Reconnecting With Nature
Re-establishing a relationship with nature is a powerful way to uncover more of your natural state, and bring about deeper emotional and mental healing. To be in nature is to remember that we are not separate, but a part of everything. We are the same consciousness that is being expressed through the animals, the plants, and the earth itself. We are a part of it all, no more and no less important than any other expression of life. The natural world is our home in this human experience, and just spending time in nature can remind us of this greater reality.
While the heart rejoices in the process of reconnecting with nature and awakening to the unity among all of life, the ego, on the other hand, cannot tolerate the seeming uncertainty and chaos that exists in nature, and humanity has gone to great lengths to exert domination and control over nature and the earth. Most Westernized cultures have become more and more disconnected from the natural world, creating both psychic and physical boundaries around nature in order to separate and contain it. This is reflected in the commonly held perspective of nature as a place to recreate or visit from time to time, rather than the foundation of our existence on the planet. This subtle erosion of our connection to the natural world, however, has had a profound effect on our collective psyche and state of consciousness.
Because we have mostly been living in a mind-dominated culture, one that is masculine by nature, we have lost touch with the divine feminine aspect of creation—that of the natural world. Logic, reason, and thought driven processes characterize the “modern” way of living, and do not make space for the intuitive, feeling-based aspect of creation. This “left brain” approach to living has collectively shut us off from feeling our shared connection with other forms of life and the earth itself. Mother nature is an aspect of the Divine Feminine energy of creation, and when we try to control and dominate nature, we are ultimately repressing the feminine aspect of the Self, causing immense pain and suffering for all life on the planet.
To reconnect with nature is to begin integrating more fully the masculine and feminine aspects of the self. While the masculine energy has sought to rise above and remove oneself from nature, the feminine energy is deeply connected to the natural world. Begin noticing in yourself the masculine and feminine energies, feeling for the balance point. See where your mind might be shutting you off from your shared connection with other forms of life, and even from feeling the earth as a sentient being. Notice areas of your life where you have sought to isolate or insulate yourself from the natural world. Yes, some creature comforts are nice, and can make living more convenient. But perhaps you may also notice how the compulsive need for greater comfort or “padding” around yourself (in the form of material possessions, and comforts beyond what are really necessary for your health and happiness), can also perpetuate a sense of separation from the natural world.
Cycles and Balance
Nature expresses itself through cycles, and the more time you spend in nature, the more you will be reminded of these natural cycles within yourself. In addition to the natural rhythms of the day, our bodies are synched up with the cycles of the moon and the seasons of the year. If we are alert and paying attention, these cycles can show us much about how to structure our daily routines, and our lives, in order to live in harmony with the earth, and to stay balanced as we create in this world.
From the viewpoint of nature, the human drama is a “no-thing.” All of the problems that we believe are so important do not exist in the natural world. In nature there are no problems, only cycles of birth and death. Even if the human race were to drive itself to extinction, decimating much of the natural world along the way, in time, the earth would regenerate and go on. One cycle would end, and another would begin. Though this may sound extreme, holding this expansive perspective can dissolve the fear or guilt that one may feel in relation to the natural world.
The more attuned you become to the natural world, the more you may notice how good it feels to rise with the sun, rather than sleeping in late. You may notice how good it feels to create space for inward activities (such as writing, meditation, or listening to calming music) in the evening hours of the day, rather than in the middle of the day. You may notice that on a full moon you have an abundance of energy, while new moons you may feel more inward. You may notice that the winter months you generally feel more inward, and in the summer months, more outward. Of course there are many variables to why we feel the way that we do, and everyone’s constitution is different. But the more that you take your cues from the natural world, in terms of how you structure your life and spend your time and energy, the more of a harmonious experience you can achieve.
Each of the elements; water, earth, fire and air, are also within each one of us, and connects us to all of life throughout the history of the earth. The same air, water, and physical matter that makes up your body, was present on the earth 4 billion years ago. These elements have been recycled and re-birthed into new forms of life for billions of years. Our bodies are made from these elements and they are a part of our consciousness. Each element has a distinct energy, and is an integral part of the tapestry that makes the human experience so rich.
Elemental energy is in the cells of our body, the food and water that we consume, the air that we breathe, as well as the physical processes involved in birth, growth, and decay. The more a person reestablishes their awareness of, and connection to, the elemental energies, the more the mind, emotions, and body will reflect this balance with increased health and vitality. Learning the properties of the four elements and how they relate to the mind, emotions, and body can be helpful in awakening this memory within you. You can use the following information in that way—as a reminder of what you have always intuitively known, yet may have forgotten. By bringing greater awareness to the expression of elemental energies within you, you can allow for greater connectivity and integration of all parts of yourself. This provides for greater holistic health, which can be supported through holistic counseling.
The air element is the lightest of the elements and is associated most strongly with communication. Air is associated with the breath, and with the formless dimensions of creation. Qualities of air are fluidity, openness, clarity, sociability, and the intellect. Air can spread out quickly, and there is a great sense of freedom associated with this energy. A person with a strong air element might be able to communicate clearly and succinctly, spreading ideas and information easily among groups. However, when air energy is not balanced with other elemental energy, it can create a feeling of being ungrounded or disconnected from the earthly plane, and a person might feel spacey, confused, or unfocused.
The water element is that of fluidity, motion, and renewal. Water is associated with the emotions, and the ability to flow from one emotional state to another. And just as emotions exist in a wide array of expressions, so too does water—that of a liquid, a gas, and a solid. Water is flexible and transmutable, and moves with the changing tide (literally and figuratively). A person with a strong water element may have an easy time going with the flow, being open to suggestion, and overall, very accommodating. When the water element is out of balance, however, a person may exhibit indecisiveness, confusion, or apathy.
The fire element is that of heat, and is associated with spiritual transformation, as well as biological processes of transformation—such as digestion and decay. Fire is associated with fiery emotions such as anger, excitement, and ecstasy. Fire gives fuel to the processes of life, energizing the ever-changing flow of life experiences. A person who is fiery might exhibit strong leadership and vision, feeling an excitement for life. When the fire element becomes imbalanced, it expresses as frustration, resentment or jealousy, and is associated with destruction.
The earth element is that of physical substance, and is associated with rootedness, security, connection, and growth. Earth element is the energy of physical matter—the rocks, minerals, dirt, and plants—and is related to calmness, patience, and focus. The earth element is connected to the root chakra, which creates a strong foundation for all of our life experiences. A person with strong earth energy is likely able to create many things in the physical world, moving with focus, commitment, confidence, and determination. Earth energy also exhibits as a strong desire for family and nurturing relationships. When out of balance, the earth element exhibits as stubbornness, stagnation, and steeliness.
Making Space For Your Inner Nature
Simply by holding an awareness of the elemental energy throughout all of life, you will begin repairing this fundamental relationship with the natural world. You can also create space and time to focus on each element, deepening your firsthand experience of what it is to be with each elemental energy. When was the last time that you thought about your relationship with fire? Try meditating with your eyes open, while looking at a fire or the flame from a candle. Let your mind fall silent while you merge with the flickering flame. This simple exercise will awaken in you more strongly the fire element—that of transformation. You can meditate on each of the elements to see how the experience reflects back to you deeper aspects of yourself. What is it like to meditate on the sound of the river, or the sound of the wind? How does it feel to meditate on the earth, sitting directly on the ground, feeling the energy of the earth itself? Create some structure around your relationship with the natural world. Give yourself time each day to simply observe the natural beauty and grace of nature. You can do this by sitting with a tree, taking a walk through nature, or simply by pausing to look at the sky when going about your day. The more that you are able to get out into nature, the more clarity and perspective you will gain on the human experience.
If you are unable to spend much time outdoors, you may find it helpful to bring nature into your space by having plants in your home or office. Think of the plants around you as friendly beings. And in fact, compelling research from the last few decades has shown plants to actually have feelings, and to be responsive to emotional energy in a similar way as humans or animals. Think of how many times you have felt lonely or sad and were surrounded by plants. Had you been aware and present, you might have felt their healing energy, might have felt their deeply peaceful company. Stand next to a redwood tree and you will notice a very still and peaceful energy emanating from the tree. This is not your imagination, but rather the subtler spiritual energies being transmitted from one being to another.
In addition to the balancing effects of subtler spiritual energy, there is plenty of research that validates the healthful physical effects of being in nature, which have been shown to increase mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. “Earthing” is a technique (if you want to call it that) where a person walks barefoot on the earth, allowing the energy of the earth to harmonize the systems of the body. This healing effect is due to the continual flow of electrons moving up through the earth’s surface, which can be allowed to flow into the body most readily through direct skin contact with the ground. Electrons have a negative electrical charge, whereas most free radicals have a positive electrical charge. An inflow of electrons into the body, then, has a similar affect as antioxidants, protecting the body from the negative impact of free radicals.
A 2013 study on earthing, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, showed that this simple technique effectively reduced blood viscosity–a major factor in heart disease. The study examined 10 adults after engaging in earthing for two hours a day. Blood samples revealed that earthing increased the electrical surface charge of red blood cells, thereby reducing viscosity in the blood. There is an abundance of research, in fact, which demonstrates that earthing reduces inflammation in the body, enhances immune system functioning, improves sleep, and helps regulate the nervous system.
In fact, just having contact with soil may contribute to increased immune system functioning and increased serotonin production in the brain. Researchers from Bristol University, and the University College of London, looked at the effects that certain bacteria present in soil had on neural activity. The study was published in 2007 in the “Journal of Neuroscience,” and showed that a common strain of soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, increased the production of serotonin in the brains of mice. Simply by having skin contact with soil, the bacteria was absorbed into the blood stream, increasing the production of the neurotransmitter in the brain. Byproducts of increased serotonin production include elevated mood, as well as increased immune system functioning. Moreover, because serotonin can be found in the gut, brain, blood, and nerves, increased production of the neurotransmitter can help regulate digestion, sleep patterns, and nervous system functioning.
In addition to the benefits of earthing, the hormones released into the air from plants have also been shown to have a similar positive effect on mental, emotional, and physical health. A popular practice in Japan known as “forest bathing,” involves going into the forest to absorb the beneficial chemicals released into the air from the trees. Researchers attribute the healing benefits of “forest bathing” to essential oils specific to trees, such as a-pinene and limonene, both of which have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Studies on forest bathing show that just being around trees for a few hours can boost the immune system, improve mood, lower blood pressure, and improve nervous system functioning. The healing effects of nature may sound too good to be true, until you remember that the human body evolved over millions of years in relationship to the natural world, and so of course our health and wellbeing would be deeply connected to the earth, plants, animals, and trees. It is only in the last few hundred years that we have begun insulating ourselves from nature so thoroughly.
So take time each day to be in nature, and see how it changes your mental and emotional state. Just spending a little time each day can serve as a reminder of the higher perspective on life. Although reconnecting with nature serves as a powerful reminder of our Higher Selves, you don’t have to solely rely on nature for this reflection. You can go directly to the Source by meditating on your own Spiritual