8 Reasons to Participate in Nature Based Healing Experiences

8 Reasons to Participate in Nature Based Healing Experiences
by Michelle Katz

1.     Nature as Mirror: There is something magical that happens in nature.  I see it time and time again, no matter what may be happening in your life, nature has a way of showing you something that reflects you or shows you exactly what you need.  It simply need you to take the time to be with it.  It can be a tree fallen over a creek that appears to speak to you of a crossing, or a hill to climb in order to gain perspective, or perhaps a cloudy sky just happens to open up right above you when you feel clear, or clouds roll in and snow begins to fall just as you connect to your grief. Or perhaps, a deer or coyote suddenly greet you on the path.  Or you begin to think about your choices and wondering about different paths when a tree with a divided trunk reveals itself, one-part dead, the other alive, and the dead still has something beautiful growing off it.  I don’t know how this happens, but nature meets you exactly where you are.  Wilderness Rites of Passage guides have a saying for this remarkable yet trustworthy occurrence, we say, “This shit is real!”  It is just so real!  It is a testament to how deeply interconnected we are with the place we call home and the way it meets us every day.

2.     Not about Navel Gazing: There are times in our lives that have us look inward, this capacity to ask questions like “who am I?” as we hope to make sense of ourselves is a very important part of being human.  The challenge is when this process becomes exaggerated and we lose sight of what is important and even the very self we are seeking to know. It is essential that we look inwardly to know our gifts so that we can share these knowing with the world.  More often than not these days, we look inward to the point of not seeing the outward.  We get lost in the inward gazing and this can lead to depression, isolation, fear and victimhood.  Nature-based healing experiences help us navigate a way to find balance with the inner process as it is informed by the world around us and how it can continually inform how we give to our people.  After all, it is unlikely that when sitting outside we would fail to notice the sun on our skin, the sounds of birds and wind as they respond to each of our thoughts, the smell of the ponderosa pine in the air that has us remembering we are not alone.  When we are with the trees, we hear something about the world, we are reminded of our grandmothers cookies and the family we know and belong to, and we wonder what we can eventually give.

3.     Connection and Awe:  Considering what has already been stated, it is clear that we are connected to something much greater than we knowingly acknowledge on a regular basis.  Nature-based practices help us see the world outside of ourselves more fully and regularly. Nature helps us recognize that we are never truly alone.  And even more, nature gives us the opportunity to be in awe! We are not nearly in awe enough these days!  “We are a collective species and awe shifts us out of self-species and coming into being interested in other species. As Dacher Keltner explains in his very powerful talk.  “Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world…. Brief experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective and orient our actions toward the interests of others…Momentary experiences of awe stimulate wonder and curiosity about the world.”  says Keltner in his article “Why do we Feel Awe?” and how important it is for connection in for our species in the world today.  Awe helps us feel more connected to the environment, enhances our well-being and connection to self, and integrates us into a community.  All of this stimulates reflection about personal purpose. From this place we can come to know our responsibilities to ourselves and the world in a bigger way.

4.     Opportunity to Play:  Nature-based practices helped me being a child again.  If we look at Alice Miller’s understanding of Trauma, all human beings have somehow got cut off from their ability to truly be a child. It is important to connect with this child-like nature for balance.  Nature-based practices takes us outside, where being in our bodies and playful beckons.  When we get in the river, it is hard to not splash or feel our bodies float down stream or our toes squish in the mud.  When we see a climbable tree something in us brings to life the little child, even if we choose not to actually climb it.  When in the sand, isn’t it hard to not draw in it with our fingers or feet.  Or a big field of flowers may excite us to run for not reason and then put flowers in our hair. Or a pond that has us catching frogs just to let them go and catch them again.  Nature invites us to play, and play is so healing!

5.     Spontaneity:  We can never predict the hooting of the owl, the shooting star that passing across the sky just as we look up, the moment a drizzle becomes a storm, the eagle swooshing down to catch its prey, or the drop of a leaf dancing its way to and through the curves of the creek with its’ own beat.  Spontaneity helps us connect to our aliveness. The unpredictability of nature helps us recognize the spontaneity in ourselves, helps us connect to the heartbeat that guides our actions in the world and the trusting that when the timing is right, something unbelievable and unexpected can happen and it can be beautiful.  We get to experience the truly creative human spirit in nature.

6.     Breaking the rules:  While our culture loves rules, nature does not abide by rules in such a rigid way.  The law outlines rules to keep us safe and accountable to each other.  The government, places of work, schools, and home have rules (some conscious, some unconscious) to keep us organized.  We have our own personal rules that allow for us to believe what we want to believe about ourselves.  In nature, we get to break the rules a bit, and experience the edge of ourselves in order to learn more about who we are from those edgy places.  Maybe we get naked more easily, maybe we jump up and down and sing and dance more readily, maybe we scream and cry without restraint.  Nature invites us to be fully ourselves with our restriction.  And it’s such a valuable invitation to embrace as it can lead to our greatest moments of transformation.

7.     Nature teaches us about our own Nature:  Nature, in all its’ splendor, is in no way absolutely flawless nor is it controlled; it is wild, day in and day out. This is what contributes to its perfection. It is always changing, season to season, moon cycle to moon cycle, day to day, moment to moment. This is the greatest lesson nature offers us.  In being with nature, we remember we are no different, for we are always changing, and meant to be changing from each season of our lives, and each experience we have; each moment that we take in new information about the world and ourselves. During some times in our lives, we may feel utterly sad. We may think there is no way this will ever change, but somehow, in time, we move, we come to find how the sadness feds what brings us to do our work in the world, and that will bring us to our creativity and spirit and starting a new, until we fall into our sadness again and round and round we go. Always changing, with all that came before tilling the soil and cultivating the nutrients we need to grow stronger and more fully ourselves.  Nature teaches us that we live through all these changes, we grow though all these changes, we find new ways of being purposeful in all these changes. We come to know ourselves differently in the quiet reflection of the nature within each of us, as reflected by the nature that surrounds us in quiet moments of being.

8. The stories will change you.

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