(Actually 3 berries – I can hold a lot)
My eco-friendly version of the cliché “Killing two birds with one stone” is what happened today. I was able to complete my nature-connecting homework for my course while simultaneously hiking 7 miles in South Whidbey State Park’s trails to train for my Ultimate Hike (see link at top of blog).
The theme of this week’s reading has been “The Psychology of Nature Negatives” where I sift through all the stories of fear of nature created by our indoor “tropicmaking” society and also acknowledge that even negative experiences are evidence of our natural attractions. For example: “When we stop breathing or are separated from air, our discomforting suffocation feelings are actually the natural world trying to keep us alive by signaling us to reconnect with air.” (Reconnecting With Nature, p. 128). The same can be said of thirst. Thirst can be an uncomfortable feeling, but if we did not have it we would not be alive, and it is nature’s way of reconnecting us (loving us) to water we all need.
Today along the trail, I met a lovely gentle older couple who illustrated some of this perspective shift for me perfectly. I learned they were from a wealthy burb of Seattle (whose name is synonymous with a large indoor-enhancing software company). The man pulled out his i-Phone and asked why he couldn’t get “bars” (connectivity) in the state park. He commented even though the park was truly beautiful, he would have enjoyed it more having a GPS map of the trails. Then his wife said, “You are truly brave hiking out here alone.” I responded that being on an island, we don’t have any big predators to worry about, like cougars, bears, maybe only the occasional mother coyote trying to protect young, and that I know this region well, so I am comfortable.
What occurred to me from this interaction were several things:
1) Would anyone ever comment to a man hiking alone on a trail, “Wow, you are brave to be alone!”?
2) I have become so accustomed to experiencing nurturing from the woods, trees, birds, and insects (even mosquitoes, bees, and spiders haven’t harmed me much yet in years of hiking), that I have forgotten what it is like to see the woods as a scary place. In fact, I feel completely nurtured among trees and a strong sense of relief to find a place that does not want anything from me other than breathing in unison– as I exhale, the green world inhales and vice versa. I feel intense gratitude for my connection to trees, their life-sustaining power around the earth, with amazing root networks that communicate where I cannot see.
3) The perfect illustration of our dependence on technology replacing what our reason once knew– follow the trail until you figure out where it goes– or, since you are in a state park, look for signage which is nearly always present in parks in physical form if you want a map.
4) I really can’t draw conclusions about people based upon their zip code, but let’s suppose the couple lives in an ultimate indoor enclave such as a gated community with all manner of expensive things keeping the indoor world temperate and beautiful and the outdoor world at bay. What is “out there” is unknown and scary and very disconnected from the safety of “in here.” The piece that I suddenly am able to perceive more clearly is that our pains, emotional and physical, can be eased in so many ways by the natural world’s gifts, but we have turned our backs on it all in order to create our false worlds of comfort.
5) In the process of disconnecting from nature, we have only increased our fears, anxieties, and stories that perpetuate why we should be schooled, fed, and live indoors 99% of our lives.
- “Loneliness is really an attraction for responsible sensory relationships.
- Depression is an attraction for stronger multisensory satisfaction.
- Abandonment is a strong attraction to being reconnected to a supportive sensory community.
- Shame is an attraction to live in a supportive new brain* story.”
(Reconnecting With Nature by Michael Cohen, p. 136)
*new brain = neocortex, center of language, reason, logic
old brain = reptilian, wordless nature connection
new brain + old brain = create new stories through reconnecting with our many more than five inherent senses
Viewed this way, our primary crippling emotions are actually a call by nature’s natural attractions to support us. Nature is all around us and we are of it. We only need to shift our focus, shift our dream.