When I was a little girl one of my favorite summer past times was catching lightning bugs in my little hands and then letting them go. There would be hundreds of lightning bugs in our backyard. I remember you had to be so delicate and careful to make sure you didn't touch their wings, or worse, squish them.
I would cup my hand and hold it up into the air, and they would fly right into me and land on my palm or the back of my hand. Their chocolate brown shell would fold over their wings, a little dazed at the interruption this young child caused to their mating ritual. Then, without a second thought they would open their wings, let out a blink and float off into the night sky to find their true love. As though we hadn't just interacted. As though they didn't care about the wonder and awe they just bestowed upon me.
Many a summer night were spent in this way: Me reaching out to find some sort of connection with nature and nature proving time and time again that it existed without me.
The ancient belief that Earth is the center of the Universe still affects our ability to sit comfortably with the unknown. Most misery arises from the notion that the universe was built with us in mind. This way of thinking creates a sense of entitlement, an unquenchable aching for acceptance and an inability to deal with change. In reality, we were built long after the universe started, and the sooner we can accept this fact the sooner we can begin to shift our way of thinking. That feeling of entitlement turns into gratefulness, an aching for inclusion turns into a feeling of connectedness, and we no longer fear change but embrace it as a way of life; just as we embrace and accept the fact that we must breathe every day.
When you allow yourself to be humbled by the greatness of nature, whether in the form of a lightning bug's miraculously timed chemical reaction; a rain forests unique ecosystem; a mountains peak and valleys; or even further past our planet into the vast expanse of our galaxy and known universe - you begin to realize that you are a part of all of that. You are a part of the most fascinating thing to happen on this planet - life and the ability to acknowledge it.
The more we allow ourselves to be humbled by nature we can find a purpose within the chaos. The Universe breathes through us in a metaphorical and literal way. At our core, we are made of the same things that make up the stars, galaxies, and far away planets.
I think that thought can be empowering. It reminds me that the petty things don't matter. The house, the fancy car, the score of the game, the newest radio single, the drama at work, the drama at home - none of that matters. I cannot stress to you enough, how much absolutely none of that matters.
Carl Sagan, renowned astronomer said in his book "Pale Blue Dot" that when we think of the history of our planet within the history of the universe we are given the opportunity to grow and become empowered.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”Tweet It!
As a New Yorker I don’t often get to see lightning bugs anymore, but I do still find the beauty in the little things. I marvel at the sight of my breath in the winter. I get unnecessarily excited at the buds on the trees in spring. I look forward to the hot summer rain that smells like relief and sweat and passion. In the Autumn I love to watch the leaves change as the squirrels scramble to bury their finds.
Most important to me is that as I interact with the world, I still practice that kindness I carried as a child. Cupping my hands; holding them out gently to anyone who may want to land and interact with me. I am not the center of the universe, nor am I the most important person on the planet. But if nature has taught me anything, it’s that we are all miraculous. Maybe acknowledging our miraculous life, instead of wasting it, is the point of it all. Maybe being humbled is the best way to remember we are home and we are never alone.
Monica Pirani is a yoga teacher living in New York City with her amazing husband. She grew up loving dinosaurs and shoulder stand, and is a self-proclaimed science geek. She loves writing, yoga, summer, french fries, and empowering others to remember that they are already whole and complete. One day she’ll own a dog, but that’s a story for another day.
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