1/22/2018

Communing with Nature

Communing With Nature x Ashley Neese

This is the third post in my 2018 intention series.

As I sit here in my healing space typing out this post I glance up two inches from the top of the computer screen to connect with the array of minerals on the untreated pine shelf that I had built last summer. Taking moments to acknowledge some aspect of the natural world throughout my non-client work days, when I’m mostly in front of the computer writing are essential.

The practice of pausing and looking at the minerals on the wooden shelf is incredibly humbling. Even if I just take one minute to steady my breath and soften my gaze, I can feel the tension in my back from sitting in front of the computer melt away and I am left in awe of the history contained in those natural elements. I find that history grounding and reassuring. I also find it speaking to my spirit, reminding me that so much beauty and wonder can come from patience.

I’ve had an affinity for natural elements since I can remember. I spent a great deal of time outside as a child exploring, tasting, touching, observing plants, animals and minerals that crossed my path. I remember one summer at our nanny’s house spending hours in the honeysuckle bushes. She taught us how to gently pick the flowers, pinch off the little green part at the bottom and then very carefully pull on the “string”, as we called it (I’m sure there is an actual scientific name for this), until the drop of nectar appeared at which point we would rush it into our mouths. Oh it was glorious! To this day every time I smell honeysuckle I am teleported back to those long summer days and a huge smile beams from my face.

I also have these incredible memories of my Dad, who grew up on a farm in a small town in Wisconsin, finding moth cocoons when we were kids. He collected moths and butterflies when he lived on the farm and studied them. Because he spent so much time with those amazing insects he knew how to find their cocoons. We had this giant glass bowl that was probably 16 inches in diameter and 2 feet tall with a smaller opening, about 6 inches at the top. Dad would put the cocoon into it with grass, leaves, and branches from the woods behind our house. Then he covered it with with a cloth. Somehow he knew when the moth was about to emerge from the cocoon because within about a week of being in our home, the moth began the process of hatching.

My entire family would watch in awe as this magnificent month came to life before our eyes.

I can remember details like it was yesterday. The nutty brown color of the wings. The golden markings on them that from far away looked like eyes. I also remember feeling somehow empowered by this experience, because it taught me that we are living on this planet with not only other people, but insects and other creatures too.

As the month went though its process of hatching and pumping up its wings we left them in the glass bowl for another few hours because they are very vulnerable to prey at that time. After that, my Dad would take the bowl to the woods and we watched the moth fly out of the bowl and begin the next phase of their journey. Even now I still have a strong connection to moths and butterflies and continue to be in awe of them.

I am sure it’s this early in life connection with these winged creatures that led me to develop relationships with crows, hawks and vultures in my adult years. Being in the magical urban sprawl that is L.A. trained me to commune with nature in a different way than I did when I lived in other cities like Portland, San Francisco, Berlin or even Atlanta. L.A. is its own beast and it was through living there that I learned to seek these elements of nature and beauty every single day. Connecting to nature became one of my strongest and deepest practices there and that is something I am very grateful for.

Years ago I started studying animal medicine and poured over Animal Speak and bought my very first animal spirit deck. I studied these materials daily and was amazed at how grounded it made me feel and how much it changed my perspective of the natural world. My curiosity was reignited and I began studying more about plants and minerals as a way become an integrated person. I wanted to feel like I was apart of the natural world, like I did when I was a kid, not like nature was something outside of myself.

When I talk about communing with nature what I’m talking about is cultivating a relationship with living things and the elements. This is something deeper than simply saying I love nature, taking a trip to the desert, or tossing frozen food in a blender with some herb powders and calling it a day. Communing means that I am actively engaged with plants, minerals, animals and the elements on a regular basis. For me it looks a lot like having a conversation with a trusted friend but it can take on as many different forms as there are feelings in a day. Sometimes communing for me is asking for insight. Sometimes it’s saying a prayer. Other times it is seeking guidance. Communing is also the practice of observing, listening and honoring.

Aside from my daily breathwork and somatic practices, communing with nature is how I stay sane. I can’t tell you how many people share with me that they feel alone, isolated, separate, stressed, depleted, overworked, anxious, and overwhelmed. I often tell these folks to go sit on the ground with their back to a tree for thirty minutes, take of their shoes and step into the ocean or lie down on the grass and  follow their breath for a little while. I have yet to have any of these people tell me that being with nature in these ways didn’t provide them with near immediate relief, incredible insight and an internal landing they didn’t even realize how badly they needed.

When we take the time to develop a relationship with nature that changes us in our core. Whether we feel like it or not, we are part of this earth. Our bodies are made up of elements, just like the plants, animals and minerals that surround us. In order to be healthy and thrive, nature has got to be part of the equation and part of our daily practice. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated, it just needs to be something that we engage with consistently.

If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted like trees.
-Rilke

Some of my favorite ways to commune with nature are to go on a long hike and talk to the Redwood trees, hold a mineral in my hand and let it share something with me (minerals will give you information if you are patient and you listen), walk barefoot in the grass, hold counsel with the hawks, communicate telepathically with the cat (this has to be an upcoming post right?! Okay, adding animal communication post to the journal list!), surrender with the ocean, and enjoy a silent meal, contemplating all of the energy that went into bringing that food to my plate.

For my more right brained friends here are a few more nature focused practices that I engage with: taking one car to work instead of two, moving toward zerowatse, actively researching ways to lower my carbon footprint, not buying plastic water bottles/bags, growing herbs, and supporting authentic sustainable brands, farms and businesses. From the esoteric to the practical, there are as many unique ways to commune with nature as there are people and it’s important that we all make this commitment for the health of families, community and the earth.

Communing with nature has become integrated into my daily life. The deeper I go into my relationships with plants, minerals, elements and animals the more I am called to keep slowing down and spend more time in rural settings. Nature has infinite intelligence and the ability to transform, heal and reinvent itself. There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not dropping my jaw at some aspect of nature and feel grateful down to my bones that I get to spend another day being part of this extraordinary existence.

As I move into this new year, communing with nature will continue be an integral part of how I meditate, how I ground, how I am of service and how I make decisions. I look forward to expanding my knowledge of the natural world, my felt sense of the earth and my devotion to the infinite wisdom that is accessible in every aspect of nature.

x

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© ASHLEY NEESE 2018