As an adolescent, I found solace in the mountains, beaches, and deserts near my home in Los Angeles. Although my family was about as dysfunctional as they come, I had ready escape. We lived within bike-riding distance of beaches and coastal hills, while the granitic San Gabriel Mountains and the sun-baked Mojave Desert were just hours away. The availability of so much nature offered respite from the unhappiness at home. I learned to head outdoors when feeling stressed. Like countless humans before me, I found solace in the landscape.
Nature heals. Nothing soothes the soul so surely as contact with the scents, sounds, and sights of natural terrain. The beauty of this earth is imprinted in our biology as surely as our mother’s face is imprinted in our psychology. Although many who hold positions of power disregard our debt to the land, most of us know that this planet is a treasure that must be preserved. We understand this preservation as important for its own sake, but also important for the sake of our sanity.
We feel agitated and careworn when too long separated from Earth’s beauty. Relief doesn’t require travel to virgin wilderness; we can find it beneath a tree in an urban park. If necessary, we can even focus on a dandelion growing in a sidewalk crack, and discover some comfort.
The MindfulBiology system I’ve been developing over many years highlights an even more accessible point of contact with Nature: the human body. Our DNA, cellular metabolism, organ systems, and limbs are just as natural as seawater, plankton, rainforests, and continental drift. Seen with an appreciative eye, they are as beautiful as snow-capped peaks and spring wildflowers. Spending time in nature outdoors remains helpful, but when we lack the time and resources to get away, we can go within. We can feel the winds of breath, the currents of blood, the gurgle of digestion, the leap of muscle, and the stillness of bone. We can enter this inner natural landscape with the same awe and appreciation we feel in a mountain range or by the seashore.
The body offers it all. We can feel potent surges of emotional energy as well as subtle warmth in our palms. We can notice ceaseless change in bodily experience, as moment-by-moment it responds to our perceptions and behaviors, to our desires and intentions. The human body is a dynamic landscape, at times swept by gales of feeling, but always radiant with sensation and permeated with life.
The body is nature, right here, right now.