“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”―Eleonra Duse,
We were never given the choice as to whether we want to, or not want to be born in this world what to talk of a specific family, clan or region but we are still here, alive and kicking. This is nothing but the law of nature over which we have no control. However, the only way we can wield power over our lives is the way we choose to live—either by celebrating life or grieving about our existence. As human beings, we have a slight edge over our other living brethren in the form of endowments that nature has blessed us with and because of which we have a better hold over our lives.
At daybreak, every morning, one witnesses different species of birds, animals and insects leaving their shelters in search of nourishment with no idea whether they would even return to their nests. Yet there is no break in this routine. In this daily exercise they end up becoming the prey or the predator but never refrain from venturing out. This is the true power of life. It keeps one driving on in pursuit of focused or aimless goals. The idea of dying might be scary for many but this too is a reality we all have to face because we are born to die!
The world is a beautiful place for some while it could be painful for others. Those living in pleasant and peaceful situations will find life a heavenly experience while those who are not that fortunate could end up in a living hell. Many feeble-minded have chosen to end their lives to escape this torture but there are the sturdy ones who fight through all calamities and difficulties in the hope of a better tomorrow. After all, every cloud has a silver lining! These are the ones whose attachment to nature secures their link to the state of being alive, because nature is life.
Despite being closely connected to nature, most of the times the urban man finds himself captured in unnatural surroundings. Among innumerable issues pertaining to urban life, the four walls of a room, concrete buildings, tar-paved roads, cars, artificially temperature controlled environment, synthetic/processed foods, lack of physical exertion etc. not only cause many body ailments but also result in a variety of psychological disorders. According to a report published in the Herald in July 2017, one in ten Pakistanis is afflicted with stress and anxiety for among other spiritual, emotional and relationship reasons, a disconnection with nature. If a picture of such persons is sketched, it would be that of a living dead. This means that although they are breathing and walking around, their existence reflects less life and more death. Their gloom permeates the fabric of happiness leaving little room for smiles and radiance.
Life is tough and very difficult but people manage to pass through, achieving success or failure as the case maybe. Those nine out of ten, do understand that not all their dreams would be fulfilled yet they find respite in the mere thought of being alive. Each day they wake up to be greeted by the warm sun, chirping birds, lush trees, even the golden desert sands or the silvery snow-clad fields, that gives them hope, and they rejoice in living to see another day. Natural surroundings provide that impetus which an artificial life cannot.
Civilized countries having sprawling cities have dotted them with huge green spaces spreading over many hectares, full of natural growth of plants and trees. These parks are a source of nature to the urbanites for whom they are pleasant recreation grounds that keep them in touch with earth and maintain their sanity. Many cities have botanical gardens that besides enhancing the beauty and keeping the atmosphere pollution free add to the knowledge of the people. The amazing thing is that on entering the park, one is immediately transferred to such a natural location that temporarily one forgets the existence of a concrete jungle right outside. Some cities have designed these grounds in a way that at times pedestrians and cyclists have no option but to cut across them to reach their destinations which, compulsorily exposes them to the much-needed green environment.
Unfortunately like many other distortions that we have adopted in our urban lives, staying away from nature has proved very harmful. While developing town centres, very little attention is paid to leaving large tracts of open space amid huge buildings. Developers are more keen to sell every inch of their property to make money and really do not care about providing ample green space, while the regulators are also uninterested in people’s physical and mental health. The city of Berlin for example, has mostly buildings which are constructed in the form of a square or triangle leaving a good sized compound within the perimeter. This serves very good purposes in that all apartments have light, air and exposure to greenery.
Another way that can be availed by city dwellers to connect with nature and themselves is recourse to meditation retreats which are of course private centres where one can escape the harshness of urban life. These retreats have extremely strict rules because during the stay here, a person is deprived of any access to gadgets or outside world. This period could be from a few days to an entire month but those who have experienced this drill have reported extremely beneficial results in calming their nerves, releasing tensions and enabling clear thinking.
One can say that these are expensive ideas and inaccessible to the majority but a little pondering would unravel the biggest and cost free meditation device that Allah has blessed all Muslims with, except the way things are taught, they leave little room for anything but sheer ritualism. When talking about nature we tend to forget that nature manifests itself best in human beings. By reverting to this natural form one can overcome the stresses of daily life and normalize our minds. These are the few minutes that are spent in daily five prayers. We are taught to utter some words the meanings of which are unknown to many, prostrate our bodies and that is it. No matter how much we are told to focus our thoughts on worship, distractions creep in. Here is where the people need real guidance. The art of meditation while praying is the forgotten sense that must be rekindled so that the ratio of mentally distressed can be brought down substantially. Instead of criticizing so-called un-Islamic ideas like yoga and meditation, one should open up to adapting their spirit to enhance the richness of our own principles.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)