How I learnt to Reconnect with Nature
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
“Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers”
I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world. From an early age I could happily while away an afternoon engrossed in the goings on of a troop of ants marching around the patio or climbing a tree
just to sit in its branches and watch the leaves dance in the breeze. When it came to nature, I was born ‘a seeker’.
I studied Biological Science at university. Unsurprisingly I loved the fieldwork, stomping around fields in Wales tracking bats and getting hands on with all sorts of fascinating creepy crawlies. The highlights were the Summers camping out in the rainforests of Thailand and Borneo volunteering for primate conservation charities and channelling my inner Jane Goodall!
What I didn’t get along with so well with was much of the ‘science’ part of my Science degree! Endlessly categorising species and subspecies depending on how many legs they had, the shape of
their leaves or whether they had fur or scales just wasn’t my bag.
I wanted to describe an Oak Tree as ‘Wise, gnarley and a good listener’ but apparently that wouldn’t get me through my exams. To pass my exams I needed to regurgitate fact after fact about a particular species’ life cycles or habitat. It felt like I was being asked to cage my dearly beloved and untamed nature into neat little boxes that left no room for mystery. On graduation day, I felt no more connected to it, if anything a feeling of separation had crept in. I wanted to really participate in nature not simply observe it.
It wasn’t until 20 years later when I started to take my newly acquired Mindfulness practice ‘off the mat’ and out into the natural world that my child like sense of wonder was finally reawakened. It was a rocky time in my life and I had been practicing Mindfulness to help me cope with physical pain and deteriorating mental health. I had attended a life changing 8 week intensive Mindfulness for Health course with Breathworks and was practicing meditation daily, which was helping me enormously. (So much so that I subsequently trained to become Breathworks teacher so I could share this transformational work.)
During the course we were set weekly ‘invitations’ that often focused on mindful interaction with nature. We were encouraged to ‘take regular breaks in nature' and 'watch the sky for a while'. Unsurprisingly, I loved these invitations and slowly began to actively bring nature back into my day to day life.
At last my passion for immersing myself knee deep in the great outdoors was reignited with nature connection becoming my go to ‘therapy’ when I was feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
Science is proving a catalogue of health benefits to spending time in nature including boosted immune systems, cardiovascular health, sleep, memory and mood. This is of course good news and reason enough to get out there.
But for me, connecting with nature, particularly in a mindful way, has given me so much more.
It’s as though Mindfulness has enabled me to move beyond the inner chatter of my mind and open my heart to what nature has been trying to tell me all along. In the words of Peter Mathhiessen, I have become 'a seeker' once more and nature is my most valued teacher.
For more on some of the gifts and lessons that nature has given me keep an eye out for my next blog 'What nature can teach us about living with pain'.