One of Peter’s teachers once told him to throw all of his books away and just go outside.
“Everything you need to learn,” he said, “can be found in nature.”
Did he mean it?
Well, he may not have truly intended for Peter to ditch all of his books. (Although maybe he did!) But he did mean it, in the sense that everything we need to know can be learned by drawing closer to the natural world.
For most of human history, the concept of learning from nature would have been not only obvious, but necessary. Everyday life would have just automatically included being immersed in (and at the mercy of) nature — learning from it, and letting its rhythms and wisdom infuse the human world.
We ate based on the seasons, harvesting what had grown in the ground. Our shelters had to accommodate the elements, and our routines would have reflected a necessary dependence upon the world we saw around us. Land that never had a fallow time to rest — a winter — would not be able to produce, flower or bloom.
When we let the truth of the elements inform us, we see more of our nature as beings within the world, witnessing the passion of fire or the potential of rain as it flows and transforms its shape into ice or sleet.
For us, though, it is possible to go throughout life without really interacting with nature: from air- conditioned cars to offices lit with florescent lights, technicolor vegetables in grocery store aisles and ripened fruit year round, regardless of where we live or what season it is.
Of course, we have access to so many amazing elements of modern life, but we have to work harder to remember that we are part of the natural world. When we do, it isn’t about pushing ourselves toward an old fashioned way of doing things to be hipster or twee about it, but to draw back to the wisdom of the world, and to let it give us the foundations & framework we need to create a life of wholeness.
When you think about your life, do you feel that you can see the seasons?
Or are you stuck in patterns of a particular phase?
Whether by expecting yourself to be perpetually in summer, producing and producing, or lingering in winter, quietly waiting longer than ideal to begin your next project or make big shifts in your life, we often do this to ourselves. Reconnecting to nature is our gentle reminder that we need the full spectrum: releasing and reflecting as Autumn, resting and deepening in Winter, planning and growing as Spring, and fruition and blossoming in Summer.
Just like the Earth, we need seasons of rest and recovery, seasons of sweetness and fullness, and space to grow and wither or flower and harvest in between.
So, how do we reconnect to the natural world? Especially if we’re feeling somewhat distant or disengaged from it.
I invite you to give yourself the gift of a soft start.
A first step, which might feel absurdly simple, is just to go outside. What do you notice? What do you feel? Even if what comes up for you first is a shade of discomfort — a chill, an unfamiliar noise, humidity. Let yourself breathe it all the way in. I love to go outside as part of my morning, letting myself wake up with the world outside me, taking my mug of coffee & cashew milk outside and just sitting. If you journal or meditate as part of a daily practice, could you do that outside?
I also want to offer you this simple invocation, or a little mantra that you can incorporate into your day, as you consider aligning your life more and more with the rhythms and cycles of nature.
This is a quote from the naturalist John Muir, who wrote,
“It is wonderful how nature is a part of us.
The sun shines not on us, but in us.
The rivers flow not past but through us.”
What practices connect you to the natural world? I’d love to know. Or, if you feel stuck or challenged as you think about this, I’d love to know that too, and I’m here to help.