I’ve been doing a lot of stumbling lately.
I really like that word. Its main definition is about walking in an unsteady manner, being clumsy, to almost fall, or to make an error. Blunder. But I like the other definition, that of unexpectantly coming upon something – like truth.
Now that’s no error. That’s magic.
Maybe it’s because it’s Spring, or maybe it’s because the tonal of the times has shifted focus, or maybe even some element of the collective unconscious is at play, but people seem to be talking about and getting back to Nature. Because of its healing dynamism.
We stumbled upon a superpower. One that has always surrounded us.
I think this is something many of us have known for quite some time. We feel better, healthier, and happier when we’re outside. In the real world. Always have. Even as children. Maybe, especially as children.
And the great irony is just how much time and technology has been focused on “sheltering” ourselves from this world. I mean it does make sense. Some forces of nature are so overwhelmingly powerful they can erase one from the planet. We need a haven from extinction. But modern society strives, not just for harborage, but instead, for exclusion from the natural world, while at the same time professing it has conquered it.
A huge myth.
We play hide-and-seek. We hide from those elemental forces, but venture out to experience them once and a while. On our way to work, perhaps. Or on a weekend picnic.
Few of us choose to live directly in those elements, like all of the other species on the planet. Like our species used to.
But it seems more of us are trekking out. Getting back to Nature. Taking time to live. And more of us are writing about it.** In just the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen articles about appreciating the shortness of life. About living to the fullest. About working less. About recapturing our adventuring spirit. About filling every minute with exuberant experience.
About how what people really want is not higher wages, but more leisure time. To breathe deeply. About why spending our hard-earned dollars on experiences, in Nature, or in motion traveling, is much more valuable than spending those dollars on things.
Material possessions bring little in terms of actual fulfillment.
Then I stumbled on the Japanese term “shinrin-yoku,” that translates into “forest bathing” and describes the practice of getting back to the woods “for body and mind renewal.” And now hard science is demonstrating how these journeys, these “baths,” ease depression; reduce stress; decrease heart rate and blood pressure; boost the immune system; stimulate the release of hormones that guard against heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis; lower the incidence of migraine headaches; increase attention span; and boost vitality.
These same results cannot be replicated when comparing time spent in Nature and time spend in built structures.
We can’t alter our evolutionary history. At least not quickly. We came from a time of living in Nature and that is where we thrive.
And I’ll list some other sources at the bottom of this post. One of those articles focused on the Roman philosopher Seneca’s 2,000-year-old treatise titled “On the Shortness of Life.” And here’s a 2000-year-old quote I stumbled upon in that article that still rings true today:
Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present. But the man who … organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day… Nothing can be taken from this life, and you can only add to it as if giving to a man who is already full and satisfied food which he does not want but can hold. So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.***
Leave the storm. Take a hike in the natural world. The healing world. The place where souls reside.
*Yes, I borrowed the title from Jack London’s 1903 book for my post. It seemed to fit 🙂
**I wrote about this topic myself in the post Busy Living.
***My apologies for all of the male pronouns in Seneca’s quote. Authors of old frequently wrote as though the word “man” encompassed all of “human kind,” which you see also has the word “man” in it. Which is a bit exclusive of at least half of the population. Sorry about that ladies. Even the word “woman” has “man” in it. I remember a history professor of mine once pondering this issue and he came up with the word “wopeople.”
Photo: A bit of northern Montana. It’s healing just looking at the picture.
Some other articles of interest:
Link Rot: I cannot guarantee how long any link on the Net will be functional, or actually take you to the page planned. They do go defunct or get hijacked occasionally.