It is early morning; you have woken up sooner than expected. You quickly brew a cup of coffee and retire to a quiet place. What do you hear? Do you notice how different the world seems before the day begins?
If you’ve spent time at Hotel La Semilla, you’d know that we have a humble garden terrace filled with palm trees, vegetation and happy little black birds that take baths in our fountain. In the morning, before guests have woken and rumbled down the stairs for breakfast, our terrace is the most peaceful place on earth. It is a place where nature envelops you—a place where you can spend thirty minutes watching the clouds and feel as if only a second had passed. In this terrace, I feel calmer; I am at peace. My body is relaxed and my breath is steady and deep. Any stress or anxiety looming around my mind is quelled. This is how nature makes me feel in this place.
Our relationship with nature is a powerful and important force, yet it is often something we dismiss. We take for granted the rising sun and the chirping birds, the flowing tide and the whispering wind. The earth gives us gifts everyday and these gifts affect us greatly, not only emotionally but physically as well—even if we don’t notice.
The healing power of nature is very dynamic. It can affect us in many ways. There have been studies that show how fresh air and an ocean breeze can lower blood pressure or how patients recovering from surgery recuperate twice as fast when given a room with a view. All this we know. We understand that our bodies feel better outside. We know that human beings are meant to be in the wild. That we evolved in nature for millions of years before developing agriculture only 10,000 years ago. So why do we let days pass without connecting with nature? Connecting with the earth is connecting with our inner selves, after all.
There are so many distractions and excuses not to take time to appreciate nature, but if you are interested in making in an effort to reconnect, Dr Tim Brieske, a core member of the Chopra Center medical staff, has some beautiful suggestions he shares in an article called, “Healing Through Nature.”
Suggestion 1: Establish a meditation practice. Quieting the mind, intellect, and ego in a state of restful awareness allows you to enter the realm of soul, beyond thought and form. As your practice matures, your level of consciousness will expand and you’ll have an experiential knowledge that you’re an inseparable part of the universe. You will start to become more aware of the opportunities and lessons the universe is presenting. In addition, you become more open to healing – in whatever forms that may take.
Suggestion 2: Each day, consciously awaken. Consciously practice opening your eyes, and other senses, as my colleague Libby says when ending meditation at the Chopra Center, “as if for the first time.” Pretend you are from another part of the universe and everything you are sensing is new. As you practice being a silent witness, do you observe things, both internally and externally, that you haven’t noticed before?
Suggestion 3: Spend some time in a natural environment, preferably outdoors. If you’re unable to go outside, find a position of comfort, close your eyes, and consciously visualize walking in a natural setting.
How much detail can you bring to the experience? Can you visualize yourself healing or healed? How slowly can you take in your surroundings to most fully appreciate everything in your environment? You may want to try a walking meditation, moving as mindfully as possible, with no thought of a destination or goal . . . just walking and paying attention to the world within and the world without.
Suggestion 4: Whether you’re outside or visualizing, become aware of each sense while bringing attention to each of the five elements. For example, you might use your sense of sight to visualize the night sky, searching for stars, planets, and satellites. You could then find yourself watching how the wind moves clouds, branches, and leaves. Watching water move downstream, gently caressing the cobbles lining its bed, may be soothing.
One of my personal favorites is observing sunlight through a prism as the light is resolved into its component wavelengths and the intense beauty of the visible spectrum is revealed. Looking at the earth and its formations through new eyes that appreciate its dynamic nature may be both expansive and grounding.
Spend time contemplating each sense in a similar fashion, treating your ears, nose, mouth, and skin to a wide variety of the sensory delights that nature so abundantly provides.
Suggestion 5: Write about the emotions, feelings, and ideas that come to mind as a result of this exercise. At the Chopra Center we have found journaling to be very useful in the art and process of healing. It gives each of us the opportunity to clarify our thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Suggestion 6: Witness the healing effects of this practice on yourself, community, and planet. Ayurveda teaches us that we are made up of three bodies. The physical body is composed of the environment, our personal body, and life energy. The subtle body is composed of mind, intellect, and ego. The causal body is composed of the personal, collective, and universal soul. Because all aspects of our being are actively interacting with all other aspects of the universe, practices promoting healing extend beyond us, to others in our environment. In this way our actions are like a ripple effect in that the wave of healing energy propagates and others may benefit.
Suggestion 7: Celebrate! Express gratitude for this extraordinary, remarkable privilege of existence.
In the end, it’s all about peace. In order to discover the healing benefits of nature, we must first pay attention. These days we move too fast and function at a level that does not allow us to appreciate the little things. Today would like to challenge you to take a moment to remind your body of it’s humanity and go stop and smell the roses.