The importance of nature and how to ground yourself in it
“You should sit in nature for twenty minutes each day. Unless you are busy then you should sit there for an hour!”
I’m not sure when, or even why, we thought it was okay to dismiss or to snigger when someone extols the virtues of getting out into nature. Think about it, the phrase ‘tree hugger’ has mostly been a derogatory one. It’s up there with the disparaging looks you get when you talk about meditation and ‘coming home’ to yourself! The question is why? Is it because we’re so quick to judge others for behaviours that we don’t understand, or is there the slightest piece of envy in there that someone has taken the time to unearth their relationship with nature? I suspect it’s the latter. Those that can’t understand it, judge it.
As a small child growing up in the countryside, I had the very good fortune to have a father who felt a deep belonging to the land he was living on. The county in which he was born was in him and he, in it. He walked his land every day of his seventy-five years on earth, with the sad exception being, his last few weeks, when he was physically unable.
As the local vet, he had a natural love of animals and the only time he left his home county, voluntarily, was when he went to study in Dublin so that he could return and work on his beloved land in his own home county. He grew, picked and ate mushrooms, potatoes and rhubarb. He harvested daffodils in March, daisies in May and holly with berries in time for Christmas. I watched on in wonder. I loved the natural ease, with which he connected to all of nature around him, and feel so grateful for the lessons and experiences I got to share with him.
In the years that followed, I got distracted by the bright lights and the idea that there was something bigger, better waiting for me somewhere else and my sense of wonder faded. Having escaped the countryside at eighteen I moved to Dublin declaring that this is where I felt I belonged. I was right. It was where I belonged. Being a part of the city life in Dublin gave me so many incredible opportunities. It was there I met some of my very best friends and found all of my deepest loves. I created a career and a successful business for myself there. Dublin set me up for life. And for that reason, it will always be a huge part of me.
But I couldn’t keep ignoring, that it had also become the place where I experienced some of my toughest losses and greatest pain. Relationships and people had died there. I couldn’t avoid that truth that any longer. I had grieved, sat with so many significant losses and rebuilt my life too many times while living in Dublin. I had started to realise that if I wanted to live a truly different life it would need to be in a different place. At least for a while.
My father’s love of nature was unquestionable, and I am utterly convinced that he guided me to where I live now, in the countryside. He knew that this is where I would find comfort and strength here, among the trees, acceptance in the soft rain and wisdom and inspiration in the rustling of the leaves and gentleness of the breeze. Through nature he brought me back home to myself.
3 TIPS TO GETTING GROUNDED IN NATURE
FIND YOUR PATCH.
Connecting and grounding in nature is an immediate way to learn how to connect to you. Ignore how you think it will look to others and stand on a patch of grass, close your eyes and let your mind go still as you observe how this sensation makes you feel. There is nothing hocus pocus about this. Picture or visualise the negative energy leaving your body, through your feet, and falling through the earth. Then call back in calming energy and feel it rising through the earth into your feet and back up through your body by repeating this mantra by author Rebecca Campbell “I call all parts of me back home. I call all parts of me back home. I call all parts of me back home.” This is you connecting with nature. When your bare feet hit the grass, or you feel the soft roughness of clay beneath you, you know more in that moment, what it is to be part of nature and for it to be part of you.
BE AMONGST THE TREES.
In the same way, when possible, touch a tree as you pass it or, for extra bonus points, hug it. Put your forehead, your third eye, against the trunk and wrap your arms around it, with your feet evenly placed on the ground and just observe how you feel. Absorb the energy of strength and wisdom that is inside every tree. Feel free to imagine the energy going the opposite way, witnessing your negative energy and thoughts leaving you and being held by the tree. Nature supports you. Never forget that.
Trees are representatives of strength and community. Did you know that trees communicate with one another and know when to send nutrients through their roots to a neighbouring tree? This also serves to remind you that you’re not separate from nature but are part of it. Nature is who you are. It was here before you, it is here with you now and if you protect it, as is your responsibility to do so, it will be here long after you.
CREATE YOUR OWN ALTAR SPACE.
The May Altar was one such shared experience my Dad instilled in me, where each year on May 1st, he and I would gather up bunches of daisies, buttercups and cowslips and place them on either side of the statue of Mother Mary. This is a tradition I continue today with the exact same statue and a half litre of glue holding it in place. Why not create your own nature altar with gatherings from outside. Find leaves, flowers, plants, acorns, feathers, shells, stones, crystals anything that for you represents nature. Place them somewhere where you can easily see them with other sentimental items such as photos, statues and your favourite scent or candle. Use your senses to evoke the feeling of nature all around you in the simplest way possible.
I know I’m not alone in my love affair with trees. ‘Forest bathing’ for just two hours a week has proven to be a “crucial threshold” for promoting physical health and mental wellbeing. Originally dreamed up in Japan 40 years ago, as a means to combat workplace burnout, the forest bathing movement has attracted a global following and was brought to prominence recently when it emerged that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge had based her debut garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, called RHS Back to Nature, on the idea. If it’s good enough for Kate, it’s good enough for you!
Nature grounds you and it helps to reduce overwhelm. Nothing ever feels quite so bad after time spent in nature and you’ll feel rooted right where you are. We learn so much about ourselves when we observe nature and for me, that is its greatest strength. It’s why I’ve allowed it to transform my life by seeing the beauty in simplicity and invite you to do the same.
“Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day”– Shira Tamir.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Empowerment and Transformation Coach, Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme and host of The TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. For more check out niamhennis.com or find her on Instagram @1niamhennis.