"Prairie grasses swaying in the wind . . . clouds drifting in the sky . . . songbirds flocking in a nearby tree . . . all make the heart sing. We aren't merely observers of nature's beauties. The soul is omnipresent, and everything happens within us.

"The ego is the soul identified with the body. Egoic consciousness makes one self-absorbed and oblivious of other realities. When one is immersed in nature the 'body vanishes and the freed soul goes abroad.' (John Muir) Only by expanding beyond the physical body can one commune with God.

"People enjoy being in nature because there they see ennobling qualities they want for themselves. In its myriad forms, nature helps enrich and expand the soul. Sri Ramakrishna asked his disciple Master Mahasaya to meditate whenever he saw an expanse of water, because the placidity of water reminds one of the vastness of God.

"Richard Jefferies, the English poet, spoke of everything in nature — a flower, a lake — as 'touching him and giving him something of itself.' He 'spoke to the sea . . . and desired its strength.' He addressed the sun, and consciously drew upon the soul equivalent of its light. He looked at the sky, gazed into its depths, and felt the 'blue sky drawing his soul toward it, and there it rested.'

"Feeling nature's essence within your body and all around you helps you feel God's body. The best way to feel nature within you, Swami Kriyananda says, is to relate from your center (in the spine) to the center of everything you observe. When you see a striking rock or tree, commune with its spiritual essence; feel it becoming alive in you.

"In India there was a hermit who had an unusual way of praying. While the other hermits recited the scriptures, repeated mantras, or practiced breathing exercises, this 'atypical' hermit expressed his devotion differently. After coming out of his cave, he'd greet the morning sun, enjoy the sunlight on the Ganges, and listen to the birds. Every time he saw something that delighted him, he'd joyfully clap his hands in approval and exclaim, 'Well done, Lord! Well done!'

" 'All life leaps like a dancer when gazing I see only Thee.' (Swami Kriyananda) When the consciousness expands and all nature becomes one's body, one feels oneself moving in, and delighting in, everything.

"May you, like that hermit, see and delight in God everywhere."