Posting an article about nature immersion probably wasn’t the best idea in the world right now, with Harvey decimating Houston and south Texas. I’m sorry. I didn’t think about the context in which the topic could be taken.
However, since the post is out of the gate, I’ll add some editorial to make sure you know I’m not referring to the kind of nature immersion that happens when dealing with a natural disaster.
Don’t let the phrase fool you.
What is Nature Immersion?
Nature Immersion isn’t so much a thing that you “do”, but an change in consciousness you encourage to “happen”.
It can happen while sitting on the back step. It can happen lying belly down on a sidewalk peering into the crack at the blade of grass struggling to gain traction in the grit.
Right now, some of you are saying it is full and well possible to be TOO nature immersed. That’s true, especially when dealing with something like Hurricane Harvey.
That is not what I mean by nature immersion, though. In the way I’m describing it is not an unwilling activity. It is voluntary and fully within your control.
While it’s hard to imagine, it can be done in the midst of a “natural” disaster if you take a few minutes to step out of the situation (when it isn’t life-threatening, of course).
If you manage to achieve it, then it could help when dealing with the overwhelming stress of coping.
Immersing in nature can happen while sitting on the back step. It can happen lying belly down on a sidewalk peering into the crack at the blade of grass struggling to gain traction in the grit.
What is Nature Immersion?
You can do it if you’re on foot, or in a wheelchair. I just don’t think it would be safe to do it while you’re driving or operating equipment.
It is a form of meditation.
I’m not sure if the phrase “Nature Immersion” has been used in some official way by someone else or not, but I’m using it here to describe how I interact with nature to reach a state of mind I need to reach in order to gain clarity and calm so I can focus on my task at hand better.
Here’s how Lang Elliot, of Music of Nature describes it:
Nature immersion and absorption is all about embodiment. It is about rousing one’s senses and surrendering to direct experience. It is about losing one’s self and living entirely in the moment. It is about becoming a child again, full of wonder and excitement. It is about attaining a sense of lightness and freedom, as an antidote to our complicated and noisy lives. ~ Lang Elliot
I love his definition. It’s perfect. Nature Immersion might conjure up to some as survival images, where a person is away from everything non-natural. But that’s not necessarily true. In fact, for someone not prepared for such an adventure, the idea of that kind of immersion could be quite stress-inducing!
How to Do Nature Immersion
It’s not so much a *way* or even a *thing*. It’s a state of mind. It’s also a place IN the mind. Nature Immersion is a zone of observation where nothing else exists at that moment except the observer (me/you) and the environment (nature).
Meditation is a kind of immersion, but I can’t think of how to describe the state of mind except as a sort of emptiness. With Nature Immersion, there is also an emptiness because you aren’t there to think. You’re there to allow an experience to happen without interfering with the experience. You’re there as an observer only.
The way I experience it is to walk until I find a good spot to sit down and do the “immersing” part of it. On or off the road or trails doesn’t matter. Destination doesn’t matter. Raising my heart rate isn’t the goal, so how fast I go doesn’t matter, either. And it doesn’t matter how far I have to travel to find the right spot.
Near or Far
Usually I aim for nearby, since the need to take this therapy arises when there are a lot of things needing to be done. That way I can get back to the task at hand when I’m done.
What does matter is that I let go of everything else I’m dealing with or trying to accomplish and simply experience Nature.
It’s not particularly important to be super-comfortable, but you do need to feel relatively safe. It might be necessary to overcome a fear of crawling, creeping, or flying things or at least learn to tolerate them being on or near you. By safety, I mean your rational mind should know that you won’t be injured.
A bug buzzing past won’t hurt you, but if you’re terrified of wasps your irrational mind will tell you to run because every buzzing sound will be a wasp in your mind. So you’d have to overcome that urge to bolt.
So find a place comfortable enough and tolerate any discomfort long enough to drift into the nature immersion zone.
Sit in on My Nature Immersion Session
You can come along with me today as I go outside to do a bit of Nature Immersion therapy.
Although I did bring the camera with me, the object today wasn’t to get a good photograph. That came after the “therapy” session. Sometimes the act of photographing things *is* my nature immersion, because I do find that I easily slip into the zone while I’m doing it.
The goal today was deal with anxiety and overwhelm. Anxiety makes me feel scattered. And I know the anxiety stems from having too many irons in the fire.
When tears flow at the slightest provocation, I know it’s time for an immersion.
When overwhelm happens to me, I head outside. I realize this does kind of seem like procrastination … But it’s not, really. When I have much to do, I can get the alignment and one-ness I seek in a few minutes right outside the back door.
Here’s the Steps
These can be done very quickly once you get accustomed to reaching the zone.
The first thing I do is sit down on a rock. We have a lot of rocks here, so that’s the handiest thing to do. Short of rocks, I’d sit on the ground or a log.
Then just listen to the natural sounds around. If there are other unnatural sounds happening, focus only on the ones originating from birds, insects, running water, or whatever is there from nature.
As you listen, you’ll begin to hear other things that at first were inaudible. It’s like layers to the sound. A different cricket from another spot singing with the first one you’d heard and paid attention to. Birds farther away. The various sounds a creek makes when it tumbles through the rocks – and the different sound it makes when it goes between the other rocks farther downstream.
Is the wind blowing, or is it calm out there? If it’s hot, you might be sweating. Just focus on the way your skin feels and how it is interpreting or interacting with your environment.
Are you leaned against a tree? How does the bark feel on the back of your head? Touch it. Rub a pinch of soil between your fingers. Is it smooth or gritty? Is there moisture underneath the moldering leaves?
Study the way your body feels, without moving around too much. How does your form fit into the space you’ve given it?
Take the same approach with what you see around you. Naturally, you’ll focus first on the larger things closest to you. Maybe the tree. Or a movement that caught your eye.
Once you’ve studied the tree, look closer. Does the tree have bark on its trunk? What’s between the furrows?
Let your eye travel upwards to the canopy. Study the leaves.
Look farther, the farthest point you can see without moving. Look in every direction you can without moving to a new location.
Study what you see. See the little details you might ordinarily not notice about how the light strikes the ground in a scattered pattern. Or maybe it’s a focused shaft highlighting a shrub, or the blade of grass in the distance.
Then slowly observe and study a little closer, and move closer with your gaze.
Finally focus on the things closest to you. If you’re near a tree, study the way the leaves attach to the branch. Now look at something else.
Is there a bug rustling underneath the leaves, making movement you can perceive with your eyes? Don’t physically seek it, just observe as life around you carries on in your presence.
Look between the leaves or underneath them if you can do so without manipulating them.
When I slip into the immersion zone it’s as if everything else in my life falls away for that moment in time. It’s just me and the object of my observation. It feels like a shift in consciousness and I travel to another world for a few seconds or minutes.
It is almost a physical sensation, a “zoom”, when I enter the nature immersion zone.
A little bit of it stays with me when I return to my ordinary consciousness and get back to work.
Spending a quiet moment outside in nature, away from it all, heals.
I know I am whole again when details becomes clear and a deep sense of calm fill my body and mind.
Nature Immersion makes me feel focused and whole.
About Wild Ozark
About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods