“Click.” That is the sound of my boot as it settles into just the right spot in my ski binding. I love that sound — clear, simple, purposeful. It’s the sound that tells me I can let go, I can breathe a bit more deeply, my mind can clear, I am “home.” I’m heading into the woods. I was raised as a farm kid, and it’s true what they say, “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.” There is nothing I love more than time outside, in the woods, an open field, my backyard.
I truly believe we are born into nature. It surrounds all that surrounds us. We attach to the buildings, the asphalt, the noise and the stress, but that’s not really us. Our brains are constantly bombarded by noise. We’re so inundated by it that we don’t even notice how our bodies are constantly bracing against it. That is why we immediately feel our bodies relax when we enter a natural setting. We connect to what lies beyond the noise and buildings — to the trees, the plants, the sky, the grass, even the abundant snow we’re receiving this winter in Minnesota. Mother Nature welcomes us.
Finding nature space isn’t always easy. When living in a city, even a smallish one, finding space that feels tranquil can be a challenge. I find that even a walk in my tiny backyard helps me reconnect to myself. I take time to move slowly so I can really look at the trees, the plants, the grass, or yes, now the snow. Even from inside, I watch the snow through the window, the way the shadows accent the drifts, how the wind plays with the snow, moving it from here to there. The simplest of things can give us the peaceful feeling that nature provides.
Being in nature provides us a space to truly be ourselves. Seeing the colors of nature immediately begins to calm our mind and to relax us from our core. The smells of nature, even just the simplicity of fresh, unpolluted air, trigger our brain to release chemicals of relaxation. Our muscles relax, our shoulders drop, our belly expands. Nature is a pharmacy we don’t need a prescription for, but may I say, a daily dose is ideal.
A University of California-Berkeley study found that people who spend time in nature experience a decrease in stress, anxiety, depression and brooding, and they have an increase in attention capacity, creativity and ability to connect with other people. In addition, Stanford, Utah and Texas A & M studies with functional MRI have proven that the areas of our prefrontal cortex become stimulated after just 60 minutes in nature, in ways that decrease anxiety and depression, and increase feelings of happiness and contentment, and make us more willing to reach out to people around us. Simply put, not only do we feel better, but we think and behave better also.
The benefits of being in nature are many. I love to meditate alongside a tree, to feel what is has to say to me, the wisdom of its age and experience. I connect to the roots of my shamanic beliefs that nature has the answers to all things, if only we learn to look, listen and be guided. Our Spirit is lifted, our vibration expands, and we experience a stated of groundedness, all simultaneously by visiting Mother Nature.
I believe nature loves us, as we love her. Nature reminds us that we are a part of something large and wonderful. That miracles really do surround us as we watch the brilliance of the colors of nature, the multitude of plant, tree and flower forms, the scents that permeate our brain and direct it to calm and relax, to open and expand our awareness.
There are tremendous gifts in nature — all there for us to simply enter and enjoy. So let’s do that!