When we are present to nature with mindfulness, we are able to embrace our authentic, ecological self. Many studies have documented the healing power of being in nature, which we turn to in our amnesia for confirmation of what is actually a matter of fact. Should it really be news to us that when we honour our interconnectedness with all things, we heal? When connecting more deeply with nature reduces stress and depression, brings our minds into a state of clarity and inner peace, uplifts our spirits, and restores our immune function, the message is clear that a society disconnected from nature is a sick one. As Wordsworth wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
[William Wordsworth, The World is Too Much With Us]
It is true that our dissociation from nature lays waste our powers, for we can never be empowered or healthy when we are not our authentic, ecological self. It is also true that we give our hearts away, for when we lose connection with all of life, we lose our sense of shared being, and our capacity for worldly compassion, kindness, gratitude, and peace. In short, when we become dissociated from our ecological self and all of life, we care less for it and allow ecological and social suffering to occur either through our deliberate actions or our acts of omission whereby we turn a blind eye to them, or numb out to them.
I have written at length about the importance of embracing our ecological self, and the mindfulness-based techniques of doing so in my posts 9 Ways to Honour the Earth and 3 Ecological Principles for Authentic Living.
The biggest issue that we are now facing is not the horrors that are happening in the world, but our own complicity in re-creating inauthentic ways of living in our every moment that lead to such horrors manifesting. This happens when we live reactively, according to the influences of the media, the society around us, and our unresolved, ego-based patterns that trigger our inauthentic behaviour. If there is suffering happening in the world, and if there is dissociation from nature happening in the world, and if we are contributing to that suffering or dissociation by our default, reactive behaviour, then we can break this pattern by using mindfulness to shine the light on ourselves with self-inquiry and to interrupt the automatic process of reactivity that would otherwise control us. For more on mastering the use of mindfulness, read my posts How Mindfulness Gives You Freedom, Self-Empowerment, and How to Release Negative Patterns Effectively, and watch my YouTube video A Meditation to Find Your True Self.
To be present to nature, I want you to set aside some time in which you go out to a place where nature is thriving, and be intimate with nature. When you do so, Imagine that you are stepping out of the suit of armour that mass society causes you to wear, or the roles that it would have you adopt that you are probably now so used to playing that you identify yourself with them. Then imagine that you are once more opening your senses and your connectivity with nature, without inhibition. Use all of your senses to reconnect with nature, and experience what you and nature have in common. Experience how you not only have an individual identity, but also an identity that includes all of nature—your ecological self. Experience how your connection with nature does not have to be cut off at the boundary of your skin-encapsulated self, or at the boundary of your personality self. Don’t be afraid of passers-by who may not be connecting with nature like you, and remember that you do not have to adopt the roles or behaviour that they are adopting.
If you feel foolish for walking barefoot, connecting with a tree or an animal, gazing in awe and wonder at the nature around you, or venturing off the beaten path to be amongst the flora, fauna, or elements of nature, then be mindful of your resistance and use the techniques I teach in my post How to Release Negative Patterns Effectively to release this debilitating state of mind. Notice your resistance and remember that this resistance is only a state of mind. You have choice where to place your attention. You can place your attention on your resistance and be consumed by it, or you can place it on your experience of authentic being in which you are reconnecting with your ecological self. Staying present to your experience of being is a fast way of connecting with your authentic self, and enables you to disentangle from the mind’s snare of reactive thoughts and emotions.
Developing an intimate relationship with nature through this process, and repeating it so that it becomes a way of life is a key component of creating your new foundation for authentic living. It is very important to allow the new neural pathways for authentic living to become established by making acts of authentic living a daily practice. As I teach in my post 9 Ways to Honour the Earth, become familiar with your bioregion, explore your gratitude for the Earth, and practise actions that honour, sustain, and regenerate the Earth’s habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystems. If this sounds too much for you to do right now, rather than get caught up again with reactive living, acknowledge your resistance, and work on that with mindfulness for your self-development.
Being present with mindfulness to nature, from the authentic self, is an experience of natural communion and gratitude that is profoundly healing, mind-altering, and life-changing. When you walk away from your date with nature, don’t leave nature behind to fade away in your awareness, but maintain the connection to inform your capacity to make authentic choices in your life. When you next purchase products from a store, remember what it felt like when you heard and saw the birds singing so beautifully, saw the delicate butterflies connecting with the blooming flowers, or saw the clarity of the spring water bubbling out of the ground, and maybe you will choose the ecological products over the non-ecological ones.
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