February 9, 2016

The Eco-Self: 7 Ways to draw us Closer to Nature.

Author's own (Robin Afinowich)

Reach into the Earth, lay with her, be held by her and draw from her strength. She is the most powerful representation of evolution, resiliency and beauty.

Here’s a secret—-we are not separate from nature, but rather an expression of it, and within our hearts is the beat of our collective mother. Whether from a spiritual or scientific point of view, her magnificence and omnipresence is undeniable.

For thousands of years prior to the industrial revolution, our ancestors across all cultures cultivated a relationship with the Earth. Respect and reverence were expressed through celebratiosn of the seasons, the moons and the harvests. People used plants as medicine and the animals as teachers on shelter, defense and adaptation. Nature was a seen as a gift of creation and one that needed to be tended with great respect and in harmony with her sacredness.

Things have changed.

As the waters, mountains and foods become embedded with toxins and exploited, humanity becomes infected with disease and violence. The more diseased our planet becomes, the sicker the people are. The more violent we are to the Earth, the more violent we are to each other. We must return to the knowledge of our ancestral heritage and the ideologies that suggests reciprocity with the natural world, an equal exchange, a partnership, a kinship, a deep psyche-soul understanding that the Earth is us, and we are the Earth.

Things can change.

Aside from the obvious social and environmental movements dedicated to protecting our natural resources and fair allocation of land amongst both the industrialized world and the earth-centric cultures, there is a movement of psyche and soul that must accompany the cry for change. Collectively, we must adapt our cognition and interpretation of what the Earth represents to us on a personal level, which will eventually translate on a social and planetary scale. Humans are more inclined to change behavior when change is imbued with alteration of thought and enhanced personal meaning therefore we need to encourage people to think about nature differently and develop a more meaningful connection with it. Perhaps, is it through an eco-psychological revolution that we can mend our relationship with the Earth.

Nature is rich with iconic symbols and exploratory metaphor. Some of history’s most inspirational poets, philosophers, scientists and sages developed their prestige from their intense communion and curiosity of the natural world.  Metaphors and symbols, in general, allow us to look more abstractly and objectively at our selves and our lives. They provide an altered perception that affords us the opportunity to investigate the layers of experience that are not as tangible and identifiable in ordinary thought. Nature has a vast pallet of imagery and evolutionary processes that we can draw from to cultivate a sense of interconnectivity to the natural orders of the universe. Through this process we begin to see ourselves not as separate, but as one.

Here are 7 simple reflective prompts to draw us closer to the nature:

1. Consider the sheer brilliance of the natural world.

Penguins don’t have a GPS, yet they inherently know to travel thousands of miles to their mating grounds. Seeds aren’t controlled by a timer to bloom, they have an inherent nature to rise to the light from the dark of the Earth. We don’t tell our heart to beat, or the sun to rise. This is the extraordinary intelligence of nature and it is far superior than our intellect.

Take the time to learn more about the world that you are born from. Personally, I love the Planet Earth series with David Attenborough. When we have more knowledge, we have more appreciation and we make better choices.

2. Get your hands and feet into the ground.

Science has proven gardening not only improves depression and anxiety but can add significant years to our lives. We don’t all have to become farmers, but we can establish a relationship to plants and watch them grow, as we grow. If you are a garlic lover, try planting it. I guarantee your meals will taste better knowing you had more of a hand in the process.  If you live in the SW, succulents and agave are great plants to start with if your green thumb is apprehensive.

3. Determine your favorite elements in nature and identify the attributes you most appreciate, then apply those to yourself.

I suggest choosing and animal, a plant, a formation or a season. For example, if you love birds, ask yourself what is it that most intrigues you about them. Perhaps it is a sense of freedom or heightened perspective. How does this represent aspects of your self? What can it teach you?

4. Determine the least favorite elements in nature and inquire the potential positive, yet unseen, meaning they hold.

If you despise winter, contemplate what characteristics of winter might be beneficial to your life, such as the need to slow down and move inward.

5. Pay attention and observe the dynamic resilience of nature everywhere, trust that same resilience runs through our bones.

There are flowers sprouting through concrete streets, birds gather on phone lines, the clouds are always telling a story. Lay on a blanket under a tree and pay detailed attention to the shapes and silhouettes of leaves back-dropped by bright sky. Sit in nature; listen, feel, and connect to the sounds, temperatures and textures. Look for it and be inspired.

6. Give back and give thanks.

The Earth gives us a home, food, resources, beauty and mystery. Like all good relationships, there must be equal exchange.

My kids and I like to throw wild flower seeds in alleys and parks. If we see garbage, let’s pick it up. Say a prayer or affirmation of gratitude for our Earth everyday.

7. Establish regular ceremony and intentional practices with nature in mind.

This is a very personal and creative process and it doesn’t require cauldrons of magic. The whole point is to make it meaningful for you. A full moon, a journal prompt on attributes of an animal and a fire can be plenty when infused with presence and purpose.

When we look at nature, we can consider it as a mirror, a metaphor for our inner and collective consciousness. The suffering of the natural world is the same suffering we have within ourselves. The beauty and power we see in the natural world is the same beauty and power we have within.

As we come to know this again, as we remember the sacred ways of living in harmony, there is greater hope for restoration and sustainability.

The nature within me honors the nature within you.


Author: Robin Afinowich

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Author’s own & Sarah Zucca/Flickr

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