I did not grow up with an appreciation for nature. I was raised to view the body mind and spirit as separate and humans and nature as separate. In my adult life, I have begun to question and unlearn dualism. I feel fortunate to have come to this awareness, which continues to evolve. Today, whilst chatting with friends about my philosophy of life which is that life is pain and suffering is optional … you can choose to accept the inevitable pain of change and loss or you can resist it and suffer.
Nature doesn’t suffer … it moves forward always, prana, into the next season. There is no resistance. Storms come, they rage, and then they subside. Wildfires and droughts, epidemics … they all come and run their course. As humans whose lives and survival are bound up with the Earth and nature, we resist the extremes, knowing our actions contributed to them and that our survival hangs in the balance. Part of healing is finding ways to tap into and to commune with the natural world, the source from which we come and shall return. We have this erroneous belief that because we live in homes and wear clothes and build buildings and burn oil we are separate from nature but we are not. We are part of it.
My personal ways of enjoying nature daily include:
- Hugging, kissing, and playing with my dogs. Domesticated animals are our companions and also the natural world breaking through the illusion of separateness. As a highly anxious person, having the steadfast companionship of my dogs helps me regulate my nervous system and experience harmony love, and contentment. It never ceases to amaze me how my dogs love unconditionally, have emotions of their own, and so gracefully dance along with the rhythms of each day. Not resisting, not reacting, just being.
- Caring for and admiring plants. We keep about a dozen plants in our home and tending to them gives me a lot of relaxation, joy, and purpose. I know they are cleaning the air in our home and elevating the environment in each room to be more in tune and in balance with the natural world. I have a tendency to “root” for faltering plants and try to keep them even when they are dying or dead. I have brought a few back, but not all of them, and this helps me examine my own resistance to letting go and making space for the new. Caring for plants can be a meditative practice.
- Sitting in my backyard. I am privileged to have a home in a beautiful place with gorgeous trees outlining the view. Several of the trees are hundreds of years old, and I marvel at their majesty and beauty and I wonder what stories they could tell and what things they have seen. I think about all the people who come after me, and will they appreciate the trees as well? Wise, grounded, providing shade, privacy, and beauty.
- Walks. I am also privileged to live in a place marked by natural beauty – trees, lawns, flowers, shrubs. Open space to travel alongside my husband, friends or alone. Walking is the perfect meditative exercise. It is simple, nourishing, and effective. It’s wild the lengths to which many affluent humans go to force exercise and “get a sweat in” when walking is perfectly moderated for wherever we are, health and wellness-wise, right now.
- My drive to campus. I absolutely love my drive to campus twice a week, which takes me through a nature reserve. I get to see the seasons change and appreciate the beauty of each phase, driving around windy roads traversing a hilly and tree-filled reservation. Part of the joy of it is the repetition – traveling the same path and seeing the natural movement of the seasons as embodied by the leaves on the trees …from green to flush to multicolored autumnal to absent (sometimes white and snow covered) and eventually to green again.
- My breath. I am trying to start each day with ten deep breaths. It is interesting how much I resist it. Usually, after about 5 breaths I squirm and break out of it. When I complete the 10 breaths, in contrast, I feel a sensation of groundedness. It’s as if my energy is anchored and in harmony with the Earth. I learned this from a teacher who starts each Yoga class with 10 deep breaths. I feel life in the modern world has many of us leaving our bodies and allowing all of our energy to be drawn upward and outward but through pranayama, we can remain present and in tune with the Earth.
- Eating whole foods. This is an improvement opportunity for me. I eat more processed foods than I should, but I am working on it. When I eat whole, nutritious, and nourishing foods I feel more in harmony with nature and the world. It is no coincidence that so many of us are miserable given that we eat chemicals, excessive sugar and salt, and animals raised and killed in cruel and unnatural circumstances. Even something as simple as drinking green juice and eating pumpkin seeds and walnuts makes me feel better. Everything we put in our mouths has the opportunity to make us feel better or worse.
- Asana practice. Yoga classes and the physical expression of Yoga is a very important way that I enjoy nature. It is me being in my body – alive, moving, expressing, flowing, and transcending the mental machinations that consume me during most hours of the day. Asana practice is a personal well-being practice where I am one with the movement of the Earth and the world – prana – moving forward always. The deep breathing, the movements, sweat, the energy, and toxins released … this is a profound way of communing with nature and returning to the source.