I have been called a tree-hugger many times over the years. And while the intentions of my name-callers may not be complimentary, I take it in with pleasure. Yes, I am a tree hugger, both literally and figuratively. When I am present, truly present in nature, I feel a deep connection with and love for the trees. This same connection and love is also felt for the oceans, rivers, mountains, flowers, plants, animals, and sky. Each time I take a mindful step into nature I am in awe as if it is the first time I am encountering a tree, a leaf, a flower, or a bird. It is as if I am revived — all at once I am freed from physical depletion and spiritual unconsciousness, wide awake now to the nature that surrounds me.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I needed this kind of revival most recently when I was overcome with despair and despondency … a deep suffering caused by many external stressors beyond my control. Some of these stressors are shared by most of the world at this time. On a more personal level the loss of an old friend through suicide tore my own heart wide open, and shook all others connected to this friend to their cores. Even though time and distance separated us from so many shared occasions of laughter and love, the memories all came rushing back and left me (and hundreds of others) aching. This prompted me to reach out to the remaining “Father’s Club” tribe of men to gather and support one another during this devastating loss. The healing power of connection that we all only wished we could have shared with our friend brought awareness to the silent suffering of many and the need to build connection and hope. It was that evening that our friends planned the kidnapping of my husband and I to the mountains of North Georgia. Both of us surrendered very quickly – and even now I don’t know if it was because I was too exhausted to fight or resist, or that I knew I needed to retreat into nature to heal.
It was there in the Blue Ridge Mountains that my body and mind started to relax and release all the stress and emotions, and by the end of day two, I began to feel whole again. The smell, the views, the sounds of nature filled each and every moment with a freshness and ignited my beginners mind that continued through the weekend to bring moments of joy, peace, and awe.
Poets and philosophers for centuries have lauded the benefits of nature, and now neuroscientists are investigating the effects that being in nature has on our brain and body to promote wellbeing, both physically and mentally. And this retreat to the mountains reminded me again of this universal and timeless wisdom, too. I am deeply indebted to our friends for bringing us back to nature, which revived us both in a way that gives me hope and a desire to inspire others to take a deep dive into nature with me this month.
Now, this does not require a trip to the mountains … you can start where you are, right now! Take a pause from reading and look up and out to what is around you. If you need to stand up, walk outside or perhaps down the street for city dwellers to take a fresh look at what nature is nearby, please give yourself this gift. I invite you to even take 5-10 minutes each day to open to the wonders and beauty of nature. Join us this month as we continue to explore with mindfulness the benefits of being fully present in nature.
With Love and Gratitude,
Patty and The Sacred Treehouse faculty
Need support in overcoming obstacles? Just email me us at email@example.com to set up individualized mindfulness coaching or join our upcoming classes of MBSR or MSC for guided practices in a supportive community.
Go to www.sacredtreehouse.org
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.