Nature has always felt like home for me, especially in the more wild parts of world. I embrace the mysterious, dark, curious, awe-inspiring, open, dense, and spiritually enveloped aspects of nature. In the wilderness, I am in contact with the same aspects found in myself—the wilderness of the soul. I have developed a practice of nurturing this connection, and it has been a meaningful part of my own recovery and self-care. But, it is more than that. Connection with nature is connection with what it means to be human. Before everything else, we are mammals.
We are connected to nature because we come from and are a part of it. We are biologically and evolutionarily wired for this connection. Nurturing this aspect of reality can positively impact one’s relationship to the self. A relationship with nature is, at its core, a deeper connection to self.
In our fast-paced, distracted, technology-laden lives it is all too easy to become disconnected from our surroundings and from those we love—and especially from oneself. I am referring to the disconnection from our sensory awareness due to being cut off or distanced from nature. In my own practice of nature-connection, I have experienced a sense of unification, wholeness, and freedom from the creature comforts/confines that I overly rely on in other aspects of my life—a re-wilding of myself. When we are in nature, we’re making use of our sensory awareness (our five senses). Our senses evolved in response to the stimuli in the environment. Our pressured and fast-paced lives full of screens, an abundance of technology of convenience, and all manner of media, have dulled these five senses. Our sensory world and experience has diminished. In essence, so have we. Our animal nature and physiological experience of reality is blunted as we eschew our natural biological state in favor of sitting, staring, clicking, and scrolling.
Self-care is central to mental health and the more time we spend engaging in behaviors that take care of our souls, the more fully human we can become. In a culture that seems to embrace technology and electronics at an exponential pace, it may be important to actually disconnect from technology and reconnect in the outdoors. This is especially vital for those in any kind of recovery.
Interestingly, most clients I talk with about nature affirm the ways in which their presence in nature has helped them to feel grounded, connected to something larger, and less distress from the pressures of daily life. Further, most of them say they don’t actually get outside enough. As an EMDR clinician, many, if not most of my clients identify a place in the natural world as their “safe-place” in setting up resources for processing trauma. Why is this? I return to the central idea here: We are connected to nature because we are a part of nature—it is our home. In nature, we can reach a state of flow, in which we are at one with nature and ourselves.
Nature is a resource that is easily accessed. Getting in touch with our nature-connection is about taking time to slow down and begin to feel, sense, listen, see, smell, hear, and, yes, taste what nature offers us throughout the seasons. Is it just about walking outside? In many cases, yes.
By Kris Keul, MA, LAC
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