Humans are a part of nature. It may be stating the obvious, but it is something we often forget. Especially in the west, we tend to see ourselves as separate, even superior from earth’s other life forms. The more we get tangled up in technology, the further we distance ourselves from the natural world. The world of plants, insects, animals and bacteria. The world of dirt, wood, fungus and moss. The world of continual growth and decay. The world of wind, rain, fire and ice. We tend to see ourselves as a step removed from all of these things. Rather, we are intrinsically connected.
Western life today is more detached from the natural world than ever before in human history. We spend less time outside than ever before. We have experienced more advances in technology than ever before. Our brains receive more messages (thousands more) every day than ever before. We are also more stressed, more unhappy and more chronically ill than ever before. Our pre-historic nervous systems are often struggling to cope. Some aspects of modern life we have little control over, but we can take steps to give our systems a chance to rebalance. A good place to start is by taking time to sit with nature.
Sitting with nature is simply that; sitting, and just being with ourselves, with nature. I was on the beach the other day, feet and hands in the sand, listening to the waves and feeling the sun on my face, when this little idea presented itself to me. I don’t need to describe the feeling of inner contentment that comes with this scenario to you; you are human and you know it innately. These are the precious moments when our nervous systems – our ‘computers’ (although they are much, much more than that) – are able to reboot.
The regular practice of meditation is one of the most powerful and effective tools available to us to regulate our nervous systems. Studies show it reduces stress, increases energy and helps us to find fulfillment in life. Many of us know this, and have experienced guided meditations or after -yoga- class relaxation sessions. But for some of us, the word ‘meditate’ just sounds quite daunting. It sounds challenging, something only very ‘zen’ people can do.
But taking a little time every day to sit with nature – now that sounds do-able. This could be spending time with pets; stroking them and interacting with them. Sitting in the garden and watching or listening to the birds. Studying a bee collecting pollen (if you’re lucky enough to see a bee). Getting in touch with your inner one- year-old and inspecting an earthworm burrowing into the dirt. Collecting leaves and herbs from the vegetable garden for dinner. Sitting with eyes closed and paying attention to our breathing. Or, like my daughter and I on the beach, spending a couple of hours collecting teeny tiny shells. The respite our bodies and minds get from these moments is invaluable. Physically, our bodies’ bio-chemistry changes when we are really present in nature; stress chemicals lower, while feel-good chemicals increase. Mentally, reconnecting to nature is like pressing a pause button for the brain, allowing over-busy minds reprieve from the stressors and demands of modern life.
On the beach that day, I then realised, in a lightbulb moment, that my profession is to sit with nature! In Craniosacral Therapy, we are literally sitting and taking time to ‘listen’ with our hands to the patient’s body. We are observing the fluid rhythms and subtle bone movements. We are recognising signs of health. We are hearing what the body has to say and acknowledging without judgement. When it has really been ‘heard’, a person’s body can really let go of experiences and emotions that can be held in the tissues, along with the musculo- skeletal strains that often accompany long-held tension. When tension in the tissues resolves, the nervous system can come back to equilibrium.
So I encourage you to take a moment to sit with nature, to value that moment, and to know that it is doing you the world of good.