by Sandrine Harris
You are me, and I am you.
Isn’t it obvious that we “inter-are”?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.
I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Connection is an important part of who we are. As the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his poem “Interrelationship,” we “inter-are” — and our connections begin with the primary relationship in our lives: the relationship we have with ourselves.
There is a whole body of scientific research in the area of connection, including the intersection of presence, deep listening, and how meaningful relationships shape how we feel and how we are. Indeed, connecting with ourselves daily, and with community, is paramount for health and well-being.
One of my greatest pathways to feeling well and reconnecting to myself is through being immersed in a natural setting. Nature is medicine for my nervous system, and it also provides a sort of mental reset. Removed from the illuminated screens of electronic devices, temporarily absent from the “culture of busy,” and outside of the feeling that I need to propel forward in life at every moment, I begin to meet myself anew in nature. I stop looking for ways to be doing and begin to more fully turn to the present moment. From this place, I can check in with myself and notice what comes up in my thoughts and feelings, and in my body, too. The inspiration of nature makes room for me to reconnect with myself, and allows me to come back into relationship with others with greater ease.
One of the immediate gifts I notice when walking in the forest, on a country road, or beside a lake is that I naturally slow down. The pace of my walking becomes connected to sensing the ground beneath my feet. My sight sharpens as I notice the light filtering through the leaves on the tree branches. I begin to tune into bird songs, and hear the wind patterns more clearly. And, most interestingly, the longer I bathe in this present-moment experience of nature, the more my sense of inward connection and well-being naturally spring forth. When I meditate with this feeling, I can sense the greater connection of my life to the lives of all living beings, and this happens effortlessly.
Re-emerging from time in nature, I can feel the shift — and more space and capacity to connect with other people. I am more open and less reactive in my thought patterns. I also notice greater positivity in my feelings and thoughts.
We know that being in nature can boost the immune system, assist in stress relief, and bring more beauty into our lives. I also believe from personal experience, that it helps us build greater connectivity from the inside out.