Listening to Nature

By Katla Hannibal The years that I have been visiting Plum Village have been very rewarding to me, in terms of taking refuge in nature. In my meditation practice I realize more and more that I am in a state where no habit energy is disturbing me. But it is amazing how easy the usual "tapes" can sneak into you. As soon as I become aware of it, I take refuge in nature. To me that means to look, hear, smell, and feel what is around me, to be present through all my senses. I often experience that nature itself contacts me and reveals to me what I am doing. It happened twice during my visit to Plum Village this summer.

One morning I was asked to lead a short morning meditation. A staff member had to come in to take out some tables for breakfast. To make the event useful, I said "Let the noises around you help you to make your meditation still deeper." The moment I said "noises" I knew that it had a negative connotation and I should have said "sounds."

Afterwards, I sat under the linden tree and the "tape" was going on and on, while I repeated the situation in my mind. Then I felt someone patting my shoulder. I turned and no one was there. Coming to my senses, I realized that a breeze had just shaken the tree and a branch had touched my shoulder. Nature was telling me to be aware of what I was doing. The branch was a dead branch, and I felt as if the tree were saying, "Katla, you are at a dead end." Later I apologized to the staff member for referring to him as "noise." He said he hadn't noticed and that what I did had been helpful to him. It was not easy for him to go in and get the tables during our meditation.

During walking meditation another time I was very much aware of the present, I thought. Suddenly I heard a big bee buzzing around me. My thoughts went like this: Why would it fly around me? What will it tell me? It said buzz, could it say "buzy." Why busy? What did I do when it came. Oh yes, I was unaware and into thinking habit energy. I often name this state: busymind. The "buzz-bug" was my mindfulness bell. And it spoke to me in English!

We interpret nature in our own way. The message we receive is us.

Katla Hannibal, newly ordained in the Order of lnterbeing, is a nurse in Denmark.


Sometimes it can be difficult to practice mindfulness outside of a community. Where I live it is often very quiet. I now see an opportunity to enjoy the tiny sounds -- mice scurrying on a bookshelf, the sound of snow settling, or the first sounds of birds on a warmer day -- as bells of mindfulness.

Sue Austin Tetonia, Idaho

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