If you've ever been hiking down the trail and felt an extraordinary sense of connection to your surroundings, you've experienced a deepening of your spiritual relationship to nature. This feeling may have come in the form of clarity and awe for what you were seeing- maybe a lone giant red cedar you've never noticed before or the sapphire sparkle in the feathers of some unknown to you bird singing away with no care in the world. You may have started to feel as if you were welcome, as if that giant cedar was going to wrap its mighty boughs around you as if you were already home. Or maybe it was just a fleeting feeling- one you couldn't really put your finger on except that you felt uplifted and maybe even joyous. If you're like most of us, you enjoy these feelings you get on the trail but usually forget about them once you're off the trail and back to your busy life.
Hiking is a beautiful conduit for deepening your spiritual relationship with nature. It creates a space to move through nature in a natural state. Hiking forces us to slow down and become mindful of our surroundings and how we are feeling. It allows us to connect deeper to ourselves. Below, we share three ways to deepen your spiritual connection to nature with hiking from our I Am the Wild Experience.
We view the world from our limited perspective shaped by our life experiences, values, the current state of mind, assumptions, and other factors. Our perspective is our own unique view and is completely different from anyone else's because we have all lived different lives and had different experiences from each other. It is a limited perspective because we would never be able to experience everything everyone else has experienced. While it might be limited, we are always able to expand our perspectives through new experiences. Perspective-taking is a skill in which we can take the perspective of someone else, or this case, something else.
On your next hike, find a place in nature where you can watch from nature's perspective. Maybe you can find a soft spot to lay down and gaze at the sky as if you are a blade of grass. Or hike to the highest point in your area and look down at everything below you, like a butterfly or bird. Nature, unlike us, has an unlimited perspective. It hasn't been shaped by all things, like beliefs and values, that we have been. Nature just is- it's in a natural state always. Finding this natural state and taking on nature's unlimited perspective is a spectacular way for us to expand ourselves while connecting even deeper spiritually with nature.
Most of us are busy all the time. It seems we always have something to do (usually multiple things) and rarely have time to slow down and be still. In fact, most of us probably can't be still even when we have the time. Our minds wander, we get antsy, and we end up diving into the next item on our to-do list. We rarely live in the moment, thinking about things we did in the past or worrying about what could happen in the future.
Being still is a practice in mindfulness that allows us to remain in the present moment, gain clarity, move from a state of "doing" to a state of "being," find a deeper awareness, personal insight, and higher connection. When we practice mindfulness and live in the present moment, we embrace the very essence of nature. Nature never worries about the past or what might happen in the future; it remains in the present moment at all times.
Find a place on your hike where you can sit and be comfortable. Maybe bring a small cushion or blanket to sit on. Once you find a comfortable position, take a few deep cleansing breaths and start to tune into everything around you. Feel the air on your skin and face; listen to the sound it makes as it rustles the leaves above your head. Watch the grass move in brilliant formation as the air pushes it against the ground. Listen to the birds sing to each other from the tops of the trees and watch them fly from branch to branch looking for their next meal. Feel the warmth from the sun shining down on your face and look at how it highlights the petals on the flowers around you. If your mind wanders and thoughts come in, watch them float away on the clouds above you and come back to the present moment. If you become antsy, reposition yourself to find your focus on nature around you so you are comfortable again. Practice this for as long as you can, but at least 30 minutes.
Breathing is the strongest way we experience a symbiotic relationship with nature. We experience reciprocity in the form of the oxygen we breathe in and the carbon dioxide we breathe out. When we breathe in oxygen into our lungs, carbon bonds to the oxygen creating the carbon dioxide we exhale. Plants breathe in this carbon dioxide, break the carbon away, and in turn, release oxygen which we breathe back in. To continue living, we exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide back and forth between one another all of the time. We both cannot survive without this beautiful and perfect relationship.
Find a place on your hike where you can sit comfortably for at least 20 minutes. Feel free to bring a blanket to lay on or a pad to sit on. You will want to be comfortable. Practice the following breath technique:
- While you do deep breathing, use a picture in your mind and imagine your exhales giving life to the plants and trees around you.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a few big, deep breaths.
- Breathe in. As you do that, imagine that the air is filled with a sense of peace and calm. Try to feel it throughout your body.
- Breathe out. While you're doing it, imagine that the air leaves with life for the plants and trees around you.
- Continue for at least 20 minutes.