To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
~John Keats, Sonnet XIV
As the urban population expands day by day, and our relationship with Mother Nature becomes restricted, what is it about natural environments that we crave so deeply to connect with, over and over again? From wanting to relax by beaches, or trek through forests to scaling mountains and frolicking in the snow, we all choose holiday spots for their natural beauty. Even our doctors advise us to go a vacation to “some place quiet”, so we can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
There is but only one factor that links all of this together. Peace. Many great philosophers believe that a human being’s life quest is the search for peace. Whether it is freedom from worldly desires to a deepest sense of inner peace, every man and woman strives sub-consciously to be free of violence and conflict and rise above fear of any kind. In our efforts to find this perfect state of mind, we turn to the universe, for everything about it, is of balance and harmony, at the juncture of which peace is most often found.
We are one with nature. In his book “Soulcraft” author and psychotherapist Bill Plotkin says, “The reason we go into nature, into the wildest environments, is because the soul is at home there”. Before the advent of civilization, Humankind sustained itself through the surrounding natural environment, both depending on it for life, and keeping it alive; a cyclic process that resulted in absolute harmony, and eventually, peace. With technological advancements, humankind has forgotten how to connect naturally with the environment, and instead attempts to influence and control Nature, transforming the earth and destroying its delicate ecosystem. Having changed natural habitat, humankind now consciously seeks to go back to its roots and unite itself with the earth.
When we wander into the untouched wilderness, into the heart of Mother Nature herself, many of us experience a feeling of oneness with the wide expanse of Nature and the universe within which planet Earth nestles. Indeed, it is this feeling of connectedness that leads to a feeling of peace and harmony; no different from the sense of relief experienced when one ‘comes home’ to the security of family and hearth! We try to escape from the cacophony and riot that rules our life, searching for “peace”, as if it were a commodity that is so readily available to grab. When all along all we really need to do is seek it with the greatest Mother of them all – Nature!
New research is indicating that time spent in Nature is more than just therapeutic—it’s an absolute necessity. Researchers from Arizona State University have found that time spent amongst Nature creates a sense of connectedness and inspires a sense of awe. This produces a calming effect and helps make everyday stress and anxieties feel more manageable. In another study, researchers from the University of Essex found that any type of green environment improved self-esteem and mood, but the presence of water increased the effects.
In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. ~Charles A. Lindbergh, Life, 22 December 1967.
The views expressed by the author are in her personal capacity.