Learning from Nature

Every time I have a major dilemma in life, I seek out nature. It is an ancient urge to return to something wiser than myself. If I walk in nature or just go outside, the noise falls away and leaves clarity behind. It’s as if my brain needs to commune with nature’s peaceful, evolving order in order to come up with the best way forward. In nature, it seems right to focus on me, and it matters again what I truly need.

Nature supports individuality. Nothing is uniform. Everything has its own unique expression. The unpredictable and undeniable individuality of nature reflects and intensifies the experience of our true being. You feel more alive in nature, as your life broadens and takes on a perspective that calms and strengthens. Being in nature is like finding yourself amongst a remarkable group of beings that are completely at ease with themselves and show no sign of needing you to be anything other than what you are too. It’s like entering a gathering of people who are connected, interested, and welcoming to you. You just pick up and start anywhere because they are happy you’re there.

I suspect that nature feels the same way about us. When we observe nature’s beauty, I believe we are entering into a circle of appreciation between living things. This is not so strange if you consider that all life started from a common source and developed into different forms through adaptations over eons. I think we still recognize each other, whether we ended up as part of nature or as a human being. When we walk in nature, we are amongst friends, whose ancestors are intertwined with ours. We belong together as fellow flourishers from the oldest days of this planet.

Let’s not forget that we are organic, too. We are as carbon-based as the trees, and like them, we develop naturally in an organized way. Like nature, we evolved as life forms growing and adapting in the air and sunshine. The way nature looks now is a living record of that adaptive process. Like a tree or a blade of grass, we gravitate toward the nutrients and energy available in our environment. We start to wilt when we’re in the wrong place, but once we make the right adjustments, we’re back on track. No wonder solutions arise naturally when we let nature speak to our core.

Unfortunately, human beings have lost touch with the easy knowledge of knowing what we need more of and what we need less of. Instead we have migrated deep inside our heads—perhaps the last huge migration of the human species—to emphasize thinking instead of being. When we have problems, we believe we should sit down and figure them out, like students at our desks. We accept as normal that everything should be learned through our rational, logical brains, and that nothing worthwhile is produced from simply enjoying calmness on a daily basis. But in fact, that steady peacefulness is how all of nature was formed: a graceful, calm response to environmental challenges.

When we force ourselves to exclusively use effortful, deliberate problem solving, we are relying on a part of the brain that is incredibly expensive energy-wise. It tires quickly, especially if we are anxious. Pushing hard for a solution can give us lists and comparisons of either-or decisions, but these don’t necessarily get us to the heart of the matter. By overusing this intense part of the brain, we end up tired, frustrated, and often in a bad mood. The strain of problem solving depletes our feel-good chemicals.

Our logical, rational minds are based on straight lines, right angles, and efficiency. We push ourselves toward fast decisions to make sure we don’t waste time or resources. It’s a crimped approach that believes the best decision-making is the shortest line between two points. Straight lines are rare in nature and more likely to be found in minerals than living things. Forcing our minds into these harsh dimensions takes the flow out of our natural creativity and resourcefulness.

But to live our best lives, effort and efficiency don’t necessarily result in the best decisions. Nature shows us a wildly successful different approach. Living more naturally takes your energy stores into account by seeking the easiest route, not the most direct route. Nature is friendly with time, but isn’t pushed by it. Its style is opportunistic; it doesn’t believe in straight lines. It models how to arrive at the finish with most of your goodness intact.

Nature is the bedrock of our subconscious minds, the part where creativity, inspiration, and dreams come from. This part of our mind is like a growing vine, sending out shoots and leaves in an unhurried, elegant fashion as it heads for the sunlight and food. It reaches for the top according to what it has soaked up from the bottom. It doesn’t push itself to grow past the limits of its nurturance, as we do all the time. Nature lives by the rules; output has to be in balance with input. When we forget this, we exhaust ourselves, resulting in anxiety and poor health. Nature reminds us that everything you see above ground depends on what has happened underground.

Are you following that rule? That for every advance there must be a replenishment of energies and rest? Or do you treat yourself like a machine, always forcing yourself into extremes?

Being in nature will remind you of your origins and needs. Nature will reconnect you with healthy instincts to guide you forward with the least resistance. Nature is so true to itself, it rubs off on us. It is showing us that we can have a vibrant life by being ourselves. It’s a message from a kindly parent who wants only our best. No wonder we call her Mother Nature.

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