My Recent Experience: Recently I spent three days kayaking down the Rio Chama in New Mexico, and I was reminded once again how important it is to take a break from our daily routine, pause and slow down. As I floated down the river, I reconnected with a deep stillness and peacefulness inside me. I also felt the thrill of shooting down the rapids and getting soaked with cold water from head to toe feeling refreshed and invigorated. Giving my body and mind the opportunity to be immersed in something completely new, away from my day to day, outside in the fresh air, with new vistas and sites brought a feeling of reconnection with myself and the family with whom I was traveling. What joy!
I love what the naturalist John Muir has said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
A key element when being in Nature is not to see yourself separate from it, but to consider yourself as an integral part of it. By doing this we come back into balance and harmony with the natural cycles and rhythms of nature. The natural world can be a bridge between our physical world and the spiritual world. When we slow down and smell the fresh air, allow the mountain breeze to caress us, notice the sunlight streaming through the trees and the moon and star light brighten the sky, we can begin to feel a part of our splendid universe. For me these times of connection with nature bring a wonderful feeling of gratitude and love.
Nature has always been a refuge for me. I remember when I was going through a difficult time. My world was changing in ways I hadn’t expected, and I would be drawn outside for a walk in the forest. I experienced the trees welcoming me and inviting me into their world. There I would feel a presence that would bring me comfort and where I could feel all of my feelings. In this presence I would feel a unity with my surroundings, and this connection would bring me great peace.
Some of the Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
· Sunlight gives you Vitamin D, which helps in lowering blood pressure, decreases risk of some cancers and helps in the uptake of calcium.
· Reduces pain
· Decreases jet lag
· Strengthens the immune system
· Reduces stress
· Improves mood states
· Reduces anger and anxiety
· Enhances feelings of pleasure
· Reduces mental fatigue
· Strengthens family relations and neighborhood ties
· Decreases crimes and domestic violence
· Stimulates social interactions among children
· Brings a sense of peace and oneness
· Sparks creativity and imagination
· Inspires connection with the wider world
· Increases sense of wonder
· Encourages reflection
· Quiets the mind
What have your experiences been in nature? Have you had experiences of being restored and healed? Even if you can’t take a vacation at this time, I encourage you to take a walk in a park and sit on a bench taking in the sights and sounds with your senses. Notice the breeze rustling the leaves, the sun sparkling on the water, the birds chirping—whatever is happening—allow yourself to feel a part of all that is around you.
Being in nature can help us find the goodness within. It helps us connect to our essence and feel the joy of being and the bliss of simple things.
Remember your feelings never just go away. Feelings are signposts telling you about something that is going on within your being that you need to pay attention to. When you do self-inquiry you are able to understand your feelings and work through them. Self-inquiry increases your self-awareness, and you are able to move through life more consciously and with greater freedom.
Often we tend to think that if we avoid our feelings, push them to the background and ignore them, somehow they will disappear. The truth is that they continue to be present—to fester under the surface and sometimes they turn into an illness, back problem, headache, etc. Other times they suddenly come to the surface in unexpected moments with more force than you intended. If you repress one feeling then all of them get repressed—that’s just how it works!
The best thing to do is pay attention to your feelings and take the time to do self- inquiry. Through self-inquiry you can learn what the feelings are trying to tell you and see how to move through them. Self-inquiry is the simple process of taking time to examine your feelings through a series of questions.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
· What am I feeling and what is the feeling trying to tell me?
· What are the thoughts that are triggering my feeling?
· Is there a pattern to my feelings?
· What age is the feeling?
· Is the feeling I am experiencing disguised as another feeling? E.g. is anger disguised as fear or vice versa?
Take time with each question, journaling after each one. By writing you can give voice to the feeling and let it teach what you have to learn. If feelings start to bubble up as you practice self-inquiry, just sit with them and breathe through them. Be gentle with yourself and do not judge your feelings as either good or bad.
Recently I was working with a feeling of sadness. I felt that I had explored the feeling through self-inquiry from many angles; however, I still felt tightness around my heart. One evening I looked out my window and unexpectedly in the velvet blue evening sky I saw the exquisite new moon with a bright star shining close by—in that moment my heart opened and I heard inside, “You are just feeling sorry for yourself.” With that thought the tightness let go and the feeling lifted, and I was flooded with gratitude for all the blessings in my life.
This is how self-inquiry works—you put in the time and effort into understanding and feeling your feelings and then when you least expect it an insight or awareness will come which will help you move through and release the feeling—then there can be an experience of forgiveness, spaciousness and love.