One of the things that seems to bind most of us Heathens together is the love of the natural world, in some way. (No doubt I’ll get an argument from someone who says that they don’t give a shit about nature.) However, I’d wager that some number of Heathens don’t have a close–dare I say intimate?– relationship with the natural world. (For those with minds in the gutter, I know where you went–forget it.)
I know, I know. You’re busy making a living. You live where you do because your family lives there. Or maybe you do get out in nature once in a while when you have time for a vacation. But, you live in a city, or the suburbs, where your world is surrounded by asphalt, concrete, steel, and glass. The closest to nature you get to every day is maybe the city park, or your neighbor’s manicured lawn.
I’m Not Discounting Your Efforts
Maybe you have a special tree in your yard; maybe you put an altar out there. Maybe you planted a garden. Maybe you hunt and fish. Maybe you took my advice and have unplugged for a portion of the day. Maybe you’ve made friends with the wights who live nearby. All these things are good. And yet, I’m not sure it’s enough. I’ll explain.
Your Ancestors Didn’t Evolve in Urbanized Settings
Our hominid ancestors were around some 6 million years before us. Homo sapiens, our current species, is about 200,000 years old. Civilization, as we know it, went back some 6000 years. That’s roughly 194,000 years when our species didn’t live in huge cities. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers or lived in small villages. Agriculture started somewhere around 12,000 years ago with hunter-gatherers trying their hand at planting crops.
I bring this up because I want to show you how unnatural our current lifestyle is. We evolved being on the move and with nature, not sitting in a cubicle in an office building. Technically, even the agrarian lifestyle is unnatural to us, but less so. At least that lifestyle still had people close to nature.
It’s Not Natural
I grew up in a suburban setting. I hated every moment of it. I hated having neighbors around my home. When I was older and decided I no longer wanted to play suburbanite, I moved to the mountains. I’d like to say I had peace, but I had some evil neighbors. One died in a crack house on Christmas Eve from an overdose of heroin. Another actually broke into my home and stole stuff. (Got to love that.) Oddly, I wasn’t even in a bad neighborhood. Eventually I arrived where I live currently, where I have people at an arm’s length most of the time.
My work has had me travel to big cities like New York and Chicago. One of the biggest issues I had with those places is the noise. Sure, the denizens there are use to it, but not really. I could see it in their behavior that even if they didn’t consciously register the constant cacophony, their bodies did. Yes, they are stressed just by living there, and they don’t even know it.
It sounds weird and new-agey, but some of not being part of the natural order comes from a complete lack of mindfulness. Most of the time we sit at our computers and type. Get in the car and drive someplace. Walk to work or school with our noses buried in our smartphones. Very seldom do we actually spend time and just observe what is going on around us. When we do, we’re often making judgements or thinking about other things, instead of just observing. When you strip away the so-called “monkey-mind,”–that is, the mind that is busy thinking about a thousand different things– and focus on one thing, you can actually start touching the true nature of the world.
Try it sometime. When you’re outside, sit down and look around you. Empty your thoughts. Focus on something natural: a tree, a leaf, a blade of grass… Let your body relax and breathe slowly. At this point, you enter into a form of mediation. You let your thoughts exist but do not dwell on them. Remember, you are focused on the natural world.
When you are in this state, you will begin to become part of the natural order of things. The world will never look the same as it had before–you’ll see beyond the concrete, metal, and glass to something that is more alive and more vibrant. You’ll feel the world as a Heathen; seeing it for the first time as something beyond words.
Communicating with a Higher World
If you do this enough, at some point in your meditation you may experience supernatural beings because you’re receptive to them. It’s how I sometimes experience the gods. You may speak to wights, gods, or other denizens–all without psychotropic substances. And sometimes you’ll feel them even when you’re no longer mediating. It takes almost nothing to recover that sense of mindfulness once you get good at it.
I call this piece “mindfulness magic,” but in truth, I don’t believe in magic. I do, however, believe that the mind is a powerful thing and we can recover what we lost in the past 6000 years, I do hope you’ll let me know if you try it and where it leads for you. You may just touch more than that blade of grass.