· Earth Day,Mindfulness,Nature Connection,Taking action,Gratitude

"If one truly loves nature, one finds beauty everywhere." Vincent van Gogh

Time to celebrate this diverse and achingly beautiful, unique planet we call home. It was Earth Day on Sunday. This is a great reason to stop, take stock and appreciate all the wonders of this world, both near to us and across the globe. It is easy to forget we live on a planet slowly spinning in the cosmos as we go about our busy lives. Sometimes something jolts our noses off the grindstone to take in the view. It is cherry blossom season in Japan and I keep hearing little snippets about it on podcasts, radio and in a book I am reading ‘The Art and Science of Forest Bathing’, in it Dr Qing Li describes whole festivals to celebrate the cherry blossom. I love the sound of this. The equivalent sight right now in our vicinity is swathes of blackthorn blossom like white snow, quietly going about its business, with no fanfare. I feel the need to organise a party or perhaps a picnic in sight of the blossom. Give thanks and celebrate all the Earth gives to us: the oxygen in the air we breathe; the water we drink; the food we eat; the materials and shelter. Would anybody come?!

It is true that we cannot truly be well if the planet that we depend on is not well. It is also true that we cannot look after the planet if we are not well. There is an interdependence. This year’s Earth Day theme was to ‘end plastic pollution’: “Plastic is threatening our planet's survival, from poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our streams and landfills. Together, we can make a difference.” Earth Day introduction. This is a tragic fact, but it is something we can do something about, all of us in our own small ways. From refusing that straw at the bar to using reusable bottles and coffee cups; go on a litter pick – literally it can be as small as 2 minutes, for example as in the #2minutebeachclean, and you will make a difference. The trouble is, if we are stressed, tired and unwell the last thing we may feel like doing is getting out and taking action. Although this is exactly the thing that might actually make us feel better. This is the catch 22. Very often we can feel disempowered or overwhelmed by the nature of the world’s problems but this can be the perfect antidote: take action. If we want there to be more love in the world; be loving. If we want the world to be a better place, start with ourselves and our neighbourhood. It sounds simplistic but we can cause huge ripples this way and inspire others too. As Sarah Corbett says, "Quiet action can sometimes speak as powerfully as the loudest voice."

Currently, Europeans spend an average of 90% of their time indoors; in America this is even higher at 93%. What are we doing with our time indoors? Well, I guess it’s no surprise: mostly, we’re on our screens (I need to get outdoors after writing this blog :-). We forget that we are part of the natural world; and our rhythms (set so very long ago) are the rhythms of nature. This week I have had the privilege of starting to teach a course of mindfulness with a class of 9 and 10 years olds. So far the lessons have been around how we can train our minds and our attention, and that there are different ways our attention can be directed: through thoughts; emotions; and through all of our senses. We can choose where we place our attention, and what we pay attention to is our experience of life. The natural world gives us the perfect place to easily engage all our senses and so it dovetails beautifully with mindfulness: it makes it effortless outdoors to be in the moment. A place we can set aside our troubles and come back to life more recharged and revitalised. Then we can notice more beauty and joy that is around us, becoming calmer, more focussed and stronger in our minds. In this way nature can be the ideal antidote to stress, restoring us and helping us recover from the challenges of life. So let’s start today, right now, and praise the natural world, it is doing its thing anyway, but there are a myriad of benefits for us. Let’s take care of ourselves and take care of our world. Every day can be earth day. A little appreciation every day of what it does for us, to remember the precious link between us and our world. To be grateful for all her gifts that she gives us so quietly. Time to celebrate this greatly unsung hero. Party anyone?

What leads to brain resting?' I had asked her. Soft fascination she’d said. That’s what happens when you watch a sunset, or the rain. The most restorative landscapes, she said, are the ones that hit the sweet spot of being interesting but not too interesting. They should entice our attention but not demand it. The landscapes should be compatible with our sense of aesthetics and offer up a little bit of mystery. You can find these conditions indoors if you are lucky but they spring naturally from natural environments. Florence Williams talking to Rachel Kaplan from the University of Michigan.

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