Modern life has disconnected us from the earth, from where we came. We live in modern houses, made from industrial material, insulated, sound proofed and if we have a garden, we consider ourselves lucky. Our cars, full of metal and plastics, whiz us from our doorstep to offices, themselves structures of the artificial. We may take the subway, running deep underground away from the sun, concrete filling our vision. Our lunchbreak is taken at the desk or we wander onto concrete to gulp some small bit of polluted air. The journey home fares no better. By the time we do get home, the day has slipped by. Dusk beckons. Our food, neatly packaged and prewashed is tossed in the microwave or oven. Some television or internet surfing and we hit the bed, oblivious to moon, stars or tides. We’ve worn shoes all day to stop ourselves ground and just haven’t had a chance to do something really, really important – connecting to nature.
Some of us are lucky. We work outside or get to travel during work. But compared to our ancestors, we are far removed from the earth and nearly all our activities hold little thought for mother earth. From the make-up we wear to the clothes we put on, everything takes us just that little bit further from nature until it barely registers a passing thought. Maybe the cute monkeys on TV or the high definition, slow motion capture of a natural wonder makes us pause for thought before our trigger itchy finger moves on to the next thing.
Removing ourselves from nature and destroying our connection to the earth is producing generation after generation of robots. We are no longer able to form communities, the old sense of empathy and personal touch is gone.The support in times of need has been erased by the dependency we accept, by the expectation that the state should provide for each individual. Such dependency has destroyed the community and any sense we have that we are responsible for our neighbours, friends and even the strangers that live all around us. We hold no sense that the community around us means we must ‘commune’ with it, nurture it and take part in it.
Instead, we desperately search for that connection in the twitters and facebooks of the online world. No matter how many friends like us online, tweeters that follow us or the instagrammed numbers we get, that connection can never be the same as the pat on the shoulder from a neighbour when things haven’t gone our way.
In a way, our journey away from the earth mirrors the way we have become industrial products, cogs in a machine that must churn out a certain amount of products per hour. We are no longer people, but vast nations of inputs. The state walks a fine line between keeping us healthy enough to be at our most productive for industry and not spending too much to keep us alive.
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How do we get back to connecting to nature – to that sense of belonging, to that sense that our lives make a difference to those around us? For nature just isn’t about the trees and plants, it is about a deeper connection to life that involves both humans and the earth. We are all one. That sense of connection to our community is just as important as our understanding that our actions have a direct and indirect effect on the earth under our very feet at this moment.
It’s not something that can be rectified overnight. For those that pause to consider it, the realisation can be slow coming. Which is fine – we have spent our lives being groomed to fit neatly into a society where we must be high achievers, aspire to big houses, fast cars and have the perfect body. Religion, formal education and the media have effectively removed the notion that we should understand the earth and our part in it. Everything around us is geared towards prodding us to become good and obedient workers.
Connecting to nature is about connecting to our deepest innermost selves. And the first step is making a conscious decision that you will make that journey. It is not about paying lip service or taking a random walk in the woods. Connecting to the earth is a journey for a lifetime but it will leave you fulfilled, excited and unafraid of passing on. You don’t need to be a product of big business, die in a war over oil or spend your life looking at the walls of a cubicle.
Try some if not all of the following to begin the journey of connecting to nature and to where you came from.
Volunteer in your community
It doesn’t matter what you volunteer for – pick anything that interests you from animals to helping the elderly or litter clean ups to your local tidy town organisation. You will discover a whole new circle of friends and build a better sense of community. Work to remove yourself from the nice, cosy insular life you have built around yourself and acknowledge that the community around you is more important then the TV. Doing this means we have a wider safety net, a better community to stand up for the individual and protect the best interests of the community as a whole. Individually, we are weak. Together we are strong.
Make a commitment to get out in nature
Regular time spent outside can help lift our spirits and help us along the path of connecting to nature. Make a point of going to different places throughout the year – mountains, forests, beaches, valleys, grassland, deserts – there are thousands of different vistas for you to connect with and explore. When you are there, be mindful. Acknowledge the earth where you are. Understand its unique characteristics and the way it fits into the whole. Introduce yourself when you arrive. Leave a small food offering on the way out.
We go through life walking while flicking through our cellphones. Staring down at the pavement, the tablet, the computer. At best we look into the shop windows. Look Up! See the stars and moon and night. Learn about the night sky and the wonder it held for the ancients. Know that you are part of that night sky, for without you this universe could not exist as it is. Learn how the moon affects the tides, astronomy and the shifting of the earth. Greet the sun in the morning, the wind in the storm and the rain that falls on you.
Learn of the Elements
It is so important to learn of the nature around us – Air, FIre, Water, Earth and Spirit. We are truly part of the whole. Pick an element and delve into it and what it represents. Sleep with plants under your pillow, gaze into the fire, swim in the sea, run in the wind. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the earth, wonder at the dew beneath your feet and the energy from the fire. Step off the tarmac and concrete. Know that around you is a living, breathing universe with you at its centre. You are as important as the sun, as delicate as the sea, as fleeting as the wind and as constructive as the fire.
Turn off the TV
We all watch TV. But having it on first thing in the morning and last thing at night removes the natural wind up and wind down of our minds and bodies. TV is only a distraction for the masses away from their own lives. Do not get sucked in. Turn it off and listen to the silence. Allow your mind to day dream while you do the ironing. Read a book. Listen to the birds outside, the wind blowing past. Observe and rising and setting sun as you go about your day instead of drone like watching the latest trashy soap. Do not have your time drowned out by the endless stream of bad news in the media, the insane ramblings of ‘reality’ tv, do not worry who will win the next xfactor or get killed in Dallas. They will not make a whit of difference to your life.
Feed your Spirit
Spend time with yourself. Meditate. It doesn’t have to be lotus position, silent mediation. It can be walking meditation, running meditation, self improvement, prayer or anything that involves you focusing on you. Allow yourself to plan your future instead of drifting through life. Make goals. Understand your fears, your hopes, why you act as you do. What is your life purpose? Find it and forge your own path.
Look after the environment
Resolve here and now that you will do better. Recycle more. Avoid purchasing plastic items where wooden is available. Choose sustainable products. Spend the extra required on organic products – you will avoid spending the extra later in life on healthcare. Plant a tree if you can. Grow herbs in window boxes, Put out foods for the birds. Carry the spider outside instead of stamping on it. Live and let be. Nurture what has been cared for in the past for you and it will be repaid a thousandfold over. If you are connecting to nature in this manner, it will be seeking for you.
You are part of nature. You wouldn’t spread poison in a forest so why ingest it in foodstuffs, cleaners, air freshners, body washes, hand washes and shampoos? Use only natural products. Make homemade soap, toothpaste and cleaner. Take up knitting or sewing. Learn to cook from scratch. Eat more vegetables and fruits. Be conscious of what you eat, put on and apply to yourself. You are just as important a part of the environment as the sun. If you are connecting to nature, try to avoid chemicals that destroy it!
Whether you believe in one god or many, male or female, give thanks. Acknowledge that there is a bigger picture than you out there and give thanks that you are able to take part in it. Be grateful for what you have, be humble before others and express gratitude when good fortune comes your way. Leave offerings for the earth and the gods, honor the ground you walk on, the plants you eat, the animals killed for you, the trees sacrafised for you, the ancestors that prepared the way for you.
Be pure of heart. Love all around you. Love sets us all free. Love strangers and friends, family and acquaintances. Love the trees, earth, water, wind and the sky. Love spirits, ghosts and clouds. Love the car you sit in, the friends you have, where you find yourself now, love the lesson you must learn. Love will free everything. Love yourself. Never stop sending out love for it will be magnified back into your life.