What is it about nature that opens people up? Although I grew up in a rural area, only in the past few years have I really acknowledged the transformative effects nature has on even the most closed-up people. Nature touches our hearts and our minds, and ultimately shakes our spirit alive again, reconnecting us to an essential part of ourselves that seems to have been forgotten.
I first became aware of this effect when working in Vallebona. Every Saturday we would welcome a new set of guests to join us for a week of adventures on horseback through the Tuscan countryside. People would often arrive tense and reserved, obviously preoccupied with thoughts from work or their every day lives, not used to making conversation with strangers… But after a day or so, a magical thing would happen: Muscles would relax, hearts would open and real joyful smiles would appear on people’s faces. Over the week, you’d listen to stories from these peoples’ lives that even they had forgotten were hidden inside them… The weight of the world would literally begin to lift off them and their shoulders would visibly drop. By the end of the week the guests would go home with a newfound sense of peace and clarity, and I like to think it would stay with them, at least for a while. I witnessed the exact same thing on Corrour, and now here in the Colorado wilderness too.
I’ve heard it said that a few days immersed in nature has had more of a profound effect on a person than months of therapy provides, and I can totally see it…although I am still trying to pin down exactly what it is about nature that facilitates this. Is it natures power to silence us? To make us realise how insignificant us and our problems really are?
I firmly believe that people need an element of wild in their lives in order to feel truly content. Soooo many people out there feel like there is something missing in their lives, yet they cannot put their finger on what it is… But really, when you think about it, it wasn’t that long ago in terms of human history when we were living with nature; hunting and gathering for our survival, preparing for and experiencing each season fully. Now, I am not one to romanticise the past as I know life must have been a daily struggle, but the sense of purpose that comes from living with nature instead of cutting ouselves off from it is essential to our happiness. That elusive missing element in many peoples’ lives, I think, is a true connection to nature.
Modern life provides us with 365 days of comfort. We have concrete, walls and roofs to keep us clean and dry. We have air conditioning to cool the lazy hazy days of summer down and central heating to heat the cold and frosty days of winter up. We have every kind of fruit and vegetable we desire available no matter what month, and meat in abundance, butchered and packaged for us in every cut imaginable ready to be picked up off the shelf. Man has manipulated the world to fit his needs, and in turn has separated us from the very thing that created us. Technology can provide us with every sight, sound and taste we desire really at just the press of a button. As a result, the senses that we once relied upon for survival and real enjoyment have been dulled considerably. We don’t need sharpened senses to warn us of the advances of a predator anymore, and why head out and immerse ourselves in the beauty of the Highlands when we can sit on our sofas with a bar of chocolate and listen to Ewan McGregor narrate us around them instead, eh?
But it’s our dulled senses coming alive again that I believe is one of the key factors to natures transformative effects. The body starts to FEEL again! Our senses, so used to being overloaded and therefore shut down, begin to tune into the sounds, scents and feel of nature. We hear the snapping of the twigs that alerts us to the deer that just ran behind us, we smell the wild herbs growing on the hillside, we taste the pure mountain water from the stream…we remember where we came from, we realise the circle of life. It reignites our spark and it humbles us.
So! I beg you, instead of living life through just your television set and replacing real life experience with a Netflix monthly pass, head outside and witness nature doing its thing. Cause think about it… If nature has the ability to transform individuals, and individuals have the ability to transform society, and society has the ability to transform the world… Then what are we waiting for?! Xxx