Connecting with nature outdoors is important for our spiritual growth. It not only brings more health to our body by helping us release stress, but it also holds so many inspiring metaphors for contemplating the mysteries of life itself. By tapping into this, we can connect with the Divine Within.
Listen and Look
Walking, hiking, or running outdoors does offer an opportunity for connecting with nature—however, not if you're wearing earbuds and listening to recorded audio. Where our attention goes, energy flows, through both seeing and listening. Birds moving in the brush. Rocks crushing under your feet. Even a quiet breeze is a palpable communication from nature. We need to LISTEN to nature’s sounds, even when there's NO sound. Listen and drop deeper into yourself where the Divine resides.
As you spend time outdoors, allow yourself to settle into a relationship with nature. Get to know it like you would a new friend (or an old friend you would like to know better). Ask it to show you some wisdom about life. Many spiritual principles can be observed in nature, such as:
- Rules of creation
- Laws of life and death
- Change is the only stability
- Dance of chaos and order
- Necessity for diversity
- Multiple dimensions of existence
- Multiple methods of communication
There's a reason why many sacred sites are outdoors. Have you ever been to an outdoor place where people felt compelled to talk in quiet whispers? I have. The north rim of the Grand Canyon at sunrise was one. Nature's a virtual treasure chest of Truth, just waiting for us to open it up and embrace it.
What did you like to do outdoors when you were a child? The answers I get from people when I ask this question are always such a delight. People’s faces light up and they share about adventures they had with friends, siblings, magical playmates, or all by themselves. Some even talked with plants! Why did you stop playing outdoors? Did you get caught up with responsibility? We all do, for sure! That's important, however so is INNER responsibility. Being responsible in your relationship with yourself is the foundation for your ability to being responsible to others. Self-care's imperative to being a spiritually-satisfied human.
“A key to a healthy human spirit is to feed it with the inspiration of nature.”
We don't have to be running down mountain trails or climbing rock faces to be nourished by nature. We just need to be outdoors and focused on communing with it.
But I Live in the City . . .
Here are some ways to address this common outer circumstance. Do a quarterly trek into the areas outside of your city. Explore! Get out of your vehicle every so often and breathe in the air and soak in the view. Reserve a campsite, cabin, or yurt at a nearby state or national park for a weekend. Spend a few minutes watching the sun rise or set, or the full moon at night. Lie on your back somewhere safe and watch the clouds roll by. When it's raining, look skyward for a few moments to allow your face to get wet before you open your umbrella or lift your coat hood. Oh, and go ahead and jump in a puddle!
What About Winter?
In addition to typical snow activities such as sledding, snowshoeing, and skiing, consider these ideas:
- View local wildlife. Where I live, we can watch eagles feed on salmon that have spawned in the river.
- Watch small, wild birds eat seed from a feeder that you set up in your yard, patio, or balcony.
- Grow narcissus (paperwhites) or amaryllis bulbs in a sunny window.
- Become involved with a neighborhood greenhouse project that prepares seedlings for spring planting.
Make Friends with Your Survival Instinct
What gets in your way of spending time outdoors? Too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy, or too dark. No one to go with me, and I'm not strong enough to be safe outdoors alone. Wildlife could hurt me. These answers are all based on our survival instinct. They're valid and reasonable considerations. However, there are always safe ways to address the outer circumstances and our inner beliefs and opinions. Here are a few that the Spiritual Satisfaction program colleagues have come up with:
- Made the outing very short (10 minutes or so).
- Just sat on my porch for a few minutes.
- Asked an experienced friend to go with me.
- Used a handicap-safe trail for my wheelchair outings.
- Became stronger at the gym twice a week so I could feel safer in nature once a week.
- Joined a group that does an outdoor hobby or sport. (Yes, gardening qualifies!)
- For one hour, pretended that the power went out. Discussed the idea of doing it with my family.
- Brought an animal into my family who requires me to go outdoors daily as part of their care.
- Learned to stargaze, either alone or with a group.
- While taking out the trash, focused on nature instead of being all in my head.
- Built a treehouse on our property and slept in it once in a while.
Have you heard of John Muir? He was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, and an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart . . . and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."
He'd actually climb into a treetop in the midst of a storm to fully embrace the element of air! Of course, he was very physically capable of this type of adventure and only a few of us could match him. However, his passion's certainly inspirational! What are you capable of doing to stretch your connection with nature?
You're Not Alone
How can you connect with nature this week? Remember, spiritual growth requires that we stretch out of our comfort zone. What outdoor experience could you do that would be a small stretch? Be wise . . . don't push yourself to do something that terrifies you, but plan something that would make you curious.
I'd love to hear about your experience, and of course, I'm here to support you in your exploration of it. The treasure chest of nature’s wisdom awaits you.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
Next: Connecting with kindred spirits.
Ready, Set, Action!
As always, I invite you to explore these topics in your own unique way, by yourself or with others. Share with me about how it's going and what blocks you're running into. You can use the comment section below, or for more privacy, email me at [email protected].
Written by Laura Abernathy