“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir
The benefits of nature, movement, and connection are beyond description.
When it comes to Nature there is no doubt about its impact on our wellbeing. Although we humans have done this since the dawn of time, modern ways of living have made such simple yet powerful practices so obscure a s out of the realm of normalcy, that nowadays we need research and evidence to let us know and almost to convince us that being in nature will indeed improve our mental state.
Not only that but medical doctors now prescribe time in nature, daily walks, clean air, deep breaths, while designers build green work spaces and homes that resemble nature to boost productivity, alertness and overall well-being.
In a digitalized world where we live inside our heads in a virtual reality, the loss of embodied and felt sense experiences can sometimes fully remove us from our body. So we live a life as disconnected and disembodied heads and the only time when we realize that we do have a body, is when the Body says No. When we feel pain. When we are diagnosed with an illness that puts us in bed for days, weeks, months.
Although I engage in a lot of body practices I myself am not immune to quickly relocating inside my head, and forgetting about the rest of me. In my academic career that was mostly how I used to live…
When life throws a spanner and I need to bring the drawing board of plans and overuse my head, I used to remove my body and its plethora of useful advice about whatever plans I was making, and fully rely on my head. Well … it is no wonder that it was through my head that my entire body would communicate “Stop! See me, hear me, rest, listen to the body!” and it would use a migraine to take me out of my head and get me to rest for 48 hours.
Now I listen. But it has taken a lot of years and dedication to engage my entire body and bring it back to life. To listen to all the subtleties, to its cycles, to its needs for rest, and for its needs for joy and pleasure.
The best way I can open my inner ears and listen is when I am in Nature.
The Japanese practice of Shinrin toku, or Forest Bathing is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.
The Eastern tradition of Walking meditation, or the Kinhin practice in several Buddhist forms, involves a very mindful deliberate way of slowing down and paying attention to all the movements involved in walking, from our bodies to the effect of our steps on the earth, ultimately resulting in grounding and a deepened relationship with one’s body and the earth.
It might not be like this for some of you but it’s essentially rare to be in nature and not be touched, moved and somehow transformed by it.
Most of us find a lot in Nature:
🌿a slowing down
🌿attuned presence to our selves
🌿attuned presence to the earth, the soil, the birds and animals, the sun, sky, wind, stars
🌿increased awareness of our selves
🌿sense of lightness
🌿improved sleep (endless benefits of exposure to natural light)
🌿improved physical fitness
🌿opportunity for synchronicity, work with symbolism and increased sense of insight
🌿respect and care for the natural world and a sense of expansion
🌿sense of opening to the here and now
🌿a mindful inner watchfulness
🌿befriending towards our inner experience
🌿remembering and prioritizing what really matters to us
And of course the added benefit of movement!
🌿reduction in depression and anxiety
🌿improved cardiovascular health
🌿improved quality of life
🌿lowered risk for diabetes, cancer and heart failure
🌿improved lung health
🌿…(this list is never ending)
Add to this another HUMAN! Our need and capacity for connecting with another is among the most basic needs, like those for food, water and shelter. The infamous experiments with baby monkeys evidenced that they would actually prefer the warm hug instead of the milk bottle. We are wired for connection! No need to bring forward the isolation effects of the Pandemic on our sense of connection, sense of self, belonging, attachment, love, intimacy, and ultimately connection with others and with oneself.
The idea of Walking and Talking as a form of connection, well-being and ultimately therapy is nothing new. Greek philosophers used to carry their deepest and most profound discussions and discourses while walking. The Paripatetic school in Ancient Greece embraced the form of talking while walking, clearly observing the benefits of such embodied practices which engaged all senses.
I have been taking therapy outside my therapeutic room with great success to clients. It started off with sessions I offer to mothers with babies in their stroller when we can easily hold a conversation, move, connect while the baby sleeps. These sessions are deeply rewarding for mothers!
“There are some people who become blocked or overwhelmed by the intimacy of therapy in an office setting,” says Jennifer Lager, a US therapist. Trauma survivors, for instance, often carry a lot of shame and may have created rigid walls to protect themselves. Directly facing the therapist with no outlets for their physical arousal may prove too intense for them at times. Meanwhile, adolescents and people with attention-deficit disorders may have trouble sitting still.
“Research also is starting to show that creativity, self-awareness, emotional awareness and other positive therapy outcomes can heighten during movement. (APA)”.
What I also offer in my women-centered practice is various practices grounded in:
🌱Somatic Internal Family Systems
Above all I believe Nature is deeply grounding, soothing, and inspiring.
It offers a deeply nourishing background to the healing process.
It links us to our primitive brains, offering simplicity, solutions, insight, creativity, focus as teaches us about our own Nature.
🌿Aleksandra Staneva, PhD🌿 offers Green sessions in the south side of Brisbane, Australia.
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org