April 24, 2018 by Cláudia
You are in nature. Take one step at a time, one breath at a time… Look at everything as if you are seeing it for the first time. Take everything in – with no judgement. You are a mere observer. Don’t decide where to go, just go where your feet take you. The world begins in the here and the now. You are present.
Walking mindfully on the Earth can restore our peace and harmony, and it can restore the Earth’s peace and harmony as well.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Whenever I am walking mindfully in nature, breathing deeply, taking in the sounds around me, looking at every tree, every bug, every leaf on the floor… I can completely understand the feeling of connecting to something bigger. Something bigger than me and you, and than all humans.
Of course, I could never write something like this while I am walking in nature – I am far too absorbed to even think like this. I forget there is a world beyond what I am seeing. I forget there are other people, and social problems and I forget I have a blog and I forget there are complicated things to think about.
I am eternally fascinated by nature. I am astounded by the different types of plants, the way the leaves rustle in the wind, the colours, the smells, the sounds. Small beautiful flowers. Little birds chirping, small insects buzzing. Nature is eternally fascinating as it is alive and constantly changing. It exists with or without us. It is more dynamic than any of the man-made commodities can ever be.
There is a constant flux of energy flowing and while I usually feel disconnected in my daily life, when I am connected to nature I feel a sense of belonging, a calmness, the feeling that everything makes sense. Everything is as it should be. I belong to nature and nature knows the truth. I can trust nature.
As an ecologist, I spend much time thinking about the environment and how to protect it – I think about toxins, deforestation, plastic pollution, water and air contamination, climate change and biodiversity loss. And I worry a lot. I advocate for the preservation of forests and the plantation of new green areas as a way to mitigate climate change and tackle air pollution. I want to promote a more organic agriculture and a more sustainable diet. The reduction of waste in our daily lives.
But ecology and nature are not the same. When I am in my room reading scientific studies and writing articles I am advocating for preservation in a very homocentric perspective – We need to protect nature if we want to assure the continuity of our species. We need to find safer alternatives to the chemicals that are all around us – in our clothes, in our hygiene products, in our cosmetics, in the food we eat and the air we breathe – if we want to live healthier lives. We need to foster organic agricultural practices to prevent soil erosion and water contamination ultimately for subsistence and health reasons. There are urgent changes we need to make for ourselves.
But when I am walking mindfully in nature and I feel one with it… I feel like there is an almost mystic energy flux there that must be preserved – no matter what. Not just for homocentric reasons, but as in nature is an entity worth saving and respecting independently of the services it provides to us (and the services it provides are priceless!). When I see how mesmerizing and impressive the ecosystems subsist and coexist, I understand that nature is so special that it must be preserved at all costs, that if we destroy it we are doomed forever, that there is a spirit in every living being which has the right to exists, independently of how useful it may be to us.
When I am walking mindfully in nature, most of the human’s preoccupations seem shallow and pointless. Life goes on in the forest no matter what is going on outside of it – the forest doesn’t care about TV, nor politics, nor how many likes my new Instagram post gets. Life and its intricate fascinating dynamics continue independently of our own insecurities and problems. We are very insignificant. And irrelevant. That could be a freeing and empowering realization. Nature is more fascinating, ever-changing, balanced, self-adjusting and surprising than we could ever aspire to be.
Spending too much time in the city, away from nature in its purest form, a disconnection starts to creep in. I believe this happens to many people. And we begin to invest more energy than we should in petty human affairs – Internet fights, envy, I feel more worn out, less hopeful and more impatient with people in general. It is only when I can be fully present in a natural environment that it feels as if the refresh button was pressed. I have vitality again. And I can much more easily direct my energy to what truly matters to me.
If you don’t have the habit of going out and taking a mindful walk in nature – Just give it a try! Go for a walk in a natural park, try to be fully present. Leave the worries behind – they will still be there when you leave the park so just allow yourself to put them on hold. Leave to-do lists out. Notice different types of plants and birds and insects. Look at what’s around you and notice different details – how some leaves are shaped differently, how birds fly, how some tree trunks have interesting patterns. Give it a try and then come back here and tell me you don’t feel like our way of living is beyond absurd. It’s a dare!
Lately I’ve been thinking about how information is important to change the world and individual behaviours but also how easy it is to feel overwhelmed and stifled by the amounts of information we are bombed with every day. Maybe it is even more important to put things into perspective. To walk mindfully in nature and ask ourselves “What really is important?”. The natural world is beautiful.
What is it that I want and need for my life? What is it that I want and need the world to become?
Does it really make sense that young women are being exploited so we can buy cheap clothes?
Fostering a spiritual connection with nature would probably be a more effective way to go about ecology and change in general.
Here are some calming pictures taken all around the beautiful Portugal. Deep breaths. How I wish I was in one of those places right now.