My Turn: Why celebrate Earth Day?

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2002

Human awareness that we share space with all species is expanding. What we do to planet Earth we do to ourselves - literally. We share the same sun, air, water and earth with all life, continually transforming each other's energy into life support.

Consider something as basic as breathing. Part of the energy of a hemlock I pass may become part of the energy I need to keep walking, and the reverse may be true for its continued growth because we breathe oxygen from trees in exchange for our carbon dioxide. (An ancient word for respiration was respiriting.)

When I take time to acknowledge myself as one of Earth's children, no different really than a deer, salmon, ptarmigan, willow, or any other creature, my view of myself in relation to the larger world changes, since any of them may literally transform into energy in me that I need to continue living.

Why do we often feel better after spending time in nature? Isn't it because we are connecting with our roots through our personal experiences (the nature we are within and without), the same natural system that has kept itself in balance through its self-organized intelligence, without garbage or pollution, for billions of years?

Take a minute to think about a time you enjoyed in nature. If you've never had a good experience outdoors, think about what one might feel like. What were you doing ... lying on a sun-warmed patch of Earth feeling stress drain away; listening to the soothing sounds of water bubbling over a gravelly stream; watching the Great Artist of the sky paint an inspiring sunset; or marveling at raven's extensive, often melodious language?

Here is a simple activity anyone can do on Earth Day, or any day, to reconnect with nature through our individual unique nature:

Go to something in nature that you find attractive. A park, a backyard, an aquarium, or a potted plant will do. When you get to it, notice how you feel.

Now, treat this area fairly, with respect, as an equal or friend. Gain its consent for you to visit and enjoy it by asking the natural area for its permission for you to be there. This increases your sensitivity to the area. Ask if it will help you learn from it. You cannot learn if you are going to injure or destroy it, or it you. Wait for about half a minute.

Look for adverse signals of danger such as thorns, cliff edges, etc. If the area still feels attractive, or becomes more attractive, you have gained its consent. If this portion of the natural area no longer feels attractive, simply select another natural part that attracts you and repeat this process. Do this until you find an area where a safe attraction feeling remains.

Once you have gained an area's consent, compare how you feel about being there with how you felt about it when you first arrived. Has any change occurred? If you find that gaining consent from a natural area is rewarding, this activity can be repeated any time.

One of my nature-connected moments from asking for permission to visit and enjoy an area:

At the edge of a wetlands area, a stand of large, very old spruce trees draws me. Moving closer I notice a baby spruce next to the tall stand. I acknowledge the attraction and connection by asking if it will help me learn from it. Looking down on its frost-covered limbs, I become aware of its topmost branches, flawlessly balanced and symmetrical. They form a circle, with three young branches on either side of its baby trunk. The thought surfaces that it is perfectly beautiful growing here in its own way. It doesn't have to do anything other than grow where it roots itself. It also appears to know how to be what it is without going through major contortions, or any contortions, for that matter.

A natural byproduct from honoring an area, as I would a good friend, is that many of my 53 distinct natural senses become balanced and refreshed. By focusing on moment-by-moment natural attractions, my life is indescribably enriched.

Carol Biggs of Juneau is a facilitator of nature as counselor and teacher for spiritual wellness, stress relief, and self-esteem enhancement.

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