I am electrified by hustling, bustling cities. I love the melting pot of sights and sounds, people and religions and cultures, art and food, and everything in between. Although it never ceases to inspire, it also has a way of squashing the seeds of sweetness and spaciousness we are all born with that, for many of us, are nourished by spending time in nature.
I cannot say that nature has 100 percent healed my pattern of type-A anxieties—fear of being disliked or letting someone down, among other things—but I can say that, like yoga, it dramatically enhances my well-being.
Being in any type of natural surrounding—for me personally, that means by the ocean—is like a long sigh of relief. It is an exhale, a hug, a comfy pillow or blanket, a sweet friend. I like to say that ocean and sunset are my favorite colors because to me there is nothing more heartwarming than witnessing this masterpiece. I was fortunate enough to visit the town of Oia in Santorini and, with a local beer in hand alongside foreigners and locals alike, watched the sun slide itself down from the sky to the sea. Like any unique travel memory, a piece of that special scene still exists within me.
This does not mean that one must jump on a plane and travel abroad to exotic and faraway lands in order to achieve peace. The United States is rich in diversified terrains and environments, from coastlines to mountain ranges to deserts and beyond. Visiting nature can be as simple as checking out a local park and putting feet or hands in the grass; it can be taking some sort of personal or public transportation to a local body of water or walking/hiking trail for some fresh air—anywhere that allows us to step out of our suit of armor and into our inherent softer state of being. The more time we can spend in an environment that fosters space and connectedness for mind, body, and spirit, the better.
In Buddhism, it is even recommended that we meditate underneath a tree—as the Buddha did under the Bodhi tree when he attained enlightenment—and to be grounded at the seat near the roots, in the company of a majestic, sturdy, living provider of oxygen and beauty. When there was no such thing as cities or smartphones, what better to do with the passing time than sit and listen to, be with, appreciate Mother Earth?
When we think of nature, we might consider its brilliance in finding balanced states, even when it might not necessarily seem that way from a human experience and perspective. The heavy heat of summer is met with the crisp dryness of fall and winter, which precedes the moist heaviness of spring, which then leads to the heat of summer...and so on. Each season provides us with the nourishment we need in that season to balance our bodies: summer's fresh and light produce keeps us cool, fall and winter root veggies ground and warm us up, spring's cleansing bounty combats any excess dryness from winter. Smart, no?
This, among Mama Earth’s endless gifts for all forms of physical and mental survival, makes it no surprise that nature would nourish us simply by being in its magnificent presence.