My first nature experience was when my mom was pregnant with me – her first experience camping too. Maybe I heard the birds chirping then too. After I was born, and we graduated from a large canvas tent to a van, to this 1969 Shasta beauty (7 miles to the gallon) RV, pictured above, when I was 10, I’d had lots of time outside.
I didn’t appreciate it the way I do now, but I was exposed to it, and gratefully so.
My teenage years I stepped away from camping, wanting nothing to do with my parents or my family (as many teenagers can attest to), and spent most of my time at the mall. Yes the mall. Can you believe it?
Me a mall rat. Through and through.
I was terrible at sports. I had no coordination with a ball of any size. That combined with my extreme shyness at the time, meant I was picked last for every PE team by my peers (it did wonders for my self-esteem) – oh, and if there are still teachers that do “picking teams,” can you shoot them for me? Thanks.
The mall was my safe zone.
The teenage years went by (thankfully), and college was a different experience. I started to find my place in the world. After gaining the freshman 15, only it was 30 pounds, I struggled to ride my bike 1 mile to campus, until…
I took a “camping” course offered by the university. I backpacked for the first time and fell in love, literally and figuratively, with the class assistant Derrick and the outdoors.
I also learned I had a natural gift for wilderness sports – skiing, hiking, climbing, biking. It was like my body was made for these.
Derrick and I spent every weekend outside playing. I lost all 30 pounds and then some. But more than that, I found something special about being in nature, a connection with myself I’d never had, a connection I can’t describe in words to this day that keeps me going back every day of my life to seek solace, grounding, and peace.
3 important lessons from nature
Nature is more than just something nice to look at, she’s a teacher, a provider, and an awakener to the truth.
What I mean by this is as a teacher, nature shows us how to be in this moment. When the mind is drifting off into the past or the future, I step outside, listen to a Red Winged Blackbird, the sound of the wind rustling the aspen leaves, the rays of the sun striking through the clouds, or the movement of the creek flowing – all of these without effort, I become totally present.
There are no judgments, no should’s, no have to’s, no fear. She is just there, holding the space for us, without knowing she is holding the space for us.
Nature provides our bodies with all the nourishment we need through plants, sunshine, oxygen, soil, water, sun, and animals. How could it be so? How could it be so perfectly aligned and in balance? She teaches us that same alignment and balance is part of our own body, the miracle of our own body.
Nature, every day, teaches us to awaken to our own true nature. That we are of the universe, not separate from it. That we are connected and interconnected to every part of it, even when our mind says no, we’re still connected. She wakes us up through a beautiful sunset, a butterflies colorful patterns, an intricate spider web, the seasons as they come and go, the growth of a tree.
Although Derrick and I didn’t last, my connection, passion, love, and gratitude for nature has not ceased. It only becomes stronger with time as my body changes, relationships change, challenges unfold, new opportunities arise. She is always there, no matter what.
When you go outside today, tomorrow, or this week, let nature be your teacher. When you’re hiking along, looking at the ground thinking about all the things you need to do, and you notice the mind is in the past or the future, look up at the plants, the trees, the sky; listen to the birds, the wind, the call of nature to bring you home, to the present moment and your connection with all that is around you.
Mary Oliver says it so well in her poem Mindful
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
Categories: Gratitude, Health & Happiness, Meditation & Mindfulness, Stress & Anxiety