“To understand love, we understand life. To be able to love, as subjects with feeling bodies, we must be able to be alive. To be allowed to be fully alive is to be loved. To allow oneself to be fully enlivened is to love oneself- and at the same time, to love the creative world, which is principally and profoundly alive.” – By Andreas Weber, in book Matter & Desire (p. 5)
I’ve been spending a lot more time in nature, because when I am in nature, I feel utterly alive and connected to this living world. Of course, I am alive all the time (and so are you) and we are all connected, to each other and to our living world (our reciprocal breathing with trees is but one example). But I forget. In the hustle and bustle of my to-do lists, I forget how alive I am and the miracle of this. Nature helps me to remember.
With my full life of juggling parenting two kids and a busy job, I don’t have often have the luxury of time to find nature outside of the city. Of course, being in wild nature is awe-inspiring, and I have loved my opportunities for canoe trips or even snorkeling in the ocean with sea turtles. But I have discovered that nature is everywhere, when I step outside and pay attention. I now look/listen/feel for nature everywhere I go and every chance that I can be outside. And when I find nature, I stop, breathe and look/listen/feel and acknowledge our aliveness together. Nature smiles at me when I walk by a tree and the leaves dance playfully in the wind. Nature smiles at me when I look up at the sky (oh, how many years I have spent forgetting the sky!) and the clouds lazily drift by. Nature smiles at me when the birds sing from the bushes (now that I’m listening, there are birds everywhere singing so many songs!). I am learning to tune into my senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting) that I feel have been turned off (or way down low) for years.
I have discovered amazing nature at both of the college campuses where I work. At one campus, there is a magnificent ravine waterway with so much wildlife living there. I go there as often as I can, taking my shoes off to walk in the water, feeling the cold flow of the water through my toes and the soft slippery moss under my feet. I watch the ducks swimming, the heron fishing in the river, and even the occasional deer who shyly appears and then quickly retreats back into the forest. At the other campus, there is a small forest, with lots of wildlife living amongst the tall trees. I walk quietly and slowly in this forest, so as not to miss the beauty of life surrounding me. I try to embody Thich Nhat Hanh’s instructions for walking meditation: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
One interesting tool that I have discovered helps me to really tune in with my senses, is my iPhone. I love capturing the moments of life in front of me through taking video on my iPhone. While there are so many things to say about how our phones distract us from being present, I have found that using my phone to take videos of nature has helped me to be still and present, to watch and listen. I also thoroughly enjoy watching the videos after the moment is over, to remember and reflect on that moment of life.
So, the next time you’re outdoors, I encourage you to stop, breathe and look/listen/feel. What nature do you see? What nature do you hear? What nature do you feel? And if you don’t feel nature, what nature do you want to feel? Lie down on the grass in front of your house, or lean against an old oak tree trunk. Give yourself permission to run in the rain or take your shoes off and feel the ground (or river) under your feet. Remember and celebrate that you are alive and living in a profoundly alive world.