Friday, March 26, 2010

Why the forest?

If you’ve been following this blog, you will by now know that my partner and myself will shortly be leaving the city to move to a beautiful piece of land in the indigenous forest on the East coast of South Africa, where we will be building a largely self-sustaining life. Several people have asked me, “Why the forest?” Indeed, why did I not choose the coast or the bushveld or the desert or any number of other natural, unspoilt areas in this beautiful country I am privileged to call home?

In order to answer this question, I would like to share with you what it is that I feel when I am in the forest. My partner and I regularly go walking on the forested slopes of Table Mountain, which is about a 10-minute drive from our city home. Below I describe my experience of a typical walk.

Shortly after commencing the walk I become very aware of my body working, my muscles stretching, my breathing deepening, blood rushing to my feet and legs as I move my body up the incline. I find myself releasing the accumulated stress of the day, and the multitude of small concerns occupying my mind diminishes with every deep breath that I take. Gradually the incessant chattering of my mind quietens and I start to take notice of the incredible beauty of my environment.

For me the forest is a perfect example of co-creation in action: each fern, moss, lichen colony, tree, plant, insect, bird, animal, not to mention the unseen micro-organisms, simply expressing themselves perfectly without concern for what the other plants and animals are doing, and yet, together forming a perfect, harmonious whole. How wonderful if we humans could each enact our greatest, most loving expression of Self in every moment without concern for how we might be judged by others (or ourselves). Imagine what an incredible co-creation could ensue if we simply embraced love as a motivator!

As my walk progresses, the forest around me starts to take on the appearance of a stage or movie set – it’s simply too intense in its “is-ness”, simply too perfect to be real. The almost psychodelic colours, the myriad textures, the richness of smells; the placement of every tiny stone and twig seems simply too perfect to have happened by chance. Somehow I can’t accept that there isn’t an incredible design, an awesome intelligence behind it all. As I walk with reverence through cathedrals of trees and gaze with awe upon delicate green lace-light filtered through living stained glass windows, I become convinced that I am in the presence of a collective intelligence – a “spirit of forest”, if you will. This is MY church, my place of worship where God seems very close.

At this point I generally become aware of myself at several different levels – my human animal body experiencing the challenge and joy of the exercise, my human personality concerned with thoughts and emotions and experiences, and then there’s another, broader perspective of myself, which encompasses the other perspectives and so much more besides. It is a version of myself that starts to experience the inter-connectedness of everything around me and to feel my own integral connection to all that I perceive. I begin to feel expanded, as if I no longer end at the borders of my body; my senses heightened, I start to experience the forest as Self, the Self as forest. My single, limited perspective multiplies to become an infinite number of perspectives. I become a part of this amazing co-creation that I perceive with my senses, but also a part of so much more that I cannot perceive with my limited human abilities. It’s as if my act of loving observation allows me to become an integral, participating, creative part of the whole. This is the closest I ever get to feeling at one with God.

Sometimes at this point I find myself overwhelmed with emotion. Tears start to course down my cheeks and I feel SO incredibly alive, SO incredibly grateful to ALL THAT IS for being a part of it all. A bubble of happiness works its way up from the pit of my stomach to explode into a riot of ecstatic, joyful, fizzing colours behind my eyes and suddenly I feel unbelievably light and free and elated. I find myself running and skipping and dancing like a child without any concern for whether I might be observed or judged by anyone around me - joyful in a way that I simply cannot replicate anywhere else.

And THAT is why I love the forest and why it is the only place in the world that I could possibly be happy to live!

Next: Coping with impatience


Marion said...


I've only recently discovered your blog. What an amazing post this is! Exactly how I feel in a Forest...those Trees certainly know how to give extreme joy.

In my previous property stood a lone Sequoia Tree. We were situated in the middle of town, far, far North of his usual habitat, so he stood out and was really unique. He listened and taught me so many things. I can only imagine what a whole Forest of Sequoias would be like.

ragmopp said...

OH I do love a good forest.

Your blog is lovely, I found it through your partners site. I wish you two the most amazing time of your lives!

Lisa said...

Dear Marion and Ragmopp

It's lovely to meet you! Thank you for your comments and good wishes. I hope you continue to find interest and value in my blog.

Love, Lisa

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