In Thy nature
I feel Thy presence (HIK)

Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote these words as a meditation. This meditation is just one of many in a small book called Nature Meditations. The meditations are used in conjunction with the breath. Hazrat Inayat Khan called the Nature Meditations “the cream of the Message.” From my experience these meditations cut through the morass of words and concepts that often follow us when deepening our consciousness to The Real.

The Nature Meditations are standard practices I give in khilvat (retreat or solitude) along with other walking, breath, contemplation and insight practices where the emphasis or focus is put on the natural world. The beauty with building a deepening consciousness from a foundation emphasizing nature or, one could say, the essence of nature, always returns to the authentic quality of nature. There is no ego with nature, only what we project upon her. It is a wonderful gift to have no external distortion at any one moment when the circumstances involve the interface of our being and nature and nothing else. All distortion at that moment comes from within, our own interpretation, our own projections and needs. No other person with their ego, their understanding or their energy is present to impact us, only the authentic state of nature.

Hu Wa Hu was a deeply moving zikr that I was privileged to experience while with the Sufis in Fez, Morocco. I was taught that the meaning is God is God, that what Is, is The Beloved. In the arms of nature the is-ness of Allah waits for one to embrace and experience that is-ness and release separateness. Sitting on the earth working in the garden, stopping to enjoy the fragrance of the flower, actively working to help heal damage to the earth, or creating a natural space or landscape, all these and similar moments open opportunity to awaken to the is-ness of The Divine.

Inayat Khan states that “The wise man by studying nature enters into the unity through its variety, and realizes the personality of God by sacrificing his own.” When the great mystery of nature is embraced and opened in our hearts and minds then our conscious heart awakens and the practice, or knowing, of our lives takes new expression. The much beloved Murshida Vera Corda once wrote “The earth is His and He made it and we are the guardians of the Garden of the Soul.” Her life, as was Murshid SAM’s, was a living tribute to nature, earth and ziraat. We are the guardians, and the role of the guardian is love and stewardship. The further we move into the journey of ziraat, whether through the experience of retreat, the routine expression of nature oriented spiritual practices, or being champions of the earth in our world by acting to bring ever greater health and balance to the creation, the greater the soul and heart satisfaction.

I spent a number of days at Standing Rock during part of November and December of 2016. This was a ceremony, prayer and peaceful demonstration to protect the waters of the Missouri River from a planned pipeline which included defending the sacred ground that the pipeline company would defile in their project. The single most impressive aspect of being a part of this was the pure nature of ziraat as was practiced and taught by the Sioux tribes and other indigenous people there. Almost every person I met carried this aura of energy that was respectful and mindful of nature. This respect and mindfulness included the human beings on both sides of the issue. At one point the officials and law enforcement folks of Morton County put out a call for assistance due to being in the extreme cold. The first response came from the Sioux tribal council offering to donate clothes and anything else they had to help. This story never came out in the mainstream media. My sense of the spiritual throughout my stay was constantly in my waking and dreaming conscious. The embracing of that stewardship without question was the impetus for much of the spiritual sense and desire to constantly be present. Writing this article brings me right back to that state. My gratitude for that grace knows no bounds.

Nature, this great teacher that shows by its variety the way to unity, becomes a sanctuary for the sacrifice of our separateness. Inayat Khan shares with us that “The outcome of the whole of manifestation seems to be in knowledge; therefore it is knowledge alone which can be called the purpose of the whole creation. It is not the knowledge of why and where that can be the purpose of life; it is the knowledge that gives complete satisfaction. It is this knowledge that mystics call self-realization.”

Nature in all traditions has always played a key role in the pathway to self-realization or awakening. My intention in this essay is to encourage a much broader view of our dance with creation, and hence with The Creator. Bringing ever greater awareness of nature into our lives through the solitude of retreat in nature, the daily opening to sacredness as manifested in nature and our nature oriented practices, or living in a conscious harmony with the earth and conducting our lives to hold the value of restoring health and balance to the planet, can be instrumental in removing so many of the veils that are placed between us and The Real. Our awareness of the yearning of our heart becomes paramount in this journey. Continually seek to realize your own authentic hunger, your hearts’ true desires, and the actions that bring satisfaction in the heart. Fall in love always deeper, deeper into the Real.