Do you fit into your daily schedule? Or are you an afterthought?
Nature can help.
Nature provides the space and clarity that allow us to experience the vastness, the texture of life that is difficult to find anywhere else. Nature allows us to cultivate the present moment. It reaches out to us to reconnect with our innocent, younger, unvarnished selves without bias, without shame, without all the layers of personality we have developed to survive our childhood and the society we live in.
Nature allows us to be naked without being self-conscious. Nature doesn’t care whether we think we are short, tall, skinny, overweight, blemished. Nature defines acceptance. All have an equal chance to enjoy the cool stream, to feel the green moss, to fall into a rocky ravine. The rhythms of life and death continue to flow regardless of our age, wealth, or identity. Guilt, insecurity, self-loathing, judgement have no meaning in Nature. We become beautiful in Nature because we are allowed to define ourselves, by ourselves.
No matter our personal connection with Nature today, our intellects and emotional selves have created filters, perspectives, biases, the cobwebs of life, that often make it difficult to allow the youthful love and curiosity for Nature we all have within to be fully expressed.
Think about the last time your busy mind was distracted, if only for a moment, by a bird sitting in a tree, or a flower blowing delicately in the wind. How did you feel? Wonder, awe, compassion? It softened you. That was the door of your childhood opening up ever so slightly, allowing your emotional self to speak again, like a gentle wind pushing away the cobwebs, asking your intellect to pause for a moment and allow your life to breathe.
For us to allow Nature to reestablish this connection, permanently, to make curiosity and compassion (as opposed to judgement and apathy) guiding principles of our lives, we need to form new neural pathways to replace the older, worn channels that have been directing our thoughts and actions for years.
Where once we thought adult brains were fixed, we now know that the brain can grow new neurons to repair damage, replace older neural pathways that no longer serve us, change to help us change. It takes conscious effort, practice, to form new channels, to no longer allow the older, easier path to determine our actions. But the practice is within our reach.
It is this fundamental assumption, that all of us have a wild child within, suppressed in order to adapt to the judgmental, insensitive social world that often surrounds us, that underlies our new naturalist program.
How do we form the new neural pathways to allow our youthful, natural innocence to assist both our intellect and our body to slow down and listen?
We are developing activities that will be an integral part of our program next year to do just that. We are excited about the possibilities, and will keep you informed as to our progress. In the meantime, give the one below a try.
And please, ask your intellect to take a vacation for a moment if it shows up as doubt, judgement, embarrassment. Verbally say, “Go away.”
1. Please find a photo of yourself under the age of 12 enjoying you, playing outdoors if possible. If you can’t find a photo, maybe find something you made back then or find an object that reminds you of that time.
2. Print this set of instructions and take it and your photo to a quiet space where nature can be felt. Your space can be a backyard, a park, or perhaps a vista where you can see across the landscape.
3. Standing or sitting, adjust your body and feel your balance, how your body feels in the position it is in. Look around. What natural patterns do you see? How are they arranged? Reach out and touch the earth, a leaf, a twig. Feel the textures, the temperature, the shape. Set it aside and take a deep breath through your nose. Pay attention to the fragrances in the air. Exhale. Take a deep breath through your mouth and allow the air to swirl along the top and edges of your tongue. What do you taste? Now listen quietly. If there is background noise, focus on the bright noises – the birds, the wind moving through the leaves.
4. Now close your eyes and repeat the process of experiencing these six senses – balance, sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing.
How was the experience different from the first time when you had your eyes open?
5. Now, look at the picture of your young self or the object you brought. Look into your young eyes or feel the object. Closing your eyes again, keep your young self in mind. How are you feeling as that child? Just stay with the emotions. If your intellect shows up, ask it to take a vacation for a moment. Verbally say, “Go away.” Say “welcome,” out loud to your youthful self.
Imagine running through a field, being chased by friends. Falling down on the grass. Look down from a tree you have climbed. Watch the baby birds in the nest you’ve just discovered. Take your shoes off and walk in a cool stream. Lay on your stomach and stare at the sand on the beach. Bring up you own memories of playing in nature, be it a vacant lot, a park, a backyard, or out in the wilderness. Just run with it and laugh. Feel what if feels like.
We’ll see you next time.