What's up with our relationship to nature?


I opened my inbox on Earth Day to find newsletters from two people I follow that do very different work in the world, yet somehow after reading both of their emails I found them to be intimately connected and inspired me to connect some dots.


One is from a flow research guy who is science-y, factual and likes to nerdify things down to their nitty gritty. The other is a sex coach and author who shines a holistic light on our nitty gritties.


I believe that many of us humans are way more sensitive than we know and that we are tuning instruments designed to pick up the most subtle nuances in our environment - the lift of an eyebrow, the tone of your mother’s voice when she answers the phone and the smell of the air during a rain shower.


There is a layer of this sensitivity that doesn’t get talked about much, and that’s the sensitivity to our environment. What’s happening in the collective field, including the natural world that we’re largely disconnected from, and the impact on us.


There are so many monumental events transpiring in our world that we are now acutely and painfully aware of due to technological connection, and yet there is NO PHYSIOLOGICAL WAY we can process even a fraction of it. The collective soup contains a frequency of noise that is palpable to those subtle sensing systems we have. As a species, we haven’t had to address this before.


This is a new problem.


Physiologically, we’re up against a mechanical issue. The sympathetic nervous system’s (think fight or flight) job is to actually weed information OUT of our awareness. To prevent too much information from coming in that needs to be identified, labeled and acted on or ignored. We’ve crossed a threshold though, and there’s no way for the nervous system to handle the quantity of information coming at it, let alone be able to emotionally process it. And make no mistake – news that sells and gets eyeballs hits you at the emotional gut level.

So now you’ve got an overloaded nervous system that doesn’t know what to filter or ignore and you’ve got a heart that’s broken one second seeing the devastation in Ukraine, polar bears drowning because of increased distances between ice caps and before you can let that swell of emotion reach your eyes to make tears, you’re liking your friend’s latest post on their 6 year-old’s dance performance (which they didn’t get their kid’s permission to post).

#thisismadness


Where did your tears go?? How quickly we disconnect from these emotions to keep on keepin’ on.


This unprocessed emotion is the noise in the collective soup and is largely what keeps us feeling edgy, uncertain and a little (or a lot) unsafe.


We have to try to do something with this energy though, so we make a decision. That decision is typically unconscious and always a coping behavior that leaves us feeling disconnected.


Let’s take a peek, shall we? This is what Zoë Kors calls the Trifecta of Anti-Intimacy:


Denial: Unwilling to feel the discomfort of what we think of as negative emotions, we convince ourselves that everything is A-ok. This causes what's called cognitive dissonance; almost like we are gaslighting ourselves. Result: We stop trusting our intuition or inner knowing. Deflection: Unwilling to take responsibility for our own experience, we direct our pain at someone or something else. In deflecting, our original emotion often gets distorted past recognition, making it hard to track what's actually happening. Result: We become confused about what we think and why. Distraction: In order not to feel discomfort, we distract ourselves with things that are inherently unhealthy. Sometimes they are healthy but indulged to the point of unhealthy. Distractions can appear destructive or be disguised as benevolent attributes (think nurturing parent turns into helicopter parent). The distinction is often in the subtleties. Result: Our self-esteem plummets as we find ourselves unable to stop the pattern of self-defeating behavior.


Familiar, huh?


So that’s how we move from emotion to stuffage of said emotions and disconnect.


Connecting the Dots


When we disconnect, we no longer know what we care about or advocate for it. When our eyes are glued to a screen, we are not connecting with the natural world. What other animal (we are beasts y’all – mammals through and through) disconnects from the natural world?


Answer: none.


So here we are traipsing around on this beautiful planet, destroying our very nest, with broken hearts and feeling disempowered to do much of anything about it. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, irritated or incredulous – I posit you may be healthier, and more sensitive, than you think.


If we’re not connected to our emotions, we don’t know what we care about. If we’re not connected to nature, we won’t take care of her.

Steven Kotler of Flow Research Collective writes that spending time in nature raises serotonin levels and lowers cortisol levels, “which is why a twenty-minute walk in the woods out-performs most SSRI drugs as a treatment for anxiety and depression”.


In altered states, such as a meditative walk in nature, your brain is impacted and specifically the part that creates a boundary between self and other. It goes offline to create a sense of oneness. This is unity, interconnectedness, the great merge, communing with God/Spirit/The Big Kahuna, bliss, awe, wonder. It resets your nervous system and gives you an experience of pure consciousness unbuggered by the pesky mind. In this space you have a felt experience of what really matters to you.


And what really matters to you is always really simple at its core.

The more time we spend in nature, the more regulated we become and the more in tune we are with what matters. Thank you Mother Nature!


So where to start with developing an intimate relationship with nature so you can let that heart of yours have space to feel and connect (this is what all the great animals do btw – it’s called instinct)?


Start here:

  • Pay attention to nature. Notice it. Open to it.

  • Hug a tree (I’m serious).

  • Smile at a bird (have you ever tried it?).

  • Pet a blade of grass (yep, it’s alive and just might like it as much as you do).

  • Remember that the natural world is part of the collective too – the part that helps to tame dysregulated nervous systems that need all the help they can get.

Go here:

  • Feel your feelings.

  • Notice when:

o you don’t trust your inner knowing (denial)

o blame someone/something else for how you’re feeling (deflect)

o check your phone out of habit/boredom/to look busy (distraction). These are all signs you’re feeling something that you haven’t named yet.


For the love of nature - get out there and love on her as she loves on you!