Updated: Feb 1
The tale of a woman who thought she knew....
Once upon a time (1.31.21 at 10:51AM ET), there was a girl/woman/soon to be 52-year-old who loved getting out into nature. She grew up with many experiences in the natural world as her parents took her hiking first at age 4, up a mountain (no judgement;), camping, exploring, etc.. As she aged and "athlete” because "former athlete," walking and hiking became the "go to" exercise. Having gone through the stationary bike, step yoga, Jane Fonda, weight circuit whole rigmarole at the local Bally's era, she was ready to put that all behind and just have a set outdoor walking routine.
Walks with buggies and double strollers, red flyer wagons and “bug hunt" hikes in the neighborhood and
local parks kept her moving through the young parent/child years. Her boys, particularly the younger, loved bugs and creatures to extent that she never felt, but started to foster. His eyesight and acuity, short childhood stature, and what the woman now swears is "bug whisperer energy of the truly passionate" along with that of his little neighbor friend and one just around the corner, fueled the fire of learning and led to some amazing discoveries, one of the most amazing being the Hickory Horned Devil her son and neighbor found in the backyard, smack dab in the middle of close quarter suburbia. As the kids grew, making time and perhaps even forcing the issue a bit became a key. Her sons would always complain at first in their middle school years, but then ALWAYS loved it once out. Approaching the older teen years, and during COVID, hikes and adventures in safe outdoor lands were a key to wellness, for the whole family.
Nature was a very close friend. who had she visited for many years, and she wanted her kids to get to know this dear friend and feel comfortable and prepared. Through her child’s eyes, she expanded her interest in nature’s creatures.
On vacations and weekend trips into mountainous areas, from the time she was little, she would hike for
the peak, loving the sense of accomplishment and the view from way up. A hike that had both green woodland, rocks to climb, a creek to creek and a peak to reach was the best - the best! She learned that the Adirondacks had over 60 peaks you could climb, and that you could claim a pin for each one! The faster the better. Heart rate up. Reach that peak! Oh, that sounded wonderful to the woman. Such accomplishment and so many views!
This dear friend nature was becoming a sought-after companion, a venue for achievement and exercise.
Following in the footsteps of her mom, and as a homeowner, she planted gardens in front of her house, tended them, sometimes without success, but she loved digging in the dirt and making her front yard look pretty. She learned what worked and what did not, and still experimented every year with new varieties of annuals and perennials. By August she had often lost the interest and some things died of neglect, but she always looked forward to Spring planting and trying to make things grow. Interestingly, in the Summer of 2020, she was not as apt to let things die, she was much more careful with her care. Her need to tend what was living was growing a bit. She was leaning toward more perennials.
Nature was a garden, a showpiece and feel good from inside and out, that could be planted and tended.
In November and December of 2020 the woman started a partnered business venture to help heal those who needed self-care practices. At first a retreat venture, she led a few hikes taking students onto the land for hour long strolls. They would stop and meditate at a certain point, thus combining the practices of nature with her business partner’s broad knowledge of meditation. The venture was termed "mindful hiking."
Her very appreciated nature companion and venue was one she wanted to share with others through the vehicle of a business venture.
In the last week before COVID hit, with some sight to the future and how she wanted to bring nature into her work and to future students, the woman set off for a natural space just outside Chicago for an intensive "Wilderness First Responder" certification course. If queried, the woman would call this experience "baptism by fire," "one of the most challenging courses of her life even in comparison with the "weed me out" soccer coaching courses she had taken years ago. This was not so much building a deeper affection with nature as an appreciation of the role of the first responder and the care one must take in the natural world. Awareness and preparedness being key. One of only two in the course over the age of 40, it was a challenge indeed.
Nature was a thing, a force to be respected.
The peace outdoors during the first three months of COVID "red phase" lockdown became a great
motivator for more frequent quiet and nature filled walks in the neighborhood. Birds and flowers were particularly abundant in Spring and Summer of 2020. The woman’s floundering naturalist abilities grew, aided by a great app called "Picture This" that readily and very accurately identified tress, bushes, and plants.
Nature was beautiful beyond words. Nature was eye candy amped up and combined with a walk felt really really good. She thought she deeply loved nature.
As grace would have it, the work she was embracing with her business partner brought in huge swaths of knowledge and awareness with practices that encouraged her to shift focus, drop habits and adaptive coping day to day rituals that were hurting, in place of very accessible "toolbox" of mindfulness and meditation, gratitude. She learned so much from her business partner's body of knowledge. Some things had to be dropped like the heavy weights that they were. Activities that brought escape (like too much Netflix;), blue light activities right before bed, and instant gratification (like too many chips;) were mitigated to an extent that allowed for more self-care in the way that worked for her.
The relationship with nature, now buoyed and put into clearer focus by daily ritual and learned wellness practices, became more powerful. If asked, the woman would describe herself as "an outdoor enthusiast and budding naturalist." Not a poet at all, moved by nature’s profound and varied beauty and now incorporating mindful and relaxation aspects to calm her swirling mind and bring even more rejuvenation, she wrote:
As I walk I clear my mind
I see the ground beneath my feet
I see the grass of lit green hues and pots of colors spilling out
Breathe sweet air that reaches down to fill my lungs and wrap my heart
The breeze so quiet upon my skin a nudge of wind that cools and soothes
Sun so bright it lingers low, promise of heat but cool is now and I am light
My thoughts are here and only now my senses keep me clear and free
A Morning walk to start my day with gratitude for green array
Nature was aesthetic peace.
Nature was a theoretical concept but also a wondrous visual field whose tenets and benefits worked very well with the practices of mindfulness and meditation. Nature was something she wanted to build a great deal of knowledge about. Learn all the names, the attributes.
In Spring of 2021, the woman was registered to take a 60–70-hour course, in person, and in a beautiful setting, to become a certified Mindful Outdoor Guide. The course would bridge her work with those of her business partner, a mind/body science practitioner, meditation, and yoga certified specialist. Now the business would be a true mind/body/nature practice. The course was cancelled due to COVID, but she had studied and read the considerable amount of pre-course work. Book upon books, articles upon articles led to more books and more articles. She felt a passion for the education never felt before in her lifetime. She loved the science of nature connection and much of her attachment to the natural world was being explained. The woman began to form the ideas of a course to teach others.
Nature was a body of knowledge that fired her sense of purpose and she wanted to share the knowledge.
Always an appreciator of art, and truly an amateur painter at best, the woman now began to paint more. She learned watercolors in addition to oils, and she only wanted to draw nature. So, she did. She made time for quick lessons online. It was very enjoyable and relaxing. She would take photos of her favorite scenes while out walking, and then try to paint them.
Nature was a picture that when put on canvas created a truly enjoyable hobby. Nature was an avocation motivator and an additional way to express great affection and visual connection.
In Fall of 2021, the woman was finally able to take the Mindful Outdoor Guide Course she had been waiting for. Not at all sure what to expect and feeling very much that she had a deep connection to the natural world already, the woman thought, even told her business partner, that she would give it a try the first day and if it was too "out there" and tree hugging in philosophy, that she might not make it. They laughed. Because life is full of unseen pathways and surprises, by the end of the first full day when the 40 participants, also nature enthusiasts and leaders, came together to share their thoughts, she was in tears. Within just 36 hours, having done only one seated, sense driven nature meditation and one “Mindful Outdoor Experience", only about 1/10 of her way into the course, guided by mentors, she felt to her core that nature was not only a friend, a companion, a venue, a destination, an area of education, a life's work purpose, a hobby, an aesthetic, a picture. Nature was a peer who she needed to spend time with, slow, growing, appreciative, deep time and attention. And nature was not, in any way, and would never be again, a thing to her. What was the magic here? Slowing down, taking notice, having genuine care and gratitude, truly knowing nature with all senses engaged. And, learning in a very warm group with nurturing and heart felt mentors who wanted nothing more than to teach her and the other students how to connect more deeply, and then to go out and share those techniques with others.
She wonders if others have similar tales about thinking they know, until then THEY KNOW and just feel like they are on the edge of even more knowing, more learning, more attachment. And isn't this the tale of growing older and wiser? Remembering that as a teenager, young adult, she thought she knew about life and love, until she started to really know AND experience and then she knew how deep the knowing could go and how much she did not, in fact, know. The real key was that she wanted to know more and was willing to make the time.
This practical woman learned that she WAS nature, literally and spiritually. She was a part of a "more than human world" that held the key for her well-being and the well-being of the entire planet. What the woman had thought was deep connection, was in fact just a passing through, in comparison. The methods to connect and derive benefits form the natural world went way beyond her imaginings.
The woman fell in love with nature to an extent she never thought possible. She was loathe now to even
peel one piece of bark off a living tree. Nature was her, and yet it also held her life and her children’s and friends and loved one’s and neighbor’s lives, all of the planet. Nature no longer held a philosophical space somewhere between things and humans. Nature was equal, or more than. She compared how she had previously viewed the natural world and wrote again:
STAY WITH ME
Running running checklist checkers
Your eyes they dart or blue light fix
I know your time is pressed like coal
Breath you don’t know, skin you can’t feel
What if you stayed and were JUST here?
Mind could settle, breath could slow.
Gardening to get it done
What if you dug deep in soil with fingers that?
revel in dirt filled nails, sensing, and prizing my plant life gifted
Thoughts they break as breath takes hold.
Hiking for the peak alone
What if you halfway smelled the pine, touched bark-
attentive, steady, wind song listener?
Slow ascent to view my scope.
Passing through, just passing through
What if you sat when autumn leaf sun-shimmered drifting as it fell?
and witnessed leaf kiss-bless the earth, held just aloft by reverent ground soon to be the rich beneficiary
and laid your head upon earth skin?
I’ll ground your nervous overflow.
Stopping is but wasted time
Stay, can you stay? You can know me if you stay.
I’ll sense your gist, show nature's form.
Your fingers they may graze the grass as through your child’s sweet-scented hair.
As child I need your care but also mother, so I hold your life.
Quietly, softly, gently stay, or I may not be here one day.
Linger, linger, breathe, and stay.
As Winter tales often go that end in Spring, this one ends happily ever after at 3:34 on 1.31.21. The woman is changed by her journey, by her work, by her learning by, her experience. She now combines exercise in nature with mindful times in nature; being alone for peace and rejuvenation with times of being with friends and family to share the healing and the adventure. She has brought more nature into her home knowing the benefits therein. She teaches others and seeks to deepen or begin their healing though getting back to our lost connection with the natural world.
And for the first time, she has learned to love the nature in winter. She walks or sits almost daily through every season, but now, only now, is she loving what nature brings even in this season. Even winter has a nature romance. And to really know, she feels you must discover in all seasons, as with a loved human being.
Nature is now a true deep love, indoors or out, cold, wet, sunny, rainy, or dry.
Look at a flower, a plant.
Let your awareness rest upon it.
How still they are;
How deeply rooted in being.
- Eckhart Tolle
Postscript 1: she still loves the mountain peaks, she is just a lot more aware during the journey. In fact, the journey means just as much as the destination.
Postscript 2: she may be seen hugging a tree
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1. HeartMath for PART grads is being offered in February starting this Wednesday
2. Benefits of Nature Connection cohorts start NEXT week, Sundays or Wednesday
3. Spring PART (Positivity, Relaxation and Resilience Training), our core course, starts in March.