Appreciating and connecting with the natural world

One night when I was around 8 years old, there was a power outage, these were not uncommon, however that day for some reason we decided to go outside to the front garden. I remember when I looked up I couldn’t believe my eyes. The sky was absolutely clear, there were stars everywhere, it was so beautiful. I had never seen anything like that.

Today I reflect on that experience and I see that when I was a kid I enjoyed nature: I played with insects, I found shapes in the clouds, I chased butterflies, I climbed trees but no one ever talked to me about about my connection with nature.

Beyond the experience described above, I don’t remember seeing beauty on a tree, the ocean, a sunset, a bird. There was never contemplation and appreciation, just exposure to those thing.

I’d like to write some thoughts about this topic because we can only care what we value.

The shift

As an adult, maturity didn’t get me any closer to nature, if anything it was the opposite. Of course I didn’t know that “I didn’t know” how to appreciate and connect with nature. It is easy to go by, distracted with busy life, paying attention to my studies, my work, my family,  my friends, my house, my possessions; you know all the important stuff!

One day, I went to a garage sale and I saw this little book, the cover was torn and a part was missing, but anyway I bought it. It was a Normal Vincent Peale book about embracing positive thinking. That was my introduction to the personal development world.

In that journey, I discovered the concept of mindfulness, in other words paying attention to the present. One of the exercises I came across, suggested to carefully observe my surroundings when walking, as a way to bring awareness to my daily routine.

I started doing this exercise and it was so incredible hard, but the few moments I managed to stay focused it was surreal; it seemed like everything was more intense, the colours, the movement, the smells. For the first time as an adult, I really started to see the grandness of a tree, how amazing the flocks of birds were and how mesmerising a sunset could be.

Sunset

Sunset

That exercises really helped me to understand we are all connected to the natural world; it wasn’t just me in my little bubble, there were so many other things happening around me that I just took for granted and I didn’t notice or value.

Don’t get me wrong, I am far from being a “enlightened” person. Like most people I struggle every single day to be present (I try and I fail way too often), but this mindset shift has made my green journey almost unavoidable. It made appreciate and care for nature; I “reconnected” with nature you might say!

“There’s a deep interconnectedness of all life on earth, from the tiniest organisms, to the largest ecosystems” – Bryant McGill

We are part of nature

If you think about it, the phrase “reconnect with nature” might sound a bit weird, because in reality we are also part of it, just that we’ve evolved and created this human world that somehow makes us believe we are separate from other species and mother earth. We believe we are independent and smart, we build, we create, we populate, we have knowledge and technology! So it is so easy to forget that we are part of this ecosystem too.

This is key, because when we remember that we are part of nature and we belong there; it is actually home, we can’t help it: we protect it, we care!

And it feels so good to go to a national park and immerse yourself in these natural environments, doesn’t it? It is just amazing the calming effect it has. According to the Greater Good Magazine from UC Berkeley:

“Besides boosting happiness, positive emotion, and kindness, exposure to nature may also have physical and mental health benefits”

This short clip explores the healing power of forests and nature:

Nature is everywhere

Something that it is important to remember as well is that nature doesn’t have to be these pristine places we visit when we are on holidays. It is everywhere!

When I spend some time in my backyard, I see insects, I see how the plants are growing,  I admire the flowers, I can the sky above me, the different smells from the plants and soil, that’s all nature and I love it. I don’t have to go far to experience nature.

I really like this TED from Emma Marris. She talks about how our definition of nature is usually wrong, and even in big cities there are always opportunities to see and touch nature.

I know some people feel this “connection to earth and nature” is not for them because it is too “spiritual”, or perhaps they think it is too mystic or esoteric, but trust me it is just life; we are connected with nature.

Give it a try, What do you have to lose? Just make a effort to notice these small things around you, go to a park, a mountain and observe your surroundings. Put away your phone and just be there, if you are alone even better. You’ll be amazed at the wonders you find when you really contemplate nature.

That’s it for this week. Let me know in the comments below: What do you think about this concept?

Thanks for reading this article. Hope to see you around soon!

Diana

By | 2018-10-26T11:15:56+11:00 October 26th, 2018|Reflections|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am Diana. I write about my journey trying to live a greener lifestyle and how we collectively can make a difference revisiting our beliefs and daily habits, learning more about the environment and being an active participant.

4 Comments

  1. Ram Mohan Murugesan October 26, 2018 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Diana,
    Enjoyed reading this blog. I can relate to your experience in nature. I always like to spend time in nature for rejuvenation and to have positive thinking. Recently, I have been reading about urban forestry and its importance in cities. I read that there are high crime rates in cities with less green cover and cities with more green cover enjoys more peace and prosperity.

    You are absolutely right. Just spending few minutes under the tree or watching insects in back yard gives a refreshing feeling equivalent to spending time in forests. Nature has healing power.

    Regards,
    Ram

    • GreenerIdentity October 29, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Ram. You are totally right it is essential specially in the cities….and it is so important for mental health and well-being, even if we are not aware of it. The other day I heard about this study in a state prision in Michigan where they observed that the people facing the green spaces had 23% less mental health issues compared to the people looking out over concrete! That’s the power of nature.
      As usual thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts 🙂

      .

  2. Liz - Go Homespun October 28, 2018 at 3:33 am - Reply

    So important, I agree. We can become disconnected with nature, particularly if we live in cities or sprawling conurbations, even if nature is still there. I’m thinking about how understanding nature more might help us to understand food and farming more. If we think more like an ecologist we’re one step ahead when we read about biodiverse farming or agroecology. It won’t be mumbo-jumbo to us, and we’re in a better place to support it.

    • GreenerIdentity October 29, 2018 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Totally. It is so easy to forget we are part of this ecosystem too. I like that, thinking like an ecologist. Yes, definitely, I reckon in all areas we’d think differently if we consider nature. A mindset shift is so needed. Thanks for the comment and sharing your thoughts 😉

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