People often, usually unknowingly, turn to Nature for comfort or healing. But don’t think this is a modern-day concept. We know that even in ancient China many people would temporarily leave the bustle and pressure of city life to spend some time in the mountains, where away from pressure of family, work, gossip and scandal, surrounded by positive forces of nature, they managed to rest and be healed.
It seems that ancient people knew what we are only beginning to understand – that the healing power of nature can offer rejuvenation and inspiration that so many people, often unconsciously, crave. If that was true two thousand years ago, how true it must be in this day and age.
Nature restores, rejuvenates and revitalizes, and to benefit fully from its healing powers you have to tune-in, connect and allow yourself to be healed.
Some people cope with stress better than others, but eventually, even they reach a breaking point. When life starts closing in and you feel you can’t take any more, pack a backpack and head for the hills. Or prepare a picnic basket and visit a local park. In any case, get out of town. Or at least, out of your apartment. Whatever the reason for your misery or stress, nature will offer a temporary relief and opportunity for reflection.
You don’t need to go far to experience the bliss of natural environment. Even a brief walk in the woods, or sitting quietly in your garden can do the trick. However, the further from the pollution and noise of human settlements you go, the more likely it is you will experience the true pleasure of being one with nature.
There is something very liberating and therapeutic about the wilderness – the sheer beauty of wild unspoiled spaces, the chilly morning air echoing with birdsong, the peace and solitude, the clear, deep night sky and the sudden simplicity of life – atmosphere loaded with meaning, inviting you to reflect, contemplate and look within.
Camping in wilderness, especially if you are on your own, can stir up emotions and lead to an almost trance-like reflective state. Which is one of the reasons I always feel refreshed and, somehow, light after a camping weekend. Such is the power of positive energy found in nature. It cleanses not just your lungs, but your mind too.
After many years of hiking I am convinced that wilderness, especially mountains, abound in cosmic energy unavailable in other places. Ask anyone who regularly goes camping, ask mountaineers, ask hunters – these people are all “wilderness junkies”, so addicted they are to spending time outdoors whenever they can. Many may not be able to explain why they enjoy outdoors so much, but instinctively they know what’s good for them.
To fully enjoy the harmony and beauty of nature we first need to tune-in. It starts with developing respect for nature. Respect for the peace and tranquility of the woods, respect for the natural order of things, respect for all life.
Observe without touching, walk without trampling, learn while accepting your own vulnerability and insignificance. Try to become one with your surroundings, savouring different scents, tastes and sounds and leaving only footprints behind.
As John Muir so beautifully put it, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity”
We have not only lost touch with nature and its rhythms, we have alienated ourselves from it to such a degree, that many people now find it threatening, or simply see it as resource to be exploited while it lasts.
Although this is sad, it’s also worth remembering that it is only in the last couple of hundred years that this disconnecting process has been going on.
What I find amusing is that despite the increasingly selfish and materialistic attitude towards life, which sometimes borders on idiocy, majority of people, regardless of their age or cultural background, still choose a natural setting to retreat to in times of crisis. That only shows that regardless of how they formally experience nature, deep down, people instinctively know where to seek refuge when they need to recuperate, lick their wounds or regain physical or mental strength.
Nature is a source of wonder and inspiration. Connect with its rhythms and ways by walking barefoot, sleeping outdoors from time to time, collecting shells or unusual pieces of wood or rock, getting involved with wildlife protection. Listen to the birds in the morning as they mark out their territory or to their deafening noise as they settle down to roost in the evening. Pay attention to all life around you.
Age or a lack of physical fitness is no excuse for remaining indoors. If camping or white-water rafting is not your idea of fun, at least take up gardening. You’d be amazed what wonderful veggies I’d grown in flower pots on my balcony, so not having a garden shouldn’t stop you. Watch the earth come back to life in spring and slowly shut down in autumn, observe daily dramas of the hunter and the hunted as you sow, weed, pick.
The more time you spend in nature, even if it’s only your backyard, the more attuned to life you will become. As you watch seasons go by, nature will daily remind you that time stops for no one. And you will understand why.
We know that Nature has healing and restorative powers, but how does the healing actually happen?
First of all, nature provides a great stress relief by enabling you to remove yourself – both physically and mentally – from the things that cause you stress in the first place: office, family, relationships, etc.
And while being outdoors won’t make problems go away, it will help you relax and, what I personally always find most helpful, it helps me see the bigger picture. Being away from your everyday environment, gives you a different perspective on things, and sometimes, just looking at a problem from a different angle, helps you find a solution or at least an opportunity to come up with a different approach.
The Sun is an inescapable part of the outdoor experience. It is an invaluable, yet completely free, source of health. By being outdoors, you are automatically exposed to the Sun, and its invigorating, stimulating, life-giving power is known to greatly improve our mood. It is also a natural source of vitamin D and a crucial protection against disease.
The magic of the Sun is best summed up by Wilma Rudoph: “When the Sun is shining, I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome“. The Sun, literally, boosts our energy levels and somehow, makes our problems seem less daunting.
Clean air is another reason why some people choose to spend time in nature. I recently read that in some countries, governments have recognized the power of nature and “exposure to nature” is used as therapy for cancer patients.
The most fascinating evidence comes from Japan. The shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” ceremony, is recognized as an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The “ceremony” is nothing more than a stroll through woods, repeated several times a day.
Scientific research have shown that breathing in the essential oils that some trees have in abundance has the same benefits as using aromatherapy. So “forest bathing” is simply allowing your body to absorb the essential oils through the skin and lungs.
The research further showed that spending only three days in a forest setting, dramatically increased the cancer-fighting properties and natural killer-cells of the body, thus enabling it to self-heal. You don’t even have to walk – just go to a woods and sit quietly for a while.
Nature is a great healer and absorber of negativity and to tap into its healing power all we need to do is tune-in and reconnect with where we once belonged.