One of the many perks to having my office in the park is the reminder that I am part of nature, connected to the web of life that surrounds me.
Where some just see the summer heat, I see the power of sunlight shining down.
Where some see weeds in the grass, I see the medicine of plantain and dandelion.
Where some see a nuisance, I see the industriousness of ant colonies. I see the playfulness of bees.
We all have a place here, including us humans. We are nature as much as the plants and the animals are nature. The park is as much nature as the forest. Even the streets, with their concrete sidewalks, paved roads, noisy crosswalk signals, and towering power lines… they, too, are nature. Because they are a part of the earth; made by humans, yes, but of materials culled from the earth.
The Japanese have a concept called shinrin-yoku, which literally translates to forest bathing: spending time in nature with mindfulness, using all five senses to take in the experience of the present moment. Although this practice has been used for centuries, not just in Japan but in cultures all over the world, it has recently gained a lot of attention for its health benefits (such as boosting the immune system, relieving stress, aiding sleep, lowering blood pressure, and improving memory/concentration).
Of course, our capitalist society has now twisted this concept into a commodity… something to be studied by science to determine its effectiveness or the “right” way to do it, or developed into a product to be sold by companies who will (for a fee) take you on a forest bathing excursion.
Don’t get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoy my annual summer vacation in the mountains. I look forward to my weeklong forest bath every year, and every year I am rejuvenated by the medicine of being in nature.
But I also believe that I do not have to venture into the forest to connect to the spirit of nature, and I believe that (with practice) none of us do. Because we are nature and nature is us. We need but practice remembering.