The first post in the Looking to Nature series
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour. William Blake
The topic of looking to nature is vast and covers so much ground it’s hopeless to think you can delve into it in just a few blogs. I’ll continue to write on this theme over the next while is ideas come to the forefront. I welcome your ideas and suggestions.
Nature is more than the outdoors
Nature is more than that which is found outside of us – it is also found internally, interpersonally, and I believe, spiritually (the influential yet unseen world within which we exist).
Ecotherapy is the application of Ecopsychology, which is based on the premise that the health of our psyche is interconnected to the health of the earth and vice versa. This emerged out of a field of thought called Deep Ecology in which the concept of Gaia Theory is central.
Ecotherapies are nature-connected practices (guided or not) that restore balance and health to the psyche. They can include something as clinical as wilderness therapy and forest medicine, or as non clinical as self-directed forest bathing exercises such as finding a spot in nature to sit in or taking a quiet walk in the woods.
A simple choice
Though it may seem complex, looking to Nature is a simple choice, a decision that will open doors of understanding and inspiration. It’s not about being an expert in something – quite the opposite! It’s about remaining in a sense of awe and wonder about the workings of the inner and outer world.
If there is a skill involved, it is the ability to cultivate awareness so that you pay attention to your experience, rather than bouncing along though space on autopilot. This shift to attention has an important effect on your brain, and opens the door to a whole realm of inner wisdom and knowing.
Shifting attention to awareness of your experience as you observe the environment is a powerful type of meditation. It will eventually create a kind of euphoric state where connections and insights are made. This euphoric state is similar to the state of Flow, wherein the mind and body stop struggling though whatever is happening, and instead let go and flow effortlessly through the experience.
Flow is a common state that is experienced by athletes, writers, and artists alike. Within this state, the body and mind quiet to a slower rhythm, and you at once are able to sense, see, and feel your surroundings in a new way. Everything synchronizes – you are no longer thinking about what you’re doing anymore – it’s just happening. You’ve now locked into alpha brain waves and your creativity, flexibility, and awareness go through the roof!
Entering into this state takes time, intention, and concentration. You do not need to be performing a physical activity to access flow, but that is a possibility. Looking to nature and connecting to nature is another! So, too, is meditation. For those of us who live busy lives that are often insulated from the natural environment, to access this state requires us to stop moving physically, and to slow down internally.
Sitting quietly for at least 10 minutes
Like meditation practices, wherein one intentionally sits in quiet, non-judgemental internal observation, we can have a very similar and even more dynamic experience by sitting quietly in nature for at least 10 minutes, eyes open, ears open, and attention focused on what is happening in the moment.
What am I seeking or struggling with?
Shifting attention to awareness of your experience is a big step. And shifting from general observation, which has tremendous physiological and physiological benefits, to looking to nature for insight and direction, requires adding in a question, borne from a need for insight or direction within some aspect of your life.
All of a sudden you’ve cranked up the power tremendously. It’s like you’re at once consciously searching and unconsciously being led.
Think of some aspect of life you are struggling with or for which you seek insight. Take a moment to really feel the experience of that conflict or dilemma inside you. Then feel your desire or need to resolve this issue, the yearning for an answer. Next, let that feeling go by bringing your attention back to the here and now.
Following the pull
Look around, and feel drawn or compelled to start to move in a certain direction or a certain way. Simply follow that pull and see where it leads you, keeping your attention on your experience. When something catches your eye or your heart, feel the curiosity and check it out. Stay with it for a moment and see if any ideas or connections arise. More often than not, something (an insight, connection, or answer) will pop up.
Applying concepts professionally
In an upcoming blog, we’ll look at how to apply these concepts professionally, incorporating both forest bathing and ecotherapy. Indeed, our Nature-Connected Coaching training provides high-quality, ICF approved, professional life coaching that is in direct collaboration with the healing benefits found in our connection to nature.