By Cheryl Magyar
“We are like the little branch that quivers during a storm, doubting our strength and forgetting we are the tree – deeply rooted to withstand all life’s upheavals.” ~Dodinsky
Nature is both healer and teacher, if we let it be. My earliest experiences of Nature are of listening to robins sing and blue jays jeer in the pines outside my bedroom window, sneaking into the neighbor’s yard to capture stray wiffle balls, blackening marshmallows over the campfire, and hiking in limestone gorges.
As a young girl, I sought refuge by climbing to a reading chair in our backyard magnolia tree or under the snow covered yews in winter. Later as a teenager, our property changed locations, we moved away from familiarity, and my senses got lost in wetlands and a shallow pond, with a row boat for escape. In sun, rain, and snow, that murky water was a place to get away from the frustrations of school and family and a chance to explore Nature on my own terms.
The great importance about spending time in Nature is that it teaches you things. You don’t even know you are learning, but the lessons are there all the same. Memories are made, relationships have the chance to grow. All the while, we discover physical and mental challenges that help us to succeed in life.
Children of today are spending fewer and less meaningful hours in Nature and that is creating problems we are only just beginning to identify: waning attention, aggression, boredom, obesity, lack of empathy – just to list a few side effects of Nature Deficit Disorder.
Make it your focus to mindfully spend time in Nature and you may soon rediscover some important and positive traits lost in the folds of Nature.
Discover calm. Take a walk, sit on a park bench, and look around. How busy are the birds, the small mammals? Who is hurrying and why? We humans carry a busyness about our everyday lives that can quickly become a burden to ourselves and those around us. Examine Nature with a careful eye and experience the calming effect of grasses, trees, and insects around you. Try to emulate the calm of Nature in your own life by just letting things be.
Wait for patience. Things don’t always happen “right now” just because we wish them to happen that way. We often have to work and wait for what we deserve. Leaves wait until spring to unfold again and the flowers all have their rhythm to life – a unique combination of genetics, time and temperature – and everything comes when it is ready.
Utilize fear to help assess danger. Knowing the weather conditions before climbing a mountain makes perfect sense, determining the thickness of ice may be a matter of life or death, and having the ability to recognize tracks in the mud may help you to avoid danger. In any given situation, we must react; fast decision making is key to survival. When we learn fear in a natural setting, it is a priceless lesson that we can apply to all aspects of life, whether we reside on a farm or in the city.
Measure ability and strength. Nature is a place that does not judge us based on looks or qualifications; it is we who routinely judge each other, even ourselves. Our personal strengths and weaknesses can be found in quiet places that foster inner growth, places of solitude that allow us the freedom to try. If we succeed, then we find success. If we fail, then we find a place to improve.
Build self-confidence. Do not wait for change – be the change. Climb a rock or a hill, or jump into a chilling glacial lake. Know that there are things you can do that you have never done before; it is only a matter of trusting your ability to do so. Start small by going for a walk under the stars and work your way up to exploring cliffs and ridges. With every step, your self-confidence will grow. The important thing is to begin and take the steps to get to where you want to go.
We all deserve respect. There are situations in our environment that can scare us: unfavorable weather, insects in our home, and the inability to understand wildlife. We must respect that some things are beyond our control, such as rain on a special day or crops devastated by locusts. Nature has its own agenda that sometimes conflicts with ours – and that is okay! Let conflicts be a reminder that, like lightening, some arguments may come and go. How we react to situations with respect and regard for others is an important aspect of life lived in accordance with our personal beliefs.
Nature as a playground is a beautiful place with many stories to tell, many lessons to teach, and many emotions to visit. You don’t have to experience a barefoot childhood in the lush grass to understand calm and patience, but you do have to visit Nature in some form to get the most out of awareness, inner strength, self-confidence, and respect for creatures large and small. Rediscover yourself in Nature and find a better, more relaxed version of you.
Cheryl Magyar is a sustainable life designer who helps families and small businesses return to natural ways of meaningful life and work. Easy on the environment, gluten-free, and almost always barefoot, you will find her blogging at www.handcraftedtravellers.com. This article was published in Natural Life Magazine.