· Nature Connection,Awe and wonder,Slow down,Stand and stare,Mindful moment

“Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
Ba da-da da-da da-da, feeling groovy.”

– Simon & Garfunkle

There has been a dawning realisation to me that I have been hurtling through life at 100 MPH. It wasn’t really until my enforced stop last year that I noticed just the breakneck speed with which I had been travelling, trying to ‘get everything done’. Where was I going at this speed? I have no idea, but what I do know is that it is much easier to see the view when you slow down. It is like travelling in a car, you turn to look out the windows when you’re driving down the motorway but everything’s a blur, then pull off on to a country lane and the hedgerows and views become more clearly focussed. We can miss so much of our lives when we are busy and rushing. I still have a tendency for speed and I can catch myself with my foot on the accelerator, though I am getting better at spotting it.

Summer is helping me with this, particularly the one the UK is having at the moment, it’s just too hot to run everywhere and everything can get a bit more mañana. The natural world is my go to place (as regular readers will know) to encourage my pace to slow. Not that nature is necessarily slow itself: the leaf bloom, gathering blossom, the food production and growing that is going on in our northern hemisphere is extremely busy - the wood I was in yesterday was literally, and loudly, humming with insects going about their business – or busyness. Ironically, watching nature getting busy allows me to slow down! So busy are we for so much of our lives that we do not stop to stand and stare. As Ed Halliwell says, “We are so busy trying to control the world, or trying to run away from it, that it rarely occurs to us to stop and appreciate it.

Standing, or sitting, taking in a dramatic scene in nature engages our awe and wonder. I started my day early yesterday on the beach with a meditation and a swim. No one else was there, just me, witnessing the sun coming up. I sat marvelling at the cloud formations, patterns that felt utterly unique to this moment as well as the extreme smooth calmness of the sea. It is hard to describe now, but was even harder to make sense of at the time, the vastness of this scene making me feel so small - my existence so tiny in the great scheme of the world. Our brains cannot compute this kind of experience; it is beyond our current understanding of things. As Dr Keltner’s (the Nobel Prize winning psychologist) research shows, this sense of awe literally stops us in our tracks, slows us right down, switching us from worry to wonder. It gives us pause and actually brings us joy.

Working in the woods yesterday (though I can hardly call it work it was so much fun!) and being the summer holidays, I had my 8 year old son with me. My son also goes everywhere at 100 MPH, from the minute he wakes up until he finally finds his off switch last thing at night, but I observed that he too slowed somewhat in the woods. He was in his element and seemed completely at home there, so much so he was teaching the adults who were there a thing or two! It was a wonder to watch him so confident and at ease, someone who finds sitting still and learning at school extremely challenging. Though, as I reflected later, why should this be a wonder at all? Where is the natural place to be: the woods or the indoor classroom? Where did we reside for 1000s of years? Where did we learn, play, feed ourselves - in fact live our whole lives - until very recently in the history of time? Maybe it’s no wonder the outdoors and being immersed in nature feels so good and can bring us such happiness.

The hardest thing, as we concluded over the last few weeks in at my Mindfulness in Nature Mums’ Club, is allowing ourselves this time, to give ourselves permission to get outside into nature. We know it is good for us but it can feel like something that is frivolous in comparison to our lengthy to do lists. I propose that it is actually a necessity to ring fence this sanctuary time. Maybe we need to create to be lists? We must prioritise it, this slowing down and recharging, allowing us to see the view from our life’s journey with greater clarity. To appreciate that which we have in our lives already, tapping into our capacity for happiness here and now or we could call it looking for fun and feeling groovy - Simon and Garfunkle had it right all along.

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