What does it mean to connect with nature?
Does it mean taking off your shoes to walk on beach sand once a week? A regular hike or swim? Gardening with your gloves off? Standing outside in a rain shower? Camping out under the stars like I’ve just spent a day or two doing; every now and then?
We all have our own ways of connecting with the natural world, but when we look at connecting to earth as something we do, we’re not seeing the complete truth.
In the same way that we love our special others even when they’re not with us; we are connected to nature, even when we’re not outside in the natural world. Even when we’re not giving the natural earth a thought. We’re a part of nature. We are nature. We are connected. Always. It’s not a weekend activity choice. It isn’t something that we do. Connected to nature is something that we are—by nature.
Whether we’re inside an office or workshop, in an apartment or suburban home, between any walls that fool us into thinking we’re separate to the natural world; we’re not.
There are things we can do to own our connection to the powerful and beautiful world outside.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
There is no denying our connection to oxygen. But sometimes we forget how much difference the simple act of conscious breath can make to our fulfilment, and wellbeing.
Exercise all you like, you won’t lose weight or give your best performance unless you breathe oxygen deeply enough into your lungs. Our metabolism comes to life with oxygen. We can’t go three minutes without it, so we probably don’t want to underestimate its importance to our functioning, health and success.
Open a window. Lift your welding mask at break time and find a pocket of clean air. Sit down on your couch and slow yourself long enough to breathe. Take a slow breath: Open your lungs and let oxygen seep in, strongly and deeply. Then breathe out. Repeat.
I don’t say this as a qualified expert on breathing, but from personal experience:
A deep breath takes a lot of headaches away.
“The sun shines not on us but in us.”
As soon as we disconnect from nature, we disconnect from its serenity. We deny ourselves of an inner deep peace.
I’m not sure on the science or medicine of this (like I’m always saying, I’m giving my own shells of thought here—not claiming to give qualified advice), but I do believe that the art of peace is in mimicking nature. To be as content and grounded as a tree, free as a flower in a forest, brave as lions. For me, this takes remembering that my small concerns are not the whole world. That I am a part of something much bigger.
Inwardly connect with nature and you’ll view problems in realistic proportions. An upset boss is not a mountain. A mountain is a mountain. A failed attempt is not the end of the world. The end of the world has not yet arrived. The sun still shines and we can drink in its light and remember that the concerns of the human-made world are very small in context.
Not to push the point, but peace comes with knowing the connectivity of all things. We are connected to something far bigger than our worries.
“Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.”
Including yourself. When we remember that we are a part of the natural world, more than the non-natural environments humans have created, then this informs our decisions, our peace of mind, our personal and professional ethics, our resourcefulness, and our happiness.
It’s a pretty big statement but I’ll stand by it.
If you’re school-free or interested in alternative education, you might be aware that Maria Montessori expressed a similar sentiment. Allow a child to care for a plant: to nurture it and watch it grow, and she will be unlikely to harm a living thing.
I believe too, that when we remember our true place in nature, the decisions we make about ourselves are more positive. Our self-beliefs. What we do and don’t accept for ourselves. Our self-regard is heightened when we align ourselves with our connectivity to nature.
Remember the cyclic nature of being.
“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
Whatever state you’re in, whatever emotion you’re feeling, it will pass. That’s the way of things. Life is cyclic.
This might sound strange, but I believe it’s important to remember this during the up times, as well as during the times that are not ideal. Too often, when times are good, we think we’re here! We’ve arrived. By some magic, we’ve made it to a happy place, and here we shall stay. Only to be floored when turbulence reaches us again. Instead, we can remember that we are in a good place, and we can relish it. We will feel this immense joy again, yes, and we will also know tumult again. So, carpe diem. Seize the day.
When we remember the cyclic nature of being we savour the good times more fully, and ride out the less than ideal times with more peace and assurance that they will pass.
“My heart is a boat on the sea.”
Remember your place in nature, and therefore your worth.
“Going to the mountains is going home.”
For me, going to the ocean is going home. Wherever your favourite grand place in nature—the place where the world opens up, where your pulse beats faster and your smile muscles make themselves known; that place is your home.
The mighty waves or mountain peaks, the endless sky, the lush water or forests, the intricate markings of shells or ferns: You are a part of that. That beauty, that wonder, that strength, is you.
Yours in the free world.