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We’re all chasing a greater sense of well-being, right? Joining the gym, eliminating dairy, rolling out our yoga mat. There is such a wonderful array of options now, and so many ways to feel energized, relaxed and fulfilled. But sometimes a simple, easily accessible and totall- free option goes overlooked. I'm talking about nature.
Nature is everywhere, a gift, a treasure-trove, if we only remember to check in. Here are five ways to do just that.
Getting a dog was the best thing I've ever done. The greatest joy of all was the unforeseen privilege of witnessing the changing seasons, day by day, and leaf by leaf. I had prepared myself for the practicalities of welcoming a dog into my life. I thought about the fact that she would need walking, whatever the weather. But I hadn’t fully envisioned the reality of that fact, or the overwhelming gratitude I would feel towards her for getting me out of the house every day.
Never have I felt more alive and more a part of nature. I am lucky enough to live near a small forest, which became a favorite place for my dog and I to roam. I saw nature unfurl before my very eyes. I spotted the first wild garlic shoots on a March morning and watched them spread into a lush, green carpet over the following week. I watched as trees budded and exploded into green, like a time-lapse in a movie. It’s all out there, the wonderful wheel of the seasons turning and turning, whether we pay attention or not.
When we're with a dog, we are encouraged to step into nature. A rich and deep connection with the earth (and a living creature!) brings a renewed awe and respect for the environment. It brings an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things.
Whether it’s a windowsill geranium or a full allotment of produce, tending to a plant forces us to slow to the unhurried rhythms of nature. Today we rarely need to wait for anything; parcels arrive almost as soon as we’ve clicked ‘purchase,' information is always at our fingertips, and we are only ever moments away from our favorite TV programs. But thankfully, nature will not be rushed. Watching the slow development of a plant and playing a part in its growth offers a valuable opportunity to slow down and reconnect to life's natural rhythms.
You have a solid meditation practice. You might do half an hour on your cushion when you wake up and another half an hour at the end of the day. Or maybe you’re snatching a ten minute headspace on your morning commute. Either way, good on you!
But have you ever considered taking your practice outside? Simply pick your spot and tune into nature, allowing all your enlivened senses to be the focus of your meditation. Become like a tuning fork. Feel the breeze across your face. Smell the freshly cut grass or the earthy undergrowth. Listen carefully, letting all the sounds around you drift through your consciousness. Listen far away and really close, missing nothing. Focus in on the spaces between sounds, attaching to none of them. Simply let them drift and play, a rich tapestry of which you are a part.
Climb a mountain and create a shift. From the moment you set off, gazing up at the summit, you are at the mercy of nature. Go fully prepared. Start small. Take a map and compass, and layer up well. Carry food and plenty of water. Use a guide or mountain leader if you’re not 100 percent confident in mountainous terrain. Respect the weather and enjoy yourself.
Take the time to stop regularly, to observe the changing flora as you progress. Keep your eye out for those heart shaped stones. Pause to touch the springy moss and drink from the spring. Sit and look out over the valley as you chow down hungrily on your sandwich. Leave no rubbish. Sweat and scramble your way to the summit. Stand tall and breathe. This is you. Achieving. And this is the landscape supporting you. Look down on the world. Think about your problems up there and you may just find that they have shrunk and with a newly adjusted clarity you can re-enter your life renewed and empowered.
Wild camping is a truly pure way of immersing in nature, especially if you can find a spot with nothing around you but wild, untamed Earth. Your evening Trangia-cooked meal will never taste better. Before bed, wrap yourself in a blanket and lie on your sleeping mat outside the tent and lose yourself in the stars.
Sleep amongst the deepest silence, your only disturbance the late-night snuffling of a badger or the call of an owl. Rise with the sun, unzipping your tent and stepping right out into the world in all its frosty, misty, sunrise glory. Stretch and breath and smile. And maybe sneak in a howl. You are alive.