My brother, Jeff and his future therapist daughter Emily, just returned from a two-week hiking adventure in Utah. He was simply ecstatic as he narrated the natural beauty of their vacation photos projected on the television in my father’s living room. He and my father share an excitement about all things large and small. It is infectious and serves them well. They love nature and since Jeff’s return are reading, “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams.
They are both in significant life transition. My brother is an air traffic controller who will soon retire and his youngest child, Ian, will soon be heading to Ohio State University with his sister. There will be changes in their big home. My father’s vibrant soul is spending its last few months in a body that has served him well. Each day he visits my mother at her grave site overlooking a forest and the homes of three my four siblings. We share stories from our past and future dreams as we plan for the next family vacation to Glacier National Park.
Nature: Your Forgotten Friend
Life transitions encourage a “gut check”. Many times, people find themselves “on automatic”, simply living out the consequences of past decisions. Often, there is a gap between the truth of how they really feel verses what they try to tell others…and themselves. Feelings of emptiness fill in this gap. The emptiness holds the energy of untapped potential from untended relationships and from opportunities never explored. There is a lack of oneness, a lack of youthful joy, a lack of authenticity that my brother and father seem to transmit with such abundance.
They enjoy spending time together and reading, “The Nature Fix”. It lends scientific credence to what they have found to be true in their own lives. Florence Williams writes that nature exists in a state of oneness. She suggests that everything makes sense at some level and is connected in obvious and less than obvious ways.
You know this. Everything you see in nature has a story and is connected from birth to death and back. Everything in nature responds to the seasons and has seasons of its own existence. While nature clearly follows a greater design, the author of this great design is caught with your senses, more than captured by your brain.
My father often goes to sleep on a glider on his side porch to the sound of a water fountain. As he closes his eyes, he feels the cool night air against his checks and smells the trees in the forest around him. He hears the sound of the water and of “Hootie”, an owl who patrols the night skies. The sights and sounds of nature fills his senses…and he is one with all that surrounds him. It is a precious time, a time of restoration, a time of peace.
The Biophilia Effect
This has been called the “Biophilia effect” and was first described by social psychologist Erich Fromm in 1973. It is the passionate love of life and of all that is alive. It has given birth in Japan to “Forest therapy” or “shinrin yoku” in response to Japanese culture’s struggles to respond to the disconnected ways of Western living. We live to produce, make money, purchase things and have impact, but even when successful, the dull ache of emptiness pulls at your soul.
Florence Williams writes beautifully as she describes the scientific theories and subsequent studies that share the benefits of greater health, creativity and happiness. Here are a few suggestions from the “Oneness Approach” that run parallel to the Biophilia effect theory.
Make your relationship with the creator of all things real.
Jesus, when he started his ministry spent forty days in the wilderness, would pray on a mountain top or in a garden to rest and restore His spirit.
Spend more time in nature, each day, each week and throughout the year.
Surround yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of nature. This is a natural form of meditation, is easy and helps you to clear your mind of what you know and releases what you sense is true in your life. This is subconscious and resonates with others deeply engaging all of its resources to communicate within, between and beyond.
Connect your living sense of God with the sense of each of your relationships every day.
Let this guide the focus of your attention, your decisions and your life directions. You will close your gap of emptiness and follow feelings that ultimately connect you to yourself, everyone and everything else.
Consider purchasing The Nature Fix by Florence Williams to learn more about what available research about our relationship with nature shows.