In a time of social distancing and self-quarantine, feelings of isolation and separation are inevitable. And yet, if coronavirus has shown us anything, it's how connected we really are. That connection goes way beyond our human species. We are inextricably linked to this earth and everything on it. Even within the confines of our home, we are in a constant conversation with nature.
Cultivating a profound sense of connection to the earth is a powerful way to stay grounded in times of uncertainty. Doing so can also enhance our sense of wonder, our creativity, and our ability to find beauty in the mundane. Here are a few practices to help you deepen your sense of belonging with the outside world from inside your home.
Think more deeply about the source of the air you breathe.
Breathe. Inhale, and exhale. Even if you are nowhere near a coastline, this simple act is your inherent yet invisible connection to the blue world beneath us. Believe it or not, most of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton—tiny plants that live on the surface of the ocean. Remind yourself of this throughout the day or incorporate it into your morning meditation.
Whenever your thoughts begin to spiral, take a few slow breaths. With each inhale listen to the waves, smell the salt in the air, feel the water on your skin. With every exhale, let it go, and know that you are taken care of by the world. Allow yourself to absorb and cherish the fact that you are supported by these tiny organisms with every breath you take.
Take a mindful moment with your plate.
Every bite is an opportunity to cultivate connection to the earth. Every meal is an opportunity for grounding. As Michael Pollan writes in The Omnivore's Dilemma, "... the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds."
The practice? Become more curious about your food. Start a conversation with it. Ask it questions. Say thank you. This is one of my favorite meditations on food, inspired by Present Plate: Before starting a meal, take a moment to go through the process that made it all possible. Think about the soil that grew it, the water that nourished it, the people who farmed, transported, and stocked it at your local store. Think about all the time and energy that made a single bite possible. Make every meal an opportunity for gratitude.
Let yourself be in awe of the world outside your window.
Observe. Even in times of crisis, the world is beautiful. Even from within our homes we can take comfort in the fact that every morning the sun rises, and every evening the sun sets. In spring the flowers bloom. The birds sing. Trees stand tall, rooted in all their years of wisdom. Conservationist Rachel Carson wrote that "those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." Taking time off our screens to observe the beauty of nature and take comfort in the very fact that we're alive might just be one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves—especially during times like this.
Listen to the wind. Track the moon. Look out the window. Look up at the stars. The beauty of nature is humbling. It reminds us of the vastness of the universe and of the fact that we're a part of something so much larger than ourselves.
As paradoxical as it might sound, even in times of separation, we are not alone. We are part of the whole. Every moment has the potential to remind us of just how deeply connected we are to everyone and everything on this planet. It's just a matter of remembering where to look.
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