Toolkit: Time in Nature

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“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” — John Muir

Maintaining our bond to the natural world is essential for us modern people. Humans have lived in natural settings for all of our history—the isolation imposed by modern life is a very recent experiment. Connection with the natural world brings us peace, joy, and a deep understanding of the interdependence of all things.

Ayahuasca often expands our understanding of this connection. Some say the medicine is Gaia herself, opening our eyes to the true nature of our human relationship with theearth. You can study geology or botany to deepen your understanding ofnature, but most essential is to simply walk or sit or lie in the forest (or beach, or mountains, or desert), and just be. Time in nature quiets the mind, opens the heart, and soothes the body. It’s one of the most profoundly balancing integration practices you can adopt.

So, for a start:

Walk into the woods­­—or a park, or your backyard—and sit in a place that calls to you. Breathe. Relax. Spend a few minutes allowing your eyes to move to wherever they feel naturally drawn to, practicing a simple, innocent gaze, looking all around.

Allow your eyes to rest on a particular tree or rock that’s calling you. Take in the direct experience of seeing. Explore all its nuances, its shape and color, light and texture, while resting in the smells, sounds and sensations surrounding you.

In your mind, open a conversation with this ‘object,’ beginning to dialogue with it as if it were a living being. What’s it like to be a rock, a tree, a river? Ask it, and find out. Feel your way into its experience, becoming the tree, sensing what it’s like to be rooted in one place, to grow or change at a tree’s pace. By merging your energy with nature, you’re entering the shamanic world.

Ways to Connect With the Earth

Here are some more ways to connect with the earth. It’s worth noting that you’ll have to make time from your busy schedule to do so. When you do meet with nature, do so wholeheartedly and devotedly, as if you’re visiting a lover or long-lost friend. Turn off the phone, release the thoughts of to-dos, and bring your awareness completely into the present experience—the smells, sounds, sights and sensations of now. The world will reward you with unknown delights that have been there all along. The key that unlocks them is your simple presence.

Lie on your back or belly on the ground, arms and legs fully spread, feeling the planet supporting your weight. Relax your body more and more deeply into the earth. Feel any dense or heavy energy (the Quechua word is hucha) dropping down into the earth, which happily takes it in. Eventually you can add in the practice of drawing in refined or light energy ( sami) through the crown of your head. Extra credit: If the sun is shining, take some time to feel and absorb its warmth and energy into your body.

Go barefoot on the earth. Try Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion: “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

“When we walk like we are rushing, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth . . . Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth.”

Sit with your back against a tree. Close your eyes and tune into its experience, becoming it. You might find a particular tree to befriend, visiting it repeatedly in different weather, tracking its seasonal changes, silently connecting with it and feeling its strength.

Flowing water exerts a peculiar fascination on just about everyone—we feel refreshed and connected in its presence. Walk alongside a stream or seashore, or wade into it, maybe dipping your hands in and sensing the rhythm of the tides or currents.

Gardening is instantly grounding, and there’s an elemental delight in digging in the dirt. Even a small patch of ground or a few pots of herbs or flowers can give you a connection with the earth.

Bring nature inside, with flowers on the table, crystals on the windowsill, seashells in the bath, pinecones on the mantelpiece.

Hiking, backpacking, and camping are elemental ways to immerse yourself in the natural world. Try to spend at least a few nights outside every year.

Animal tracking or bird-watching are direct routes into the natural kingdom. Even watching animal videos can provide a sense of relaxation and connection for the human body. And pets can be an incredible connection to the natural world, though they’re not always viewed as such.

Sky-Gazing: Make a habit of going to a high, open place—a hill, a rooftop, the school playground down the street—and gazing at the sky. You may choose to pursue sunsets or sunrises, or the elegantly dreamy practice of cloud-gazing. Or follow the lunar cycle, tracking the Moon’s monthly waxing and waning from full to new. (Bring in a bit of astrology by noting how the Moon changes signs every 2½ days.) The night sky with its stars and planets is a direct revelation of the greater universe we dwell in, and another gift of backpacking/camping. Astronomy apps can revolutionise your vision of the night sky.

More Resources

Eliot Cowan, Plant Spirit Medicine

Stephen Harrod Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants and Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm

Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft and Nature and the Human Soul

Animas Valley Institute,

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