By T. Byram Karasu, M.D. the author of The Spirit of Happiness
An illiterate but holy man was asked what the source of his wisdom was. He replied that all he knew was in his holy book. When asked what exactly was in his book, he answered: “One pressed flower.”
Although he couldn’t read the words of wisdom, this man experienced creation in depth. Every time the old man opened his book the pressed flower was there. He looked at it, really looked at it. In awe, he admired the subtleties of its colors and intricacies of its shape. The wise man learned from nature by dissolving in it. So can you, by being not just part of nature, but by being it, as the rivers that lose themselves in the oceans. Don’t settle by “being in it” or “being part of it” or “belonging to it.” These emphasize the separateness from nature. As long as you maintain that distance you’ll remain an observer. You’ll be watching, admiring, liking, disliking, and fearing, but not being it.
We tend to attribute wisdom to the gurus of psychology and philosophy and to other learned men and women. No doubt, these people are well educated, smart, and articulate. To us, they are extraordinary individuals; we try to comply with what they say and write. But meeting them in person is disappointing if their extraordinary intellectual depth is not matched by their emotional presence; that is, a corresponding spiritual depth.
We are inclined to dismiss the wisdom of ordinary people, especially if they cannot articulate their experiences. When they do, we tend to give more weight to how these experiences are articulated than to the experiences themselves. You’ll learn more by watching an ordinary gardener plant a bush than by attending a class in gardening. The wisdom of ordinariness is the accumulation of ordinary life experiences. If it is cultivated by holy living, this ordinary wisdom ultimately culminates in the extraordinary wisdom of spiritual maturity.
Carve out time to be alone in natural surroundings. How often do you look at the night sky and contemplate the stars and the mystery of the universe? Your life is probably so loaded with activities that you are never alone, never mind being alone in nature. No doubt social and professional obligations compound your already demanding family life so that you find sanctuary only in your sleep.
The solitude of nature replenishes. You occasionally need to reduce all stimuli—no matter how pleasant they may be—and experience (as much as possible) your own soundless internal harmony. You need to get in touch with your unfelt feelings and unthought thoughts and allow your mind slowly to become still. When external silence is joined with internal silence, chaotic thoughts and feelings transform into a harmonious and peaceful moment. There, you’ll find a hint of eternal truth.
Nature teaches us about permanency in transience, stability in irregularity, and sameness in change. In nature, everything seems transient. Leaves fall off trees, trees fall, flowers dry up, the delightful breeze of summer ends, pets get old and die. And you may comment on how ephemeral everything is. But things in nature are ephemeral only if you look at them in an isolation-of-a-moment way. Leaves come back year after year, new shoots emerge from underneath fallen trees, and new puppies are born. Spring follows winter, fall follows summer. The temperature and precipitation may vary, but the sequence of seasons never changes. The sun, moon, stars are always in their regular places at any given hour, day, and month of the year. What else do you need to know to be convinced of the existence of eternity?
You can attain peace by learning from nature and connecting your transitory existence in this world to the permanence of eternity. This means ceasing to exist in any specific time and location. It means existing in all times and all locations and in all creation.
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