that you do that involves working with your mind and how it affects your life. Changing the way you think, changes how you interact with the world and ultimately changes your character. That is the defining factor for spirituality to me. If it can change your line of thoughts and therefore your person, it is valid as a spirituality. If it doesn’t do those things, then I believe you are kidding yourself.

    Now in relation to our spirituality being interconnected within Nature, yes we can get a sense of spirituality in a building or urban environment. I only argue that it is more difficult because of the way we have altered it.

    The way we’ve altered our communities and homes in many ways does not work in balance with how nature functions. Because our living conditions are not working inline with the natural rhythms of our planet (sun, moon, growing seasons, water levels etc.) we perceive there to be a break between our human altered environment and the rest of Nature. When in reality that is not the case. Everything we use is from our environment and a part of it, we just need to remember that. So to connect spiritually to Nature, we need only to be aware of our interconnections. In a building beneath us is usually concrete as a foundation. It is made of stones, minerals, and other ingredients that derive from our planetary environment. What about the wood framing? They are of many trees that are now beside you. I could easily go on. My point is, we cannot separate ourselves from Nature any more than a beaver in its lodge or a termite in its mound can.

    What would help us greatly is to consciously design our homes and communities to work within the rhythms of our planet; to perform in a balanced manner (when I say balance I mean a healthy ecosystem) more like the beaver lodge or termite mound (The termite mound for example faces south so that it is heated by the sun, but the ‘basement’ has long thin recesses that keep it well air conditioned). In doing so we will more easily be aware of our connections and be less harmful in them as most of our current living conditions have many harmful connections in its design. (this is elaborated on much more in the stepping stones of Ehoah – ehoah.weebly.com)

    I recall Drew objecting to our current living circumstances as against our evolution, but evolution doesn’t stagnate, or reach a pinnacle and then stop. Could it be possible that our current living circumstances are a part of said evolution? Even nomadic peoples lived in shelters when their predecessors had mostly sheltered themselves with themselves or their group, would those first shelter people have been doing something against their nature? Perhaps. Was it something good? Likely I assume, why else would people keep doing it. I think that this is completely inline with an evolution of behaviour that ensures the success of a species. Because of this technological age our life expectancy has increase drastically as well as infant survival rates – a huge deal for a species’ survival. So it is becoming our nature so shelter ourselves against the outside world because in many ways it has aided our survival. Is it good? It must be in many ways, yet beyond this point I agree with Drew, that it is still within our instincts and good for our well being to still interact and engage ourselves in what has been the environment of our nursing grounds for eons. It sharpens us and keeps us healthy, there is no disputing that. There is also no disputing the higher risk of injury and death along side being active in the outdoors.

  5. Good point, yes. And I’m not sure, but I think Drew would agree with you.

    Have you read much of evolutionary psychology? They study exactly what we’ve been talking about. The idea is that we evolved to fit a certain environment, called the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation or EEA, so that our mental programs are set up to respond to that environment with behaviors that are adaptive in that environment. However, they posit there is such a thing as adaptive lag, or the time it takes for evolution to catch up to changes in the environment. Since the environment we live in today (concrete and paved roads, high population density, prolonged stress, etc.) is drastically different than the EEA, many of our behaviors are no longer adaptive.

    Perhaps what Drew was driving at was something like this. We evolved to respond to the sensations of being in the wilderness because that was our EEA for most of our evolution. Even if you extend back beyond hominids all the way back to early mammal ancestors, the external environment would have been more or less consistent. Thus, our bodies are still respond best to wilderness stimuli, even though both genetic and cultural evolution have made possible certain other advantageous living arrangements (i.e. modern developed society).

  6. Re-reading a bit of my original statement, I am reminded of when we were hiking and came across a young family and their little girl had made the statement, “look a butterfly – We Found Nature!” The way it was said in particular was what struck me more so than the words. As if they didn’t think anything they did, who they were, or the places they’ve been to before were not of Nature. It was almost a culture shock to hear that and wonder if any of you would feel the same or at least similar?

    • Rephrase: “As if they thought that anything they did, who they were, or the places they’ve been to before were not of Nature.” … Except for what you had described as “Wild Nature” for lack of a better word or description.

    • Oh, definitely. I think the little girl’s statement is representative of a general popular feeling in America. Nature is something special out there that you have to go and find, a special destination or special set of creatures, like going to a foreign country or meeting someone from another culture.

      • This is why I like the quote, “There are no Unsacred Places, there are only Sacred Places and Desecrated Places.”

        To phrase it in line with the topic, There are no unnatural places, there are only natural places and altered places, all of which are of Nature.

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