The Gifts of Nature: Healing and Inspiration

squirrel closeupWe still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. – Albert Einstein

I’ve been going into nature since I was a small child and have long been aware of the healing qualities that time in nature lend to mind, body and soul as well as the deep inspiration it lends my creativity. I am also increasingly aware of the sense that there is more going on in the natural world than our minds can comprehend.

In the 1920s nature writer Henry Beston wrote a beautiful book titled the Outermost House about a year he spent in a remote cabin on Cape Cod. It’s a classic. The following passage from that book captures the most profound awareness of animals, wild and domestic, that I have ever seen.

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

We could say something similar about the plant kingdom and the Earth herself. All of nature has a presence that our minds can’t grasp. Yet our hearts have a knowing of a deeper connection. It may explain why simply looking at beautiful photographs of animals and nature scenes lifts our spirits. On some level it feels good to feel a kinship with the other than human realms on Earth.

Cutting edge neuroscience has shown that simply spending time in nature slows our brain waves down to alpha which is the state for meditation. Being in nature calms our body, lowers our blood pressure and just plane feels good. Medical doctors have begun prescribing time in nature for some of their patients. In San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, there’s a one mile trail along the bay called the Prescription Trail. This alpha state we experience in nature also occurs when we engage our creativity, so nature can actually gives us a jumpstart on our creative expression.

I invite you to try it. Spend time in nature and open your awareness to the presence of the trees and the animals. You can play with your imagination and talk to them in your mind’s eye. Ask a question about something you are concerned about. What quietly for an answer. It could come as imagination or just an intuitive sense of what to do. Play with this or simply take off your shoes and feel the pleasure and comfort of the moist grass under your feet.

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