Forest Yogi: Finding Inner Peace Through Nature
Some of the greatest thinkers and writers gain perspective in the woods.
Sometimes Facebook is awesome, but other times I'm deluged with mindless chatter and need to escape.
Facebook doesn’t reach out of my phone, grab my wrist and prevent me from writing papers or reading articles for school, but temptation is only a click away. I feel good in the short-term indulging in my friends’ check-ins and photo albums, but it’s no substitute for old-school phone calls and coffee house chats. And sometimes I end up feeling outright empty. Or confused by input overload. So, what to do? Go outside.
Old-school yogis didn’t have Facebook, but they absolutely got distracted. Back in the days of ancient Indian philosophers, those in search of wisdom and truth would wander from town to town talking to people and exchanging ideas. Then they would explain the ideas to the masses. The Buddha was one of these. And the Buddha, along with many of his contemporaries, would occasionally get exhausted interacting with people.
Philosophers of his time would occasionally retreat into the woods or into caves to gain perspective. So they could think more clearly. Without input from others. After retreating alone or with a small group of like-minded people it was easier to focus. Easier to think clearly. Sweet.
What Would JC Do?
Traveling for wisdom and truth didn’t end in ancient India. My model is Joseph Campbell - philosopher, writer and lecturer. He was friends with fellas like John Steinbeck and emulated the writings of guys like Carl Jung and James Joyce.
One day, Campbell was traveling in Europe he came across Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher, writer and lecturer, and, as a result of their encounter he developed interests in Indian philosophy. Traveling provided him with many learning opportunities.
Campbell spent five solid years alone in a cabin near Woodstock, NY, during the Great Depression. In order to maintain his book supply he wrote to publishers asking for books although he had no money to pay for them. Campbell considered his forest dwelling sojourn one of the most educational periods of his life. He enjoyed periods of reflective reading throughout the rest of his life because he found great value in retreat.
Wisdom in Surroundings
Ancient Indian philosophers such as the Buddha and more recent philosopher-writers such as Campbell didn’t have the online communities – like Facebook – that we have today, but they still had distractions in their family and friends. And sometimes they had trouble thinking clearly. They knew that in order to gain perspective that periods of travel, retreat, or solace were necessary.
I’ve found that sometimes I need to retreat to a river, lake, the mountains or another country to prepare for school. The philosophers and writers that came before me knew how to refocus, so I pay attention to them.