As I did some exercise in Central Park the other day, I came to a tree that I wanted to greet, so I put my hand on it and kind of leaned in and thanked the tree for being such an important presence in my life. I also asked the tree to extend my appreciation to all the other trees in the park. Together, they create an environment in which we humans can find a degree of comfort and inspiration. As I talked with the tree, a woman walked by and said, “I do that, too!” As I turned to face her, she said it again and we both commented on how lucky we are to have the park as a living part of our urban lives.
Continuing on, I noticed how many other elements of the park speak to me and offer a sense of belonging to something so much more than my individual human self. I noticed, and have as park friends, some of the large boulders that are found throughout Central Park. I also noted and appreciated, as I always do, the earth under my feet, this precious earth. Then, there are the squirrels, hawks, pigeons, rats, and other wildlife who inhabit the park and who appear here and there as I walk along. No insects to honor at this time of year, but they’ll be back come Spring.
This got me to thinking about the vital importance of our relationship with Nature, whether we live in the country or in an urban setting. For this week’s practice, I invite you to engage whatever experience of Nature is available to you with a particular thought in mind: As you encounter a tree, houseplant, animal, or anyone or anything else, notice your experience when you take time to overtly acknowledge and appreciate this earth-kin. Notice what you find yourself saying as you do this and also check with your heart-space and notice whether your heart is open and flowing with the process or if you are tense or constricted in some way. If you find that your chest is tight or your heart feels closed, take a moment to breathe in and out through your heart a few times and see if you become more open. This practice is definitely heart oriented and your open heart allows your acknowledgement and appreciation to flow even more powerfully.
Then, take a moment or two after you’ve offered acknowledgment and appreciation and notice the resonating tone of your experience. Notice what you feel in your body, the quality of your emotions, the tone of your thoughts. This kind of practice can add to a fundamental sense of well-being, and feeling part of something more than ourselves helps to generate a quality of inner life that supports a sense of connection and comfort.
As with all these practices, allow yourself to discover what works best for you. Please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them.
And, most of all, enjoy exploring even more deeply the relationship you already have with Nature and with all the earth-kin with whom you share your environment.