A botanist once came to the monastery to teach us about the plants around us. As he walked around the grounds, he kept exclaiming happily, “Oh, what a huge red huckleberry bush!” “Oh! I’ve never seen such a big patch of yellow wood violets.” I realized that everywhere this man went, his inner experience was that of being among welcoming friends. He was never alone, always in the presence of beings whose very existence gave him joy.
This practice, opening our awareness to all the living beings around us, can be an antidote for the pervasive feeling of loneliness that plagues so many of us. Even in the city there are animals, birds, plants, and insects all around us. Within our bodies are billions of living beings, most of them beneficial. Their lives are intertwined with ours, and they are necessary to our health and we to theirs. When our mind closes down tightly on the worries of “I, me, mine,” we create loneliness. When we open our heart into awareness of all those beings we are connected to, our loneliness melts away.
From How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, page 86.