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Your Secret Hideaway is Calling: The Importance of Connecting with Nature

In a few days I’m going to pack a tent and sleeping bag into our inflatable kayak and paddle to an uninhabited mangrove island here in the Florida Keys. It reliably freshens my heart, relaxes my mind, and nourishes my spirit to spend time alone in a secret hideaway in nature. Inner peace, joy, gratitude, and deeper understanding flow more easily when I’m surrounded by the silent benevolence of trees, rivers, oceans, mountains, and wildflowers and when my closest neighbors are birds, deer, squirrels, fish, and dragonflies, and I feel connected to the green Earth and to the stars and moon, and the vastness of the sky.

I admit we have an unusual life that affords some unique opportunities. We’re now in our seventeenth year living full-time in a 220 square foot “rolling home,” slowly traveling around North America spreading a message. Living in this tiny home on wheels together with my spouse Madeleine has its advantages. It has a tiny ecofootprint to match (we love our solar panels & hand-crank clothes washer). The view and yard change every couple of days, and there’s little need for either air conditioning or heating, since we head south in the autumn and north in the spring. It encourages being organized, inventive and aware. No room for inessentials, either. If I want to buy a new pair of pants, I first must give away a pair of pants. Also, it tends to build patience, sensitivity, and humility to share a small space with another, and it also urges us to step into the beckoning arms of the beautiful and ever-changing natural world outside our door.

While on one hand we’re busy as heck, traveling and presenting about 150 events annually, we also take time every day to meditate and to connect with nature. The weekends usually find us camping in more urban or suburban environs, and during the week we like to head for the state parks and other wilder lands where the natural world still dances, sings, and whispers her secrets to anyone who appreciates her enough to stop and listen.

But no matter what, wherever we happen to be, I am drawn every day, for at least a little while, to find a spot of forest, beach, or stream where I can tune in to the natural world and listen for the whispering of the ancient living cycles in which my life is embedded. I’ve found that it’s far too easy today to be beguiled by the pressures of outer events and the tyranny of apparent obligations. We have, I believe, a deeper obligation—to honor and respect the yearnings of our heart to grow beyond the confining delusions that define our culture and our programming, and to make a leap—every day—out of the civilized world into the beckoning mystery that surrounds us in the play of light, wind, trees, and streams, and birds, clouds, and sky.

If we do not make an effort to connect authentically with this Earth and our fellow passengers here, the nonhuman animals, we will never grow to love them, and we’ll consequently never understand them, and we’ll condemn ourselves to being exploitive outsiders, miserable in our clever domination, and lost in the enslaving delusion that we are separate from and superior to the natural world. And if we do make the effort to listen deeply and love this living web in which we abide, and to understand, serve, enjoy, appreciate, and celebrate it, we will be rewarded with gifts that will propel us forward in our evolution and awakening, and that will inspire and guide us to fulfill our heart’s mission on this Earth.

I spent five years actually writing The World Peace Diet, as we traveled in our rolling home, and much of the writing was done in a little tent. I’d go off for a while somewhere to write, receive, and reflect—in the woods of Maine, in the Florida Everglades, by the shores of Lake Huron, in the Mojave Desert, by a solitary lake high in the Cascade mountains, by the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, and countless other sacred and secret hideaways—and so the book is not so much a product of a separate mind, but is more a manifestation of a process of opening to and exploring the natural world, purifying my mind and co-creating with it. I’ve been told by many readers that the book is an inspiring and transformational force that touches deeply, and it seems to me that the ideas and their expression are living gifts that flowed through me into our world from a source that is both propelling us and patiently awaiting us. The World Peace Diet is but one of many beacons that light our return to wisdom, compassion, peace, and joy. This return is inevitable, because it is our essential nature.

The many years of research that led up to the five years of writing The World Peace Diet were similarly spent in daily silence and in seeking out secret hideaways in nature, and allowing ideas and insights to grow. By watering the seeds, I found that nature’s infinite wisdom brings forth abundant fruits that are delicious and nourishing. Persistence is the key to this fulfillment, and flows from our natural thirst for communion with the deeper wisdom that is ever-beckoning and ever-present. This wisdom whispers in the secret hideaways. By taking time to open to and experience the spiritual gifts nature bestows upon us, our love for the Earth and all beings grows, and what we love, we can begin to actually understand, and what we love and understand, we will protect.

Now more than ever, we are all called to love and protect this Earth and her living web, and this is the essence of the world peace diet, of vegan living, and of the cultural transformation we know in our bones is coming closer with every passing day. I invite you to look out your window and see the leaves, trees, sky, and light, and also to take time to go out into nature to find your secret hideaways. Let them speak to you, and your love for yourself and the world, and all living beings, will grow. You will become a greater force for healing and protecting our sacred Earth and all life. There is no greater joy than this: to understand and live the truth that ultimately, all is one.

P.S.: I’m back! Made a short video of my retreat to an unoccupied island in the Florida Keys, too.

Image Source: Christopher Harriot/Flickr