Connecting with the earth and nature gives me a very different perspective on which to base my environmental endeavours. Feeling a deep connection with nature, and experiencing myself as part of our living, breathing planet – not separate from it – supports me in acting for positive change, and earth care, in a natural and passionate way.
I’m motivated and I act because of the love, respect and connection I feel for nature; not because I’m fearful that, as humans, we’re trashing the planet and we’re all going to die.
I have felt this way since I was a young person, exploring my grandparents’ garden. Simply spending periods of time in nature, especially forests, supported me to deepen this sense of connection with all of nature: to sense myself as a part of our beautiful blue-green planet earth.
In the early 1980s I came across deep ecology in permaculture courses. Deep ecology – which dissolves the delusion of separation between humans, the earth and all living things – involves a deep questioning of environmental issues and the part humans play in the whole ecosystem. It has become a movement, offering practices to support people to connect deeply with nature.
The following exercise, inspired by deep ecology, is one I use and share with groups.
Remember And Imagine
With your eyes open to read this, remember a time – recently or long ago – when you were in an ancient forest and felt really at peace there, at home and deeply connected. If you’ve never been in an old growth forest, imagine what it must be like to experience, from the inside, a forest that’s never been logged or tampered with by humans.
Remember or imagine the journey you took to get to that special forest. Maybe you walked, rode a bike or arrived in a car. Remember approaching the edge of the forest and slowly making your way under the canopy. Feel the change in temperature and difference in light levels. Maybe there is more moisture in the air. Feel the earth beneath your feet, and the crunching of leaves as you walk further into the forest. Listen to the sounds of the birds and other animals.
Rest And Breathe
After a time, imagine finding a comfortable place to sit and rest, maybe with your back leaning up against a giant old tree. Relax and breathe deeply, noticing each breath. Relax more and more with each out-breath; and breathe in the forest, the trees, the animals and the soil with each in-breath.
After a time, begin to sense that as you breathe out, the trees close to you breathe in your exhaled carbon dioxide, then break it down and release it as oxygen into the air. Feel yourself as part of this cycle. As you breathe out the trees breathe in: the trees emit oxygen, and you inhale this gift.
Breathe with this awareness for a few breaths. Now feel yourself breathing with the whole forest, exchanging breaths, connecting deeply with all the elements of this primal place. Allow yourself to feel part of the forest, one of the essential components of this dynamic and diverse system. Continue this for as long as you like, then slowly bring yourself back, in your imagination, along the path you took to the forest, gently making your way back to your ordinary consciousness and to where you are sitting now.
Imagine that the forest you ‘visited’ is threatened in some way. With the sense and knowing of deep connection you have with nature, are you able to act out of love, care and connection rather than from fear? Feel the despair, express it if you need to, yet act through the strength of your knowing that nature is our sustenance; forests are our heart; the earth is our grounding and our home.
In permaculture we look to nature, and consider how nature would do things. Likewise, we can look to indigenous cultures, for guidance and wisdom about how to be with nature. Most indigenous peoples, pre-invasion, lived in communion with all others who shared their world. They didn’t consider themselves separate or better from other species. Many traditional societies still take only what they need, respectfully, and share their surplus and give thanks for the harvest. Let’s remember, as a modern species, to do this too.
When we have this sense of connection and oneness with nature we don’t need to be implored to plant trees, or made to feel guilty with figures of deforestation, global warming or species loss. Nor do we need to be bored with all the statistics. When we feel deeply connected to nature we act because we care, for the love of all of nature, including ourselves.