When was the last time that you spent some time in nature and really looked up at the sky and considered the vastness of everything up there?
How often is it that you stop to pay real attention to trees, and ponder their desire to grow towards the sky?
Do you ever allow yourself the time to relax, take deep breaths, and tune in with your senses when you are out within natural spaces?
I didn’t do any of these things for decades.
I was a real nature boy when I was a child, but I lost interest in spending time in nature in my adult life. Until I learned to embrace mindfulness, it was as if nature didn’t exist. I was so concerned with my plans for the future that I spent practically every waking minute involved in fantasies about how I wanted life to be in the future.
Conversely, I also spent a lot of time pining for the past; feeling sadness and nostalgia for places I used to live, friends I lost contact with, ages that I would never be again.
At one point in my life, this started to strike me as being ironic.
I realized that I was spending virtually no time paying attention to what was going on in front of me, living almost entirely for ‘the future’ (whatever that actually is). I started to ask myself if these romanticized memories were really what they seemed.
Wasn’t I fantasizing my life away back then too?
I decided to try focussing on the now somehow, rather than on this distortion of future and past. I wasn’t looking for a relationship with nature, but once I began to practice mindfulness, and started spending more time in nature, nature became so alive.
The beauty of this planet has changed my life.
Over a short space of time, I began remembering the relationship I had with nature when I was a little boy.
The Beauty of Spending More Time in Nature
I recalled actual feelings; the joy of climbing a tree, of watching a bird or making up strange little stories about the creatures that lived out in the woods where I grew up in Liverpool, England. I remembered this because I began to experience the genuine wonder of it all again, in my late thirties!
When I practiced focusing on my breath outdoors, rather than letting my endless rambling thoughts be in control, I saw birds singing, trees reaching upwards, and I felt the exhilaration of the wind blowing.
I looked up at the sky and appreciated my smallness. Experiencing oneself as small is not a bad thing, regardless of what the world tells us.
Nature has reminded me that my smallness is special. My connection with these gorgeous and miraculous animals and species all around me is majestic.
If I am small, then so are my problems. If I am small, then so are my thoughts.
It doesn’t diminish me to be small. It invites me to recognise myself as a part of this huge spiritual web that neither I, you or anybody else on this planet really understands.
What does it mean to be alive, on this beautiful planet, in the vastness of outer space?
I can’t answer that. But I do know that when I make an effort each day to tune into my senses when outdoors — even in city locations that don’t feel very ‘wild’ — I experience the beauty, the mystery and the miracle of being alive and a part of nature.
Nature is magical.
In the last three years, I have grown from ignoring nature entirely to becoming an eco-therapist/nature therapist. Every day I work to connect people with nature for their mental health and wellbeing. I know that it isn’t just me whose life has changed by spending more time in nature and reconnecting with it.
Nature is essential for all of us. Scientific research backs this up, as well as many spiritual teachings.
I invite you to take some time each day paying real attention to outdoor life. It can be so simple, and you can do it virtually anywhere. Take some deep breaths. Clear your mind. Tune into every available sense. What is out there today?
Don’t look for an answer from your mind. Experience the answer with your entire being.