In China, there are some sacred mountains which are breathtakingly beautiful. It is said that the energy that is generated on the mountains is special and can be distinctly felt. They were and still are the abode of Taoists and Buddhists. Both Taoism and Buddhism have a deep respect for nature. Humans are born from nature and depend on her for survival and development.
Taoism sees nature as their mother. They believe that mankind’s relationship with her should be one of respect and care. Nature provides us with everything we need. Once we abuse this relationship by taking more than we need and giving nothing back, we can expect problems.
The Taoists practice Tai Chi, a mix of meditation and martial art. When they practice Tai Chi, they are learning to balance the inner energies through a focused, quiet mind and gentle movements. This begins with recognizing and respecting the body-mind relationship. We must realize the importance of good health and a balanced state of mind. Looking after ourselves involves self love and self discipline. We need to pay attention to the signals of the body. We have to know when to rest and what to eat. Once we neglect ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, our health and well being will suffer. If we fail to look after ourselves, how will we be able to care for others? Caring for the environment would be out of the question.
In Taoism, there are many rules governing a novice’s training. They adjust their lifestyles and training according to the seasons. In summer, they rise early and retire to bed early. Taoists gained inspiration from nature when developing their teachings. Tai Chi also follows the principles of nature, such as, flowing like water, being as firm as a mountain and as resilient as bamboo. When their training has matured, their form looks natural and flowing, and their energy is smooth and continuous. At the end of training they understand what it means for the body-mind to be natural.
About 3,000 years ago when parts of China were experiencing drought conditions, the emperor offered a reward to anyone who could bring rain. Many people tried and failed. Eventually, a Taoist came and took up the challenge. He meditated for a week. Then, he summoned his internal energy and finally, dark clouds appeared and it rained. When asked how he achieved this miracle, he replied, “When I first came to this area, I could feel that the people’s hearts were hardened and they had lost their harmony and balance. So for the first week, I had to strengthen and stabilize my own energy and it gradually affected the local people. Once their energy was harmonized, the natural environment became balanced and the cycle of the seasons returned.”
The above story may seem somewhat incredible. However, we can all relate to feeling our energies drained after listening to people who always talk negatively. Yet, we know that we feel good when we are with people who are positive and enthusiastic about life. Ancient cultures have long recognized the importance of the relationship between humans and nature. We all need to respect ourselves, others and our environment. This is the key to happiness and good health.
A recent study has revealed that nature makes us more charitable and concerned about others because nature enables human beings to connect with their authentic selves. Our authentic selves are inherently communal because humans evolved in hunter and gatherer societies that depended on mutuality for survival.
In addition, the richness and complexity of natural environment may encourage introspection and lack of man-made structures provides a safe haven from man-made pressures of society. Nature in a way strips away the artifices of society that alienate us from one another. This is the reason urban as compared to rural dwellers show more reservation, indifference and estrangement from others.
We are influenced by our environment in ways that we are not aware of. In truth, we are not protecting Nature; Nature is protecting us. For example, trees and plants are necessary for the purification of our vital energy. When Nature graciously protects and serves human beings, it is our responsibility to reciprocate.