Nature has its own unique spiritual power of opening and restoring our souls. Just by sitting, walking and admiring breathtaking scenery, we can experience its spiritual vital force, a sense of the divine amid nature’s dance of the ethereal beauty.
In a study done by the Public Heath Journal on psychological effects of forest environment on healthy adults: Shinrin-yoku – a major form of relaxation in Japan (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction, this is what they found:
“This study revealed that forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Accordingly, shinrin-yoku may be employed as a stress reduction method, and forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes. Therefore, customary shinrin-yoku may help to decrease the risk of psychosocial stress-related diseases, and evaluation of the long-term effects of shinrin-yoku is warranted.”
- Topa Topa Mountains Ojai, CA
For over seven years, it has been a real delight to be able to teach yoga and offering One Day Retreat in Nature and Weekend Retreats at the beautiful Ojai Retreat here in Ojai CA, with its breathtaking view of the Topa Topa Mountains, valleys, and forests. The best spot to experience the power of nature, through yoga and mediation, is on the freshly, radiant green grass in front of the waterfall, with its pink lotus flowers, popping up from the mud unstained, and the beautiful radiant pepper trees surrounding the area. The whole Ojai is actually an oasis of natural magical beauty.
Also the myriad of birds chirping on branches of the majestic oak trees, the sacred red tail hawks soaring in the sky above one’s head, the tiny humming birds stopping suddenly from a full flight, flapping their “invisible” delicate wings, making the funny loud sounds of a helicopter, the multicolored butterflies swiftly passing by, the breeze and the sun gently kissing one’s skin, they all offer a chance to connect with something far more immense than our mundane lives. One may feel an overwhelming and sudden longing to finally surrender to what IS, surrender to what One Life is bringing, forgetting at once all the stories and dramas of few minutes ago, yesterday, last week or month.
Eckhart Tolle describes this power of nature perfectly in his book Stillness Speaks: “Whenever you bring your attention to anything natural, anything that has come into existence without human intervention, you step out of the prison of conceptualized thinking and to some extent, participate in the state of connectedness with being in which everything natural still exists. To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness. Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so, the same stillness arises within you. You sense how deeply it rests in being, completely at one with what it is, and where it is. In realizing this, you too come to a place of rest deep within yourself.”
And then comes the yoga flow with awareness of the breath – the vehicle of mindfulness, in the midst of this natural beauty. Even if that was to be done, and nothing else, the unique experience of a practice like this in the midst of heavenly beauty of nature, (and yes, it helps when the Ojai Valley has been named one of the most beautiful spots on Earth) is quite easy to center oneself and find meaning in an otherwise quite stressful chaotic world.
Taking on a practice that restores our strength and vitality, is vital during this time of overloaded stress. It can restore that feeling of safety, inner peace, strength, rejuvenation and wonder and it can also establish a centeredness from which we could start to act from within and not react anymore; we could become the observer of the events unfolding and not the “doer”, the one being caught into the usual “drama”. Sensitiveness increases and a sense of well being is deeply felt throughout the whole body, throughout every cell. Such a practice could provide a foundation from which a shift in consciousness is possible, that could propel us into a total transformation, and not just a feeling good, relaxed mood (although that is definitely achieved, but just as a side effect).
“We depend on nature for not only our physical survival, we also need nature to show us the way home, the way out of the prison of our own minds. We got lost in doing, thinking, remembering, anticipating – lost in a maze of complexity and a world of problems. We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be. To be still. To be ourselves. To be where life is – here and now.” Eckhart Tolle