The following article is an excerpt from the upcoming book, tentatively titled Powered By Nature.
The Mayan shaman walked around the sacred fire pit, chanting to the Mayan energies. Suddenly, a loud sound of a phone ringing cuts into the ceremony.
After the second ring, the shaman reaches into his shoulder bag and pulls out the phone. Not to silence it, but to answer the call. After doing so he hands it to the other, younger shaman as the call was for him from our bus driver.
This was pretty funny to all of us in the ceremony, but later that day John Perkins, our journey leader, made a great comment. To the shamans, it was no big deal. It didn’t disconnect them from the ceremony. Perhaps they didn’t think it ideal, but it was no breach of the sacred that we were all engaged in.
In the West, we tend to think of a phone ringing in such situations as anathema to the process.
Earlier that week during a cleansing ceremony, feeling great joy in my heart a bunch of us started laughing hysterically. One person reflected later that this felt like a violation, that it distracted her from her meditation and she felt bad for the shamans.
But the shamans were laughing too. As John put it, “Don’t take it to seriously, it’s only the most important thing in your life.”
John likened it to the Achuar people coming from the Amazon rainforest to visit San Francisco like when the Pachamama Alliance puts on big fundraising events. People often wonder how the Achuar feel about such visits. What is the urban jungle like compared to the real jungle? Do they fear muggings on the streets like our people fear swarms of mosquitoes?
All in all, they have a great time. They don’t feel disconnected as they’re still with Pachamama, the earth, the heavens and everything, at all times.
Can we be like the Achuar? Can we be like the Mayan shamans? Can we be immersed in cities and our technology and still maintain this connection to nature?
The entire week in Guatemala I had been thinking about such issues. And as with most things, I believe the answer is multi-faceted.
First, the Achuar and the Mayans grow up in nature. They’re never far removed from the elements and natural processes occurring all the time. Furthermore, it pervades their thinking and spirituality throughout life. They are raised in this way.
Most of us in modern civilization are not raised this way. And thus, we may have missed that deep embodiment of nature that builds the unbreakable core connection that is always felt.
Secondly, we spend a lot of time in civilization with our high-tech gadgets. Certainly, a lot more time than we do interacting with the natural elements. How many hours of each day are spent indoors, in vehicles, and staring at screens?
Yes, I see the irony in much of my statements as I’m writing this to you on a computer, working with a word processor.
Richard Lowe, in his book, The Nature Principle, talks about as we go more high-tech we need to counterbalance this with being “high-nature” too. Some who only glance at Lowe’s book, may think it rallies people to become luddites and anti-technology. But this is not the message.
I love technology and am excited about new advances coming forward in the future. At the same time, I recognize that many of our technologies have hidden costs that we’re only beginning to realize and that most people are kept in the dark about. And our removal from nature has other hidden costs in much the same way.
Many of us, myself included, live in the digital landscape of computers and the internet for hours and hours of each day. My current role and mission in life requires this to some degree.
Take a look at how many people are staring into their smart phones in any public space and you’ll see we’re not far off from being literally plugged into the data-sphere as long imagined by our science fiction writers.
Lowe’s idea is to bring it into a balance. High tech and high nature. Some people may be more called into the modern technology side of the world and may only feel the need for a little bit of nature. Others will be called to more fully immerse themselves in a naturalist lifestyle, living close to the earth. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, simply that some nature time does seem to be a necessity for human health and performance.
A complete immersion into a “modern” lifestyle comes with a physical and psychological health issues. This much is clear.
That shamanic ceremony with the cell phone interruption occurred at the end of my trip to Guatemala. Throughout the journey I thought about these ideas of disconnecting from the digital landscape, and into the natural one.
For me it was helpful to disconnect in order to reconnect.
In talking to others about some of the ideas that I’ve been writing about for my upcoming book, I would say the statement, “Being in nature doesn’t come naturally to me.” Observe that statement for a while and realize the absurdity of it.
Yet, despite the oxymoron, there is an element of truth to it. Not being raised with a close connection to nature, it has been learning like how to ride a bicycle. The details of which seem impossible at first, until you practice and practice and it eventually becomes second nature.
That we need connection with nature to become second nature to us, rather than it simply being first nature, is an endemic issue of our modern society, leading to health issues as well as the destruction of nature.
This is further reinforced by the fear of nature, the desire to conquer and control it, that is constantly pounded into our minds by our society. That I need to write this book at all in order to clear up misconceptions and drive towards the goal of harmony with nature is a reflection of how far we’ve come down a wrong path.
Upon arrival in Guatemala I left my phone off and wouldn’t even use it until the return journey home a week later. No phone. No internet. Not a thought of the websites I visit in my every day life back home.
This vacuum left a free space to connect with the other people on the journey. The free space to let nature enter into me. And the presence to actually be present rather than thinking constantly and planning out the future and reflecting on the past.
Why couldn’t I simply make the time to unplug back home?
Why was it necessary to travel halfway around the world to do so?
Because being wrapped up in “real life” simply makes it harder to do. We have routines and habits that drive our constant connection to the digital world. And many of us did not grow up with counterbalancing natural routines because our parents didn’t have them either. So, the call to action now is to set conscious routines to make up for the previous lack.
It may not be easy in the beginning. It may not feel natural to be in nature. And that is okay. Here are two helpful things I found that can support the journey.
- It is helpful to disconnect from technology to connect to nature, if for no other reason that it frees up the time and space to do so.
- It is helpful to disconnect from thoughts of the future and past, to become present. This is one of the benefits of meditation. It is also one thing that naturally comes from time in nature.
The technological part was pretty obvious to me. But with my businesses and other aspects of my life that I’m always working to improve towards a greater future, the second part may actually be the bigger block, at least personally. I know there are many times I’ve felt resistance to going for a walk in the woods because I have stuff I have to do.
Beliefs tend to be built up from experience. They’re true in the sense that they’ve been your experience up until that point.
Yet, it was in the final day of shamanic ceremonies that I was able to let go of the belief that I wasn’t good at being in nature, whatever that meant. In a drum journey, I shed it like a snake skin. As it happens a green snake came into our circle visiting a number of people at that time.
Since shedding this idea of my ‘unnaturalness’ spending more time in nature and becoming present and connected has been easier upon my return home.
If it helps you, disconnect in order to reconnect. And realize that your experience may be different than mine. And with time perhaps we may all be able to embody the spiritual connection to the earth that the shamans and indigenous people appear to have at all times.
That’s why we like herbs! I see it as the tip of a spear that can help bring people back to a more natural way of life. If you enjoyed this article please continue to support us by picking up some herbs here.