08/03/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Our Healing Nature

It was a hectic day- all day. Phones ringing, emails to answer, a bobcat rumbling through my yard with the requisite high pitch warning beeps each time it backed up. There were table saws and hammers, workmen dropping in to ask questions, my husband toiling nearby on a computer, a flat bike tire outside the screen door.

The beckoning breeze, sun and water were growing impatient with me. I had repeatedly pushed aside their call during the day- turning back again and again to my work, ignoring the increasingly visceral pull away. Suddenly I knew that I mustn't cheat myself any longer. Everything could wait. I walked with my paddle to the pond.

Settled into my battered yellow kayak, I began the familiar and rhythmic paddle, the loosening of my mind and body. The very acting of paddling, its repetitive, single pointed motion has always been meditative, transportive for me. I navigated a narrow ribbon of water that connects two larger ponds flanked by dunes on one side and pink flowering marshmallows and reeds on the other. The wind and the sound of surf, the twittering of redwing blackbirds, the smell of salt air and the clear light reflecting off the meadow and water completed my sense of otherworldly escape.

I have always loved this place. But at this moment it revealed itself to me with abandon. As I glanced down into the shallow depths, observing the sandy bottom and the short stumps of old reed roots and the algae that clung to them, I had the overwhelming sense that the pond, the plants, the entire world surrounding me, loved me back. It wasn't just the energy of those living things which I always sensed in my visits there. It was instead that I knew by the shear presence of the water and wind that all were supporting and loving me just by being what they were. They were literally floating my boat. I was filled with an intense gratitude that brought tears to my eyes. I paddled on until the orange sun lay low over the meadow, glancing again and again into the water, trailing my fingers in its current, enchanted.

Most of us have felt the peace of being in nature, its revitalizing energies a balm for our harried and disconnected bodies and spirits. But it was this particular experience that broadened my perspective on our own healing capacity. We are in fact part of nature- not really separate from it. The water had been there as I had before. But this time, I was receptive and seeking a connection, knowing only vaguely what was needed for my own health at that moment. And what was given had always been offered. I just happened to really, really notice and take it in.

Coincidentally, a week later, I was co-teaching a workshop called "Our Healing Nature". Our group gathered in a rustic cabin and went into the woods and explored the different energies of selected trees and an inland pond, this one sporting a coat of green lily pads. A fish would occasionally break the surface; there were dragonflies, the smell of pine needles and the sound of cicadas punctuating the humid southern heat.

Each of us walked back slowly in our own revelry of deep quiet. And it occurred to me as we went through the day that it was the simple real nature of the tree that we addressed or the pond at which we gathered that was healing. It was the essence of that tree, the true "pondness" of the pond that gave so much to us, that responded wholly to our presence, our invitation. We had only to be receptive. I realized too that as humans, as part of the natural world, that we too have the same capacity for healing - of ourselves or others and our world around by just being our most essential nature. We have only to uncover and know our own "treeness". Be the tree, the pond, the ocean that we truly are. It is only from that place that we effortlessly and completely offer the gift of ourselves to our world.

We cannot give the gift of ourselves if we are not ourselves. Often, whether we are in a healing profession or simply a friend or family member called upon to offer assistance, we think our job is all about doing and actively giving. We have the capacity to take action and actions may be required. But how profound the potential impact of giving ourselves to others, to the plants around us, to the greater world, by just allowing each to choose to receive from us when we have fully melted into our own essential nature ...and let go.

Kay Goldstein, MA teaches meditation and writes poetry, fiction and articles addressing the challenges and joys of daily living and spiritual practice.