These reflections were written when remembering my time in nature when I lived in Santa Monica, CA. Enjoy! ☀️
With each step I take walking on my favorite trail in Topanga Canyon, every skin I wear seems to fall away revealing my grounded and peaceful inner self. As my feet make contact with the soil, the labels and expectations carried in the day drop away. All the labels gifted to me from family, friends, the world and from ego peel off gracefully like the petals from a rose until only my truest essence remains at the core, present and free of mental habits and stories. By the time I make it to my favorite meadow, I arrive lighter mentally, emotionally and energetically.
When I feel the primal pull to be outdoors, I reconnect to the earth not as the woman called Melanie, but as the Earth itself. I connect to the land not as Melanie who loves nature, but as nature in relationship with nature. Through my senses, I remember I am fire as the sun warms my face. I remember I am water as I make contact with the salty sea. I remember I am earth through the steadiness of the rocks where I sit. And I remember I am air as the Santa Ana winds blow across my body.
The honest truth is when life is full and rushed, I can forget that I am nature and a sense of separateness arises. I also forgot my true nature for a period of time as a young adult. Capitalism, consumerism and marketing happily helped to carry me in a different direction away from the wilds of the woods. I became caught up in checking off the expected boxes of being a modern woman: graduating college, getting my Master’s Degree, finding a well-paid job, renting my own apartment, traveling to the trendiest countries, dating the right men, being a “good” friend and family member all while looking effortlessly put together and appearing calm. The striving was exhausting. Yet all along the wild waited for me. Mother Earth patiently allowed me the time to find the courage to again prioritize coming back home to what feels real and nourishing.
Nature meditation invites me to slow down and match the natural rhythms of the world instead of forging full-speed ahead at the accelerated pace of the city. Whether I’m standing at the edge of the sparkling Pacific Ocean or seated in the grasses of the meadow, an awareness of my rushing becomes known through the contrast with the slower movement of the outer world. Transformation occurs as the body slows, breathing slows, and the thoughts eventually slow down, too. I am pulled into presence watching the repetition of the waves, smiling at the unexpected lizard darting across the path, or smelling the Cleveland sage flowers along the trails.
Nature provides me permission to just be without expectations, and from this place clarity arises allowing space for me to attune to the energy of the elements. My body begins to resonate with the vibration of the rocks and the sensations of the oak trees. No matter how wild my working day has been, the steady repetition of ocean waves helps me remember the reliability and steadiness of my own breath. Nature invites me back into balance, and I return to equilibrium as I witness the stillness of a tree and the golden grass bending in the breeze. My busy mind takes a break allowing creativity and playfulness to arise. This side of myself remains dormant when planning and replaying thoughts are on full blast.
Connecting to the Earth through contemplative meditation inspires me to remember I am love in a human form. They say snakes shed their skin so they can grow, and I see how shedding my skins and labels allows space for the growth of my heart. When the stories drop off, the heart begins to lead the way. An amazing quality of Mother Earth is her openness. She doesn’t care how many times I forget to visit or how disconnected I become; she’s always there to welcome me home with open arms. She doesn’t hold grudges or make me feel guilty when I get too busy to visit, which is certainly different from some family members I know! She truly loves unconditionally and inspires me to love that way. She suggests that perhaps I too can forgive and let go of subtle grudges and disappointments held against others. Maybe I can welcome the lessons from these hurts without judgment, just as she welcomes me without judgment.
Nature meditation is a way of accessing love, joy, peace and play. I remember my essence, child-like curiosity and openness through sensory connection with the Earth and carry these qualities with me back into the modern world. I reenter communities lighter, more balanced, and feeling connected to the life surrounding me. Whether walking on my favorite trail in Topanga, at a park under a tree or witnessing the colorful Santa Monica sunset, nature meditation reminds me that I am nature in this human form interwoven with the outer landscape. Through the shedding of labels and stories from life in this modern world, more love, creativity and playfulness awaken in the present moment. I come back into the modern world remembering I am nature with a mission as an Earth protector. I am part of the forest, the ocean, and the Earth, protecting itself. Contemplative meditation practices help me to remember this truth.
Written By: Melanie Pensak