| Contemporary Buddhist
Views of Nature
| Examples of Buddhist
| Deep Ecology Exercises
Dharma/deep ecology experiential exercises
Reading Plato or listening to a lecture on T.S. Eliot doesn’t educate
the whole human being; like courses in physics or chemistry, it merely
educates the symbol manipulator and leaves the rest of the living
mind-body in its pristine state of ignorance and ineptitude.
In the remainder of this lesson you work with a variety of exercises
and approaches that can help you reconnect with nature on an ecological,
Awareness exercises in nature
Although preferably done outside in nature, some of the following
exercises can be done indoors when weather or circumstances require.
Awareness of the six sense doors
six sense doors as described in the Buddhist teachings are: ears,
eyes, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
Close your eyes, close your nose with one
hand and gently breathe through the mouth and listen.
Try to put the whole consciousness into the sense of
hearing. What are the sounds you encounter? Sounds near
you or in the distance, sounds from the wind and animals
such as birds and insects.
Close your ears with your
hands and open your eyes, note everything that your eyes
encounter, the colors, shapes and forms, the light, the
dark, the shadows and movements.
Close your eyes again and see what your
nose will experience. Take a few deep breaths and smell
. . . Then breathe through your mouth and try to distinguish
between different tastes of the air, the air that enters
your body and the air that leaves your body when breathing
Walk around and touch the trees, leaves,
berries, flowers, grass or water; whatever is there,
touch it gently and examine the different surfaces of
Let your mind
wander for a while. What does the surrounding environment
remind you of? Recall pictures from the past and see how
they affect your present mind.
Looking for signs of impermanence
Find signs of impermanence in your present
environment. Look for natural indications of dying or
death such as dried leaves or fallen trees, dead insects,
rotting fruit, etc. Also look for signs of "arising”
such as buds, new young leaves, seedling trees, etc.
And, finally, look for indications of "existing” with
regular trees, flowers blooming, insects crawling, etc.
It may be possible to find all of these signs of impermanence
on the same tree.
Outside a natural area, observe artificial
indications such as roads, electric overland cables,
logging sites, dams, and other changes brought about
by humankind. What impacts have these changes had on
the land? Inside the natural area, observe signs or impacts
of human beings such as trees that might have been illegally
cut, littering, pitted or burned out trees. Discuss in
the group how these different signs or indications of
impermanence affect your emotions and thoughts.
Observation of nature is a tool of acceptance. To
observe is to think, feel, taste, smell, hear and see without attachment
Observe whatever information
your senses offer. If your mind judges
or evaluates, observe that. Don’t get involved with the
thoughts or try to change them. Just observe them. We
understand by doing. After fifteen or so minutes of observation,
you may begin to notice the part of you that’s observing.
Give yourself time in which you will not be disturbed.
Decide for that time to do nothing but observe. Sit or
lie comfortably. Be still and be.
The mind will present some good ideas to
do something else. Do nothing with these ideas—simply
observe them. Emotions will want something more exciting.
Do not fulfill them. Observe them. The body will demand
attention. Do not attend to it. Observe its demands.
Notice how ideas, feelings, and body demands are impermanent
and changing in form and intensity just as nature
is always changing.
If you ache to change positions,
do not. Just observe the desire to change positions.
If you itch, do not scratch. Observe the itch. Your mind,
body, and emotions may become agitated. Observe the agitation.
You gain authority over them by doing nothing, by simply
You can extend sitting observation to moving
or walking observation. As you move through nature, observe
everything. Observe your reactions to everything. Observation
is a basic tool of awareness. The more you observe what
you are normally unconscious of, the more conscious you
become. Thus, you will notice
the small, dead leaf on the trail, the orange brown
butterfly on the tree trunk, the different colors of
green in tree leaves, the small bird flitting through
a distant canopy, and other of nature’s phenomena and
impermanence by really observing and becoming aware and
conscious of nature.
Looking for the elements
Acknowledge in your surrounding environment
the different manifestations of the four basic elements
with their corresponding qualities: earth (solidity),
water (fluidity/coercion), fire (temperature), air (motion).
I see a thing (for two people)
This experience can be carried out
while walking or sitting while outdoors. One of the participants
chooses one object in the surrounding environment and
says: "I see a thing and it is. . . .(i.e. green, round,
long, making a sound, etc.)" Now the other participants
can ask for more characteristics which are answered only
with yes or no. The participants have to guess what the
object is and the one who guesses can select the next