Nature Insight – wisdom to grow in life

Nature insight is the meditative art of finding wisdom from our natural world. By observing and understanding the ways of nature and its myriad life forms we can draw beautiful insights that help us grow in life. Through nature we learn invaluable lessons that one can apply at work, in relationships, and in life.

Insight is defined as the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something. It is a fascinating process of the human mind to transform what is observed in the outer world into a simple idea that expands our inner world exponentially. Here’s a selection of some thoughtful nature insights, and pointers on how to create new ones for yourself. Don’t miss the illuminating poem and free download at the very end.

Grow your life with nature

The most fundamental drive for all life forms is growth. To expand, replicate and evolve. In more poetic terms we call it ‘love‘. The love to live, survive and thrive. The love to grow in life.

The beauty of these insights rests in the idea that each one of us finds not only what we are looking for, but also what we are ready for. Nature adapts its lessons to suit our unique individual needs.

So, what will you find? What will you learn? Step into the world of infinite mystery.

Nature insight
Image by @ReynaXochipaMo

Nature Insight from the Forest

“We are proud of what makes us different. It is the key to the strength of the forest. Our value is based on what makes us different. You know what? Like you, we care about our own. We slow down our growth, absorb less water and capture fewer nutrients to care for the young ones. So they can have more resources and food. So they can grow strong and healthy. But we don’t limit ourselves to our own family. Our neighbours are the fungi, lichens and other organisms of the forest. We are connected by the sky, the earth and the breath.

Together, we are a huge network where we share and we co-operate. Where we all depend on each other. If one of us suffers from an attack or illness, we warn others so that they can be prepared. The bigger trees share their wisdom with the younger ones, so that they are not afraid of the future and embrace decisively the changes of the seasons and the uncertainties of nature. If one of us falls, we join forces to nurture it, so that it can continue to be part of the forest. There is no such thing as loneliness among us.”

INSIGHT: Humans have focused for so long on finding out what makes individuals different that we have forgotten what unites everyone. If people would stop to listen to the forests, what would they say? Perhaps they would tell us about community resilience, about cooperation, about finding strength in differences and about how to live in the present. Perhaps they would also remind us of all the things we have in common with them, that we share the same home and are strongly interconnected. But surely the most important thing of all is that they make us question life and how we are choosing to live.

*Credits: Andrea | Inspiration: Suzzane Simard

Nature Insight forest

Nature Insight from the Sunflower

During the growing season, the young sunflowers rotate their bright yellow heads during the day to track the sun’s movement across the sky. They reset overnight, swinging their face back to the east. This means the plants likely follow an internal rhythm. Researchers found that during the day, genes click on causing the east-facing half of the stem to grow. The lengthening stem causes the flower head to slowly bend to the west during the day. At night, genes causing the west side of the stem to grow activate, causing the head to flip back to the east.

When the plant fully matures, it faces permanently east, which benefits the aging bloom as well. The researchers found that east-facing flowers heat up more quickly in the morning, attracting five times as many pollinators as west-facing blooms. This find supports previous studies, which suggest that bees and other pollinators prefer warmer flowers in the morning.

INSIGHT: Nature works in rhythms. As individuals we all have internal body clocks with their own particular rhythms. The more we learn about our bodies, the more it seems that standardised time is badly suited to our individual needs. Our internal rhythm changes with age as well as the seasons. The truth is, we all differ when it comes to our best working hours, the amount of sleep we need, and the right times for meals. It makes sense, therefore, to pay very close attention to our own personal rhythms and build a suitable schedule around them.

*Source: Smithsonian Magazine | Insight by: Julia Hobsbawm

Nature Insight Sunflower

Nature Insight from the Monkeys

In old age, people begin to consider what was important in their lives and ask whether they achieved something. But what moves people during the course of their lives and why do they act as they do?

Until 1949, it was assumed that human and animal behaviour was controlled by inner drives and exterior motivations. Then professor of psychology Harry Harlowe made a discovery that disproved this theory: He gave eight Rhesus monkeys a mechanical puzzle. Since the primates would receive neither food nor praise if they solved the puzzle, he was convinced they would not concern themselves with it. However, the monkeys gave it a go, recognised how it worked, and, without any exterior incentives, solved it with great enjoyment. Such behaviour is also typical for us humans.

INSIGHT: When a person finds a job fulfilling, no further reward is necessary. Merely the joy of being able to program an application or to publish recipes on the internet for other people to benefit from is, frequently, motivation enough.

Striving to change something in oneself and in society is a much healthier and satisfying impetus. For more and more people, such meaningful goals have become their main driving force. People who pursue meaning in their lives want to give something back to society – which, in turn, also gives them personal strength

*Credits: Daniel Pink | Author of Drive

Nature Insight from the Sea otter

In different ecosystems there exist keystone species which hold the habitat together. If they are removed the entire habitat will fall apart. For example, sea otters, impact other predators as well as other animal and plant species farther down the food chain. When sea otters disappear from an area, the population of creatures it once hunted can explode, pushing out other organisms and reducing species diversity.

INSIGHT: Similarly to the keystone species, in our lives we have keystone habits. Simple rituals that affect all the other areas of our life as well as our wellbeing. One such keystone habit is keeping our connection with nature alive. Humans have evolved in the midst of nature. Staying connected with it yields a host of benefits for our mind and body.

Nature Insight Sea Otter

Nature Insight from the Clouds

In appearance we think we are subject to birth and death, but when we look deeply into something like a cloud, we know that it is impossible for a cloud to die. A cloud can never die. To die means from something you become nothing. From someone you become no one. But a cloud cannot become nothing. A cloud can become the rain, the snow, the mist but never nothing. So the true nature of the cloud is no birth and no death and our nature is also the same. And when we have enough concentration and insight we touch our true nature of no birth and no death. It frees us from all kinds of fear. Fear of being and fear of non-being.

NATURE FACT: The earth’s atmosphere is a very cloudy place.  NASA’s Earth Observatory estimates that at any given time, around 67% of Earth’s surface is covered by cloud. Across cultures clouds can have very different meanings, in the UK they tend to have a relatively negative symbolism, for instance, a cloud on the horizon means something bad is going to happen. However in Iran, clouds are considered as very lucky, so it would be a blessing to say ‘your sky is always filled with clouds.’

*Credits: Thích Nhất Hạnh | Source for Cloud facts.

Nature insight clouds

Nature Insight from the Microbes

Inside the tree leaf are different species of bacteria, millions of individual bacterial cells, fungi, nematodes and if these inhabitants of the leaf are taken away the leaf can no longer function.

This is also true for roots below ground. The root is made from conversation – between bacteria, fungi and the plant cell themselves. There is communication at the most intimate level, at the level of DNA from one cell to another. They are exchanging information, they are exchanging material. So the tree is a nexus, a hub for a set of relationships.

In fact, just to call something a tree, a noun – a singular being is wrong. This individuality is an illusion. All trees exist only in relationship. So do people.

Credit: David George Haskell

Insight Learning from Nature

Insight learning is a type of learning that happens spontaneously, like a flash of lightening amidst dark thunderclouds. Your brain is capable of making unexpected connections and understanding larger truths about life when it is given the right conditions. Such a state of mind can happen very easily when you are in nature.

However, in the rigour of our day-to-day life, we can get so caught up in the external world that our inner growth takes a backseat. Material growth which is not supported by inner growth can never give us lasting peace and satisfaction. Also, to overcome unusual challenges and complex problems we have to search for answers within. That is why, Insight learning can be a very helpful tool.

The basic elements of creating new insights are: awe, wonder & curiosity. Feelings which give rest to our rational, thinking mind. Nature is a store house of such untold treasures and that’s why it yields so many precious insights. Let’s learn to grow our mind, heart and spirit with nature.

Nature Insight Poem

Free Download Link

In case you found the post interesting, try our Nature Calm course to go on a learning journey with nature. Explore some amazing ideas and find insights that will aid you through your life.

The insights and ideas in our blog keep evolving with time. Just like all things in nature. To get fresh ideas in your inbox, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

If you are reading this, chances are that you may already have a deep connection with nature and it has taught you some invaluable lessons. Do add your nature insights in the comments section to grow our collective knowledge. Feel free to share this post with others, just as nature shares its wisdom with you.

Regulating Emotions – Tips from Nature

If you could change one thing to transform your life what would it be? What if it was your own mind? Learning to train your mind starts with learning to regulate your emotions. It’s because they affect your thoughts, your choices and also the people you attract into your lives.

Our emotions design our experience of life.

Managing our emotions and moods is one of the most difficult but essential skills in life. Those who can achieve it know the secret of leading richer lives with greater success, harmony and more fulfilling relationships.

*During the pandemic, a lot of people are going through a sea of emotions. In these testing times, maintaining our mental balance is as important as protecting our physical health. Through this article we share some helpful tips. If you find them useful, please share them forward. And feel free to add your thoughts and ideas in the comments to grow our collective knowledge.

Just like the virus, our moods are also contagious. Let’s learn spread some calm and hope.

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL REGULATION?

Emotional regulation is the ability to handle both the highs and lows of emotions. Generally speaking, the extremes of any emotion can have an adverse effect on us. Therefore, we need to become aware of our emotional environment. And because our emotions are constantly changing, we can learn to transform them, change their intensity and also choose how we react to them.

Going through the circus of life we often encounter situations and people that completely throw our mood off. Anger, sadness, anxiety and other bad moods are like uninvited guests. By taking up our head space, they take away our freedom and pull us down. Understanding how emotions work can show us how to train the mind and transform those bad moods even if you can’t avoid them.

The emotional center of our brain – the limbic system, is an open loop system. An open-loop system depends on external sources to manage itself. In simpler terms, we rely a lot on our environment and connections with other people to determine our moods. We have evolved in this way because it increases our chances of survival. It helps humans form relationships, protect and care for their loved ones and also find environments that were safe to live in and thrive in.

Even though the open loop is so much a part of our lives, we usually don’t notice the process. So how can we use this to our advantage? The link between our inner nature and outer nature gives us a wonderful tool to shape our emotions.

The format that we cover in this post is based on the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing. It is a well researched and highly effective practice and has a host of other benefits besides helping you regulate your emotions.
* Forest Bathing Introduction | Forest Therapy in Japan

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS?

There are many ways to train the mind to control your emotions, but with nature it’s easier. It’s because, our mind has evolved in nature. In this post we will cover 5 stages of learning to control your emotions. The stages help you progress steadily and create a longer lasting effect.

Emotional skills are part of our genetic code, and each one of us has a certain mood that we are more prone to. However, experience also plays a big role in how our personality develops. The more we act a certain way—be it happy, depressed, or cranky—the more the behaviour becomes ingrained in our brain circuitry, and the more we will continue to feel and act that way.

1. The Forest – Knowing what’s possible

Go for a nature walk. Focus on your strongest sense and find something in nature that brings you deep calm. Stay with that emotion as long as you can. Later when you are at home, sit in a quiet space and try to recreate the same emotion by visualising your moment in nature. Practicing this exercise helps us recreate emotions we can fall back on when the need arises.

The basic practice of learning to regulate our emotions begins with observing, accepting and transforming. Many behaviour change programs include Mindfulness as part of the process. By adding nature to mindfulness we can make it far more engaging and effective.

Emotions are absorbed in the body in about six seconds. Each burst of emotion chemicals, from the time it’s produced in the hypothalamus to the time it’s completely broken down and absorbed, lasts about six seconds. If we’re feeling something for longer than six seconds, we are – at some level – choosing to recreate and refuel those feelings. Recognizing what emotion we are feeling, evaluating its purpose, and deciding whether to recreate it, is what emotional intelligence is all about. (source)

2. The Storms – Knowing yourself

Knowing what triggers you will help you in being better prepared. Make a list of people, situations and environments that affect you negatively. Also knowing how you affect others will show you areas that need improvement. Talk to family, friends and colleagues. Take feedback.

Our moods are like the weather – they can create a climate of trust, creativity and growth, or they can spread dark clouds of stress, fear and anxiety. Practice becoming aware of the links between what’s happening around you and what’s happening inside you.

A good mood leads to a good day.

According to scientists, there are 8 primary emotions: joy, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, acceptance, anticipation. Other important emotions, like ‘love’ are a complex combination of some of these primary emotions. These permutation and combinations give our mind its emotional richness. In nature we work with the emotions of awe and wonder to create joy, serenity, love and even compassion.

3. The Path – Creating an action plan

The effects of nature work in a dose curve. The more time you spend in nature, the better it is for you. Depending on your need and situation, you can design an action plan for lifting your mood when you are down.

Identify special places in nature you have access to. Find landscapes, elements, and activities in nature that you enjoy. It could be sitting next to a stream, lying on the grass, reading under a tree or walking barefoot. Know what works for you and build a plan for training your mind. The deeper your nature experience is, the stronger its effect.

When you are in nature, focus on all your senses. Soak in the sights, sounds and smells. Taste the freshness and feel the textures. Our senses work at a subconscious level. They also help in bringing your awareness to the present moment. Negative thoughts are easier to quell when we bring our attention to a pleasing sensation.

When you are in nature shift from thinking to sensing, and from sensing to simply being.

*For some beautiful ideas, try our Nature Calm course, with a collection of over 100 creative and mindful activities to find your calm.

4. The Cycles – Keeping momentum

Nature works in rhythm… birdsong in the morning, phases of the moon, and cycle of seasons. Interestingly, so does our mind. Create a habit of adding nature into your life. Whether it is the daily ritual spent with your plants and pets, a weekly nature walk, an annual vacation in the forest. Build a rhythm into your life. It keeps you in a good mood and maintains your momentum.

Even if you can’t access nature, simple acts of watching clouds fly by, listening to bird song, feeling the breeze on your skin and many other small ideas can keep you connected to nature.

Creating a momentum helps you break deep rooted emotional patterns which may be difficult to get rid of.

5. The Friends – Creating a community

Our moods affect our relationships deeply. Therefore, community is the most important aspect of your mind training. Remember, our moods are linked to the moods of people in our lives.

Go for a silent nature walk with those you wish to build a deeper connect with. Let nature do all the talking. Close bonds can form between people who allow each other their own space and yet share a beautiful experience together.

Everyone knows the importance of emotional intelligence in life. Most successful people, teams and families have a high level of emotional intelligence. What people don’t realise is that the foundation of this intelligence comes from the ability to regulate emotions. Emotions in ourselves as well as others.

THE EMOTIONS

Our emotions are deeply linked to hormone levels, cardiovascular functions, sleep rhythms, and even immune functions in the body. And strong emotions can even alter these in the body of another. It’s a phenomenon called mood contagion.

Research in intensive care units has shown, for example, that the comforting presence of another person not only lowers the patient’s blood pressure but also slows the secretion of fatty acids that block arteries. Another study found that three or more incidents of intense stress within a year (for example, serious financial trouble, being fired, or a divorce) triples the death rate in socially isolated middle-aged men, but it has no impact on the death rate of men with many close relationships. (Source)

So you see, our emotional health is linked to our mental health, physical health as well as social health.

Changing your mood changes your experience of life.

Creating a deep connection with nature is like growing roots that will keep us stable and anchored in stormy situations. And during calmer times, they will nourish the very essence of our being, helping us enrich other people’s lives with our presence.

May the forest calm always be with you.

We live in a complex world, facing challenges big and small each day. The twists and turns of life affect us in many ways. Therefore, learning to take control of our own wellbeing is an important skill. Discover how to find peace, purpose and good health with the help of nature. We share the best ideas and practices from around the world. Please subscribe to our blog for a monthly newsletter with new ideas.

Do share this post with people who might find it helpful.

Nature Calm – Finding Peace In Difficult Times

Nature Calm

Nature Calm offers simple ways to still your mind and recenter your spirit so that you may deal better with challenges, because finding peace in difficult times is never easy. In this article we will learn from wise masters, established teachers and some poetic seekers. We have collected some exceptional meditations that take inspiration from Nature. The cloud, tree, forest, river, ocean, desert, and mountain can all show you the path of finding your calm.

The very nature of life is to move through cycles of ups and downs. No matter how much we try to predict or control our paths, we are bound to encounter the unexpected. 

With the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus, people across the world are going through testing times. There is uncertainty, anxiety, suffering and loss. Amidst all this, there is also a big need for hope and resilience. Each one of us has to navigate our own journey through this storm. What we can do, is take nature’s help in finding our inner strength and peace. We can grow an awareness that this phase will not last forever. The rainbow at the end of the storm is waiting for us. 

7 Ways To Still Your Mind

Mountain Calm

Nature Calm Poem
pic by: Daniel Leone

The following excerpt has been taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mountain Meditation.

Allow the body to be still and sit with a sense of dignity, a sense of resolve, a sense of being complete, whole, in this very moment, with your posture reflecting this sense of wholeness. 

As you sit here, let an image form in your mind’s eye, of the most magnificent or beautiful mountain you know or have seen or can imagine…, let it gradually come into greater focus… and even if it doesn’t come as a visual image, allowing the sense of this mountain and feeling its overall shape, its lofty peak or peaks high in the sky, the large base rooted in the bedrock of the earth’s crust, it’s steep or gently sloping sides… 

Notice how massive it is, how solid, how unmoving, how beautiful, whether from a far or up close…

By becoming the mountain in our meditation practice, we can link up with its strength and stability and adopt them for our own. We can use its energies to support our energy to encounter each moment with mindfulness and equanimity and clarity.

It may help us to see that our thoughts and feelings, our preoccupations, our emotional storms and crises, even the things that happen to us are very much like the weather on the mountain. We tend to take it all personally, but its strongest characteristic is impersonal. 

The weather of our own lives is not be ignored or denied, it is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in awareness… And in holding it in this way, we come to know a deeper silence and stillness and wisdom. 

Mountains have this to teach us and much more if we can let it in.

Cloud Meditation

The freedom of an ever moving, ever changing cloud represents the freedom of spirit. One that is not fixed or attached to things that hold us down. Watch this meditative short film from the ‘Valley of Clouds’ and reflect on the cloud within you.

Forest Calm

One way of interpreting the word ‘Forest’ is to see it as a place ‘for rest‘. In this beautiful poem ‘Sleeping in the Forest’ by Mary Oliver, we find respite from a weary world and return to a place of deep calm.

I thought the earth remembered me,
She took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, as they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
~ Mary Oliver

pic by: Katriina Kilpi

Tree Song

Listening to the song of trees is one of the most calming sounds in nature. The wind in the leaves and birds in the branches can slow down the movement of time and fill your heart with joy.

You can create your own tree song at this link.
https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/primevalEuropeanForestSoundscapeGenerator.php

This soundscape has been recorded in the Bieszczady National Park — one of the few remaining primeval forests in Europe. Bieszczady is located at the extreme south-east corner of Poland, bordering Slovakia and Ukraine. The park and its surroundings are part of the wider UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, an area of land where the woods are mostly natural.

The bird sounds as well as the other animal sounds were recorded by hiding recorders in the forest and leaving them running for 24-hours continuously, without any human presence.

pic by: Gert Boers

River Story

Fable: Two giants were about to get into an epic battle. Everyone was nervous and yet there was a thrill in the air. One of the giants was immovable and had stood his ground for centuries. He was made of solid rock and no one had been able to make him move from his place. The other giant was crafty and nimble. She could twist and turn and had never been still. No one had been able to stop her yet. 

In a frozen moment of great tension the two giants collided. There was a loud roar that echoed into space. The river pounded with all its force, but the mountain stood his ground. The river’s current was strong, but it had to find ways to flow around and carry on. After watching with great interest the spectators decided that the rock giant was stronger and went to congratulate it. But the mountain was surprised and retorted angrily ‘Can’t you see I am losing?’ 

In a battle that rages till this day, the River Colorado manages to cut through the Grand Canyon forming one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.

Insight: Perseverance can move mountains. The way of water is stronger than the way of the rock.

Amazing fact: The Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration

I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.

~John O’Donohue
pic by: Ivan Bandura

Ocean Poem

The vastness of the ocean is often daunting, for one is always cautious of the unknown. In this wonderful poem by Khalil Gibran we find a metaphor of the river and ocean for overcoming our fears.

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
~ by Khalil Gibran

pic by: John Fowler

Desert Meditation

Many people perceive the desert as a harsh and difficult place to live in. But ecologists know that deserts have their own unique ecosystem and many species live and thrive in the desert.

Philosophically speaking, the desert represents emptiness. To meditate on the desert is to meditate on emptiness. It is to go beyond the clutter of thoughts and emotions and to find the vast open space within us.

In following passage from Jack Kornfield’s book ‘A Path With Heart’, he introduces us to the Buddhist concept of healing through emptiness.

“The last aspect of mindful healing is awareness of the universal laws that govern life. Central to it is an understanding of emptiness. We experience it when we see that our existence is transitory, that our body, heart, and mind arise out of the changing web of life, where nothing is disconnected or separate.

The deepest experiences in meditation lead us to an intimate awareness of life’s essential openness and emptiness, of its ever-changing nature, of its nature as an unstoppable process. And it can open us to the great mystery of life, to the discovery of the emptiness and wholeness that we are and our fundamental unity with all things.”

GIFT OF NATURE CALM

There are many scientific reasons for the calming effect of nature on our minds. Here’s an article by Mental Floss to list some of the major benefits. But the most important phenomenon of connecting with nature is a growth in our understanding of the laws of nature that weave through all creation.

The coronavirus has shown us that the fate of our species is linked with each other, irrespective of borders and religion. It is time to grow our humanity, come together as a species and lend our support to those in need because we are all connected. There are no others.  

As the world enters a lockdown and our forays into nature become limited, we can still find solace and connection with nature through creative works, meditations and most importantly through each other.

Please add any creative work from nature that has brought you immense calm in the comments section below. We will share it with our large audience base on Facebook.

May the calm of nature always be with you.

End Note

To get a monthly newsletter with new ideas please sign up at this link.  If you enjoyed this post, do check out our Nature Calm course with over 100+ mindful nature activities and meditations from around the world.

Please share this article with friends who might find it helpful.

How forests heal people – in 6 pictures

Here’s a wonderful forest tip for all the creatures living in the urban jungle. There are times when we all have to face challenges in life, big or small. This short comic explores the connections of nature with our mind and body. It throws light on how to create moments of calm and healing when you need it the most.

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Gorilla-B

Scientists around the world are finding out the health benefits of spending time in forests. But there are millions of people around the world who suffer silently from anxiety, depression and stress related problems. Nature can help in healing. This is an important idea that needs to be spread far and wide. If you would like a high res copy of the images in this comic strip to post on your blog / fb click here (Dropbox zip file). Please do provide a link back to our healing forest website in your post.

Credits: Art by Arif Hussain ; Information source: Infom.org, Shinrin-yoku.org

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Healing Forest is a journey to discover the magical healing powers of nature. To find ways to bring back the connection that people and nature shared not so long ago.  Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Join us in this exploration of fascinating forests and inspiring stories of healing from nature. Subscribe to our monthly healing notes : CLICK HERE

To know more visit: www.healingforest.org/about