Do you love spending time in the natural world? Do you love how you feel when you’re with trees, mountains, rivers and animals, even if you don’t know why?
If so, you’ve probably had a wide range of experiences. If you’re like me, on some days, you go for a walk or run and you’re barely aware of the world around you. Your mind runs along its usual channels and before you know it, you’re back at the car.
But on other days, something extraordinary happens. You’re walking along and all of a sudden you notice a tree—really notice it—and it’s a revelation. A deep peace emanates from it and settles into you. Or, you’re sitting in a secluded spot and you realize: I’m no different from that rock, that tree, that herd of deer. Everything feels right in the world. Then you become aware of the presence of Nature as a whole. You feel that Nature is not just a collection of trees and rocks and animals, but is a presence unto herself, and you’re part of it. Call it God, Earth Mother or by another name, but you felt it.
I’ve come to think of these moments of clarity, connection and peace as accidental encounters with Nature (with a capital “N”). You weren’t necessarily seeking a profound experience, but it happened.
Most of us never go further than this. We know we love nature, we know we feel great in nature,and we spend time in nature. But we don’t know how to connect with Nature in an intentional way. And so, because our culture exerts tremendous pressure to prioritize the appearance of things rather than the spirit of things, we revert to exercising or socializing, using nature as a sort of a grand gym or café that happens to make us feel especially good. No one encourages us to dive deeper. In mainstream Western culture, there are no models for doing so.
But there is so much more! These accidental encounters with Nature are just the beginning. They’re the doorway in. They’re an invitation to discover your own true nature and to live your life with Nature.
I know, because after a few of these accidental encounters, I accepted the invitation. It was a time in my life when I was in tremendous pain. My relationship had just ended, and it felt like I had a gaping hole in the middle of my chest that could not be filled; I felt like a ghost hovering around the edges of my own life. Eventually, I realized that this hole could never be filled by another person. Like a flower turning toward the sun, I felt my way toward Nature.
What I discovered is that it is possible to shift from an accidental spiritual relationship to Nature to an intentional one. I began to spend time in Nature and consciously connect with it. Nature became my spiritual path. The hole in my chest—which had always been there but had become unbearable with the heartbreak—filled in. I learned that I am never truly alone, and that, despite life’s fickle ups and downs, it’s possible to live with a steady baseline of deep joy.
So, if you have felt a connection to Nature and want to deepen it, allow yourself to turn toward that light! Allow your creativity to come forward and guide you. The rewards are immeasurable.
If you’d like some suggestions on how to start, read on.
1. Make a commitment to connect with Nature
Our lives our busy, and our minds are even busier. Even if you already spend time in Nature, your mind’s chatter can take over. If you don’t set a clear intention to connect, you give away your power to build the relationship.
To illustrate, imagine you’re on a first date, and you get so lost in your own thoughts that you don’t hear a word your date says. Then, at the end of the date, you say: “I don’t want to schedule dates, I just want to see if they happen organically!” She or he would be running for the door.
It’s the same with Nature. You need to listen and communicate, and if you were raised in the Western world, that probably doesn’t come naturally. So the first step to developing your spiritual relationship with Nature is commiting to doing so.
2. Create time alone in Nature
When we’re with other people, we tend to talk to each other. Silences are experienced as uncomfortable. We’re also concerned about what people think of us, so we edit ourselves to ensure we’re behaving according to social convention. And women and girls in particular are taught to focus on what other people are feeling and to take care of them, at the expense of being aware of our own authentic experience.