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Naturalising ourselves

‘You can choose to see life as if everything is a miracle or as if nothing is.’ Einstein

A couple of weeks ago I was working in Sydney and my hotel was surrounded by roads and concrete with very little room for trees.  When later that week I found myself walking in the Southern Highlands in the bush, I thought: “I am being naturalised” and I needed it.  I needed to hear the sounds and silence of the bush, to walk surrounded by the colours of the season, to feel the fresh morning breeze on my cheek, to breathe in crisp morning air.

When I observed the cityscape that I had stayed in, I realized it was made for cars, convenience and probably profit. It is at times as if we have forgotten that we are living organisms and our health is interdependent with that of the planet.  This includes our immediate surroundings.  Simply put, our bodies need other living organisms. 

It made me think of the Japanese concept of ‘Forest Bathing’.  Forest bathing is about restoring our systems to health through a five senses experience using our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and touch.  There is clear evidence that forest environmental exposure and human health are linked.  A meta study of 28 research papers found that forest bathing has positive effects on human physical and mental health especially in enhancing immunity, treating chronic diseases, regulating mood, and reducing anxiety and depression. Further, it found that more benefits can be gained from exercising or meditating in a forest environment than in an urban environment.

In other words, being in nature significantly improves our physical and psychological health.  Let’s not understand this from the perspective of us needing nature to feel good, but from a perspective that sees that we are of nature and therefore being in nature works for our organisms. Being surrounded by manmade screens, buildings or cars does little for our bodies.

Also, coming back to a point that I talk about in every session: our bodies are the primary context of our experience. When the body is in health, when it has slept well, when it is not stressed, when it has good food, when it is exercised and when it is connected with other humans and nature, then it is much more likely that we feel good.

First, we are living organisms.  On top of that we are thinking creatures. Thinking is, however, contextual to the body state. Rumi suggests that we sell our cleverness and purchase bewilderment, allowing ourselves to be in awe of nature, in awe of the miracle of life.  This brings not only humility but also gratitude and joy.

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