I have often heard my spiritual Master say, “Be in tune with Nature. Be pure and simple. Be one with Nature.” I personally thought I was doing my best to live like Nature until I met Gollum.
(Most of you who are J. R. R. Tolkien fans or LOTR fanatics like me know who Gollum is. For those of you who don’t know about Gollum, let me tell you very briefly about him. Gollum is an important character from Tolkien’s books. He is a scary-looking monster-like creature constantly in search of a powerful magical ring after he loses it from his possession. He also calls the ring, “my precious.” Once known as Smeagol who was a happy and a sane hobbit-like individual, he turns into a corrupt and hideous creature due to his greed for the ring. Smeagol and Gollum are two sides of the same individual constantly trying to reason against each other. They both love and hate each other and constantly fight each other about wanting and not wanting the ring also known as the “precious.”)
Every morning when I walked into the deeper parts of the remote hill country ranch where I was staying for my spiritual retreat, I had unending questions in my mind. Wrapped in my shawl with a camping chair on my shoulder, granola bars in my pocket, my writing diary tucked under my arm and a water bottle in my hand, I used to walk away with intentions of disappearing for a long time. And disappear I did.
One such morning I was camping under a beautiful tree trying to write some thoughts in my diary. I reminded myself that I was sitting in the middle of nature and I need to be in tune with it. At that moment nature to me was the trees, animals, birds, rocks, insects and flowers that surrounded me. But this nature was actually only a smaller subset of real Nature. And then, I had a set of new questions coming to my mind about being in tune with real Nature. “How does one really be in tune with Nature? How do I really blend in? Do we always have to be present in Nature to live like it? And even if we are present in Nature, can we or do we actually feel one with it always? How could I continue to blend with it when I return back to the concrete jungle in which I live?” My questions wouldn’t stop so I decided to close my eyes and meditate.
After a while, I opened my eyes only to find all the answers literally standing in front of me. At first, I thought it was nature’s joke. And maybe it was. I smiled and allowed nature to have a sense of humor if that is how it chose to answer my questions. 🙂 I saw in front of me a flock of wild turkeys. On the other end of the ranch grounds, I saw a big herd of deer. Standing behind me were some of the curious but magnificent ranch peacocks. And to my left was Jack the rabbit hiding behind a bush busy nibbling on something. I also saw some beautiful red butterflies sitting on delicate yellow flowers while the cricket crawled in the grass by my feet. It was too much beauty to take in all at once. It was too much nature for the unaccustomed eye.
All the birds and animals surrounded me and I sat right in the center of my momentary nature. I wondered if they had been around me all the time or did they only appear to answer my questions. Maybe they had always been there and my eyes refused to see them or maybe they had just appeared as my answers. Whatever the case, I sat in my chair quietly feeling every ounce of beauty that these animals were showering on me. At that moment we all co-existed in perfect harmony. We were all still, absorbing and trusting each other. Nature trusts us when we trust Nature. There was pure silence and for the first time I heard the voice of the silence deep within me. I felt that the pace of my heartbeat and the flapping of the butterfly’s wings had the same rhythm. Our rhythms had mysteriously blended and I felt One with it. I felt whole. I knew. I smiled in acknowledgement. As if my understanding smile was a signal to leave, all the animals slowly departed after explaining to me what it meant to be One. I was finally in tune with Nature!
But I have to admit that a few seconds before I felt One with Nature, I met somebody else. This somebody else reminded me so much of the character Gollum seeking for “his precious” that I decided to call him by the same name. He was my inner Gollum. My inner Gollum reminded me of the very first memories or instincts that I felt when I experienced nature around me that day.
When I first saw the beautiful yellow flowers growing in the grass, my inner Gollum said, “my precious” and wanted me to pluck them. I convinced this creature that the flowers belonged to nature and I do not want to separate them from her only to enjoy a few minutes of unnecessary possession. When I saw the butterflies sitting on those flowers, I again heard the words, “my precious” and I tried to understand what it meant this time. I slowly remembered my childhood memories when my brother had taught me to sneak upon butterflies and catch them by holding their wings. I cringed in pain because now that I was One with Nature, I could actually feel how the butterfly feels when someone holds it by the wings and bottles it up for temporary enjoyment.
I am now a vegetarian but I have been through my phase of non-vegetarianism. When I saw the beautiful wild turkeys standing in front of me, I could not believe that few years ago they were “my precious” when I was consuming them. Same goes for the deer and everything else. Now that I was One with them and the rest of Nature, I realized how I had been affecting my own extensions and reducing my own self bit by bit. It felt miserable to realize that I was never bottling up a butterfly but only locking my own extension into a glass jar and suffocating myself. No wonder I never felt whole before; no wonder I never blended and felt in tune with Nature before.
And that’s when I realized why it was difficult to follow my spiritual Master’s words. I had not left any nature around me to follow its example, learn from it and live like it. For too long, I had been hoarding it, thinking that it was “my precious” and I Had To possess it and feel powerful. But when I was One with it, I realized that “my precious” is within me. In fact, I am the precious. I am Nature. I am.
My questions had been answered. I serenely walked back to the cottage amidst the nine beautiful peacocks that lived on the ranch… for the very first time feeling One with them – feeling like the tenth peacock.
We all have inner Gollums hidden inside us. Each one of us has a voice that constantly keeps saying, “my precious” to us. Sooner or later we all encounter the Gollum in us and we are not going to like the creature that faces us. But we have to give this creature a chance to surface and resurface again in our life. We need to hear it. We need to face it with courage and accept it. Maybe it is showing up only to leave us forever and make us pure and simple. After all, it has been put there for a purpose…the purpose of reintroducing ourselves to us. It is constantly teaching us how to differentiate between who we are and what we are meant to become.
My inner Gollum appeared in front of me when I was in the middle of nature. The minute I overcame him, I felt in tune with Nature; I felt One with the Universe. Your inner Gollum may appear in front of you while you are stuck in heavy traffic; while you are in the middle of an important meeting with a room full of people or maybe while you are shopping for grocery. What will you do when he appears in front of you next time? Will you choose to snatch “your precious” from outside of yourself? Or will you be the precious yourself?