5 Lessons from Nature!
I am so thankful to have you here for another week to continue adopting the habit of spending more time with nature. That’s pretty broad still, as there are so many ways we can spend time with nature. So what do I really mean by connecting with nature, and what can we learn from it to lead us to more enriched lives and more sustainability on this planet?
There are many levels of human-nature connectedness.
Levels of Human Nature Connectedness
Research shows a range from a superficial level of connection to a deeper level of connection. The first level is a material connection – using nature for its resources like building or eating. Then there are experiential connections such as recreational activities spent in green environments – going to a park, hiking, walking in the woods, etc. Then we keep growing and going deeper toward cognitive connections such as knowledge and awareness of nature that shape our beliefs and attitudes. The fourth level is emotional – feeling attached and empathetic towards nature. And finally, we get to the 5th and deepest level – philosophical. This level changes our perspectives on humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Why nature matters, and how we should interact with it, protect it, and, in a way, become stewards of the land.
What’s so great about these varying human-nature connections is that they don’t usually happen one at a time. They interact with one another simultaneously and support one another—for instance, community gardening.
Time in the community garden (experiential) helps to build our knowledge of ecosystems and natural processes (cognitive), gives us an attachment to the land (emotional) and helps to shape our philosophical perspective of nature while providing therapeutic benefits, building social cohesion and resilience, ALL while providing us with food to eat (materials). By its very nature, community gardening promotes sustainability through reduced emissions and saving resources but also shapes our minds so that we support systems of sustainability that are bigger than just one garden.
There are so many examples of these interacting levels of human nature connectedness you will notice if you begin to spend time with it.
Awareness leads to learning
Many of these deeper connections we can have can be attributed to mindfulness. The awareness of ourselves, others, and nature that culminate together for a complete picture makes us go – “THIS is what life is all about!” The deeper we connect – the more sustainable we will become as individuals and society.
The more time we spend in nature, the more we learn from it. It’s like the ancestor who has all of the secrets to life if we sit down long enough to pay attention. But since this ancestor can’t physically sit you down and tell you stories over a campfire, I figured it was a good thing to point out some of the lessons we can learn so that while you’re spending your time with nature, you can begin to mindfully mull over some of these thoughts to deepen your cognitive, emotional and philosophical connections to nature.
Life is a circle
The first lesson brings on cues from Simba – It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all!
The day goes into the night. Seasons change from spring to summer, to fall, and then winter. Life turns to death which gives more energy back to the earth. There is a pendulum that always swings. Beyond the bad that will inevitably be in our path lies remarkable and beautiful things. It’s constant recycling and renewal of energy.
There is a comfort in these life patterns – like realizing that even plants take breaks during the winter to store energy for new growth. We don’t always have to be ‘in bloom,’ so to speak, so take those moments to replenish and regrow your strength. Literally, in nature, the sphere is the strongest 3-d shape. In this circle of life, we can discover stability and security.
But simultaneously, there is change within this fixed pattern of cycles. Nature is constantly changing and evolving – and so are we, which brings hope for the future.
We are all interconnected
We are all interconnected. I saw a great example of this in a blog about black bears and their connection to nature. When the black bear goes on its walk, its feet compress the soil and physically alter it. It consumes plants as food which changes how the plants look as they grow, but also helps to spread seeds and fertilize the ground when it leaves droppings. This contributes to unique microorganisms that increase the breadth and depth of biodiversity. And its very presence affects other birds and animals in the area who want to avoid the bear, starting a whole new chain of effects. All of that just from one bear taking a walk!
Another example is the pawpaw tree, something I just planted in my yard. They look like separate trees from the surface, but they are all connected by a thick root under the ground. As if they are two trees with one trunk. And, they can only bear fruit if pollinated with the help of flowers from another tree, usually carried by insects. It’s a team effort.
The same goes for us – our actions have direct and indirect implications on our natural world and vice versa. Climate change is a perfect example of this delicate relationship.
We are Resilient
One of my favorite episodes was the episode about resiliency in nature. We learned how nature continues to overcome, adapt, and thrive even in the face of change and adversity. From trees, rivers, animals, and beyond, nature continues to overcome.
Another good example is Emperor Penguins, which survive the 60-mile journey to breed, then take turns protecting their children, including enduring months without food in some of the coldest, roughest conditions on earth. If you’ve ever looked at something in nature and thought, “how the heck did this survive like this?” That’s resiliency!
We can learn so many lessons from that – but the biggest is that we are nature, and we can show just as much resiliency in our own lives.
go at your own pace
If you’re stuck in a fast-paced lifestyle where you constantly feel rushed or under the thumb of the pressure of time. Get outside and take a deep breath. Nothing in nature is rushed. It goes at its own pace. And once you spend time with nature, you will realize the freedom of that pace and stillness.
“The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.”
– Rabindranath Tagore
I love the monarch butterfly because something seemingly delicate and slow makes the round trip from Canada to Mexico at its own pace every year. “The population cycles through three to five generations to reach their destination.” But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or purposeful – it has enough time.
Besides the slew of inadvertent mental and physical health benefits you’ll reap from taking a beat and adopting the pace of nature, which is an intuitive pace, you’ll be able to take the time to reevaluate what truly matters and act accordingly. When you trust in the natural course of the universe, you begin to trust yourself.
Everything has a purpose
This goes hand in hand with how interconnected we all are. Once you see how everything is interconnected, you realize that everything in nature has its purpose.
My mind instantly goes to mosquitos because I hate the bug bites I get from them, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Why do mosquitos even exist?” They may not mean much to me, but they are an integral part of the ecosystem. The Smithsonian Magazine says that “Mosquitoes form an important source of biomass in the food chain—serving as food for fish as larvae and birds, bats and frogs as adult flies—and some species are important pollinators.” Think about that next time you get bit! We should value all things in nature, even if they aren’t directly related to our survival.
And in case you were wondering, as part of nature, you have a purpose too!
Something to grow on
For this week’s something to grow on, I want you to start asking yourself questions as you’re spending time with nature:
What is happening here seasonally? What is surviving? What is dormant?
How am I having an impact here?
What do I see that is dependent on the other things around it?
What am I curious to explore?
What patterns can I notice?
And don’t forget to follow my 5 Tips to Bond with Biodiversity! from Episode 85.
Starting this practice will help you to notice things you might not have before and maybe learn a few lessons on your own. My hope for all of us is that our connection grows stronger with each visit to nature.
Until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor.
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