I’ve recently been making a list of a number of things I’d like to address in my life.
I’ll spare you the boredom (and me the discomfort) of sharing the list in its entirety, but one of the things I feel a deep yearning for is to spend more time in connection with nature.
I realise this might sound a little clichéd - but I believe that our disconnect with nature is to a very large extent responsible for many of the issues we’re dealing with as a global community (not least with climate change) and also for the struggles that many people face with mental health. Indeed, I’ve written before how spending time in nature can help us to manage unhelpful patterns of thought when they arise.
Cultivating a deeper, more heartfelt connection to the world around us not only helps us to feel more centred in ourselves, but it might also inspire us to live in ways that safeguard a sustainable future for our children. Because when we feel a connection to something we naturally begin to care for it and wish to see it thrive.
But what, you may be asking, has this got to do with yoga?
The answer is ‘everything’…
Non-dualistic yoga philosophy teaches us that we are quite literally one with the world around us.
The oft used analogy is that of waves and the ocean - whilst each of us might identify as individual waves, when we expand our awareness to see things as they truly are, we realise that we are all in fact the ocean. Indistinct from one another and from the world in which we live.
When viewed from this perspective, taking time to connect with nature could also be considered an opportunity to connect with a truer sense of Self. And caring for the world around us seems only natural. Indeed how could we not wish to create the right conditions for the planet (and all of its inhabitants) to be healthy and thrive?
Drawing on this analogy further, I think we can see distinct parallels between this disconnect with nature and the disconnect many of us have with our own bodies. Modern living - with its myriad distractions and stresses - simply doesn’t encourage us to be in connection with our bodies, or to treat them with the care they deserve. Instead we spend most of our time in our heads - distracted, anxious, ungrounded…
Yoga and mindfulness practice is an opportunity to rediscover that connection to our bodies - to spend time feeling into sensations and paying attention to the ways in which we move. Using movement as a means to find stillness.
And indeed, these strands of connection - with body, nature and Self - can be intrinsically entwined. Spending time outside is a wonderful opportunity to ‘get into the body’ - feeling the earth under our feet , the sensations of air or water against our skin and tuning into the sounds of nature as they arise. Using this time as an opportunity to connect to a more expansive sense of being.
And on that note, I’m off for a walk…