How many times will you be told the importance of connecting with nature? People, including myself, will tout speeches on the interconnectedness of life and the necessity of a healthy relationship with the natural world, but rarely will be specific about how. Go for a hike, take up gardening, paint landscapes, these are actions that don’t inherently teach us how to exist as part of our environment. Just as one can take a wrench to a car, the action doesn’t make them a mechanic. We need to learn in our own terms and understandings, we need to have an awareness of how we integrate with the earth.
Mindfulness, how many times will you and I be told the power of mindfulness? I still need to remind myself so perhaps the fact is that we aren’t being told enough. Next time you cringe when a yoga mom on Facebook or your new therapist repeats the notion, remember that if we were all truly mindful, would we have any struggles? It’s human to not be mindful. It’s human to struggle.
We’re not held back by our humanity though. Our species is an integral part of our world and as such, we’re capable of transcending the limits of individualism and tap into the unique powers that coincide with said limits. We learn.
We’ve been lied to through arrogance and capitalism that humans are meant to dominate nature, that we are rulers of earth.
You are one human creature. When you reach down to the soil, letting your fingers sink into the dirt, your skin makes contact and you’re not just one human creature. This contact is physical but with mindfulness, we can take a moment to feel the sensations we exist within. You’re not just touching the ground, you’re feeling it. You’re aware of each granule shifting against your flesh, the cool temperature, the softness and hardness.
Engaging with nature authentically and respectfully means leaving behind the lies. The earth doesn’t exist for us to take advantage of. Resources aren’t here to sustain us and our ambition. We consider the earth our caretaker, rather than the opposite. Plants and animals are custodians of nature, pruning, fertilizing, pollinating, balancing. Left to be, they would fix every problem we’ve created.
Humans forgot we’re animals. We already had a kingdom, along with our fellow flora and fauna, but given a taste of power humans, particularly white Europeans, decided we deserved our own domain that trumps the natural world.
Industry, colonialism, currency, these are creations, these are weapons of mass destruction. We must identify how they’ve affected our relationship with nature.
Why are you going on a hike? What are you doing during your hike? Are you trying to lose weight or gain muscle, are you taking photos with the aim of being perceived a certain way by other people, are you entirely focusing on finishing the hike, listening to your music, or talking to your companions? Are you leaving behind litter? Aside from the last example, these attitudes shouldn’t be shamed but instead used to understand areas in need of personal growth.
Nature is always growing, to connect with it, we must also always be growing.
Hiking is a wonderful fitness routine, but if we go into the wild with only thoughts of changing our bodies, we won’t let nature change our minds. We aren’t mindful of our environment and the powerful energy around us. If you exist entirely within your personal goals and the dissatisfaction with your body, you might as well buy into the corporate machine of gyms and workout there. Why do you wish to hike?
We want to be out there. We want to build that relationship, we simply struggle to detach from our self conscious insecurities.
You can take a photo to remember beauty and share it with others, but question yourself whether you’re investing in public image. Is there a longing to be viewed a certain way? This shouldn’t be ignored, but transformed. You want to be seen that way because you want to be that way, others don’t need to witness it to validate who you are and what you do.
Your relationship with nature is personal. Personhood should be shared, we’re gregarious and interconnected, but the root of your desires and values is for you. It sinks into the earth and sustains you as the roots of trees do.
Be mindful, be aware, and exist in nature with wonderment and care.