I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
Around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
Where I left them, asleep like cattle…
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
And the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Wendell Berry has written many poems that communicate his deep love for the natural world, and the solace he finds there. In this poem he describes what happens when he ‘goes among trees’, which is not so different from what happens to me when I meditate.
I sit down, I make peace with not attending to any of the things on my to-do list for the next half hour, my mind settles. And then, sooner or later, often stuff surfaces that I hadn’t attended to yet – ‘what I am afraid of comes’. Some unexpected feeling, an uncomfortable thought, sensations that I rather wouldn’t experience… followed by that momentary impulse to get up and do something ‘useful’, the temptation to get lost in thought or drift off. But when I manage to stay, to ‘live for a while in its sight’, somethings shifts and changes. I love the last sentence of the poem: ‘it sings, and I hear its song.’
Reflecting on this poem also made me curious again about the connection between being mindful and being in nature. Maybe are not so different in some ways. Certainly I feel – and often hear from people – that being in nature is a place where being mindful can happen quite spontaneously, even without any formal training in mindfulness.
Adrian Harris has looked into research on mindfulness and nature as part of his PhD, and found that practicing mindfulness in a local wood or park is deeply healing. Maybe an invitation to take your practice out among trees?
Curious to hear your thoughts on the poem, and observations about the relationship between mindfulness and nature…