At Blissology workshops, we often begin our sessions by sharing a “nature appreciation” moment that has felt significant in some way. It could be a recent moment, or in the past. The criteria are simply that it is a moment where we have felt that time stood still and we have paid attention to whatever was unfolding in front of us, or that we have been a part of whatever is happening in the natural world that surrounds us.
At first, unless this is not your first Blissology retreat or training, people often look surprised, as if they didn’t expect this question as an ice breaker, in a sharing circle at a yoga workshop. Even though when you consider the evolution of yoga – the practice of asana in particular and pranayama or breathing exercises as well – many seem to be inspired by the observation of the natural world around us. There is Lion’s breath and Tree, camel or fish pose. The list could go on.
As someone breaks the silence and speaks, it is amazing what happens. I have noticed it at countless trainings over the years of teaching. Their face takes on a luminous quality, their eyes light up, and at the end of their recounting, they smile as if re-living that moment once again. Their body language shifts. If there have been any fears about speaking in public in a new group; they have disappeared; and they look relaxed and happy.
Nature downshifts our nervous system. This is something scientists have been marvelling at now for some time, but it is also what poets, writers, artists and spiritual teachers have been commenting on for centuries. Something happens when we lose ourselves in the beauty of something natural. It could be the obvious, like a sunset, but it could also be simple taking in the colour of the hummingbird outside, the deep red flower in a vase, a blade of grass with a single dewdrop. When we observe nature and when we slow down enough to take it in and resonate with it, our breath slows down, we begin to harmonize with the slower pace (slower than our thoughts) of life around us; and find an inner sense of calm. It is exactly why “forest bathing” is a recognized activity in Japan, and why in the UK and the US doctors can prescribe a dose of “nature” as part of healing. And it is exactly what we are also trying to access through the yoga practice.
Want to explore this more fully this year? We’re hosting a Blissology Midsummer retreat August 1 -5, 2024 on a 100 acre organic farm on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada. The farm has a varied topography of rolling meadows, rocky outcrops, fields, woods and flowers, with lots of space to just be. The retreat will be a powerful and blissful nervous system reset through an exploration of potent practices of yoga, meditation and breathing and a celebration of our intrinsic connection to Nature and to one another. We hope you will join us.
And even if you cannot, be sure to make the space for a single nature appreciation moment everyday. Today ours was taking in the sunshine fully and completely this morning at a nearby beach. The only sounds I heard were the ripples of the waves and a seagull calling. It filled me up with its beauty and offered a sense of calm, something we desperately need a lot more of in our world.