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I love research reports that reveal what we all already know to be true. One recent study found that people who spend 2 or more hours a week in Nature were happier. They had a greater sense of well-being.
Indeed, it does seem that Nature heals.
Some of my own peak experiences of joy, awe, wonder, and reverence have been in Nature. Along a wooded path, beside a stream, at the edge of a lake, on a mountaintop, or along the seashore. The sights and sounds of Nature leave us awash in beauty. The stillness of Nature helps to quiet our busy minds. I’ve had several awakening experiences while in Nature that have profoundly altered my life. One experience was an experience of “no self” while running in the woods. Suddenly the obvious was revealed; There is no “Mike,” only “Miking.” No thinker, only thinking. This realization has greatly helped me to not take my brain quite so personally and to have greater self-compassion for the workings of this amazing brain.
Another experience I once had while walking along the shoreline of the ocean was the experience of nonduality. I, the ocean, the sky, the sand, were all one. This is difficult to put into words. It left me, however, with a feeling of oneness with all that is that has shifted my identity to encompass more of a sense of being part of the One Life of which we all are a part. It cemented in me the realization that I am the Universe aware of Itself and that I live not so much for me but for the One Life.
Another experience I once had occurred while reading Thomas Merton, journaling, and meditating beside a high Sierra lake. I was meditatively taking in the fish, the birds, the bugs and the plants. I suddenly again experienced the obvious of which I had previously been only dimly aware; that there is a sacred life force that is surging through all of Life, with me being just one small part of this vast force. I realized that this force was about all of life, and not just me. This left me feeling humility, awe, reverence, a deep respect, and a desire to live my life in service of this sacred life force. It no longer mattered so much how many books I wrote, how many papers I published, or how many talks I gave. What matters most is how well I love others. Love is what matters most.
I think the stillness and beauty of Nature triggered all my awakening experiences. Being in Nature can put everything in its proper perspective and bring about a feeling of peace, contentment, awe, and reverence. Nature heals. Make time in Nature a regular routine. It will not only help to optimize your vitality, it may even help you to awaken, as has been the case with me.