‘There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.’ CALVIN COOLIDGE, speech, Jul. 25, 1924
Getting ill is scary. Our lives are suddenly even more in the hands of others. Most people leave the diagnosis and their recovery to the ‘experts’. It’s an outside-in approach. We’ve been taught that someone else knows better and something else like surgery or medication is the solution. And yet even with so many experts around there are illnesses which remain enigma’s and those which remain staunchly non-co-operative to any intervention.
When we become sick we find ourselves in high-rise hospitals with bright lights where every tiny bit of natural matter is eradicated as effectively as possible. Divorced from the natural world we’re infused with chemicals every which way we turn. No matter that medical drugs are inspired by nature. By the time they make it through the pharmaceutical company conveyor belt of science and production they’ve been denatured and copied in order to receive their precious patent. Without these patents we’d be using what nature intended and not supporting these corporate giants to become the financial equivalents of small countries.
Whatever we’ve been taught in the past it seems the most powerful reason for contracting ill health is stress. Not just the usual day to day stresses but deep-seated stresses which we are not even consciously aware of. It’s this level of stress which eventually weakens the naturally brilliant immune system of our bodies to the point where a disease can take hold.
Stanford University Medical School sites Dr Bruce Lipton, a highly renowned and respected cell biologist, stating that stress is the cause of at least 95% of illness and disease. Dr Lipton reports that the remaining 5% is genetic and is still caused by stress but somewhere in our ancestry.
How much of this stress is contributed through our living and working environment?
Drawn to the city for work we’re living in smaller spaces with fewer opportunities to experience unpolluted fresh air and engage with nature. Our concrete jungle keeps us away from the earth, the grass, trees, even the horizon and the elements. We have air conditioning to keep us cool and central heating to keep us warm, covered walkways to keep us dry, TV and radios to keep away the silence and all the time we have an endless requirement to be busy to pay for all this.
The less time we spend out in the natural world, staying surrounded by a life totally fabricated by man, the less we believe we have what it takes to survive, let alone thrive. We have forgotten we are an intrinsic part of nature and so experience ourselves as distinctly separate from others, alone in an often unforgiving world. Our performance becomes paramount and life is filled with effort. We are often taught we have to ‘be’ something and that simply ‘being’ is not enough. No wonder we feel stressed out. This separation underlies the stress which causes our diseases.
When chemicals are made from denatured copies of healing components found in nature, they become toxic to our systems. Could the levels of these denatured chemicals we ingest through food as well as medication cause further extreme stress in our bodies, forcing our overloaded systems to work even harder and ultimately suppressing our natural ability to heal ourselves?
So What’s Good About Nature?
After decades of reading the news that pharmaceutical companies are creating all the answers to our health problems there is new light at the end of the tunnel. When you start reading that some of the National Health Services in the UK are discussing the health benefits of nature you know the mainstream is beginning to sit up straight from its slouch and listen. This is the opening paragraph in one of their documents:
‘There is substantial and growing evidence that nature can make a major contribution to improving health and well-being. Nature is an untapped resource that could significantly contribute to health and in turn provide considerable financial savings to the economy.’
They go on to list specific benefits after reviewing and researching information globally:
There is compelling evidence that contact with nature can:
• maintain good health
• help recovery from illness
• alleviate stress and mental health problems
• improve physical health
• improve quality of life for older people
• enhance social interaction and improve community cohesion
• reduce aggression, violence and crime
• improve children’s well-being into adulthood.
Hampshire County Council (http://www3.hants.gov.uk/nature__health_and_well-being.pdf)
‘Plants are more than their chemical constituents. They are intelligent beings that have the capacity to raise consciousness to a level where true healing can take place.’ Pam Montgomery, Plant Spirit Healing
Proof That Nature Is Better Than Medication Alone
If you’re in hospital recovering from a gall bladder operation, for example, do you think there would be any difference in your recovery rate and need for pain relief if you had a view out of the window of trees or a brick wall?
A landmark study at a small hospital in Pennsylvania in1984 was undertaken by a fascinated scientist, Roger Ulrich, who studied groups of gall-bladder patients over a ten year period. They were divided in to two identical recovery wards with just one difference. One had a view through the window of leafy trees and the other room had a view of a brick wall.
The results were surprising. The patients who had the connection with nature, even though it was on the other side of a window, were able to leave the hospital a day before the others, needed less pain medication and reported fewer problems throughout their recovery.
Repeated tests and studies have shown that contact with nature has a profound impact on our physical and mental well-being. It can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and stress, support clarity of thought, benefit attention disorders as well as improve behaviour and learning in children.
Biophilia – Our Vital Bond With Nature
If we think of ourselves as human and everything else as ‘nature’ then it’s not surprising we’ve been happy to disassociate from it and think of it as separate. But when we remember we are a part of nature – we couldn’t be anything else – then the concept that our bond with nature is vital, makes complete sense.
Our brains are hard-wired to perceive certain threats in nature even if we’ve never been exposed to them before. We’re also hard-wired to recognise natural environments which would be beneficial to us. This intuitive awareness of the natural world is still held within our make-up, explains the deeply thought-provoking book ‘Your Brain On Nature’ by Eva M Selhub MD and Alan C Logan ND.
Roger Ulrich, the scientist who discovered patients recovered faster and with less pain when they had views of nature also studied the effect of nature views versus urban views on people’s ability to de-stress. Ulrich took his participants through an hours test in a windowless room to prompt feelings of stress. Dividing them in to two groups afterwards he showed one group images of nature and the other group images of urban areas. The ones being visually stimulated by nature became friendlier, playful and elated. The other group became sad. The emotions of anger and aggression decreased in those looking at nature but increased in the poor lot with only urban images to view. Explains a lot about increasing crime in urban areas don’t you think?
Perhaps there is merit in shifting the outside-in approach to our health care and rather than hand over all responsibility to the medical ‘experts’, let nature share the journey. This way we connect with something seemingly intangible which has been our ally since the dawn of time.
So what is it that heals us? Exploring ‘grounding’ or ‘earthing’ it appears there is an energy, or vibration which creates a healing response in us. Clint Ober, a man from Fort Dodge Iowa discovered what he called Grounding. He says ‘through an inexplicable series of events, a compelling force would lead me to understand that we humans have a bio-electrical connection with the earth. One that with simple ground contact neutralises charge in the body and naturally protects the nervous system…’
In Alaska one mans chronic back pain led him to test this idea of grounding by lying naked on the ground underneath his house during the winter. Now that may sound like an extreme thing to do but it did the trick and within a short period of time he was pain free. There are any number of success stories from all around the world. But luckily you don’t need to take such challenging measures as this man did. You can buy earthing sheets to put on your bed which link you to the bare ground outside. However bare skin on earth is a particularly powerful gift to yourself.
This extraordinary documentary is well worth watching on this fascinating subject.
How Do We Get Back To Nature?
Nature is our element. Take us consistently out of our element and we’ll suffer – something a massive number of us are already experiencing. Pop us back in nature and we’ll respond, sometimes more quickly than we anticipate as we resonate with the elemental world around us.
Forest-bathing or ‘shinrin yoku’ is a simple way to re-connect with nature which brings us out of our mental head space and back to the present moment. The Japanese, who developed this in the 1980’s, use it as a powerful preventative measure in their health care. These days we expect a new therapeutic tool to be relatively complex as they have evolved out of previous therapies and yet this is far more about letting go.
Wandering and meandering under the boughs of trees allows the busyness of the mind to calm down and our pace to return to slow, gentle and rejuvenating. As we do this, research explains, we absorb an organic compound radiated by the tress which helps the ‘killer cells’ in our immune system be more effective.
There is little to do but become aware of the world around us. Indulge in simple exercises like focusing on the wind through the leaves of the tree, or seeing what little creatures you notice in their natural habitat. You don’t need to have vast open landscapes to benefit from this. As well as all the benefits listed above by the NHS the people who work closely with Shinrin Yoku have seen that engaging in this practice regularly helps develop clearer and deeper intuition, a greater life-force, a deepening of friendships and an overall increase in happiness. Shinrin Yoku costs nothing and has no negative side effects, unlike most medications we are offered by our GP’s. You can find out more at shinrin-yoku.org
If you walk on the ground with bare feet during this time you’ll benefit from grounding too.
Doing this on a regular basis should increase your levels of relaxation, give you deeper sleep and a greater ability to cope with the daily stresses of life.
Is Nature Our Greatest Expert?
But what if there is even more of a relationship we can develop with nature?
Imagine walking along a path and getting that sudden whooshing of joy in your heart when you see a good friend you’ve not seen for a while. And just as you’re about to say ‘hello’ with a wide smile and wide-open arms you realise it’s a tree you’ve connected with.
Imagine idly asking your dog what his favourite meal is and getting an unexpected whiff of roast chicken when there is nothing cooking in the kitchen.
Imagine drinking a tiny cup of an Amazonian shamanic brew and receiving visions of the meaning of life, meeting your dearly departed and receiving wisdom about health issues.
Maybe these things are hard to imagine but they’re not hard to experience if you choose to leave your disbelief at the door and take the plunge.
A Hollywood man from a bygone era, J Allen Boone learned to communicate first with an alsation dog, then with ants, monkeys, snakes and even a river. He believed we were all part of a group mind and that there was just as much intelligence in creatures other than humans as we were made from the same ‘stuff’ but appeared in different forms. He suggested the only way to communicate with another species was to talk ‘across’ and never ‘down’. So communication is never about us learning how to dictate to animals but how to co-operate. It is clear there is much wisdom to learn. His book Kinship With All Life is a magical read. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/798828.Kinship_with_All_Life
Taking what is known as sacred plant medicine is growing in popularity. Called entheogens (doorways to the divine) such medicine as Ayahuasca, San Pedro and even Cacao is sharing wisdom through visions called ‘journeys’. This wisdom often arrives in the form of spontaneous healing (mental and physical). Discovering, sometimes with powerfully profound psychedelic experiences, that we are not singular creatures which end at the skin but deeply connected through our energetic being brings about a shift in perspective, a transformation in reality from aloneness to oneness.
We have got to a tipping point in our world, where nature is calling for our attention – not just to heal the damage we’re doing to our planet and the amazing species which we share her with, but to heal the rift dividing us from our own true souls. The more we give ourselves time in nature we can’t help but come back to our own nature because we’re all connected. This connection alleviates the stress of separation, allowing deep healing on all levels to occur. Nature in all her forms without and within us is our greatest ally.
You can also take things further still by choosing holidays and retreats which give you an immersive experience in nature. There are some extraordinary opportunities available.
Outer Travels Inner Journeys have a number of Peru adventures which offer you a magical experience in the Andes and the Amazon Rainforest. A South African spiritual adventure has been launched for 2016 exploring sacred sites throughout the Western Cape as well as a unique stay with the mystical White Lions of Timbavati. More inspirational tours and reterats are being developed in Italy, France, UK, Costa Rica, Nepal and India.
Spiritual Tours and Retreats