with Tropical Nature
by Joanna Gilligan
time in the tropical rainforest of Cape Tribulation allowed me to rekindle
my connection with nature. It touched me emotionally and spiritually and
highlighted the need to build balance into my life.
The air was warm and full of moisture, much thicker than it had been next
to the ocean. The light was dim as the sky could only be glimpsed through
sporadic breaks in the canopy. The fertility of the rain forest was imposing,
the vegetation diverse and the forest form messy and chaotic. In competition
for a sunny position amid the canopy, the trees and other plants struggled
upwards, against the entangling constraints of the vines and creepers.
It was difficult to spot the wildlife amongst the thick foliage. However,
the bird life was evident from many birdcalls resonating through the forest.
Similarly, the ground dwelling animals could be heard rustling through
the leaves and debris on the forest floor. We were very lucky enough to
come across a pair of orange-footed scrub fowl. It was exciting to watch
these monogamous birds tending the same mound they return to each year
to lay and incubate their eggs. An air of content surrounded the pair
as they scratched dirt onto the mound, snacked on the worms and insects
they unearthed, and gibbered to one another. We were also very lucky to
spot a number of little turtles in the creek where we watched them swimming
amongst the rocks and logs.
Soon after entering the rainforest, I felt a significant change in my
mood. The warm still air, shafts of light, and protection of the canopy
were soothing whilst the richness of the forest in colour and sound was
exciting. A silent, but fierce, battle for water and nutrients among the
vegetation was evident and I was impressed by the determination of a spindly
vine that had obviously grown very tall, in an attempt to reach the canopy,
before collapsing under its own weight. The huge fan shaped foliage of
the ferns that catch and channel the rain water to the plants roots, were
not only beautiful but also a testament to the perfection of natures
design. The interconnectedness of the natural systems that sustain the
rich life of the rainforest was inspiring. As I left the rainforest I
felt uplifted and content.
Spending time in the rainforest also effected me spiritually. The humbling
power of nature is liberating. Diluting the need and desire for control
it frees the spirit to experience life in full. Reconnecting with nature
encourages and facilitates a realignment of purpose and priorities. I
found that the time in the rain forest reestablished my sense of place,
giving me greater perspective and clarity.
In the days to follow I felt grounded and calm. Interestingly, time seemed
to slow down and I found myself focusing on the aspects of my life of
most importance such as family and friends. Furthermore, I found myself
to be more in tune with my emotional needs and less concerned with the
inconsequential or superficial demands of life.
However, as I have found to be the case in the past, the benefits of an
experience such as spending time in the rainforest can be quickly lost
upon return to the city. Without the processes to sustain the connection
with nature, it can be difficult to maintain the perspective and calm
once the demands of everyday life are returned to the equation.
The process of writing about the time I spent in the rain forest forced
me to identify and consider the emotional and spiritual consequence of
the experience. This, in turn, made me see, more clearly than before,
that my everyday life lacks the processes required to nurture my spiritual
self and my connection with nature. In addition, my appreciation for how
little modern western culture does to support the regeneration of the
human-nature connection has also grown.
It was clear that I needed to integrate new practices into my life that
would allow me to maintain a balance between my outer and inner life.
However, which practices I should adopt were not so clear. For hours I
deliberated over this question. Then, in an uncanny coincidence, my eyes
fell on a book that I had purchased months ago, but never opened; a book
called, "Twenty Minute Retreats: Revive your spirits in just minutes
a day," by Dr Rachel Harris.
Whilst the title sounded like something from a Womens Day article,
I started to read
and found it to be a valuable source simple retreat techniques, including
practices from traditional tribal cultures that are closely linked to
natural rhythms of the earth. So, with book in hand and the recognition
that I needed some spiritual downtime, I got started.
On sunny days, I will take my rug and establish a sacred place in the
park under one of the big old gum trees. However, for colder days, I have
built my own little sacred place, in the corner of my study, which I will
visit each day to replenish my soul and reconnect with nature.
Whilst, my goal is to spend 20 minutes each day in retreat, I am certain
that building new practices into my daily routine will not be easy. Old
patterns can be hard to break and I have no doubt that that it wont be
long before I catch myself claiming, I dont have time.
So, if the sign, my spiritual life is important to me, plastered
across the fridge fails, the back up plan is to sneak in a 5 minute retreat
instead, rather than break the spiritual journey.
Finally, I would like to report that it has been 2 whole days now, and
far so good!!!