Nature Connection. What’s new about that?
I’ve done a bit of a Q&A with myself (thought I might as well) around why nature connection is important to me. This may help answer some initial questions you may have.
Q. I go hiking/biking/running/boating/working outdoors regularly and spend loads of time in nature, is there something I’m not getting, here?
A. Nature cultivation practices offer a better way to deepen your connection. I’ve picked a few lines from a simple poem by William Henry Davies illustrates this, and this was written well over 100 years ago. My uncle was a farmer and it was his favourite:
“We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep, or cows.”
So, whilst staring like sheep or cows might not sound really interesting, he’s trying to get us to think a little about connection, referring to the simplicity of creating space to allow insights, that idea of being ‘present’ in nature and letting it in. A thing we don’t do so much of. And there’s more…
Spending time in nature with the intention to connect is very different from just being in nature, in my opinion.
Q. How is connecting different to just being out in nature?
A. Great question! I thought you’d never ask. Ok, so every breath you take and with each step you are connecting with nature. There’s no denying that. However, being in nature with a relaxed intention to connect can be different to going hiking, for example. There are ancient practices which are designed to cultivate nature connection, from 3000 year old Chinese Taoist practices to Native American practices to Druidic, Pagan and even Catholic (see Franciscan). They all had nature based ‘worship’ practices. From the work I’ve done it became clear to me that I had somewhat lost my deeper connection with the natural world even thought I knew I loved it, had respect and even awe for it. And all this after having spent my entire childhood living in a very rural/countrified part of Ireland and at least half of my working life doing outdoor work.
Q. Ok, this sounds a bit spiritual and kooky. Where are you going with this?
A. Connection is an interesting one, kind of a conscious human phenomenon, I suppose. Think of your family and of people you love. You are connected to them through your experiences with them. Same with pets and even books, music and films. But if you look a little deeper that connection is more than just identification. If you LOVE somebody, some piece of music, a piece of landscape, a dog – you’re in a kind of relationship – something deeper than you can explain, often. This is the kind of depth I’m talking about with nature. Just like with love, there’s trust involved – maybe you don’t know why you love this person/piece of music but you trust that this love is real. It’s something similar with nature – very deep and inexplicable and that’s probably because we spent all of our evolution in nature up until about 5 minutes ago! I’m only sharing stuff that has worked for me. Through spending a lot of time in nature and training with Way of Nature , something started to change. I found that I began to learn how to listen to the natural world more deeply and that this reflected a need for me to listen to my own inner world more deeply.
Q. And what did that give you?
A. I began to feel more at ease, in general, having been an anxious person since being a child (despite spending so much time outdoors). I also became more in touch with my shame and also my grief, the sad part of me that I had unwittingly pushed away. I delved deeper into other parts of my life I was ignoring, leaving me more – how can I say this – grown up, happy, satisfied, challenged, reassured, responsible, loving and of course; connected.
Q. Ok, that’s not really my bag. Anything else good about nature connection?
A. Sure! After doing it for a bit I began to see a new benefit of nature connection. I saw the world in a new way. I began to realise that I had spent too much time indoors and in the zone of being an economic consumer. This, for me was the biggest disconnector. Whilst thinking I could get any happiness from being a believer in the promises of the material world, I was doomed to dissatisfaction and therefore disconnection. You know, that feeling that there’s something missing..something…a bit wrong..with me, with the world, with the way things are? That feeling. What these gentle practices do – in the very least – is help you to see that the land we live on is more important than any possession, and could indeed become the most important relationship we could ever have. Without it we would not exist in this form. This then helps to bring a stronger sense of awareness and responsibility towards the abuses of nature we create and maintain and end up having to buy into on a daily basis in this, the industrialised world.
Q. Whoa there, back off brother! That’s a bit heavy. I thought you said this stuff was gentle?
A. The practices are gentle and will give you amazing insights and connection, given time. The point is to allow yourself to relax enough that you tune into nature on a deeper level. We live busy lives and hold a lot of tension in our bodies and minds. Slowing down can be a life changing experience, given the opportunity. The thing to remember is that we’re not in any way separate from nature – we are nature – but somewhere along the way we got so busy that we kind of forgot. All this is is rekindling a relationship which hasn’t been talked about for quite a while and not some demented hippy showcase. This is what we are and through familiarity your deeper questions and doubts will be answered.
Q. Ok, sounds good. So why do I need you?
A. You don’t. It’s totally your trip. Using a guide to help cultivate that connection can help it happen more quickly, however. If you want to do it yourself here are a few ways to begin:
Read this book
Go out into nature with the intention of relaxing, letting go and being connected.
Lie down on some grass, or a rock, relax your body, bit by bit and begin to really feel connected to, not separate from the ground you lie upon.
Stare at the sky and the clouds for a bit and wonder at how it all happened, considering the chain of events that led you to be experiencing that moment.
Take your shoes/boots off and walk barefoot for a few minutes, really noticing the difference.
And, most importantly, don’t be afraid of being judged because you want a deeper experience of life. Follow that flow.