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Be In Nature
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, March 2006

I recently visited a friend who is extremely ill and is in the hospital. Fortunately her bed was next to a window and although there was a building right next door, she could see the sky. She said that everyday, when she woke up, she needed to see the sky to remind her of the vastness of the universe and that her spirit would soon be free.

Nature Helps Us Relax
Often what I do is help people relax and discover a place of calm and serenity within themselves. One very effective way to accomplish this is to visualize bucolic scenes from nature. As my friend experiences, it is the feeling of freedom that we get from nature that allows us to let go of our stress and worries if only for a few moments. Each of us is able to internalize the positive aspects of nature and go to that peaceful place in our head. But there is nothing like the real thing.

Nature Heals
Whether you need to "get away", "be alone", "regain your footing", "see a different perspective", "recharge your batteries", or "express your feelings" there is nothing that comes close to the healing power of being in nature. If you are trying to figure out a solution to a problem, being in nature can help. Relax, challenge, restore, learn, gain perspective and receive comfort, support, inspiration and motivation. Even if you are not the "outdoor type" give it a try. Nature nourishes your soul.

Where to Start?
A walk in the park. A hike through the woods or sitting on a rock at sunset at the beach. Be quiet and allow yourself to be receptive. Be open. Open to what? To the sounds, the sights, the smells, the textures all around you. Sometimes, when you are dealing with a particularly troubling issue, ask a question and then just observe what comes to you as you notice (really notice) what is in front of you. Time means something different in nature. Sometimes it stands still while other times it is fleeting. Notice plants and trees that take years to grow. Pay attention to flowers or butterflies that are only around for days.

TIPS for Engaging with and in Nature:

• Connect with Nature Every Day - Not just watching from your window. Go into a natural setting. A park, riverside, mountain, lake shore, beach. Be in fresh air and pay attention to the sky.

• Engage All of Your Senses - See, hear, taste, smell, and taste. Walk barefoot in fresh cut grass, along a sandy beach, on stepping stones. See what if feels like to become grounded and connect to the earth. Feel, and listen to the wind. Focus on subtle changes as if you are looking through a camera lens. REALLY look. Notice the variations of the shades of green in the forest, the hues of blue in the sky. Observe both the majestic and the minute.

• Know Your Place - Be in awe of the trees, the plants, the rock formations. See how nature portrays the cycles of life and death. We plant, harvest and then replant. Experience the withering of winter and the rebirth of spring.

• Turn Off the "Plugged in World" - Concentrate on the silence as well as the sounds of the natural world. Listen for the rhythms of the wind, birds’ songs, water splashing on rocks and the sounds of rustling leaves.

• Appreciate the Seasonal Changes - The ultimate balancing act is performed by Mother Nature. She tries to stay in balance no matter what is thrown her way (quite literally as people continue to pollute). Learn from her. When you are confronted by many situations, how can you be resilient and still notice where the sun shines? Study, learn, and be with nature.

Also Use Nature Metaphors
Visualize your life as a flowing river. What can you learn? Is it rushing or trickling? Are there paths that have been forged due to the constancy of the same flow or are there new paths that have formed because of a storm or a fallen tree? What obstructions interrupt the flow? What obstructions have interrupted your flow? Is the river dammed or has it created a new stream?

OR put yourself in the forest. If you are saddened over losses and feel adrift, allow the trees to embrace you with their strength, their power, and their roots. There is life; constant, regenerative life. Learn what you need to do to restore your own power and recharge your life while keeping the memory of the loss within you.

OR walk up a mountain. Keep your eye on the summit. Remember the value of stopping and looking around to notice how far you have come on your journey. Bring enough supplies so you maintain yourself along the way. Stop to rest and commend yourself for your resilience. Shift your pace; adapt your clothing as you feel you must. Approach the mountain with respect. It is your partner in your climb.

Nature Maintains Your Balance
Some paths are open, sunny and welcoming. Others are shaded and somewhat scary. Look carefully underneath the shadows and see what grows. Realize that even in the darkest places there is life. What do you need to do or say to yourself along your own path to keep your inner strength and fortitude? Life is filled with the dark and the light. Appreciation of the balance is what allows us to keep balance in our daily lives.

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