Peacefully Abiding with Mindfulness Meditation and by fully immersing ourselves in the natural world we can do our bit for the climate emergency
Why we need the natural world?
It is widely recognised these days that spending time in nature, in woodland, by rivers, lakes or the sea, listening to bird song, the tranquil sound of gently flowing water or the invigorating crashing of the waves can de stress us, reduce depression and anxiety and relax our hearts and minds. Many people choose to take holidays away from the cities and towns and instead travel to locations offering a chance to ‘get away from it all’ and spend time in more tranquil, spacious, relaxing and energising environments. We take off to the seaside, the countryside, go camping, glamping, caravanning, walking, caving, climbing, visiting the ‘lakes’ and many other recreational occupations, all with the idea of wanting a bit of space to slow down and reconnect with nature. Some people find gardening and visiting gardens very healing for the same reason. When we choose to ‘escape’ we are reconciling ourselves both with ourselves and with our chosen escape environment.
Why is this? Why do we feel relaxed in these kinds of environments? How can just being in nature reduce feelings of anxiety and depression? Why is it that we feel so disconnected from nature and how is it that when we feel anxious or depressed or stressed that nature can help us to feel better? What is it that we are missing in our daily lives that nature seems to be able to give back to us? What is it that destroys our peace and tranquillity and keeps us disconnected from the natural world? And more importantly, do we need to ‘go somewhere’ to reconnect and find tranquillity? What needs to happen that will enable us to gain the benefits of being in the natural world in our busy, challenging and stressful day to day lives?
The Japanese extol the benefits of walking in woods as Tree Bathing, implying that trees have something that emanates from them that we can absorb and benefit from. It’s interesting that in our language we talk about doing a bit of sun bathing and some also talk about going out at night when it’s a full moon and moon bathing. When we bathe in water, we literally immerse ourselves in water – a bath, a shower, a swimming pool, a lake and so on. If we were to just splash a bit of water on one part of ourselves, it doesn’t have the same restorative feeling as when we totally immerse ourselves in it. We bathe in water because we find it refreshing, relaxing and cleansing and we feel better. We can start afresh. When we sun bathe safely, we allow the sun access to our body and we can enjoy the warmth of the rays of the sun as it touches our skin. Again, the sun can touch all of our visible skin at the same time when we sun bathe, as if we are immersed in its radiance. If the sun just touches one part, say an arm out of the window of the car, we don’t feel the same sense of bathing in the sun. We might even be concerned about our arm getting sun burnt. When we sun bathe then, we immerse ourselves completely in the warmth of the rays of the sun, opening ourselves fully to its radiance. Bathing in the light of a full moon on a clear night sky can be very refreshing also. Just gazing up at night towards the night sky heavens can be very peaceful.
Walking around a beautiful country house garden can bring our senses alive and we feel very peaceful. We become immersed and surrounded by feelings of space, and relaxation in the tranquillity of these spaces when we ‘bathe’ in the woodland, or bathe in a beautiful garden or in water, sun or moonlight. Something happens without us having to actually ‘do’ anything to make it happen because as we become immersed, surrounded, bathed, we automatically start to absorb the energy that is the quality of that particular environment. We are transported to the present moment as we reconnect with ourselves; we reconcile the parts of ourselves that need sustenance by escaping and finding somewhere where we can reconnect with ourselves, and that can only be possible because we have the potential within ourselves to reconnect. If we didn’t have that potential to benefit and reconnect then we would not experience the benefits of being in those environments. We would not yearn for peace and quiet, or if we did yearn for it we wouldn’t instinctively know how to get to that place of tranquillity. But we do know how to get back and that is crucial that we trust ourselves and our instincts for natural healing.
It is as though we have an invisible umbilical cord that connects us to nature, to Mother Earth. It reconnects us back to an invisible place of safety and nurturing, a womb that feeds and nourishes us. This umbilical cord feeds us with invisible energy, like when we bathe in water or the sun, the benefits are more than just being washed or getting a tan. Our whole being is revitalised – our body feels clean, our heart is uplifted as is our mind. It is no coincidence that the means to finding tranquillity lie in returning to nature – the forest, the countryside, the mountains and lakes. In fact you could say that that umbilical cord connected to Mother Earth has always been there for us as a recognised provider of everything that we could possibly need. She gives us everything we need to survive and as a symbol both religious and non-religious doctrines has probably been part of the human psyche forever.
Indigenous people still respect and revere Mother Earth and celebrate and do whatever they can to protect Her. Yet the materialistic striving of mankind has destroyed Mother Earth and shown little recognition of the sentience of all life on this share planet. Human beings have on the whole regarded that all life on this planet is here for our benefit to do what we want with regardless of any other consideration. It has led to a mind numbing total disregard and gradual destruction of Mother Earth’s resources, extinction and near extinction of many species, global warming of the seas and the consequential melting of the Arctic and Antarctic and so many other frightening backlashes that we are now starting to experience as a result.
Mother Earth is a living being and we have become disconnected from Her. We need to find a way to atone.
What happens when we disconnect from Mother Earth
So how does society cause us to disconnect from nature, from Mother Earth and drive us to feel the need to ‘escape’ back to nature? It is quite clear that instinctively we realise that the reason we want to escape is because we feel a part if us is missing – that something isn’t right for us. It is also quite clear that the world we find ourselves in today is far too speedy, noisy, violent, aggressive, greedy, materialistic, wasteful, dismissive, careless, blame oriented, celebrity worshipping, money and wealth worshipping, status worshipping and basically ego driven, and prefers to brush under the carpet and ignore the resultant damage we are doing to ourselves, to others and to our beloved planet in maintaining this unreliable ego. Mother Earth, our provider and carer is being trashed by our abusive attempts to control and overpower her for material gain and when we look outside of ourselves for solutions, we see that most of the solutions we can come up with merely plaster over and don’t actually get the to root of the problem.
A leading root of the problem is caused by the fact that we tend to look outside of ourselves for solutions. We pass the buck and bury our heads and leave it to society and other people, the scientists, the politicians, the teachers, lawyers, social services and other social empires to provide the answers and then we blame them if they don’t succeed. What we often overlook is that we are in fact part of society and we do have a say in what is going on, but we are rendered helpless by an overly powerful hierarchy which doesn’t always have society’s best interests at heart, let alone the best interests of our planet. So we become scared about what the future will hold for us and dwell in self-pity as the media controls how we view and respond to the news about people and our world. We believe the negative hype being delivered by the media and social media and this can lead to depression and anxiety. It can feed our lack of self-worth and this has a knock-on effect on our mental health and ability to change anything. We feel stuck, powerless and anxious and so like a frightened snail we retreat back into our small habitual safe worlds where we can yell at the t.v. and distract ourselves with mindless entertainment.
Back in our shells, in our so-called safe place, we tend often to entertain ourselves by feeding our minds with programmes containing violence. It is a fact that what we feed our minds with becomes our reality and affects our behaviour and mental health so its no wonder that anxiety and depression in society (particularly in our young) is through the roof. It is anticipated that just this year alone, 1 in 6 adults will be suffering from depression. In the meantime, our Mother Earth is being side lined as we get distracted by the latest lies told by politicians, the latest wars, refugee crises and drownings, the latest possible pandemics and we run around and around in every decreasing circles of fear, anxiety and depression. We know that the rates of depression and anxiety are constantly rising and it is no wonder.
Why we need to reconnect with Mother Earth
Mother Earth is regarded as feminine – the maternal all-encompassing mother who sustains us, feeds us, nourishes us and cares for us with her love. All human children go to their maternal figure for sustenance, for protection and love. It is instinctive for most mothers to provide all of these things to their offspring – we see this in the natural world, not just in the human world. The maternal figure (this can be any gender – in sea horses it is the male who is the maternal figure) is regarded as the source of nurture and support.
Mother Earth is constantly adjusting in response to change to bring back a state of natural balance, of homeostasis. Just like our own bodies, Mother Earth is constantly bringing the physical system that is planet earth back into balance. We can see how the weather can change and how that affects habitats and biodiversity. But work by inspirational groups of individuals has repeatedly shown that when left alone to do her own thing, life automatically returns to areas once destroyed by human intervention. Rewilding experiments in the UK and elsewhere prove the benefits of this approach and reveal the positive effects rewilding has on the landscape. Beavers once extinct from the UK have been reintroduced to different areas including one Devon river and the reintroduction of Wolves in Yellowstone Park in the USA has created a balance in that environment and that in turn has prevented devastation from over population of elks who decimate the landscape when there are no natural predators keeping their numbers down.  However, the level of destruction by human activity that is currently taking place is too much and Mother Earth is now so far out of balance that we are at a crucial tipping point and soon it will be too late to prevent the devastating consequences that are already revealing themselves due to our lack of connection with or respect for all life on our planet.
So what and how needs to change?
We have to change the way we regard our world, our planet and all the life that exists on our planet if we are going to survive the worst of what could be lying in wait for us. This may sound depressing, but we must face up to facts and accept that if we want to avoid the worst then it is vital that we reconnect with the natural world and respect and care for the natural world. To do that, we have to reconnect with ourselves. This means slowing down, becoming less caught up in the speed and aggression of society. We need to stop searching outside of ourselves for answers, looking to blame and pass the buck, and we can only achieve that if our self-pitying ego is removed from the equation.
It is quite clear that the more we close our eyes to the damage caused by humanity in the world the less likely that anything will change. If we want change then we have to be prepared to make some sacrifices. More importantly, our leaders have to pave the way and be brave enough for example in quitting in-fighting and fighting with other world leaders whilst justifying spending billions creating and maintaining pointless wars. Our leaders need to take responsibility and act with integrity and do whatever is needed to prevent the resultant natural disasters caused by human intervention from happening. The general population needs to be given something positive in place of all the negatives around the climate disaster. Maybe politicians could even devote those vast sums of money for providing basic needs for all including and particularly for the millions of starving and millions of refugees who find themselves bereft of all basic needs, food, clothes, warmth, safety, protection, homes etc.
In fact, these are all the things that Mother Earth can provide for us without asking for anything in return. It is therefore no surprise that by destroying Mother Earth the fate of so many millions of people is to experience famine and starve or experience violence and war and become refugees trying to escape the violence and corruption within the society they find themselves in. It is also believed that pandemics are the result of mistreatment of animals, particularly bats, having been kept in conditions of extremely poor hygiene. It is also considered that destruction of the rain forests meanwhile releases pathogens that were once contained to further cause the arising of new diseases in society. Indigenous tribal societies keep warning us that this destruction of the rain forests unleashes disease and although Mother Earth also has the potential to provide us with many of the cures and medicines we need to treat diseases, the imbalance that is created through destruction of the rain forests is removing this possibility from us!
Mindfulness Meditation as a way of making change
We urgently need to take steps to reconnect with our selves, our innate basic goodness, our basic humanity it is the only way to secure a positive future for all life on Mother Earth. Reconnection is an individual process and journey. We have to want to be different and move away from believing that the society we find ourselves in today is inevitable or the only way. We have to ask more questions and look inwardly to our inner innate wisdom to find answers. We have to recognise that the small world we have created for ourselves by shutting off and shutting down is having a devastating effect on all life on earth. We have to be brave enough to want to do the work on ourselves that is necessary in order to bring about positive change. The good news is that we can do this if we choose and that positive change starts with us. Each one of us can make change happen by changing our outlook and reconnecting with that umbilical cord that winds us back towards our connection with Mother Earth. We need to be brave and take the leap!
The changes required include slowing down, making friends with ourselves, knowing that we are worthy and have worth and value, that we are not failures. They include being kind and gentle towards ourselves and putting the needs of others before our own. We need to recognise that all of our actions have repercussions and so learning to be mindful and less reactive is a positive step we can take. Recognising our habitual patterns and ways of dealing with what arises in our lives as being generally ego-driven we can learn to let go of reacting egotistically. Relaxing and slowing down our minds and opening our hearts to our natural humanity and basic goodness allows us to enjoy life more and not feel so alone. We need to learn to meditate! Mindfulness meditation can be a key healer for ourselves and our planet. The benefits of mindfulness meditation are well documented.
Mindfulness Meditation is a gentle and self-paced way to start taking the steps that will help us to start making the changes that lessen the hold of ego. In Mindfulness Meditation, we learn how to reconnect with our body. This is so important, because we generally tend to not like our body much and abuse it with drugs, alcohol, and food. Our body has a language of its own and recognising what our body is trying to tell us means we can start to heal rather than try to cover over or hide what is not right for us. Reconnecting with our body and being able to safely and in our own time discover the language of our body is a way of reconnecting with Mother Earth because understanding ourselves and making friends with ourselves we have more time to give to understanding other people, other living beings and we reconnect and we can reconcile our differences. We are of Mother Earth – our cells, our bodies are made from the same elements all of which are found on earth, and when we die our physical bodies return to Mother Earth – ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Mother Earth is a natural recycler. Even plastic will eventually be returned to its basic constituents but we will have to wait many years for some plastics to decompose.
When we practice Mindfulness Meditation we also can work with our emotions, our habitual patterns and with the thoughts that arise in our minds. We learn that our habitual running away from what is happening within us or trying to cover up or patching things up doesn’t change the underlying issue. We have to be prepared to dig a bit deeper and face up, own up and make up with ourselves but at the same time let go of any guilt or doubt or feelings of failure. We have to recognise that fundamentally we are okay, that there is nothing wrong with us, we are loveable. That is the only way things can change. You are the only way that the world can change. It has to start with each one of us facing up. We are all worthy!
For an introduction to Mindfulness Meditation, join us at one of our regular daytime or evening or weekend sessions go to http://peacefulabiding.uk
Some Articles and studies:
- “A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working age people with and without depressive tendencies”
- “Meditation and Mindfulness: What you need to know”
- “Doctors are prescribing gardening for anxiety and depression”
- “Thriving with Nature”
- Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behaviour and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective
- “This Mother Earth Day, Let’s Follow the Lead of Indigenous People for a More Symbiotic Relationship With Nature”
- “Social Media and Young People’s Health and Well-being”
May all beings benefit from this blog.
Written by Christine Jeffcutt