Sharing with Nature

Humans need the natural world. After all, we are part of it, resonating with instincts and behaviors carried from a time when outdoor living was more than a catchphrase in an advertisement. Even in places where concrete, metal, and glass dominate the field of vision, a glimpse of green can be found on a desk, a rooftop, along the street. We feel the need for a connection to nature in our increasingly busy, technological world. Sharing nature with each other brings us back into balance.

Ways to share nature abound. Taking a hike with a friend, joining the volunteers at your local community garden, assuming responsibility for a shared green space—all of these options begin your journey into building community through shared experiences in nature.

Within this journey, we must acknowledge that humans have damaged nature in their dedication to increasing profit through industrialization. However, our collaboration can reverse that damage. By coming together to create something as simple as a community garden, the healing process begins. That same garden brings us closer to our neighbors as we work the ground side by side. A stitching of wounds occurs as we reduce food insecurity in our neighborhoods, as we cut back the need for deliveries and trips to grocery stores, and as we amend the dirt, transforming it into healthy loam that produces that abundance of good food.

Further, this same dedication to profit has helped form laws that divide us, making it more difficult to protect the earth and participate in the healing process. For example, if a large healthy tree lives on a property line, how do we approach this? The laws would have us fight over ownership, parcel out the parts of the tree, or simply cut it down. By working together collaboratively, two neighbors can find a solution so they may both continue to reap the benefits of this beautiful tree. When we approach these situations with a mindset of sharing, a mending of those wounds caused by the legal system begins.

The collaborative structure of Model Communities Association brings a unique vision in the discussion of the natural world. By taking a view that we must share with nature instead of using it to simply fulfill our desires, our interactions with our environment resonate with a deeper connection.

When approaching nature with a collaborative mindset, this work aligns with the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga, just as these ideas inhabit the communities created through the MCA structure.

In the shared expansions of the first limb (Yamas), we consider how we treat each other. Extending that regard to nature, we apply these ideals to live peacefully and harmoniously within this natural system. By strengthening our powers of awareness, will, and discernment, we improve our relationship with the natural world.

  • Ahimsa - By embracing the natural world and looking at the world with an attitude of healing, we begin to practice nonviolence toward nature.
  • Satya - In living truthfully as regards the natural world, we may engage with the larger political world and take action to combat climate change.
  • Asteya - When regarding nature, how do we take actions that prevent us from stealing from our descendants?
  • Brahmacharya - As we seek to control our physical impulses, we also may seek to control our impulses regarding nature. Within that work, we attain the knowledge to help us work with nature to reincorporate vigor and energy back into the natural world.
  • Aparigraha - By letting go of the unnecessary, we practice a sufficiency with nature. In this way, we use only what we need which allows nature to share what is necessary with others.

In the same way, we can apply that regard of nature to the Niyamas of Limb 2, the inner expansions. This limb applies to how we treat ourselves and our immediate environment.

  • Saucha, or cleanliness, is the practice of keeping the body, mind, intention and environment clean and free from obstruction. Extending this to nature, we share this cleanliness by refraining from littering and clearing away any trash we discover. At a deeper level, however, we search for ways to keep from having our existence obstruct the natural beauty of the world.
  • Santosa is the perspective of contentment, which involves adopting an attitude of satisfaction of that which is. In our relationship with nature, we allow it to be what and where it is while living within it and sharing in its beauty.
  • Tapas is associated with willpower, evidenced when we uphold our agreements, through thick and thin, or when we go beyond our traditional boundaries. By exercising willpower in our relationship to nature, we hold back from using up our natural world, and acknowledge how the space must be shared with the flora and fauna existing in our environment.
  • Svadhyaya deals with self-reflection and accountability. The contemplation of the natural world leads us to greater accountability in our existence on the earth.
  • Ishvara Pranidhana is to surrender one’s ego and selfish desires. When we consider nature from this space, our enjoyment of the natural world expands as we are able to see our connection, losing the boundary between us and the world.

By collaborating with nature instead of subjecting it to our will, we choose to live in community with this amazing world we share. And, by putting these ideas into practice, we begin to heal the world in our own small way.