“In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, – no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
You need a daily getaway, just to relax a bit and soak your soul in a virtual hot tub of nature and simplicity; a place to set yourself up for success, and immerse yourself in nature for personal growth strategies in your life.
Some find it strange putting the concepts of Nature and Self-Development in the same thought. When most of us think of Self-Development – Personal Growth for success and the achievement of goals – we think of the classics, “Think and Grow Rich”, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “The Power of Positive Thinking”. We might imagine Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins seminars, personal affirmations and incredible Hulk-like goal setting strategies.
The great creative thinkers, artists, poets and naturalists throughout the ages were deeply connected to the Source of wisdom – the calm and depth, balance and purpose that comes from time spent in nature, observing her secrets.
Men like Plato, Socrates, Galileo, Da Vinci, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and John Muir all found their inspiration and genius in the insights found in the wild and natural world. More recently Teddy Roosevelt, Einstein, and even John Denver loved and were inspired by the wild.
This wasn’t by accident. They were aware and purposeful in learning from their natural environment. You and I can do the same today. Great and noble thoughts and ideas, powerful emotions, passions and ideals can be sparked by the great truths and beauty found only in Mother Nature.
There are amazing benefits of spending of few minutes a day, purposefully immersing yourself in the magnificent concepts and blessings found only in the great outdoors and natural world.
Wherever you are right now, take a moment to stop and notice the nearest bit of “Nature” to you.
If you live in the country or have a rural commute everyday, this exercise shouldn’t be difficult. But if, like the greater part of the world, you live in the city or suburbs, this may feel like a bit of a challenge. Rest assured, there is nature all around you, no matter where you live.
For instance, if you’re surrounded by concrete, glass, asphalt and traffic right at this moment, you hopefully can still look up and see blue sky and sunlight, or moonlight, stars, clouds, rain, snow or sleet.
If indoors, you could step outside for a few moments and intentionally be aware of any part of the natural world in your vicinity.
This may be a tree, or grove of trees lining the sidewalk. There may be grass growing up through the cracks in the sidewalk. There could be a creek or river spanned by a bridge you are driving over. It could be the sound of birds, crickets or the wind blowing, and the weather doing whatever it is doing. Feel the breeze on your face and skin. Appreciate how it blows through your hair, (if you have hair). Soak in the sunshine. Breathe deeply the free air offered as a gift for your lungs to take in and be satisfied by.
You can still practice this concept when stuck in the subway or rush hour. Even if you are behind a smoke-billowing, diesel-powered, 18-wheeler or Greyhound bus, simply use your creativity and imagination. If that happens to be your situation, you may want to promise yourself, to put yourself in a natural setting as soon as possible to receive the full benefits of this exercise.
You are in charge of your life and can choose where you ultimately want to spend your time. It may not be easy, but like any reasonable goal or decision, it is certainly possible.
On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to live near the ocean, national forest or mountains, which provide a daily changing panorama of light, wonder and beauty, take a moment to be grateful and promise yourself not to take it for granted.
Begin today developing an inner Nature-awareness, and seek after the rich benefits that time spent there will afford you. This is a simple start to setting yourself on the journey of deep inner growth and personal awareness. It will help you live in simplicity and achieve your dreams.
As a simple meditation, picture yourself in your favorite nature setting. Maybe it is at a mountain cabin by a lake. Maybe it’s in a grassy meadow, or by a beautiful flowing river. Maybe it’s at the ocean and there are waves rolling in, imparting indescribable peace that can only be found in a setting like this.
Whatever it is that puts you in that state of inner tranquility is the goal here.
After spending a little time just soaking it in, try to associate your immediate surroundings, even in the smallest degree, with whatever it is about your special place that takes you there. Maybe it’s just a cool breeze. Or maybe the way the sunlight hits your skin. Maybe you can hear birds in the distance, or maybe just sitting still in awareness of the good earth is all it takes to help you relax a degree or two more than when you first began this exercise.
Whatever the case, intentionally be aware of and grateful for the smallest gift of nature in your immediate vicinity. As you practice this throughout your day, you will begin to see how your attitude shifts as you realize the blessings of life in the simplest things.
It may not happen all at once. But you are creating a new awareness and new neurological pathways and associations with nature in your everyday world and life, that will help relieve stress and anxiety. You will begin to practice mindfulness in the simplest of things. Looking out the window while doing the dishes. Smelling the aroma of fresh cut grass as you mow the lawn. Feeling that previously unnoticed gentle breeze on your face as you walk to your car or take out the trash.
Whether you realize it or not, you are creating a new you. And that feels good.
Photos by Brett Wilson for Mountain Zen Den