Nature as lifestyle
…man and his erratic thoughts, while he through Nature walks…
The world is a fast place. Expectations, toxic human relationships, stress, workload, commuting time, lack of natural light, constant noise… We are all aware of the importance of “here and now”, yet only a few of us dedicate time to our wellbeing, and adjust the pace accordingly.
In this post, I want to share some tips and experiences about walking in Nature. As a former mountain guide and someone who completely dedicated student days to mountains and Nature, I claim that the best connection between Nature and ourselves is established in lowlands, where the mind can be relaxed, the pace slow, and the connection fully established. Also, I hope that most of you who read this post, do have some wilderness or parks near you, to which you can escape often and immerse yourself into the different world of beauty, wonders and silence.
I had an amazing opportunity to grow up in a small village in the distant mountains, where life was harsh but real. Physical activity was a daily routine, I`d take my bike and cycle uphill as much as I could. Above the village, there was a vast forest, spreading over a few countries. That forest was my safe place, I`d simply get off the bike, lay in the grass and disappear into the deep meditation. The heart rate went down, so did breathing and thoughts. To be honest, I never followed any meditation rules, instead of forcing the lotus position, I`d make myself comfy and simply relaxed. Thoughts might be erratic in the beginning, but within 15 minutes or so, the mind gets quiet, and you start noticing details surrounding you. Breathing also gets balanced and slow, you become aware of every breath you inhale and exhale.
Belonging to different outdoor clubs and joining/running different activities, thought me how to be resilient, flexible and of course, develop my style. Having all those educational courses thought me about the ethics and behavioural rules that make you a good mountaineer, not just someone who goes up there. A good example is, you always give way to a person descending the mountain, with respect for being on top. The weather might change, and you might never reach up there. Belonging to a club also teaches you how to share, look after other people, and gives you an opportunity to visit places you would never see alone. I`d strongly recommend considering joining an outdoor club. MeetUp offers plenty of options in your area, such as Facebook and local clubs in your area.
The club took a lot of my time, but I enjoyed, or to be honest, lived the role of being a Head of the climbing department in the biggest club in our city. On the other side, when I was home, I leaned towards individualism and peace. Someone could write a book about “how to go to Nature”, but the basic rule is “just do it and make sure you are prepared and safe”. I used to cycle to the mountains, then sit against a tree and observe the sunset. Immerse myself fully into the moment, feel the sun rays on my skin, listen to the birds, try to count them and understand where they are coming from. When you become truly still and your heart rate drops down, curious birds will surround you, arguing in their language who this creature is. Then, they will fly off and leave you alone with your thoughts. I also remember roe deer and owls approaching me, whilst I was in the deep meditation in the middle of the forest.
Twenty years later, I have learned that this technique is called “forest bathing”. Being present at the moment, paying attention to the stimulants around and asking yourself “what do I get from it and how does it make me feel”? Have you ever tried to deliberately touch the tree bark, how does it feel? Is it rough or smooth, it is cold, wet, humid or dry, and how this connection makes you feel? After having that forest bathe, your mind becomes focused, palpitations drop-down, breathing becomes consistent and slow. Suddenly, you find yourself sauntering around aimlessly, noticing wild grasses, fallen leaves, slug trails, and feather theatre in the branches.
In middle age, some people pretended to be on a journey to holly land “a la Sainte Terrer”, asking for charity along the way. The kids would exclaim “There goes Sainte-Terrer” so they became known as saunters. Get to know the area where you want to saunter, check the forecast, make sure your phone battery is full, have some water, snacks and waterproofs and simply dedicate time to yourself. If you are afraid to be alone in Nature, that is fine, you can always invite someone to join you, so you feel safe and comfortable. But be careful who are you inviting to such a personal micro-journey, ideally you need someone you feel relaxed next to if no words are shared.
And also, please, get offline in the forest. Have the phone for the sake of safety, but literally, get offline and notice how being cut off from the world makes you feel.