We are used to interacting with other humans. To effect social change we must encounter other human beings – it’s part and parcel of the work.
We also need to encounter nature. But in our desire for social change we can neglect to do so. We continue to neglect encountering nature at our peril. We need to do so for our own well-being, and also because we just may learn something. Nature has much to offer us – not all our learning comes from other humans.
Here are twelve ways we can encounter nature, some are simple and may only take a few minutes, others take much longer (but then the benefits may be much greater).
- Take a walk along a beach. Smell the salty air. Wade in the surf. Feel the sand beneath your feet. Watch the seabirds swirl and dive. Try tiger walking – walk purposefully placing one foot down with the heel striking first, rolling onto the outside of the foot, with the little toe then grounding, followed by the other toes in turn, with your big toe being the last part of the foot to touch the sand. Then repeat with the other foot.
- Garden. Plant herbs and research not only their culinary benefits but also their medicinal ones. Notice how the seasons and the growth of plants interact.
- Go hiking (tramping, trekking) in the woods, the mountains, the forests and the river beds. Take your food and accommodation with you and spend at least 3 days without any contact with civilisation.
- Sit on a hilltop at sunrise or sunset and watch the sun rise or set. Watch the colours in the sky change and merge into one another. At sunset watch the flocks of birds return to their nesting places. At sunrise feel the warmth of the sun slowly increase.
- Take a trip to a waterfall and stand underneath and feel the water splashing and caressing your body. Take a dip in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Revel in the invigorating coolness of the water.
- Find a quiet place at night away from urban lights and just stare at the stars. If you look for long enough you’ll see a meteor (shooting star) – you should see one approximately every 10 – 15 minutes, more often during “meteor showers.”
- Climb a tree and sit on a limb watching the bird life and other creatures that use the tree for habitat, food or transport. As you sit there, ponder how this tree connects with the rest of the local ecosystem. How extensive are its roots? Where do the nutrients come from? What’s going on in the leaves?
- Get some flippers, mask and snorkel and find a lagoon, sheltered beach or a lake. Without the use of compressed air, explore the underwater domain. Are there fish, coral or kelp in the area? How is this underwater environment different to the above water environment?
- With a partner try this variation on the Trust Walk idea. Find a non-urban environment and take turns being led with eyes closed, in silence. Your partner guides you with their arm or hand. Your partner finds and guides you to an experience – it could be the bark of a tree, a fragrant flower, a group of pebbles, the sound of a bird twittering. When your guide stops they will gently move your head so that you are facing the experience they have decided on. Your guide then says “Open your eyes and look in the mirror.” The idea is to see things in a new light, as if you were looking in a mirror.
- Spend time on an organic farm. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) helps put volunteers in touch with farmers. The volunteer works on the farm in return for accommodation, food and the opportunity to learn about organic farming.
- Book into a guided wilderness experience. There are numerous organisations offering such experiences. Find one that offers an experience based on integrity. Ideally you want an organisation that is guided as much by the heart as it is by the profit motive.
- Of course you don’t need to find and pay for a guide. You could do it yourself and go off for a month or more into a remote area that is unconnected to civilisation. Make you own shelter, become a “hunter and gatherer,” cook your own food, spend time contemplating your surroundings. For inspiration read My Year Without Matches by Claire Dunn, an Australian woman who “disillusioned and burnt out by her job, quits a comfortable life to spend a year off the grid in a wilderness survival program.”
 This exercise (called the Mirror Walk) is one of the many suggested by Joanna Macy in Coming Back To Life, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, 2014.
 WWOOF originally meant Working Weekends On Organic Farms and began in England in 1971. See http://www.wwoof.net
 Claire Dunn, My Year Without Matches, Nero, Collingwood, Vic, Australia, 2014