I’ve learned that the manual for Alcoholics Anonymous is known as the “Big Book,” and I understand one of the reasons why: it has helped millions arrive at and live in recovery. That’s pretty impressive!
Equally so, there’s another definition I’ve heard for the term “Big Book,” and this Big Book also helps extraordinary numbers of people; specifically, this Big Book refers to nature and the tremendous impact on providing us with wonder, information, and healing.
Whether you have or haven’t heard of this before, this label probably is not very surprising. Afterall, it is very difficult to come up with something as majestic and awe-producing as what happens in nature, like these examples: the seasons; the changes in a woman’s or an animal’s body, or even a male seahorse, to enable a birth of another; plants, like fruit-producing ones, begin from a seed, growing into a venous structure that transports water and nutrients, grows stems and leaves and flowers, and sometimes needs another plant or animal to produce and reproduce, and sometimes doesn’t; and so on and so on.
Nature holds so much information, including comparisons, likenesses and contradictions, that whenever
one spends time in it, it has the capacity to stir the senses, the soul, and everything in between.
Considered another way, the Big Book is that which we did not create: cycles of decay to new life, flying creatures, complex metamorphosis, the mechanical and mysterious workings of the human heart, and so on and so on.
What majestic, awe-inspiring experiences have you had with nature? Note: it makes no difference if this experience happened while you were inside, looking out into nature, had an experience with a pet or an insect, or were outside in nature.
What majestic, awe-inspiring experiences have you had in a more remote location, even if it is close to home (in a nearby park or across the world on a boat in the middle of the ocean, etc.)
I have found that viewing something in its natural habitat can create a connection to “something bigger than ourselves.” For me, this is the best place to come for guidance (new ideas, next steps, etc.), and change (to a better mood, to pain free moments, etc.).
We can create this spiritual connection, simply by journaling outside or journaling from an indoor location while looking outside.
When I have sensed “Something bigger than myself,” it is often in nature. I “see” a face in a tree’s bark, I “hear” an inner telling to “lift my head up,” to “look outside myself.” It is in these spaces that my focus changes from being small (hunched shoulders, head down, watching my feet), to chest open, head up, skyward facing, world views.
We all can experience this! Therefore, before you write anything more in your journal, find a location outside in nature, or if prohibited by time, weather or circumstance, simply find somewhere to look out into nature. Once there, take action to put yourself in a present state of mind by using your journal to free your mind.
STEP 1: Write today’s date and answer the following daily prompts.
What is on my heart today?
What thoughts keep on coming?
How am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way?
STEP 2: In the space just under your current writing, write these words: God*, what do you want me to know?
For me, sometimes I hear an answer immediately and I write it down. Sometimes I wait in silence until an answer comes and I write it down. Not often, but sometimes I hear nothing, and sometimes I am inspired to use a tool. Today, nature is the tool!
Write about whatever is drawing in your attention. Not seeing anything immediately, wait for your attention to be drawn to something specific. Write it down! Once you have journaled about everything drawing your attention, follow these journal prompts.
What connection do I feel between my current situation and what’s happening before me in nature?
Does my body or mood feel any different than I did before coming outside?
Hopefully it feels better, simply because getting out into nature means that our bodies must move. Henry David Thoreau said it this way……
Good for the body is the work of the body, and good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other.
Does this natural space feel sacred? Why? Why not?
God*, what else do you want me to know?
If you are in a natural place which allows you to collect specimens (pine cones or needles, leaves, pebbles, sand, etc.) and it feels right, bring it home and place it on your closed journal. May it be a symbol or remembrance of your time in the Big Book. If you are not able to collect something of substance, consider writing a poem or a deep description of the location inside your journal.
Whatever the case, get outside of yourself by getting outside to be in the Big Book.
*For this column, I want to define God by not defining God. I suggest that each of us use the term which feels most comfortable. I use God as a universal term. You may decide that Spirit, Great Spirit, Higher Power, Sensibility, Best Self, or SOMETHING else better suits you. It is not for me to decide what term you use. It is only for me to decide which term I use. I often use the term God.
Author bio: Marie Higgins left corporate America after more than 15 years in human resources management to pursue life. Before long she found massage therapy and became a nationally certified, state-licensed massage therapist. At the same time, she felt a partial hardening of the heart, figuratively and spiritually, so she found a spiritual coach to help, and became an active journaling person. Included in her journals are the gratitude lists that helped her heart soften and moved her to write poetry. In 2017 she included these poems in her debut book, Sprouting Spiritual Growth: A Memoir and a Guide to Spiritual Journaling. Since then Marie maintains a journaling practice that includes writing poetry whenever inspiration strikes. Marie lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, two young adult children and an active foxhound.