As a spiritual teacher, I'm often asked for the "secret of life." The one asking the question is probably expecting some deep esoteric answer, coming from the higher spiritual realms. But the truth is that I subscribe to Walt Whitman's version (from his Poem of the Road): "Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth."
The massive invasion of technology into our lives has been both a blessing and a curse. I mean, what would we do without our smart phones, tablets, and computers? It would be like going back to the Dark Ages. We have the universe at our fingertips. But having such an abundance of information available to us at all times is rather overwhelming, as is the fact that we're always within reach. Can't get me by email? No problem: try voice mail, Skype, text, Facebook or Twitter.
Sometimes it's all just too much. I've been thinking about that recently while stressing out a bit over all that was on my plate. It's like there's no getting away. Even Walden Pond -- where another great American writer, Henry David Thoreau, went to learn to "live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life" -- now has cell phone coverage from a tower on Route 2 disguised as a flag pole, complete with flag! (Cell towers are often disguised, sometimes as trees or cactuses or water tanks.)
We are being pulled farther and farther away from the natural world. And, for the most part, we're going willingly. As a result, we are more stressed out than ever. We sleep poorly. We eat so-called food, laced with pesticides and GMOs. We sit on our expanding rear ends all day and think wistfully about doing a little exercise when we can. We wonder why we aren't healthy.
Even when we do go out into nature, we tend to bring our electronic devices with us. We walk through beautiful landscapes with ear buds firmly in place so we can continue talking on the phone and checking our email. Are we simply using Mother Earth as a backdrop for the "real" business of our lives?
So getting back to that original question about the "secret of life" and Whitman's advice . . .
Do you want to know more about yourself (and less about everybody and everything else)? Do you want to be healthier, happier, more at peace? Do you want to be less stressed and to sleep better at night?
"Eat and sleep with the earth."
Eat foods that have been grown organically -- whole food, not plastic food from the fast food chains. Have you ever seen the experiment that was done with some burgers and fries from one of the infamous chains? After two years of sitting in the open air, the "food" had still not rotted. At least try for a large part of your intake to be from food that is not boxed, wrapped in plastic, or frozen, or ones that are delivered to your doorstep loaded with salt and sugar and fat. Pizza, anyone?
Cooking simple meals a couple of times a week of vegetables, whole grains, and protein from pasture-raised animals not loaded with antibiotics is a possibility. And I always try to remember the yogic injunction that food cooked over fire carries with it the vibration of the cook. So use meal prep as a time to drop negative thoughts, to turn off the news with its sounds of violence, power, and greed, and to tune into the place inside where you can appreciate the beauty of a cauliflower or the stunning color of a purple pepper. Where you can inhale the aroma of peace.
Follow your meal with a 10 minute walk outside, minus the cell phone. Spend those few minutes listening to the birds singing and the wind rustling through the trees, enjoying the blue of the sky and the sweet smell of newly mown grass.
Instead of coming back home and turning on the TV, put on your favorite music and dance around the living room. Feel your body. Your body is the earth. Find the rhythm it wants to express. Listen to it. Commune with your own essential nature.
You'll be amazed at how much better you sleep. Every summer I try to sleep outdoors as often as possible. And a good night's sleep, especially in the heart of the natural world, is definitely one of the secrets to leading the life you want to live.
There's no escaping the technological influx, but remember this simple fact: all electronic devices can be silenced for a moment.