Dr Jan Goss

Connecting with Nature, Inside & Out

Taking time out to ‘be’ in Nature, to really connect with our inner and outer environment is essential for our health and wellbeing. There is something nurturing about being in the natural world, away from the hustle and bustle of ‘normal’ life, in taking time to slow down and reconnect with our self through the natural environment. It is so much easier to practice mindfulness with the support of Nature, to be mindful[ness], rather than do mindfulness. There is an effortlessness that comes from synchronising with the rhythm of the natural world, that enables us to be the practice, to connect with each action, each word, each thought that passes through us.

On the recent retreat I held on the beautiful Hebridean Isle of Muck, we did just that. We enjoyed the stillness that comes from creating space inside, through the space offered by the natural environment – and the support of a group of mindfully-intentioned people. We took time to create, to reflect and share, to look deeply into our selves and our connection with Nature. Nowhere I know, supports this precious process quite like this precious island.

The long drive to the port of Mallaig, through Glencoe, prepares us for the physical letting go of the mainland and then the two-hour ferry crossing ‘cements’ the feeling of release that ensures we can connect fully in the here and now, with our self, in each moment of our life. There is no distraction, only Nature.

During the retreat, we each engaged in journalling and shared our insights in the spirit of learning through deep practice. Through my own writing process I became increasingly aware of the relative ‘violence’ of some of my actions and the corresponding art and practice of non-violence. In the mindful space that we created, to snatch something like a tissue from a box, or to throw food into a bowl, seemed irreverent and ‘violent’, whereas to handle food with complete mindfulness felt like an act of non-violence, of love and appreciation. In my journal I wrote:

“I can feel a violence in everything I do. A pushing. A hurriedness. An almost imperceptible impatience to get from one thing to another. When it is present, I feel it in my body: putting my arms through my sleeves; writing fast; not taking my time; a lack of compassion for what I am doing; folding a blanket; chopping vegetables; washing up; cleaning my teeth; washing my precious body. In this place of violent action there is tension in my body, my hands ‘driving’ the action. It is only when I slow down enough, be still enough, be still inside, that I am fully aware of it.

The pen against the paper sounds loud and harsh and yet I have slowed right down [now]. Picking up, placing down, things and myself, has such a different feel when I slow down and when I am mindful: there is love in every action, every breath, every thought. Being loving in this way, creates a loving state of mind. Love replaces violence and ‘non-violence’.

Even holding tension in my body feels violent.

Rushing feels violent” 

Everything is relative of course, and in the fast pace of non-retreat life, I am largely unaware of the feelings of violence within me. A favourite aphorism of mine is ‘awareness is the key to change’ and being on retreat I am aware of how to change, of what I need to do to deepen my practice. When we are aware of our actions, thoughts and words and the impact that they have on our self, ‘others’ and the Earth, then we are able to make different choices that support our self and therefore others and the Earth – because we realise in looking deeply that these three ‘constructs’ are not separate but totally interconnected. Non-violence in myself contributes to non-violence in the world. Caring for my self, is caring for the world. Being on retreat I am reminded of this as I am able to see things more clearly in the stillness within.

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