When I was a kid I would roll my eyes every time my parents forced us to go on a hike. We’d drive to a secluded forest trail, park the car, and walk for what felt like years through the winding paths. We complained on the way there – we had to leave a game of Tetris on the computer! A call with a friend! A book we were just getting into! What was the point of this aimless exercise?
But something funny happened a few minutes into every hike. A surreal sense of peace and wonder began to settle in, and curiosity took over. Was that a squirrel or a fox up ahead? Look at the way that tree is growing out of a rock! Can I bring these rocks home?
I find the same thing happens in my adult life. I have to give myself a solid push to get out into nature. But when I do, it often has just the answers I’m looking for.
You’re not alone! Many of us aren’t venturing out of the house right now – that’s why we’ve included ideas you can try from the comfort of your home.
Have you heard of “forest bathing?”
The Japanese practice of shirin- yoku has picked up plenty of attention over the last few years, as the Western World becomes increasingly aware of just how valuable our connection to nature really is. Translate this phrase simply and it means “forest-bath.” The Japanese people describe shirin-yoku as an intentional practice of just being in the natural world. Not exercising to build that six pack you’re dreaming of, or to avoid heart problems, or to lose weight. Just experiencing nature for the sake of it. Literally, a forest bath or nature bath.
For those of you at home, try a virtual nature tour to marvel at the trees- without leaving the house! You might not have had this on your list of retirement hobbies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add it now. Virtual nature tours allow you to see all the beauty through nature videos without all the exertion and logistical hassles of getting there.
Why does our connection to the natural world matter?
Nature allows us to keep a sense of wonder!
As we move through life, it’s easy to lose the thrill we once had for natural beauty. We’ve seen thousands of trees, and rivers, and animals. We may have to be intentional in getting back that sense of joy.
Plants are incredible teachers
Herman Hesse likened trees to preachers- offering insights if we are just smart enough to listen. In his new book The Secret Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben explores how trees are remarkably social beings. When one tree is sick, the other trees may sacrifice it to save the life of a healthier tree. If one tree reaches sunlight, it may communicate with trees in the shade to share nutrients. Our own need for community is reflected in every forest and natural element!
When we truly spend time in nature without judgement, we learn to be in a meditative state. Nature allows us to become curious again! Try holding onto a leaf or houseplant in your house and just looking at it. How many tiny veins and systems keep that plant alive? What keeps it going? What can it tell us about our existence?
Earth Day 2020 is on April 22nd, so this is prime time to reassess our connection to the environment.
Even if you’re a total city slicker, we bet there’s something in the natural world that makes you feel like a kid again! Maybe it’s your pet dog, or the smell in the air when it rains, or the way the roses are beginning to appear as spring sets in. Try noticing what brings you joy in nature. Practice gratitude for it!
So, If you can, leave the phone at home and find a quiet, forested area to sit in for a little while.
Now breathe in deep. It’s just you and the trees. What are they telling you?