The great neurologist and author Oliver Sacks wrote “My religion is nature. That’s what arouses those feelings of wonder and mysticism and gratitude in me.”
This post explores the ancient sense of belonging that so many of us feel when we are embedded in nature, and how that connectedness and belonging translates into quantifiable health benefits. Our natural world has held, embraced and provided the substrate for our very existence forever. And in the last century we have suffered greater disconnect and dislocation than ever before. As the green and holding spaces are obliterated in favour of progress and modernity, our bodyminds come to bear the brunt of this disconnect. We ache, we hurt, we are anxious, we are sad.
We are aliens.
In a very real sense the life that flourishes around us is held as separate, to be feared and sanitised. We are not allowed to sink our sensual natures into the ripeness of the world around. We are held ransom by the trappings of modernity, the portable “connected” world around us is actually disconnecting us. We are aliens to our natures and to nature. Part of the offering of “being well” is the exciting possibility of reconnecting. Our bodies evolved to be part of nature, our senses and perceptions shaped and were shaped by our interaction with the elemental forces which we take for granted.
So what do the sciences tell us about where we are and how far can they take us back in the direction of reconnecting? It is estimated that by 2050 just under 70% of people will live in urban environments. These environments are not conducive to good health. Noise, poor air quality, and the high stress levels we experience are all important factors in the generation of illness (mental and physical). In spite of a lack of funding the research into forest therapy or nature exposure therapy has come a long way and has shown positive results in the management of Cardiovascular disease, immune issues, neuro-endocrine and psychological problems. As is the way of the scientific method, more research is needed before stronger, more conclusive claims can be made.
This leads us to ask – What personal moments of nature inspired flow, connection, bliss, awe may we share?
How do these natural moments affect the biome, the epidermal-neural continuities?
How do the grip of the toes in mud, the drip of the nose in the cold inform, heal or hurt us?
We are privileged to be embodied, to have minds that interact through muscle and gristle with limbs and the world around us. Let us connect our bodies with the timelessness of the elements. Bury your hand in mud, lie next to flowing water, feel your spine on the ground, wedge a rock into that aching lower back. Perhaps this exploration may allow us greater recourse to our bodies and the “nature shamed” disconnect that we all suffer with.
And to close with Oliver Sacks again: “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure”.
With the relocation of the practice to my home in the Assagay Valley… Please request a session outdoors. Each session promises a safe space to be heard, to learn to move better with or through pain, to explore the archetypal rest postures, to experience specific breathwork, to engage in strength and rehabilitation that is focused and relevant and if appropriate to receive high value, safe manual therapy.