Selfish Metaphors in Nature

“You can notice clouds floating by…but you are not those clouds.”   Ken Wilber

The Kazan River

A true Witness to nature views without imposing themselves onto a majestic scene, an earthly event, or a mysterious place.  It’s the mark of an accomplished spiritual traveler to be able to control our egoic tendencies to not somehow associate ourselves with the glory of nature. To do this, one needs to be able to open and empty their minds, and be present to completely and utterly experience a moment without judgement or interpretation.

Gaze in awe at a majestic and bold mountain and consider not for a moment that the majestic and bold mountain has anything to say about your fortitude or assertiveness.


Look upon a glassy smooth ocean and ignore any implications for emotional ripples that require calming in your life.

Find a heart-shaped stone and appreciate it as a wonder of weathering, as opposed to anything to do with the abundance of love in your life.


Yes, “witnessing” is all well and good and indeed part of the path to peace in life.



Nature can be playful, and it can beg to lighten and mix things up.

When this happens and nature just can’t be denied, there is nothing wrong in accommodating occasional indulgence.

One way that I do this is to play a game of “Selfish Metaphors in Nature.”

I love to be in nature in the way of many indigenous cultures, on alert for signs and hidden meanings from animals, plants, weather, or whatever else wants to instant-message me to see if I speak its language. One of my favorite “ways to be in nature” is one I experience with my Andean friends in Peru. It’s a celebratory, mindful, and intentional way of connecting and being with Pachamama, or Mother Nature.


Upon entering the kingdom of Nature, we express humility and ask for grace. Next, we give offerings to the spirits in Nature, be they physical matter like the mountains or energy like the winds, and ask that they cooperate to watch over our party.  A symbolic offering may be as simple as pouring a few drops of water from your supply over the ground. We like to play music or sing as an offering, which also serves to help awaken our senses to sounds in Nature.

Then it becomes a waiting game.

The game is one of mindful awareness and alertness to see if Nature heard you, and to see and interpret how it responds. Invariably, when you are alert for “signs” in nature, nature never fails to deliver because something is always going on in nature.

So jettison the Witness for just a while, and come play the game of “Selfish Metaphors!”

While walking along a path through a forest, you suddenly are surrounded by gnawed tree trunks and you notice the trail is suddenly being encroached upon by a flooded pond. The industrious beaver without question is telling you that it’s time to build something meaningful in your life!


Just past the beaver pond, you encounter a soft area along the trail that tugs at your boots and leaves them covered in a muddy residue. This is undoubtedly a sign that you are bogged down in an unhealthy relationship and you simply must move on!

A colorful butterfly inexplicably flutters around you, maybe even touches down on your shoulder or backpack. You can be sure that a loved one that has passed on is visiting you and reassuring you on your path.


As you enter a clearing, your eyes fall upon a fox opposite you in the clearing, and for an instant your eyes lock. On one hand, the fox can represent negative sorcery. If you are just starting a new endeavor or project, you’ve just received a bad omen and you may want to reconsider! On the other hand, the fox has long been considered as witty, quick, and intelligent. If you happen to have a tricky situation ongoing in your life, the fox may be signaling for you to have confidence that you will successfully extricate yourself!


The weather had been forecast as overcast, with on-an-off drizzle throughout the day. After lunch, the sun bursts out unexpectedly. You know that plan that you have been bouncing around but you’ve been unsure about? Well, clearly you need to go for it!!


When playing the game of “Selfish Metaphors in Nature” it can be especially rewarding to selectively choose “optimistic” interpretations, and to be on the lookout for positive inspirations. Native American folklore, religions, fables — there are so many places to consult to learn the symbolism or possible interpretations of encounters or visions in Nature. It also can be great to rely on your own imagination to interpret meanings of your experiences. Really the sky is the limit – or should I say that the “endless blue of the cloudless sky represents the boundless possibilities in every aspect of our lives!”