Engage Nature’s Healing Energies
When we get in touch with nature, we may find that we feel a deep sense of calm and well-being. Research has confirmed what many people have observed: nature has healing energies. Do you enjoy being in the woods? Studies show we can experience health and psychological benefits if we spend time in such places practicing “shin-rin yoku” or “forest bathing.” Twenty or thirty minutes spent in natural surroundings will likely give you a sense of well-being and reduce your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Nature’s healing energies are so strong, in fact, that even just listening to recordings of natural sounds can reset your nervous system to a more relaxed state.
While in a park, your yard, or another natural area, you might want to focus on a scene or phenomenon and observe. You might walk and gaze at trees, perhaps noticing branches that are thriving as well as ones that have broken. Notice the pattern of the tree’s bark or its branches. Touch the bark or leaves if you can—or touch the dirt in which a houseplant is growing. If you can’t be outdoors in nature, look out the window at a natural scene, at indoor plants, or at a photo or video of a natural scene—or close your eyes and listen to a recording of the sounds heard in natural space, such as a beach or rainforest.
Notice what you feel in your body. Does it seem that your energy has changed? Ask nature to help you engage its healing energies.
Sometimes when we’re in nature, a certain spot might feel healing because it seems to take away our agitation, calm us, or make us feel revitalized in some way. Once, I was visiting a shaman and friend who lives in Peru, and while he was occupied, I began to walk around his yard and soon felt drawn to an area at the base of a tree. In fact, the sense that I should lower myself to the ground and lie there looking up at the branches, leaves, and sky was so strong that I followed my intuition that this was what I needed to do. I could feel healing energy rising up from the ground beneath me, as if the earth and tree were working on my energy field to cleanse and repair it. I was still lying there when I heard my friend’s footsteps coming toward me and his voice saying (with no hint of surprise in it), “Ah, you found it. So many people who visit me have been drawn to that very spot. They say it seems to be giving them healing energy.”
If you feel drawn to a particular place outdoors in nature, try to go there (even if just in your mind). Then, simply observe how you feel. What is different about this place? What has drawn you to it? What if any messages does it have for you?
As you immerse yourself in nature, open to any insights regarding her wisdom, your relationship with nature—or anything else. Nature is observing you just as you’re observing her. What does nature see in you?
As you gaze at the silhouette of that lone tree against a blue sky, does a particular thought or emotion arise?
What does the buzz of insects or the sound of birds singing reveal?
What message does a gently flowing creek or a slow-moving cloud offer?
Ponder it all. Later, you might journal about the experience you had. Maybe it will inspire a poem, song, or sketch. As you think back on your break spent in nature, ask yourself whether you need to engage nature’s healing energies more often and how you can make that happen for yourself even if you have to spend much or all of the day indoors.
A version of this article appeared in Spirituality & Health.
Learn even more about how to engage nature’s healing energies in my book Change the Story of Your Health.