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The title grabbed my attention immediately. Was the book suggesting that the buddha and the early buddhists specifically went out into nature to meditate, that they saw something special about being in wilderness? The answer, from my understanding of the author, is a tentative yes.

I am a romantic who loves science; they are not incompatible in my mind, but Wordsworth was writing at a different time. An important taoist concept is dynamic balance, and that when things get out of balance then forces always come into play to bring about change and realignment. Wordsworth was experiencing directly what was happening to people’s minds as the Industrial Revolution gathered speed. Things were getting out of balance. As he says in another poem, ‘Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours;’

The Romantics, who do not seem to be fashionable today, were like all true artists, ahead of their time, sensitive to the changes and imbalances that were happening in society and the wider world. In Wordsworth’s time Science in the service of the merchant class was in its ascendancy. The Industrial Revolution had begun to realign power in society so that whole new forms of exploitation of working people developed. At the same time more people were seeing Nature only in abstract form. This was partly because the increasing benefits of science and technology reinforced this view. One consequence of the new thinking was the splitting off of the individual self from the world around, it became ‘environment’. A further consequence was the revised notions of the mind as a machine that functions in the head or brain. A further split, enhanced by the scientists’ desire to be ‘objective’, was the splitting off of feelings from the intellect, with the result that thinking became isolated from deeper soulful experiences.

The third poem, ‘Lines Written in Early Spring‘ has Wordsworth again sitting quietly, taking in nature all around him. Here is a sample:

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

Also that same year, in ‘To My Sister‘ he entreats his sister to stop working, leave any books, get her coat and come outdoors because spring has started, ‘It is the first mild day of March;’. He encourages her to enjoy a day of idleness, with the lines:

No joyless forms shall regulate

Our living calendar;

We from to-day, my Friend, will date

The opening of the year.

Love, now a universal birth,

From heart to heart is stealing,

From earth to man, from man to earth;

-It is the hour of feeling.

I like the plea to tune in to nature’s calendar and define spring in personal terms based on the experience of the day not specific dates. I also like the dynamic interplay between nature and ‘man’, back and forth. This poem is less insistent compared to the challenge to his friend to put down books and come to your senses. It is more celebratory and refers to an experience to be shared with someone he knows will like it.

It is possible to get inspiration for a mindful appreciation of nature by reading poetry from the far East. I would contend that there is also a rich harvest of poetry to be found among our own poets that speaks the same language, if one only looks.