I am sitting in a deliciously bright room, painted all white, with two walls full of windows that face the raging Intag River in Ecuador. The sound of the river is so remarkable it played a key role in my dreams last night when I dreamt, over and over, that I’d left the shower on. If I close my eyes the river sounds like a rainstorm or what I imagine it might sound like inside the womb.
This spot on the Earth, in a cloud forest, was a serendipitous find.
The B&B hosts—a mother and daughter (and an aunt visiting from Argentina) who've all travelled extensively and who are Italian-Argentinian—have created an oasis for travelers and locals alike. Meals are offered at a communal table and the conversation is soul-soothing, heart-affirming, connecting and deeply inspired. The kind of conversation I miss dearly—where topics barely have an intermission before transitioning into a new concept. And everyone at the table is joyfully and curiously along for the ride. This type of flow in conversation is never a sure thing so when it happens, especially with strangers, it is magical.
I feel soul-drunk in this place.
We are now about an hour and a half northwest of Otavalo where we spent the month of February. All there is to do here is rest, eat, have great conversations, meditate by the river, write, read, play with dogs, snuggle with a kitten and be instantly transported to the state of joy when the warm breeze blows down the valley to kiss our faces. There are fun things to do nearby, which we will dive into soon—but for now this slice of Heaven seduces us to stay immersed in the quieter ways of being.
This nearly four-month journey has been curious in ways I didn’t anticipate. During our 3-hour lunch yesterday with the owner of this sanctuary, who is my age; her mother; John and a French-American women who is also my age, I shared that I am discovering in myself a deep and haunting need for quiet, nature and solitude in my day-to-day and how going days without those things can wreak havoc on my senses and mood. The statement was met with warm and encouraging agreement. Clearly these new friends share a need for quiet, solitude and nature or we wouldn’t have all come together to savor this delicious moment in such a secluded spot on the Earth.
I’d always appreciated nature’s ability to soothe and restore but I didn’t fully recognize it as one of my pillars of wholeness and wellbeing. Just like I now know with certainty, that meaningful human connection is another life-affirming pillar. I suspect, most humans share the same core pillars for wholeness and wellness yet, heartbreakingly, society has programmed most of us to believe we are fed by pillars such as financial success, status, external praise and approval, physical attractiveness, etc. Any struggles I go through, trying to figure out who I am or my place in the world have everything to do with society’s false pillars of happiness and the oppressive social expectations they exude.
Here, near the place where the planet takes a deep breath, I feel clear-headed, clear-hearted and open. The hypnotic sounds of the river, the lush green, the fluttering critters and their corresponding flowers—it’s all intended to cleanse the soul of the grit and grime that lodges in the human psyche.
For so many of us, we’ve unknowingly designed our personalities so as not to disturb the soot and sorrow we have stuck in the filter through which we see ourselves and the world. We don’t know there is an option other than living with an increasingly clogged filter. So we drag our dis-ease around with us wherever we go—in fact, many of us grow to identify ourselves by whatever it is that ails us.
What would happen to your life if the things that cause you chronic suffering, vanished?
Instead of getting a good scrubbing regularly, through a meaningful relationship with nature, we accept these elements of suffering as permanent—as essential to our being. We grow around them, fostering a persona that isn’t true to our essence. And we know, on some level—that we’re denying our soul access to co-pilot life with us. This mental/emotional congestion shows up as illnesses of the heart, the mind and the body.
The idea of cleaning out the muck seems impossible, in fact, society tells us it is impossible all the while not-so-magic pills are pushed to keep us striving for relief. We go on about our day, accepting the challenge of building an internally cluttered and noisy life atop society’s false pillars.
Unfortunately, this means that even in a mild breeze of crisis (real or imagined)—we crumble.
It’s been troubling to learn, up close, just how endangered undisturbed nature is in South America. Nature is endangered globally and has been for a while, but at this moment, the danger is peaking. Governments and the world’s richest people continue to privatize nature—sacred, life-sustaining nature. Seemingly with little thought, these people and their corporations pollute, toxify and destroy life. Scoffing at legal and ethical protections because to them, every holy thing is for sale. These foolish, malevolent acts of short-sightedness and greed are evidence of society’s addiction to the false promise of money equating to happiness.
Looking at the pillar’s these people hoist themselves onto, it is clear how deep the delusion goes. To see untouched nature as a revenue stream is no different than seeing young, innocent children as candidates for the sex trade. It may seem a gruesome comparison to you, but for profiteers, there is no difference. It is about removing the soul of another being for personal profit—souls are worth a lot.
Nature is the original church. The original synagogue. The original mosque. Undisturbed nature is a cathedral more magnificent than any human can design.
Nature is the original hospital. Medicine and healing elixirs abound in nature, including those to shift the psyche from delusion to awareness. Every animal other than human recognizes there is no need for a pharmacy full of man-made chemicals, as nature provides for every ill. In nature, unlike the pharmacy, ills are cured—not milked and masked.
And it goes on … nature as the original restaurant, the original house, the original community gathering space, the original artist’s loft …
As I move through towns, big cities, small villages on busses packed with humans—and then, joyfully, back into nature—it is undeniable how sacred the natural world is. I can feel my heartbeat mirror the pace of each place we pass through, from frenzied to tranquil, and I recognize how my own survival depends on my being able to regularly access green spaces.
The good news is, nature as the ultimate healer isn’t a unique experience. We all have a church, a hospital and a home in nature. The heartbreaking news is that far too many people don’t recognize it—valuing nature, not for its divinity and life-saving capacity but rather, for its unsustainable promise of momentary, monetary wealth.
When I reflect on the struggles of humanity, it is clear to me where they stem from ... an addiction to false pillars of happiness and a disconnection from one’s own essence.
Yesterday, during a thoughtful tangent about the planet, politics and humanity, one woman at the table said, “I’m not sure humanity deserves to be saved.” I understand what she means. I don’t know if humanity can be saved—or if it should—given that the only threat to humanity is humans. The saving we need is from ourselves.
The concept of deserving to be saved is important to contemplate, and it goes way beyond the manmade confines of religion and a “chosen people.” If there were such a thing as “chosen people” wouldn’t they be the people who revere and protect justice, nature, community, love, wisdom and the vulnerable (e.g. stuff Jesus said)? I see grains of truth and wisdom in every religion, and I also see heaping mounds of propaganda in most, distracting followers from fostering their own unfiltered connection with the divine. This is on purpose—it intends to keep people from the truth and in contrast with their own essence.
The only intermediary I’ve ever needed to commune with the divine is nature.
When people are able to dive into themselves without social, cultural, religious or familial limitations—they find that thing many people refer to as “God.” And it is most obviously and easily found in the essence we inherent from the Earth.
The Earth will rejuvenate once human destruction and chaos is no longer an issue. The activist in me hopes more humans (especially those actively destroying the planet) will wake up soon and snap out of the delusion we’ve all bought into that addicts us to consumerism, convenience, conflict and cash. My preference would be that we wake up before we hit the tipping point so we can enjoy a vibrant planet and all she has to offer. And the mystic in me recognizes that even if humans must extinct themselves in order for the Earth to replenish herself—that is okay because I am the Earth and she is me.
If this catches a panic in you, just breathe. There is nothing to panic about. Panic is about loss—and we have nothing to lose but our delusions. We do, however, have everything to gain by letting go of the stories that keep us in a loop, removed from nature’s wisdom and constantly negotiating our dis-eases. Stepping into a chatterless place in the bosom of nature for a stretch of time will do more for your spirit than any false promise made about wealth, prestige or power.
When we look at life with the eyes of the Earth we see our impermanence and our infinite qualities simultaneously. There is nothing man-made that can provide instant, yet momentary, enlightenment like a love affair with nature can.
The sun is now setting far enough up the valley, that I won’t see its final glow slip into the night. Though, John has gone off with his camera in an attempt make one last breathtaking photo of the day. The clouds are rolling in after a beautifully sunny and warm day and soon the dusk will arrive, then the darkness. After another candlelit meal with kindred spirits, I will close my eyes for a long moment and open them to another morning. And another opportunity to see the world of green around me as my soul’s greatest ally … my heart’s original mother.