Discovering the sacred in nature
Friday, November 12, 2004 7:16:00 AM
by Niki Collins-Queen
|Everything looked holy: the river, the trees, the plants.
Aquarius, Atlanta, GA
By Marie-Claire Wilson
Niki Collins-Queen is a licensed professional counselor who has worked as a therapist for twenty years. A solitary trip to the mountains changed Niki Collins-Queen’s life. She went backpacking expecting a recreational experience, instead she had a spiritual awakening. After this beautiful experience she gave up a successful career and the comfort of civilization to devote her life to nature. I recently had an opportunity to interview her.
MCW: Why did you write Earth, the Forgotten Temple?
NCQ: There are two main reasons. People light up when I talk about my spiritual and outdoor adventures. I was told that my experiences helped them feel more in touch with their own heroic journeys, they’re inspired to live more courageously and they appreciate how the creator speaks to them in every sunrise.
Although my book, Earth, the Forgotten Temple, is my story it is also a voice for the Earth. In a society that tends to stay inside more, I wanted people to know about the transformational power of nature.
MCW: Can you briefly explain to the readers your experience in nature that transformed your life?
NCQ: While sitting cross-legged on a rock next to a mountain stream staring at minnows, I suddenly asked, "God, if you exist, please let me know you!" Like a heart-stopping explosion, a presence of intense love in the form of dazzling white light entered the top of my head and radiated out through my heart. The feeling was so encompassing; it was like being bathed in an ocean of ecstasy.
Bursting with bliss, I broke into violent sobs. All my life I had searched for love from others, and here it was welling up within and around me. The love was so powerful and unconditional; my heart surged with joy. Everything looked holy: the river, the trees, the plants. Looking around me with new eyes, I saw that all of creation was a sacred temple.
Feeling one with the trees, the water, the mountains, and the sky, I knew we were of one energy and we were all connected. There was no doubt in my mind. I had experienced the presence of a God, a God that was not a big daddy in the sky but a loving energy permeating everything.
MCW: Why did you leave a successful business career for a simple life in the woods? Talk about that a little.
NCQ: A number of events in tandem reminded me of the fragility of life. My father, a female friend and my cat all died within months of each other. While I was trying to decide whether to take the directors position for a Mental Health Center’s children’s program a man chased me with a machete in the mountains. At the same time I felt compelled to spend more time in nature to deepen my connection with God. When in the wild, where life is simple, I feel part of something bigger than myself and sense the pulse of Great Spirit everywhere.
MCW: Why is nature so important if we want to be connected with the cosmos?
NCQ: When cities became our home and technology our cosmos, the sense of sacred shifted from nature to humankind. Our busy schedules and the trappings of modern society isolate us from nature. Yet the earth is our very body. We can’t have life, or nourishment except as it comes out of the earth.
MCW: Do you think that people in this new century will be more connected to Mother Earth and less enslaved by technology?
NCQ: We are now a global community. Thanks to science and technology we have more knowledge about the earth and more awareness of the need for conservation. There’s a resurgence back to the roots, back to the soil and back to the spirit of the land. More people are drawn to outdoor recreation and adventure travel. Ecospirituality and ecospychology are becoming more common place. At the same time our technology is becoming more complex, we have a population explosion, global warming, destruction of rain forest, plants and animals, and pollution of air and water. I don’t know our final destiny, but I can trust in God, work, pray and hope.
MCW: What message did you get from being in the woods?
NCQ: Spending time in the woods gave me a greater appreciation for the sacredness of all things. It made me want to simplify my life and slow down. I now drive my car at a more leisurely speed and seek softer music. My desire for possession decreased, and as my creativity expanded, I felt less need to escape into movies, books and television.
MCW: Have you often had enlightening cosmic experiences in nature, in the woods? Could you talk about one of these experiences?
NCQ: I’ve had a number of enlightening cosmic experiences in nature. A vision while doing a two-day fast on one of the banks of the Suwannee River affected me deeply. A painful memory of an argument with my mother surfaced and how four years later my letters remained unanswered. I asked God why there was suffering in the world. Suddenly I was watching Jesus stagger as he carried his cross on his way to being crucified. My problem instantly seemed minuscule compared to Jesus’ and I got it.
If this beautiful man could accept and forgive those that had slain Him, I could too. This revelation helped me see how evil is but another mask of God and is required to master unconditional love.
MCW: Tell me what is the most beautiful part about nature.
NCQ: The Iroquois Indians called nature "The Great Peace." That has been true for me. I found I could more fully access "The Great Peace" when I sat alone in a natural place, stopped thinking, opened my heart and allowed my senses and awareness to come alive. John Muir said it best "Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves."