... or 'how did we get so unhitched from the world around us?'
I am an only child, and as a little girl I would spend hours on my own in Nature. It was the place I went to for comfort, companionship, solace and adventure. I have very vivid memories of watching things like a single blade of grass or a leaf moving frantically amid stillness and I felt it was some sort of plant spirit or fairy dancing for the fun of it. Trees had faces and, as leaves and branches moved in the wind, they had voices. Flowers had personalities. Animals were my brothers and sisters. Plants, animals, anima. It was all so simple then... I was the land and the land was me.
There are so many aspects of our childhood that we are conditioned to lose over time. Wonder becomes worn down by cynicism, delight becomes muted by etiquette, imagination is told to behave. Technology and science have done many wonderful things for society but at the cost of creating a sense of distance between us and Nature. Seeing and believing in the very real and inextricable links between us and the environment, the ecosystem, the flora and fauna around us has been seen as childish, irrational and even obsolete. Somehow, somewhere along the line Nature became the enemy. Something to be dominated, controlled or in many cases, eradicated. So many animals became either a trophy, or a pest.
There is the old saying 'don't bite the hand that feeds you'. So how come we never seemed to listen to this advice when it came to our relationship with Nature? Plants (for example) give us food, shelter, fuel, legends, rain, oxygen. They can shore up steep hillsides to prevent erosion, alter weather patterns and thus can be seen as rainmakers, they give us medicines, they are food for other creatures, shelter from a storm. They are life. Plants are clever and generous. They can react to light and temperature and soil composition. They have devised ingenious ways of ensuring pollination and they have shown themselves as magnificent opportunists, making homes out of the most unlikely of places. Yet look what we do to them. We spray them and splice them and pollute them. We can't even see the medicine amid the 'weeds'.
In shamanic thought, trees are called Standing People. They are regarded as great observers and it is believed they have much to teach us about taking time to understand the world around us. They can teach us to see just how closely connected we are to everything. By spending time in Nature you can start to see and feel a sense of oneness with the life around you. This sense of oneness melts away the 'them and us' way of thinking and creates a sense of respect and desire to work in harmony with your surroundings. You are just not going to get that through a computer screen. A saying I have quoted before, and will quote again is from Einstein who said 'look deep into Nature and you will understand everything better'. To me his words embody that idea of the tree as a standing person teaching us how to see and how to engage with the world around us. I like to think of Einstein as a standing person, as a tree!
Buts here's a thing. Quantum physics is that sense of oneness. made into scientific theory. So why is it OK to say one believes in ideas of quantum physics, yet the idea of working with the oneness of energy in Nature as a way of healing, such as the feeling you get in a forest or by the sea has been regarded as somehow hokum?
I had a lovely email from a customer the other day and in it she remarked about how she can feel the healing energy of the native bush reserve near where they live. She loves watching her seven month old child interact with Nature. She said he delights in being walked through the forest and touching the leaves. She said "He looks up in wonder and it makes me believe he can feel it too". What a beautiful image to share. Doesn't it make you want to regain some of that wonder and belief?
It can take a child to show us that it is not that we can't hear or see the sounds and patterns and links in nature, it is just as adults, we have forgotten how to see and hear and feel these things. I think this is because social conditioning has forced us to do this in order to fit in; to get ahead; get noticed (for the 'right' reasons) and get taken seriously.
Seriously? As a race we have made some awful mistakes in the way we have run roughshod over nature. If we could see our way back to the simplicity of a child's connection with his or her surroundings, or become the wisdom of the oneness with Nature that is taught by many traditional cultures around the world, we might have a better chance of changing our ways to work with her. This sight, this vision, this oneness would mean we could work in a better way with Nature - to the benefit of us all.
So my New Year pledges are bound up in celebrating the oneness of the nature around me and within me, in telling the stories of the aspects of Nature I work with and in encouraging others to share their stories as well. The rekindling (no, not Kindle!) of wonder, delight and imagination to help with the health of place and people.
So if that idea works for you too get out there and enjoy hugging a tree, or being silly in the surf, or taking time out in the garden. Feel happy, feel moved, feel one with the nature around you!