When you begin the hike down, weaving back and forth between switchbacks on the sloping footpath that leads you into the great mouth of the caverns, its steep grade initially gives you a sense of instability and insecurity. It’s an unfamiliar place to put yourself, hiking 750 feet down into the earth, and the body senses this.
750 feet seems an arbitrary measurement since we don’t typically find ourselves walking that distance straight down. Even so, without knowing the exact distance before I began the descent, as I placed my feet one and then the next, my knees bracing lower to stay grounded, and my eyes reaching into the darkening depths for what’s to come, I knew I was going down, and I was going down deep.
But soon enough, as my eyes began to just barely adjust to the growing darkness, I began to trust my feet on the hard to see ground below them, and there came into my body a softening to the unknown, and a vulnerability in the embrace of something much larger than myself.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
There is not a thing in the human-made world that can give you exactly what you need more precisely than what can be given to you by the more-than-human world.
What you need can absolutely be found in things like a particularly nutritious conversation, a challenging yoga class, or a good cry with a friend, but what the spirit connects with most deeply, most penetratingly, most directly, and most potently, is a good dose of being in nature*.
The intelligence of nature really does soothe your soul; it stimulates your mind, swells your heart, and nourishes your body in ways that humans are just not privy to understanding at this point in the infancy of our existence.
So when I went down, and I soaked in the dark, and I slunk among the cold pools and the dripping mineral chandeliers, moving like a deep sea creature swimming in purified air that once was water so many millions of years ago, I got a treatment from those caverns, like nothing I could have gotten from above.
I went to Nature and she gave me an acupuncture treatment, specific to my needs.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
*Since humans are of nature, using that term to describe something apart from us is inaccurate at its root; however, since most can agree that the word connotes the apart-from-civilization wilderness that the plant, animal, and mineral kingdoms offer inherently, I will use the word nature interchangeably with the concept of the more-than-human world.
I needed to go deep. I needed to go inside, to dive into the dark before my eyes had time to adjust. I needed a revival of memories from the womb, and of the collective primal field. I needed to remember I am not a body only and to do that I gave my body fully to the internal organs of the earth.
Nature gives you exactly what you need.
It hones in on your current state and presents to you a remedy specifically designed to treat your afflictions, your areas of disharmony, and your places of most tenderness.
Nature gives you yourself.
Nature is neutral, and that neutrality is what creates the space for you to see in it exactly what you need. It reflects back to you your inner wisdom and reveals it to you in a way you can receive.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
And that’s what it does for all of us, whether we’re attuned and listening, noticing it doing that work for us, or not. Your work is to make space for connecting to nature more often so that nature can more often make space for your connection with yourself.
The truth is, the natural, more-than-human world is available to you at all times.
You don’t need to travel to caverns, hike up to secret mountain springs, make daily pilgrimages to a hidden forest clearing, or even live in a home with a backyard.
Nature will find you wherever you are if you open yourself to it.
Say you are in a habit of compulsively buying things online. Grab a big bottle of water, an apple, and a book and spend an afternoon sitting in the grass at the park. Nature will show you that you already have everything you really need.
Imagine you just got in an argument with someone you love and now things feel broken. Let the day become night, turn off the lights, power off your phone and all your devices, and stand outside with the moon or the stars, or the plain darkness of eternity.
Or maybe you feel stuck. Open all the windows of your house and let the wind wash through it. Watch it whirl dust bunnies out from the corners, rustle paper piles, and dance in the drapes. Or stand on the crest of a hill, whether field or street, sensitizing yourself to the air moving across your skin, in your hair, and through your clothes.
Are you letting yourself receive Nature? Do you take time to slow down with it? Do you notice how it is speaking to you— directly to you, with specific messages written just for you?
Whether you do or not, more of this is always a beneficial practice, so your assignment is to go deep with it.
Going deep doesn’t mean you have to hike down into a cave that was formed by an ancient inland sea. To go deep means to open yourself to the primal wisdom of the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets.
Go deeply into following the flight path of a butterfly.
Go deeply into listening to the song of the wind in the leaves.
Go deeply into the process a cat takes to clean itself, or the shape of an apple, or the touch of an insect’s tiny feet on your arm.
And then acknowledge that whatever the natural world is giving you as an experience is medicine for you.
The caverns gave to me exactly what I needed and I happened to open myself to their offerings. But I could have walked down there, admired its beauty, snapped a couple shots, and then hiked right back up to handle all my stuff in the same way I had been— and that hadn’t really been working for me. (And believe me, I’ve missed my share of messages from the natural world plenty of times.)
But this time I gave myself to the caverns. And so the caverns had a chance to give me myself.
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