Think back to a time when you soaked in the ocean, slept under the stars, or took a walk in a cool forest. How did you feel? Most likely, you found yourself refreshed and at peace. This is nature’s magic. We’re so much a part of her, but modern life places a divide between us and her glory. This separation can leave us feeling just as a child does when separated from his mother: anxious, ungrounded, and lost. When these feelings arise, immersing ourselves in nature works like a reset button. By reconnecting with nature, we reconnect with our true self.
This teaching is the root philosophy of Ayurveda. This 5,000-year-old form of holistic medicine explains that we are a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm. Everything in nature exists within, and whatever’s happening in nature is reflected in the body. Ayurveda reinforces that we are not separate from nature but part of her rhythm. Living in her flow is what makes us feel our healthiest and most like ourselves.
So, where did we go wrong? How did we get so disconnected from nature? And how can we work on reconnecting with nature?
Long ago, our connection to nature was both out of necessity—as we directly needed the sun for food, the trees for shelter, and the rivers for water—and out of a reverence for her abundance. Ancient Egyptians, Indians, Aztecs, and Mayans, for example, all worshipped a sun god as they knew that without the sun or with too much sun, their crops would die.
Modern life has changed our direct reliance on nature. Very few of us grow our own crops anymore. We never stop to think how important the sun is for the availability of fresh produce because supermarkets allow us to buy whatever fruits and vegetables we want, no matter the season or rains.
While at one point having water to drink or bathe in meant visiting a well or river, we’re now able to draw clean water from a tap despite the worst of droughts. And as for shelter, we do everything we can to shield ourselves from nature. Whether at home, at work, or in the car, glass continuously separates us from the elements.
Though convenient, modern life acts as a great divide. And we make little effort to reconcile this separation from mother nature. How often do we meander through a forest, or camp under the stars? Not enough.
Here are some quick ways to bring nature back into your life, no matter how much or how little time is available.
If we always have a layer of rubber (or worse, plastic) between us and the earth itself, we miss out on the simplest nature connection of all.
A recent study found that children wearing shoes expended more energy and consumed more oxygen than those that walked barefoot. Shoeless is our nature. It’s not realistic in most situations, but a couple minutes of barefoot strolling directly connects us to the earth.
Eat and sleep in sync with the sun.
As explained in Ayurveda, harmonizing ourselves with nature’s rhythms is as vital to our well-being as the food we eat.
Each day, the sun flows through a beautiful wave: slowly rising and gaining heat until it maxes at its midday blaze and then slowly fades away, ultimately retreating until the following morning. Our own inner sun—our digestive fire—mirrors this rhythm. Ayurveda calls this digestive fire the agni and it’s responsible for digestion, absorption, and assimilation. When the sun is low in the sky, both in the early morning and evening, the digestive fire is correspondingly low. And when the sun is at its peak, so too is the power of digestion.
Hence, we can harmonize ourselves with nature through our food habits by eating in sync with the sun. A warm and light breakfast and dinner support the body’s own internal fire. So does having the largest meal at lunch.
Sleeping according to the sun is another way to harmonize ourselves with nature. Most of the animal kingdom follows this rhythm, and even some flowers wake with the sun and close when it retires.
We have the free will to choose to stay awake at night and sleep during the day. But this messes with the biological clock and causes us to feel groggy and lethargic. Resyncing ourselves with the sun by sleeping at night and staying awake during day improves how we feel physically and mentally. The body functions best when it’s harmonized with nature.
Shop at the farmer’s market.
The closer we get to our source of food, the more connected we feel to nature. It may not be feasible to grow a full vegetable patch, but even a mini herb garden can harness that connection to the source. So too can shopping at the farmer’s market.
There’s a marked difference between store bought produce and what we get from direct from the farmer. Store bought fruits and vegetables are devoid of any evidence that they come from the earth: they lack roots, dirt, blemishes, odd shapes (did you know that a strangely shaped cucumber will most likely be discarded by a grocery store rather than sold?) Meat in styrofoam trays wrapped in cling wrap bears no resemblance to the animal from which it came.
But at the farmer’s market, things get raw. We get the dirt, bugs (don’t worry, they won’t kill you), and imperfections that signify real food. Plus, we learn where on this earth our food comes from, and know that we’re eating what’s in season.
This practice, of course, benefits the body but benefits the mind as well by helping us to feel more connected to nature.
Besides these practices, there are of course many other ways to immerse oneself in nature: walking on the beach, hiking, listening to the birds, hugging a tree, bathing in the sun or moonlight, camping…no matter the method, reconnecting with nature is vital to reconnecting with one’s healthiest and happiest self.
What’s your favorite place to hang out in nature? Share it with us in a comment!