6 Simple Ways to Connect with the Natural World
While guiding nature hikes, it is important for me to be able to take a step outside of myself and view the natural world through "city" eyes. Visitors often ask me how I became so interested in the natural world. I am always a little unsure how to answer this question because I am constantly enraptured by Mother Earth!
What I usually discover from these people is that they are unsure what to do with themselves while outdoors. This is not surprising when you consider how many people spend most days inside their homes, inside their workplaces, and inside their cities. There are all kinds of activities that you can pursue outside, but I like to focus on simple pleasures that are accessible no matter what kind of natural setting you find yourself in. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Collect nature items
There are many sorts of treasures to find outdoors. I like to search for interesting nature items and build collections. This is a great way to interpret the essence of the land and develop a sense of place. Collecting provides an opportunity to become better acquainted with your local geology, biology, and cultural impressions of the land.
I also enjoy pressing flowers and other plants between the pages of my books. The brightness of a Spring blossom may greet you months or even years later!
2. Stretch in the shade
Nothing feels more refreshing than a free-flowing yoga session under the mulberry tree in our backyard. The struggles I worried about earlier in the day seem to dissipate with every breath I take. On especially warm days, the dappled sunlight falls just right on the edges of my mat. I learn to be grateful for every little breeze - which is easy when there are plenty of fresh mulberries within reach!
The natural world is full of mesmerizing sights and sounds that feel tailor-made to bring you towards a state of mindfulness. Surrender to the babble of flowing water and the whisper of rustling leaves. Outdoor yoga and meditation are rewarding in many ways.
3. Take photos
There are a number of ways to preserve the moments you spend outdoors. I sometimes like to bring my digital camera along on walks, to take photos of the creatures I meet and places I pass through.
In the age of smartphones and social media, it may seem like a no-brainer to take pictures while doing any old thing, but I humbly advise you put away all of your "hooked up" devices. By doing so, you eliminate the distraction of taking a photo for the sake of "likes" and will value the sincerity of taking a photo with an actual camera for your own private catalog.
...Okay, maybe share just a few favorites on your blog. It will encourage others to go out and seek similar experiences!
4. Record your thoughts
Bring a pen and paper on your next visit to the forest. You will be glad you have them when your mind joins the harmony of nature and begins to wander. There is always insight to be gained on the state of the world while watching a preying mantis catch insects in the grass.
Writing letters is another way to carry nature sessions into your everyday life and relationships. And of course, what better way to share a bit of happy news with a friend than with a perfectly pressed trout lily adorning the page?
5. Hike alone
As much as I adore sharing my love of the natural world with others, I feel most in communion with nature when I make the journey alone. Going on long hikes has always been my favorite way to become absorbed by nature.
Just this year I realized that I have been hiking the same sixteen-mile trail every Spring for the last five years in a row! It somehow became an annual process I went through, walking this trail in solitude, and considering my intentions. This yearly ritual helps me re-examine and re-evaluate my needs, goals, and desires.
Before heading out I always make sure to bring plenty of water for the day, a carefully prepared lunch, and lightweight shoes that I will not mind carrying when I feel the urge to go barefoot in celebration of Winter's passing. (Two out of the five years I walked the trail totally barefoot - gotta break in those tender toes somehow!)
Of course, a day-long excursion is not always necessary for waking out of hibernation. Perhaps all you need is a one-mile trail with a view of the clouds, a budding canopy, and birdsong. It is most important that we allow ourselves time to witness the Earth's seasons.
6. Find a habitat shrine
There are microclimates all around us. I find a lot of peace in observing Mother Earth's example of economy. Traversing the eye over miniature landscapes is both inspiring and rejuvenating in times of imbalance. Look for these quiet worlds in the turf at your feet, or comb the ridges and valleys of tree bark. A new perspective waits for you there.
I hope this post inspires you to try some new outdoor activities. How do you like to spend your time outside?
About the Author
Brooke Sycamore lives in Paoli, Indiana, where she enjoys going on long walks with her dog Homer and her cat Nadine. She and her partner Sam grow vegetables for market. Evenings and weekends, you'll find her practicing yoga and meditation outdoors, or else geeking out over '70s sci-fi.